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Union Budget 2021: Truly, a historic one

Sanju Verma

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“I’ve learned that people will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel.”

– Maya Angelou

The above quote by Angelou captures the essence of Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s inspirational leadership, underpinned by compassion and empathy, more so at a time when the world is just about crawling back to normalcy in the aftermath of the worst global pandemic in over 102 years. India under PM Modi has become the fastest nation in the world to vaccinate citizens—over 6 million beneficiaries country-wide in just 24 days. In comparison, the US has taken 26 days to reach this mark, whereas the UK achieved this in 46 days.

The historic Union Budget for the financial year 2021-22 has Modi’s ambitious and visionary stamp all over it. The Modi government loosened the exchequer’s purse strings and presented a Budget focused on growth, growth and more growth, driven by spending, spending and more spending! The decision to reduce the fiscal deficit from an estimated 9.5% of the GDP in FY21 to 6.8% in FY22, without ostensibly raising the tax burden on the tax-paying class, reflects the Modi government’s people-centric approach in managing government finances, despite running a very tight ship. Setting aside Rs 35,000 crore for the Covid vaccination program, with the overall Budget outlay for ‘Health and Well Being’ at a healthy Rs 2.23 lakh crore, marked a solid 137% rise  in FY22, from FY21, endorsing the government’s philosophy that, indeed, “health is wealth”. The Pradhan Mantri Atmanirbhar Swasth Bharat Yojana, which will operate in addition to the existing National Health Mission, has been allocated a healthy sun of Rs 64,180 crore as well.

Moreover, the foreign direct investment limit in the insurance sector has been raised from 49% to 74%, showcasing how pushing ahead with structural reforms continues unhindered on the Modi government’s agenda. A new development finance institution (DFI) is being set up to fund infrastructure projects under the National Infrastructure Pipeline (NIP), while an asset reconstruction firm or ‘bad bank’ will be tasked with taking over bad loans in public sector banks, to cope with rising non-performing assets (NPAs). Rs 20,000 crore have been earmarked for the recapitalisation of banks. Proposing a capital expenditure of Rs 5.54 lakh crore in FY22, which is 34.5% higher than in FY21, the government has targeted a fiscal deficit of 6.8% of the GDP in FY22, with gross market borrowings of Rs 12 lakh crore in 2021-22. Coming to the other top proposals of Budget 2021, the Modi government also aims to spend Rs 1.97 lakh crore on various production linked incentive (PLI) schemes over the next five years, in addition to the Rs 40,951 crore announced for the PLI scheme for electronic manufacturing last year.

The Budget’s fiscal arithmetic is fully transparent with hardly any unaccounted and off balance sheet items, making it the most credible one in recent years, based on a realistic disinvestment target of Rs 1.75 lakh crore and a reasonable rise in non-tax revenue receipts. The government plans to continue with its path of fiscal consolidation and intends to reach a fiscal deficit level below 4.5% of GDP by 2025-2026, with a fairly steady decline over this period.

The allocation of Rs Rs 2.24 lakh crore for health, Rs 1.18 lakh crore for road infrastructure, Rs 1.10 lakh crore for railways and an outlay of Rs 3.6 lakh crore for the power sector are among the defining highlights. 

Exemption from income tax filing for those over 75 years of age and have only pension and interest income is a big relief for senior citizens. Reopening tax assessment will happen only for three years, against the earlier limit of six years, which is a very forward-looking step, from the tax terrorism that was witnessed during the erstwhile inept Congress-led dispensation. For the reopening of serious tax evasion cases up to 10 years, the government has put in a monetary limit of cases involving over Rs 50 lakh in a year. This is expected to reduce instances of tax harassment of honest income tax payers.

The government is betting on the fiscal multiplier effect of infrastructure projects, estimated at x2.5, to achieve its objectives of driving consumption and investment-led growth, via selling surplus land and non-core assets, aimed at accelerating resource mobilisation. 

The government’s focus on rural India also continues with an agricultural credit outlay of a massive amount of Rs 16.5 lakh crore, enhanced allocation to the Rural Infrastructure Development Fund (RIDF), from Rs 30,000 crore to Rs 40,000 crore, and doubling of the outlay under Micro Irrigation Fund, from Rs 5,000 crore to Rs 10,000 crore. Further, the scope of the Operation Green Scheme, presently applicable to tomatoes, onions and potatoes (TOP), has been enlarged to include 22 more perishable products. 

A few years back, it had been difficult to imagine a Digital India, Start-up India or Aatmanirbhar Bharat, but Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s courage of conviction and excellent execution skills have made these a proud reality. Keeping the middle class at the forefront of its agenda, the Modi government has also decided to give a fillip to the buyers of affordable houses. Budget 2021 extended the time period of taking loans to buy affordable houses by one year, i.e., from March 31, 2021 to March 31, 2022, to avail additional tax benefits of Rs 1.5 lakh u/s 80-EEA of the Income Tax Act,1961. Section 80-EEA provides tax benefits up to Rs 1.5 lakh on the interest paid on loans taken for residential house property for affordable housing. The benefit is over and above the tax benefit of Rs 2 lakh available u/s 24(B) of the Income Tax Act, on the interest on housing loans on both self-occupied and rented properties. So, effectively, by buying an affordable house, a taxpayer may avail tax benefits up to Rs 3.5 lakh on the interest paid on home loans taken to buy such houses. The value of house property should not exceed Rs 45 lakh.

The Finance Minister also stated that the Jal Jeevan Mission (Urban) will be launched. It aims at universal water supply in all 4,378 urban local bodies, with 2.86 crore household tap connections as well as liquid waste management in 500 AMRUT cities. It will be implemented over five years, with an outlay of Rs 2.87 lakh crore. 

A lesser discussed but extremely important measure is the decision to create a framework to give consumers alternatives to choose from when it comes to power distribution companies. In other words, just like how number portability exists with respect to telecom service providers, customers will now have the freedom to choose which power distribution company they wish to engage with. The government has allocated close to Rs 3.60 lakh crore in the Budget towards launching a “revamped”, reforms-based, result-linked power distribution sector scheme. This comes amidst “serious” concerns over the viability of power distribution companies (discoms) in the country. The scheme is expected to provide assistance to discoms for infrastructure creation, tied to financial improvements, including prepaid smart metering, feeder separation and upgradation of systems.  The past six years have seen a “number” of reforms and achievements in the country’s power sector, including the addition of 139 GW of installed capacity, the connection of an additional 2.8 crore houses and addition of 1.41 lakh circuit kilometres of transmission lines. Discoms across the country are monopolies, whether government or private and there is a need to provide a choice to the consumer.The freedom to choose their distribution company will bring competition at the operator level and more choice to consumers. It will also lead to better efficiency levels within the power distribution sector.

The strategic disinvestment of companies, including BPCL, Air India, Pawan Hans, IDBI Bank and Container Corporation of India, to be completed in 2021-22, also showcases the Modi government’s determination to extract value and not only shore up revenues, but also to get out of businesses where it has no business being. Announcing its version of the “bad bank” proposal, the Modi government will set up a National Asset Reconstruction and Management Company (NARC) for stressed assets to take over bad loans. Alongside, a Rs 20,000-crore equity infusion has been announced for public sector banks (PSBs) to recapitalise the banking sector. The FM said that the government will take up strategic sale of two public sector banks and one general insurance company, along with completing the sale of BPCL, Concor, SCI, IDBI and BEML among others, in 2021-22. These measures are expected to strengthen state-owned banks and hasten the process of cleaning up their balance sheets. The divestments will also help raise revenues for the government and are expected to improve efficiency and provide momentum to privatisation.

The government also plans to further strengthen the NCLT framework and continue with the e-court system for faster resolution of bad debts. A separate framework for MSMEs will also be made by the government, besides doubling the allocation for MSMEs to Rs 15,700 crore. With the government-imposed moratorium on admission of new cases likely to end by March 31, a number of MSMEs, which have not been able to earn enough during the current fiscal year, are likely to be taken to insolvency by their creditors. The separate framework will therefore help MSME owners avoid losing their companies while continuing to pay their debts.

The decision to hike the FDI limit in insurance from 49% to 74% will help increase capital inflows in insurance companies and enhance their expansion and growth. However, the majority of directors on board and key management personnel will be Indians. Given that there is a lack of finance for infrastructure and long gestation projects, the announcement of setting up a professionally managed Development Financial Institution (DFI), with a statutory backing and initial capital of Rs 20,000 crore, is great news, as this DFI will have a loan portfolio of Rs 5 lakh crore going forward. The proposed DFI will be used to finance both social and economic infrastructure projects identified under the National Infrastructure Pipeline (NIP). 

The government also introduced a scrapping policy to remove unfit vehicles on a voluntary basis. All private vehicles which have been in use for over 20 years and commercial vehicles older than 15 years old will have to undergo a fitness test. The vehicle scrapping proposal is expected to offer a boost to the auto sector, both for commercial and private vehicles. 

A number of regulatory measures were announced as well. The government has announced an independent gas transport system operator for booking and coordination to ensure unbiased allocation of natural gas transportation capacity. The government aims to address concerns of bias in the allocation of gas transportation capacity by players such as GAIL, who are involved in both the supply and transportation of natural gas. Setting up of a National Hydrogen Mission to boost “Green Energy”, a Rs 1,000 crore allocation for solar power and an additional Rs 1,500 crore for renewable also endorse the Modi government’s commitment towards environment-friendly growth.

Budget 2021 has also announced the extension of benefits of the Ujjwala scheme to an additional 1 crore people in 100 more districts, underlining the government’s compassionate approach which cares for those who are still at the lower end of the income pyramid. The scheme, which provides LPG connections with financial assistance from the central government and currently benefits 12 crore households, will be extended further to provide clean and cheap cooking fuel.

A big benefit but relatively less discussed measure in Budget 2021 is the proposal to amend the definition of a “small company” under Section 2(85) of the CA, 2013. As per the new definition, a “small company” will mean a company that has paid-up share capital of not more than Rs 2 crore. Earlier, this paid-up capital was capped at Rs 50 lakh. The threshold of annual turnover has also been raised from Rs 2 crore to Rs 20 crore. This is a big move that will benefit over 2 lakh companies and incentivise companies to grow and expand, because small may not be necessarily beautiful.

Furthermore, the Budget allows NRIs to form a “One Person Company” (OPC). Earlier, only resident individual persons could start an OPC in India and NRIs were exempted from forming a “One Person Company”. However, they were allowed to become directors of an Indian company. This new proposal would undoubtedly benefit many NRIs.

The Modi government has also empowered MSMEs which account for over 30% of our GDP and over 40% of our exports, by sanctioning over 71% of its ambitious Rs 3 lakh crore Emergency Credit Line Guarantee Scheme (ECLGS) outlay. Under ECLGS, around 12 public sector banks, 23 private sector banks and 31 non-banking financial companies (NBFCs) sanctioned a loan amount of over Rs 2.14 lakh crore to 90.57 lakh borrowers, out of which Rs 1.66 lakh crore was disbursed to 42.47 lakh borrowers.

Launched on June 1, 2020, the SVANidhi scheme, which caters to poor people like hawkers and street vendors, received over 33.22 lakh applications, as of January 28, 2020, out of which more than 18.21 lakh applications, involving Rs 1,817 crore, were sanctioned. Out of the sanctioned applications, close to Rs 1,344 crore, for nearly 13.63 lakh applications, have been disbursed. This vindicates Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s clarion call for last mile delivery.

Significant changes in the area of corporate laws have also been proposed. Changes have been proposed to decriminalize the Limited Liability Act, 2008 (LLP Act), 2008 and the introduction of an updated version of the MCA has been announced too. The motive behind the same is to de-clog the courts or the NCLTs, thereby reducing their burden from non-serious matters. The Budget has also proposed to consolidate the provisions of the SEBI Act 1992, Depositories Act 1996, Securities Contracts (Regulation) Act 1956, and Government Securities Act, 2007 into a rationalized single Code to be termed as the Securities Market Code. The Finance Bill has also proposed to insert a new section, 8-G, in the Indian Stamp Act, 1899, with respect to stamp duty exemption in case of strategic sale, disinvestment, sale of an immovable property, demerger, asset transfers between government entities, etc.

Speaking of finances, the Modi government plans to borrow Rs 80,000 crore to fund the deficit in FY21. Gross market borrowings for the next year have been pegged at Rs 12 lakh crore. A new roadmap for fiscal consolidation has been announced in the Budget, with suitable amendments to be made to the FRBM Act. For every rupee in the government coffers, 53 paise will come from direct and indirect taxes, 36 paise from borrowings and other liabilities, 6 paise from non-tax revenue such as disinvestment and 5 paise from non-debt capital receipts. The goods and services tax (GST) will contribute 15 paise to every rupee of revenue, while corporate tax will contribute 13 paise to each rupee earned. The Modi government is also looking to earn 8 paise for every rupee from union excise duty and 3 paise from customs duty. Meanwhile income tax will make up for 14 paise in every rupee collected. On the expenditure side, the biggest outlay component is interest payments at 20 paise for every rupee, followed by the states’ share of taxes and duties at 16 paise. The allocation for defence stands at 8 paise per rupee, expenditure on Central sector schemes will be 14 paise, while the allocation for Centre-sponsored schemes will be 9 paise. The expenditure on the Finance Commission and other transfers is pegged at 10 paise. Subsidies and pension would account for 8 paise and 5 paise, respectively, in each rupee spent. The government will spend 10 paise in every rupee on other expenditures.

To cut to the chase, Budget 2021 is historic in more ways than one. This Budget proposes a significantly enhanced capital expenditure, at a massive amount of Rs 5.54 lakh crore, besides creating institutional structures and giving a big thrust to monetizing assets, to achieve the goals of the National Infrastructure Pipeline (NIP). The NIP, which was launched with 6,835 projects, has now been expanded to 7,400 projects and around 217 projects worth Rs 1.10 lakh crore have been completed. A focus on more growth through more spending, with inclusivity as its hallmark, is the defining paradigm of this Budget.

It would be apt to conclude by saying that, “If leadership is about inspiring others to dream more, learn more, do more and become more”, then Prime Minister Narendra Modi has set an extraordinary example that will be tough to replicate. A famous aphorism goes, “Leaders are made, they are not born”. In the case of PM Modi, his leadership is empathetic, bold, progressive and modern, as highlighted in Budget 2021, and combines the essence of everything that the greatest leaders valiantly stand for and unflinchingly live by.

The writer is an economist, national spokesperson for the BJP and the bestselling author of ‘Truth & Dare: The Modi Dynamic’. The views expressed are personal.

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Opinion

CONCOCTED NOISE ON HUMAN RIGHTS CANNOT STALL INDIA-US PARTNERSHIP

Joyeeta Basu

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US Secretary of State Antony Blinken is all set to visit India this week, during which he is expected to discuss the Quad—specifically how to counter the threat posed to the world by China—the situation in Afghanistan and the terrorism emanating from Pakistan. However, a State Department spokesperson’s statement that Blinken will also raise human rights issues with New Delhi, has got people of the woke variety excited, without realizing that at best any such talk will be a sideshow, a token mention under pressure from lobbies, some of which are even backed by Pakistan and China. The focus will be primarily on countering China, and India’s role in this scheme of things. Amid the cacophony over human rights, it must be pointed out that India has never claimed to be a perfect democracy. India is as flawed or as “perfect” as any other major democracy. Nothing has happened in the last seven years of the Narendra Modi government for India to be losing its democratic values. The whole issue is political, where a narrative of intolerance and authoritarianism has been spun for the last seven years by the “entitled”—and their ecosystem—who have been tossed out of the power structure and have become increasingly irrelevant. In fact, the power structure itself is more democratic now because of the wider representation on top from those outside of the “entitled” zone. The citizens of this democracy are as powerful as ever in exercising their will, and know how to keep their rulers under check. Institutions too are resilient enough to correct the excesses. The flaws are, of course, innumerable, but then which democracy is perfect? The American version, with its difficult race relations, its BLM riots, its mess of an election process which leaves millions feeling disenfranchised, its President’s refusal to hand over power even after losing an election? Hence, the picture being painted globally by mainstream foreign media—severely burdened by its left-liberal baggage—and some foreign policy analysts, with active help from some of those from inside this country itself, is a caricature of the ground reality. Add to this the fact of the rabid Left joining hands with the Wahhabis in the US, a manifestation of which are the so-called Progressives in American politics, and we have the concoction of a narrative whose ultimate goal seems to be ensuring a regime change, disregarding the verdict of the people in the world’s largest democracy.

The consensus in India is that Blinken will make a huge mistake if he barks up the “human rights” tree. Lecturing will not be tolerated. The backlash will be severe to the unfair criticism, jeopardising India-US strategic partnership. This is exactly what the Chinese want, to drive a wedge between the two nations. However, there is no reason to believe that he doesn’t understand that, whatever be the Democratic Party’s domestic compulsions, where the radical Left-Wahhabi fringe is threatening to become mainstream. The US recognises the threat that China is to the civilized world and the need to contain it. In fact, to come across as tough on China is excellent domestic politics for Joe Biden, given the negative sentiments in his country about India’s neighbour.

Considering Xi Jinping’s dangerously aggressive overreach, where he wants to be the emperor of all that he sees, military means may be the only way of containing him. So a conflict is likely, sooner or later—a conflict where the Quad will have to play a central role. Hence, much to their disappointment, the woke public is likely to discover that the “human rights” talk is at best a sideshow, confined to token statements from both nations. No amount of spurious noise can stall a partnership whose time has come, and Blinken’s India visit is testimony to that.

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Opinion

Is Pegasus controversy a toolkit to defame India?

When the state has various mechanisms to know activities of individuals that could be a threat to the country, why should it resort to illegal spying? If India is safe today and it has not witnessed terrorist activities that marked the earlier regimes, it is because of the strong intelligence network.

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Is it not true that vested foreign powers are keen to destabilise India? Did The New York Times not seek to recruit a journalist who would be anti-establishment and anti-Modi? Is it not true that Amnesty International was violating the law of the land, and when asked to explain and comply, it ran away?

If a news report comes out a day before Parliament’s Monsoon session is set to begin and the next day opposition parties try to disrupt Parliament claiming that the rights of private individuals have been violated by the State, one is bound to doubt the intention behind such a story. Naturally, there would be closer scrutiny by the State and unbiased people about the authenticity of the report and the intentions.

This explains why Union Home Minister Amit Shah said “disrupters and obstructers would not be able to derail India’s development trajectory”. “Disrupters are global organizations that do not like India to progress. Obstructers are political players in India who do not want India to progress. People of India are very good at understanding this chronology and connection,” he said and assured that the Modi Government would continue to work for national welfare.

The story that first appeared in India was carried by a website that has earlier too published stories that have not been credible. This story was published in collaboration with 16 other international publications, including The Washington Post and The Guardian, which were media partners to an investigation carried out by Paris-based NGO Forbidden Stories and rights group Amnesty International.

The so-called investigation conducted by the Amnesty security team found a leaked database of 50,000 phone numbers which the reports said was of the NSO and target for surveillance using Pegasus spyware developed by Israel’s NSO. This also included potential 300 targets that were Indians and included politicians even from the ruling BJP, journalists, and activists.

The claim was that the data was leaked from the NSO server but the NSO had denied having any such data. It said: “The report by Forbidden Stories is full of wrong assumptions and uncorroborated theories that raise serious doubts about the reliability and interests of the sources…After checking their claims, we firmly deny the false allegations made in their report. Their sources have supplied them with information which has no factual basis, as evident by the lack of supporting documentation for many of their claims.” The NSO even threatened a defamation suit.

Analysis of the source of such reports would further establish understanding of the entire controversy. The source of the investigation is Forbidden Stories (FS) and Amnesty (AI). The FS, which claims to champion independent journalism, has become a tool of propaganda by the West and has backed leftist viewpoints in the entire world.

It is difficult to believe the FS claims that its activities are not affected by the ideology of its donors. One of the donors is Luminate founded by Omidyar group. Luminate holds that Illiberal democracies’ are emerging and civil society is under attack. It has lamented the rise of nationalism and polarization of communities. Scroll.in is supported by the Omidyar group.

One of the donors is the Open Society Foundation of George Soros whose antipathy for India is well known. He has lamented the rise of nationalist governments across the globe. He has criticized the Indian Prime Minister and his policy on Jammu and Kashmir. He has described the actions of the Modi Government as the “biggest and most frightening setback” to the survival of open societies worldwide.

Amnesty story in India is rather well known. Its accounts were frozen by the Indian Government in 2020 after it was found that it violated the FCRA. It opened business entities in India and used the FDI route to fund its activities. When caught it raised the bogey of the witch hunt.

The Washington Post owner Jeff Bezos has claimed that he was a victim of Pegasus. Some private photographs of Bezos were leaked which became the reason for his divorce that cost him Rs 3 lakh crore.

So, it is quite possible that all conspired to defame NSO and Pegasus and the countries that could possibly be linked. They could kill many birds with one stone. Paint some regimes as violators of Human Rights and individual liberty, paint Pegasus as the enemy of privacy of individuals and club a vibrant democracy like India with not-so-democratic regimes and paint the country’s image in a bad light.

Let us focus our attention on India. Many are unhappy with India’s growing clout and assertion. There were many foreign NGOs that worked unfettered without bothering to abide by the law of the land. Amnesty is not the only one. Greenpeace Organization had to close many of its India offices since foreign donations were stopped for violating Indian laws.

Of the 22,400 NGOs registered under the FCRA, the registration certificates of more than 20,600 were cancelled since 2011 for violating various provisions of the FCRA. Most were deregistered due to non-filing of annual returns which is mandatory as per law. The Government simply wanted to make NGO operations more transparent and accountable. Who gave the money and why and whether the money was used to serve that purpose? This intended to check siphoning and diversion of funds for other activities. These FCRA NGOs received more than Rs 58,000 crore in donations in the year 2016-17 and 2017-18.

The lobbies acting against India have an axe to grind. Such stories based on fiction— I call it fiction because you don’t need much brain to prepare such a list— intends to create an optics that India is intolerant and is violating the right of private individuals. After this, the lobbies would call on US Senators and representatives of European countries and the UK and ask them to issue Statements condemning India’s so-called attempt to muzzle the press and on the issue of their perception of violation of Human Rights.

Meanwhile, AI has come out with a curious explanation. It has claimed that it never said that the recently leaked list of phone numbers was specifically a list of numbers targeted by the NSO Group’s Pegasus spyware. It merely said that this is a list of numbers on which the NSO clients might like to spy on. This proves that the list was designed by FS and AI and dished out to select media outlets to sensationalize.

Those who had calculated that this would be India’s Watergate moment forcing the Prime Minister and the Government to resign were dejected that like many other arsenals this too failed to defame the Indian Prime Minister. This was a dangerous game plan. The entire controversy appears to be more like a toolkit to defame India and the Modi Government. Democracy like India has been clubbed with countries that India would not like to be compared with. India has been the target of many funders of FS and also AI and other international NGOs that have huge clout but they have failed to browbeat the Indian Government.

While the entire opposition could not hide its elation at something they calculated would bring the Prime Minister on its knees, the Government came up with a factual clinical response. “No unauthorized interception took place”, the Government asserted. The “sensational story” a day before the Monsoon session of Parliament cannot be a coincidence, India’s new IT minister Ashwini Vaishnaw said in the Lok Sabha. “Global expose of alleged hacking in India, using Israeli spyware Pegasus, is an attempt to malign Indian democracy and its institutions”.

He asked all parliamentarians to examine facts and pointed out that the consortium spoke of a leaked list of 50,000 phone numbers but the presence of a number in the list did not mean that the device was targeted. He suggested technical analysis on the phone numbers to know whether these phones were compromised using any spyware.

Although many opposition leaders tried to present this as a serious violation of the right to privacy, the Government refused to set-up an inquiry, and rightly so. A mere report based on conjectures cannot be the basis of an investigation unless we want India to be on perpetual inquiry spree.

If the government says it has not done anything illegal, the best way for those, if they have proofs of being snooped upon using spyware, is to get their phones examined followed by lodging of an FIR if the accusations are true. This would lead to investigation and help the police to reach the truth. Hacking is a crime and it must be dealt so. As of now, none have come forward saying that they are giving their phones for investigation.

The investigation should be done, if or not the story was used as a toolkit to malign the Indian Government. Whether certain organizations contacted Indian parliamentarians asking them to raise the issue? Whether some parliamentarians were aware of such a story coming up anytime soon? This would establish if the pandemonium was a spontaneous or well-crafted result of the toolkit.

Indian Government came out with a strong response when it pointed out to vibrant democracy in India and its zeal to defend the Right to Privacy which has been dubbed a fundamental right by the Supreme Court. The Government has introduced the Personal Data Protection Bill, 2019, and the Information Technology (Intermediary Guidelines and Digital Media Ethics Code) Rules, 2021, to protect the personal data of individuals and to empower users of social media platforms, a Statement from the IT ministry said.

Critics have often asked the Government to clarify if it was a client of the NSO? Is it important? If the Government has clarified the issue should be allowed to rest unless one has proof to the contrary. Who are the people interested in knowing this? The NSO may have sold the spyware to so many countries, some of which are very hostile to India. Is it not possible that one of these have tried to play mischief if at all such a thing has happened?

Those advocating investigation have not found much traction among people since Indians by and large do not mind spying by the State to keep themselves safe. Mahatma Gandhi had said pubic figures should not have private lives and their actions should be open to scrutiny. Actually, people are having the last laugh at those claiming privacy rights.

This produced desperation as evidenced in Trinamul Rajya Sabha MP Shantanu Sen snatching the paper from the hands of IT Minister Vaishnaw, when he was going to read out from that on the Pegasus controversy. He was rightly suspended for the rest of the Monsoon session for this unruly behaviour.

Chanakya who is credited with conceptualizing State and its functions had asserted that the State must have a strong network of loyal spies to secure the State against vested interests. This was essential to curb political corruption, to prevent instability due to machinations by vested interests, and to ward off both internal and external security threats. Who would oppose this? Technology has replaced or come as powerful tool to carry on the activities that would keep the State safe and stable.

When the State has various mechanisms to know activities of individuals that could be a threat to the country, why should the State resort to illegal spying. If the country is safe today and it has not witnessed bomb blasts and major terrorist activities that marked the earlier regimes, it is because of the strong intelligence network. Terrorist modules have been caught whether in West Bengal or Uttar Pradesh before they could produce collateral damage by their actions.

Violation of the right to privacy by the State under exceptional circumstances is small price citizens pay to be safe and secure. The Government must keep them safe and enable them to pursue their dreams. The State needs to be successful 100 per cent every time to prevent any terrorist or such incidents. Terrorists need to be successful only once.

Rather than trying to shoot through the shoulders of others either as an accomplice or a victim, opposition leaders should do well to participate in the process of enacting privacy law that can be basis of similar legislations in other countries.

The writer is the convener of the Media Relations Department of the BJP and represents the party as a spokesperson on TV debates. He has authored the book ‘Narendra Modi: The Game Changer’. Views expressed are writer’s personal.

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Opinion

MIRABAI CHANU SETS THE PACE FOR THE INDIAN OLYMPIC CONTINGENT

Pankaj Vohra

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It was for the first time since India started participating in the Olympics that there was a podium finish for a sportsperson on the opening day itself. Mirabai Chanu, the unassuming weightlifter from Manipur, came very close to winning the Gold but had to settle for the Silver medal due to unavoidable circumstances. It is said that well begun is half done, and the young lady’s feat should inspire other medal aspirants in Tokyo where in 1964, India had avenged its defeat in Rome to Pakistan, to win the Hockey Gold, by beating the arch-rivals by a solitary goal. It was one of the most widely cherished moment by the entire country and sports veterans remember that game vividly till this day. Similarly, Mirabai’s performance despite several hurdles that had come her way, would be enshrined in the memory of every Indian for a long long time to come. There are very high hopes attached to the current Olympic contingent, and sports journalists have been predicting that they may come back with the highest medal tally when the games end next month.

Every Indian would be praying for the athletes, particularly for someone like P.V. Sindhu, who is in the best position to strike the Gold this time. Olympics are all about physical fitness and mental toughness which have to be tested against the best in that particular sport in the competition. Every participant has to have the ability to take on sportspersons ranked above them and beat them in that particular discipline by rising to the occasion by raising their accomplishing efforts. The Flying Sikh Milkha Singh served as an inspiration for every sportsperson in India even though he had failed to win a medal which should have been his at Rome in 1960. P.T. Usha was also an icon in the sports world. There are so many others who have made us all proud. When Abhinav Bindra struck Gold in shooting and the Tricolour went up with the National Anthem playing in the background, it was one of the most cherished moment etched in the minds of those who witnessed this spectacular achievement. The Indian Hockey Team was once considered to be the only medal hope for India though things have changed and other countries have raised their level of the game, relegating India to a position which should change. It was in Moscow in 1980 that the Hockey Gold medal had come to our shores the last time and the way things are, the team shall have to outdo their own expectations, particularly after losing 7-1 to Australia on Sunday. The Indian pugilists, the badminton contingent and Manika Batra, whose performance in Table Tennis has been exceptional, are amongst those who could have a podium finish. The legendary Mary Kom and the wrestlers also have high hopes pinned on them. The contribution of Rajyavardhan Singh Rathore Saina Nehwal, Sushil Kumar, Vijendra Singh, Sakshi Malik, Bajrang Punia, Leander Paes, Sania Mirza and so many others, shall continue to inspire posterity. The Central and State governments have at long last started paying heed to Sports and therefore the endeavor shall bring results in the future.

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Opinion

Deriving inspiration from intellectual giants

Although the areas of operation of Acharya Jadgish Chandra Bose and Sir Asutosh Mookerjee were different, there were many similarities between the two. They were independent-minded and intellectually-curious men, serving humanity with selfless devotion; they left behind a legacy that is enormous.

Prof. Ved Prakash

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It is hard to make a distinction between talent and genius. Even then some differential psychologists and philosophers made occasional attempts but the exact measure of success attained remains somewhat doubtful. The German philosopher Arthur Schopenhauer made one such attempt. According to him, “Talent hits a target no one else can hit; Genius hits a target no one else can see”. But in common parlance, this distinction does not find its ready expression. In fact, the two terms have been used interchangeably for a long time. Though it is believed that both are evenly distributed in a sizeable population but in practice, some countries seem to have them more in number than others. One might call them with whatever names, they are the ones whose scholarships have brought the civilization thus far and would continue to move it forward. India is known to have produced very many such scholars from the very earliest times. They have left behind a legacy of strong leadership in their respective areas of expertise. Life and work of such geniuses stand as a testament to their indomitable will and the courage to practice the ideals that they preached. The general populace would be proud in knowing about their remarkable contributions that have a significant bearing on education.

It should be the bounden duty of educational institutions to educate the coming generations with the life and work of such inspirational scholars. Two such contemporaries who had experienced a long and profoundly productive career in education and left a unique and indelible imprint happened to be Acharya Jagdish Chandra Bose and Sir Asutosh Mukherjee. Acharya Jagdish Chandra Bose was born in Munsiganj, Bengal Presidency on 30th November, 1858, and Sir Asutosh Mukherjee was born on 29th June, 1864 at Kolkata. Although they were born in affluent and scholarly families yet they were sent to vernacular schools because of the firm conviction of their parents to study in their own mother tongue, to know their own people and to be at one with them. Both of them were extraordinarily talented with different dreams but had one thing in common, that they were deeply and passionately committed to excellence.

Acharya Jagdish Chandra Bose wanted to go to England to compete for the Indian Civil Services but aborted his plan thinking that he would like to be a scholar ‘who would rule nobody but himself’. He was a multifaceted personality. He was incredibly knowledgeable in different fields of study. He was a physicist, biologist, botanist, and science fiction writer. He was known as one of the fathers of radio science. He became the most prominent first Indian scientist who proved by experimentation that both animals and plants share much in common. He demonstrated that plants were also sensitive to heat, cold, light, noise, and various other external stimuli, research of far-reaching depth of that time. Interestingly, he explored this phenomenon out of the burning curiosity that was aroused by his mother in him when she forbade him not to pluck ‘Tulsi’ leaves after sunset, as she had a belief that like humans the aromatic plant also goes to sleep after sunset. He had a very fertile mind full of original ideas. He had given his views on several concerns which have a strong bearing on education.

In his address to the Royal Society of Arts, London in 1896, Acharya Jagdish Chandra Bose pointed out that “The present system of university education does not foster the proper development of intellectual faculties and encourage originality. The exercise of mere memory at the expense of the other faculties cannot but be attended with disastrous consequences. When the brain is crammed with a mass or apparently disconnected facts, without any order or sequence, the state of equilibrium becomes highly unstable, and the shock of an examination is enough to upset it”. This address of his drew enthusiastic applause from a formidable audience. This was such an apt address that even today it is applicable, in one form or the other, to Indian higher education system.

Acharya Bose wanted students of science to learn how to use their hands, how to observe and how to avoid errors and as far as possible, to find out things for themselves, and take very little on trust. He wanted them to feel that science and scientific experiments are not merely confined to the laboratories, but that in nature around them experiments of surpassing interest are being constantly carried out if they would only see them. He was of the view that no real progress in science is possible in a country unless it aspires to take its due share in general advancement of science. He believed that the cause of science is international and scale of its benefits are universal.

Acharya Bose was of the view that “the highest expression in the life of a nation must be its intellectual eminence and its power of enriching the world by advancing the frontiers of knowledge. Discovery of truth was always at the heart of his intellectual endeavour. According to him, “Two different methods are essential for the discovery of truth, the method of introspection and the method of experimental verification. Aimless experimentation seldom leads to any great result, while unrestrained imagination leads to wildest speculation subversive of all intellectual sanity. The two methods must, therefore, be equally balanced, one supplementing the other”.

Acharya Bose was of a strong view that literature and science have a symbiotic relationship. In the multiplicity of phenomena he felt that one should never miss underlying unity and apprehend no insuperable obstacle in grasping it. He believed that both the poet and the scientist are set out for the same goal, that is, to find unity in the bewildering diversity. He believed that the status of a great university could not be secured by any artificial means, nor could any charter assure it. Its world status is only to be won by the intrinsic value of the great contribution made by its scholars. He desired that to be organic and vital, our national university must stand primarily for self-expression and winning for India her true place among the federation of nations, a guiding principle worth emulating.

Sir Asutosh Mukherjee was another legend of the same era. He was the first student of the university of Calcutta to earn double Masters degrees in physics and mathematics. He was the first Indian Vice-Chancellor who broke the colonial tradition of not letting Indian universities to have post-graduate departments for teaching and research on their campuses. He wore many hats during his long and eventful career, as a barrister, jurist, mathematician, educator and Vice-Chancellor. He remained the Vice-Chancellor of university of Calcutta for four consecutive two-year terms (1906-1914) and a fifth two-year term (1921-23). He was incredibly intelligent and bold. He had published his first research paper on Geometrical Theorem in the Messenger of Mathematics, Cambridge at the age of 17. It may be pertinent to know of Sir Asutosh Mukherjee in the words of Gurudev Rabindranath Tagore,“Men are always rare in all countries through whom the aspiration of their people can hope to find its fulfilment, who have the thundering voices to say that what is needed shall be done; Asutosh had the magic voice of assurance. He had the courage to dream because he had the power to fight and the confidence to win — his will itself was the path to the goal”. It was because of these qualities of his that he was called the tiger of Bengal.

He pleaded for the freedom in the university, freedom in its inception, freedom in its administration, and freedom in its expression as he felt strongly that this is the very condition of vigorous existence in an institution engaged in the search for truth. He made fervent appeal to keep the universities free from the baneful influence of dogmas, whether they be official, political, religious or academic. He frankly recognized the kinship of the arts and sciences and the inherent interdependence of all study and research, supplement theoretical and professional instruction by organic connection with arts and letters. He said that he could imagine no step more unwise for an Indian university to take than to give exclusive prominence to studies peculiarly Indian.

In his convocation address to university of Calcutta in 1908, Sir Asutosh Mookerjee referred to a fundamental doctrine which he perceived lies at the root of university system of education and that referred to the medium of English in higher education. He was of the view that western life should reach us through western gates and not through latticework in eastern windows. He observed that the validity of this principle has not been seriously questioned. Academic freedom according to him, is a pre-requisite to self-education and culture. He appealed to young students not to submit to intellectual slavery and not to abandon their most priceless possession to test to doubt to see everything with their own eyes.

His oratorial scholarship and courage would continue to inspire the academic fraternity. He was a charming talker, with gay humour and a quite sarcasm. There is an interesting anecdote that relates to his accidental participation in a debate that was hosted by the university of Lucknow in 1924. The proposition of the debate which had been framed was, “That, in the opinion of this House, the Ministers and the Councils are justified in exercising control over the administration of the Universities.” He excelled in demolishing the proposal for the motion. It is not only difficult to summarise but also would not be wise to do so. Every argument he made led to losing of the motion by an overwhelming majority. The flavour of the arguments would necessitate going through the arguments the way they were presented by him. The force of his arguments is a pleasurable treat to hear on a subject of extreme relevance even today.

Although the areas of operation of Acharya Jadgish Chandra Bose and Sir Asutosh Mukherjee were different but there were many similarities between the two. They were independent minded and intellectually curious men. Both of them were extremely conscientious regarding their duty. They served humanity with selfless devotion and left behind a legacy that is enormous. The present generation of academia, as well as youth, can learn a great deal and draw inspiration from the eventful lives of these two contemporary intellectual giants.

The government may consider commissioning a project to bring out an anthology representing the quintessence of the life and work of eminent scholars India has produced and then make it available through NCERT and UGC to all schools, colleges, and universities. It would serve a double purpose. First, it would let the coming generations pay the greatest respect and reverence to the inspirational leaders of the academic world, and second their pioneered ideas and remarkable achievements would inspire posterity. Such a compilation would not only be worth a good read but could be a life-changing material for those who have a burning desire to succeed and leave a name behind.

The writer is former Chairman, UGC. The views expressed are personal.

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RAJ KUNDRA’S ARREST PROVIDES INSIDE VIEW OF BOLLYWOOD’S XXX SIDE

Pankaj Vohra

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Business tycoon Raj Kundra’s arrest for allegedly promoting pornography, and in the process minting crores of rupees, has captured headlines of all TV channels and newspapers. However, there is nothing shocking in the revelations since it has been Bollywood’s best kept secret of how upcoming starlets and models are exploited by powerful people and often forced into pornography and prostitution. The visits of rich Sheikhs from West Asian countries to Mumbai and the frequent travel to these nations by several actresses including successful ones, were not only account of tourism but also had in some cases linked to sleazy activities. Kundra has close business connections with Dubai and some other places, from where members of the D-Gang often compelled prominent actresses to come and spend time in the lap of luxury. The Mumbai police that is probing the latest case is trying to ascertain Kundra’s links with the underworld as also with the late Iqbal Mirchi, an associate of Dawood who operated from London but passed away some years ago.

Investigations conducted so far have revealed that the businessman along with his close associates, his brother-in-law, amongst them, persuaded young starlets to come and participate in film shootings of pornographic films. In his own defence, Kundra continues to maintain that his movies were about erotica and had nothing to do with pornographic stuff. The police maintain that in the past one year and a half, he had made more than 100 blue films that were circulated through an app which had nearly two million viewers, This way he had minted huge amounts of money. In fact, two starlets, Poonam Pandey and Sheryl Chopra have directly accused him of exploiting them and pushing them into the XXX trade. In all fairness, two other actresses, Rakhi Sawant and Gehna Vashisht have come out and supported the film maker, whose wife, Shilpa Shetty too has been asked to join the probe.

Both Shilpa and Kundra had also promoted an IPL team and the allegation against them was that they were mixed up with the strong cricket Mafia operating out of Dubai and London. However, this charge has to be substantiated by a court of law. It is a well-known fact that many Bollywood starlets have been acting in pornographic films made by groups settled abroad. Although it may not be proper to name them, yet their activities on the blue celluloid are not hidden from anyone. The charge of making pornographic films was once also levelled against the producer director (a foreigner) of an award-winning film starring a well-known Indian actress in the mid-1970s. This particular director, who also owned a chain of other businesses had parked himself in the suite of a five-star hotel in the Delhi from where he operated. He had to leave after the Hotel management learned of his activities. There were many Indian actresses in the past few decades who got mixed up with international pornography following their failure to pursue a successful career. There were some others, who were forced to abandon their boyfriends and live with members of the D-Gang. In fact, Mandakini, the heroine of Raj Kapoor’s `Ram Teri Ganga Maili’, had married Dawood himself and now lives in a cosmopolitan city in South India. Kundra’s case could just be the tip off the iceberg. More skeletons would fall out once the Mumbai police completes its investigations and uncovers the sleazy side of Bollywood.

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Modi 2.0: Analysing the dynamics of PLI scheme

The Modi government’s ambitious Production Linked Incentive scheme in ‘speciality steel’ to attract an additional investment of Rs 40,000 crore will employ over 5.25 lakh people of which 68,000 will be by way of direct employment.

Sanju Verma

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On July 22, 2021, the Union Cabinet approved the Production Linked Incentive (PLI) scheme of Rs 6,322 crore for the Speciality Steel sector to create over 5.25 lakh jobs and attract Rs 39,625 crore worth of investment. This is yet another instance of Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s ‘Make in India’ initiative, setting the tone for an Aatmanirbhar Bharat and thereby reducing the dependence on the import of steel to fulfill the country’s needs. There is a cap as far as the incentive is concerned at Rs 200 crore per entity. This is a demand-driven scheme and it will fulfill the country’s need for steel and create multiple export opportunities.

Specialty Steel is used in some form or the other in air-conditioners, fridges, solar energy structures, high strength/wear-resistant products like construction equipment, armour bodies, specialty rails used in high-speed rails, alloy steel wires used in crankshaft walls, tyre tracks and of course electrical steel used in transformers or electric motors. The Modi government’s ambitious PLI scheme in Speciality Steel to attract an additional investment of Rs 40,000 crore will give employment to over 5.25 lakh people of which 68,000 will be by way of direct employment. The duration of the scheme will be for five years— from 2023-24 to 2027-28.

With a budgetary outlay of Rs 6322 crore, the scheme will lead to a capacity addition of 25 MT. Speciality Steel has been chosen as the target segment because out of the production of 102 million tonnes of steel in India in 2020-21, only18 million tonnes of value-added Steel/Speciality Steel was produced in the country. Apart from this, out of 6.7 million tonnes of imports of steel in 2020-21,4 million tonnes worth of import was of Specialty Steel alone, resulting in forex outgo of Rs 30,000 crore. By becoming Aatmanirbhar in producing Speciality Steel, India will move up the steel value chain and come at par with advanced steel making countries like South Korea and Japan.

It is also expected that the Speciality Steel production will become 42 million tonnes by the end of 2026-27. This will ensure that 2.5 lakh crore worth of Speciality steel will be produced and consumed in the country, which would otherwise have been imported. Similarly, the export of Specialty Steel will be over 5.5 million tonnes as against the current 1.7 million tonnes. The benefit of this scheme will accrue to both big players, as in, integrated steel plants, and to the smaller players (secondary Steel players) too.

Specialty Steel is value-added Steel wherein normal finished steel is worked upon by way of coating, plating, heat treatment, etc., to convert it into high value-added steel which can be used thereafter in various strategic applications like Defence, Space, Power, Automobile Sector and Specialized Capital Goods. There are 3 slabs of PLI incentives, the lowest being 4 per cent and highest being 12 per cent. The PLI scheme for Specialty Steel will ensure that the basic Steel used is ‘melted and poured’ within the country, which means that raw material (finished steel) used for making Specialty Steel will be made in India only, thereby ensuring that the scheme promotes an ‘end to end’ manufacturing within India.

The Modi government’s Production Linked Incentive (PLI) scheme for the food processing industry to support the creation of global food manufacturing champions commensurate with India’s natural resource endowments in the international markets with an outlay of Rs 10900 crore. The food processing sector in India encompasses manufacturing enterprises in all segments, from micro to large industries. India has a competitive advantage in terms of resource endowment, a large domestic market and scope for promoting value-added products.

Achieving full potential of this sector would require Indian companies to improve their competitive strength vis-à-vis their global counterparts in terms of the scale of output, productivity, value addition, and linkages with the global value chain. Supporting food manufacturing entities that seek expansion of processing capacity and improving brand equity abroad to incentivise the emergence of strong Indian brands is the key motive of PLI.

Increase in employment opportunities of off-farm jobs, ensuring remunerative prices of farm produce, and higher incomes to farmers are the other benefits of PLI.

For the promotion of Indian brands abroad, the scheme envisages grants to the applicant entities for in store branding, shelf space renting, and marketing. Scheme will be implemented over a six year period from 2021-22 to 2026-27. The scheme will be rolled out on an India basis and shall be implemented through a Project Management Agency (PMA). The PMA would, inter-alia, be responsible for appraisal of applications/ proposals, verification of eligibility for support, and scrutiny of claims eligible for disbursement of incentives. The scheme is “fund-limited”, i.e. cost shall be restricted to the approved amount. The maximum incentive payable to each beneficiary shall be fixed in advance at the time of approval of that beneficiary. Regardless of achievement/ performance, this maximum shall not be exceeded.

The implementation of this scheme would facilitate the generation of processed food output of Rs 33,494 crore and create employment for nearly 2.48 lakh persons by the year 2026-27 which is excellent news. The PLI scheme would be monitored at the Centre by the Empowered Group of Secretaries chaired by the Cabinet Secretary. The Inter-Ministerial Approval Committee (IMAC) would approve selection of applicants for coverage under the scheme, sanction, and release of funds as incentives. The concerned ministry will prepare an annual action plan covering various activities for the implementation of the scheme. A third-party evaluation and mid-term review mechanism would be built into the programme.

Outgo on incentives in next six years will be Rs 10,790 crore, increase in sales will be at Rs 1.20 lakh crore, incremental sales in 6th Year will be Rs 33,494 crore, cumulative additional investment will be Rs 6057 crore, increase in exports in 6 Years will be Rs 27,816 crore, increase in employment at end of Year-5 will be 2.5 lakh people per annum.

Apart from food processing ,South Korean company Samsung Electronics, Taiwan’s Pegatron and Foxconn and Singapore’s Flex are looking to either set up new units or expand the existing units to avail benefits under the PLI scheme for electronics. These companies have either received approval or are in the final stages of negotiations to benefit from the Ministry of Electronics and Information Technology’s (MeitY) production linked incentive (PLI) scheme, for making mobile phones and certain other specified electronic components. What exactly is a PLI scheme for electronics? Well, as a part of the National Policy on Electronics, the IT ministry had notified a scheme which would give incentives of 4-6 per cent to electronics companies which manufacture mobile phones and other electronic components such as transistors, diodes, thyristors, resistors, capacitors and nano-electronic components such as micro electro-mechanical systems.

According to the scheme, companies that make mobile phones which sell for Rs 15,000 or more will get an incentive of up to 6 per cent on incremental sales of all such mobile phones made in India. In the same category, for companies that are owned by Indian nationals and make such mobile phones, the incentive has been kept at Rs 200 crore for the next four years. The scheme will attract big foreign investment in the sector, while also encouraging domestic mobile phone makers to expand their units and presence in India. The PLI scheme will be active for five years with financial year (FY) 2019-20 considered as the base year for calculation of incentives. This means that all investments and incremental sales registered after FY20 shall be taken into account while computing the incentive to be given to each company.

For the first year, the total incentive to be given has been capped at Rs 5334 crore, while for the second and third years it has been kept at Rs 8064 and Rs 8425 crore, respectively. In the fourth year, the incentive will be hiked substantially to Rs 11,488 crore, while in the fifth and final year, the incentive to be distributed has been capped at Rs 7640 crore. The total incentives over five years have thus been kept at Rs 40,951 crore for the electronics sector. Which companies and what kind of investments will be considered? All electronic manufacturing companies which are either Indian or have a registered unit in India will be eligible to apply for the scheme. These companies can either create a new unit or seek incentives for their existing units from one or more locations in India.

Any additional expenditure incurred by companies on plant, machinery, equipment, research and development, and transfer of technology for the manufacture of mobile phones and related electronic items will be eligible for the incentive scheme. However, all investment done by companies on land and buildings for the project will not be considered for any incentives or determine the eligibility of the scheme. Apart from new players, companies such as LG India— which already have manufacturing units in India— have also shown interest in the scheme. In the budget-category phone segment also, companies such as Lava, Dixon, and Karbonn have applied to give a further boost to Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s vision of an empowered, aspirational and transformative India.

Beyond the technicalities, the PLI scheme is aimed at reducing the compliance burden, further improving the ease of doing business (EODB), cutting down logistical costs for various industry segments, and is expected to increase the country’s production by $520 billion in the next five years. In the current year’s Budget, about Rs 2 lakh crore was earmarked for the PLI scheme with a focus on job creation. An average of 5 percent of production is given as incentive. Over the past 6-7 years, several successful efforts have been made to encourage ‘Make in India’ at different levels and the PLI scheme is at the forefront of indigenisation.

PM Modi has on umpteen occasions, stressed the need to take a big leap forward in terms of self-reliance, as well as to increase the speed and scale of local manufacturing, by creating multi-modal infrastructure to reduce logistics costs and constructing district-level export hubs.

The government, Modi said, believes that its interference in everything creates more problems than solutions and “therefore, self-regulation, self-attesting, self-certification are being emphasised”.

“We have to attract cutting-edge technology and maximum investment in the sectors related to our core competency,” the PM added.

Underlining the difference between the earlier schemes and those of the current government, the Prime Minister said that earlier, industrial incentives used to be open-ended, input-based subsidies, but now they have been made targeted and are performance-based through a competitive process. About PLI benefits,13 sectors have been brought under the ambit of this scheme and it would benefit the entire ecosystem associated with these sectors. With PLI in Auto and Pharma, there will be very less foreign dependence related to auto parts, medical equipment and raw materials of medicines. The energy sector will be modernised in the country with the help of advanced cell batteries, solar PV modules, and Specialty Steel, and the PLI for the textile and food processing sectors will benefit the entire agriculture sector as well.

Even during the pandemic last year fresh investment of over Rs 1300 crore was seen in the mobile manufacturing and electronic sectors, creating thousands of new jobs. On a different note, the United Nations has declared 2023 as the International Year of Millets and more than 70 countries came forward to support India’s proposal and unanimously accepted it in the UN General Assembly. This is a big opportunity for our farmers, which will get added traction, thanks to the PLI scheme in the food processing sector.

Again, IT Hardware is estimated to achieve Rs 3 lakh crore worth of production in the next four years and domestic value addition is expected to rise from the current range of 5-10 per cent to a far higher range of 20-25 per cent in next five years. Similarly, Telecom equipment manufacturing will witness an increase in value addition of about Rs 2.5 lakh crore in the next five years alone. In the Pharma sector, there is an expectation of more than Rs 15,000 crore investment in the next 5-6 years under PLI, which will lead to Rs 3 lakh crore by way of added Pharma sales and a massive rise in Pharma exports of over Rs 2 lakh crore. Further, trust has increased in Indian medicines, medical professionals, and equipment across the world, especially after the development of Covaxin, produced jointly by the Indian Council of Medical Research (ICMR) and Bharat Bio-Tech, in a fitting tribute to Indian scientists and of course the political courage of conviction of PM Modi, who has always encouraged scientific temper. It would be apt to conclude with a quote by Prime Minister Narendra Modi who recently said: “Time for phrases like ‘Hota Hai-Chalta Hai’ is now a matter of the past. India is growing rapidly and the world has high expectations from us. We cannot let this opportunity go”.

The writer is an economist, national spokesperson of the BJP, and the bestselling author of ‘Truth & Dare: The Modi Dynamic’. The views expressed are personal.

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