Quest for Gandhi in Champaran, Arvind Panagariya's exclusive interview, and future of payments banks

Will the economy benefit from women working in night shifts; what happened to Champaran after 100 years of Satyagraha; what does Iraqi envoy has to say to India. Following are the stories you should read this weekend

GN Bureau | May 5, 2017


#Women   #Weekend Stories   #Payments Banks   #Breaking Bread with Governance Now   #Iraq   #Gandhi   #Arvind Panagariya   #Champaran   #Night Shifts  


  • Rajkumar Shukla’s village Satwariya, now in West Champaran, is well connected with the rest of Bihar’s towns and villages. However, I see no pucca roads within the village. Entering the village, there is an ‘inter college’ built in the memory of Shukla, who is remembered as ‘Krantikari Shuklaji’. The college is a single-storey building with seven or eight rooms. One has to walk through a dusty ground, which is not exactly a playground, to reach the classrooms. A bust, which locals say bears little resemblance to Shukla, has been installed in the college premises. “My grandfather died young, he was never as old as he appears in the bust. We have the photographs; one can see and match,” says 73-year-old Mani Bhushan Rai, Shukla’s grandson who is living with his family in the village. Read: How Champaran is ripe for another satyagraha – like the rest of the country

 

  •  Sitting in Arvind Panagariya office on Parliament Street, we are served tea, and soon our conversation takes off. We begin by talking about the visible big changes. He says NITI Aayog is not a mere name change; it’s a change in the very concept of planning and policymaking. “The Planning Commission allocated funds to the states for their plans,” he says. “With the Planning Commission as the source of the funds and the states as their recipients, the relationship was unequal.” But NITI Aayog is different, the soft-spoken economist asserts. “We are not here to make judgements. Instead we see our role as assisting them (states). We are here to play the facilitator for the states, especially on matters involving both the states and the centre. I would also like us to be able to play the role of an agent of policy change.” Read: Breaking bread with Niti Aayog vice chairman Arvind Panagariya

 

  •  Payments banks hope to have an edge by keeping overheads low – being branchless is a major saving. But already, each player faces ten too many. Besides, there are numerous payment portals; and regular banks, too, allow customers to pay utility bills, etc... Payments banks pay interest on deposits but do not lend to earn interest. Yet they hope to make money. Is the model flawed? Will they fade away like pagers? Read: Zero spread banking

     
  • At present, the Factories Act, 1948 allows women to work only between 6 am and 8 pm. The IT and ITeS (IT-enabled services) industry, among others, are exempted under the Act, provided they ensure certain prerequisites such as safe transport for women employees. In the wake of the descending participation of women from workforce – down to 27 percent in 2014 from 35 percent in 1990 – the government introduced the amendment bill in Lok Sabha last year to enable women from all the sectors to opt for night shifts. States like Maharashtra, Karnataka and Tamil Nadu have already amended their respective Shops and Establishment Act and the Factories Act, 1848 paving way for the women to work overnight. Although the bill is seen as an important step towards achieving gender parity [see box] at workplace, absence of foolproof mechanism to ensure safety for women – especially during the ungodly hours – is indeed a cloud on the horizon. Read: No ladies seat on the morning bus home

 

  • Iraqis are at the forefront of the war against the Daesh in the entire Middle East, says Fakhri H Al-Issa, the Iraqi ambassador to India. “Iraq is not fighting for Iraq alone. If Iraq collapses, the entire Middle East will destabilise, in fact the whole world will. Imagine if Iraq is occupied by Daesh, what will happen to the Gulf states? What will happen to India? India should do its part." Read: "India should help rebuild Iraq"

 

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