Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Rediff Business


When will India see a better tomorrow?

Last updated on: November 12, 2010 13:41 IST

Subir Roy

India's battle for a better lot for its people is barely half done, or may be even less, says Subir Roy.

The latest Human Development Report, or HDR, (2010), marking its 20th anniversary, is both remarkable and useful.

Remarkable because it brims with intellectual confidence, born out of a sense of vindication over the "conceptual brilliance and continued relevance" of Mahbub ul-Huq's original human development paradigm set out in the first sentence of the 1990 report - "People are the real wealth of nations

Image: A homeless child tries to drink water from a plastic container on a beach in Mumbai.
Photographs: Danish Siddiqui/Reuters.

The idea of human development, which, through the human development index (HDI), measures health, education and income instead of just income, has not only not withered away but gained in strength and sophistication.

The report is useful for India because it really does leave behind the controversy that has surrounded the measurement of poverty and its supposed level of reduction under the new economic policies initiated in the 90s.

Image: A child of a nomad from the desert Indian state of Rajasthan sleeps on a cot loaded over a donkey.
Photographs: Parivartan Sharma/Reuters.

When the government claimed success for its policies by citing a reduction in poverty from 36 per cent in 1993-94 to 26 per cent in 1999-00, many issues like discrepancies between surveys and national accounts, and the design of questionnaires, arose to question the figures.

A majority agreed but not all were convinced that those numbers painted too rosy a picture, particularly for rural India.

Image: Ramvati, a labourer, feeds one of her premature twins.
Photographs: Raj Patidar/Reuters.

Today, matters like choice of poverty line seem irrelevant.

The HDR tells so much more, establishing the primacy of the idea that what matters is whether people can lead long, useful lives, get the opportunity to become educated and are able to use their knowledge and talents to shape their own lives.

The latest report, as part of the continuing effort to adopt more sophisticated and comprehensive measures of well being and its obverse, deprivation, has added three new indexes - inequality adjusted HDI, gender inequality index and multidimensional poverty index.

Image: A family carries their belongings in a cycle rickshaw after they salvaged them from the debris.
Photographs: Parivartan Sharma/Reuters.

The first is in response to the idea that an aggregate measure of development fails to tell us how much of inequality is hidden in it. Inequality detracts from the level that an arithmetical average may indicate.

The gender inequality index is self-evident and underlines the idea that gender inequality lies at the core of a group's overall level of deprivation.

The multidimensional poverty index acknowledges that different deprivations (be they over health, education, housing and the like) make up the total burden and counting them individually makes for better measurement.

Image: Children of tea workers wait for food at a closed tea garden in Jalpaiguri.
Photographs: Rupak De Chowdhuri/Reuters.

Where do all these measures put India after almost 20 years of new economic policies and is there a case for policy adaptations to look at the ground reality behind the shine in the growth numbers?

In the two decades, among four countries which matter to India, Bangladesh has posted the maximum improvement in its HDI score, followed by China and Pakistan.

India brings up the rear, with only Sri Lanka faring poorer, presumably because it had already reached a high plateau when the period began.

Image: A woman sits on empty water buckets to be filled with drinking water.

Sri Lanka and Bangladesh leave India, China and Pakistan behind in scoring better through HDI rank than per capita gross-national-income rank.

Going by the income measure of poverty (purchasing power parity $1.25 per head per day), Sri Lanka and China are way ahead of India, which is followed by Bangladesh and Pakistan.

In terms of multidimensional poverty, it is only Bangladesh that is behind India, with even Pakistan scoring better, not to speak of China and Sri Lanka.

And in intensity of deprivation, not just China and Sri Lanka but Bangladesh also is ahead of India, with only Pakistan behind.

According to the inequality adjusted HDI, which captures the effect that inequality has on development, Sri Lanka and China again lead the pack, India and Bangladesh come next with Pakistan following.

Image: Urmila, a slum dweller, weeps besides her burnt belongings after a fire broke out in a slum area.
Photographs: Ajay Verma/Reuters.

When it comes to gender inequality, China and Sri Lanka are far ahead, with higher ranks in gender equality than their regular HDI ranks.

Pakistan and Bangladesh score only slightly better in gender equality than HDI rank. Startlingly, India's gender rank is lower than its HDI rank.

A third of the population of developing countries, totalling 1.75 billion, lives under the burden of multidimensional poverty and over half of this number is accounted for by South Asia, though poverty rates are higher in Sub-Saharan Africa.

People in Sub-Saharan Africa suffer the most from income inequality followed by South Asia.

Image: Labourers rest inside their makeshift tents outside the boundary wall of Commonwealth Games village.
Photographs: Parivartan Sharma/Reuters.

For development, people have to actively participate in the development process and not remain passive beneficiaries.

Their health and educational levels are enormously important and progress on these fronts can happen even when growth is elusive.

Near universal as these paradigms are becoming, they should not be applied thoughtlessly as formulae. Context matters.

Technocratic solutions which assume a well-functioning state and regulatory system and developed institutions can come unstuck in the absence of those.

It is thus vital to experiment and learn, as the Chinese have done. Thus, India's battle for a better lot for its people is barely half done, or may be even less.

Image: Homeless people prepare their food on roadside in Ahmedabad.
Photographs: Amit Dave/Reuters.

Discussion Board

When People elect Honest Peoples Representatives
by Anumakonda Jagadeesh (View MyPage) on Jan 16, 2011 12:14 PM | Hide replies

When People elect Honest Politicians like Shri Nitish Kumar and progressive politicians like Shri Narendra Modi.

Dr.A.Jagadeesh Nellore(AP)


A day in the life of an Indian worker

Last updated on: November 16, 2010 15:38 IST

India has a large pool of over 80 crore (800 million) unorganised workers. From child labourers to old aged, all work for a pittance. Here's a look at their daily struggle to live...

The labourers at at recycling factory at Khaddar, in Uttar Pradesh earn about Rs 75 ($1.59) a day.

Image: A labourer works at a glass bottle recycling factory.
Photographs: Parivartan Sharma/Reuters.

A worker sprays paint on a three-wheeler car in the shape of a ladies handbag made with steel plates in Hyderabad.

The handbag and shoe is part of a ladies series of creations by Indian car designer Sudhakar Yadav and the cars can run at a maximum speed of 45 kph (28 mph).

Sudhakar Yadav converts automobile waste into fancy vehicles.

Image: Krishnendu Halder/Reuters.

It's a tough life for labourers who work at a construction site of a gas pipeline in Noida.

Image: Labourers.
Photographs: Reuters.

Termed as the world's largest outdoor laundry, Dhobi Ghat is where Mumbai's traditional laundrymen work in the open to wash clothes from different parts of the city.

The open air laundry has about 700 washing platforms made of stones where about 200 washermen families have been washing clothes as their family business for decades.

Image: Laundrymen work at the Dhobi Ghat open air laundry in Mumbai.
Photographs: Danish Siddiqui/Reuters.

From the time a patient walks in and is examined by professionals, it takes less than a day to manufacture a Jaipur Foot.

Made from locally available and cheap materials, the rapid-fit, prosthetic limb is handed over for free to victims of road and rail accidents or landmine blasts, giving them, and thousands of others who can ill-afford a major injury or the costs of rehabilitation, a new lease on life.

Image: A worker makes an artificial limb at a workshop in New Delhi.
Photographs: Adnan Abidi/Reuters.

A fisherman casts his net in the waters of the Howrah river on the outskirts of Agartala.

Image: Jayanta Dey/Reuters.

A worker spreads red chilli peppers to dry in Sertha village on the outskirts of Ahmedabad.

Image: A worker.
Photographs: Amit Dave/Reuters.

A farmer rests on the sacks of wheat at a grain market in Kharar town in Punjab.

Image: Ajay Verma/Reuters.

Water chestnut are locally known as Singada and are eaten raw, boiled or are grounded into flour after they are dried.

Image: A labourer collects water chestnuts from a pond in Motte Majra village in Punjab.
Photographs: Ajay Verma/Reuters

Labourers with their clothes splattered with silver paint travel on a tricycle from one position of the race track to another. The track was used for the road cycling race event during the Commonwealth Games in New Delhi.

Image: Labourers.
Photographs: Parivartan Sharma/Reuters

Workers clean windows on a building under construction in Hyderabad.

India's economy is seen growing by 8.5-9.7 percent in the 2010/11 fiscal year and monetary tightening should ensure the pace of recovery in Asia's third-largest economy is not hit, the finance ministry said in a report.

Image: Krishnendu Halder/Reuters.

Workers from the Municipal Corporation of Delhi (MCD) capture a stray dog near the Indira Gandhi Stadium, which was one of the venues for the Commonwealth Games held in New Delhi.

The local government started capturing stray dogs near venues of the Commonwealth Games and took them to dog shelters.

Image: Parivartan Sharma/Reuters.

India's manufacturing sector continued to expand although at a considerably slower pace than in preceding months, predominantly weighed down by a fall in new orders and output.

Image: A worker makes gear parts for cranes at a workshop in Mumbai.
Photographs: Danish Siddiqui/Reuters.

Workers prepare dishes at a roadside eatery in Kolkata.

Image: Workers in Kolkata.
Photographs: Rupak De Chowdhuri/Reuters.

A vendor sells garlands of marigold flowers at a wholesale flower market.

The garlands are in great demand during festivals as people seek to decorate temples and homes.

Image: A flower vendor.
Photographs: Rupak De Chowdhuri/Reuters.

A man hangs strands of vermicelli, a specialty eaten during the Muslim fasting month of Ramadan, to dry at a factory in Hyderabad.

Image: A factory worker in Hyderabad.
Photographs: Krishnendu Halder/Reuters.

A worker looks out of a water storage tank as he fetches a pail of water in a fabric dyeing factory in Mumbai.

Image: A worker in Mumbai.
Photographs: Danish Siddiqui/Reuters

A worker carries chickens from a truck at a poultry market in Mumbai.

Image: A poultry worker.
Photographs: Reuters.

A worker prepares cheese inside a factory in Jammu.

Image: A worker in Jammu.
Photographs: Mukesh Gupta/Reuters.

Discussion Board

Some Indian Workers Condition pathetic
by Anumakonda Jagadeesh (View MyPage) on Jan 16, 2011 11:57 AM | Hide replies

Here is a news item that appeared before Commonwealth Games on conditions of Indian Worker:

Tuesday, April 20, 2010
Pathetic Work Conditions at Games Venues
Did the Commonwealth Games committee and the authorities really count the cost, when they offered India the right to host the next games in October 2010?

If medals are being given out for backbreaking labor on miserable wages and impossible working conditions, thousands of migrant workers, slaving to complete stadium and other facilities for the October Commonwealth Games in the Indian capital, will be the champions.

The majority of the estimated 17,000 employees working on games sites are migrants from India's poorest states, who have moved into the city in search of work. It is understood the workers are living in highly dangerous and shocking conditions. They receive less than the stipulated wage and have no access to even the most basic sanitation and health facilities. Their employers do not provide them with the necessary safety equipment.

Lakshmi, a woman worker from neighboring Rajasthan state, took a slight pause from moving bricks piled on her head, to say that she gets paid about half the promised amount of 200 rupees (4.29 U.S. dollars) per day. “My husband is paid slightly more, but we do not protest because there is no work in the fields back home’ she said as a minder shooed her back to work.

Dr.A.Jagadeesh Nellore(AP)

Pitroda to bring digital credit card to your mobile phone!
Last updated on: September 7, 2010 14:34 IST
Sheela Bhatt in New Delhi

On a Sunday afternoon Sam Pitroda, the man who revolutionized the Indian telecom sector and got STD-ISD booths on almost every road, switches on his phone to demonstrate his latest passion.
He goes to 'Menu' to reach a 'folder' named 'credit card'. He clicks. A plastic card's image fills up his cell phone screen. He then tells, "It will change your life. It will change the way you look at money."
He is talking of 'mobile money', a term associated with making payments through your mobile phone that uses your digital plastic card.
This evening Sam Pitroda, friend of late Rajiv Gandhi and now advisor to the prime minister on public information, infrastructure and innovation, will have lot to cheer about. His book, The March of Mobile Money, jointly authored with his colleague and partner Mehul Desai, will be released by Montek Singh Ahluwalia, Deputy Chairman, Planning Commission.
Harper Collins is publishing the book.
When in New Delhi, these days Sam shares a room next to Ahluwalia's in the Planning Commission.
While talking about his book Sam says: "I saw my wife Anu writing cheques. So I asked her how much time you spend on this? She replied, 'Several hours.' We had different credit cards so she has to spend a lot of time making card payments. I got this idea in 1994 to save time while banking."

For the last 15 years, Pitroda and Desai's team is working on the technology to pay through mobile phones. Pitroda already has 11 patents with him and some 20 patents related to this technology are pending for registration.
Sam, showing his mobile phone, says: "I got the idea of putting your wallet into the cell phone. As I open the phone, my mobile wallet will come up. That's my bank account. My mobile commerce is just a click away. When I say 'pay', my phone asks 'how do you want to pay?' So I click on my credit card. As opposed to a plastic card sent through post, this digital credit card is issued to you through your mobile. You can plug this phone, pull the card out, print and give me a receipt, too."
Pitroda is an entrepreneur and inventor par excellence. He also heads the newly formed National Innovation Council. He was also the chairman of the National Knowledge Commission from 2005-2008.
In 1999, Sam and Desai's company, C-SAM, commenced operations. Initially, they had a team in Stockholm, which developed the design. Later, it was moved to Manchester, UK.
Pitroda says, "Now our company, C-SAM, works out of Chicago. It's a small company, with offices in Japan, Beijing, Mexico, Chicago, and Baroda of all the places!"
ICICI Bank, India's second largest bank, has got an 'iMobile' service. They claim it is the first of its kind in India and the world's most comprehensive mobile banking solution. It is based on C-Sam's technology called Mobile Transaction Platform (MTP).

ICICI Bank customers, who are already registered for mobile alerts, can download iMobile by sending an SMS to a short code. Customers who have GPRS connection will receive a WAP link for activation.
Sam Pitroda explains, "There is a slow, but tectonic, shift waiting to occur in the banking world due to the emergence of mobile Internet which will eventually alter the concept of banking, payment and money. With about half the world's population expected to be connected via mobile phones by end of 2010, this is bound to have far-reaching implications on people's social, economic and cultural life the world over. Never has the world been so widely accessible, connected, networked and mobile."
Pitroda's book talks about C-SAM's journey to take this simple idea of mobile money to its destination. It states how the concept of money would change.
"When the plastic card was introduced, the world had more notional money. That means you can borrow through your card, say, $1,000 that you don't even have. If 300 million people borrow $1,000, you get $9 trillion, which doesn't exist, in to the economy!" says Pitroda.
"But plastic money has physical limitations. You can borrow, most times, only if you are there. But with mobile money I can buy from Brazil, pay in rupees, and charge it in my account in Chicago."

"The jury is still out on how will this change the lives of our people," says Sam, "but, in India, which has more mobile phone subscribers (over 470 million with over 10 million being added every month) than bank account holders, mobile money could go a long way."
However, Pitroda is quick to add: "It will take 10 years, but it will surely change all of us. Now, it is being launched all over the world, including China. The world will adopt it. The plastic card is passive and not active. The plastic card can't tell you anything. It doesn't speak. If you touch it you don't see things coming out. In mobile money, as soon as you open the folder on your screen you can know your balance, your spending, and graphs and charts of your money transactions."
Pitroda says the commercial viability of his idea will depend on three things.
"Banks should be interested in mobile phone technologies for three reasons. One, to provide additional channel for delivery to mobile customers -- for convenience, comfort, control, visibility and security, anywhere, anytime. Two, to acquire new customers at lower acquisition costs, mainly because there are more mobile phone subscribers in the world than bank account holders. And, lastly, to guard their deposit base from eroding due to big merchants offering prepaid cards and Internet players like PayPal."
He adds that mobile money has the user's participation. There is an understanding of the user through technology. There is friendliness. Sam argues, "Mobile is here to stay. However, it won't replace computers, because mobile is a device. Computers are computing in the back."

Pitroda had an imposing presence during former prime minister Rajiv Gandhi's tenure, but these days he is keeping a slightly lower profile. He, however, hasn't stopped thinking big.
"Nothing excites me anymore," he says. "You get up in the morning and try to attend to big problems. It took 20 years to build a voice platform in this country. Now, this is the country of a billion connected people. You have to think differently while planning development when you have a nation of a billion connected people."
"Nothing much has changed in spite of newly acquired connectivity. People are talking and talking, but what else has changed? How do you strategise and introduce this strength of connectivity into your development related talks? How can you use this strength in education, health governance, expert or trade?" he says.
Pitroda is working on extending the impact of mobile phones in India. "I feel India should build six more platforms on top of the voice platform. One, broadband platform. Two, the unique identification platform. Three, a geographic information system platform so that the leaders or bureaucrats can see every panchayat, every school and every dispensary in remote areas. Then, we should have security platform. And then, an application platform and a payment platform. Application platform would help government plans, like the National Rural Employment Guarantee Scheme (NREGS). These are all vertical silos which should be integrated," he enthuses.
"Nobody has thought through this in even America," Sam Pitroda claims proudly.

How reliable are Digital Credit Cards?
by Anumakonda JAGADEESH (View MyPage) on Sep 11, 2010 07:38 PM

There are some misconceptions about Credit Card Usage at ATM. I hope the new Digital Credit Card proposed by Sam Pitroda will be flawless and reliable.

Dr.A.Jagadeesh Nellore(AP)


  1. Not only the credit cards, I believe mobile will be all in one gadget for a individual, and that day is not too far.

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