Baijayant 'Jay' Panda (for Info only, not official)

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Baijayant 'Jay' Panda

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    ...In reality, it is indeed a vindication of improvements in the fundamentals of India’s economy. It will ease access to credit, help attract investment, and boost job creation. While this is surely cause for some celebration, hubris is best avoided. There is still immense struggle ahead over many years if India is to overcome its economic and human development challenges. Ratings agencies are far from infallible. Indeed, Moody’s itself had been criticised for not catching the problems at Lehman Brothers, the Wall Street firm it had rated highly, whose collapse in 2008 precipitated the global financial crisis. But they were not alone, with the other two ratings majors – Fitch, and Standard & Poor’s (S&P) – also being in the same boat. Subsequently, they have had to work hard to reestablish credibility. ...

    TOI on Nov. 21, 2017, 2 a.m.

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    ...Add to that the high court’s scathing observation that the lower court judge who had earlier found the Talwars guilty was “unmindful of the basic tenets of law”, and a grim picture emerges of the state of affairs. It is even grimmer for the millions of other cases that do not dominate the news. Occasionally, when horrific cases like the Nirbhaya gang rape and murder straddle the news cycle for more than the customary day or two, public outrage compels governments to fast track the investigation and prosecution. But there is a long overdue, and now desperate, need for systemic reforms. Statistics corroborate the widespread belief that our fight against crime is inadequate. Even after adjusting for increasing population, India’s crime rate has been rising over the years. ...

    TOI on Oct. 25, 2017, 2 a.m.

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    ...On top of that is a continuing dearth of private sector investment, and job creation. The debate is more often black and white rather than nuanced, but the issues are important and deserve to be understood better. Much of the criticism seems centred on the effects of demonetisation, its apparent failure to curb black money, and the teething troubles of the Goods and Services Tax (GST). While there are elements of truth in those views, the reality is somewhat more complex. The manner in which demonetisation was projected to extinguish black money played out rather differently. It had been argued that up to Rs 3 lakh crore of illicit, tax-evaded money would not come back into the banking system. Many had found that argument credible, this writer among them. ...

    TOI on Sept. 27, 2017, 2 a.m.

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    ...Admittedly, not everyone agrees with this assessment, and some even trivialise the parallels with the historic Shah Bano judgment of 1985. But make no mistake, this is a game changer. For starters, unlike Shah Bano, which was overturned by an act of Parliament in 1986, there is no chance of this being undone. In fact, it has already rekindled discussion on a uniform civil code (UCC), one of the unfulfilled ‘directive principles’ of India’s Constitution that would replace the existing separate personal laws for Hindus, Muslims, Parsis and Christians. Those who opposed reforming triple talaq had feared just that, predicting it would pave the way for a UCC. The irony, of course, is that many opponents had traditionally included not just conservative Muslims and religious leaders, but also “secular” politicians and activists. ...

    TOI on Aug. 30, 2017, 2 a.m.

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    ...By most accounts, this has dealt a body blow to the opposition. What are the implications of this for governance and reform? Not many would bet on this prime minister playing it safe from the current high till the next general elections. That just does not seem to be his style. There are already substantial changes underway. The Goods and Services Tax (GST) is beginning to drag large chunks of the informal economy into the formal one. The increasing use of Aadhaar, and its unparalleled ability to “de-duplicate” beneficiaries, is drastically pruning the leakages in governmental schemes. India is finally getting international acknowledgment of its surge in infrastructure. And, going by Niti Aayog and International Monetary Fund (IMF) estimates, the GDP growth rate again leads the world’s large economies. ...

    TOI on Aug. 2, 2017, 2 a.m.

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    ...Of course, by now we should be inured to the spectacle of political parties in the opposition stridently opposing the very same issues they had championed when in government. As also parties in government pushing through initiatives they had vehemently opposed when in opposition. But what is remarkable about GST is opposition parties opposing what they have only recently not just agreed and given shape to, while being in the opposition, but also voted for in Parliament. That process lasted more than two and a half years on the home stretch, from the December 2014 reintroduction of the GST bill in Parliament till just hours before last week’s midnight launch, with last-minute revisions to the rates on some items. Overall, the process had taken 18 years since being conceptualised in then Prime Minister Vajpayee’s economic advisory panel. ...

    TOI on July 5, 2017, 2 a.m.

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    ...That is ironic, since on several occasions the respective governments of the day have managed far more substantial economic reforms. Consider two examples from either end of the 26 years since liberalisation began. First, Prime Minister Narasimha Rao’s dismantling of industrial licensing was much more impactful than the government getting out of any one company or sector. Similarly, the enactment of the Goods and Services Tax (GST) by the present government heralds a seismic shift in India’s economy. While Rao deftly used India’s looming international repayments default to push through his reform, Prime Minister Narendra Modi had to manage his economic magnum opus without any such crisis for cover. The former is often appreciated for his shrewd use of the old adage to never waste a good crisis, and the latter deserves similar kudos for sheer persistence. For GST did not arrive on autopilot. ...

    TOI on June 7, 2017, 2:02 a.m.

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    ...I filed in Parliament, some weeks ago, a Private Members Bill on Data Privacy and Protection, and for much longer have been advocating the overhaul of our woefully obsolete and fragmented laws with a comprehensive new Act. But this is far from being a black and white issue, and there are many nuances that deserve more deliberation. Though Aadhaar has become the focal point of this debate, threats to data security and citizens’ rights to privacy go far beyond it. In fact, as its creator and IT industry wunderkind Nandan Nilekani puts it, if a malicious hacker or secretive agency were to try hacking your privacy, cracking Aadhaar would figure low on their list of ways to go about it. There is vast information about us already out there in the cloud, including biometrics, with more collected every day. ...

    TOI on May 10, 2017, 2 a.m.