Connect with us


Like Japan, we should develop our own IP capabilities better: Prabhu

Rishabh Gulati



Rajya Sabha MP and former Union minister Suresh Prabhu tells The Daily Guardian that India must be wellprepared to grab the opportunities coming out of the massive disruption caused by Covid-19. Excerpts:

Q. What do you see in the difficult time as the immediate opportunity that we should not miss?

A: An opportunity comes only when there is a disruption and hence, an opening comes only when there is something which was happening before is now about to change and it is changing for sure. One, in the context of the global supply chain. This is not just happening today but now the situation has changed so dramatically after Covid-19 that might happen sooner than later.

To take advantage of that, the Commerce Minister had set up a group and brought a lot of strategies to help India benefit from these disruptions that were likely to happen because of the global supply chain getting disturbed. They did sector-bysector analysis two years ago. We looked for opportunities in pharma, automobile, ago riculture and services. To align ourselves with the opportunities, we had to take domestic steps as well. We realised unless we work domestically, we cannot change it in global level.

Q: How do we break the cycle of the second supply chain?

A: First, we must be conscious about the fact that when we say we want to be a part of the supply chain, we either should be thinking of changing the entire chain from raw material to finished product to India or the second option will be to take part in such an element of the supply chain that leads us to competitive advantage. To put in action the first way we will have to be making everything in India starting from raw material.

Taking the example of pharmacy, we buy the bulk drugs needed to make formulations from China and others while we are specialising in formulations, we can also start selling them to the world. We must be the critical end of the supply chain where value addition is the maximum and to get the bigger pie, we must not just focus on make in India but also design in India.

Q: Should we be focusing on basic good production or focus on 3D printing or AI or do we do both?

A: We should do both but the time-frame is important. Either, we can do both immediately or start doing one by one and while we do all of it, we can focus on the complete chain. But we have got IPR issues where the product is designed by someone who makes the best of the deal. It is extremely important that we start owning the IP of the product completely in India.

To develop special IP in India, we need to pick up specific products in order to develop the entire ecosystem in India itself. We don’t realise our potential. We are really good in auto components and also in case of specialised designing, for example Godrej. They have been doing some of the precision manufacturing as they supply to ISRO, defence equipment, etc.

Q: We’ve faced a conundrum in the past. If we say we want to produce here, then some of our production in terms of aircraft have taken 30-40 years. Then the buyer says we need new equipment easily. Is the private sector involvement in competition the solution to this problem?

A: The next round of industrial revolution, the 4th industrial revolution, is bound to be given by huge technological input. The shortfall of the manufacturing of the world is going to change dramatically. Entire operations will be automated, will be monitored remotely by high technology. So, I think private sector involvement is inevitable because technology isn’t the forte of the government. They’re very good at organising—they have CSIR, which is producing good products, we have government-controlled labs. The point is the commercialisation of that research.

Q: Are you seeing it happening, sir? Is the private sector engagement happening?

A: Yes, it is happening, thanks to Prime Minister Narendra Modi, who is personally very keen on indigenising our production capabilities. We are the largest importer of defence equipment in the world, we have to ensure our defence capabilities are upgraded in a way that doesn’t help the economies of other countries by buying armaments from there. We have to select specialised companies who have the ability and a very good track record. For eg., Godrej has been there for more than a century.

Q: We’ve had a problem in the past—the tendering process which goes on and on. MyGov is holding a competition for a new video-conferencing app. The best company gets a grant from the government and a government contract. The other issue is that when we’re processing from our companies, we are waiting for the government to have a need. Can we flip this around? Can private companies approach the government and tell them that we have this idea, let’s figure out how to use it?

A: First, you must accept that we have a challenge in terms of procurement. The procurement system is broken. We need to ensure that first, for any success of a design like this, it has to be completely transparent. If it isn’t transparent it can never be sustainable, it can be abused easily. Secondly, you must have a good criterion for selecting the vendor.

Companies like Godrej, Tata, Mahindra are really good and they deliver properly. Countries like the US have a fantastic ecosystem. When their Defence Ministry, the Pentagon, needs to order something, it happens within two weeks. A company can approach the US government and tell them what can be done. Now, that company will also not share their idea with anyone else. Subsequently, if it is found that the company in question plagiarised the idea off someone else, then there are penal provisions.

Q: Take 5G, for example. We don’t have indigenous tech, it will take years to develop, which creates a huge conundrum for us. So how do we encourage indigenisation of that?

A: We can’t do everything together at 100% intensity at the same time. The entire value chain cannot be carried out simultaneously. We have to take that part of the chain which is good. 5G is a good example. We don’t have the tech for sure. We have to decide the best form of leveraging the technology but find out and start preparing for 6G now. If you do that, we will actually take a jump from where we are starting today.

There was a time when products that were made in Japan were deemed inferior, but today they’re accepted as the best quality products. Why is that? Japan also started with no advanced manufacturing, they also sourced technology from wherever possible. What they did well was develop their own IP capabilities very well. What we have to do well simultaneously is carry out a parallel exercise to invest enough into integral applications —say industrial applications. CSIR should take a lead on that. Second, upgrading our educational institutions. You can never develop IPR in India unless your educational institutions are upgraded to that level.

Q: What is the focus area? You mentioned IPR several times. So, we need to plan for the next 10 years now—for 6G, for the next global internet systems. What areas do you see for us to jump onto the bandwagon quickly so that we are futureproof?

A: We should try to take whatever comes our way. Manufacture indigenously where we can, that gives us experience and knowledge and gives us the potential to upgrade later. It will create opportunities for Indian business and Indian manufacturing to understand the business so that they can upgrade from there. I’ll give you an example. When Suzuki came to India to acquire the nailing Maruti, they tied up with Indian manufacturing companies as partners. So that gave Indian companies the ability to upgrade. IPR is a long-term issue, let us not focus on that right now. Seize what is available for now.

News Plus

Why there is so much protest against farm laws

Surinder Kumar & Kulwant Singh Nehra



Amidst strong protests by Opposition parties and farmers’ organisations, the Central government got the three farm bills passed in Parliament. With the assent of the President of India, these bills have now become Acts or the laws of the land! The Farmers’ Produce Trade and Commerce (Promotion and Facilitation) Act 2020 implies that private traders can now bypass Agricultural Produce Market Committee (APMC) mandis and purchase agricultural produce to sell it anywhere in India. The Farmers (Empowerment and Protection) Agreement on Price Assurance and Farm Services Act 2020 means freedom for contract farming and price negotiations and the Essential Commodities (Amendment) Act 2020 provides freedom to agribusiness and trades to stock any agricultural produce in as much quantity as they would like to. In effect, it means that the corporate sector has been given free hand to enter in agriculture, contract farming on ‘mutually agreed terms and conditions’, purchase, storage, processing and other market operations, with little legal protection to the farmers. Even the constitutional validity of Central acts in a federal state of India, where agriculture is a state subject in the constitutional scheme, is being questioned. 

The Central government has claimed that this move has liberalised agricultural markets and will facilitate improvement in market’s efficiency, attract private investment in agriculture and would ensure better prices to farmers for their produce with high transparency. This would mean farmers will get out of the clutches of the monopoly of APMC mandis and evade the rent-seeking behaviour of the traditional intermediaries (arhtiyas). The polar opposite viewpoint of the protesters is that this move, towards greater play of free markets, is a ploy by the government to get away from its traditional role of being the guarantor of Minimum Support Prices (MSPs). For this, farmers argue that the government should have provided for statutory guaranteed MSP for their marketed surplus. 

Farmers, especially in Punjab and Haryana where MSP for their two major crops is almost assured, are suspicious of what the markets will offer and how the “big companies” will treat them, where they may be minor players and incapable of bargaining effectively. There are many structural problems like lack of information with farmers which inhibits their ability to make informed decisions. Even if they have market information, their capacity to bargain or hold their crop is very limited, forcing small and marginal farmers for distress sale and getting further into debt trap and pushed out of their agricultural occupation and be landless labour.

 It is nobody’s case that agriculture market reforms were not required. There have been many problems with APMC mandis. They were getting inefficient, opaque, politicised and often controlled by cartels. Need of the hour was to clean the system than to make it defunct. Two parallel systems of marketing, one operated by private corporates where there will be no government charges and the other APMC mandis, where mandi boards and ‘ahrtiyas’ charge a fee, a dual price structure will encourage unregulated trade detrimental to providing access to farmers for better price recovery and assured prices. Soon APMC mandis will become defunct and it will pave the space for withdrawal of MSP rendering farmers more vulnerable to unregulated market operations. Corporatisation does not reduce the role of middle-men, they will now have a new role as market integrators between corporates and farmers without any government regulation, rendering farmers more vulnerable to exploitation of the middlemen and corporates. Provisions of Agricultural Marketing Acts are highly skewed in favour of private capital, with no limit on stock holding and with restrictions on the government interventions, there is limited recourse to any independent grievance redressal mechanism as SDMs/DCs are prone to pressures from the state and corporates, without judicial review.

 Very little attention has been paid to the implications of amendment to the Essential Commodities Act. Even recently, when onion prices shot up, the government was forced to ban its export to protect the interests of the domestic market. With amendment to the Essential Commodities Act, policy space for government intervention will get reduced, rendering domestic consumers to be more vulnerable to the operations of the market mechanism. These agricultural market reforms are consistent with neo-liberal macroeconomic policy regime being adopted by the Government of India since 1991 in general and 2014 in particular. But the moot question is how they will impact small and marginal farmers, rural employment, distribution of income, food security and consumer protection?

 Experience, of the advanced capitalist countries of Europe and the US, shows that unregulated markets always lead to pushing the small farmers out of agriculture. In India, about 80% farmers have a holding of less than 5 acres, they will have no option but to become wage labourers. Crisis will deepen further when there is no alternative strategy to generate employment to absorb farmers’ rendered surplus from agriculture. During 2011- 19, India had a jobless growth. Post Covid-19, Indian economy is in a very bad shape which reveals falling GDP and worse employment situation. Crores of semi-skilled labourers have got unemployed. It is reported that 2.1 crore salaried jobs have been lost and people are in great stress. This has been no time to tinkle with a relatively smooth-running machine of APMC mandis, further aggravating the worsening state of the economy. These agricultural market reforms, in the name of safeguarding the interests of farmers, are out and out structural changes to give free play to the corporate sector with little protection to the farmers.

Continue Reading

News Plus

How brands turned Covid crisis into an opportunity



The over two month long nationwide lockdown which was put in place to slow down the spread of the Covid-19 infection has led to several brands re-strategising their business models in order to recover from the sweeping losses they had faced during the lockdown. Some of the brands include Gem Selections, India’s biggest gemstones brand; 750AD Healthcare Pvt Ltd, an online healthcare platform which was launched around the same time when the pandemic hit the world; Gympik that launched a virtual gyming platform amongst others. 

Some brands also turned this pandemic from a crisis to an opportunity. Illumnus is such a company that has changed completely through Covid-19. Post-lockdown, when 99% of the institutes were looking for some steady solution for online learning and were striving to conduct online examinations, Illumnus brought in a new solution for all these problems and helped bring entire schools online. The brand added new features like online examination, video lecturing, prearranged assignments, smart attendance, content suggestion, institute library, and in-depth analytics to aid the process of online education for institutes across the country, during lockdown. 

While the well-known and very popular online jewellery brand Gem Selections incorporated an augmented reality & 3D hologram imaging technology for its complete inventory at their flagship stores so that the customers can try all the products physically, rather than trying them virtually before purchasing. This, according to the company, was roped in so that the customers can try these jewelleries without having to physically touch them again and again.

 As for 750AD Healthcare Pvt Ltd, which was launched just ahead of the global lockdown, it re-strategised its policies and branding to help people during the lockdown with online doctors, counselling and many other features. The brand also launched multiple campaigns during the same period which included their awareness campaigns like ‘Together We Can Help Prevent Suicides’, ‘Thankyoudoctors’, ‘Health is True Independence: Independence Day Campaign’, ‘Thankyounurses’, ‘HospitalReviewProgram’, among others. 

Owing to the pandemic all gyms were closed for the longest time as compared to any other business. Gympik, a fitness brand, took this opportunity to launch an online portal for the fitness enthusiasts and integrated virtual training in its club management software. It developed a scalable model to endure in the changing landscape and this was done through its newly developed interface, live streaming feature that was integrated seamlessly to make training sessions interesting through virtual experience that is controlled and implemented from one platform.

 However, for TAA Music Label, a music company that works with talented musicians and singers from across the country, the lockdown came as a blessing in disguise. The brand made a radical shift from focusing on generic music towards discovering and honing every artist’s unique skills and produced EPs based on the same. Also, there was a shift in the marketing model. While earlier social media was one of the major promotion platforms, the pandemic opened the gates for radio shows like RedIndies shuffle show (A 93.5 Red FM, all independent music show). 

Additionally, the brand has also developed new and innovative ways of saving video production costs through ‘Mobile Shoot’ and ‘Graphical Videos’ saving the cost for shoot, travel, crew which is now being invested into promotion.

Continue Reading

News Plus

We need to stand with our farmers today

The Americans and Europeans—both the public and the
governments—have never ceased to support their farmers.
We should also come forward in support of them.

Ajay Shukla



With the onset of the Covid-19 pandemic, the majority of companies laid off their workforce, while others made cuts in their salaries. The question is: Did it help them tide over the problems created by the pandemic? The answer is no. 

This question was raised by renowned industrialist Ratan Tata. He opined that companies should be compassionate towards their workers. It is neither a remedy nor an act of humanity to discard their workers in distress who have toiled hard for the success of their companies. Instead, the management of companies should work towards possibilities of resolution of distress. 

Companies are formed not by their assets, but by their workforce. This is the reason that Tata, without any support from the government, has maintained a name which has immense goodwill and faith, even in these times. The government should also work towards possibilities and policies dedicated to better public welfare. The Governments of Canada and China have worked on these issues, and as a result, these countries have fared well and proven themselves better than others in these times. 

However, there are only a selected few like Tata, and our country is in dire straits. The corporate sector is working only for its self-interest and is not bothered about the lives of others. It works on a system, and not on compassion, and those who run this system work only for their selfinterests and walk away with heavy perks and packages. In a democracy, the citizens form their own government and the responsibility of such a government is to work, keeping the interest of its citizens over any other interest. But, nowadays, corporates are powerful because everything runs on their funds.

 Today, the country is facing unrest over the passing of the three bills which will regulate agriculture and farmers. The unrest is expected and accepted as it is for a public cause. For the last few days, farmers from Punjab, Haryana, Rajasthan, Maharashtra and western Uttar Pradesh have been agitating, while there is not much of an agitation to be seen in the other states. The reason is obvious: in these States, there are sufficient markets as well as avenues for the farmers. Bihar and other states do not have such arrangements for their farmers, on account of which their farmers are neither capable nor have reasonable earnings. The government claims that they have opened up and provided better avenues for the farmers by promulgating these laws. Farmers can now stock their produce and sell it at a good price anywhere, which will reduce the profits made by middlemen/agents. At the first glance, the stand of the government appeared to be reasonable, but on pondering over the matter deeply, I was forced to question myself about why farmers are the only one protesting over it — instead of all of us? 

I am also from an agrarian family and we do not go to the markets to sell our produce. We sell the produce to the agent/ middleman as a standing crop in the fields, for a price lesser than the MSP, which in return provides us with the better service of the agent/middleman, who procures the produce from our farms and takes the responsibility of saving the produce from the rains and stocking it. The agent/middleman also tenders payments in advance when it’s required.

 In our home, a young man comes to deliver milk from a village, and on asking him, he told us that he had sold the wheat produce at the time of harvesting at a rate of Rs 18- 19 per kg and, at present, the rate of wheat is prevailing at Rs 22-23 per kg, and that he easily manages his household through animal husbandry. At his time of need, the agent/ middleman helps him, and in return, he sells him his wheat. I recollect how, back in 2012, Arun Jaitley, the Leader of BJP in the Rajya Sabha, had stated that corporates can never work for the welfare of farmers. He had cited the examples of farmers in Europe and the Americas while addressing the Parliament, to make its Members understand how corporates there get cultivation done but farmers are in dire straits, and that the governments take care of the farmers by way of subsidies and grants. Sushma Swaraj had also said that the market and the agents are the bankers for a farmer and the reason for ‘celebrations in his house’. 

It is sad that the interests of corporates are being lobbied by their party now after assuming power. Farmers are being mesmerised with sweet dreams, while the Parliament has stamped its approval for turning them into labourers for the corporate. And this has been done by those representatives whom they had elected with the hope of seeing better times. This is the reason why farmers of half a dozen states are protesting on the roads today and the intellectuals of the country along with the chief opposition party, Congress, are battling for the rights of the farmers. The question rises again: why is this battle being waged by the farmer alone, and not by all of us? We all are busy watching the monkey business of Deepika, Sushant and Rhea on the news channels, which is not helping the nation in any manner. 

If you remember, when the produce of potatoes and onions had hit the markets, farmers had not been able to get even Rs 2 per kg for that produce. The farmers who had taken their produce to the Nasik market, after paying heavy fares, had become victims of devastation on reaching the market and had to throw their produce of potatoes and onions on the road before leaving emptyhanded. Today, we are buying potatoes and onions at Rs 40 per kg. Tomatoes also suffered from the same fate and now are selling for a price higher than Rs 100 per kg. So, who is actually earning from the produce of the farmers? Is it the trader? The answer is, yes, because he is in a position to stock the produce and to tender advance payments to the farmers. Farmers in Punjab and Haryana are prosperous and their average yearly income is around Rs 2.40 lakh, whereas that of the farmers in Bihar is Rs 44,000 only. It is even lesser in Odisha and West Bengal. The reason for this is that the farmers in Punjab and Haryana earn well with the help of the markets and the middlemen/agents, whereas in Bihar and other states, there are no such arrangements and the government does not affect the whole purchase on the MSP. 

With the promulgation of this law, the agricultural produce shall be captured by the corporates. They would purchase and stock the produce as per their whims and fancies and would further sell it at their dictated prices. They would also capture the farm fields with the concept of corporate farming and the farmer would be compelled to be their labourer. This way, corporates would rake in money after looting from the farmers’ produce. This is not an apprehension but rather a bitter truth because corporates work only for their own profits and interests. We have witnessed how they did not even blink an eyelid before laying off those employees who had founded and established their companies through their dedicated hard work.

 We have to understand that the farmer neither has the resources nor the capacity to take his produce to other states by hiring freight transport. He is also incapable of holding to his produce or stock it as he seeks the help of the middleman/ agent to sow his fields by getting the cost of the sowing and, thereafter, asks him to procure his produce. The trader does benefit, because he has the capacity and resources to procure, stock and transport the produce, but it is also true that the trader/middleman/agent has a friendly bond with the farmer. When the corporates’ system would be applied in the farms, then only the profitability of the produce would be harvested. The hopes of the farmers would be dashed down, as they would pay the farmer only according to what profits them.

 Corporates would also sell the agricultural products at a high rate to us, after stocking the same, because there is no legal regulation over the pricing of the products anymore. If we are to feed ourselves, we would be forced to buy the products from the corporates at a higher price with folded hands and stare at a food crisis in the future. This is the reason why we should not leave the farmer standing alone today. The Americans and Europeans — both the public and the governments — have never ceased to support their farmers. We should also come forward in support of them. This is not a political fight but a battle for public interest.

Continue Reading


Housemaid’s murder: TRS leader arrested under Nirbhaya Act

Lokeswara Rao



TRS leader Madhu Yadav was arrested in a sensational case of murder and rape of a domestic help. Of late, a domestic help died in the TRS leader’s house and previously it was treated as a suicide case but after the complaint of the victim’s sister it was converted as murder and rape. 

Both the family of the deceased and the Opposition have raised suspicions on the way in which the Moinabad police handled the investigation. The locals are demanding that he should be handed over to them for quick punishment or police should do what they did in Disha case. 

Several Congress leaders visited the victim’s family and demanded justice for the victim. 

The DCP of Shemsabad said, “The victim’s sister stated that the accused Madhu Yadav used to come home after consuming alcohol and would take her elder sister in a room and rape her. On the night of 25 September, the accused came home and as usual, took her elder sister to his room and in the early morning, he left the house and came back in a while. When the complainant girl went into the room on the first floor, she found her sister hanging by the ceiling fan.” Leaders from several political parties, the Congress, AIMIM and MBT, visited the family to offer support. 

Former Chevella MP Konda Vishveshwar Reddy called the incident a clear case of child labour and murder. “They immediately deleted the Facebook page of TRS leader Madhu with pictures of him in TRS Khandwa with party leaders. Officials took away the victim’s Aadhar card age proof. It was an attempt to show her as a major,” he tweeted. Amjed Ullah Khan, lawyer and spokesperson for MBT party questioned the police. In a tweet, he said, “The police have booked only one person. They have not even checked if there are any accomplices. They are not investigating properly. In the Disha murder case, everyone visited the family and consoled them but here, no one from the TRS party has even made a comment condemning the incident.” Meanwhile, Home Minister of Telangana Mohammed Mahmood Ali convened a meeting regarding the Moinabad incident. 

All police officials such as Cyberabad CP V.C. Sajjanar, Prakash Reddy, D.C.P, Shamshabad, etc were present in the meeting. The Home Minister enquired in detail regarding the death of the woman. The case has been registered at Moinabad Police Station. Officers told the Home Minister that based on the statement of the victim’s sister, the Police altered the sections of law and the accused TRS leader Bathuku Madhusudhan alias Madhu Yadav has already been arrested under Nirbhaya Act and Juvenile Justice act and sent to Judicial Custody. 

They said the accused was reported to be a Rowdy Sheeter having a criminal history of involvement in 3 land related cases. Ashok Chakravarthy, ACP, Rajendra Nagar has been appointed as an inquiry officer.

Continue Reading


Goa CM Pramod Sawant meets PM Modi to resolve mining issue




:Goa Chief Minister Pramod Sawant on Wednesday met Prime Minister Narendra Modi in Delhi to discuss several issues, including the resumption of iron ore mining that awaits a decision by the Supreme Court. Sawant, who is in Delhi on a two-day visit, also met Union Mines Minister Pralhad Joshi.

 Sawant in his tweet said, “Called on the Prime Minister in New Delhi today. Had a fruitful discussion on various matters, including mining.” “Later, met the Union Minister of Mines to discuss the mining matter at length. We are hopeful of a positive outcome in the coming days,” the Chief Minister tweeted.

Continue Reading


Vijay Vardhan appointed Chief Secretary of Haryana



In a significant bureaucratic reshuffle, the Haryana government on Wednesday appointed senior IAS officer Vijay Vardhan as the state’s new chief secretary. 

Vardhan, 58, replaces Keshni Anand Arora, who retired on September 30. He will be the 34th chief secretary of Haryana since it was carved out as a separate state in 1966.

 The 1985-batch Haryana cadre IAS officer will also hold the charge of general administration, personnel, training, parliamentary affairs, vigilance and administrative reforms departments and secretary in-charge of plan coordination, the order said. 

He is due to retire in November 2021. Currently, Vardhan is the Additional Chief Secretary (ACS), Home, Jails, Criminal Investigation and Administration of Justice Department. He was also the Financial Commissioner, Revenue and Disaster Management; and Consolidation Departments. 

The Haryana government also issued orders of transfers and postings of five more IAS officers. Among them is Rajeev Arora, Additional Chief Secretary, Health and Family Welfare Department, who will also hold the charge of Home, Jails, Criminal Investigation and Administration of Justice Department besides being the Nodal Officer for COVID-19. Sanjeev Kaushal, ACS, Agriculture and Farmers’’ Welfare Department, has been posted as the ACS and Financial Commissioner, Revenue and Disaster Management and Consolidation Departments; and the ACS, Cooperation Department, relieving Vijai Vardhan of the charge. Alok Nigam, Additional Chief Secretary, Forests and Wildlife Department, has been posted as the ACS, Public Works (B&R) and Architecture Department; and Forests and Wildlife Department. Devender Singh, ACS, Irrigation and Water Resources Department, has been given the additional charge of the ACS, Agriculture and Farmers’’ Welfare Department. Dharamvir Singh, Municipal Commissioner, Yamunanagar, has been posted as the Deputy Commissioner, Charkhi Dadri.

 It is worth mentioning that both Arora and Kaushal have been in the good books of Chief Minister Manohar Lal and hail from the Punjabi community. But both the officials have much experience by virtue of holding key positions in different governments.

Continue Reading