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THORNS OF DESPAIR AMID HOPE, OPTIMISM

I am filled with expectations, aspirations and ambitions, but how do I welcome the New Year?

Vijay Darda

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I had cherished so many dreams about the New Year while going to bed on the last night of the year gone by. At the stroke of midnight, I too welcomed the year 2022. I celebrated the occasion with traditional gaiety. I performed pooja in the small ‘Sarvadharma Samabhava’ temple in my house. I prayed for my own happiness, the happiness of my family, the well-being of relatives and friends, the prosperity of the Lokmat family, as well as the prosperity of the country and the world. I retired with the wish to be illuminated in the new rays of the New Year!

Little did I know that when I wake up in the morning, a tragic news will greet me. Braving severe cold, the devotees had reached the temple of Mata Vaishno Devi to fulfil their wishes of happiness, prosperity and good health in life. But the inevitable happened. As the new year eve progressed past midnight, it brought with it a sudden stampede much before the break of dawn. 12 devotees were trampled to death, many others were injured and dreams were shattered..! This is not the first incident wherein innocent devotees lost their lives to a stampede at a religious place. Last year on April 21, seven people lost their lives due to stampede at Karuppasamy temple in Tamil Nadu. In 2011, 106 people were killed and over 100 injured in a stampede at the Sabarimala temple. On August 3, 2008, 145 people lost their lives in a stampede at Naina Devi Temple in Himachal Pradesh, while 120 people died at Chamunda Devi Temple in Jodhpur. In 2005, a stampede at the Mandhara Devi temple in Satara district of Maharashtra killed 350 people. These are some of the examples. Such incidents have happened in every state.

The moot question is who is responsible for such tragedies? Tragedies do not happen suddenly. Our country rests on faith. It is a country of spiritual devotion.

Here there is devotion to God, there is faith and there is superstition too. The administration knows that people will come in large numbers, and there will be a craving for early darshan and veneration. In such a situation, is it not the responsibility of the administration to plan meticulously? How come people get trampled to death year after year? Senior bureaucrats are heading the shrines like Vaishno Devi temple. When people went up the holy hill after buying a ticket, how did the crowd swell so much that it caused the stampede? Somebody has to take responsibility. People will behave in their own way. Chaotic behaviour is one of their traits. In fact, the life of the people hangs between governance and misgovernance at such places.

As we pick up the newspaper every morning, news of one tragic incident or the other greet us! Sometimes it feels like the lockdown was good! Imagine the excitement and joy among the people returning after attending a wedding ceremony, but a road accident turns them all into dead bodies! I agree that all this cannot change overnight. We all know how a licence to drive vehicles is issued. There is no discipline among the people while walking along the road. It is not taught how to walk on the road and how to make way for other vehicles.

There is really no civic sense at all! Many youths drive two-wheelers on the road in a dangerous way, without any control on speed and brake. Many of them pay for this rashness with their lives! Is it not avoidable? It will take 10 to 20 years for the people to learn how to walk carefully, but by then lakhs of lives would be lost. That is why the system has to be improved.

On the first morning of the New Year, good news appeared that while learning from the pandemic, the government has decided to strengthen the health infrastructure. There was another news that more than 150 new medical colleges would be set up. Efforts will be made to overcome the paucity of doctors. It is a welcome development. But we should also think as to why several doctors have turned commercial? When I talk to good and very sensitive doctors dedicated to the service, they say that as long as the seats are sold, the situation will not improve. When people spend crores of rupees to become doctors, buy machines worth crores of rupees, how do you expect them to be sensitive! Does the government not know that medical seats are sold? After all, even the people sitting in the government get elected from among the common people. In fact, there is an urgent need to increase the seats to train doctors, prepare different courses from two to five years according to the need, and it is then that the country will have more doctors. This is the age of technology and if technology is used on a large scale, the situation can be changed quickly. Patients can get relief from the loot. What is needed is determination, better policies and timely implementation at the government level.

And yes, do not forget that even today 30 to 40 per cent of the people in this country can not get two square meals a day. There is no home to live in and not enough clothes to wear.

On one hand, the number of those making it to Forbes list is on the rise but on the other, the size of the middle class is expanding and the lower class is still living in slums. People are forced to spend their life in hellish conditions. Their living conditions need to be improved.

And what a great irony it is that on one hand the government is telling people that not more than 50 people should attend the wedding, not more than 20 people should attend the funeral, people should wear masks and maintain physical distance, and on the other, 10,000 or 20,000 people are attending the wedding in the family of an MLA! Omicron is knocking at our doors and the election rallies of leaders are witnessing gathering of lakhs of supporters! People are neither wearing masks nor maintaining physical distance!

How do I welcome the New Year in these circumstances?

However, here is a poem for you. Whoever has written it, has given great hope to humankind. We nurse the same hope as the poet:

Naye saal ka naya savera,

Jab ambar se dharti par utare,

Tab shanti prem ki pankhudiyan,

Dharti ke kan kan par bikharen.

Chidiyon ke kalrav gaan ke sang,

Maanavta ki shuru kahani ho.

Fir na kisi ka lahu bahe,

Na kisi aankh mein pani ho,

Shabnam ki satrangi bunde,

Barse ghar ghar dwaar,

Mite garibi bhukhmari.

Nafrat ki diwaar.

Thandi thandi pawan khol de,

Samrasta ke dwaar,

Satya ahimsa aur prem,

Sikhe sara sansaar.

Suraj ki urja mein kirnon,

Antarman kaa tam har lein,

Nai soch ke navprabhaat se,

Ghar ghar mangal deep jale.

The author is the chairman, Editorial Board of Lokmat Media and former member of Rajya Sabha.

The New Year brings new enthusiasm and new hope, making everyone cheerful. It creates a bouquet of hopes, aspirations, desires and expectations. But when we suddenly encounter adversities, we feel disheartened. In such a situation, all we ask ourselves is: how do we welcome the New Year?

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Policy & Politics

INDIA TO ADD 50 FRESH UNICORNS IN 2022: STUDY

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In India more than 50 startups have the potential of entering the unicorn club in 2022 as showcased in a new study. This will take the total tally of India to well over 100 startup unicorns(those well valued over $1 billion each). The year 2022 has shaped up nicely to become a matrix and a petri-dish of startups and with each success the chances of others joining them becomes well over-precedent. The growth of startups can be attributed to various national economic policies and the ease of doing business norms. The shopping capabilities and buying parameters of the people also has to do a lot with this, the report by a consultancy firm suggested.

Amit Nawka, partner(deals and startup leader) in PwC India, which conducted the study said that, “ We can say that the base of these companies in growth stage and late-stage deals have improved have improved significantly in the calendar year 2021, depicting a stronger base of companies having the potential to reach the unicorn status. With market sentiments favourably inclined towards startups, and the large base of scaled startup companies at the end of CY21, we expect the startup’ unicorn tally to go well beyond 100 by the end of 2022.” Over $10 billion was invested in the Indian startup ecosystem in the October-December quarter alone, according to the report.

81 is the total number of startups in India as of now with a total valuation of 4274 billion. Of these 44 unicorns with a total valuation of $89 billion were born last year, shows data from Invest India, the national investment promotion agency. The PwC report shows that in the fourth quarter, startup funding crossed the $10 billion mark.

If we talk about categorisation, Fintech startups raised nearly four times more funds last year as compared to the previous year. Edtech followed closely with a growth of 86% compared to $2.2 billion raised in 2020. Software as a service came in a close third. Growth and late-stage deals comprised around 85% of the total funding. Among the most persistent and active investors were Sequoia Capital, Accel and Tiger Global. A December 2021 report by the Hurun Research Institute had mentioned that India is the third largest home for unicorns globally but trails the US and China by a wide margin.

Bengaluru and the Nation Capital Region witnessed nearly three-fourth of the total funding by venture capital and private equity funds, the report said. In its list of 50 potential unicorns it placed companies like Khatabook, Whatfix, Practo, Ninjacart, Inshorts, Pepperfry as among the candidates because of their history of having raised over USD 100 million to date.

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Policy & Politics

Effect of high rated fuel on country’s economy

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High fuel taxes combined with a recovery in international crude oil rates has affected millions of people, slowing down the recovery of the country. The price of petrol and diesel hits a new record everyday. In Mumbai, petrol can be bought at Rs 109.98 per litre and diesel costs Rs 94.14 for one litre as on 18th January.

Experts have warned that rising fuel rates could severely derail India’s economy, which is already under pressure due to the impact of the second Covid-19 wave. High petrol and diesel prices have not only impacted vehicle owners, but also people who do not own a car. Rising fuel prices have resulted in a sharp rise in retail inflation, making a host of essential commodities and services costlier for citizens.

Elevated tax levels are playing a major role in the current record high prices in India. The central government had last year increased levies on petrol by Rs 14 per litre and on diesel by Rs 16 per litre to shore up revenues as the pandemic forced a sharp slowdown in the economic activity. Central and state taxes currently account for about 53.5 per cent of the pump price of petrol and about 47.6 per cent of the pump price of diesel in Mumbai

The rising crude oil prices, and the higher taxation impact, have also contributed to the prices of petrol and diesel regularly setting new record highs across the country in 2021. Petrol in nation’s capital is priced at Rs 95.41 per litre while diesel in the national capital is retailing at Rs 86.67 per litre. India has seen a faster recovery in the consumption of petrol than of diesel after pandemic-related restrictions with petrol consumption up 9 per cent in September compared to the year ago period but diesel consumption remaining 6.5 per cent below 2020 levels. Diesel accounts for about 38 per cent of petroleum product consumption in India and is a key fuel used in industry and agriculture.

India has long pushed for Middle eastern countries to remove the Asian premium that Asian countries have to pay for crude oil as key oil producers set higher prices for India than for the US and European countries. Despite a 40 cent per barrel cut in the official selling price of light crude to Asia, Saudi Arabia is still charging a $1.30 premium on the benchmark price for light crude sold to India compared to a $2.4 discount on the benchmark price for European customers.

Experts have noted that countries like India do not have much bargaining power in the current market scenario where supply is lower than demand and that India’s bargaining power may be reduced further if we try to further diversify crude oil procurement. Also, the level of output and pricing benchmarks are decided by cartels such as OPEC.

So, Experts believe that the government should cut excise duty to some extent as it will provide some relief to customers and lead to higher sales and revenues which will accelerate the economy. But economic recovery will become tricky if the government continues to ignore rising fuel prices. If the commodity becomes too expensive, it would see a sharp decline in revenue.

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India-born top the list of founders among US unicorns: Study

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It is not only in India but in the US too that Indian founders are creating unicorns.

A study by Professor of Finance at Stanford University’s Graduate School of Business, Ilya A. Strebulaev researched that 90 out of 1,078 founders and entrepreneurs across 500 US unicorns were born in India which signalled a significant presence of Indian-Americans in the country’s startup and tech economy. He tweeted that, “Over four out of ten unicorn founders are first gen immigrants”. Indian born founders were followed by the ones from Israel and Canada with 52 and 42 founders respectively.

Some of the Indian origin founders of prominent unicorns include: Rohan Seth of Clubhouse, Baiju Bhatt of Robinhood, Dheeraj Pandey, Mohit Aron, Ajeet Singh of Nutanix, Apoorv Mehta of Instacart, Aayush Phumbhra of Chegg, among many others.

The research undertaken by Strebulaev is ripe at the time when India based technology want to return back home. Indian immigrants in the US are increasingly leaving their American dream behind because of visa issues and also because of the allure of a thriving startup culture in the home country. America has had a history of extremely successful Indian-origin entrepreneurs including Kanwal Rekhi, Pramod Haque, Sanjay Malhotra among others. India born executives are not only fueling the startups of the US but they are the executives of the most powerful tech giants.

U.S based Kaufman Foundation 33.2% of the co-founders of technology and engineering founded by immigrants in the US were Indians. Kaufman Foundation found out that Indian immigrant contribution in tech and startup industry was the only one that increased, all other immigrant contributions saw a decline. Another finding showed that 33 of the top 50 AI companies have at least one first generation immigrant founder. And 53 of the 125 founders are first generation immigrants. India and Israel were the largest senders of immigrant AI founders followed by the UK, China and Portugal.

India has a vibrant and an ever growing startup ecosystem. A recent report by venture capital fund Orios Venture Partners said Indian startups raised $42 Billion in 2021 up from $11.5 Billion in the previous year. The newly minted unicorns include ShareChat, Cred, Meesho, Moglix, MPL, Grofers(now blinkit), upGrad, Mamaearth, Acko, Spinny and others. India with 90 unicorns is the third largest unicorn hub behind the US(487) and China(301) and ahead of the UK(39). According to the report Flipkart was the most valuable unicorn($37.6 Billion).

India has seen four decacorns(companies with a valuation of USD 10 billion and above) so far- Flipkart, Paytm, BYJU’s and Oyo Rooms. While Bengaluru was the ‘Unicorn Hub’ with 18 unicorns emerging from the city in 2021 and 35 in all. It also happens to be the seventh largest unicorn city in the world.

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Policy & Politics

KARNATAKA’S ROLE IN BUILDING A $5 TRILLION ECONOMY WILL BE SIGNIFICANTLY LARGER, CHIEF MINISTER BOMMAI

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Karnataka is expected to play a significant part in the economy of the country in the future. The state is home to 13,000 of the country’s 54,000 startups. The Karnataka government has taken a number of steps to stimulate the formation of new businesses. The government is providing guidance and scientific support, according to Chief Minister Basavaraj Bommai.

In an online message on the occasion of ‘National Startup Day’ on Sunday, the Chief Minister stated that the notion of a New Karnataka for a New India would be realized. In accordance with the Prime Minister’s wishes, the state has commemorated Startup Day in a meaningful way. The state government will give a major boost to startups, innovation, scientific thinking, and entrepreneurship in the coming days, he added. “Thanks to the Prime Minister’s long-term goal, the number of startups, which was once about 500, has already surpassed 54,000.” He has given a tremendous boost to innovation and entrepreneurs by establishing a forum to assist them and free them from government limitations. “On behalf of the state’s youth, the Prime Minister has been the inspiration for the biggest development of startups in the state,” Bommai added, thanking the Prime Minister.

Bengaluru is home to around 180 science and research institutions in a variety of sectors.

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‘WEALTH OF 10 RICHEST INDIANS ENOUGH TO FUND HIGHER EDUCATION OF CHILDREN’

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DA hike

According to a new study, it has been found that the wealth of the 10 richest Indians is enough to fund school and higher education of children for over two decades (approx. 25 years). When most of the country was gripped by the Covid-19 pandemic, the combined fortunes of the Indian billionaires more than doubled during this period. The superrich count in the country has now shot up to 142, rising by 39 per cent.

The annual wealth inequality survey reported presented by Oxfam India at the Davos Agenda Summit of the World Economic Forum (WEF) said that an additional one per cent tax on the richest 10 per cent can provide nearly 17.7 lakh extra oxygen cylinders to the country. None of us can forget how there was a huge rush for oxygen cylinders and insurance claims during the second wave that struck last year.

On the other hand, a similar wealth tax on the 98 most-affluent families can finance Ayushman Bharat – world’s largest health insurance scheme, for more than seven years.

The report further finds that 142 Indian billionaires together own a wealth of $719 billion (over Rs 53 lakh crore). The richest 98 amongst them have the same wealth ($657 billion or nearly Rs 49 lakh crore) as the poorest 55.5 crore populace who are placed in the bottom 40 per cent.

It was found that if all of the top 10 richest Indians go on to spend $1 million every day, then it will take them 84 years to do away with their current wealth.

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Exports target of US$650 bn within the current financial year achievable: Piyush Goyal

‘$400 Bn target of Merchandise exports is within sight and the Services sector should strive for $250 Bn exports.’

Tarun Nangia

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Piyush Goyal

The Minister of Commerce and Industry, Consumer Affairs, Food and Public Distribution and Textiles, Piyush Goyaltoday said the exports target of USD 650 Billion within the current financial year is achievable. Chairing a Review Meeting of all major Export Promotion Councils (EPCs), Goyal said the $400 Bn target of Merchandise exports is within sight and the Services sector should strive for $250 Bnexports.

Expressing his satisfaction that India achieved $300 BnMerchandise exports in the first nine months of the current FY (April-Dec, 2022), Goyal assured the EPCs that his Ministry will do whatever it takes in handholding the EPCs and resolving their issues to attain even higher export targets in the next FY.

Shri Goyal said we can set a much higher goods exports target in the current last quarter of this FY. “In December alone we touched $37 Bn goods exports despite the Omicron fear factor weighing high. This month, in 15 days till January 15th, we have reached $16 Bn.”

oyal said the Prime Minister Shri Narendra Modi has himself set the pace by setting “transformational results” and not “incremental growth”.

The Commerce & Industry Minister urged the EPCs and entrepreneurs to avail of the Government’s initiatives towards Ease of Doing Business such as obtaining clearances through the National Single Window System. He assured the Industry representatives to pursue their demands during the various FTA negotiations.

Speaking of the government’s efforts to improve the ease of living and the ease of doing business, Goyal said that more than 25,000 compliances have been reduced.

“In December alone we touched $37 Bn goods exports despite the Omicron fear factor weighing high” – Piyush Goyal

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