WHY POLAVARAM PROJECT NEEDS TO BE ADDRESSED AMICABLY - The Daily Guardian
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WHY POLAVARAM PROJECT NEEDS TO BE ADDRESSED AMICABLY

The Polavaram irrigation project has run into several problems due to a poor understanding of the Andhra Pradesh Reorganisation Act and a stalemate between the state and the Centre. The government needs to put the state’s interests ahead of its own, so that the project gets completed.

Dinakar Lanka

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The Polavaram irrigation project is a multi-purpose benefit project with the full capacity of 194 tmc and a utilisation capacity of 175 tmc and this project is the lifeline of Andhra Pradesh. The project will irrigate 23.20 lakh acres in the state, serving drinking water to millions of people in all 13 districts. The project will bring multiple benefits directly to the districts of East and West Godavari and Krishna, besides fulfilling the drinking and industrial needs of Visakhapatnam with a total of 322.73 tmc, including 80 tmc for diversion to the Krishna River, in addition to 23.44 tmc for Vishakapatnam, and generating 960 MW of hydel power, as per the approved DPR.

The Polavaram multi-benefit project was delayed due to a lack of political will and government inaction. There was a need to pay special attention to Polavaram at the time of the partition of Andhra Pradesh, as part of which the Polavaram Irrigation Project was designated as a National Project under Section 90 of the Andhra Pradesh Reorganisation Act.

The allegations against the Polavaram project are rapidly attempting to sideline the facts by giving more importance to political accusations and present a case of political parties pursuing political interests rather than state interests. Such an attitude of political parties leads to further procrastination and damage to state interests.

This problem can be resolved only by understanding the following points in toto:

i) Section 90 (i), (ii), (iii) and (iv) of the Andhra Pradesh Reorganisation Act gazetted by the Central Government on 01 March 2014.

2) The fourth point of the statement made by the then Prime Minister Manmohan Singh in the Rajya Sabha on 20th February 2014.

3) The fourth para or item in the Special Financial Assistance Declaration by Finance Minister Arun Jaitley, dated September 08, 2016.

The implications of these three factors together give an idea of the extent to which anyone has a role to play in the Polavaram project, from which a plan to overcome the current stalemate is necessary in terms of state interests.

It is wrong for the heads of government in the state at present attacking the government in the past, that had compromised on the Polavaram project by accepting the irrigation component against the interests of the state. The head of the government prior to the existing state government is quoting that they had approved a DPR of Rs 55,000 crore from the Central Government and is giving the impression that the total cost will be borne by the Central government which is untrue. The fact is that at the time of the partition of the state, the Central government had declared the Polavaram Irrigation Project as a National Project, stated that the Central government was committed to completing the irrigation component of the Polavaram Irrigation Project, said that the Polavaram Irrigation Project has been deemed to be approved by the state of Telangana and that the Central Government has informed that the project was being constructed and approvals would be obtained from the Department of Environment, Forestry and Land Acquisition and Rehabilitation Regulations. Considering all these factors, it is a fact that under Section 90 of the Andhra Pradesh Reorganisation Act, the Central government’s assistance extends only to irrigation component for the Polavaram Project as it had been legitimately recognised as a National Project. It should be closely analysed whether the Central government has a responsibility to get the permissions and approvals as per the rules relating to the Land Acquisition and Rehabilitation.

The mere mention of the approvals in the Andhra Pradesh Reorganization Act has cast a blue cloud over the financial adjustment in this regard. Every project, whether National or State, should obtain clearances and permissions from the Sub-Division of Land Reforms, functioning under the Land Resources Department under the Central Rural Development Department. The project should be carried out only after obtaining approvals as per the provisions embodied in Chapter 1 to 9 of the National Rehabilitation & Resettlement Policy, 2007. These permissions are mentioned only under Section 90 of the Andhra Pradesh Reorganisation Act but there is ambiguity in the reference to the financial resources available.

On 20 February 2014, under pressure from MPs and intellectuals, the then Prime Minister Manmohan Singh made six statements in the Rajya Sabha. The fourth item read, “We will amend the Act as soon as possible so that the Central Government can bear the cost of assistance and rehabilitation related to the Polavaram project, but has this amendment been made to Section 90 of the Andhra Pradesh Reorganisation Act? Has anyone so far requested the Central government in this regard as it deems necessary?” If it is a matter of insignificance, why did the then Prime Minister make a statement in the Rajya Sabha? Can the Central government adjust the cost of assistance and rehabilitation without amending the existing law? Without amending the law in the present circumstances, it is rare for a state finance minister to receive funds beyond the limits mentioned by the Union finance minister, as has been reported in the press. It is also unreasonable to argue that the present state government has squandered that amount of funds as the DPR for Rs 55,000 crore has been approved by the Union Ministry of Water Resources without considering these factors. The fact is that the DPR for the entire project (including irrigation, drinking water and electricity) should be submitted to the Central Government for approval by the State Government, no matter what percentage of the funding is the responsibility of the Central Government.

After several rounds of deliberations between the Central and State Governments, the then Union Finance Minister Arun Jaitley on September 8, 2016 addressed a number of issues under the Special Financial Assistance, the fourth of which was a clarification on the funding for the Polavaram project, stating that the irrigation component after 1.4.2014 would be paid at 100% of the rates as on that date. Apart from this, at the request of the state government to execute the Project on behalf of the Central government, it was proposed to construct the project for speedy completion. Here it is important to clarify the financial aspects of the project that had forced the state government to accept by compromising the extent of funding up to the irrigation component only rather than the entire project cost.

It should be noted that Section 90 of the Andhra Pradesh Reorganization Act is the only source for anyone to say anything about this project in connection with the Union government, and changes in it are only possible through an amendment to the law, if additions are required. Also, the Polavaram Project Authority is supervising on behalf of the Central government in such a way that the State Government is responsible for the execution of the project. Those who wish to criticise should first understand the provisions of the Act and the agreement reached between the Central and State governments to implement those provisions. The Central government maintains full transparency in the release of funds for the Polavaram Irrigation Project, reimbursing the expenditure incurred by the state government only after an audit of the Polavaram Project Authority. So far, the total funds released by the Central Government after the Polavaram Irrigation Project has been recognized as a national project is Rs 8,614.16 crore, of which Rs 7,664.16 crore has been released by NABARD. Subsequently, a further sum of Rs 2,300 crore has been released. There has been criticism of the funds released by NABARD but they are purely political in nature and far from the reality. The burden of the funds released by NABARD is on the Central government, not on the State. The Central government should legitimately release the funds to the state but the matter of how the Centre will provide those funds is unnecessary as it is their responsibility.

However, the impact of political criticism over the past six years, especially on the cost of rehabilitation and resettlement, has given rise to suspicious propaganda about every development that takes place at present on the Polavaram Irrigation Project. In particular, in the past, the Opposition has accused the Polavaram Irrigation Project of being completely corrupt in its expenditure and rehabilitation and resettlement cost estimates. But, the present head of the state government, after it came to power in 2019, hasn’t provided any evidence of the charges made when they were in the Opposition, ironically requesting for funds as requested by the previous head of the state. The present head of the Andhra government is requesting the Union to disburse funds as per the DPR of Rs 55,548.87 crore, where Rs 4,124.64 crore is for hydel power, Rs 18,256 crore is for irrigation and drinking water, and Rs 33,168 crore for rehabilitation and rehabilitation at the 2017-18 prices. It is a fact that under Section 90 of the Andhra Pradesh Reorganisation Act, the cost of hydel power and drinking and industrial water is not included in the funds to be provided by the Central government and the State government. The reason behind the present situation is a lack of clarity on the increase in the cost of rehabilitation and resettlement which needs the implementation of the Land Acquisition and Rehabilitation and Resettlement as per the 2013 Act for the remaining part of the Land Acquisition post 2014. Apart from this uncertainty, Section 90 of the Andhra Pradesh Reorganisation Act lacks clarity on the cost of rehabilitation and resettlement. All these factors became obstacles for the Polavaram project and complicated the problem.

The revised cost estimation by the committee constituted by the Ministry of Finance has approved the revised DPR of the Project for Rs 47,725.74 crore at 2017-18 prices. As per reasonable appraisal to complete the irrigation component of the project, approximate funds required are:

i. Power Houses: (Rs 4,124.64 crore as recommended by the committee), but after appointment of cost of water supply: Rs 4,560.91 crore

ii. Drinking water and industrial water for Visakhapatnam: Rs 7,214 crore

iii. Cost incurred prior to the state bifurcation: Rs 5,135.87 crore

The net cost of the project for the Union Government is Rs 30,814.96 crore, out of which, the amount already reimbursed by the Union Government is Rs 11,000 crores, approximately. Hence, the balance expectation would be around Rs 19,000 crore at the revised cost at 2017-18 prices. But, as per the Union government assistance is concerned, it has limited the project cost of the irrigation component at 2013-14 prices only. As per that, the revised project cost is for Rs 20,398.61 crore, at 2013-14 prices, out of which the cost incurred prior to the state’s bifurcation was Rs 5,135.87 crore and the Union government’s reimbursement to the state government for Rs 10,916 crore after 1.4.2014 shall be deducted. Hence, the balance responsibility as assistance for this project from the Union government would be around Rs 4,300 crore only as per the Ministry of Finance.

Political parties today need to understand the facts of the Andhra Pradesh Reorganization Act, reasonably consult with the Central Government, get the necessary funds, and think realistically, instead of accusing each other for political gains. They should also keep in view the financial situation of Andhra Pradesh. State spending and unproductive expenditure on ‘navaratnalu’ (freebies) are also matters to consider for the Union Government after the appeal made by the head of the Andhra government. The completion of the Polavaram Irrigation Project should also avoid falling into the trap set by provocateurs.

The only task ahead for the State Government now is to patiently and accurately estimate the rehabilitation and resettlement cost of the Polavaram project’s irrigation component and explain properly how the assistance provided by the Central government so far will be in vain if the project is not completed. The only way to do this is by presenting reasonable facts and sorting out the problem amicably. For this, cronyism will be useless and the idea should work only on the basis of state interests. It can make two proposals: one to convince the Central Government that the cost of rehabilitation and resettlement in the irrigation component are included, or request making necessary amendments in the Andhra Pradesh Reorganisation Act to adjust the cost of rehabilitation and resettlement as per the fourth point in the statement of former Prime Minister Manmohan Singh in the Rajya Sabha. The only way now is to convince the Central government through consultation with it because many of the shortcomings that are not apparent in the Andhra Pradesh Reorganisation Act have turned into curses for the project.

The author holds a B.Com and is an FCA. The views expressed are personal.

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GFI LAUNCHES INITIATIVE TO STRENGTHEN FARMER PRODUCER ORGANISATIONS

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Grameen Foundation India (GFI) on Monday launched a special initiative ‘Catalyst Award’ under its MANDI (Market Enabled Access through Digital Innovation) project to support and develop the farmer producer organisations (FPOs) in Uttar Pradesh.

Speaking at the event, Prabhat Labh, Chief Executive Officer, GFI said, “Smallholder farmers, especially women, play the most critical role in ensuring food security in Uttar Pradesh. Grameen’s endeavour is to recognise the role of women smallholder farmers, and support them through linkage to markets, technology and finance in order to increase their incomes.” The MANDI project aims to strengthen the FPO’s capacity to connect smallholder farmers, especially women, to markets and finance, in order to improve farmers’ incomes and resilience. It predominantly works on four thematic areas such as financial linkage, access to market, FPO capacity building on day-to-day operation and compliance, and gender mainstreaming. It also focuses on leveraging data for decision-making and facilitates need-based modern technologies. The MANDI project is implemented by GFI in partnership with Walmart Foundation.

The Catalyst Award is a financial assistance program being offered to select FPOs to support their long-term institutional strengthening and growth. The financial assistance being extended to the FPOs would help them in serving their members, particularly women and smallholder farmers in a better and organised manner. The awards were given at a one-day workshop organized on Monday, 29 November 2021 on “FPO strengthening through Gender Mainstreaming” at the Shatabdi Krishi Prekshagrih, Institute of Agricultural Sciences, Banaras Hindu University, Varanasi.

Addressing the participants, Mahendra Singh, Joint Director, Agriculture, Government of Uttar Pradesh said, “FPOs can become business entities serving needs of small and marginal farmers and focusing on women participation. FPOs should focus on market and financial linkages to benefit shareholder farmers.”

The day also saw the launch of another initiative on which GFI is collaborating with ICRISAT (International Crops Research Institute for the Semi-Arid Tropics). Under the collaboration, it has developed a support fund for the FPCs (Farmer Producer Companies) in response to Covid-19 pandemic mainly to cope better with situation brought on by the pandemic. FPC support fund (FSF) is being given for promotion and expansion of business activities being conducted by registered FPCs promoted under the MANDI project. A total amount of INR 4.5 lakh will be given to the FPCs.

The overall objective is to provide immediate support to FPCs which will help the project beneficiaries cope better with the pandemic while building resilience and bringing things back on track— by providing access to ‘working capital’ to the farmers through the FPCs, so that the farmers can continue with their farming operations uninterruptedly. This will also help FPCs for strengthening business activities, innovative product and services design and delivery which will help the farmer members of FPCs. The program is implemented through GFI’s subsidiary Grameen Foundation for Social Impact (GFSI) with support from ICRISAT and would cover four districts of Ghazipur, Varanasi, Mirzapur and Prayagraj and would benefit about 11,500 farmers.

This event is part of a series of activities being organised by the GFI for generating awareness among the stakeholders of FPOs, and creating an ecosystem to foster women’s empowerment in agriculture. It aims to sensitise stakeholders on increasing women’s participation in decision-making and in the entire FPO value chain.

About 146 attendees representing FPOs, experts from financial technology, markets and convergence participated in the event and subsequent workshop. The companies such as Blue Soils, UPPRO (State Level Federation of FPOs of Uttar Pradesh), EF Polymer also displayed their products and services.

Grameen Foundation India is a leading social impact organisation, working on financial inclusion, agriculture-based livelihoods and health and nutrition initiatives with the mission to enable the poor, especially women to overcome poverty and hunger. Inspired by the work of Nobel Laureate Prof Muhammad Yunus, Grameen provides works in partnership with leading development organisations in India to ideate, innovate and scale breakthrough solutions that reach underserved populations, particularly women.

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YOTTA TO BUILD NEXT TWO DATA CENTER BUILDINGS IN GREATER NOIDA

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Yotta Infrastructure announced that it will commence construction of two more data centers in their Greater Noida Data Center Park in January 2022. The two buildings will have a capacity of 30MW IT load each and will be ready to go live in January 2024. The construction of the first of six data center buildings started in January 2021 and will go live for customer operations by July 2022, in a record time of less than 18 months. Once completed, it will have a capacity of 30 MW IT Load.

Commenting on the development and his vision to transform Uttar Pradesh as a technology hub, the Honourable Chief Minister of Uttar Pradesh, Shri Yogi Adityanath, said, “Uttar Pradesh today is at the forefront of all-round development. Data Centers are the hub of the digital revolution. They are the temples for digital democracy. The government of Uttar Pradesh has taken path-breaking steps, including a forward-looking Data Center policy helping and incentivising the development of high-quality, large-scale data centers in UP. I congratulate the Hiranandani Group and Yotta for taking this initiative which shall enhance the quality of life for citizens and shall grow the digital economy of the country, promise them all help and wish them success.” The Uttar Pradesh government, in October 2020, gave approvals to the company to set up a 20-acre hyper-scale data center park in Greater Noida. This will be the first data center park in the region, which will consist of 6 interconnected data center buildings offering 30,000 racks capacity powered by more than 250 MW of power. The estimated cost to set up the park is approximately INR 7000 Crore (~USD 950 Mn). The project will also generate direct and indirect employment in Uttar Pradesh as the company expands its team to operate and build the data centers.

Darshan Hiranandani, Group CEO – Hiranandani Group, said, “The Digital India initiative has opened up new avenues for businesses, and India has been on the upward trajectory with respect to digital transformation way before the pandemic hit us. The last couple of years have only reinstated the need to grow digital infrastructure in our country. We are grateful to the Government of Uttar Pradesh and the Honourable Chief Minister Shri Yogi Adityanath Ji for extending their constant cooperation that helped us speed up the construction process. Our Datacenter Park in Greater Noida will go a long way to augment the digital infrastructure not only in Uttar Pradesh but also in the entire north region of the country as Yotta continues to strive to bridge the demand-supply gap in the Indian data center industry.”

Sunil Gupta, Co-founder, and CEO of Yotta Infrastructure said, “Foreseeing increased demand from the region due to digital acceleration, we’ve decided to commence construction of two new data center buildings of 30MW IT load each from January 2022, much ahead of our earlier schedule. The data center park shall be the largest one in the region, powered by redundant 220 KV express feeders and an on-site substation, with an option of 100 percent green energy to customers. With the presence of multiple telco operators, redundant fiber paths and various public and private Internet exchanges and availability of Build To Suit (BTS), Bulk and Retail Colocation and various Cloud and Managed Services, this highly interconnected data center park is attracting customers from across the World and industry verticals.”

Riding on the digital revolution and a huge supply-demand gap in the country for high-quality, scalable data centers and benefitting from its all-around capabilities across the value chain of Datacenter from Build to Operate, Yotta is feverishly developing data center parks across the country. It has also signed MoUs with Tamil Nadu and West Bengal Government to set up data centers in Chennai and Kolkata, respectively. The company recently announced that its first data center in Navi Mumbai – Yotta NM1, is India’s first and the only Tier IV Constructed Facility certified by Uptime Institute (USA).

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In sync with Guru Nanak’s ‘oneness’

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An exhibition titled ‘Paradigm of Oneness’—a solo show by artist Dr Jaspal Singh Kalra—was held recently in the capital at the Visual Arts Gallery, India Habitat Centre wherein the artist attempts to imagine Baba Nanak in the content of his immortal Shabads.

Artist Dr. Jaspal Singh Kalra

Banrae Embroidery & sketch on linen by Dr. Jaspal Singh Kalra

Bhande bahara Embroidery & sketch on linen by Dr. Jaspal Singh Kalra

Nanak’s oneness goes beyond just humans. His compositions talk of nature, animals, plants, earth, water, air and to love them all is true oneness with the divine. Imagining self as part of other is the paradigm of Nanak’s oneness that takes us beyond our ego. The series of artworks on display are Kalra’s journey of art as a personal expression. His art is not about deciphering or finding reasons but simplifying the complexities.

This personal expression of setting text in artworks has been part of Dr Kalra’s style for more than a decade. When his mother passed away, it transformed into interpretation.

The word ‘Sab Tera’ is also interpreted as ‘terah’ or thirteen and in keeping with this concept thirteen Shabads have been taken to create this series of artworks. Shabads by Baba Nanak, Kabirdas and Sheikh Farid range from oneness of humans, gender, nature, universe, divinity and value of sharing.

Speaking to The Daily Guardian, Kalra explained the title of the exhibition and said that oneness is about gender, people and moving away from discrimination. “When we started creating these artworks, we had people from different faith who understood his philosophy and tried to associate with it. Here it was about the oneness of thought and connecting it with art,” he said.

He added, “We gave it the name paradigm because it was not just about one single thing. There are smaller aspects. It has so many components to it that makes it a paradigm.”

Everyone knows that Guru Nanak is an important religious figure in Sikhism. But in the case of Kalra, he says it is important and a conscious effort to humanise him in order to understand his teachings. “When we humanise something, we connect to that person much closer. When we make someone a god or a demi-god, there’s an awe that comes in. If you have to love someone’s poetry and follow, the first step would be to be in one with that person,” he said while speaking to The Daily Guardian.

On the issue of the hurdles he faced while creating these works, he said that he did not face much of it and added that he was being guided by a force through the creative process. Kalra further said that every time he was working with a Shabad or a Doha of Kabir on his artwork, he was reliving them. “Every time when I was working on it, I would go deeper into the meaning because we were spending so much time in sketching and conceptualising. Then you really look (at the work and the verse) and get into another time zone,” he added.

“The whole process for us (of creating these works) became an act of respect and worship,” the artist said further. From his artwork, he said, the thing that the viewer must capture is the human values and make your own meanings out of them.

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SARDAR UDHAM SINGH WOULD LEAD TO DISCUSSIONS ABOUT OTHER SUCH UNSUNG HEROES: VICKY KAUSHAL

In the exclusive conversation with us as part of NewsX India A-List, Vicky Kaushal and Shoojit Sircar opened up about the response to Sardar Udham Singh, their favourite scenes in the film and much more.

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Actor Vicky Kaushal and Filmmaker Shoojit Sircar, who are basking in the success of their film Sardar Udham Singh, joined us for a candid chat as part of NewsX India A-List. In the exclusive conversation, the duo opened up about the response to Sardar Udham Singh, their favourite scenes in the film and much more.

When asked whether he expected so much love from the audience for the film, Shoojit Sircar said, “We knew that the final climax of the film will evoke some kind of a reaction but we didn’t expect these many praise-worthy messages and texts. That was absolutely overwhelming.”

On Sardar Udham Singh being a difficult character to portray, Vicky said, “Everyone attached with the making of the film, was in sync with why this story is important and why this story needs to be told. We were always in sync with that. Yes definitely, when you see that the film has resonated in such a beautiful way with the audience and connected with the audience, it does make you feel good. It makes you feel that your efforts have landed well. Not many people knew who Sardar Udham Singh was or what his sacrifices were. Now people would be aware of it, they would discuss it and this would probably lead to discussions about other such unsung heroes and other such sacrifices of that time. That of course is a big takeaway for a big victory for us.”

Speaking about that one compliment that stood out about his performance, Vicky said, “Actually in the initial stages, it was something that I read for the first time and it really brought a smile in my heart, rather than my face, was when somebody had just appreciated that this could have been the best tribute to Irrfan Saab. That really made my heart smile. That was really special for me.”

To this, Shoojit Sircar added, “When the film got over, most of the people were not able to talk and they felt a little numb. For some time, they didn’t want to talk to anyone and just be quiet. Everyone wrote to me and also on social media I read. That for me is quite a deep impact. I also get a little emotional when someone feels exactly what we feel. That is the biggest compliment I got.”

Talking about his favourite and the most difficult scene in the film, Vicky shared, “For me, the most challenging one has to be the Jallianwala Bagh scene. To recreate that and to touch upon the innocence of the 20-year-old Udham Singh, who was probably going through that kind of aftermath. You, as an actor, can never be too prepared to know what you are going to do, how you are going to do, how you are going to emote those sequences till you are thrown right in the middle of it. So, that was for me the most challenging.”

“The one scene I was looking forward to shoot was the jail portion, that lead up to that sequence. The conversation between Sardar Udham and Suhel. That trajectory was for me like the thread of the film. Shooting for those portions was kind of also telling me the graph of the character. Those sequences in the film were special for me,” Vicky added.

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Aatmanirbhar bharat is a ‘phenomenal initiative’: Volvo group’s president, Kamal Bali

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The President and Managing Director of the Volvo group, India, Mr Kamal Bali joined NewsX for an exclusive round of interview. Mr Bali has a distinguished career traversing over 3 decades, predominantly in the automobile division.
He addressed what a stressful and unprecedented sort of situation the ongoing coronavirus pandemic has created for the automotive industry. “This pandemic came out like a bolt from the blue and no one was prepared for it and especially our industry, the automotive industry which was already reeling under a demand slowdown towards the end of last year”.

Mr Bali was looking for better times with a lot of optimism, especially with the new emission norms coming in and lots of new models which were to come in for the entire auto industry. He told how the automotive industry’s slowdown impacts the entire country. “It was very big of a U-turn for the auto industry, it accounts for 7-8 per cent of our GDP, so it is a big jolt to the country and to the whole economy as such”.

Mr Bali believes that in terms of numbers, the recovery in the sector will be very slow. “The reason is that the industry was already going through a slowdown as I mentioned and in the current financial year 2020-21. There are estimates of different kinds but its likely that the industry will see a further contraction of between 25-35 per cent”.

According to Kamal Bali, it’s very difficult to say that what exactly they will end at because it will depend on the pathways of the pandemic. “How it does, how as an industry and how as a society we come in terms with. As ultimately, itsalso a question of lives and livelihoods”. So he thinks that its going to be challenging but he is still optimistic.

“Seeing numbers in June, there has been some improvement over May. May to June has been a huge, a positive reinforcement, which is good news for the industry even though it is much much lower than the June of last year”. So he thinks that there are some positive things but he also thinks that a lot more can be done. “Of course, it won’t be business going forward as usual but, a lot of other factors are going to come into play but I think if we can get a good fiscal stimulus, this industry can bounce back sooner than we expect”.

The Volvo President appreciates the limited elbow room, the finance minister had, and he thinks that despite that, she did a wonderful job. “I think the supply side thing was largely addressed, a lot of liquidity and monetary measures have been taken for the economy as a whole and also, addressing several vulnerable sections of the society and economy including the MSMEs and people at the economically weaker sections of the society, having said that I think the demand side also needs to be looked at now, this is the right time”.

He further said, “I think as the supply side is getting addressed, as factories have started manufacturing and remanufacturing, now, we have come to levels of 50-60 per cent of our original pre-COVID levels. I think now is the time when we also need a demand stimulus because discretionary demands have gone down. Since the economy is not at its full throttle the demand is not there”.

Mr Bali feels and what according to him the industry would like is four or five key things. “One is, a temporary reduction in the GST rates, things like trucks and buses fall under the luxury rate of tax which is 28 per cent GST. If this can be brought down to 12 or 18 per cent, if not permanently then at least for the next 6 months”.

He thinks that this can be a big boost because in any case, the industry has to spend more cost on the vehicles because of “transition from BS 4 to BS 6”. So this cost probably cannot be passed on fully to the customer as there are weaker sentiments in the marketplace.

So, if this reduction in the GST can be done temporarily, just to jump-start the economy, that’s one. The customers would be excited and they would like to look at the possibilities. “The second thing is lower interest rates, if some subventions can go on from typically 9 to 10 per cent to 6 per cent, I think that would be a big booster”.

According to Mr Kamal Bali, the third thing which could be the game-changer for the industry is the “scrap pitch policy”. He said, “So if they can decide on a 15-year or an 18-year scrappage policy, I think that could be a game-changer for the industry”.

Talking about the “Aatm nirbhar” campaign of Prime Minister Narendra Modi, Mr Bali called it a phenomenal initiative. “We completely support it. I think this gives very very good confidence to the industry and the society at large. If you look particularly at the automotive industry, we are in a large way self-reliant. Our industry as such is well matured. There are still some gaps, which of course we will, if global companies can start doing more and more work in India, I think we can fulfil the dream of aatmnirbhar Bharat”.

He said that as far as Volvo is concerned, they are fully committed to India. “We have been serial investors in India. In fact, over the last 20 years, we have made serial investments”. Mr Kamal shared an anecdote about a venture Volvo made with Eicher motors. “Eicher motors, which is a very very successful joint venture as well. So we believe in the India story and we believe that India is the market which is going to grow. There can be a temporary pause because of pandemic and because of certain other structural reasons. But I think, our trajectory, our direction is spot on”!

He thinks that they need to make the supply chain more integrated with the global supply chains. “I think the industry will respond to the clarion call of the Prime Minister for making India aatmnirbhar”. On behalf of the Volvo group, he said that Volvo group is completely committed and will do whatever is required in the interest of the country as well as the group itself.

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Need to bring in tech to make India Atmanirbhar, says Arjun Bajaaj, Director, Videotex & Founder, Shinco

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Director of Videotex & Founder of Daiwa & Shinco Arjun Bajaaj joined NewsX for an exclusive interview session and talked about his education, brands, making bases strong in the technology sector, India’s ban on Chinese apps, and more.

Mr. Arjun Bajaaj did his education from Pathways World School, a few kilometers away from Gurgaon, and then went to the University of Essex, UK to study Business Management.

The boarding school and the exposure overseas have really helped him become ‘confident and independent’. He also believes that this really helped him in the business world today.

The young entrepreneur, Arjun Bajaaj is really grateful to his parents for giving him this opportunity.

He also feels that the transition from college to his family business was not at all smooth and easy. He said that while he was in university, he did a lot of part-time jobs there. He went to retails, he also worked in some night clubs to get some exposure and understand the audiences. After completing his studies he came back to India and did his first internship in Samsung’s marketing department for a couple of months.
Mr. Arjun Bajaaj was put under six months of training when he joined his father’s company. That’s when he realized “we have a lot and we can take advantage of the infrastructure and the experience we have”.

When asked about his brand Daiwa, Arjun said that it isn’t easy creating one’s own brand. Sharing the details of the process, he said “My brand was pretty new in the market so I thought we will start with the e-commerce platforms. I reached out to a few e-commerce companies but they didn’t show a lot of interest initially. Then shop clues decided to support me.”

Arjun Bajaaj asked his father to lend him 50 TVs because no one was that confident that whether it would turn out well or not. Shopclues then predicted that they could sell probably around 100-150 TVs in the first month. So Arjun gave it a shot and ended up selling 50 TVs in a day. After this big achievement, he asked his father if he could lend some more TVs. He took around 150 more TVs which again were sold in 3 odd days. And that’s when they realized their potential that they can do well. In 2016, the journey of Daiwa began. They sold around 600 TVs in the first month. In 2018, Arjun Bajaaj took Daiwa to the offline space and it has been growing since then.

In 2018, Mr. Arjun launched another brand Shinco which is exclusively sold on the online space. Shinco became the best selling brand last year.
On asking how does Arjun makes his customer base strong, he replied that the manufacturing structure helps them today and they have the experience to build products for the Indian market. They design their products by knowing and understanding the likes of the audience, the problems they face.

The founder of Daiwa and Shinco also shared his views on the Chinese ban on 59 apps, the strict terms, and regulations on imports from China. He said that not many industry leaders are supporting the ban at the moment. A lot of things are manufactured in China and they have no choice but to buy certain parts from there. Talking about the TV industry, the biggest cost goes to the screen of the TV and that is not manufactured in India. ‘To make the Aatmnirbhar Bharat mission successful, we need to bring in that technology so that we can cover that major share that is missing.’

The government should ask the big brands who are selling in India today to bring the technology here because it requires very heavy investment and a lot of production. With that, it can open up gates for export. The entrepreneur, Arjun Bajaaj, advised other young entrepreneurs to learn from the mistake and try to fix them and keep moving forward. Sharing his success mantra on the NewsX A list show, Arjun Bajaaj said that he believes in staying positive. “If you stay positive and have the ability to work hard, then there is no way anyone can stop you”.

The products of Arjun’s brand are available in offline space with local retailers as well as some big retailers. Daiwa is present in the northern and western markets and in the Hyderabad area as well. By the end of this year, they will have coverage in entire India.

Shinco is available on Amazon as well as its website Shinco.in. So users can purchase the product either in the offline space or online space.

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