Sunday, June 25, 2017

Modi 'refuses' to come out of his car until cameramen arrives in Portugal

Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Saturday hailed the contributions of the more than 65,000 Indians in Portugal, saying they were India’s “real ambassadors” and have enriched the culture of the country they have made their home.

“Indians have carried their cultural heritage with them and have always been proud of them,” Modi said addressing the diaspora Indians in Lisbon.
After Modi arrived in Lisbon, he also visited The Champalimaud Foundation, which is a leading cancer research and treatment centre in Portugal.
However, in a bizarre twist of event, the Indian prime minister ‘refused’ to alight his car for a prolonged duration until two cameramen, understandably travelling with him, had arrived and taken their positions.
In the video, two officials are seen attempting to open the door of the car Modi is sat in, but they quickly change their minds for mysterious reasons.
Soon one official is seen looking at his left in desperation. Moments later two cameramen appear from the same direction hurriedly seen taking their positions. The official in question again peeps into the car for a conversation with Modi following which the prime minister finally emerges out of his official vehicle.
Modi’s fascination for the camera has often been a butt of social media jokes. One of Modi’s most famous videos displaying his penchant for camera was when he had visited the Facebook headquarter in the US.
In the viral video, he was seen pushing the Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg away because he had come in between the camera and himself.
In January last year, the prime minister pushing a member of his staff because he had come in between him and the camera was fervently shared on twitter, Facebook and instant messaging platform WhatsApp.

Saturday, June 24, 2017

Your Brain Has a Delete Button - Here is how to use it

There’s an old saying in neuroscience: neurons that fire together wire together. This means the more you run a neuro-circuit in your brain, the stronger that circuit becomes. This is why, to quote another old saw, practice makes perfect. The more you practice piano, or speaking a language, or juggling, the stronger those circuits get.
For years this has been the focus for learning new things. But as it turns out, the ability to learn is about more than building and strengthening neural connections. Even more important is our ability to break down the old ones. It’s called “synaptic pruning.” Here’s how it works.
Your Brain’s Delete Button And How to Use It


Imagine your brain is a garden, except instead of growing flowers, fruits, and vegetables, you grow synaptic connections between neurons. These are the connections that neurotransmitters like dopamine, seratonin, and others travel across.
“Glial cells” are the gardeners of your brain–they act to speed up signals between certain neurons. But other glial cells are the waste removers, pulling up weeds, killing pests, raking up dead leaves. Your brain’s pruning gardeners are called “microglial cells.” They prune your synaptic connections. The question is, how do they know which ones to prune?
Researchers are just starting to unravel this mystery, but what they do know is the synaptic connections that get used less get marked by a protein, C1q (as well as others). When the microglial cells detect that mark, they bond to the protein and destroy–or prune–the synapse.
This is how your brain makes the physical space for you to build new and stronger connections so you can learn more.


Have you ever felt like your brain is full? Maybe when starting a new job, or deep in a project. You’re not sleeping enough, even though you’re constantly taking in new information. Well, in a way, your brain actually is full.
When you learn lots of new things, your brain builds connections, but they’re inefficient, ad hoc connections. Your brain needs to prune a lot of those connections away and build more streamlined, efficient pathways. It does that when we sleep.
Your brain cleans itself out when you sleep–your brain cells shrinking by up to 60% to create space for your glial gardeners to come in take away the waste and prune the synapses.
Have you ever woken up from a good night’s rest and been able to think clearly and quickly? That’s because all the pruning and pathway-efficiency that took place overnight has left you with lots of room to take in and synthesize new information–in other words, to learn.
This is the same reason naps are so beneficial to your cognitive abilities. A 10- or 20-minute nap gives your microglial gardeners the chance to come in, clear away some unused connections, and leave space to grow new ones.
Thinking with a sleep-deprived brain is like hacking your way through a dense jungle with a machete. It’s overgrown, slow-going, exhausting. The paths overlap, and light can’t get through. Thinking on a well-rested brain is like wandering happily through Central Park; the paths are clear and connect to one another at distinct spots, the trees are in place, you can see far ahead of you. It’s invigorating.


And in fact, you actually have some control over what your brain decides to delete while you sleep. It’s the synaptic connections you don’t use that get marked for recycling. The ones you do use are the ones that get watered and oxygenated. So be mindful of what you’re thinking about.
If you spend too much time reading theories about the end of Game of Thrones and very little on your job, guess which synapses are going to get marked for recycling?
If you’re in a fight with someone at work and devote your time to thinking about how to get even with them, and not about that big project, you’re going to wind up a synaptic superstar at revenge plots but a poor innovator.
To take advantage of your brain’s natural gardening system, simply think about the things that are important to you. Your gardeners will strengthen those connections and prune the ones that you care about less. It’s how you help the garden of your brain flower.
Judah Pollack is the co-author of The Chaos Imperative, and Olivia Fox Cabane is the author of The Charisma Myth.
The above has been taken from Fast Company. The original article may be read at

AAP slams govt on clean chit to ex-AIIMS official

New Delhi: AAP on Wednesday accused the BJP-led Centre of “going to any lengths” to cover up its alleged scams. The party was reacting to a recent affidavit filed by CBI in court, declaring former AIIMS deputy director Vineet Chaudhary innocent in a Rs 7,000-crore scam.

“BJP claimed that it is the only government which had no cases of corruption. It has been harassing opposition parties by implicating them in false cases and unleashing CBI against them. But this is the same government which can go to any lengths to hide its own scams,” said party member Ashutosh.

As an example, he quoted the case of Vineet Chaudhary whose name had figured in a Rs 7,000-crore scam in AIIMS. “He was health secretary to now health minister JP Nadda when the former was health minister in Himachal. Nadda and PMO made every effort to discredict the CVO in AIIMS then, Sanjeev Chaturvedi, to ensure that he could not investigate Chaudhary,” Ashutosh alleged.

A senior official in the health minister's office said Nadda had removed himself willingly in 2015 from the issue and he also transferred the case from his ministry to DoPT for an independent probe. AAP claimed that Nadda had sent two letters to the Congress government and one when BJP was in power, to have Chaturvedi removed on fabricated technical grounds.

Sunday, June 18, 2017

New Tales of Superman

The longest road tunnel - in Kashmir, the longest river bridge - in Assam, the model metro of a future India - in Kochi, and one man to declare them open - the prime minister of India, Narendra Modi.
He strides alone, a fashionably greying superman, in photographs of the inauguration of tunnel and bridge, waving to the future between cylindrical walls vanishing into the brightly lit distance or walking the ramp between sky and water, none behind him or before him, the nonpareil in history. 

It does not matter that these were projects begun by the previous government. Superheroes must deny continuity; they are Fate's interventions in history's course. Mr Modi's superpowers were likely to have been the theme of the inauguration of the Kochi metro too. 

E. Sreedharan, the force behind the Delhi metro and the brains behind the cutting-edge Kochi metro, was at first dropped from the list of people who were to sit with the prime minister on the dais. No one who can actually be credited with an achievement should be seen anywhere close to the prime minister in a moment of triumph; the triumph must be his alone. At least that was the feeling behind the outrage that greeted the Prime Minister's Office upon the excision of Mr Sreedharan's name from the VIP list. 
The chief minister of Kerala wrote to the PMO about this, and Mr Sreedharan was put back in.

It is silly, though, not to trust Mr Modi. The flip-flop over Mr Sreedharan's inclusion had nothing to do with the prime minister's insatiable love for the spotlight. Mr Sreedharan is being considered as a presidential candidate, whispered sources in the PMO; it would be improper for him to share the dais with the prime minister just before the announcement of his name. Before this convoluted reasoning had sunk in, Mr Sreedharan's name was back again. Is he no longer being considered as a candidate then? If he is, why was he dropped in the first place? Besides, said the whispers, Mr Modi likes to be distant from the person he has to push up. Obviously, he has never 'pushed up' Amit Shah. His invisible superpowers must have done that.

These powers do achieve the impossible. In 2001, a silent super-force emanating from the then Gujarat chief minister of barely two months must have impelled the president of the time, K.R. Narayanan, to inaugurate the construction at Deekshabhumi, where B.R. Ambedkar converted to Buddhism in 1956. That would be the only explanation of the claim made by the chief minister of Uttar Pradesh, that Mr Modi built the memorial at Deekshabhumi. Whether it is Mr Sreedharan's exclusion from a VIP list or Ambedkar's rejection of Hinduism - his conversion, that is - all must be to the greater glory of the leader. The omnipotent, omnipresent leader is an all-too-familiar, all-too-ominous figure in the history of the world. India may boast one yet.

How to check unsolicited advice on stocks

If you own a smartphone, it would be a big surprise if you don’t receive free share tips from unknown advisors.
“Multi-bagger Buy 2,000 shares of NSE-BSE Hubtown (Code 532799) buy above 150; SL 140; short-term target ₹180-190 expected ₹280 in one month,” says one message followed by “Buy 10,000 SFLINER (BSE Code 530867) at ₹41.10, intraday target 45.5, BTST 55, SL 45.70. 75+ in week.”
Another one reads “Buy 20,000 shares of Panafic (Code 538860) buy @6.47 SL 5.85, short-term target 10-14, expected ₹20 in one month.” “Upper Circuit call buy CTL BSE: 538476 at 15 short-term 10 days target 15”; Company declared 7.5 per cent dividend, FIIs and MFs buying,” touts another message.
These kinds of messages find their way frequently into the mobile phone inbox, whether or not the number is registered under the DND (Do Not Disturb) registry with the telecom operator. Rogue brokers/tipsters somehow manage to bypass those filters.
From fake identities
What is even more disturbing is that some of these messages are from fake identities that have similar-sounding names to big-name broking houses such as Kotak Securities, Emkay, Angel Broking, HDFC Securities and Motilal Oswal. Clearly, there are pump-and-dump operators at play, who would like to bid up obscure companies with poor fundamentals and allow current holders in the stock to exit at an inflated price.
So, how should one address these unwarranted messages? At the face value, one should simply ignore such messages.
SEBI, in December 2016, had issued an advisory on the subject saying that it had come to know that many entities have been luring investors through unsolicited calls/SMSs and assuring guaranteed profits on the trading tips provided by them and that “It is observed that this activity is carried out mostly by entities based in Madhya Pradesh and Gujarat.”
SEBI had cautioned investors to: “Deal with only SEBI-registered intermediaries and check their registration status on the SEBI website before availing the services; be wary of any misleading advertisements which solicit investments in securities market assuring guaranteed profits.”
SEBI’s advice is: “Take informed investment decision without being influenced by trading tips.”
Hard to identify
But without their complete identity at hand, it is not easy for investors to go to the SEBI site and check the registration of these brokers.
Instead, SEBI or the exchanges should have a provision on their websites in the form of a platform for investors to enter the phone numbers and IDs of such unscrupulous elements so that the regulator can initiate a probe against these intermediaries/brokers and, if found guilty, punish them.
The market regulator and intermediaries could also have a WhatsApp ID or exclusive mobile number where these messages and numbers could be forwarded in order to tighten the screws on such players.
(This article was published on June 16, 2017)

Saturday, June 17, 2017

Fortis Hospital, Mohali introduces MOCA Technique to treat varicose veins

Chandigarh: Fortis Hospital, Mohali has introduced a new technique Mechanico Chemical Ablation of the Varicose Veins (MOCA) to treat Varicose Veins for the first time in India. This modern technique doesn’t require application of tumescent anesthesia. A special catheter is introduced in the vein of the patient and vein is ablated along with foam sclerotherapy. Dr Ravul Jindal, Director, Vascular Surgery, Fortis Hospital, Mohali spoke about this unique technique.

Varicose Veins can occur in any part of the body but it is especially seen in legs. Beyond being a cosmetic concern, this painful condition results in enlarged and gnarled veins and it should be treated at the earliest to avoid any further complexity. Some of the most common symptoms include veins that are purple or blue in color along with twisted veins. The new MOCA treatment uses a patented Flebogrif catheter which is a relatively new endovascular technique to cure venous reflux disease. 

Speaking about the technique, Dr Ravul Jindal said, “This is a technique that wax eloquence in the treatment of varicose veins as against traditional method that require anesthesia and hospitalization. It is designed in a way to plug any chance of its recurrence or a trail of multiple cuts. The new treatment is not only less painful but can treat a leg in 20 minutes and within two hours before the patient can go home. It is important that an expert like vascular surgeon perform this surgery.”

The ailment is usually characterized by aching and heavy legs, ankle swelling, dilated bluish bulge under the skin, redness, dryness and itchiness of skin. In some people, the skin above ankle may shrink because fat underneath it becomes hard. The symptoms also include whitened, irregular scar-like patches that can appear at the ankles or patient can have chronic non-healing ulcers. Dr Jindal said the disease marks an indication of a malfunction of venous system and should be evaluated by a vascular surgery specialist.

Dr Jindal further said, “Even after the procedure, the patient is on fewer medications and post-procedure care. There are no cuts or stitches. As it causes minimal damage to tissues, it’s especially useful in patients who are on blood thinners, are obese, have a groin infection, and are old or patients who are scared of surgery. Patients can return to normal life within 24 hours, except for undertaking vigorous exercise.”

Friday, June 16, 2017

'Metro Man' on PM dais after row

New Delhi, June 15: The Prime Minister's Office today stepped in to stave off a major political controversy by agreeing to Kerala chief minister Pinarayi Vijayan's request to allow "Metro Man" E. Sreedharan to share the dais with Narendra Modi at the inauguration of the much-awaited Kochi Metro on Saturday.

Amid protests at the government level and across media platforms over the exclusion of the man who delivered Kochi Metro on schedule - and a native of Kerala at that - the PMO met the CMO (chief minister's office) halfway by agreeing to Sreedharan and state leader of Opposition Ramesh Chennithala on stage while rejecting the request for inclusion of local MLA P.T. Thomas.

Where the Prime Minister is involved, the dais plan requires the PMO nod and the Kochi Metro Rail Ltd (KMRL) had sent a list of invitees under protocol for clearance. That Sreedharan had been dropped from the list by the PMO became public knowledge on Wednesday after many began receiving invitation cards and Pinarayi revealed on social media that he had written to Modi's office seeking inclusion of the "Metro Man", Chennithala and local MLA on the dais.
"Govt. requested @PMOIndia for the inclusion of E. Sreedharan, Oppn. leader & local MLA as invitees for the #KochiMetro inauguration," the chief minister tweeted yesterday. He confirmed this afternoon that a positive response had been received. "Following GoK's request, @PMOIndia has informed that E. Sreedharan & Oppn. leader will be included in the #KochiMetro inauguration."

Sreedharan, 85, himself downplayed the controversy, telling reporters in Kochi not to make a row as Prime Minister's security is important and such restrictions are par for the course. "I have no issues. Since I am a worker here, there is no need for an invitation.''

But in the 24 hours that the issue remained alive, the Prime Minister and his party received a lot of flak from a state where the BJP is working overtime to make electoral inroads. In fact, the BJP has earmarked an office for its "chief minister" in the new party office that it is building in Thiruvananthapuram.

While the chief minister insisted on inclusion of the leader of Opposition and local legislator, much of the uproar was around the slight to 85-year-old Sreedharan, a native of Palakkad. In the slight to Sreedharan - who is widely perceived to have transformed public transport with the construction of the Konkan Railway and Delhi's Metro -#Malayalis also saw a pattern in the troubled relationship Modi as Gujarat chief minister had with another agent of change from Kerala - "Milk Man" V. Kurien of Amul fame.

Is the media under siege?

Krishna Prasad

Late last year, an editor whose employment was ended under the ‘tatkal’ quota met a media owner whose exit had been similarly fast-tracked a few months earlier.

“Who was making the [phone] calls?” the latter asked. When he heard the names of a couple of Union Ministers, the ‘malik’ snarled: “Oh, wasn’t that glib RSS chap in the BJP amongst them?”

The anecdote might well be apocryphal. What is not is that mainstream media is in deep coma, gasping under pressure not felt even during Emergency’s darkest nights. That was an advertised, in-your-face, executive intervention — the censor sat openly amid journalists in newspaper offices and blacked out stuff they thought Indira Gandhi wouldn’t like.

Co-option and coercion
What is on today is a sly, insidious operation without anybody’s Aadhaar-linked fingerprints. It is aimed not merely at “managing the headlines” in the newsroom but at paving the way for a lethal ideology that has long craved legitimacy, through the boardroom.

In that sense, it is not just the media that is under siege, but the very “Idea of India”.

Influential owners, anchors, editors across the nation resemble the hapless Kashmiri tied to the Army jeep. They are the advance party to quell dissent, manufacture consent, set the agenda, drum up support, and spread fear, venom, hatred and bigotry — sometimes through sheer silence.

The saffronisation of the air waves is staggering.
It would be useful, therefore, to stop deluding ourselves that the siege began with the raid on NDTV’s promoters. Far from it, it is the culmination of a devious, top-down attempt at co-option and cooperation that failed. Hence, the coercion.

So, in the “New India”, it is perfectly normal to hear that the government has a list of journalists who attended a protest meeting in NDTV’s support; perfectly normal for the Foreign Correspondents’ Club to publicly assert it was not involved in it; perfectly normal for a CEO to privately predict no one in the TV industry will stand up because “most will be too scared”.

When Big Brother tracks every channel, watches every tweet, and reads every word, why would anybody want to take a risk when the “caged bird” is a homing pigeon, striking targets with precision?

Putting the same man in charge of the Finance and I&B Ministries in 2014, therefore, was a masterstroke. After all, the government is the biggest advertiser.

“The country is going through an existential crisis. Fear, anger, anxiety and paranoia have become normal. Nobody trusts anyone anymore. Nobody feels secure. People, including journalists, try to prove their loyalty to the government by snitching on colleagues and neighbours.” Turkey’s most famous woman novelist Elif Safak could well be speaking about India.

Who’s to blame?
Much of what is now happening here is happening in countries where nativist nationalists are running riot: the United States, Japan, Turkey, even France.

Defamatory name-calling (using terms such as ‘presstitutes’, ‘journalopes’ and ‘giraegi’); weaponised trolling; arrests, killings, raids, lockdowns. Little wonder, India now stands at 136 on the World Press Freedom index, down from 133.

However, it would be foolish to lay all the blame for Indian media’s current plight at the politician’s door. The siege began long ago with dodgy ownership; mercenary business practices; advertising and circulation revenue meltdowns; emerging technologies. But at least there was “independent journalism” shining the light, showing the way.

Today, as non-state actors throttle India’s foundational values in broad daylight, and much of a besieged media happily plays cheerleader, future historians might wonder if it did not suffer from the Stockholm syndrome.

Krishna Prasad is former Editor-in-Chief of ‘Outlook’ magazine, and a member of the Press Council of India

Thursday, June 15, 2017

Border lights illuminate a Moroccan mockery

New Delhi, June 14: Here's a sample of rewritten geography that would have flummoxed even Ibn Battuta - the 14th century Moroccan traveller whose extensive voyages also covered India.
The Narendra Modi government has used a picture of a brilliantly illuminated Morocco-Spain border while claiming credit for its "achievement" of floodlighting the India-Pakistan border.
The picture shows the border lights snaking their way through mountains and along a sliver of sea. The irony in the name of the chapter in the Union home ministry-produced annual report (2016-17) where the picture finds pride of place was not lost on many. The picture, captioned "Floodlighting along the Border", appears in a chapter titled "Border Management".
Senior home ministry officials termed it a "major goof-up". Some sources in the ministry, however, smelt a deliberate attempt to "keep political bosses in good humour" by resorting to "gimmicks".
After the incongruity went viral following a report carried by the web portal Alt News, top government officials went into a huddle to find a way to dilute the embarrassment.
"It's a major goof-up. It could also be a deliberate act - using a picture of the illuminated Morocco-Spain border to showcase floodlights installed along the India-Pakistan border," a home ministry official said.
Sources said Union home secretary Rajiv Mehrishi today ordered a probe into the "blunder" to identify the officials involved in the preparation of the report.
"If there is a mistake, we will apologise," Mehrishi later told reporters.
Another home ministry official said an inquiry had been ordered to ascertain who provided the photo. "Some officials of the border management division have been showcaused to find out from where the image was sourced," the official said.
"Border Management", the third chapter of the home ministry report, tomtoms the steps taken to bolster security along the India-Pakistan border.
"In order to curb the attempt of infiltration and cross border crimes along Indo-Pakistan border, the government has sanctioned 2043.76km of floodlights along the International Border in the states of Jammu and Kashmir, Punjab, Rajasthan and Gujarat," the report says, along with a picture of the Morocco-Spain border.
"As per the status of progress of floodlighting on this border (as on December 31, 2016), 1943.76km has been completed out of the sanctioned 2043.76km. Besides, work of restoration in 75.6km damaged floodlight is going on," the report adds.
A senior home ministry official who did not want to be named said: "Apparently, some officials are trying to keep their political bosses in good humour by resorting to such gimmicks... by distorting facts."
He recounted another "picture-perfect" moment that later unravelled - the Press Information Bureau's alleged digital altering of a picture of Prime Minister Modi surveying the flood-ravaged Tamil Nadu from a plane in December 2015.
The purported embellishment was noticed by social media users who found a discrepancy between a picture posted on one of the verified Twitter accounts of the Prime Minister and that uploaded by the information wing of the government. The @narendramodi photograph offered a blurred image of the flooded ground below while the PIB photograph showed buildings in sharp relief. The PIB later removed the photo, which drew mockery on social media.
Another official recalled how a black-and-white photo of a "young Modi" holding a broom that was widely circulated by BJP supporters in the run-up to the 2014 Lok Sabha elections was "not Mr Narendra Modi", according to the Centre's response to an RTI query.
The Border Security Force guards the 3,323km India-Pakistan border.
The Morocco-Spain barbed-wire border is located along the Alboran Island in the north coast of the African nation.
The two countries also share a maritime border in the Canary Islands and along the Strait of Gibraltar and the Alboran Sea.
African migrants often cross the Mediterranean Sea to enter Europe, sparking clashes with Spanish and Moroccan border police.

Hospital hoarding stirs honesty debate

MUMBAI: A hoarding put up by a private hospital highlighting the controversial practice of “cuts” in the medical fraternity has upset the Indian Medical Association (IMA) so much that it wants it removed. “Cuts” is an illegal commission paid by a doctor to a fellow doctor for a referral.

The hoarding, located near the airport, reads, “Honest Opinion. No Commission to Doctors". It is the brainchild of renowned cardiac surgeon Dr Ramakanta Panda, who owns Asian Heart Institute in Bandra-Kurla Complex.

IMA president Dr Ravi Wankhedkar told TOI, “What is being claimed on the billboard is the basic work of a doctor. It’s like banks saying we don’t rob people. Moreover, it indirectly alleges that others are unethical.” He said IMA’s Hospital Board of India had written to Dr Panda, asking for the billboard to be pulled down. “We may consider moving the MCI or Maharashtra Medical Council,” he added.

Dr Arshad Ghulam Mohammed, a senior general surgeon, said, “It is part of our medical ethics to be honest with our treatment. It is a part of our ethics to not give or accept commissions. These points are part of the MCI’s code of conduct for doctors. What this billboard tries to say is that there is one hospital that gives an honest opinion and thus gives an impression that others do exactly the opposite. That is where the problem lies.”

An Asian Heart Institute spokesperson said, “The aim was to share that we stand vehemently against the cut practice.” An emailed response said, “A young doctor making a beginning can’t get a patient unless he pays a commission to someone. A radiologist or pathologist pays 30-35% and a new surgeon more than 50% of his fees. They are crying and don’t know where to go.”

Wednesday, June 14, 2017

Digital Transactions were Growing Faster Before Demonetisation

The finance minister Arun Jaitley recently said"Through demonetisation, the government created a new normal, with a big step in removing the earlier scenario of cash economy and shadow economy." 

If this is true then there should have been a substantial jump in digital transactions in the recent past. If people are not carrying transactions in the cash economy, then they should be carrying out transactions digitally. But is that true

Let's first look at the number of digital transactions (i.e. volume of digital transactions) that have happened every month between November 2016, when the demonetisation of Rs 500 and Rs 1,000 notes was announced, and May 2017, the latest monthly data available. All the digital data used in the column deducts the transactions carried out through Real Time Gross Settlement system simply because it is not a retail mode of digital transactions, which is primarily what we are looking at here. The minimum amount that can be transferred through this mode is Rs 2 lakh. 

Take a look at Figure 1. This basically plots the total number of digital transactions that have happened between November 2016 and May 2017. 

Figure 1:

As is clear from Figure 1, the volume of digital transactions peaked in December 2016, when the impact of demonetisation was at its peak. With very little currency available to carry out transactions, people had no option but to use digital modes of settling transactions. In May 2017, the total number of digital transactions was down by 11.4 per cent in comparison to December 2017. This clearly tells us that fewer people are using digital modes of transactions in comparison to the period right after demonetisation. 

Now take a look at Figure 2. In this we look at the total value of digital transactions carried out every month between November 2016 and May 2017. 
Figure 2:

From Figure 2, it is clear that the total value of digital transactions peaked in March 2017, and has fallen by 20.2 per cent since then. Past data shows that the digital transactions tend to increase in the last month of the financial year as people settle their dues and pay their taxes. Having said that, the total value of digital transactions in May 2017, was higher than that in December 2016. But with volume of transactions being lower, what this means that people who were already on the digital bandwagon are spending more digitally. And that is one piece of good news for a government looking to increase the proportion of digital transactions in the overall economy. 

This comparison just tells us how things have evolved on the digital front after demonetisation. How do things look, if were to stretch the timeline a little more? Let's compare May 2017 data with May 2016 data (In this case I have ignored the data for United Payments Interface and Unstructured Supplementary Service Data (USSD). I could not find this data for May 2016 and May 2015. This will not have any impact on the overall result because the USSD form of digital payment is close to zero and can be effectively ignored. 

When it comes to UPI even in May 2017 with all the push and promotion by the government, it made up for 1.1 per cent of the total digital transactions by volume and 0.1 per cent by value (of course we have ignored RTGS here). 

Take a look at Table 1. It has the total digital transactions both by volume and value, over the years. 

Table 1:
Digital transactionsMay 2017May 2016May 2015
Volume (in millions)831.5726.3491.2
Value (in Rs billion)20,901.515,364.612,173.9
Source: Author calculations on Reserve Bank of India data

What does Table 1 tell us? Between May 2016 and May 2017, the total number of digital transactions (i.e. volume) went up by 14.5 per cent. In value terms, the digital transactions jumped by 36 per cent. So, doesn't this tell us that demonetisation had a positive impact on the digital transactions? Before we jump to that conclusion, let's look at how the situation was between May 2016 and May 2015, when there was no demonetisation to contend with. 

Between May 2015 and May 2016, the total number of digital transactions grew by 47.9 per cent in volume terms, which was significantly faster than the increase between May 2016 and May 2017. Of course, the low-base effect is at work, but even with that the jump in percentage terms was significantly more last year. 

This also tells us clearly the negative effect that demonetisation has had on the overall economy, with the larger section of the economy going slow on spending. This ultimately reflects in the slower jump in digital transactions. 

How do things look in terms of value? In terms of value, the jump between May 2015 and May 2016 stood at 26.2 per cent, which is lower than the jump between May 2016 and May 2017. (I did not look into data from May 2014 and before, because the structure of the digital data changes dramatically, with the importance of ECS increasing in comparison to NACH today). 

What does this tell us? It tells us that demonetisation has led to those who were already on the digital mode to spend more digitally. It also tells us that the better-off haven't been impacted much by demonetisation. Nevertheless, the main aim of demonetisation was to increase the total number of digital transactions (the dream of a cashless society i.e.), which was happening anyway and seems to have slowed down after demonetisation. 

The fact that digital transactions in India were growing at fast pace even before demonetisation, isn't surprising given that India is one of the youngest nations in the world. More than 54 per cent of India's population is under 25 years of age. Youth take on to new technology faster than others. Hence, the digital transactions in India will continue to grow in the years to come, as they had before demonetisation. 

This brings us back to the question was demonetisation necessary? The useful idiots of Narendra Modi (with due apologies to Thomas Sowell who coined the term for a different context) through their WhatsApp forwards and analysis in the media, would like us to believe that. But as more and more data comes out, it is becoming more and more clear that demonetisation was a more or less whimsical decision carried out without any due-diligence. Of course, it needs to be defended now.

Tuesday, June 13, 2017

Using guile, they ‘vish’ out money from accounts

R Sivaraman
It sometimes takes only an innocuous phone call to deplete a bank account. Unfortunately, thousands of people in the city have received these damaging phone calls. As they take the call on good faith, people often part with sensitive information that unscrupulous fraudsters use to siphon off their hard-earned money.

Police claim that the number of such complaints has increased. Every day, they receive at least five complaints demanding action against phishers.

Every complainant has a different experience to share with the police. A woman who was sitting in her home on a Sunday evening received a phone call from an unknown person. The caller introduced himself as the branch manager of a nationalised bank. She narrated: “The caller told me that my ATM card was blocked as I had not linked my Aadhaar number to the bank account. After I shared my Aadhaar number, he told me my card had been activated.”

But things did not end here. The caller continued: “You must have received a six-digit number in your mobile. If you tell me the number, your card will be active.” He made several calls in quick succession, giving the woman customer a feeling that there was a crisis. “Half-an hour after his last call, I got the message that ₹60,000 had been debited from my bank account in six transactions,” she explained.

In the case of a retired employee in Mandaveli, the intent of the caller was the same, and the modus operandi only slightly different. The caller claimed to be from the Reserve Bank of India and that he was making a routine verification call, mandatory every year. The complainant was told to share his card number details.

The senior citizen said: “He spoke to me at length for roughly half an hour and I ended up giving my card number. After receiving the card number, he also asked for the CVV number as well. When I hesitated, again he re-assured me that he was calling from the RBI, and that I need not to worry at all. Then I shared the CVV number, and subsequently the one time password that was sent to my mobile number. As soon as I shared it, the call was disconnected, and I lost ₹40,000.”

The vishers seem to target senior citizens primarily, picking on retired employees of private and nationalised banks, police said. Six months ago, a 72-year-old person, who retired from a top position from a nationalised bank and was living in Mylapore, was a victim.

“Vishers will usually impose themselves on victims as bank officials and offer great discounts on credit cards, even prizes. They also indicate that failure to reveal account details may lead to cards or bank accounts being frozen. They then collect card details, CVV number, expiry date and OTP from the customer and use this data to shop online,”explained Selvarani, Inspector, Central Crime Branch.

Most of the fraudsters operate from Bihar, and Ghaziabad and Noida in Uttar Pradesh, she added. Procuring data from middlemen, they operate from undisclosed locations in these areas. They use different mobile numbers to cheat gullible customers.

The officer also said cyber fraudsters now also target mobile e-wallets, since the e-wallet user need not furnish debit or credit card details every time. One can easily create e-wallet with banks if the customer has an email address or with Facebook details.

Usually, after defrauding a person, cyber criminals transfer the money to bank accounts opened in fictitious names. Bank officials say that since customers themselves voluntarily share the details, they are unable to help much.

Saturday, June 10, 2017

Crackdown on Indian news network sparks fear that press freedom is under threat

Vidhi Doshi
India's Central Bureau of Investigation on Monday raided the home and offices of top television executives Prannoy and Radhika Roy, co-founders of news channel NDTV, which has often clashed with Prime Minister Narendra Modi's government. In response, the network put out scathing statements and broadcasts, saying the raids amounted to a “witch hunt” and “a blatant political attack on the freedom of the press.”
The raids were conducted in connection with loans from ICICI Bank taken out by the Roys, starting in 2008.
The network said the loans have been repaid, and it issued a document that appears to confirm their claim. “NDTV and its promoters have never defaulted on any loan to ICICI or any other bank,” read a statement posted on NDTV's website. "We adhere to the highest levels of integrity and independence. It is clearly the independence and fearlessness of NDTV's team that the ruling party's politicians cannot stomach and the CBI raid is merely another attempt at silencing the media."
“In American media, it is considered patriotic to question and make the government accountable, here to be patriotic is to just agree with everything the government says,” said Prannoy Roy, speaking to The Washington Post.
India ranks 136th on the World Press Freedom index, slipping three places since last year. Dissenting voices are often silenced using sedition laws. More than 51 freedom of information activists have been found murdered since the law came to force in 2005.
Major corporate owners also limit the diversity of India's media: Although India has 86,000 newspapers and over 900 television channels, a handful dominate. Reliance, one of India's biggest companies, owns News-18, which dominates coverage on a number of popular TV channels and magazines.
On Monday night, NDTV aired a half-hour Hindi language broadcast, anchored by Ravish Kumar, describing the atmosphere of fear in which Delhi's news media works. “If you ever meet a journalist on these streets ask if they are afraid. They'll tell you without speaking: 'Delhi's journalists are now scared.' … This is the capital of fear," he said.
During the broadcast, Kumar said that had the raids not happened, his program would have focused on ongoing farmers strikes in the states of Maharashtra and Madhya Pradesh. “This is an attack on all of you,” he said. “Just like this, every day, things that concern the ordinary man are pushed out of the national media.
Several editors and journalists have sharply criticized the raids. Raj Chengappa, president of the Editors Guild of India, said in a statement: “Entry of police and other agencies into the media offices is a serious matter. NDTV, in various statements, has denied any wrong-doing and termed the raids as stepping up the concerted harassment of the news channel and an attempt to undermine democracy and free speech and silence the media.”

Uri martyr’s family faces caste bias

Dinesh Manhotra
Tribune News Service
Sarwah (Samba), June 9
The family of Uri martyr Havildar Ravi Pal has become a victim of caste prejudice as villagers are neither allowing the installation of the martyr’s statue at the main entrance of the village nor allocating a small piece of land to connect Ravi’s home to the link road.
Ironically, after his martyrdom, the bumpy link road was named as “Shaheed Ravi Pal Marg” but villagers are not sparing land to allow construction of a 10-foot wide road up to Ravi’s house.
In the upper caste-dominated Sarwah village, situated between the Swankhamore-Chang road and the Vijaypur-Ramgarh road, there are two dozen families belonging to backward classes and Scheduled Castes out of over 120 families. As Ravi’s family belongs to a backward class, it is facing caste prejudice.
Although Ravi’s wife Geeta Devi sought to downplay caste bias, his brother Raj Kumar was forthright on the issue.
“Obviously caste is one of the factors of not fulfilling commitment made to our family at the time of the martyrdom of my brother,” Raj told The Tribune while narrating how authorities were brazenly evading their responsibility of constructing a road to Ravi’s house and installing his statue at the main entrance.
Ravi’s family is obviously shocked with the apathy of the local as well as the administration where petty considerations have eclipsed respect towards the soldier, who was martyred during the Uri terror attack.
On September 19, 2015, during the cremation of Ravi, it was promised by the government that his statue would be installed at the main entrance of the village. As ministers, bureaucrats and other VIPs had to wade through water-logged fields to reach the martyr’s home, it was also committed that a road would be constructed to connect Ravi’s house to the link road.
“For the past six months, I have been approaching the authorities to fulfil the commitments but it appears that those who are opposing the construction of road are more powerful than those who are at the helm of the affairs,” Geeta Devi told The Tribune. She recalled that local BJP legislator Chander Prakash Ganga, who is a Cabinet minister, had promised to install Ravi’s statue and construction of a road but nothing had been done so far. “We are ready to get his (Ravi’s) statue sculpted on our own expenditure but the authorities have failed to convince the people to allocate suitable land for it,” Geeta Devi said.
Ramgarh Tehsildar Raman Chalotra said he had joined recently. “I will definitely look into the matter. Every possible help will be provided to the martyr’s family,” he said.

BJP ‘abandons’ martyrs’ families
Jammu: BJP leaders have no time to visit martyrs’ families of Jammu to enquire about their problems. Party’s national general secretary (organisation) Ram Lal was holding a door-to-door campaign, just two kilometres from the house of Uri martyr Ravi Pal, but the local leadership failed to take him to the martyr’s home. Ironically, during the campaign, BJP leaders were raking up peoples’ sentiments against Pakistan but they forgot Ravi’s family.

Emergency type attack of NDTV

NEW DELHI: NDTV senior journalist Ravish Kumar on Monday dares BJP-led Modi government after Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) registered a case against NDTV founder Prannoy Roy, his wife Radhika Roy.

The channel’s popular journalists took to Facebook to challenge the Modi government to come face to face in front of a LIVE camera if it wished to finish off the NDTV.

In a powerful Facebook post, Kumar wrote, “So you intimidate and threaten us and put everyone including the Income Tax department against us. See we are trembling in fear. Now employ your stooges on social media to defame us. But amidst the fashion of media playing in your lap, there’s one media house that refuses to do so. Your success will be when every sings ‘thousands of Indian media houses play in your lap.’ NDTV hasn’t come into existence so easily, even you know that. If you are so happy to see our end, then let’s came face to case someday on chairs. We and you will be there and there will be live camera.”

The timing of Monday morning’s raid at NDTV promoter Prannoy Roy’s home raised questions about the intentions of the Central Government and indicated that there was little room for a watchdog media in a BJP-ruled India. On Monday night, host of Prime Time on NDTV India, Ravish Kumar delivered a biting critique of the state of press freedom in the country.

He began by referring to a 2016 article in The New York Times that explained how dictatorial governments of the 21st century ruled with a “velvet glove”. The authors described how, “the ‘soft’ dictators concentrate power, stifling opposition and eliminating checks and balances, while using hardly any violence”. Kumar also spoke about former US President Barack Obama’s message to the press, shortly before he left office: “You can’t be sycophants for those in power”, but instead, “push those of us in power to be the best version of ourselves”.

Kumar explained that currently, there are two kinds of journalists in New Delhi, those who are afraid, and those who are being threatened. Journalists who are afraid can be further divided into two categories: those who are paid to be afraid and those for whom the fear is never-ending.

He also highlighted the problems with social media debates that frequently create false binaries about “soldiers on the border”, while referring to Indian Express editor Raj Kamal Jha’s speech at the Ramnath Goenka awards. “...when we have a generation of journalists who are growing up in an age of retweets and likes. And they do not know that criticism from a government is a badge of honour,” Jha had said.

Said Kumar with a smile, “Don’t get too frightened. But it is important to know what exactly is going on with Indian media.”

Referring to “lapdog media” as “godi media” – for those who play in the lap of the government – Kumar talked about the fact that despite the rise in the number of channels, the space for free opinions is shrinking. Channels quickly form an agenda, and eventually, this becomes propaganda by repeating the same notions in every discussion. He called the phenomenon “a well of death of opinion in our democracy”.

Going on to the case against the NDTV promoters, he said that the loan being referred to in CBI press releases had been paid off long ago. There were many people, some of whom were “watching cricket matches in the United Kingdom”, who had thousands of crores in debts, but whom the government was not targeting.

He ended the broadcast by going back to Thomas Jefferson’s famous quote, “Were it left to me to decide whether we should have a government without newspapers, or newspapers without a government, I should not hesitate a moment to prefer the latter.” Unfortunately, there is no one in the current dispensation who feels the same, Kumar said.