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Wednesday, 30 December 2015

What is Free Basics?

Knowledge philic hint

1. What is Free Basics? was rechristened Free Basics in September, just ahead of Prime Minister Narendra Modi's visit to Facebook's headquarters at founder Mark Zuckerberg's invitation. According to Facebook, it is an open platform that gives Indian developers the opportunity to make their services and websites available free of cost to those who cannot afford internet access. However, this free access is limited to partner websites and applications. It was launched two years ago globally in partnership with Samsung, Ericsson, MediaTek, Opera Software, Nokia and Qualcomm.

2. What's the problem, then? It sounds like a good initiative…
Yes, definitely. But the problem is that, contrary to what it claims, it doesn't offer equal and unbiased access to all services. Facebook is partnering with ISPs to provide preferential and selective access to a set of app developers and services. This is the main criticism of those opposed to Free Basics; they argue that the internet should be free and equal for all users. This is also the cornerstone of net neutrality.

3. What's net neutrality?
Net neutrality means access to free and unbiased internet for all. To put it in simple terms, anyone from anywhere around the world should be able to access or provide services and content on the internet without any discrimination.

Facebook fab👇




* छतरी मे गाड़ी = छत्तीसगढ़ = गाडी
* गोवा कि मंडी = गोवा = मंडी
* बंगले कि काठी = पशिम बंगाल =काठी
* नाग कि चोच = नागालैंड = चोंग
* उड़ी उड़ीं बबा = उड़ीसा = ओड़िसी
* कान( कर्ण) में करो यक्ष ज्ञान =कर्नाटक = यक्ष ज्ञान
*करेले कि कथा = केरल = कथकली
* पंजे में भांग डालो = पंजाब = भांगड़ा
* राजा तुम घुमो = राजस्थान = घूमर
* असम कि बहु = असम = बिहू
* अरुण क मुखोटा = अरुणाचल = मुखोटा
* गुज़र गई गरीबी = गुजरात = गरबा
* झाड़ू में छाऊ = झारखण्ड = छऊ
* U K में गडा = उत्तराखंड = गढ़वाली
* अंधेरे मे कच्ची पूरी खाई खाई=आंध्र्रप्रदेश = कचिपूडि
* जम्मुरा = जम्मू कश्मीर = राउफ
* तुम मिले भरत = तमिलनाडु =भरतनाट्यम
* उत्तर की रास = उत्तर प्रदेश =रासलीला


30 DEc 2015 editorials



30 DEc 2015


The hindu:

Only for the rich?


Sometimes, when the state is faced with a legal challenge to its policy, all it needs to impress the judiciary is to make a suitably pious claim. Kerala, a State that accounts for nearly 14 per cent of the country's liquor consumption as well as one that boasts of 100 per cent literacy, has managed to convince the highest court in the land that its policy of restricting bars that serve liquor to five-star hotels will bring down drinking. It has successfully claimed that if liquor is made prohibitively expensive, the State's youth would be "practically compelled to abstain from public consumption of alcohol". The court has accepted its argument that its objective was to prohibit all public consumption of alcohol, and that the only reason it made an exception in favour of five-star hotels was in the interest of tourism. The court sees no arbitrariness or caprice in this, saying even if it appears that there may be close similarities between five-star hotels and four-star or 'heritage' hotels, it is the preserve of the government to differentiate between them. The judgment strikes at the root of non-discriminatory treatment under the Constitution merely on the ground that the issue involved is the business of liquor. At one point, it recognises that a right to trade in liquor exists, and that once the State permits it any restriction on it has to be reasonable. Yet, it goes on to hold that a moratorium on other categories of hotels is not arbitrary or unreasonable because the potable liquor business, given supposed public health concerns, is res extra commercium, or a "thing outside commerce."

The reasoning behind the Supreme Court's decision to uphold Kerala's latest liquor policy is twofold. First, it unexceptionably roots its verdict in the rule that courts ought to be wary of interfering in policy matters. Secondly, and somewhat controversially, it accepts a discriminatory classification in favour of five-star hotels. The exception on the ground of tourism is quite curious because tourists, both foreign and domestic, are not drawn from the upper echelons of society alone. The court notes that no one is barred from upgrading their hotels to five-star grade, yet it seems to have accepted a contention by the government that it was not allowing bars in four-star hotels because three-star hotels may get themselves upgraded to four-star status! While total prohibition may be a laudable objective and one of the Directive Principles of State Policy, it is doubtful whether confining drinking to homes and private spaces by itself will bring down consumption. In a non-permissive society, it may only result in converting drinking into a covert activity, a phenomenon requiring policing and also bringing corruption in its wake. The verdict places a heavy burden on the State to rehabilitate those left unemployed by the closure of hundreds of bars, as well as to make its policy succeed. It also needs to ensure that the sweeping discretion conferred on it to differentiate between classes of licensees is not misused for any extraneous considerations.


Devoutly religious.



Force or oblige (someone) to do something



Flightiness: the trait of acting unpredictably and more from whim or caprice than from reason or judgment; "I despair at the flightiness and whimsicality of my memory"



A sudden and unaccountable change of mood or behavior.



A temporary prohibition of an activity.



Feeling or showing caution about possible dangers or problems.



A level or rank in an organization, a profession, or society.



Fasten (something, especially a door or window) with a bar or bars.



Heated disagreement.



(of an action, idea, or goal) deserving praise and commendation.



The quality of behaving or speaking in such a way as to avoid causing offense or revealing private information.



Grant or bestow (a title, degree, benefit, or right).



Irrelevant or unrelated to the subject being dealt with.



The Hindu:

Short-sighted hike in U.S. visa fee


The Barack Obama administration's decision to raise the visa fee for skilled professionals seeking temporary work in the U.S. is set to hit Indian companies in the IT sector. Nasscom, the trade association, puts the expected losses at about $400 million a year. The development comes in the run-up to the 2016 presidential elections when fear-mongering about American jobs 'going to foreigners' inevitably becomes part of the political rhetoric. The $1.8-trillion tax and spending bill, which authorises the doubling of the fee for certain categories of H1B and L1 visas to $4,000 and $4,500, respectively, and was signed into law by Mr. Obama, has raised concerns in India. Just as capital-surplus countries pitch for easier entry for their capital, India — with over 65 per cent of its 1.25 billion people below the age of 35 — makes the case for free labour movement. Although India has the options to take retaliatory steps or move the World Trade Organisation's dispute settlement panel, the best course would be to amicably resolve the issue at the diplomatic level. To successfully challenge the increase before a WTO panel, India will have to prove the discriminatory nature of the fee hike on Indian firms vis-à-vis their competitors from other countries. That is challenging since some Indian IT majors such as Infosys have said the American move will not impact the sector much. Taking tit-for-tat steps would mean killing the goal of boosting bilateral trade from $100 billion today to $500 billion in the next few years.

American and Indian policymakers need to focus on the larger picture. Just as a labour-surplus India, a nation with high poverty levels (with almost 300 million people, close to the entire population of the U.S., living on $1 a day), will need to gradually ease restrictions on capital inflows, a capital-rich U.S. with a looming labour shortage (due to the growing retiree population) will have to look at removing curbs on labour mobility sooner than later. U.S. authorities and lawmakers must also realise that their own corporations trust Indian IT service providers not just for their quoted rates but for their ability to get the job done. More importantly, as a Nasscom report of September 2015 points out, India-based IT companies providing services to American businesses and other customers invested over $2 billion between 2011 and 2013, and paid $22.5 billion in taxes to the U.S. Treasury in those years; in fact, they supported more than 411,000 direct and indirect jobs in the U.S., including 300,000 held by U.S. citizens and permanent residents. In this period, over 120,000 Americans benefited from philanthropic activities by Indian IT companies, which focussed on educating more Americans in science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) skills. Such contributions apart, the U.S. must absorb the larger point it often makes to others: a globalising world seeks greater interdependence, and not higher walls.



The art of effective or persuasive speaking or writing, especially the use of figures of speech and other compositional techniques



As is certain to happen; unavoidably.



Of or relating to or having the nature of retribution; "retributive justice demands an eye for an eye"



(of relations between people) having a spirit of friendliness; without serious disagreement or rancor.



Appear as a shadowy form, especially one that is large or threatening.





Indian Express: The LPG model


The NDA government's decision to bar taxpayers earning more than Rs 10 lakh per annum from availing of subsidy on LPG cylinder sales is welcome for signalling a clear intent of targeting subsidies to the deserving. This announcement builds on the government's "Give It Up" campaign, personally pushed by Prime Minister Narendra Modi. By insistently advocating the abjuration of the subsidy by the well-off — from the ramparts of the Red Fort on Independence Day and in his radio addresses to the nation — he built a political case for the reform. The prospective gains from the latest announcement may seem modest. This debarment, based on self-declaration of income, would only disqualify about 20.26 lakh income tax assessees, while the "Give It Up" campaign has already resulted in approximately 52 lakh people forgoing the subsidy, saving the government an estimated Rs 1,167 crore this year. But the trajectory of LPG subsidy rationalisation sets a template that other sectors can follow.


Indeed, the LPG sector has been an important testing ground for reforming the subsidy regime. The latest announcement aims to make the subsidy targeted, as opposed to being near-universal. The UPA government had earlier sought to restrict the subsidy entitlement to only six cylinders a year — before backtracking in the run-up to the 2014 election and raising the number to 12, covering purchases by 97 per cent of all consumers. Now, the present government is saying that the 12-cylinder entitlement will be limited to only those families with annual incomes below Rs 10 lakh. Moreover, the subsidy is now being delivered through direct benefit transfers, wherein the consumer pays the market price for the cylinder upfront, and then receives the subsidy directly into her bank account. This reduces the scope for diversion.


The government has rightly capitalised on falling international oil prices. It would have been harder to restrict the scope of the subsidy when the price difference between non-subsidised and subsidised cylinders was Rs 514.50 (in Delhi), as it was on May 1, 2014, before the Modi government came to power, than the Rs 189.5 now. But the critical question is whether the government can stay the course even if global oil prices return to the not-so-benign levels of years past. Also, the true test for the government would be whether it is able to extend the LPG model of targeting and DBTs in other politically sensitive and fiscally significant sectors such as fertiliser and food. The prime minister's skills of persuasion and communication would be much needed there.




A long rod or rigid piece of wood, metal, or similar material, typically used as an obstruction, fastening, or weapon.



Retraction: a disavowal or taking back of a previous assertion



The path followed by a projectile flying or an object moving under the action of given forces.



Retrace one's steps.



At the front; in front.



In financial matters; "fiscally irresponsible



The action or fact of persuading someone or of being persuaded to do or believe something.



Business Standard:

Double taxation fears are real


The draft guiding principles for deciding the place of effective management (POEM) of a company were issued last week as a follow-up to a Budget 2015-16 proposal to plug loopholes that are used by many companies to skip their tax liability. The principles, which would be used to determine whether a company qualifies as a resident taxpayer, say that POEM would mean a place, where key management and commercial decisions necessary for the conduct of a business or an entity as a whole are made. Under the guidelines, a company would be considered to be engaged in "active business outside India" if its "passive" income – transactions of associated enterprises and income from royalty, dividend, capital gains, interest or rental income – is not more than 50 per cent of its total income. Similarly, it would be considered to be a non-resident firm if less than 50 per cent of its total assets are situated in India or less than half of its employees or of payroll expenses are on employees situated in the country. This means many manufacturing and trading subsidiaries of Indian companies may have to pay taxes in India now; the onus will shift to promoters to prove that they are run truly independently.

The situation these rules respond to is genuine. Companies can too easily avoid paying resident taxes by simply holding a board meeting outside India. This facilitates the creation of shell companies which are incorporated outside but controlled from India. Certainly, POEM is an internationally recognised concept for determination of residence of a company incorporated in a foreign jurisdiction. In fact, an OECD commentary (the POEM change is in line with OECD principles) in describing its meaning suggests that it is the place where key management and commercial decisions of an entity are made.

However, there are genuine concerns, too. Although some tax treaties recognise the POEM concept – many countries prefer the POEM test to be an appropriate one for determination of residence of a company – not all do. Thus, fears of double taxation are real. The danger is that, if there are insufficient safeguards, the tax department could end up creating another messy situation. Although the draft aims at providing a comprehensive set of factors to determine POEM for an offshore company, a more detailed listing of parameters might be necessary. India has already seen a spate of high-profile tax litigation in the past few years and an inadequately explained law can attract new controversies. After all, decisions can be taken over telephonic conversations, web or video conferencing, virtual offices, and so on – how will the tax department handle them? Also, though the guidelines have defined active and passive income, what could create confusion is that trading between parent and foreign subsidiary will be considered as passive income. This justification has been questioned; experts say there is also a significant risk of double taxation especially in the case of US companies managed from India, since the India-US tax treaty does not recognise POEM and such companies may not be able to claim treaty relief. There may be a case for sorting out these contentious issues and implementing it from the next financial year, instead of rushing it through.



An ambiguity or inadequacy in the law or a set of rules.



Used to refer to something that is one's duty or responsibility.



Take in or contain (something) as part of a whole; include.



A measure taken to protect someone or something or to prevent something undesirable.



Situated at sea some distance from the shore.



Causing or likely to cause an argument; controversial.



Move with urgent haste.

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29 DEc 2015 editorials


29 DEc 2015


The Hindu:

Letting startups scale up


Prime Minister Narendra Modi's announcement on Sunday that the government will unveil, in January, a comprehensive plan to help make India the world leader in startups is noteworthy. A part of the plan is to link all the IIMs and IITs, central universities and National Institutes of Technology via 'live connectivity'. The move is expected to assist aspiring entrepreneurs plug into a network of incubators, mentors and angel investors and provide them the ambience to try out their business ideas in the real world. The startup policy is expected to, among other things, make it easier to start and exit a business, allow flexible hiring for new firms in their first three to five years, and provide incentives for financiers, especially domestic funds, as 90 per cent of startup financing currently comes from foreign venture capital funds. The government's hopes of making India a serious contender to Silicon Valley may seem aspirational, but are also driven by the realisation that India needs many more new enterprises to create 10 million jobs for the youth entering the workforce each year. Apps and services apart, India needs startups in manufacturing, industrial design, agro-based food processing and renewable energy among some of the key sectors. Many Indian startups have made a mark this year with valuations in billions of dollars. The home-grown Flipkarts and Snapdeals have resiliently taken on the global e-tailing giant Amazon, so far. But many of these Indian success stories, more than 65 per cent of startups, have left the country to operate from places like Singapore.

This exodus is not because India doesn't foster innovation per se. Google CEO Sundar Pichai, in fact, remarked that the constraints people work with in India inspire more creativity and make their ideas more useful for the world. Indian entrepreneurs — from the small-scale factory owners in the 1970s and 1980s to the Bombay Club barons who resisted liberalisation in the 1990s — have a history of successfully adapting their business plans to adversarial regulatory regimes. That startups blossomed in the past few years was not related to the UPA government's policy or lack thereof. They came up despite the government. Certainly, targeted interventions for startups would help. The mandatory use of Aadhaar for registering a new micro, small or medium enterprise could, for instance, be done away with. Similarly, angel investments by domestic financiers should not be treated as taxable income in the hands of a startup. Clearances and patents should be expedited, and crowd-funding allowed. Most importantly, the labyrinth of regulations and compliances that even startups that attain scale end up being subjected to — making business sense for them to leave India — has to be addressed. It is here that the new policy must deliver. As Mr. Pichai said, the ease of doing business has improved, but it needs to get a 'whole lot better' for India to meet its true potential.




Remove a veil or covering from, especially uncover (a new monument or work of art) as part of a public ceremony



Interesting, significant, or unusual



Directing one's hopes or ambitions toward becoming a specified type of person.



Rival: the contestant you hope to defeat; "he had respect for his rivals"; "he wanted to know what the competition was doing"



A mass departure of people, especially emigrants.



Encourage or promote the development of (something, typically something regarded as good).



A limitation or restriction.



Withstand the action or effect of.



Involving or characterized by conflict or opposition.



(of a tree or bush) produce flowers or masses of flowers.



Make (an action or process) happen sooner or be accomplished more quickly.



A complicated irregular network of passages or paths in which it is difficult to find one's way; a maze.




The Hindu:

Hunger brews in Bengal's tea estates

North Bengal's tea estates are witnessing an unfolding human tragedy as more deaths of tea garden workers were reported this month from the region. With the industry as a whole struggling from soft prices and a drop in output as climate change affects rainfall and weather conditions across the country's tea-growing regions, several estates are reportedly being unofficially shut, leaving thousands of hapless workers in the lurch. And even at gardens that are operating, living conditions for the predominantly female workforce are said to be precarious, with access to housing, sanitation, healthcare and drinking water far from adequate. A delegation of the State Assembly's Standing Committee on Labour that visited four tea estates cited malnutrition as an apparent cause for the recent deaths of workers and said the State government was not doing enough to resolve the crisis. Separately, an international fact-finding mission headed by the Global Network for the Right to Food and Nutrition that visited tea gardens in West Bengal and Assam earlier this month painted a grim picture of extremely low wages driving thousands of families to hunger and malnutrition. With a majority of the labour landless, tribal migrants who have little to no other skills to help them find gainful work, the closures and unpaid wages in many estates are spurring a surge in the incidence of starvation. While West Bengal's Labour Minister this month told legislators the government was providing jobs under the MGNREGA, medical vans and midday meals to workers at the closed tea gardens, and challenged opposition members to prove the deaths were due to starvation and not natural causes, there is a tacit admission that there is a crisis requiring the State's intervention. The Minister's comment that none of the death certificates show starvation as the cause of death is tragically ironic since acute hunger and dehydration leave a person too weak to work or even stir out seeking food or water as alms. The victim ultimately dies of organ failure or an opportunistic infection that the body can't fight.

The bleak situation of these workers starkly highlights the absence of a social security net for rural workers, and specifically labour in the plantation sector. Unless governments both at the Centre and the State develop adequate mechanisms to safeguard the basic needs of non-unionised workers in vulnerable sectors such as the plantations, all efforts at labour law reform will be quite vacuous and bereft of any meaning to the key factor of economic productivity: the worker. Rising above partisan political considerations, the West Bengal government needs to act urgently to address the crisis and, if warranted, take strong legal action against the managements of tea estates that have landed their workers on the brink of starvation and death. A longer-term rehabilitation and re-skilling package is also required to help labour at the defunct estates find alternative work, and measures must be taken, separately, to rejuvenate this key employment-providing sector



Make (beer) by soaking, boiling, and fermentation.



(especially of a person) unfortunate.



An abrupt uncontrolled movement, especially an unsteady tilt or roll.



Not securely held or in position; dangerously likely to fall or collapse.



Quote (a passage, book, or author) as evidence for or justification of an argument or statement, especially in a scholarly work.



Forbidding or uninviting.



The act or process of closing something, especially an institution, thoroughfare, or frontier, or of being closed.



Urge (a horse) forward by digging one's spurs into its sides



A sudden powerful forward or upward movement, especially by a crowd or by a natural force such as the waves or tide.



Suffering or death caused by hunger.



Understood or implied without being stated.



(in historical contexts) money or food given to poor people.



(of an area of land) lacking vegetation and exposed to the elements.



Susceptible to physical or emotional attack or harm.



Having or showing a lack of thought or intelligence; mindless.



Archaic past participle of bereave.



An extreme edge of land before a steep or vertical slope.



Make (someone or something) look or feel younger, fresher, or more lively.



Indian Express

Ramping up


In his last Mann Ki Baat for 2015, Prime Minister Narendra Modi donned the cap of concerned statesman. Among other things, the prime minister spoke of how even though the word "viklang (disabled)" suggests notions of incapacity, persons with disabilities, in fact, have "extra power". And so, he suggested "divyang (person with a divine limb)" should be used instead. This public focus on the treatment of persons with disabilities is welcome — and unfortunately rare. This is no politically correct quibbling over words — after all, the politics of language is powerful and resonates deeply. But well-meaning as the PM's intervention was, it may have roamed over well-trodden territory — an old and largely settled debate. The phrase "differently abled" was first proposed as an alternative to "disabled" in the 1980s but it was rejected as it was seen as euphemistic and condescending.


But the PM didn't stop there. He rightly acknowledged the infrastructure deficit, both physical and otherwise, that prevents the disabled from accessing opportunities in education, employment and leisure, or participating in public life, and which his government seeks to address through the Accessible India programme. Take physical accessibility, for instance: Even the most prestigious postcodes of the national capital come up short on mobility audits — where there are pavements, there are frequently bollards and trees blocking them, or precipitous gradients difficult to negotiate.


The 100 million-odd disabled persons in India arguably constitute one of the most disadvantaged groups — a majority are illiterate and only 25 per cent are employed. The UPA had introduced the Rights of Persons with Disabilities Bill in the Rajya Sabha in 2014. The government should dust it off and pass the bill, which views disability through the lens of rights and entitlements, not charity and goodwill.



Put on (an item of clothing)



A skilled, experienced, and respected political leader or figure.



A conception of or belief about something.



Argue or raise objections about a trivial matter.



Past participle of tread.



A mild or indirect word or expression substituted for one considered to be too harsh or blunt when referring to something unpleasant or embarrassing.



Having or showing a feeling of patronizing superiority.



Any paved area or surface.



A short, thick post on the deck of a ship or on a wharf, to which a ship's rope may be secured.



Dangerously high or steep.



An inclined part of a road or railway; a slope.



Business Standard:

NITI Aayog's ideas on farm sector should get a chance


A task force on agriculture, set up by the National Institution for Transforming India Aayog or NITI Aayog, has suggested a number of measures intended to raise agricultural productivity and make farming lucrative. These include, among others, the careful use of genetic modification technology in pulses and oilseeds; ensuring remunerative returns on main crops without actually procuring them at the minimum support prices (MSP); and de-canalising urea imports with subsidy going directly to farmers. Besides, it has emphasised the need to liberalise the land-leasing market to allow tiny, non-viable landholders to exit farming and to let the others expand their operational holdings to a viable size. Equally significant is the panel's counsel to use the Essential Commodities Act (ECA) judiciously, so as not to deter investment in storage and stockholding necessary to maintain off-season supplies. The other proposals have targeted at income generation with minimal incremental costs include helping farmers to frequently upgrade their seeds; facilitating well-functioning contract farming; turning food processing into a major export industry; and revitalising agricultural research with greater private investment. Another significant step proposed by the panel is to encourage the collection of vegetables and fruit from villages – the way milk is gathered by cooperatives and dairy companies – to supply these directly to retailers in cities for the benefit of both producers and consumers.

Many of these suggestions have been talked about for quite some time. Hopefully, their endorsement by a committee of the NITI Aayog means they acquire a new sense of legitimacy that the government may find difficult to disregard. More importantly, the NITI Aayog's task force has provided out-of-the-box mechanisms for their implementation. A case in point is the suggestion to replace the procurement-based system of providing MSP to farmers. Followed since the early days of the green revolution, this has remained confined to a handful of crops in a few states. The panel has suggested its replacement with a "price deficiency payment" mechanism. This involves fixing floor prices for different crops, based on their average market prices in the previous three years, and compensating growers for any shortfall in realising these rates. The compensation amount would be transferred directly into the farmers' bank accounts. This system is expected to prevent accumulation of unwanted stocks with the government even while helping to spread price incentives to more crops and more areas. The government would be free to undertake need-based procurement of staple cereals at the MSP.

On land-leasing, the task force's report falls short of suggesting non-agricultural use of the leased-out land. However, NITI Aayog Vice-Chairman Arvind Panagariya has argued in favour of it in his recent blog post on the Aayog's website, saying that states wishing to bypass the hurdles created by the 2013 land acquisition law could do so by incorporating an enabling provision for land-use conversion in the land-leasing legislation. The land-owners would have the right to renegotiate the lease terms while renewing the lease agreement on the expiry of the existing ones. The NITI Aayog has thus envisaged a long-term agenda for farm sector reforms. The ball is now in the government's court.


Producing a great deal of profit.



Financially rewarding; lucrative.



Convert (a river) into a navigable canal



Capable of working successfully; feasible.



Advice, especially that given formally



Imbue (something) with new life and vitality.



The action of obtaining or procuring something



The acquisition or gradual gathering of something.



A main or important element of something, especially of a diet.



A road passing around a town or its center to provide an alternative route for through traffic.



An upright frame, typically one of a series, that athletes in a race must jump over.



Contemplate or conceive of as a possibility or a desirable future event.

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