The Hindu Business Line : 2019-02-11

THINK : 14 : 14

THINK

CHENNAI THINK 14 BusinessLine MONDAY FEBRUARY 11 2019 • • xyz 0 monday, february 11, 2019 T he outgoing NDA government’s decision to identify digitalisation of the nation and its economy as one of ten priorities in its Vision 2030 is a welcome move that must be embraced wholeheartedly by whoever comes to power in May 2019. Digitalisation cannot be deferred, given that everything from education, medicine, communication, business, financial transaction and governance is moving in that direction. Adoption of digitalisation has been a relatively slow process in India, hampered by multiple factors, from poor telecom and broadband infrastructure, erratic supply of electricity, low literacy among the poor, resistance from employees who feared redundancy and a rent-seeking government machinery that wanted opaqueness to continue in provision of services. Undeniably, digitalisation of various services provided by governments and their agencies has improved governance and helped the From applying for water and electricity connections and paying those bills, paying taxes, registering property records, applying for a driving licence or a passport and even registering a business and filing statutory returns, all can be done online, saving people the time wasted in queues and improving their productivity. Growing digitalisation has also allowed e-learning, where students in remote locations can join classes held in another part of the country. Likewise, patients and doctors in one part of the country can consult specialists elsewhere without the need to travel. Changes in digital technology and its greater adoption in communications have proved useful in rescue and relief in times of calamities such as floods and earthquakes. Greater digitalisation will also mean many new skills will be required in the economy and therefore school, university and professional courses curriculum need to be regularly reviewed and synchronised. Rising digitalisation will have to be supported with availability of affordable good quality hardware such as devices as well as faster and inexpensive connections. While data costs are among the lowest in India, average traffic per capita per month at 2.4 gigabytes, lags the global average of 16.2 GB. Likewise, data speed. The average speed of fixed broadband is 9.5 megabytes per second here compared to the global average of 39 Mbps. In the Interim Budget, the government proposed converting one lakh villages into digital villages over the next five years. To achieve that goal, electricity and broadband infrastructure needs to be strengthened and basic literacy and digital literacy among the poor improved. While electricity has reached most villages, its supply remains erratic and unstable. The rollout of broadband connectivity to the 2.5 lakh gram panchayats by the state enterprises Bharat Broadband Network Ltd and Bharat Sanchar Nigam Ltd by March 2019 is way behind schedule. Digital literacy is low among the poor and many lack even basic literacy. This impedes welfare outreach. The trinity of Jan Dhan-Aadhaar-Mobile phone has helped faster transfer of funds to beneficiary accounts. But gaps in reconciling or matching information of the three have also meant denial of benefits to rightful beneficiaries. aam aadmi. FROM THE VIEWSROOM Ahas quickly. Otherwise, it would require at least 10-15 minutes for the metro train drivers to reach/access the toilets in the stations, as they are located at levels that are different from that of platforms. from the regulator whether these applications make the cut or not. All that they are told is the matter is “under process” — and that too for over a year in some cases. Truly, if entry itself is so difficult for businesses, you can imagine the fate of exits, an industry representative quipped. companies have been barred from holding stocks of goods to be sold on their platform directly or indirectly, brick-andmortar traders want the same restrictions to apply even on domestic e-commerce companies with no foreign investment. guidelines, which state that only women from self-help groups should be involved in the endeavour. Parroting away The Central Bureau of Investigation has been regularly accused of being a caged parrot or subservient to the Centre when probing graft charges against opposition leaders. The recent scuffle within the CBI has also dented the credibility of the investigating agency. But a top CBI officer tried to bring some perspective about the role of the agency while speaking with journalists at an informal gathering recently. He said, “A young boy once had a caged parrot that he would adore. But whenever the parrot got out of his cage, it would always sit on the boy’s head or shoulders.” Does the CBI always grab its ‘handlers’ by the neck? Regulatory hurdle The Narendra Modi government you may think is all for foreign direct investment (FDI) and that investors truly get a red carpet welcome. Well that may not be the case as some overseas investors found to their horror when it came to obtaining a licence from National Housing Bank for starting a housing finance company. The wait is gruelling not only for the ones involving FDI, but also for homegrown corporate houses. At last count, at least 15 applications to start a housing finance company were pending before NHB. The tragedy is some applications have been pending for more than 12 months and there is no word yet Neta rules Yeh dil maange more No matter what the affiliations, politicians will remain politicians at the end of the day, cutting across party lines. A glaring example is in Uttar Pradesh’s Supplementary Nutrition Programme. A senior official in the central government indicated that be it former chief minister Akhilesh Yadav, or the incumbent Yogi Adityanath, they are seldom helping run the programme smoothly. Instead, they both have violated guidelines, by engaging contractors in a bid to corporatise the doling out of hot cooked meals in in violation of the Nature’s call! Last year, a driver of a metro train, which was stuck between stations, empathised with a passenger facing a toilet emergency. The empathy was probably prompted from the driver having faced similar situations earlier. He had to manually open the door to let the commuter relieve himself on the tracks. Thankfully, now Delhi Metro has paid heed to such needs of its drivers. It has started putting toilets right on top of platforms which drivers can use immediately and get back into the trains Officials in the Department of Industrial Policy and Promotion closely associated with the tightened FDI rules on e-commerce were hoping for some relief from the constant lobbying from the industry once the new rules were implemented on February 1. But this was not to be. Not only did pressure from global retail majors, pushing for a rollback in rules, continue, local traders who were initially satisfied with the plugging of the “loopholes” in the FDI policy, came up with a new demand. Now that global e-commerce aanganwadis Our Delhi Bureau PT Jyothi Datta Deputy Editor Published by N. Ravi at Kasturi Buildings, 859 & 860, Anna Salai, Chennai-600002 on behalf of THG PUBLISHING PVT LTD., and Printed by D. Rajkumar at Plot B-6 & B-7, CMDA Industrial Complex, Maraimalai Nagar, Chengleput Taluk, Kancheepuram Dist., Pin: 603209. Editor: Raghavan Srinivasan (Editor responsible for selection of news under the PRB Act). ISSN 0971 - 7528

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