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Policy & Politics

Learning to manage your thoughts

Balvinder Kumar

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If you can manage your thoughts, you can manage any adversity in life

 It’s well said that we ourselves are the sole creator of ‘heaven’ and ‘hell’ during our lifetime itself. These are not the imaginary ‘places’ beyond earth where we take re-birth after death. We create and experience such conditions in the lifetime only. When our sufferings are severe and continuous, we create ‘hell’ and when our life is full of joy and happiness, we make ‘heaven’ in our life. It all depends on how well or bad we manage our mind.

 The world out there is a human construct. We perceive and construct images and models of reality inside our mind. Our beliefs about the world around us, the thoughts, feelings and emotions and state of our mind all contribute in creating the reality inside the mind.

There is no objective or ‘true’ reality outside us. For each one us we perceive the world in our own unique way. There is no ‘true reality’. This is the reason; we all think and perceive the world in different ways. Hence, so much of conflicts and contradictions in our society.

What is the mind?

Since our brain is the most intricate structure in the universe, and brain scientists still have to unravel its intricacies, our mind is equally complex. Since the ancient times, scientists as well as spiritual masters and sages have been trying hard to understand its functioning. Our brain has about 90 billion cells/ neuron and each neuron may be connected to up to 10,000 other neurons, passing signals to each other via as many as 1,000 trillion connections. How can human mind understand such complicated structure? Mind is primarily an outcome of our brain. If something is wrong with our brain either structurally or functionally or both, it will be correspondingly reflected in our mind. In a way, brain is our hardware, which produces, so called, the mind.

 Mind can be our best master or the worst servant, we can ever imagine, depending on the control we exercise over it. Outer reality is nothing but the reflection of our own inner world. If we are happy and contended then the outer world is full of joy and happiness. On the contrary, if mind is depressed, sad or distressed then the world around us becomes unfriendly and hostile. It’s just of matter of how we perceive the world in our mind.

How thoughts are created in mind?

Every moment our brain generates thoughts through unconscious neurological process. It’s an automatic process. Astream of incessant thoughts is running in our mind. We have no control over them. In next 15 seconds what kind of thoughts will come in our mind, we have no idea. We can’t suppress inflow of thoughts. If thoughts are disturbing and toxic, our suffering becomes un-manageable. They can even push us into such a horrifying situation that people may take their own life. The problem is many of those people may not be conscious about their state of mind. This is because of the fact that we are completely identified with our mind. We, as a whole, become ‘thinking mind’. We are mostly unaware that it’s the mind that does thinking. Those who suffer from mental health problem are rarely aware that they suffer from mind’s problem.

Conscious Mind

First, we need to understand that our conscious mind is just a tip of the iceberg. The conscious mind consists of all of our thoughts, memories, feelings, and wishes of which we are aware at any given moment. In the present moment, we are aware only the conscious part of the brain. Behind this mind for which are conscious and aware, there are two far more powerful parts of mind i.e. subconscious and unconscious mind.

In fact, all the time, nearly half a million times more powerful mind keeps on working incessantly and we are not aware of it. So, bulk of the mind is behind our conscious mind.

Unconscious Mind

Most of the contents of the unconscious mind are repressed and may be unpleasant, such as feelings of pain, anxiety, or conflict. We are completely unaware of this part of mind. All of our early childhood experiences including traumatic incidents, if any, are deeply imbedded here. The unconscious mind which works behind our conscious mind is a reservoir of feelings, thoughts, urges, and memories that are outside of our awareness.

Subconscious Mind

 Then comes our subconscious mind. The function of our subconscious mind is to store and retrieve data from memory bank. All automatic functions like eating, breathing, driving and walking are programmed here. It stores our previous experiences, beliefs, memories, skills and habits. Because of this part of our mind, we work on automatic mode, without the intervention of conscious mind. Another very powerful part of our mind. During our waking hours, more than 95% of our tasks are carried out not by conscious mind but by unconscious and subconscious mind.

So now we know, first of all, our thoughts are generated automatically. We have no control over them. Second, the mind which works in the present moment and for which we are fully aware is just a tip of the iceberg. A massive part of iceberg/mind lies below our awareness. Our behaviour, impulses, urges, beliefs etc are all lies in unconscious mind. That’s why, we have hardly any control over our habitual behaviour and core beliefs. Our reactions are automatic because they are generated from our unconscious mind.

Inherent Nature of Mind: Mind’s wandering

There are few other very important characteristics of mind, which we all must know to understand our mind. The first is mind’s wandering. When we are not focused or attentive, our mind wanders in various possible directions. Suppose we are in a ‘boring’ meeting or watching a movie, we are mostly on wandering mode. Further, mind’s wandering increases when we are disturbed or unhappy. Frequency of wandering of thoughts increases during those distressing times. On the other hand, when we are focused or fully absorbed in certain activity, we are comparatively happier. Mind’s wandering becomes uncontrollable if we are very disturbed. On an average, nearly 53% of our time, our mind is not focused, it’s somewhere else. When we are bored or doing routine or any other uninteresting work, mind’s wandering is as high as 70%. However, when we are engaged in mind- absorbing or concentration-demanding tasks, this percentage is low, as low as 10%.

 Second, our mind is biased towards negativity. That’ the reason we are prone to perceive negative news instantly. As an evidence, see any news channels or read daily newspapers, how they highlight negative news because they know that their audience would love that content. Media look desperately for sensational news to broadcast, as public prefer to see that kind of news. The reason lies in our past. When we were hunter gatherers living in highly dangerous and fearful situations, our mind got adapted to receive alerts or signals, negative in nature immediately from surrounding environment. Same sensitivity of negative news is presently continuing. In the modern age, though there is so such types of dangerous circumstances as were prevalent during those days, but our brain gets instantly activated. That particular part of brain is the legacy of that era and this very part makes us fearful even with imaginary threats.

Third , the negative thoughts don’t easy leave our mind once they intrude into our thinking domain. They are very ‘sticky’, stick inside the mind, and keep on repeating and expanding inside the mind. One of the worst characteristic features of negative thoughts is their ‘stickiness’. It’s not an easy task to remove ‘stickiness’ from negative thoughts. Each one of us must have experienced, once in a while, when we are stuck with those types of disturbing thoughts. This inherent nature of our mind makes us vulnerable and prone to negativity. Unless we know how to deal with such kinds of thoughts, it’s not easy for us to manage them.

Fourth, I am sure you all must have observed that when disturbed by negative are thoughts, and try to suppress them by diverting our attention to other things, then same very thoughts resurface more frequently. More we suppress those thought, more forcefully they keep on coming in mind. This is a psychological phenomenon known as “ironic process” or the “white bear problem,” wherein deliberate attempts to suppress certain thoughts make them more likely to reappear. For instance, when someone is trying hard not to think of a white bear, the same bear is likely to appear more in our mind. On those disturbing times, when we try to focus on other activities like talking to friends, to go for those disturbing times, when we try to focus on other activities like talking to friends, to go for movie, play games or start reading, we get only a temporary relief. Those disturbing thoughts just don’t want to quit! We become increasingly agitated and disturbed, when those thoughts keep on intruding in our mind.

 Our Own Critique in Mind

There is no harm in engaging our mind with internal voice. However, when we are disturbed for some reason, our own inner voice/critique will keep on repeating ‘self- critical thoughts’. Suppose we commit some grave mistake due to our own negligence, then we become highly critical to ourselves. Even to extent of abusing or criticising severely to ourselves. Many of us must have done sometime in the past. If we experience self-critical voice once in a while there is no problem but once it becomes recurring, more like a habit then it’s very harmful for our mental health. We, without exception, very often talk to ourselves. Unless and until we are focused or be attentive on certain task, we speak to our own self. This is called inner voice.

We can never be perfectly happy and satisfied with life. First of all, we must understand that we can never be perfectly happy. Even if someone has huge wealth, big bungalow to live, all the comforts and luxuries and working on some top executive/govt. post, he/she would still be not happy and satisfied. That person may still be suffering from mental stress or feeling of ‘satisfactoriness’ or may be experiencing some emotional issues at workplace or with relationships. It’s an inherent tendency to be restless and not to be satisfied with life’s conditions. Poor people suffer for want of money and struggle for minimum required level of livelihood. Rich people suffer from boredom and feeling of restlessness because they may still be needing more pleasurable and material goods. Most of them feel they would be happy with more wealth and with more frequent and intense pleasurable activities. The result is majority of us are not fully satisfied and happy with life.

Worrying, the main source of mental distress

We all worry for one reason or another. Worrying is an inherent tendency of our mind as well as a constant problem for us. Worry refers to the thoughts and emotions of a negative nature, with fearful anticipation of poor outcome. Most of us do have a number of concerns to worry about. As an emotion, it is experienced as anxiety or concern about a real or imagined fear or threat,often on personal matters such as health or workplace tensions. Most of us experiences short-lived episodes of worry from time to time in our lives. Our brains are wired to worry first and think rationally later. It often becomes an automatic response to any perception of threat. Some of us will worry about virtually anything. To a certain extent, worrying is good for us because it prompts us to take precautionary measures or avoid risky behaviour. However, worrying often leads to distressing, negative and often obsessive thoughts. Whenever there is a perception of danger, real or imagined, our mind keeps on deliberating and analysing until it’s overburdened with negative thoughts. There will always be some imaginary or real perception of threat involved in our everyday life. And the more we focus on the issue giving us worry, the more we attract the same in one form or another. The mind tends to create worst-case scenarios based on any imaginary fear.

Worrying in itself is not bad as long as it’s controlled. It makes us to prepare better for a possibly difficult event or circumstance. But this is at the cost of our happiness. Very often, when we continue to worry intensively, we experience difficulty in getting sleep, In the long run, worrying leads to many health-related issues. It even weakens our immune system and that’s is the reason we get prone to many other illnesses such as high sugar level, blood pressure and heart disease. The problem with worrying is that it becomes a cycle of self- perpetuating negative thoughts. As we continue to worry, there is a steady flow of negative thoughts which we keep on repeating, with distressing variations, till it becomes uncontrollable. Indeed, a number of studies have shown that worry not only puts strain on our mental health, but also on our physical health.

Psychological Turmmoil is unavoidable

Life is like a roller coaster ride with ups and down. It’s a mix of pain, suffering, boredom, joy and happiness. The problem is when we suffer or experience some adversity, then the thoughts relating to that particular event or circumstances make us mentally and psychologically vulnerable. If we don’t know how to deal with the thoughts that are generated on those moments, we suffer intensively. It’s well said that real test of life comes under adversity. Not only we suffer mentally because of those circumstances but also make our mind susceptible to mental health problems, that may arise at later date. Nearly 15% people in India suffer from different kinds of mental disorders. Many of them don’t seek professional help. Because they are ignorant of the fact that they need medical assistance for their illness. Depression, one of the most prominent mental problem prevalent worldwide pushes lakhs of sufferers to end their lives. We all are potentially vulnerable to experience adversities that can lead to emotional and psychological turmoil in our life.

Uncontrolled flow of thoughts lead to overthinking.

When we think too much, instead of actually doing what we would like to do, we merely think. It is just wastage of time and energy, and puts us in a vicious cycle of thinking, means thinking over and over again. We can’t divert our mind on other activities for long under such circumstances. Same set of thoughts will keep on disturbing. It is the overthinking mind that makes us feel anxious and worried about the future. We also tend to ruminate on any past incident.

There may be numerous situations that may arise in our day to day life, where negative thoughts, relating to regret, hatred, anger, guilt, aggression etc may trouble us. If we don’t handle those thoughts carefully, that will lead to overthink. No one can escape from this mental characteristic. Due to strong identification with mind, we don’t know when we overthink. When we do, it’s the stream of harmful and distressing thoughts that fill our mind. We hardly overthink on positive matters. We only ruminate or worry when we are trapped in unpleasant conditions. When we keep on overthinking most of the time, it invariably leads to psychological distress. This, in turn, reinforce the overthinking. Under such conditions, we are deeply mired in troubling thoughts. Studies have shown that overthinking leads to serious emotional distress. When people can’t escape from this condition, they often resort to unhealthy methods to cope with the problem. Many people start alcohol abuse, some start or increase smoking, while others may overact. It becomes extremely difficult to enjoy sound sleep when our mind is disturbed. Studies confirm this, finding that rumination and worry lead to fewer hours of sleep and poorer sleep quality.

How to manage Negative Thoughts?

First and the foremost thing, which we must to understand that we have no control over the world around us. The people, their behaviour and actions, the pollical and social scenario in the country, and likewise, there is nothing we can control. Many of us, unnecessarily and wasteful, try to change others. If it’s so, then we should not bother about these things in life. We should respond appropriately without preconceived beliefs. However, we have complete control over our inner world. Our thoughts, actions, behaviour, desires, impulses and urges are totally under our control. We must bother about our mind, from where all these things arise.

We must accept our limitations in controlling the external surroundings. The things which are beyond are control must not be the source of our worrying. Similarly, we should remember that “whatever has happened, has happened, and things would have happened in any other way”. There is no point in worrying on those matters. We should accept those things wholeheartedly. This simple philosophy, first, focus on things over which we have control like our thoughts, behaviour and actions. Second, accept the things where we have no control or things have already happened, why worry over them. If we adopt these two components of philosophy, our life will become far simpler and easier.

The Roman philosopher, Epictetus, the founder of Stoicism, had very correctly remarked that, “For good or for ill, life and nature are governed by laws that we can’t change. The quicker we accept this, the more tranquil we can be”.

Balvinder Kumar is Member – Uttar Pradesh – Real Estate Regulatory Authority (UPRERA). As an IAS officer, her served as Secretary, Ministry of Mines, Vice Chairman of Delhi Development Authority (DDA), Vice Chairman of Lucknow Development Authority (LDA). He is the author of two books – Redesign your life in the modern age, and Explore Your Life Journey.

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Policy & Politics

The Unique Indian Market: Doing Business in India

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The complex and challenging diversity of India has confused many – Indians as well as foreigners have tried and are still trying to understand the market for taking right decisions. But often they have failed. Some learnt their lessons and survived whereas others quit. But no one could sum up common problems or common prospects with sure shot definition of the Indian market and its attributes like most global peers (by definition of a country). Now, here is a book which has tied all aspects about the country together in one thread and very brilliantly put them in mere 200 odd pages. This quick read summarizes the History, Geography, Democratic Politics and Economics of modern Free India along with undivided India/ colonial India(before independence), without compromising on data and the key facts.

The initial chapters in the book focus on an overall status of Indian market – a brief history, success, and failures of foreign companies in India. This is followed by describing the diversity across all possible parameters viz. ethnic, linguistic, regional, religious, cultural, food habits, lifestyle etc. The next few chapters brilliantly summarize the history of foreign attacks and rulers from Gupta Dynasty in 4th Century to the British rule till 1947 (middle of 20th Century) along with foreign business in India since 1292AD. All the East India Companies of different countries for different goods in different Indian territories, debate on acknowledgement of “India” and failure of an American East India Company (yet a successful ice-export to America by ship in 1883) is covered here.

Stating credible and authentic sources, the author boasts of the 35% contribution made by India to the world GDP before the foreign attacks and compares it to the ‘less than 1%’ a decade before the start of the 21st Century. The book compares the golden history with current concerns and struggles for the SMEs in the country providing valid reasons for the change over centuries and suggestions for making a mark again. It talks about how the country directly jumped from being an agrarian economy to the service one, grossly skipping the important manufacturing lessons. The seeds sown by the invaders that made India a supplier of raw materials and importer of finished goods, are still reaping their bitter fruits which has made Indians totally dependent on other countries or their MNCs/companies in India for the manufacturing part. Every eye is now on the results of ‘Make-In-India’ and ‘Atma-Nirbhar-Bharat’. How India makes up for the losses it faced for centuries and gets back its prosperity, which it lost to the greed of others, and self-created mistakes!

The next few chapters provide the reader an exhaustive overview of governance and administration system in India with around 1000 political parties at country level, and the love-hate relationship between the union and state governments, and its implications on businesses. Following these are topics on classification of the country based on wealth inequality, religion, reservations, working, education, native status, region, languages, surnames etc.

An exceptional set of chapters on Social Capital of India and Indian Education System follow next. The author highlights how successful SME with international trade existed even in ancient history. Pluralism based rich heritage was present without existence of slaves or concept of castes. Qualities and actions were given more importance in ancient India, not the family of birth – all these were changed by the British for their selfish motives and ‘divide and rule’ policies; castes were assigned at birth and first caste-based census was reported in 1987. Castes were brought by the Portuguese and the British. Jati

Book Review

(based on knowledge) or Varna (community) is not same as Caste. Caste and Reservations based systems were the main cause for lack of development , disharmony, and social problems like untouchability. The Indian Education System today faces issue of ample knowledge but lacks in skills and trainings, because it has shifted from the Gurukul system and well-developed universities to current faulty Pro-Degree one. This was surely another downgrade by foreign invaders who wanted India to remain a raw-material exporter. Practice based education system was converted to theory based, same education system for all, high tenure in education system of 10+2+3/4 years. The upcoming New Education Policy gets a ray of hope to cater to these drawbacks and revive the ancient Indian entrepreneurial system with new nomenclature.

India’s orientation towards service sector and the problems of agriculture and industries is covered in detail in the following chapters. How ‘thriving SMEs were uprooted and License-Quota-Permit-Raj was imposed’ is discussed. Even after 75 years of independence and multiple changes in industrial policy, manufacturing industry is still not even close to the ancient SMEs. Due to the strong Government control, even now around 2,000 different approvals and permissions are required to start and run a manufacturing business, which need to regularly undergo lot of inspections and regulations.

Business culture, business systems and impact of family system on business is well defined and exhaustively discussed by Dr. Jain. India vs. Bharat debate and India’s Diaspora with Indians who have settled abroad are a decent read. The author does not forget to cover the regular and massive festivals and celebrations and their role in business.Interestingly chapters that follow next highlight on media –(advertising and PR), Jugaad Technology, existence of parallel systems and paradoxes seen in the country which create a base for how things are not as they appear.

The last few chapters talk in detail about India being in transition, the taxation & legal system in India and strategies and tips for a successful India entry. Throughout the book, the author continues to assess the performance and what lacks in the SMEs ,he provides apt suggestions to cater to the later.

A well-researched, well-structured, and well-expressed book of 30 chapters, “The Unique Indian Market: Doing Business in India” is a masterpiece for existing and prospective entrepreneurs and for everyone who intends to understand the country (in fact, the Sub-continent – considering the diversity as the author Dr. Prateek Jain puts it). Dr. Jain has used a varied range of writing flavors – seriousness of facts, jokes with good sense of humor, using anecdotes or simple essaying – keeping the essence intact and effective. Each chapter is complete in itself, yet well connected with the other.

In a nutshell, after the detailed and fact-based analysis, the author convinces the reader how 2020s is the best time to do business in India. Success is guaranteed if the uniqueness of the market is accepted and appreciated, and case specific related action taken. Though targeted with a business in India focus, this book is a must-read book for a traveler, a student or a homemaker!

Hemant G. Golechha is PhD Research Scholar, Dr. Vishwanath Karad’s MIT World Peace University.

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Policy & Politics

INDIA’S MERCHANDISE EXPORT IN APRIL 2021 WAS US$30.21 BILLION

Tarun Nangia

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India’s merchandise exports in April 2021 was USD 30.21 billion, an increase of 197.03% over USD 10.17 billion in April 2020 and an increase of 16.03% over USD 26.04 billion in April 2019.

India’s merchandise imports in April 2021 was USD 45.45 billion, with an increase of 165.99% over USD 17.09 billion in April 2020 and an increase of 7.22% over USD 42.39 billion in April 2019.

India is thus a net importer in April 2021 with a trade deficit of USD 15.24 billion, which increased by 120.34% over trade deficit of USD 6.92 billion in April 2020 and declined by 6.81% over trade deficit of USD 16.35 billion in April 2019.

In April 2021, the value of non-petroleum exports was USD 26.85 billion, registering a positive growth of 200.62% over USD 8.93 billion in April 2020 and a positive growth of 19.44% over USD 22.48 billion in April 2019. The value of non-petroleum and non-gems and jewellery exports in April 2021 was USD 23.51 billion, registering a positive growth of 164.28% over USD 8.90 billion in April 2020 and a positive growth of 19.89% over USD 19.61 billion in April 2019.

In April 2021, Oil imports was USD 10.8 billion, a positive growth of 132.26% compared to USD 4.65 billion in April 2020 and a negative growth of 6.62 compared to USD 11.56 billion in April 2019.

Non-oil imports in April 2021 was estimated at USD 34.65 billion, showing an increase of 178.6% compared to USD 12.44 billion in April 2020 and an increase of 12.42% compared to USD 30.82 billion in April 2019.

Non-oil, non-GJ (gold, silver &Precious metals) imports was USD 26.05 billion in April 2021, recording a positive growth of 111.3%, as compared to non-oil and non-GJ imports of USD 12.33 billion in April 2020 and a positive growth of 6.48% over USD 24.46 billion in April 2019.

All Major commodities have recorded positive growth in export during April 2021 vis-à-vis April 2020 namely, Gems and Jewellery (9158.63%), Jute mfg. Including floor covering (1556.39%), Carpet (1351.48%), Handicrafts excl. Hand-made carpet (1207.98%), Leather and leather manufactures (1168.96%), RMG of All Textiles (920.52%), Cotton yarn/fabrics/made-ups, handloom products etc. (616.6%), Man-made yarn/fabrics/made-ups etc. (583.53%), Ceramic products and glassware (441.57%), Other cereals (441.46%), Electronic Goods (362.86%), Oil meals (275.91%), Cashew (252.46%), Mica, coal and other ores, minerals including process (234.63%), Engineering goods (234.63%), Tobacco (183.86%), Iron ore (175.15%), Petroleum products (171.11%), Cereal preparations and miscellaneous processed item (170.86%), Oil Seeds (166.24%), Meat, dairy and poultry products (148.6%), Tea (143.04%), Marine products (107.59%), Spices (102.32%), Coffee (73.83%), Organic and Inorganic Chemicals (69.39%), Rice (60.29%), Plastic and linoleum (47.49%), Fruits and vegetables (21.82%), and Drugs and pharmaceuticals (20.68%).

Major commodity groups of export showing positive growth in April 2021 over April 2019 are: Iron ore (219.55%), Other cereals (206.43%), Oil meals (86.59%), Jute mfg. Including floor covering (66.19%), Rice (49.45%), Cereal preparations and miscellaneous processed item (40.34%), Electronic Goods (35.81%), Mica, coal and other ores, minerals including process (33.17%), Spices (32.72%), Cotton yarn/fabrics/made-ups, handloom products etc. (25.27%), Ceramic products and glassware (22.57%), Drugs and pharmaceuticals (22.55%), Carpet (22.38%), Engineering goods (18.61%), Cashew (16.57%), Gems and Jewellery (16.38%), Marine products (16.34%), Handicrafts excl. Hand-made carpet (14.33%), Plastic and linoleum (13.31%), Fruits and vegetables (11.66%), Man-made yarn/fabrics/made-ups etc. (8.35%), and Oil Seeds (1.30%).

Major commodity groups of export showing negative growth in April 2021 over April 2019 are: Tea (-23.66%%), Leather and leather manufactures (-13.27%), Tobacco (-9.86%), RMG of All Textiles (-8.01%), Petroleum products (-5.5%), Coffee (-2.56%), Organic and Inorganic Chemicals (-2.21%), and Meat, dairy and poultry products (-1.38%).

Major commodity groups of import showing positive growth in April 2021 over the corresponding month of last year are: Gold (215906.91%), Pearls, precious & Semi-precious stones (119500.48%), Sulphur & Unroasted Iron Pyrites (1525.05%), Electronic goods (213.59%), Non-ferrous metals (193.89%), Transport equipment (170.95%), Professional instrument, Optical goods, etc. (163.13%), Artificial resins, plastic materials, etc. (138.18%), Metaliferrous ores & other minerals (133.77%), Petroleum, Crude & products (132.26%), Machinery, electrical & non-electrical (113.73%), Textile yarn Fabric, made-up articles (111.7%), Wood & Wood products (101.01%), Machine tools (100.93%), Vegetable Oil (97.57%), Project Goods (91.79%), Leather & leather products (91.59%), Dyeing/tanning/colouring materials (88.10%), Chemical material & products (84.57%), Iron & Steel (73.19%), Organic & Inorganic Chemicals (72.73%), Fruits & vegetables (70.0%), Coal, Coke & Briquettes, etc. (65.98%), Medcnl. & Pharmaceutical products (56.92%), Pulp and Waste paper (46.35%), Cotton Raw & Waste (11.68%) and Fertilisers, Crude & manufactured (7.75%).

Major commodity groups of import showing negative growth in April 2021 over the corresponding month of last year are: Silver (-88.55%), Newsprint (-46.07%), and Pulses (-42.46%).

Major commodity groups of import showing positive growth in April 2021 over April 2019 are: Vegetable Oil (75.85%), Gold (54.17%), Chemical material & products (41.68%), Artificial resins, plastic materials, etc. (36.69%), Metaliferrous ores & other minerals (29.60%), Sulphur & Unroasted Iron Pyrites (25.23%), Medcnl. & Pharmaceutical products (22.23%), Fruits & vegetables (18.95%), Electronic goods (17.01%), Pearls, precious & Semi-precious stones (15.39%), Non-ferrous metals (13.51%), Organic & Inorganic Chemicals (12.46%), Professional instrument, Optical goods, etc. (6.78%), Dyeing/tanning/colouring materials (5.54%), and Wood & Wood products (2.63%).

Major commodity groups of import showing negative growth in April 2021 over April 2019 are: Silver (-95.25%), Newsprint (-59.63%), Cotton Raw & Waste (-50.42%), Pulses (-46.98%), Project Goods (-37.47%), Leather & leather products (-33.10%), Transport equipment (-24.49%), Machine tools (-23.40%), Pulp and Waste paper (-18.09%), Iron & Steel (-17.93%), Coal, Coke & Briquettes, etc. (-14.84%), Fertilisers, Crude & manufactured (-11.44%), Petroleum, Crude & products (-6.62%), Machinery, electrical & non-electrical (-1.55%), and Textile yarn Fabric, made-up articles (-0.37%).

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Policy & Politics

Badrinath to be developed as spiritual and smart hill town by oil and gas PSUs

Chief Minister of Uttarakhand and Minister for Petroleum and Natural Gas & Steel jointly witness the signing.

Tarun Nangia

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Memoranda of Understanding (MOUs) were signed today between the Oil and Gas PSUs-IndianOil, BPCL, HPCL, ONGC and GAIL, and Shri BadrinathUtthan Charitable Trust for Construction and Redevelopment of Badrinath Dham as a Spiritual Smart hill Town. The MoUs were signed in the august presence of the Chief Minister of Uttarakhand Tirath Singh Rawat, Union Minister of Petroleum and Natural Gas & Steel Dharmendra Pradhan, Tourism Minister of Uttarakhand Satpal Maharaj, Secretary, MoPNG Tarun Kapoor, Chief Secretary of Uttarakhand Shri Om Prakash, and senior officers of the MoPNG, Uttarakhand Government and Oil & Gas PSUs.

As per the MoUs, the Oil & Gas PSUs will be contributing Rs. 99.60 crore in the first phase of the developmental activities, including river embankment work, building all-terrain vehicular path, building bridges, beautifying existing bridges, establishing gurukul facilities with accommodation, creating toilet and drinking water facilities, installing streetlights, mural paintings etc.

Speaking on the occasion, Pradhan said that Char Dham is close to millions of Indians, due to spiritual, religious and cultural reasons. The Oil and Gas PSUs will not only contribute to the development work of the Badrinath but are also part of the development of Kedarnath, Uttarkashi, Yamunotri and Gangotri. He said “Today’s event is a significant milestone in the direction of Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s vision of developing Badrinath shrine as a mini smart and spiritual city, without compromising on the religious sanctity and mythological importance of the region.”

Lauding the efforts of Oil & Gas PSUs in developing the facilities, Pradhan said, “I am glad that Oil and Gas PSUs of this nation have come forward to realise the vision of developing BadrinathDham into a Smart Spiritual Town. Tourism is one of the key industries, which is playing a critical role in the development of the state. Development of the sites like Badrinath would also help in attracting more tourists, which in turn would strengthen the economy of the state.”

Addressing the occasion, Tirath Singh Rawat said, “I congratulate Union Minister Dharmendra Pradhan and Oil & Gas PSUs for extending their supports for this noble initiative. Shri Badrinath Dham has a special place in the hearts of the people of this country. It is considered to be one of the most sacred places in our country, and developmental activities are much needed to provide the best of facilities to the pilgrims from across the country. With the concerted efforts of both Uttarakhand Govt. and Oil & Gas PSUs, we are hopeful that the rejuvenation work of Shri Badrinath Dham will be completed within a span of three-year time.”

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Policy & Politics

SIGNIFICANT ECONOMIC PRESENCE: ADDING ANOTHER STRING TO THE BOW

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Over the years, digitalisation and technology have revolutionised our world and daily lives. Emerging technologies such as internet of things, quantum computing, augmented reality, artificial intelligence, big data, machine learning, blockchain etc have a marked influence on our economic as well as social activities and are changing the way people connect, entertain, socialise, create, sell, shop and work. With technological advancement, the pace at which businesses have proliferated their extraterritorial presence without having any tangible footprint, is astonishing. India is among the top three global economies in terms of digital consumer base, with 624 million active internet users. Taxation systems in major developing economies, including India, were drafted taking into consideration, the traditional way of doing business, ie a brick-and-mortar model. The conventional residence-based and source-based concepts of taxation have become outmoded over time and incapable of effectively taxing the digital economy largely due to its distinctive amorphous nature. This has resulted in either double taxation or non-taxation of revenues and has become a key base erosion and profit shifting concern across the globe. The OECD and G-20 countries have been working determinedly under the inclusive framework on BEPS to address the need for tax reforms. The OECD is spearheading a project to develop a consensus-based solution to address this crisis through revised profit allocation and nexus rules. India has been at the fore of adopting changes in international tax systems to keep pace with progression in the digital world. India was among the first to implement Equalisation Levy in 2016 on online advertisements related services and to substantially expanded the scope of this levy in 2020 to cover e-commerce supply and services. Equalisation Levy is designed to operate outside the framework of the existing system of tax treaties and transactions covered thereunder are not subject to income tax.

In the year 2018, the domestic tax laws in India were amended to widen the scope of ‘business connection’ with the introduction of Significant Economic Presence (SEP). The resulting income of a non-resident attributable to SEP in India were to be considered taxable. However, owing to delay in accomplishing a global consensus, SEP provisions were deferred till April 1, 2021 and the enacting thresholds were not prescribed. Pursuant to the amendments in Finance Act 2020 and the recent notification prescribing these thresholds, SEP is now defined to mean any transaction in respect of any goods, services or property carried out by a non-resident with any person in India, including the provision of download of data or software in India, subject to payments threshold of INR 20 million or systematic and continuous soliciting of business activities or engaging in interaction with 0.3 million or more number of users in India. Moreover, transactions and activities may constitute SEP in India, regardless of whether a non-resident has a residence or place of business in India, or renders services in India, or agreement for such transactions or activities is entered in India. This all-embracing definition is not restricted to digital transactions and could also impact typical buy-sell or service transactions between non-resident and an Indian resident. Far from the original intent, SEP provisions may also embrace offshore sale of goods and provisions of services outside India, unless clarified otherwise. Necessary clarifications regarding definition of key terms such as goods, property, systematic and continuous soliciting etc are awaited too from the Regulators.

Although SEP related provisions are applicable from April 1, 2021, it may only be a ‘paper tiger’ as non-residents from tax treaty network countries are shielded under the narrower definition of Permanent Establishment (PE) in respective tax treaties. India has an operational tax treaty alliance with majority of countries housing businesses that derive income from India. Unless these tax treaties are renegotiated through bilateral or multilateral instrument and corresponding modifications are made to include provisions similar to SEP in those tax treaties, SEP provisions under domestic tax laws seem innocuous. Irrespective of this armour, test of beneficial ownership could still be a relevant aspect to evaluate, especially in cases of multi-tier structures, where a non-resident could invoke tax treaty protection to duck SEP test. On other side of the fence, SEP provisions would set in motion for all businesses coming from countries such as the Bahamas, Bermuda, Cayman Islands, etc, with whom India does not have a tax treaty yet.

A conjoint assessment of net basis taxation under SEP and gross basis taxation under Equalisation Levy would become critical for digital businesses. Equalisation Levy would become an elective regime once a non-resident e-commerce operator accedes to an Indian PE, in the form of SEP. In a scenario where a non-resident constitutes SEP in India, only income attributable to such transaction or activities would be taxable in India. While a public consultation document on profit attribution for SEP was issued by the Central Board of Direct Taxes, no rules have been notified so far. It, therefore, becomes apposite to assess the applicability of Rule 10 in such a scenario. Constitution of SEP would unfold various compliance obligations for both, payers and non-residents. Payers would be required to review withholding tax position as any shortfall could trigger expense disallowance, interest, and penal consequences. Non-residents, on the other hand, could be required to file income tax return, tax audit and transfer pricing reports in India, wherever applicable. Notably, non-compliance related to transactions carried out between April 1 and May 2 of 2021 (ie before threshold notification date) may possibly be defended by payers on the tenet of impossibility of performance.

Though the payment threshold for Equalisation Levy and SEP are calibrated at same level, it is quite low given the size of Indian economy and growing consumer base. Even after the Apex Court settled the highly debated issue of taxation of software, taxpayers cannot breathe a sigh of relief as the ruling was based entirely on the premise of no PE in India and software sale as well as services transactions could now well be covered under the new SEP regime. The evolving ecosystem of taxation in India would require non-residents to tread a tightrope as dynamic provisions such as SEP are plugging-in loopholes that may have existed under domestic tax laws for a while. What lies ahead is the hope of reaching a quick global consensus that could provide a fair and just system of taxation, followed by modification of tax treaties to incorporate the suggested amendments.

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Policy & Politics

Pradhan flags off used cooking oil-based biodiesel from Indian Oil’s Tikrikalan terminal

Tarun Nangia

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Minister of Petroleum & Natural Gas and Steel, Dharmendra Pradhan, remotely flagged off the first supply of UCO (Used Cooking Oil) based Biodiesel blended Diesel under the EOI Scheme from IndianOil’s Tikrikalan Terminal. Secretary, Ministry of Petroleum & Natural Gas Tarun Kapoor and Chairman, IndianOil S M Vaidya, were also present on the occasion.

To create an eco-system for collection and conversion of UCO into Biodiesel and developing entrepreneurship opportunities, Hon’ble Minister of Petroleum and Natural Gas & Steel, along with Hon’ble Minister of Health & Family Welfare, Science & Technology and Earth Sciences, had initiated Expressions of Interest (EoIs) for “Procurement of Bio-diesel produced from Used Cooking Oil (UCO)” on the occasion of World Biofuel Day on 10th August 2019. And such “Expression of Interest” is being periodically released by Oil Marketing Companies (OMCs). In the first phase, 11 EoIs were floated between 10.08.2019 to 09.11.2020 for 200 locations. Publication of EoIs has been extended for one more year up to 31.12.2021, for 300 locations across the country.

Under this initiative, OMCs offer periodically incremental price guarantees for five years and extend off-take guarantees for ten years to prospective entrepreneurs. So far, IndianOil has also issued 23 LOIs for Biodiesel plants with a total capacity of 22.95 Cr Litres (557.57 TPD). Under this initiative, IndianOil has received 51KL of UCO-Biodiesel at its Tikrikalan terminal in Delhi as of 31.3.2021.

Speaking on the occasion, Dharmendra Pradhan complimented the Oil industry on the stellar role they have played to keep the fuel lines running despite the stiff challenges of the pandemic. He also lauded the OMCs for going beyond the usual business imperatives by extending support for medical oxygen supply to the nation in this crisis. Mr Pradhan also appreciated IndianOil’s leadership role in smoothening the Liquid oxygen logistics in the country through various initiatives.

Referring to the flag-off of the first supply of UCO-based Biodiesel from IndianOil’s Tikrikalan Terminal, Mr Pradhan said, “This is a landmark in India’s pursuance of Biofuels and will have a positive impact on the environment. This initiative will garner substantial economic benefits for the nation by shoring up indigenous Biodiesel supply, reducing import dependence, and generating rural employment”. He appreciated the proactive role played by OMCs in this direction and shared that 30 LOIs have already been issued.

Secretary, Ministry of Petroleum & Natural Gas, Tarun Kapoor, while delivering his address, said, “With this flag off, a new era of Bioenergy has been ushered in that will revolutionize the Indian petroleum sector. Feedstock availability in Biodiesel is a challenge, and leveraging UCO can be a major breakthrough that will enable us to reach the target of 5% Biodiesel blending. It will also help divert the unhealthy used oil from the food chain to a more productive purpose”. Mr Kapoor also complimented IndianOil for their focused drive on UCO based Biodiesel and for the concerted efforts undertaken to promote the benefits of Biodiesel.

Earlier, Chairman IndianOil S M Vaidya, while welcoming the gathering, said, “IndianOil is committed to contributing to this remarkable drive to retrieve the unhealthy Used Cooking Oil and usher in a revolution through “Randhan se Indhan”. We aspire to trace even the last drop of UCO and ensure its conversion to Biodiesel, thereby contributing to a more energy secure, greener and healthier India. This event is yet another significant step towards a Swachh and Aatmanirbhar Bharat”. He also shared that IndianOil has started constructing eight Biodiesels plants across Uttar Pradesh, Gujarat, and Madhya Pradesh.

Biodiesel is an alternative fuel similar to conventional or ‘fossil’ diesel. It can be produced from vegetable oil, animal fats, tallow and waste cooking oil. A significant advantage of Biodiesel is its carbon-neutrality, i.e. the oilseed absorbs the same amount of CO2 as is released when the fuel is combusted in a vehicle. Also, Biodiesel is rapidly biodegradable and completely non-toxic.

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Policy & Politics

INDIA BEGINS EXPORT OF ORGANIC MILLETS GROWN IN HIMALAYAS TO DENMARK

Tarun Nangia

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In a major boost to organic products exports from the country, first consignment of millets grown in Himalayas from snow-melt water of Ganges in Dev Bhoomi (Land of the God), Uttarakhand would be exported to Denmark.

APEDA, in collaboration with Uttarakhand Agriculture Produce Marketing Board (UKAPMB) & Just Organik, an exporter, has sourced & processed ragi (finger millet), and jhingora(barnyard millet) from farmers in Uttarakhand for exports, which meets the organic certification standards of the European Union.

UKAPMB procured millets directly from these farmers which have been processed in the state-of-art processing unit built by mandi board and operated by Just Organik.

“Millets are unique agricultural products from India which have significant demand in the global market. We will continue to carry out export promotion for the millets with a special focus on products sourced from Himalayas,” said by Dr M Angamuthu, Chairman, APEDA. He stated that Indian organic products, nutraceuticals and health food are gaining more demand in overseas market

In Uttarakhand, many of the common varieties of millets are the staple foods in the hills. The Uttarakhand government has been supporting organic farming. UKAPMB, through a unique initiative has been supporting thousands of farmers for organic certification. These farmers produce mainly millets such as ragi, barnyard millet, amaranthus etc.

The exports of millets to Denmark would expand exports opportunities in European countries. The exports would also support thousands of farmers that are getting into organic farming. Millets are gaining a lot of popularity globally because of high nutritive values and being gluten free also.

Meanwhile, India’s export of organic food products rose by more than 51% to Rs 7078 crore ($ 1040 million) during April-February (2020-21) compared to the same period in the previous fiscal (2019-20).

In terms of quantity, the exports of organic food products grew by 39% to 888,179 metric tonne (MT) during April-February (2020-21) compared to 638,998 MT shipped in April- February (2020-21). The growth in organic products have been achieved despite logistical and operational challenges posed by the COVID19 pandemic.

Oil cake meal is a major commodity of the organic product exports from the country followed by oil seeds, fruit pulps and purees, cereals & millets, spices, tea, medicinal plant products, dry fruits, sugar, pulses, coffee, essential oil etc. India’s organic products have been exported to 58 countries including USA, European Union, Canada, Great Britain, Australia, Switzerland, Israel and South Korea.

At present, organic products are exported provided they are produced, processed, packed and labelled as per the requirements of the National Programme for Organic Production (NPOP). The NPOP has been implemented by APEDA since its inception in 2001 as notified under the Foreign Trade (Development and Regulations) Act, 1992.

The NPOP certification has been recognized by the European Union and Switzerland which enables India to export unprocessed plant products to these countries without the requirement of additional certification. NPOP also facilitates export of Indian organic products to the United Kingdom even in the post Brexit phase.

In order to facilitate the trade between major importing countries, negotiations are underway with Taiwan, Korea, Japan, Australia, UAE, New Zealand for achieving Mutual Recognition Agreements for exports of organic products from India.

NPOP has also been recognized by the Food Safety Standard Authority of India (FSSAI) for trade of organic products in the domestic market. Organic products covered under the bilateral agreement with NPOP need not to be recertified for import in India.

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