Consciousness in the Indian society

(1) The Indian Raksha Mantri (Minister for Defence) announced the following:

Requirement for special uniforms for safety of soldiers deployed on borders / field areas in the country is assessed regularly and provision for introduction of new items / improved version of existing items is made as per prescribed procedure.

The Government undertakes procurement of Bullet Proof Jackets (BPJs) and other necessary protective gears / garments for soldiers from time to time as per authorization.  During 2016-17, 50,000 BPJs have been procured for Indian Army through Revenue route.  Procurement of 1,86,138 BPJs through Capital route is under Buy (Indian) category.  Further, a contract for procurement of 1,58,279 Ballistic Helmet through Capital route has been concluded in December 2016.

Upgradation and provision of improved version of special uniforms is a continuous process for which necessary steps are taken regularly.

This information was given by Raksha Rajya Mantri Dr. Subhash Bhamre in a written reply to Shri Surendra Singh Nagar in Rajya Sabha today.

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It is all fine. But, there is one minor detail. The procurement was initiated 15 years ago – yes, it is not a typo. Pl. see here.

(2) ICICI Bank and ICICI Prudential have sold insurance products to farmers (poor or not) who had not understood what they were getting into. [Link]. It is far too callous and irresponsible.

(3) Sucheta Dalal wrote a piece on the travails of the poor and the old with Aadhaar. In places, it was over the top and, second, she lumped other issues that had nothing to do with Aadhaar. For example,

Now, imagine the plight of the 82-year old in Mumbai, who was curtly told by an Airtel employee that he could not have his SIM (subscriber identification module) card transferred from his daughter’s name to his own, despite having all identification documents including Aadhaar. Why? Apparently because Airtel has an unwritten policy not to issue SIM cards to people over 75 because “they may die soon.” [Link]

As soon as I had finished reading this, The Tribune broke the story that one could get two things done, illegally, with respect to Aadhaar:

(a) Pay Rs. 500 and get a “gateway” into the UIDAI Aadhaar demographic database and get all the personal details with the Aadhaar number – name, address, postal code (PIN), photo, phone number and email.

(b) Pay Rs. 300 more and get a ‘software’ that prints out the Aadhaar card too, for the number entered.

The story is here.

So, armed with an Aadhaar number, one could generate the card and use it. But, strictly speaking, the reporter did not have access to ‘billion Aadhaar details’ as the headline claimed.

Shankkar Aiyar says that the problem is because a simple query with an Aadhaar number need not have to return the full set of demographic details. That has not been plugged. Sloth, again. Read the story above on procurement of army uniforms. See his article from 3rd December in ‘New Indian Express’: ‘Habeus Corpus in the age of Aadhaar’.

Demographic data – name, address, postal code, email ID,etc., are shared by us with all and sundry private providers who, in turn, take our implicit or explicit permission to share that with many other agencies for a fee. They sell the data, basically. We do not seem to think much of it. But, there is far too much hullabaloo about these demographic data being released advertently or otherwise. Of course, the argument is that those are voluntary sharing by us on our own volition (is it?) and this is involuntary and unauthorised and hence, objectionable. Of course, the premise of this argument is questionable.

I think that this Tribune ‘expose’ has diverted attention from the issues raised by the Sucheta Dalal article on the travails of old people with the Aadhaar what with India’s connectivity issues, etc.

(4) A story broke out that the State Bank of India (SBI) had collected Rs. 1771 crores through penalties imposed on accounts that failed to maintain minimum charges. On a stand-alone basis, it is a staggering number. But, given that they have more than 40 crore individual accounts, it is not such a big number. Second, this would not have been or could not have been slapped without due information given when the account was opened. Second, certain types of accounts and basic savings accounts are exempt from minimum balance requirements. SBI has now clarified the matter.

(5) Check out this story in ‘Financial Express’ on how small businesses are understating their GST returns in a big way:

While there are roughly 15 lakh small firms registered under the composition scheme today, the number was around 10-11 lakh in September. Of these firms, around six lakh filed their returns for July-September by December 24. The total tax they paid was around `250 crore. Assuming a 2% tax incidence on their turnover — it is 1% for traders, 2% for manufacturers and 5% for restaurants — this means these firms had an average turnover of Rs 2 lakh in that period, or Rs 8 lakh for the full year if you annualise the data. The problem, however, is that firms that have a turnover of less than Rs 20 lakh a year, don’t even need to pay GST or file returns. In other words, these firms are understating their returns in a big way. [Link]

(6) We should not forget what Andy Mukherjee wrote about HDFC and Axis Banks understating their problem loans in a big way. Not to mention, YES Bank of course. Their understatement was the most egregious.

Without a modicum of consciousness, morality, values, fairness and accountability, the so-called demographic dividend in terms of higher economic growth and prosperity for many millions of Indian will be out of reach.  With the breakdown or absence of such basic norms, the society could well implode well before that happens.

 

 

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