Nagpur based Infrastructure giant SMS Infrastructure’s Anand Sancheti to receive the prestigious Transformational Business Leader of the Year 2016

Nagpur based Infrastructure giant SMS Infrastructure’s Anand Sancheti to receive the prestigious Transformational Business Leader of the Year 2016

India Leadership Conclave & Indian Affairs Business Leadership Awards 2016 declared Mr. Anand Sancheti, MD, SMS Limited in  the very prestigious category of Transformational Business Leader of the Year 2016 at the ILC Power Brand Awards 2016 to be held in mumbai on 1st july 2016.Mr Anand Sancheti was declared winner after the jury looked into the landmark achievements that he led to ensure SMS Group as one of the top company.

Over the years, some exceptional business leaders have been nominated by their peers – the leaders in the marketplace and workplace who have made their mark, inspiring and empowering those around them to develop their potential and reach their goals.India Leadership Conclave popularly known as “ILC Power Brands” are Asia’s most prestigious & credible  recognition for those that have excelled in their respective industry. With more than 15 years of experience in conducing & executing world-class awards programs with the use of state of art technologies & research  has indeed gone from strength to strength distinguishing best in class organizations. The set of prestigious & coveted awards are from asia’s most definitive & credible news media in mainstream journalism  is from the organisers of  Network 7 Media Group, the flagship media company of Indian Affairs’s Annual Event, asia’s most analytical news media is now celebrating its 7th successful & glorious years of achievement. Built upon a stringent methodology that is combined with a rigorous approach in selecting the best institutions operating within asia, the awards are adjudicated by an eminent panel of jury members who collectively have several decades’ worth of evaluating industry awards in asia using the powerful research public voting mechanism. Those who also made it to the top list included people from cinema, corporate, philanthropy etc. Actor of the Decade ( Male)- Govinda, Actress of the Decade ( Female)- Karishma Kapoor, Film Maker of The Decade – Sanjay Leela Bhansali, Social Enterprise of the Year 2016 – Fulora Foundation, Emerging Talent & Debut Actress of Indian Cinema 2016 – Tina Ahuja, Indian Affairs India’s Most Promising Yoga & Nutritionist Expert 2016 – Eefa Sharof, Indian Affairs millennium business leader in homeopathy medicine 2016 – Dr. Mukesh Batra, Chairman, Dr. Batras, Peace Leader of the year 2016 – Dr. Huzaifa Khorakiwala, CEO, Wockhardt Foundation & Executive Director, Wockhardt Ltd

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Factfile

A Commerce Graduate with diploma in finance. He is looking after the management of the Company. Heads the finance division of group. Was involved in Project implementation for a period of more than 7 years. He was also involved in the successful implementation of first PPP project in Roads Sector, in India. Has closely worked in Professional Capacity with McKinsey SBI capital Market Ltd and National Highway Authority of India. He has been a faculty for structured Finance and Project finance at World Bank Knowledge Forum, State Bank of India, etc. He also holds various Management Positions within and outside Group Companies.

infra

SMS Limited

Sustainable growth, Multi-sectoral presence, Quality, Innovation, Technical expertise, Strong financials and a socially responsible company since 1963, SMS Limited is Central India’s largest Infrastructure Group. Company has Pan India presence with Corporate Office located at Nagpur. Employee base of more than 1800 with attrition of less than 2%, satisfaction of all clients and continued track record of timely completion with quality are the key attributable for the success of the company.

Roads: In Roads, Highways, Bridges and Airports the company has executed number of prestigious works. Country’s first BOT project in Road was successfully executed in 1997 at a period when Power, Shipping, Telecommunication privatization had failed. The success of Durg-By-Pass is still the largest mentioned success story by the erstwhile Governments. Country’s fifth highest density corridor was completed by the company in year 2004. Longest Twin-Tube tunnel in Sahyadri region with country’s second highest viaduct was also completed by the company. The company has also completed various Road projects in Naxal infected areas contributing to the development of the region. Several Awards by Geotechnical Society, Builders Association of India, Concrete Society, Institute of Engineers, etc have been bestowed upon the company for its excellent performance.

Toll Management: Company has contributed significantly in establishing the user’s fee and people’s readiness to pay toll during the initial stages. At several platforms the company has shared its knowledge and helped in motivating people to pay for better quality roads. Company has operated and managed long stretches of roads in all parts of the Country. The Vidyasagar Setu toll collection provided an increase of 230% in revenue to West Bengal Government. Limca Book of records has recognized the efforts of SMS Limited for Highest ever Toll Collection reported. National Highway Authority of India has awarded Best Operation & Maintenance Contractor to SMS for a continuous period of two years.

Railway: With continued efforts to its contribution to the transportation sector the company has emerged as one of the largest Railway Contractor. Company has capability and has demonstrated its expertise at various occasions in complex Railway Projects. Railway tunnel in Himalayan terrain, Sahyadri region, Railway embankment protection works on the banks of Brahmaputra river, new railway line in thick naxal belt of mineral rich Chhattisgarh State and private railway embankments for Khaparkheda, Chandrapur, Sarni, Koradi Thermal Power Stations are the few landmark projects executed by the company. The company not only does the Civil work but is also actively involved in permanent way linking of Railway tracks, signaling and telecommunications, station buildings etc. The company has a motto that “You give us the land and we will provide you complete Railway line in sync with Indian Railways”.

Urban Development: In its continued foray in transportation sector, Company has constructed Asia’s largest underground Car Parking facility at Kamlanagar, Delhi. This engineering marvel has 9 floors of underground car park with capacity of more than 800 cars. Mumbai’s largest radio fleet taxi – TabCab is promoted by the Company and is successfully running despite the disruptive app-based aggregators flooding the market.

Irrigation: Water is the driving force of all Nature. The company having recognized its importance, SMS Limited is a leading Irrigation contractor having its works Pan India. We have successfully completed several dams, barrages, reservoirs and all types of water retaining structures. For transportation of water the company has executed kilometers of main canal, distribution canal, tunnel and pipeline. For low-lying areas company has executed lift irrigation schemes. For drinking water supply we have executed intake wells, pipelines and tap connections to hundreds of villages.

Water Reuse: Use of wastewater is the need in the era of depleting water table and dearth of water resources. Realizing this, the company has participated in India’s largest water reuse Sewage Treatment Plant with treated water to be used for Super Thermal Power Station through a 19-kilometer pipeline. Turnkey construction with Operation and Maintenance of 10 years is being carried out by the company. Company has equity stake in several Common Effluent Treatment Plants.

Waste Management: Waste management is a service to the Nation and its humble contribution to Nation. Company is managing Bio-Medical Waste Treatment plants at Delhi, Lucknow, Raipur, Ranchi, Aurangabad, Nasik, Kampala (Uganda) and Mumbai (Asia’s Largest). Extension to BMW, Company also has the rights for transportation and management of Common Hazardous Waste Treatment and Scientific Disposal Facility at Pune and Butibori. Pune plant is a state-of-the-art project having visited by several companies from across the Globe. Company has bagged the project at Goa, Aurangabad and Bangalore for similar works. Several Awards have been bagged by the Company for its efficient waste management facilities.

Mining: In its contribution to the progress of the Nation, Company is Mine Development and Operation (MDO) for World’s largest underground Uranium mine. The Greenfield project with complete mechanization is being executed by us. The world-class technology with skill development with local has been a subject for several research papers in the field. The Company owns largest number of plant and machinery used for underground coal extraction. Company contributes more than One Million Ton of underground coal in its endeavor to save environment from opencast mines.

Electrical: To provide electricity in the farther corners of this Country in the state of Bihar, Jharkhand, Chattisgarh, Tamilnadu, Rajasthan, Maharashtra etc. we are continuously striving. In last 5 years Company has provided connections to more than 3.5 lac households of Below Poverty Line. The infrastructure development like substations, lines, loops, switching stations, meters, etc. for continuous supply is undertaken by the Company in a large manner. Company has installed more than 18000 distribution transformers during last 5 years.

The robust financials have always complemented to the growth of the Company. Present Net-Worth of the Group is more than INR 450 Crore with enviable performance ratios. The external credit rating agencies have placed the Company in the ‘A-’ Category for its balanced financial management and well chalked out growth momentum.

On the CSR front Company has contributed largely in the development of a Cancer Hospital. Company is actively engaged in providing school uniforms and kit to thousands of children through ‘CAFE’ and Hostel and education facilities for AIDS infected children left by their parents through ‘CARE’.Over last several years, the sole motto of SMS Ltd has been nation building. A strong nation rests on its robust infrastructure. With this vision, SMS Ltd started its business 52 years ago and today has become a giant in this filed. Our step by step progress in diversified segments have made us reach at a consolidated turnover of Rs. 1750 crore.

Innovation in engineering had been the driving force for the company and hence, the company had taken calculated risks in bidding for niche projects in various segments. We have never backed out of our projects even when faced with difficulties and have gone ahead with completing them.

At different times, we had brought globally renowned technologies to India by entering into consortium with foreign experts like Westinghouse Corporation, Proviron Technology BV, etc. to take our infrastructure to next level.

Describe the career highlights and top moments:

  • 1997- Awarded first BOT Project of National Highways Authority of India
  • 2007- Awarded mining contract for Asia’s largest Uranium Mine
  • 2008- Commissioned India’s largest Plasma Gasification Plant converting waste to energy
  • 2009 – Started Asia’s biggest Bio Medical waste facility in Mumbai
  • 2011- Launched Tab Cab, India’s largest fleet of radio cabs
  • 2012 – First introduction to India of low cost continues mining through blast free technology
  • 2013- Commissioned India’s first fully automated underground car parking system with 828 car park spaces in Kamla Nagar, Delhi
  • 2014- Became India’s second largest waste processor in terms of volume.
  • 2015- Featured in the Fortune India magazine July 2015 issue.
  • Consistent Growth
  • Strong Order Book
  • Most Diversified portfolio
  • Multisectoral Presence
  • Only company to feature in Fortune India Magazine
  • Presence in sunrise sectors like underground Mining, Sewage Treatment, Electrical and Waste Management.

What is your vision and where you want to see yourself in the year 2020?

Infrastructure is the basic requirement for any nation to grow. By 2020, the country would have moved to a much advanced technology with optimization of resources. In next four year, the nation would be moving towards faster and economic transportation system, generating energy from untapped resources, aiming hygienic and cleaner facilities. Tolling would have shifted entirely on e-tolling. Bullet train in India is now a reality with Gatimaan express being launched. Many more bullet trains will be launched and we, already being in this segment, will be actively participating in it.

As resources are getting dearer, underground mining is scaling greater depths. Also, open cast mining would be a history due to issues relating to land acquisition and environmental clearances. We, being the only few underground miners in India are already poised for a big growth. We will not only be mining minerals, but will also be going for its beneficiation so as to give maximum yield.

As energy resources are getting dearer, the country will be moving more towards clean and renewable energy. We are already generating energy from waste. With pollution norms becoming more stringent, more projects for treatment of waste and generating energy from it will be coming.

With increase in on road vehicles, every big city is facing problems related to parking. Our state of art underground parking facility is the simplest option for this. Going ahead, every city will need multiple parking facilities and we will be surging ahead in this segment. Also, radio cabs, which earlier restricted only to metros, has now forayed in tier II cities. There is a great scope in providing luxurious and affordable public transport system to all.

In urban development, the company has already started its first multi specialty state of art hospital and research centre in Nagpur. This medical facility will be larges in central India and will come up with not only treatment of patients, but also providing world class rehabilitation facilities to old age persons.

We also intend to provide housing to persons of Low Income Group and affordable cost and will be coming up with such facility. We have a humble presence in hospitality sector with three restaurants. We plan to have our chain of restaurants across India giving a unique taste of Indian and continental dishes with our expertise to create fusion of the two.

We are confident that as infrastructure will grow, requirement of Roadside facilities will grow. We target at setting up safety rest areas, parking and toilet facilities alongside highways. This will be coupled with repair facilities for vehicles, basic medical and first aid and internet kiosk with Public Sahayta Kendra. Public Sahayta Kendra will cater to the commuters as well as the nearby villages.

Education is right of every child and we are already committed to it. The company is running two schools MHK Sancheti Public School and Dharampeth Kanya Shala. CAFÉ stands for Child Adoption for Education and CARE stands for Child Adoption for Rehabilitation and Education. The two NGOs are entirely adopted by SMS Ltd. Going ahead; we intend to bring in more schools under our net.

By 2020, SMS would be a public listed company achieving a CAGR of more than 10% on a yoy basis. SMS would be the leader in underground mining and waste management and would be working in overseas locations also.

Today, when the global economic scenario looks gloomy, India is the only hope for the entire world. Our economy has remained unaffected by the global slowdown. Besides, as the major population is young and working, the productivity of the country will always be marching northwards.  Our Prime Minister, Shri Narendra Modiji had also quoted several times that the development infrastructure is the basic requirement to take our country to the next level.

Aligning ourselves with this vision, we intend to create best infrastructures for the nation. We intend to touch every Indian and make a positive difference in their lives, maybe on our toll booths, maybe in our taxi or maybe in our hospital or our any other project.

The Background

Infrastructure sector is a key driver for the Indian economy. The sector is highly responsible for propelling India’s overall development and enjoys intense focus from Government for initiating policies that would ensure time-bound creation of world class infrastructure in the country.

Infrastructure sector includes power, bridges, dams, roads and urban infrastructure development.

Market Size

India needs Rs 31 trillion (US$ 454.83 billion) to be spent on infrastructure development over the next five years, with 70 per cent of funds needed for power, roads and urban infrastructure segments.

The Indian power sector itself has an investment potential of US$ 250 billion in the next 4-5 years, providing immense opportunities in power generation, distribution, transmission and equipment, according to Mr Piyush Goyal, Union minister of coal, power and renewable energy.

The Indian construction equipment industry is reviving after a gap of four years and is expected to grow to US$ 5 billion by FY2019-20 from current size of US$ 2.8 billion, according to a report@ released by the Indian Construction Equipment Manufacturers’ Association (Icema).

Foreign Direct Investment (FDI) received in construction development sector from April 2000 to December 2015 stood at US$ 24.18 billion, according to the Department of Industrial Policy and Promotion (DIPP).

Investments

India is witnessing significant interest from international investors in the infrastructure space. Many Spanish companies are keen on collaborating with India on infrastructure, high speed trains, renewable energy and developing smart cities

  • Airports Authority of India (AAI) plans to develop city-side infrastructure at 13 regional airports across India, with help from private players for building of hotels, carparks and other facilities, and thereby boost its non-aeronautical revenues.
  • The Asian Development Bank (ADB) and Government of India signed a loan agreement of US$ 80 million, which is the third tranche of a US$ 200 million financing facility under the North Eastern Region Capital Cities Development Investment Programme, and will be invested for improving water supply, solid waste management and sanitation in the cities of Agartala and Aizwal, the capital cities of Tripura and Mizoram respectively.
  • Maharashtra State Government plans to launch infrastructure projects worth Rs 73,367 crore (US$ 10.78 billion) in Mumbai and neighbouring areas in 2016, which include coastal road, Trans harbour link, metro rail, airport and road projects.
  • The Government of India has earmarked Rs 50,000 crore (US$ 7.34 billion) to develop 100 smart cities across the country. The Government released its list of 98 cities for the smart cities project in August 2015.
  • BNP Paribas Lease Group, subsidiary of BNP Paribas Group, has acquired 5 per cent stake in Srei Infrastructure Finance, by selling its entire 50 per cent stake in Srei Equipment Finance Limited (SEFL) to Srei Infrastructure Finance, thus allowing them to play a larger role in the infrastructure finance business.
  • Private equity giant Carlyle Group is planning to invest Rs 500 crore (US$ 73.36 million) in Feedback Infra, which could make the US firm a major shareholder in the Gurgaon-based infrastructure services company.
  • In the month of November 2015, among various areas of infrastructure spending by the government, the roads segment led in terms of tenders issued (59 per cent of total tenders) and contracts awarded, with an increasing shift to Engineering, Procurement and Construction (EPC) type of contracts#.
  • PTC India Financial Services (PFS) and India Infrastructure Finance Company Limited (IIFCL) have signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) to jointly provide funding for infrastructure projects in India, particularly in the energy sector.
  • France has announced a commitment of € 2 billion (US$ 2.17 billion) to convert Chandigarh, Nagpur and Puducherry into smart cities.
  • The Construction Industry Development Board (CIDB) of Malaysia has proposed to invest US$ 30 billion in urban development and housing projects in India, such as a mini-smart city adjacent to New Delhi Railway Station, a green city project at Garhmukhteshwar in Uttar Pradesh and the Gangacleaning projects.
  • The Government of India has unveiled plans to invest US$ 137 billion in its rail network over the next five years, heralding Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s aggressive approach to building infrastructure needed to unlock faster economic growth.
  • The Government of India has announced highway projects worth US$ 93 billion, which include government flagship National Highways Building Project (NHDP) with total investment of US$ 45 billion over next three years.

Government Initiatives

The Government of India is taking every possible initiative to boost the infrastructure sector. Some of the steps taken in the recent past are being discussed hereafter.

  • The Government of Japan, through Japan International Cooperation Agency (JICA), has committed to provide a soft loan of JPY 19.064 billion (US$ 161.2 million) to Government of India at an interest rate of 0.3 per cent per annum for the project of pollution abatement of Mula-Mutha river in Pune, Maharashtra under the National River Conservation Plan.
  • Government of India plans to use the new hybrid-annuity model for allocating contracts under the Public Private Partnership (PPP) projects in highways, Namami Gange and Railway Projects, which will help overcome the challenges faced by private developers in the Build-Operate-Transfer (BOT) Toll and BOT-Annuity models.
  • Budgetary allocation for Roads and Railways in the Union Budget 2016 has been increased to Rs 218,000 crore (US$ 31.98 billion) with an aim to boost the private investment cycle.
  • The Ministry of Road Transport and Highways plans to build five more greenfield expressways across the country, which are expected to reduce travel time and propel economic growth.
  • The Union Ministry of Urban Development has approved an investment of Rs 495 crore (US$ 72 million) under the Atal Mission for Rejuvenation and Urban Transformation (AMRUT) for FY 2015-16 which will be used for water supply, sewerage networks and septage management, storm water drains, urban transport and provision of green spaces in 13 cities spread over six states.
  • Prime Minister of India Mr Narendra Modi indicated that the government has rolled out stuck projects worth Rs 4 lakh crore (US$ 58.69 billion) in the past six months (ending November 2015), while stating that infrastructure development is the government’s top priority in order to improve economic growth.
  • The Union Cabinet has approved several reforms such as allowing National Highways Authority of India (NHAI) to extend the concession period for current incomplete projects in build-operate-transfer (BOT) mode.
  • Government of India plans to launch the National Infrastructure Investment Fund (NIFF) with an initial corpus of at least Rs 40,000 crore (US$ 5.87 billion).
  • The Ministry of Urban Development has approved an investment of Rs 19,170 crore (US$ 2.81 billion) for improving basic urban infrastructure in 474 cities in 18 states and Union Territories (UTs) under Atal Mission for Urban Rejuvenation and Transformation (AMRUT) for 2015-16.
  • Department of Industrial Policy and Promotion (DIPP) has set up an online monitoring system for on-going projects under the Industrial Infrastructure Upgradation Scheme (IIUS).
  • The Ministry of Urban Development has decided to allow the use of construction & demolition waste up to 20 per cent in construction of load bearing items and up to 100 per cent for non-load bearing purposes. This provision is expected to significantly help in reuse of such waste, in line with ongoing efforts under Swachh Bharat Mission (SBM).
  • The central government has approved amendments to ‘The National Waterways Bill, 2015’ which will provide for enacting a central legislation to declare 106 additional inland waterways, as the national waterways.
  • The Government of India plans to award 100 highway projects under the public-private partnership (PPP) mode in 2016, with expectations that recent amendments in regulations would revive investor sentiments in PPP projects in the infrastructure sector.
  • The Reserve Bank of India (RBI) has notified 100 per cent foreign direct investment (FDI) under automatic route in the construction development sector. The new limit came into effect in December 2014.
  • The Government of India has relaxed rules for FDI in the construction sector by reducing minimum built-up area as well as capital requirement. It has also liberalised the exit norms. In fact, the Cabinet has also approved the proposal to amend the FDI policy.
  • In the Budget 2015-16, the capital outlays for roads, and railways have been increased by Rs 140.3 billion (US$ 2.05 billion) and Rs 100.5 billion (US$ 1.47 billion) respectively.

Road Ahead

Indian port sector is poised to mark great progress in the years to come. It is forecasted that by the end of 2017 port traffic will amount to 943.06 MT for India’s major ports and 815.20 MT for its minor ports.

Along with that, Indian aviation market is expected to become the third largest across the globe by 2020, according to industry estimates. The sector is projected to handle 336 million domestic and 85 million international passengers with projected investment to the tune of US$ 120 billion. Indian Aviation Industry, which currently accounts for 1.5 per cent of the gross domestic product (GDP), has been instrumental in the overall economic development of the country. Given the huge gap between potential and current air travel penetration in India, the prospects and possibilities of growth of Indian aviation market are enormous.

Exchange Rate Used: INR 1 = US$ 0.0147 as on March 01, 2016

Poonam Soni’s stylish & glittering collections woo international market!

Christaina Nateram*

Steve Rozer*

Poonam Soni’s jewelry pieces are coveted By ‘Collectors’ worldwide as they are unique, singular and exquisitely handcrafted . Each piece is a work of art with a story to tell. Poonam Soni does not believe in the numbers game and yet her store is adorned by trophies and felicitations.  Soni has featured on the cover of leading publications worldwide and s magazine was dedicated  to her by Tahiti pearls, the Mauritian company.The Debeers Millenium award was received  by Kriti Soni awarded by Oppenheimer himself in Paris.  Soni has also featured in the London Book of Collectors of Fine Jewelry, Rolls Royce Coffee table book , The Eco Art coffee Table book , Saffron Art and The Trends Jewelry Forecast of Italy. Endorsed by Michael Kors, lauded.  by Linda Fargo of Bergdoff Goodman, and Goldman Ikram , Soni’s accolades & acceptance of the brands  are varied .

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Designing for the global fashion aficionados 

Known to lend eye-catching jewellery to top celebrities at global events, the Poonam Soni  creations has created one of the most expensive diamond necklaces. Poonam was the first and continues to be the most favourite jeweller to the stars & celebrities.Certain custom jewellery designers, as well as the jewellery departments of already famous fashion houses, have stood the test of time over decades or even centuries, producing the world’s most beautiful pieces to adorn the world’s most beautiful people. The good news for the rest of us is that, if you’ve got the money, you too may be able to own a piece from one of many  customised creations of Poonam Soni. Jewelry is a truly human invention, unlike the flamboyant peacock we are born without any adornment, thus we take it upon ourselves to create objects that fulfill that purpose. Historically, jewelry has been associated with the wealthier classes, working people had little money or use for such extravagances. Jewelry serves many purposes as well, to distinguish rank, as an investment vehicle, for religious or spiritual purposes, and most importantly for aesthetic reasons.

Consequently, there are many varied types of jewelry, coming from many different people and serving many different purposes. In this article I will mention, in no specific order, those jewelers who specialize in the luxury jewelry market. The members of this list belong to an exclusive class of jewelers who make Haute Joaillerie, or High Jewelry. These individuals and their respective companies are the most recognizable, the most respected, and, for most intents and purposes, they are the best jewelers in the world.Poonam’s collections have won coveted awards in the annual international Jewelry Design Academy  whose exacting standards require the highest skills and creativity in manufacturing one of a kind pieces.Poonam’ work is judged on the originality of design, how practical a piece is, superior craftsmanship and its wearability. In other words, a piece of jewelry cannot win an award simply because it is elaborate and unusual but must be able to be easily worn and enjoyed by whomever owns it. Her winning necklace design is an example of the originality and creativity demanded by many in hollywood  as they have the highest levels of creativity and the artistic spark needed to offer to public the very best jewelry of the highest quality. Whether you want a custom made item or something in our cases you can rest assured that you own jewelry that is the very best available.

It is no secret today  that many jewelry stores today are losing that special one-on-one approach to selling jewelry and luxury items. Poonam strives to provide a highly personal experience of jewelry shopping because she knows that the items she sells are not simply made of gems and gold, but they are the heirloom pieces and fond memories of the future. She understands that each customer is just as important as the last and should be treated as such.

Describe briefly about your organization/You

In 1989 I started my jewellery business from home, at a time when the traditional jeweler ruled. My father was in the army ,and I was a gold medalist from Delhi in Sociology Honors awarded by the,then President of India. I pioneered bespoke designer jewellery in unusual concepts, themes, and materials. PSSL is a bespoke brand which markets singular collections of innovative jewellery to the luxury buyers in India, Paris, London, New York, Monte Carlo, and soon opening in Hawaii. We have our own specially trained craftsmen and production units. Our flagship store and head office are in Mumbai and we have marketing collaborative offices in Monte Carlo, New York, and Hawaii.

Why do you think that you deserve the coveted Award

Brand Poonam Soni is known for innovative & unique jewellery collections- a concept I pioneered in 1989 in a traditional market. I introduced the Greek & Egyptian collection in 1992 with handcrafted motifs of the Sistine Chapel, Rome into pure gold offset with unusual stones of Rhodolites, Malakites,Black Onyx, and even leather & shells- unheard of in fine jewellery. I brought about a revolution in design and got myself an offer from Harrods of London in 1992. My other collections followed, each one more experimental  and avant garde than the other, and got me international acclaim along with the Masters like Jar and Van Cleef & Arpels.

Describe the career highlights & top moments

Many career highlights are there in a journey of 26 years, I will highlight just a few:

I was the first Indian Jewellery Designer to go International in 1990

Marc Jamet of Louis Vuitton Moet Hennessey Group invited me to Paris to showcase at the opening of the Incredible India Show at the Jardin de Acclimatation.

Prince Albert’s Eco Art Charity invited me to be part of a global tour representing India along with other international designers representing their respective countries.

A fabulous auction was held at Abu Dhabi sponsored by Sheikh Al Nahyan at a venue specially created on an island, where the Dukes and Duchesses and other Royalty were flown in from all over the world. The Auction was conducted by Lord Mark Poltimore of Sotheby’s.

‘The Quintessential Book of Fine Jewellery for Collectors’, in London, featured my jewellery in a 5 page spread along with the other Masters.

Michael Kors, the legendary designer endorsed my works and helped me to launch in New York.

The Rolls Royce limited edition coffee table book featured me and my work in 2014. This book was gifted to the 2,000 richest people in the world and showcased at their showrooms worldwide.

 What are the unique differentiators of this Nomination that would merit this category to be considered for an award?

My collections are singular, statement, and unique. My inspirations are unique and I have even created a collection inspired by architectural styles. ‘Gaudi Revived’ was inspired by the Catalan architect Antony Gaudi’s works. I got patent rights for the first time in India for my unique work. I also got Spanish patronage and each piece was sold with an authenticity certificate bearing the emblem of the Govt. of Spain.

My collection titled ‘Monochromes’ (2005) introduced miniature art canvases of ace artist Lakshman Shreshtha in serious fine jewellery.

I brought Art & Architecture into jewellery. My collections were featured in the ‘Global Trends’ book in Italy.

What is your Vision & where you want to see yourself in the year 2015?

My vision is to further promote the heritage of India on an international platform, which I have been doing since 1989. I wish to nurture Indian craftsmen and Indian designers and give them an international platform.. We are also promoting Indian art through jewellery. I have worked with artists like Indraneil Kamath, Rajat Kaanthi Dhaar, and a I also have a collaboration with Nawaz Modi Singhania.

Christaina & Steve write on luxury stories & critically analyze the concept of innovations with an example of contemporary trends.

Simply Saana Vohra & her wedding solutions mantras

Meet the youngest contestant of the Indian Affairs New Age Woman in Innovations & Creativity 2016, the 25 year old bubbly entrepreneur who left a tempting MNC job to start her journey to change the look of wedding mantras at her very own enterprise indear.in. Indian Affairs spoke to Saana on five point reply to the question on why she should win the coveted award at the India Leadership Conclave & Indian Affairs Business Leadership Awards 2016 ,currently in its 7th glorious year to be held in Mumbai on Friday, 1st July 2016 at Hotel Hilton, Mumbai India under the theme “ADVANTAGE INDIA, IT IS NOW OR NEVER

1.Describe briefly about your organization/You

Before founding Indear, I grew up all over Asia – in India, Singapore, and the Philippines. I then attended Brown University in the US where I started my first company and got a taste for entrepreneurship. After graduating I joined Morgan Stanley New York’s investment banking franchise, where I focused on equity transactions in the technology sector. However, the entrepreneurial bug never really left me. After two years of working with inspiring technology CEOs on their initial public offerings, and selling their stories to investors, I knew I had to go back to my first love. When listening to my friend complaining about the wedding planning process – I had a gut feeling I had found my next venture.

Despite India’s enormous spending power and cultural fascination with weddings, there was no centralized site for high-quality wedding content, products, and services – and we intended to fill that gap. http://indear.in is an inspiration, planning, shopping, and services portal for Indian weddings. We source wedding content, products, and services directly from India’s best wedding vendors and designers, and organize it in an innovative manner to simplify the process of planning your dream wedding. Users can explore, save, and share wedding ideas, purchase wedding fashion, jewelry, gifts and favours, as well as book venues, make-up and mehendi artists directly on our website. We are a one-stop shop for all your wedding needs, from planning to purchase.

2.Why do you think that you deserve the coveted Award

I believe I deserve this award because my company is completely transforming one of the largest, oldest, and most disorganized industries in India. Despite being a $40 billion industry, most of the Indian wedding industry (from small designers, to florists, to venues) do not make their information and rates accessible online, and make it impossible to actually make a purchase or a booking online. We are solving this problem by organizing them, making them accessible and facilitating bookings online too.

We started out as a team of 3 people working out of a restaurant’s back office in Lower Parel, and grew to a company of 18 people offering a full range of wedding services (from inspiration, to purchasing products, to booking services) in a span of 18 months.

We also just raised our first round of funding of INR 4 crore from an institutional investor and active angel investors to scale our model and reach new customers across India and abroad (the funding will be formally announced during the last week of April). Raising this round of funding makes me one of the youngest Indian women ever to raise an institutional round of capital.

Not only are we changing the way Indians plan weddings, but there are many factors that differentiate us from our competition too such as:

  1. We are a complete end-to-end portal from inspiration, to planning, to purchasing
  2. We allow users to make real-time purchases on our platform in both Shop and Services
  3. We have any extremely supportive offline concierge service to help users make bookings and even visit venues with our customers to assist them through the process
  4. The very best brands and vendors in the business are our partners, including the Taj Group of Hotels, the Wedding Filmer, Ritu Kumar, Anita Dongre, Amrapali, Forest Essentials and many more
  5. We have a very high standard for the vendors we allow to be listed on our portal

3.Describe the career highlights & top moments

Attending Brown University (an Ivy League college which is one of the hardest to get into in the United States) was a definite highlight, as it was there that I discovered I had a passion for entrepreneurship after I co-founded our college’s largest student-run business at the time. Our business, 2020 Restaurant Discount LLC, offered discounts to students at nearby restaurants during off-peak hours. I graduated Magna cum Laude from Brown, and was inducted into Phi Beta Kappa, the oldest and most prestigious academic honors society in the United States. I then was offered a highly competitive role as an investment banking analyst on Morgan Stanley’s technology equity capital markets team, where I worked on landmark IPOs such as Twitter, Care.com, and GrubHub Seamless.

However, the top moment of my career so far has definitely been founding Indear. I saw a genuine need in the wedding space that was not being fulfilled, and despite being out of the country for so long (and never having worked in technology before), I did the research and then took a leap of faith to found this company. As mentioned, we also just raised our first round of funding of INR 4 crore from an institutional investor and active angel investors, making us the first company in our space to receive funding from a prominent institutional investor. Lastly, we were interview by Bloomberg a couple of weeks ago about our journey, the link to the video is here: http://www.btvin.com/videos/watch/17375/indear–tension-free-weddings.

4.What are the unique differentiators of this Nomination that would merit this category to be considered for an award?

I think this is a really interesting and relevant category to be nominated for. Unlike other more traditional categories like “Business Women of the Year,” this award for “New Age Woman in Innovations and Creativity” focuses on women that are innovating and providing creative solutions to the fields that they work in. These platforms are not necessarily purely online or offline, but are often a mixture of many mediums to provide the most effective solution for customers.

I genuinely believe we are providing a modern, useful, convenient and fun solution in an industry that has lacked innovation for many decades, and I am very grateful to be nominated for this award.

5.What is your Vision & where you want to see yourself in the year 2020?

In 2020 I want every woman who gets engaged in India to think of our company the moment the ring slips on her finger. I want our company to be completely ingrained in the wedding industry across cities, cultures, and budgets so that every Indian bride can find any product or service that she is looking for (be it mehendi giveaways or a DJ) on our portal. I want us to continue having fantastic customer service so that these brides trust that our company will make the biggest day of their lives as special and stress-free as possible. With the wedding industry pegged at $40 billion and growing 25% year-on-year, I believe we can be a billion dollar company by the year 2020.

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In India, an estimated 20-40 percent of maternal deaths in India are due to anaemia.Pharma Leaders Brand India Winning to focus on the issue

In India, an estimated 20-40 percent of maternal deaths in India are due to anemia.Globally, anaemia affects 1.62 billion people, which corresponds to 24.8% of the population. The highest prevalence is in preschool-age children (47.4%), and the lowest prevalence is in men (12.7%). However, the population group with the greatest number of individuals affected is pregnant women (41.8%) [3]. In women, anaemia may become the underlying cause of maternal mortality and perinatal mortality [4]. Nearly 50 per cent of women of reproductive age and 26 per cent of men in the age group of 15-59 years are anaemic. South Asia has some of the highest rates of anemia worldwide. At 72 percent, women in the Eastern region of India have a significantly higher prevalence of anemia than the Western states, which estimates 45 percent affected.In addition, a large number of Indian women suffer from anemia throughout the entirety of their lives. The deficiencies can start with low birth weight infant females and worsen during adolescence with the onset of menstruation. Pregnancy further worsens and taxes an already anemic body. Although a plethora of epidemiologic studies have been conducted on anemia in India, National Family Health Surveys and District Level Household and Facility Surveys have proven most useful in tracking the rate of anemia nationally.

Women and children from Eastern India are statistically shown to have higher risk factors for developing anemia. Social class, residence, age, and marital status all play indirect roles in anemia’s prevalence.

Not surprisingly, high socioeconomic status lowered the risk of anemia in all demographics. Education, exposure to mass media, and consumption of milk, milk products, fruits and fish were other protective factors.Statistics also show that low-income urban women and adolescent married women had the highest chances of being anemic.In practical terms, low-income households suffer due to a lack of available resources, such as access to high-quality foods or medicines.

 

Culturally, there is also an inherent attitude towards providing for the males in the family first. This leads to girls and women being given leftovers or food less nutritional in value, especially if resources are limited in a family or community.According to the World Health Organization (WHO), if the community prevalence of anemia is greater than 40 percent, it is considered a high magnitude issue. Although both international and national development campaigns have sought to decrease the anemia burden in India, the real issue is the nutritional status of women throughout their lifespan.

The correlation of anemia and other nutritional deficiencies in this case seems extremely high. My mother—despite being educated as a dietician, from a higher socio-economic class, and someone who consumed a lot of milk and milk products until recently—has been anemic for most of her life. She was a little over a 100 pounds when she gave birth to a healthy, female baby, though she had to make a conscious effort to boost her appetite during her pregnancy. She has spent the majority of her adult life in the United States and not in India, and has remained anemic, on and off, despite how well she eats and maintains her body. It seems to be a childhood deficit that she has not been able to overcome despite her concerted efforts.Indian women in India are at a much greater risk for anemia, women everywhere are likely to be impacted by anemia throughout their lives.It is important to realize that proper nutrition is a life-long process, not a fad diet or one pill fix-all.From statistics, studies, and personal experiences with anemia, it seems clear that the overall nutritional status needs to be enhanced from the beginning of the life cycle.For example, in the current model, an anemic mother gives birth to an underweight female infant, who then becomes anemic as she grows up, and the beginning of menstruation further exacerbates the deficiency. That same anemic woman then goes through pregnancy, which further causes stress, and may lead to another infant who is anemic.It would be easier to narrow the focus of preventative measures to provide proper pre-natal care to pregnant women or to enhance the nutritional resources available to infants, as these are vital developmental stages. Maintaining an overall standard of nutrition, however, is more important and sizably more difficult throughout all stages of life.

 

Bangalore based Surana Group of Institutions voted as “Top Management Institute” & Archana Surana as “India’s Most Valuable Woman Educationalist & Reformist” at ILC Power Brand 2015

Bangalore based Surana Group of Institutions voted as “Top Management Institute” & Archana Surana as “India’s Most Valuable Woman Educationalist & Reformist” at ILC Power Brand 2015

Network 7 Media Group Jury recognizes mentorship of Archana Surana in Nation building through reforms & Educations, awards as “India’s Most Valuable Woman Educationalist & Reformist of the year 2015” & Surana College as “Most Promising & Valuable Business Management Institution 2015”.

It was a double celebration at the Bangalore based Surana Group of Institutions at the historic 6th Annual India Leadership Conclave & Indian Affairs Business Leadership Awards 2015 organized by the illustrious Network 7 Media Group ( www.network7mediagroup.com  , the flagship media outfit Indian Affairs (www.indianaffairs.tv) , Asia’s Most Definitive & Credible News Media in Mainstream Journalism as Surana Group of Institutions under the inspiring, dedicated leadership & mentorship of the Trustees Archana Surana &Dilip Surana,  was recognized as “Most Promising & Valuable Business Management Institution 2015” & its mentor & chief evangelist Archana Surana was unanimously voted by the eminent jury of the Network 7 Media Group as “India’s Most Valuable Woman Educationalist & Reformist of the year 2015” in Mumbai on 18th September at Hotel Sahara Star in a glittering & power packed attendance of more than 300 Leaders of the country who had gathered to witness the powerful lectures on Brand India at 68 years of Independence. The annual edition of Network 7 Media Group currently in its 6th year attracted the attention of top Business Leaders, Politicians, Social Activists, Women Leaders, Movie Stars & Rebel Leaders who participated the daylong seminar & award presentation ceremony.

The Chief patron & Managing Trustee  of the  Surana Group of colleges Archana Surana received the award in person for both the coveted & prestigious titles where more than top 35 Leaders & Organizations were recognized & awarded. The glittering award ceremony saw the presence of Celebrities such as Govinda with wife Sunita Ahuja, Sanjay Khan, Zarine Khan, Ayesha Shroff who had gathered to see the award ceremony where Tina Ahuja, Govinda’s daughter was voted as Emerging Actress of the Year while Ayesha & Jackie Shroff’s son Tiger Shroff received the Promising Actor award at the 6th Annual India Leadership Conclave & Awards 2015. Farah Ali Khan received the prestigious Innovative Leadership in Luxury Brands Concept 2015 while South Actress & Mass queen Ragini Dwivedi received the Promising Actress Award. Archana Surana while receiving the Trophy & Certificates said “This Award & recognition bears testimony of our continued pursuit of seeking excellence in education & motivates us to scale up greater heights in coming days”. Archana Surana dedicated the awards to all the well-wishers, students, staff & those who has been part of the momentous journey of Surana College since inception founded by late visionary leader G.C.Surana.  

Satya Brahma, Chairman, India Leadership Conclave, Dr. Mukesh Batra, Chairman Dr. Batras & Bollywood Star Govinda conferred the awards in more than 35 categories. “The real focus & areas that the juries looked at in 2015 Entries are innovations, initiatives & impact. Network 7 Media group is known for break the rules & stereotype conventions in traditional methodology as it often ignores the faceless Indians but the face of innovations.” The selection of Archana Surana & Surana Group of Institutions are the result of an extensive process & methodology that included innovations, creativity & forward looking approach of the Leadership & the Institutions. The honour recognizes the remarkable accomplishments of Archana Surana as a torch-bearer of the college & one of India’s most Valuable Woman Educationalist & Reformist, Said Satya in a release.

We may agree to disagree,disagree to agree. Gender Inequality takes the form of a hard stand as Women have been oppressed for decades

FREE YOUR BREASTS! FREE YOUR MIND!

A UFO-based religion called Raelianism, whose followers believe that life on Earth was created by an alien science experiment led by Spiritual leader who  claim that

women have the same constitutional right that men have to go bare-chested in public

 

As long as men are allowed to be topless in public, women should have the same constitutional right. Or else, men should have to wear something to hide their chests, It’s a question of discrimination, Why do we ask about women and not men?

 

We want to have this taboo disappear”. Women have been oppressed for decades.

 


Demonstrators across the country took to the streets without their shirts today to celebrate National Topless Day, a holiday intended to prove there’s nothing wrong with women baring their bodies in public. In New York, activists marched through midtown Manhattan for a Nipple Pride Parade organized by GoTopless, which describes itself on its website as a group dedicated to demonstrating “women have the same constitutional right that men have to go bare-chested in public.”

According to CBS Local, the parade began at Columbus Circle and moved to Bryant Park near Times Square, while another 60 events were planned nationwide.On its website, GoTopless provided a nationwide map of cities involved in the day, designating cities that currently prohibit a woman from exposing her breasts in public.

 

Ladies of New York, you are free to walk bare-breasted through the city! New York City’s 34,000 police officers have been instructed that, should they encounter a woman in public who is shirtless but obeying the law, they should not arrest her. This is a good step towards gender parity in public spaces.

This decision means that breast exposure is not considered public lewdness, indecent exposure, or disorderly conduct. It also notes that, should a crowd form around a topless woman, the officer should instruct the crowd to disperse and then respond appropriately if it does not. Relative coverage is no longer a factor.

This policy shift comes after several years of litigation and protest. In the 1992 case People v. Ramona Santorelli and Mary Lou Schloss, the New York Court of Appeals ruled in favor of two women who were arrested with five others for exposing their breasts in a Rochester park, holding the law void as discriminatory. The ruling was put to the test in 2005, when Jill Coccaro bared her breasts on Delancey Street in New York, citing the 1992 decision, and was detained for twelve hours. She subsequently successfully sued the city for $29,000.

In 2007, Go Topless, a national organization supporting gender equality in shirtlessness laws, established Go Topless Day. Dozens of women protest – often topless – in thirty cities around the United States, promoting equal rights to be shirtless. Protests usually include chants of “Free your breasts. Free your minds” and a song “Let ‘em Breathe” to the tune of the Beatles’ “Let it Be.”

While some who have witnessed these events have suggested that “[t]his is extreme liberalism and why America’s in decline” or “[i]t’s degrading to women,” others have been supportive. One man even said he would encourage his wife to join them.

Though bare-breasted women might shock the sensibilities of some in the public, it is encouraging to see the police responding positively to gender bias, even on such a seemingly small scale. After all, no one thinks twice about a man shirtless on a summer day. However, the female nipple or chest is still considered “lewd.” By reminding its officers of this, the NYPD is publicly declaring that it will no longer perpetuate unconstitutional gender discrimination, a standard to which all law enforcement should be held and a decision for which it should be applauded.

The New York event coincides with a brewing controversy over naked women posing for photos with tourists in Times Square, which city Mayor Bill de Blasio recently committed to outlawing.

Mayor de Blasio told a press conference earlier in August, “Our current laws do make it harder to enforce in the way we might like to […] There is a First Amendment protection for painting yourself and displaying yourself in a certain fashion. It makes no sense, but I understand that is a First Amendment protection,” according to the Observer. He added the city would no longer “tolerate” the women and said he would find “legislative and regulatory solutions” to the problem.

topless

Changing Market in India, Consumer Retail Electronic Market pegged at $20.6 billion by 2020

Country’s consumer electronics and appliances market is projected to be worth $20.6 billion by 2020 on account of factors such as high disposable income, easy consumer financing and organized retail. India is also expected to rank fifth in the consumer durables market in the world by 2025. The Indian market for consumer electronics and appliances is around $9.7 billion and has grown at a CAGR of 9.7 per cent over the 2010-2014 period and is poised to reach $20.6 billion by 2020.

Over the last few years, retail has become one of the fastest growing sectors in the Indian economy. Organized retail is expected to grow to 8-9% of the Indian retail industry in the next 5 years and FDI in retail is one of the most talked about topics now. There is hectic activity in the sector in terms of expansion, entry of international brands and retailers as well as focus on technology, operations and processes. All these present a tremendous opportunity in this new high growth industry. While the opportunities in Indian retail are immense, all players must be aware that the consumer culture, business practices and industry dynamics in India can differ substantially from what they are accustomed to at home, often leading to pitfalls for the unprepared. This report, The Great Indian Retail Story, has been written by Ernst & Young to help international players understand some of the key features of the Indian retail industry and environment. The report includes answers to some of your burning questions in terms of trends, challenges and outlook for the retail industry, such as, ƒ Consumer behavior and the changing face of Indian consumerism ƒ New formats and strategic issues such as supply chain, people and security ƒ Key success factors for entering and setting up a profitable retail business in India ƒ Infrastructure in terms of quality and availability of real estate and mall space and logistics ƒ The business case for India and some of the key challenges the industry is likely to face We hope that international retailers will find this report useful as they approach opportunities in India. As one of the leading service providers to the Indian retail industry, Ernst & Young offers market insight, industry experience and an array of risk, tax, regulatory, advisory and transaction services to assist international retailers anywhere in the country. The domestic consumer electronics and durables sector has witnessed a substantial growth over the last few years. This sector plays an important part in the economy of the country and provides employment to millions of people, more importantly to a large number of women in the country. The Indian TV and consumer durables market has been growing big, primarily driven by imports. However, with the given macroeconomic factors and government impetus with “Make In India”, India is well positioned to increase its manufacturing base in the consumer durables. Even the manufacturers on their part are willing to invest in India and increase their manufacturing base in the country to serve domestic markets and also to export in order to gain scale and make Indian operations viable. The report highlights the opportunities and challenges in this sector and presents some of the policy recommendations to provide boost to this sector. Currently, there is low level of component manufacturing activity in our country which discourages domestic manufacturing of end products; therefore there is a need to create a component industry to cater to the demand of manufacturers. Further, we need to ensure that all necessary government policies and incentives are implemented in letter and spirit. Hence, we would like to work closely with the government and industry for the implementation of these suggestions.

Indian Affairs

India’s GDP which currently stands at USD 690 billion is slated to touch USD 740 billion by the end of 2006. India is the world’s 4th largest economy as regards GDP (in PPP terms) and is expected to rank 3rd by 2010, just behind the US and China. The country is on the brink of becoming an economic powerhouse ready to unleash its largely untapped potential for those who are willing to take the right step forward. In the retail sector, in spite of a 1.07 billion strong population, the target consumer base for most retailers in India stands at about 405 million. Of this, about 30 million have a combined purchasing capacity of USD 230 billion. The country’s 6 million ‘rich’ population shops worth USD 28.36 billion every year. The retail sector in India is highly fragmented and organized retail in the country is at a very nascent stage. There are about 12 million retail outlets spread across India, earning it the epithet of a “nation of shopkeepers.” More than 80% of these 12 million outlets are run by small family businesses which use only household labour. Traditionally, small-store (kirana) retailing has been one of the easiest ways to generate self-employment, as it requires limited investment in land, capital and labour. Consequently, India has one of the highest retail densities in the world at 6% (12 million retail shops for about 209 million households). India’s peers, such as China and Brazil, took 10-15 years to raise the share of their organized retail sectors from 5% when they began, to 20% and 38% respectively. India too is moving towards growth and maturity in the retail sector at a fast pace. 85% 15% US 81% 19% Taiwan 55% 45% Malaysia 40% 60% Thailand 30% 70% Indonesia 20% 80% China 97% 3% India Organized Traditional Retail is amongst the fastest growing sectors in the country. India ranks 1st, ahead of Russia, in terms of emerging markets potential in retail and is deemed a ‘Priority 1’ market for international retail.

 


 

While the urban market accounts for the majority share (65 per cent of the total revenue) in the consumer durables sector in India, future growth is expected to be driven by the rural market, as the government increases its focus on rural electrification. At present, the consumer electronics segment constitutes 17 per cent of the total Indian electronic products, which is the third-highest share. The segment consists of TV, DVD players, Set Top Boxes, home theater systems, MP3 players, audio equipment’s, digital cameras and household appliances as washing machine, ACs, microwave, refrigerators etc. Interestingly per capita income in India is expected to expand at a CAGR of approximately 6.6 per cent during 2013-19, from $1,500 in 2013 to $2,200 in 2019.  Moreover, the retailers are also providing easy financing options to the consumers by partnering with the banks.  Organized retail industry is expected to cover a market share of 15 to 18 per cent by 2020, from around 3 per cent currently and would not only streamline the supply chain but also facilitate increased demand. According to CEAMA estimates, the LED/LCD market is expected to grow at around 20 per cent from 2014 till 2020, while refrigerators are expected to grow at around 10 per cent in that period. Air-conditioners would continue to rise between 6 to 7 per cent between 2014 to 2020, while washing machines are expected to grow up to 9 per cent during the period. However, Set Tox Boxes would grow fastest on account of digitization of the cable delivery system. “The total STB market was 18.4 million units in 2012 and is expected to grow at a CAGR of 28.8 per cent to reach 39.4 million units by 2015… the number of DTH subscriber in India is expected to increase from 73.1 million in December 2014 to 200 million by 2018. However, the industry is facing challenges such as rising freight cost, infrastructure bottlenecks and under-developed ecosystems, among others.

Smart Cities. Can it make in India?

One year past an astounding victory in 2014, the Modi government has been successful in rolling many accomplishments up its sleeves. From the grandeur of Make in India to the magnificence of Digital India, government swayed masses with its vision and political correctness. The induction of the Ebiz portal to create a single window clearance for businesses, to the Swachh Bharat Mission, every initiative of the government enthused people. For those who see Modi as the savior of the country battling political paralysis and lethargy, to those who envisage India to be a developed country, these endeavors struck a chord with many. After all, action was finally hitting the ground.

Of the many schemes, the Smart City Mission is currently making headway into mainstream as Prime Minister unveiled the official guidelines for smart cities last week. A total of Rs 48,000 crore has been allocated to transform a select 100 cities across the country into smart cities. These cities are expected to augment the quality of life of its citizens and employ smart solutions with integrated ICT. Now with guidance primed, many cities that have successfully lured investment such as Ajmer and Jaipur will be able to seamlessly march ahead. At the launch event on 21st June, the Prime Minister particularly remarked “We cannot leave poor to their fate. It is our responsibility. But the underlying question remains, what does the inclusion of the underprivileged in the mainstream entails.

It will not be an enigma if a smart city does not feature in the list of priority of the 30 crore Indians living under stark poverty. For a country that is home to one of the largest number of malnourished and stunted children under the age of five and features at 55th place in the Global Hunger Index, in the list of 76, needs to draw mechanism to make food and drinking water available at the earnest. A UNICEF report mentions the national average of sanitation, hygiene and water safety stands at mere 34 per cent and over 626 million people defecate in open. As of December 2011, over 300 million Indian citizens had no access to frequent electricity. The country is in dire need to formulate and effectively implement policies to fulfill the fundamental needs of its citizens. To create jobs, feed the poor and provide access to clean drinking water, electricity, transportation and sanitation.

Air-Jordan-Nike-Jumpman-logo

 

One cannot and should not rebuff the process of development; however smartness cannot be ensued while 29.5% citizens are below the poverty line. The disparity in India between the rich and poor is one of the highest in the world and constantly widening. The current government since its inception has been accused to have failed the poor, especially in the aftermath of brewing agrarian crisis. Farmers’ suicides aggravated by unseasonal rainfall have only brought upfront the deep crisis within the agricultural sector that employs nearly 50% of the workforce. The response mechanism has been dismal. Little has been done for the underprivileged and the opulence of grand schemes has overshadowed the need of the hour. As Nobel laureate Amarty Sen in his book the Argumentative Indian points out the need to distinguish between faring forward and faring well, while the government may surely have fared forward, it’s still incumbent to prove the latter!

 I was besmirched and bashed for an article I wrote a few days back on ‘why 100 smart cities is not what India may really want at this point in time’. For the ease of those who haven’t read the part one, I had earlier written that smart city may not feature in the wish list of 30 crore poor people in India who struggle to survive and fend for basic living. A country which stands at 55th place, in the list of 76 countries, in the Global Hunger Index and where 300 million citizens have no access to frequent electricity, needs to draw mechanism to alleviate poverty prior to developing a select few cities. I further stressed on the need to formulate right policies to address these pertinent issues. While many misunderstood my stance as a support for the welfare state, some called it a rant, others dismissed it as a paid article (from congress), and some hate mongers chose to abuse me and my credentials. While the social media vitriol is not new to me, I specifically decided to address those who deeply care about the objective of an intellectual discourse and further clarify my stance.

To get a sense of what smart city is, the government instituted website says that “the key feature of a Smart city is in the intersect between competitiveness, Capital and Sustainability. The smart cities should be able to provide good infrastructure such as water, sanitation, reliable utility services, health care; attract investments; transparent processes that make it easy to run commercial activities.” Another important aspect of smart city is the use of ICT or smart solutions for services such as waste management, traffic control, Wi-Fi and more. Many companies including IBM, Oracle, CISCO and others are eyeing the opportunity to provide smart tech to these cities in collaboration with the local government. While all this sounds fancy to the English speaking-social media savvy-educated class of people, let’s get to the facts.

The total urban population of the country today stands at 31%, so while the denizens of these cities are likely to get access to smart solutions, waste management, traffic control and other ICT benefits, rest 69% is deprived of basic sanitation, transportation or drinking water. The depravity so entrenched that 56% of rural households are landless and derive income from manual labour, whereas the highest earning member in 74.5% of rural households earn below 5,000 rupees, as per the Provisional data of socio, economic and cast census released by the government last week. Clearly, a majority which lives in rural districts is left out of the grand scheme of things. On the contrary, much less is being done to contain rural household sustainability or immigration from rural dwellings to urban.

Many suggest that once the scheme kick starts, the economy will boom, which will result in job creation and wealth generation. Undoubtedly, even as the creation of 100 smart cities will provide employment for some, the number of unemployed people in India as of 2014 is 44.79 million, too large to be catered to, with secondary channels. The prospect of wealth generation on the other hand, is likely to follow the need for capital requirement first. The central government has currently pledged 48,000 crore for 100 smart cities for the next five years. However, the formula for generating the rest of the funds is yet to be worked out. In a conversation I had with Pratap Padode, Founder and Director of Smart City Council India, Padode said that a smart city will have to be self-sustainable and generate revenues in the long run, one way of doing this will is to charge citizens for the facilities offered. This is likely to push the poor out of the system, if the cost of living in a smart city is borne by citizens.

Some are quick to compare India with developed countries, lambasting that development process cannot be halted for a section of the population. What’s frequently missing is that the section here forms a significant population of India (India’s BPL population- 29.8%) whereas the number of the poor population is considerably lower in developed countries (US- 14.5%, UK-15%, Switzerland- 7.6%). Also the per capita incomes of these nations are much higher as compared to India and so is the actual employment ratio, according to Anup K Pujari, Secretary, Ministry of MSME. Comparing India therefore to those who do not face the same challenges as we do is futile.

The smart city project may form a part of the larger scheme on the development canvas; recovery is yet to pick on the ground. Even as the government is doing its bid in the form of Digital India, Swachh Bharat and many more, critics say it’s an urban utopia, far from the realms of reality of rural India. While we cannot dismiss the entirety of the efforts by the government, we need policies aimed at holistic development. A balanced approach to the Indian problem is what I ask, not welfare schemes at large, for there is nothing such as a free lunch.

Shweta Kothari

Veteran IT guru & Datamatics Founder Dr. Lalit S. Kanodia to debate on Smart Cities in India at India Leadership Conclave 2015

In 1800 only 3% of people lived in a city of 1 million or more; by the year 2000, it was 47%. In 1950 there were only 83 cities worldwide with populations over 1 million; by 2007 there were 468. In April 2008, the world passed the 50% urbanization mark. Cities have evolved into a more complex space inter-linked by a number of systems and planners generally have failed to read the ‘Urban Progression’ and thus cities have failed significantly in terms of the ‘Quality of Life’ of the urbanites

The urbanization policies and reforms carried away in the Republic of India have by far seemed to have not attained their defined goals. The reasons may be many – adoption of the foreign models into the Indian context without studying the prevailing Indian conditions, lack of co-operative planning between different sectors/authorities, lack of public awareness to avail the government run programs and initiatives, rapid growth of population, to name some, but it would have been the prime duty of those involved to look into all those factors that defines the planning, growth and development of the urban settlements. One of the major issues concerning with the urban design features of the developing nations has been the lack of planning according to their own context and prevailing conditions. With the change in the central government and announcement of 100 new smart cities by the Urban Ministry, India seem to have created a chance for itself to release the ever increasing pressure on the existing cities – but the planning regulations to be followed and its implementation process is quite doubtful.

 

The country is on a rapid phase of urbanization with around 35 percent of the total population expected to live by 2020 which will substantially increase to around 50 percent by 2050 and 70 percent by 2070. The figure suggests the scope of urban development and also the extent of fresh urban spaces to be planned and developed in the coming decades. Therefore, it will be quite significant not to repeat the mistakes committed in previous attempts.

Currently, 31% of India’s population lives in cities; these cities also generate 63% of the nation’s economic activity. These numbers are rapidly increasing, with almost half of India’s population projected to live in its cities by 2030. Smart Cities focus on the most pressing needs and on the greatest opportunities to improve quality of life for residents today and in the future.

 

Some of the bigger cities like New Delhi, Mumbai, Kolkata seem to have crossed their carrying capacity limit with the situation seem to get worsen in the coming decades. There’s no point in developing the new cities with these cities as their prime model of development as these cities have by far not able to provide the quality of life an urban space is expected to provide to their citizens. The Ministry quoted three words – ‘Education, Employment and Entertainment’ as the three sectors on which emphasis would be given. Its however quite suspicious that by emphasizing on these three will create the sustainable urban settlements.

The diversity of the country can be said unanimous and hence with the changes in the diverse conditions and culture – changes the habits of the communities, environmental conditions and all other things which are equally important in planning the road towards sustainable development. The chances of a prototype city planning seem to get vanished here.

India should quickly look into the significance of local area planning and development – planning for a city in Meghalaya can’t be done by the people in Chennai. It’s more of a local approach which helps in an efficient planning process. Also, transportation planning needs a revitalisation plan – building flyovers, widening of the roads, enhancing various MRTS schemes are some short-term development which seem necessary at times, but their long term viability is suspicious. Transportation defines any urban structure and hence it can’t be done in isolation – the interdisciplinary nature needs to be understood through a wider window. Also, transportation of goods to these new cities should be sorted out – allowing a agriculture buffer zone in the city’s close proximity may be one such solution which will cater to different urban issues that has arisen in recent times. Special emphasis on planning the cities pedestrian and cycling friendly should be given to reduce the extent of the carbon footprints and also to provide a healthy lifestyle to its citizens. There’s no point planning the cities and that too new developments to promote consumption of private vehicles by providing wide expressways and ignoring other aspects of mobility. The difference between mobility and accessibility should be also looked in through a wider aspect. The formation of the Urban-Rural Continuum discussed in earlier posts may prove quite significant and will cater some real long-term development. The concept of density planning should also be studied and brought into implementation for these new city developments.

The step of the creation of the 100 new cities seems to be a nice opportunity for the country to guide their whole developmental process and boost up their economic strength. The Indian government and the authorities have to be visionary and far-sighted with any urban development and should emphasize on long-term development. Planning process will need to be carried in co-ordination among different ministries, authorities, departments and communities. The participatory approach may prove quite beneficial and the sites which will be selected for the new cities needs to be strategically selected and a roadmap for their collective development should be prepared at first. There’s no point of selecting the sites according to the different region and state demands and then linking them with a roadmap. The cities should also look within the carrying capacity of the environment and try to present a model to other nations by planning it across disciplines, in co-ordination among different authorities and as per the quality of life that a human deserves.

India to have 100 Smart Cities across 21 States in next 5 years.

A total of Rs 98,000 crore has been approved by the Cabinet for development of 100 smart cities and rejuvenation of 500 others. For Smart Cities Mission, Rs 48,000 crore and for Atal Mission for Rejuvenation and Urban Transformation (AMRUT), a total funding of Rs 50,000 crore has been approved by the Cabinet.

Future roadmap for Smart Cities in India

  • 100 smart cities: The government has allocated an outlay of Rs 98,000 crore (US$ 15,329.26 million) to execute 100 smart cities, and the Atal Mission for Rejuvenation and Urban Transformation (AMRUT), which is an urban rejuvenation programme for 500 towns and cities in next 5 years.
  • Smart heritage cities: The government has introduced a project to develop 12 heritage cities across the country. Called HRIDAY Scheme or National Heritage Development and Augmentation Yojana, the cities included are Ajmer, Amaravati, Amritsar, Badami, Dwaraka, Gaya, Kanchipuram, Mathura, Puri, Varanasi, Velankanni and Warangal.
  • Smart ports: The government plans to connect 12 smart cities with the maritime hubs at an estimated cost of Rs 50,000 crore (US$ 7821.05 million).
  • Smart armed force stations (SAFS): There is a proposal to develop 6 smart armed force stations (SAFS). Of the 6 stations; 3 will be army stations, 2 of airforce and 1 of the navy.
  • Smart aerotropolis: The West Bengal government plans to develop first airport city called the Bengal Aerotropolis Pvt Ltd (BAPL) at Andal in Burdwan district.
  • Smart railways: Ministry of Railways has introduced world-class station programme to upgrade and revamp the existing railway stations. New Delhi Station will be the first station to be redeveloped within this programme spread over 86 hectares land with 18 platforms to handle in excess of 500,000 passengers per day. The Surat railway station is also to follow with 2.27 lakh square metre for redevelopment of new station. Along with this a total of 1,052 stations have been identified for upgradation of passenger amenities. It is proposed to include 200 more stations under this scheme.
  • Smart villages: Saansad Adarsh Gram Yojana (Parliamentarian’s Model Village Scheme aims to ensure holistic development of identified gram panchayats. Under this programme, Andhra Pradesh is the first state to launch the ‘Smart Village’ plan aimed at making AP, a top state in the country by 2029.
  • DMIC: The Delhi Mumbai Industrial Corridor (DMIC) running through six states Delhi, Western Uttar Pradesh, Southern Haryana, Eastern Rajasthan, Eastern Gujarat, and Western ans to build a dedicated freight corridors along the Delhi-Mumbai. The cities that have been identified are Dholera in Gujarat, Shendra-Bidkin in Maharashtra, Greater Noida in UP, Ujjain (MP) and Gurgaon in Haryana.
  • SEZ: Guizhou International Investment Corp (GIIC) has signed an MoU with Kakinada SEZ (KSEZ), a subsidiary of GMR Infrastructure to develop industrial park over 2,000-acre land for setting up Chinese high-end equipment manufacturing plants. GIIC will invest $500 million in developing the infrastructure and various facilities of the industrial park. These Chinese companies will invest $2-3 billion in setting up their operations over the next 5 years and generating more than 5,000 jobs for both skilled and unskilled workers.

The India Smart Cities Challenge is designed to inspire greater creativity from municipal officials and their partners, more involvement and inspiration from citizens, and the development of proposals that will produce concrete benefits in people’s lives.

The Challenge requires municipal leaders and their partners to consult the public to develop proposals that are both sound and have a high likelihood of being implemented. Proposed solutions must strengthen the city’s governance or its physical, social, or economic infrastructure.

WHAT THE PLANS INCLUDE

  • A Bold Vision: Each city must convey its own unique vision that reflects local context, its resources, and the priorities and aspirations of its citizens.
  • A Pan-City Initiative: Cities should draw inspiration from smart solutions that incorporate the use of technology, information and data to improve services or results for citizens. The pan-city initiative must touch the lives of many, or potentially all, of its citizens.
  • An Area-Based Development Plan: This plan will transform an existing place within each city, creating an exemplar for other areas in the city, or across the country, to follow. Depending on local circumstances, cities may choose one of three approaches: retrofitting, redevelopment, or greenfield development.

The top 10 implementation challenges for smart cities in India

Having recognised that cities are the engines of growth and are drawing a million people every minute from rural areas, the Government has introduced the ‘Smart City Challenge’, handing over the onus of planned urbanisation to the states. In the approach to the Smart Cities Mission, the objective is to promote cities that provide core infrastructure and offer quality of life to citizens, a clean and sustainable environment and application of ‘smart’ solutions. Those states that measure up to the guidelines and nominate cities could get funding of Rs 100 crore per year per city for the next five years. The funding is a golden chance for states to rejuvenate their urban areas but the Smart Cities Mission still has its own challenges to face. Here are the top 10:
1. Retrofitting existing legacy city infrastructure to make it smart: There are a number of latent issues to consider when reviewing a smart city strategy. The most important is to determine the existing city’s weak areas that need utmost consideration, e.g. 100-per-cent distribution of water supply and sanitation. The integration of formerly isolated legacy systems to achieve citywide efficiencies can be a significant challenge.
2. Financing smart cities: The High Power Expert Committee (HPEC) on Investment Estimates in Urban Infrastructure has assessed a per-capita investment cost (PCIC) of Rs 43,386 for a 20-year period. Using an average figure of 1 million people in each of the 100 smart cities, the total estimate of investment requirements for the smart city comes to Rs 7 lakh crore over 20 years (with an annual escalation of 10 per cent from 2009-20 to 2014-15). This translates into an annual requirement of Rs 35,000 crore. One needs to see how these projects will be financed as the majority of project need would move through complete private investment or through PPPs (public-private partnership).
3. Availability of master plan or city development plan: Most of our cities don’t have master plans or a city development plan, which is the key to smart city planning and implementation and encapsulates all a city needs to improve and provide better opportunities to its citizens. Unfortunately 70-80 per cent of Indian cities don’t have one.
4. Financial sustainability of ULBs: Most ULBs are not financially self-sustainable and tariff levels fixed by the ULBs for providing services often do not mirror the cost of supplying the same. Even if additional investments are recovered in a phased manner, inadequate cost recovery will lead to continued financial losses.
5. Technical constraints of ULBs: Most ULBs have limited technical capacity to ensure timely and cost-effective implementation and subsequent operations and maintenance owing to limited recruitment over a number of years along with inability of the ULBs to attract best of talent at market competitive compensation rates.
6. Three-tier governance: Successful implementation of smart city solutions needs effective horizontal and vertical coordination between various institutions providing various municipal amenities as well as effective coordination between central government (MoUD), state government and local government agencies on various issues related to financing and sharing of best practices and service delivery processes.
7. Providing clearances in a timely manner: For timely completion of the project, all clearances should use online processes and be cleared in a time-bound manner. A regulatory body should be set up for all utility services so that a level playing field is made available to the private sector and tariffs are set in a manner that balances financial sustainability with quality.
8. Dealing with a multivendor environment: Another major challenge in the Indian smart city space is that (usually) software infrastructure in cities contains components supplied by different vendors. Hence, the ability to handle complex combinations of smart city solutions developed by multiple technology vendors becomes very significant.
9. Capacity building programme: Building capacity for 100 smart cities is not an easy task and most ambitious projects are delayed owing to lack of quality manpower, both at the centre and state levels. In terms of funds, only around 5 per cent of the central allocation may be allocated for capacity building programs that focus on training, contextual research, knowledge exchange and a rich database. Investments in capacity building programs have a multiplier effect as they help in time-bound completion of projects and in designing programs, developing faculty, building databases as well as designing tool kits and decision support systems. As all these have a lag time, capacity building needs to be strengthened right at the beginning.
10. Reliability of utility services: For any smart city in the world, the focus is on reliability of utility services, whether it is electricity, water, telephone or broadband services. Smart cities should have universal access to electricity 24×7; this is not possible with the existing supply and distribution system. Cities need to shift towards renewable sources and focus on green buildings and green transport to reduce the need for electricity.

 

 Despite the current infrastructure woes in cities, Prime Minister Narendra Modi has launched the laudable initiative of “100 smart cities” mission. Indeed, the right strategy considering India’s urban population is expected to grow to over 50 per cent in the next 15 years, contributing to over 75 per cent of the GDP.
Smart cities are expected to make the life of the general public better by using Information and communication technology (ICT), and bringing in efficiency and accountability. ICT can assist in efficient delivery of physical services to the public. The recently launched Digital India project would help in building-in transparency and creating an “ICT aware” society.

It is estimated that an astounding Rs 40 lakh crore is required to build 100 smart cities. Will the existing cities be able to self-finance and manage the scale? May be the government should look at a complete overhaul of the archaic administrative set-up.

The government plans to spend Rs 1 lakh crore over five years for the 100 smart cities project and 500 cities under the AMRUT (Atal Mission for Rejuvenation and Urban Transformation). The AMRUT is aimed at improving the infrastructure of cities with over one lakh population.

It is an excellent idea as it aims at improving the quality of life and providing a clean and sustainable environment to the Tier 2 and Tier 3 cities and towns including the much needed tourist spots. This will also help decongest metropolitan cities.

The government is planning for a two-stage ‘City Challenge’ competition that would allow states to compete with each other for funding. Among other parameters, past track record in implementing sanctioned projects, self-financing, city’s vision and strategy, innovation, scalability and cost effectiveness of the smart city plan will be part of the evaluation criteria.

Planning for the smart cities mission is strategic and long term in nature. Hence, there must be a “short term” focussed effort in handling initiatives that can provide immediate respite to the citizens. As a first step, we need better coordination between the government organisations within the city and thereby reduce costs. Why can’t the departments handling a city’s road repairs/ asphalting, sewerage/ water, work coherently?

Each city will have different priorities and civic groups must be involved in identifying key issues that can be implemented using the existing ICT system.  For example, a simple and effective parking solution during weekends and holidays could be created by using all the vacant parking slots available in government and private offices in the central part of any city.

Similarly, installing skywalks/escalators on roads with dense vehicle movement, providing bus arrival information system in all the bus stops can be some of the simple yet high-impact measures that the citizens would appreciate. Most cities have established e-governance systems that people use for paying utility bills, taxes etc.

Can we improve the grievance redressal systems, provide time-bound response and establish a clear work-flow automation? This will greatly help in providing the exact status to the citizens availing any service. This can also reduce corruption to a great extent.

Sensing an immense opportunity, many countries and global companies are offering funding and technology solutions towards India’s smart cities mission.  We need “India-specific” and affordable solutions and hence copying from other countries may only result in significant cost with no meaningful impact to the citizens.

For example, some European cities have implemented an underground pneumatic garbage disposal system. Basically, the moment garbage is dumped into the bin on the street, it gets immediately sucked into the underground system. Sounds impressive, isn’t it? But, do we need such expensive systems in India?

In fact, a research report suggests that an efficient traditional garbage collection system would just cost only 10-15 per cent of such sophisticated underground systems.

SMART CITIES

Innovate and implement

The smart cities initiative is a great platform to spur innovation. Using the ‘MeraShaharMeraSapna’ contest, Modi has made the right move by asking people for innovative ideas. Ideas should be bottom-up, while the planning would require a top-down approach. The government must create a platform to appreciate “engaged citizens” contributing ideas.

While large multinational technology companies are eager to participate in the smart cities’ journey, the government should create the right checks and balances to avoid monopoly. For sustained innovation, the start-up ecosystem must be encouraged along with a strong push for participation from smaller companies.

Synergies between the smart cities and the Digital India initiative can spur inno-vation and help in creating ICT jobs. The recently launched Skill India mission can act as a stimulus for encouraging entrepreneurship around smart cities. The government should consider creating specific

skill development programmes around ICT/smart cities by involving other stake holders.
As with any infrastructure project, implementation is the key. The government should publish measurable targets, accountability and a quarterly progress report. An Independent Evaluation Office to monitor the progress would greatly benefit.

Finally, only government’s willingness and a “make it happen” attitude will decide if the dream of smart cities can become a reality.  In the short term, will the urban bodies take a cue from the PM’s message and implement simple, yet high impact initiatives, create visible positive changes in our cities and gain the citizens’ trust?

India’s big smart city challenge

Urbanization can be simply defined as the rise of cities vis-a-vis the rural landscape. As a country moves ahead on the road to progress, cities tend to take center stage. In that manner, the rise of cities has often been construed as an indicator of development and progress. The case has been no different when it comes to India. While the pace of urbanization was a bit slack in the early years post-independence, it has really picked pace in the past few decades, especially in the post-1991 phase. Coupled with economic growth and expanding markets, the urban population now stands at around 30% of the overall pie.

Yet, the picture of an urban India is far from rosy. From economic reforms to demographic dividend in the form of a young population, India has many things going for it. However, there is some more ground to cover if India is to shed its ‘developing country’ tag and emerge a superpower. This can happen only when urbanization (read planned urbanization) is given due attention. Upgrading existing cities and creating new ones are prerequisites for economic progress and they must take place in an organized manner.

Why India needs more planned cities?

A 2010 study conducted by McKinsey Global Institute (MGI) points out that urbanization in India has been a victim of systemic inefficiencies and policy vacuum. While India’s population is no doubt increasing, quality of life of citizens in urban areas is declining. Moreover, unchecked migration from rural areas is only putting further strain on the infrastructure in cities. The result is water and power shortages, lack of proper sewage collection and treatment, overburdened transport systems and unplanned constructions.

It is imperative then to not only create new ‘smart’ cities, but also upgrade the existing ones. Developing newer cities will bridge the rural-urban divide. This will in turn reduce social inequity, one of the biggest psychological benefits of planned urbanization.

The MGI study titled ‘India’s urban awakening: Building inclusive cities, sustaining economic growth’ estimates that by 2030, 40% of India’s population will be living in cities. This makes it all the more crucial for us to ensure that the process of urbanization occurs in a smooth and phased manner.

A carefully planned city will attract investments, create jobs, have strong infrastructure, and most importantly, up the standard of living of its citizens. Going ahead, the contribution of cities to India’s GDP will only increase. If in 2008, cities accounted for 58% of the national GDP, by 2030, this figure is expected to go up to 70%. To adequately leverage this, India needs livable and productive cities.

Where are we lagging now

Lost somewhere between the labyrinth of local and state bodies, municipal corporations, urban development agencies, corruption and political will, India’s urban spaces are struggling to breathe. If unplanned growth of cities continues, their state will only get more deplorable.

There has to be better cohesion between the various agencies responsible for urban development and planning. Sewage treatment, provision of clean water to citizens, robust healthcare systems, efficient transport networks and strong governance must form the blueprint of re-designing existing cities and creating new ones. Technology can go a long way in helping realize the creation of smart, safe and sustainable cities.  Every urban plan will need to have a long-term view only then will economic growth happen. A myopic approach can prove disastrous.

To address such issues of scalability, one needs proper research mechanism in place. Sometime back The Energy and Resources Institute (TERI) and United Technologies Corporation (UTC) launched the Center of Excellence for Energy Efficient Buildings in India, which will conduct a pan-India study of 100 buildings across various climatic zones, covering  cities such as Allahabad,  Ajmer,  Vishakhapatnam,  Varanasi,  Delhi-NCR, Mumbai, Chennai, Bengaluru, Kolkata,Hyderabad, Pune, Ahmedabad, Surat, Jaipur etc. These cities have been shortlisted based on Smart Cities program, and are most likely to be chosen for it. This study can thus lay the groundwork for agencies to plan their growth accordingly.

The road ahead

For long, urban planning has not featured on the national agenda as prominently as it is seen now. Creation of 100 smart cities was one of BJP government’s key election promises. With a view to modernizing India and accelerating the process of urbanization, Modi had envisioned creation of 100 smart cities. The idea was to develop satellite towns of larger cities and modernize existing midsized cities. In keeping with the PM’s vision, Finance Minister ArunJaitley, while presenting his first Budget last year, set aside Rs 7,060 crore towards this. Jaitley had also announced relaxation of foreign direct investment norms so as to attract overseas capital. These announcements were as refreshing as they were promising.

The government has even gone ahead and defined the process after detailed consultation. A framework has been created, based on which cities will be selected in the days to come. Once, these cities are chosen, the next stage of making them smart will kick in. To ensure that the cities are not merely ‘smart’ in terms of technology alone, the eligibility conditions are quite holistic. For instance, to participate in the ‘Smart City Challenge’, any applicant city needs to have a vision document and a city development strategy in place, progress under Swachh Bharat Mission is another condition, timely payment of salaries to municipal staff is another, and finally, there needs to be an information and grievance redressal mechanism with a e-newsletter in place. From the lot of applicants, a final set of cities will be chosen that would be turned ‘smart’.

In a country such as India, that witnesses unchecked migration to urban areas, creation of smart cities is nothing short of a landmark move. It has the potential to improve the administrative process and also provide citizens access to quality healthcare, education, sanitation and governance.

So far only private construction companies had come forward and developed or proposed to develop smart cities. That the central government identified this issue and gave it a national thrust brought cheer to the general public. With overpopulated cities and their strained infrastructure, India is already in the midst of an urban crisis. The only way out is planned urbanization.

Public and private bodies must join hands and come up with smart, sustainable and long-term solutions. Creating thriving and self-sufficient urban spaces will not only ensure inclusive growth but also contribute to overall economic advancement.  The future of India lies in cities and we must fortify them if the country has to prosper.

 An aspect of our current approach, while having implications for the entire world, has a special relevance for its two largest economies – the US and China. India is endeavouring to modernise in the fullest sense of that term. This is expressed in a variety of programmes, ranging from Make in India,Digital India and 100 Smart Cities to Skill India and Clean India. It seeks resources, technology and best practices from international partners. That is very much at the heart of our diplomatic engagement. Both the US and China – and indeed the Asean, Japan, RoK and Europe – can contribute to this transformation. The centrality of this commitment ensures that India will set a positive and interactive agenda with other major powers and groupings. We look at the world seeing more possibilities than risks and are confident that in turn, India itself will be viewed as an opportunity by the world. At the end of the day, India’s future is of a human resources power. That will be a key calculation in how others – including the US and China – approach us.
Let me now turn to the US and the state of our ties with them. There is little doubt that the US economy is in recovery mode. It is probable that in pursuing its interests, the US will seek to leverage its comparative strengths that include technology, finance and its international partnerships. The issue then is the extent to which those partners have a convergence of interests. In the case of India, that is quite significant. Let me illustrate that using some recent examples. When President Obama came to India in January, the two countries agreed on a Joint Strategic Vision for the Asia-Pacific and the Indian Ocean Region. We affirmed our shared interest in safeguarding maritime security and ensuring freedom of navigation and over-flights throughout the region. We opposed terrorism, piracy and WMD proliferation. And we urged all parties to avoid the threat or use of force and pursue resolution of disputes through peaceful means, in accordance with international law.

The vast expanse of practical cooperation laid out on that occasion is also worth noting. On the economic side, there is the promise of expanding investment flows, collaborating on skills development, furthering India’s digital ambitions and expanding capabilities ranging from health to education. In areas where the US has traditionally dominated such as space, nuclear energy and R&D, new collaborative initiatives were agreed upon. The entire spectrum from defence, counterterrorism, homeland security, intelligence-sharing and law enforcement are being taken to a new level. In global economic, political, security and technology areas, the two nations are working together on a number of issues. The deepening and broadening of the Indo-US relationship has been among the key elements of a changing Asian calculus. This process, which has unfolded unevenly in the last two decades, has definitely acquired new energy in the last year. Obviously, the two countries would not agree completely on all issues but their ability to work together is a factor worthy of serious consideration.

With China, the changes are more nuanced, more complex but no less significant. Again, I use the recent visit of Prime Minister Modi to China and his meeting with President Xi to illustrate my argument. On that occasion, the terminology agreed upon by the two countries to describe themselves were as “two major powers in the region and the world”. I would suggest – and I am sure the China watchers in the room would agree – that this is not without meaning. The task which they have set for themselves is to pursue their national development goals and security interests in a mutually supportive manner. Clearly, that would happen only if they showed respect and sensitivity to each others’ concerns, interests and aspirations. That the two neighbours, whose parallel if differential rise offers a somewhat unique situation in world history, agreed on a constructive model of relationship is no small thing. Precedents in global history have been largely otherwise. This is not just a conceptual proposition. Those of you who would have watched the Modi-Xi interaction in Xian would have noted that this approach was reflected in their demeanour. The mood today allows for frank and direct conversations between the leaderships. Their shared appearances – including the world’s most powerful selfie – and utterances would have been difficult to envisage a year ago.

But as with the US, it is what is happening on the ground that can make these sentiments sustainable. So, let me talk a little about recent developments in that regard. On the economic side, the discourse has been traditionally dominated by the growing trade imbalance, a source of unhappiness for India as it reflects lack of market access. Admittedly, that continues to be a major challenge, one that the two prime ministers agreed would be taken up by a high-level task force. But attention has now turned to the possibilities offered by investments. Two Chinese industrial parks are under development in Maharashtra and Gujarat. Other private investment initiatives are moving forward. In fact, PM Modi’s meeting in Shanghai with Chinese CEOs probably saw the strongest foreign interest that I have heard expressed in Make in India in all the visits that I have accompanied him. Knowing the gaps between the two systems, there will be some process challenges. That, I would delicately suggest, may be an opportunity for Singapore. Collaboration is also unfolding in a number of other sectors, especially in the modernisation of India’s railway infrastructure.

The standard narrative of Sino-Indian relations, however, remains focused on the border dispute and security issues. Here, I would draw attention to efforts to enhance communication between the militaries, promote leadership-level contacts, establish more hot-lines, expand border commanders’ exchanges and create more meeting points. The political settlement of the boundary question is obviously a complicated issue. But there is recognition today on both sides that peace and tranquility on the border is an important guarantor for the development and continued growth of our bilateral relations.

We are also moving to address the familiarity gap in the relationship, an outcome of the difficult parts of our shared history. New policy and governance-level mechanisms and platforms have been formed. Promoting contacts between think tanks and media has been given a special boost. Sensitivity displayed in respect of religious tourism has gone down well in both nations. The direction we are moving in should be clear even if much work remains to be done.

My message to you today is that India engages with the world with greater confidence and assurance. It does so with the intent of ensuring stronger growth, greater connectivity, closer integration and deeper harmony. It wants to expand its commonalities and manage its differences. It is prepared to shoulder greater responsibility and expects that this would be duly reflected in the structure of the international order. With specific reference to India’s ties with the US and China, we approach them both positively. In doing so, we look beyond the 20th century orthodoxies.

 

Recently, prime minister Narendra Modi launched three mega urban schemes – Smart Cities Mission, Atal Mission for Rejuvenation and Urban Transformation (AMRUT) and Housing for All in urban area setting in motion the process of urban transformation.

The schemes would help urban poor through increased access to water supply, sewer connections, public transportation, housing, improved urban governance ensuring transparency and accountability and better delivery of services and enhanced employment opportunities.

For smart city development, each selected city will be provided central assistance of Rs 100 crore per year. Under AMRUT, allocation of funds will be as per urban population and number of cities/towns in each state/UT. The government is looking at PPP model as the main resource of resource mobilization.

Commenting on Smart Cities Mission, DrAnand Agarwal, CEO, Sterlite Technologies said, “We are fully aligned with the government’s vision of creating smart cities as new engines for empowerment and growth. India is on the verge of the biggest technology revolution and as a leader in developing optical communication products and end-to-end digital solutions, Sterlite has the requisite capacities and capabilities to execute this vision.”

Speaking on Smart Cities Project, Anil Chaudhry, country president and managing director, Schneider Electric said, “The launch of the Smart Cities and AMRUT, in essence, will change the face of India’s municipal and social infrastructure. To support India’s growing population and provide housing to all, cities and towns need to be sustainable and liveable. In this aspect, integrated solutions to create an all-pervasive ‘smartness’ in the fields of transport and mobility, water management, building management and energy efficiency will play a critical role in shaping the government’s vision.”

We are quite upbeat that the Rs 3 lakh crore allocated by the government for this mission will induce active participation from all stakeholders,” added Chaudhry.

Koichiro Koide, MD, NEC India said, “What is commendable is that the three schemes together not only focus on developing 100 smart cities across different states but also commit to readying a few hundred more to become smart cities in the next phase, while making them better immediately for its citizens with better housing and urban transformation. This practical approach clearly indicates the intent of the government of an all-round development for all regions in the country.”

“With this step taken, the launch of the guidelines will help channelizing the resources, funds, expertise in the right direction and will act as a trigger in propelling the development of smart cities mission in India. We will continue to contribute to Indian smart cities mission creating “Solutions for Society,” and our reinvention as a “Social Value Innovator”, added Koide.

AnandNavani, country manager, Verint Systems India said, “Public private partnership will be key in taking this initiative further, residents along with city leadership will be instrumental in implementing Smart Cities across the country.”

“We at Verint Systems have been a part of the Smart City initiative in India from its inception and believe that this announcement highlight’s the central government’s renewed focus and commitment to the cause,” commented Navani.

The Narendra Modi government is planning to select 100 smart cities under the Smart Cities Mission through a two stage competition. In the stage-1 of city challenge competition, each state and union territory will score all their cities based on a set of criteria and nominate the top scorers as per the indicated number of potential smart cities for participation in the stage-2 of competition.

In the second stage, 20 top scorers will be chosen for financing during this financial year. The remaining would be asked to make up the deficiencies identified by the apex committee in the ministry of urban development for participation in the next two rounds of competition. 40 cities each will be selected for financing during the next rounds of competition.

Sectors

  • Smart Water and Waste Management
  • Clean Energy
  • Smart Transportation
  • Smart IT & Communications
  • Smart Buildings
  • Smart Education
  • Smart Health
  • Smart Security and Safety

World’s Top 7 Smart Cities Of 2015 Are Not The Ones You’d Expect

You are probably familiar with the concept of the Smart City, a city which uses digital technologies to improve the quality of public and private services, while reducing costs and resource consumption. The Intelligent Community Forum (ICF), a a New York-based think tank, prefers to focus on Intelligent Communities, defined as “cities and regions that use technology not just to save money or make things work better, but also to create high-quality employment, increase citizen participation and become great places to live and work.”

Every year, since 1999, the ICF has been naming he world’s most intelligent community. Last Thursday the organizations announced the list of finalists for 2015, which included 7 cities and towns from 5 different nations: three from the United States, one from Australia, one from Brazil, one from Canada, and one from Taiwan. Except perhaps for Rio de Janeiro, the names selected are not the ones you would expect to find in such a ranking. Huge conglomerates like London, New York, Tokyo or Mexico City, did not make it to the top seven; rather, the candidates are mainly mid-sized cities, that have found in the “broadband economy’”a way to rethink themselves. The overall winner will be announced at the ICF’s annual summit in Toronto in June.

Here’s a brief overview of the seven finalists:

Arlington County, Virginia, USA

Image Credits, Arlington County on Flickr

Arlington County benefited a lot, in the past, from being close to Washington DC and being home to the Pentagon, the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency and the National Science Foundation. But decisions by the US Department of Defense will empty 3.2 million square feet and export 13,000 jobs over the next several years. The county is seeking to reduce its vulnerability to Federal decision-making, through “The Arlington Way”, a formal structure of more than 40 citizen advisory groups and commissions, which influence decisions on everything from land use to technology, and with the Telecom Master Plan, a public-sector fiber network which seeks to reinvent the way citizens engage with government.

Columbus, Ohio, USA

Image redits Aloha75 on Flickr

Home to the highest metropolitan concentration of Fortune 1000 companies in America, but also to a a large, low-income population stranded by the decline of low-skilled factory employment, Columbus is trying to bridge the gap between these two worlds through collaboration among government, education, business and institutions. Thanks to startup acceleration programs, business mentoring, seed funding and capital attraction, Columbus has been one of a handful of U.S. metros that turned a brain drain in 2005-2007 into brain gain in 2007-2009.  Employment growth in skilled manufacturing has exceeded 35% over the past decade and, in 2013, Columbus was named one of the top 10 cities in the US for new college grads.

Ipswich, Queensland, Australia

Image Credits:  Jan Smith on Flickr

In 2011, the city of Ipswich published a 20-year economic development plan. It forecast the addition of 292,000 new residents and 120,000 jobs. The city has just commenced a major redevelopment of its center, where digital technologies will be used to attract commercial and residential tenants and to improve public safety. Green standards will make the city center one of the most sustainable in Australia, so much so that when the plan is completed, in 2031, it will mark the emergence of one of Australia’s model cities.

Mitchell, South Dakota, USA

Image Credits: Swecias on Flickr

In the past mainly a rural city, that the most brilliant and ambitious left behind in search of a brighter future elsewhere, in recent years Mitchell has been able to create another economy on top of the agricultural one. The Mitchell Technical Institute (MTI) has invested $40 million in a new technology-based campus, where it trains hundreds of communications and data technicians, and a local angel investors network has sprung up and begun incubating new communications startups. Engineering, consulting and software companies have made Mitchell into a regional hub for expertise and services, transforming the city in a magnet for ICT talent.

New Taipei City, Taiwan

Image Credits:  Fuhaku08 on Flickr

For the second time in a row in the top seven, New Taipei City (NTC), created in 2010 from the county surrounding Taiwan’s capital city of Taipei, is developing a knowledge-based economy to power its future. The focus has been mainly on broadband: the household penetration rate is at 91% with 87% on 100 Mbps service.  NTC has also connected more than 300 schools, put tablets and computers into classrooms and has facilitated the installation of more than 10,000 Wi-Fi hotspots in convenience stores. Massive investment went into high-speed roads and rails to unite the doughnut-shaped city, while broadband advances coupled with a Knowledge-Bridge project has driven industry-university collaboration projects and provided talent and job matchmaking.

Rio de Janeiro, Brazil

Image Credits: Tassia Menezes

Probably the best known of the pack, Rio is more famous however for its beaches, Carnival spirit and favelas than for being a vibrant business hub. But preparation for the 2014 World Cup and the 2016 Olympic Games has given the city the chance to revitalize itself, create a better transportation system and deal with long-standing infrastructure problems. ICT programs such as the Rio Datamine (an open-data system that makes available vast amounts of city information) are also playing an important role in giving a boost to the economy. The municipality has built Knowledge Squares in nearly 40 low-income, crime-ridden neighborhoods, and 32 digital facilities which have provided digital literacy training to 69,000 citizens. Thanks also to the discovery of vast offshore oil fields, Rio is now receiving twice the foreign direct investment of Sao Paulo.

Surrey, British Columbia, Canada

Image Credits: Richard Eriksson on Flckr

Surrey is Canada’s third fastest-growing city, part of the metropolitan area of Vancouver. To foster development, is focusing on a project called Innovation Boulevard, overseen by the Mayor’s Health Technology Working Group, comprised of 50 representatives from universities, a health authority, nonprofits, business associations, government and developers. City, universities and business are building clusters in health technology, clean tech and advanced manufacturing, and a range of smart-city systems are improving livability and better engaging with citizens. The goal is to boost local employment by almost 50%.


 

Platform : India Leadership Conclave 

Speaker : Dr. Lalit Surajmal Kanodia

Topic : Smart Cities


 

Dr. Lalit Surajmal Kanodia, Ph.D., MIT, USA is Founder of Datamatics Group of Companies and has been its Chairman of the Board since 1975. Dr. Kanodia founded Datamatics in 1975 and has been an Executive Chairman at Datamatics Technologies, Ltd. since February 8, 2006. He serves as Chief Mentor at Datamatics. He drives all innovation, new product development and quality initiatives at Datamatics. Dr. Kanodia founded the Indian IT industry in India. He has over 30 years of rich and varied experience in the field of information technology products and services. He is an Executive Member of NASSCOM, the apex body of the IT-BPO industry in India. He has also been designated as the Honorary Consul General of Chile in India by the Government of Chile. In the past, he has held several eminent positions with various industry associations, which include- President of the Management Consultant’s Association of India and Chairman (Western Region) of the Electronics & Computer Software. He serves as Chairman of the Board of Datamatics Financial Services Ltd. He has been the Chairman at Datamatics Global Services Ltd. since February 8, 2006. He served as the Chairman of IDream Film Infrastructure Company Ltd. He served as the Chairman of Datamatics Limited. Dr. Kanodia serves as Director of RPG Life Sciences Limited. He also serves as Director of Cybercom Datamatics Information Solutions Ltd, Datamatics Technosoft Limited, Datamatics Information Technology Limited, Zed-tech Software Designs (India) Limited, Datamatics Software Services Limited, Datamatics Infosolutions Limited, Amal Products Limited, Datamatics Worldwide Services ApS, Datamatics Technologies Inc., Datamatics Infotech Inc., Datamatics Consultants Limited, Knowledgeworks Global Limited, CorPay Solutions Inc. Datamatics Inc. and Datamatics Technologies UK Limited. He serves as Board Member of CIGNEX Datamatics Corporation. He has also been an Executive Director of Datamatics Technologies Ltd. since May 16, 2005. He served as a Director of Saztec International Inc. since October 19, 2000; IDream Film Infrastructure Company Ltd since May 2005; Brabourne Enterprises Ltd until June 18, 2008; Datamatics Global Services Ltd (SOFTBPO Global Services Ltd) since May 2005 and Datamatics Limited. He has served as the President of the Management Consultants Association of India and is a member of various committees and councils. He is an international consultant and has held the post of consultant to Ford Motor Co. and Arthur D. Little, USA. Dr. Kanodia worked with TCS and held overall charge of the organization during 1968-69. He taught statistical decision theory at MIT from 1964 to 1965. He was also the visiting faculty for MBA students at the Jamnalal Bajaj Institute of Management, Mumbai from 1968 to 1970. His inspirational leadership has led Datamatics to be conferred with various awards over the years, including the Most Innovative Software Product Award, the International Asia Pacific Quality Award and being ranked among the top 50 best managed outsourcing vendors by ‘The Black Book of Outsourcing’. Dr. Kanodia has won a Ford Foundation Fellowship (on the basis of national selection in the USA) for his Ph.D. He won the distinguished Alumnus Award of IIT, Mumbai at their 25th Anniversary Celebration in 1983 for ”Entrepreneurship” from the President of India and was awarded Order of Merit for Management & honored as Samajshree, by the Council of Management Executives in 1994 in recognition of services rendered to the public. He was included by Dataquest, an Indian computer magazine, in their January 1995 issue, as one of the ten persons in their “Hall of Fame”. He is a B. Tech (Hons.) from IIT, Powai, Mumbai, M.B.A. and Ph.D. in Computer Science from Massachusetts Institute of Technology, USA. Dr. Kanodia completed his doctorate in Management from MIT.

How can we fix India’s broken system & fix bugs in the policy? – India@58

In the endless list of policy prescriptions made by the pundits after the declaration of the general election results there has been precious little commentary on possible judicial reforms despite a near national consensus that our judicial system is broken. This is a rather surprising state of affairs given the lost decade of judicial reforms under the UPA government. On the rare occasion that the national conversation veers towards the topic of clearing the pendency backlog, the ideas under discussion are rather uninspiring. Suggestions for evening courts or fewer court holidays fail to understand the fundamental problems with the Indian judicial system.

INDIA has been growing steadily richer in recent years, but it still has more malnourished people, especially children, than any other country. A big, nationwide study from 2005 and 2006, the National Family Health Survey (NFHS), found that 42.5% of children under five years old were underweight. The region with the next highest proportion of underweight children is Africa, with an average of 21%. Another measure of malnutrition is stunting, when children are unusually short for their age. Again, India’s problems were shown to be unusually bad.

Now comes some good news. In 2013 and 2014 the UN agency for children, Unicef, and India’s government conducted a new study called the Rapid Survey on Children (RSOC). The purpose was to gather up-to-date figures to use in the interim before the next big NFHS survey, which is under way. The RSOC report has unfortunately not been published, but The Economist obtained a copy.

It points to some striking national trends. For example the proportion of underweight children has fallen from 42.5% a decade ago, to just under 30% now. There have been similar improvements on stunting, wasting and other measures of malnutrition. The national immunisation rate has risen and the rate of open defecation is down from 55% of households to 45%.

Really interesting, however, is the breakdown of results by state, presented here. By and large social and health indicators across India follow predictable patterns. In states with higher incomes, those nearer the coast and farther south, most health indicators are better. Typical high achievers are Kerala and Tamil Nadu. In landlocked states, poorer ones and in the north, social and health results are usually worse. Notorious backward states include Bihar and Uttar Pradesh. North-eastern states are often outliers, both poor and landlocked but often with high rates of literacy and better health.

Results from the RSOC mostly bear out these trends. Everywhere has seen a reduction in the share of underweight children and in stunting. But it is striking that on occasion higher incomes do not correlate with the biggest health gains. Maharashtra and Gujarat are both states with relatively prosperous people, but Maharashtra’s nutrition levels are better than Gujarat’s. This is also true for rates of immunisation and of open defecation. It appears that Maharashtra’s government has put more emphasis on tackling nutrition problems, for example among its adivasi, or tribal, population.

Two crucial factors are worth looking at. Lower rates of open defecation correlate well with reduced malnutrition. When children live and play in clean environments they are less likely to be infected with parasites that make it hard to absorb nutrients. And states that focus on helping girls and young mothers probably do better at breaking long-term cycles of malnutrition. Where teenage girls have a low body-mass index there seems a greater likelihood mothers will give birth to undernourished children. Proper nutrition for girls and women should be a priority.

Pendency is only one issue facing the Indian judiciary. The more substantial issues concern the quality of justice and accountability. Both these issues are inextricably linked to the lack of transparency in almost all aspects of the judiciary’s functioning and there is precious little that is being done to remedy the situation.

As the RTI Act has demonstrated, transparency can dramatically alter the status quo in powerful institutions because as Justice Brandies once commented “sunlight is said to be the best of disinfectants” and the Indian judiciary needs a lot of sunlight. Unfortunately, as will be explained below, the Indian judiciary has almost excluded itself from the ambit of the RTI Act.

Accountability through statistics

Let’s start with the issue of statistics on case pendency and judicial backlog. There is no single database in the country which collects statistics regarding various aspects of pending cases in each and every courtroom of India. In 2004 eminent lawyer and Senior Advocate Mr. Fali S. Nariman who was then a MP in the Rajya Sabha introduced in Parliament the Judicial Statistics Bill, 2004. This proposed legislation was aimed at creating authorities at the national and state level to collect, in a scientific manner, statistics from each and every courtroom regarding the hours taken by the Court to hear the dispute, the time between the filing of the case and hearing by the court, the adjournments granted, time taken for delivery of judgment after it has been reserved, along with the names of the lawyers and judges responsible for the case. Imagine the possibilities if all this data was made available on a computerized database. Not only would it provide information on the efficacy of the judges but also help litigants separate the litigating lawyers from the adjournment lawyers. (Frontline carried an interesting story on the bill over here.)

Nariman’s intention of introducing such a bill was to help in better data collection so as to facilitate a better study of the judiciary but was against using it as a tool of accountability. In his interview to Frontline, he said “I don’t like confrontation with the judiciary. The objective is to try and discern whether anything can be done better by inspiring judges and lawyers. The Bill cannot be a new source of litigation. A citizen, if properly motivated, can use the statistics, provide for himself a mechanism and an opportunity to get greater inputs than what is now available, to do something without the fear of contempt.”

Notwithstanding Nariman’s stand, the true value of this data collected through the Judicial Statistics Bill, 2004 was the tremendous impact that it would have on judicial accountability because once statistics on the functioning of courts are placed in the public domain it is only a matter of time before policy wonks can track trends and publicly separate the inefficient courtrooms from the efficient court rooms. Unfortunately for India, the UPA lacked the vision to enact this bill.

For far too long the judiciary has taken refuge under the cloak of judicial independence to avoid any accountability

The judiciary’s battle against the RTI

The battle for greater transparency in the internal workings of the judiciary should have strengthened after the enactment of the Right to Information Act. Unfortunately, judicial attitudes to the RTI Act, especially that of the Supreme Court’s Registry, have been rather hostile. Three cases highlight the judicial ‘hostility’ to the RTI Act.

In the first case, when a RTI activist filed an application with the Supreme Court, in 2007, asking for disclosure of the assets of all Supreme Court judges the Registry of the Supreme Court fought the RTI applicant all the way to the Delhi High Court which ordered the Supreme Court Registry to disclose the information in 2009. (The judgment can be read here) Even then the Supreme Court Registry appealed to the Supreme Court itself but after a revolt in the ranks the list of assets were made public. The appeal to the Supreme Court is yet to be decided.

In the second case, a RTI activist Commodore Batra, had filed a RTI application with the Supreme Court asking for the number of cases reserved by its judges for judgment between 2007 and 2009. The Supreme Court Registry refused to provide such information on the grounds that it did not maintain such records. The Central Information Commission (CIC) over-ruled the Supreme Court Registry on August 3, 2011 and ordered the Registry to provide the information to the applicant. Instead of conceding to the CIC, the Supreme Court filed an appeal before the Delhi High Court in 2011 and the matter has been pending since then.

The third case involves the applicability of the RTI Act to legal pleadings and other public documents held by registries of various courts. Even before the RTI Act, the internal rules of most courts across the country allowed for litigants to access pleadings held by the registry. The difference between the internal rules of these Courts and the RTI Act is that the latter provides for a delightfully simply mechanism to access the information. On the other hand, accessing information under the internal rules of the court is complicated and out of bounds for most common people who will have to conduct the process through a lawyer or a court clerk. Most courts across the country, including the Registry of the Supreme Court have flat out rejected the applicability of the RTI Act to access pleadings that are otherwise available under the internal rules of the Court.

In contradictory decisions, two different commissioners of the CIC came to diametrically opposite conclusions. The CIC judgment ordering the Supreme Court Registry to make available even pleadings under the RTI Act has been appealed to the Delhi High Court by the Registrar of the Supreme Court in 2011 and the appeal continues to languish before the High Court.

Forcing transparency on the judiciary

Like all powerful institutions the judiciary isn’t going to volunteer more information about itself because it is well aware that increased transparency will make it more vulnerable to criticism. At times, arguments have been made that increased transparency will impinge on judicial independence. However such arguments need to be dismissed with contempt.

As Nariman stated in his interview with Frontline “Judicial independence means deciding cases without being influenced by anybody. But disseminating information about how many cases get decided in the courts will not compromise judicial independence at all. This is a wrong impression that the judiciary, among all organs of the government, must remain totally secretive, and nobody must know anything that is happening in the judiciary.”

For far too long the judiciary has taken refuge under the cloak of judicial independence to avoid any accountability.

Parliament must enact the Judicial Statistics Bill, 2004 along with amendments to the RTI Act to force the judiciary to be more transparent.

A long-awaited report on electoral reforms issued by India’s law commission has failed to introduce a ceiling on poll spending by parties, perhaps the most serious lacuna in the country’s political system, because it gives a huge advantage to those supported by the wealthy.

 The report, released last week, has retained the ceiling on what individual politicians can spend in their constituency at between Rs54 lakh and Rs70 lakh, with the exact value depending upon the size of the electoral area. But in the absence of a cap on what parties as a whole can spend to promote themselves before an election, these limits on individual expenditure will make only a slight difference in creating a level-playing field for all parties.
  In the 2014 general election, the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), which swept to victory, spent Rs714 crore and the ousted Congress spent Rs516 crore, according to the data the parties filed with the election commission. All parties must file this information within 90 days from the last day of polling. But one estimate pegs the BJP’s spending just on advertising at seven times the total official amount, of around Rs5,000 crore.
 The law commission, an executive body set up to advise the government on legal reforms, has, however, attempted to improve disclosures on the sources of funding—perhaps the next-most important electoral reform, one linked to overall transparency in the political process. The Association of Democratic Reforms, a non-partisan advocacy group, estimates that nearly three-fourths of national parties’ total income now comes from unknown sources.
 

The main loophole with disclosure was the fact that while parties had to reveal to the election commission the names of donors who gave amounts greater than Rs20,000, they did not have to do so for smaller sums. In order to avoid disclosure, parties therefore often broke up larger donations from one source into parcels of less than Rs20,000.

 But the report has now clarified that parties must reveal the identity of an entity or individual who donates more than Rs20,000 in all. This means parties cannot resort to the sleight of hand of passing off big donations from one source as smaller ones.
 Moreover, parties will now have to reveal sources of donations even if they are less than Rs20,000 each in denomination if the total funds collected in these smaller amounts crosses Rs20 crore or 20% of the parties’ total income, whichever is less.
 The Bahujan Samaj Party, for example, has used this loophole for eight years in a row. In 2013, it declared that it had received Rs307.31 crore from voluntary contributions between 2004 and 2013, but did not disclose any of the donors’ names, claiming that none of the amounts was more than Rs20,000.
 

Stricter penalties

Parties will attract heavier penalties for not filing information or not doing so on time. If the election commission finds a party to have wilfully filed wrong information, it can now levy a fine of up to Rs50 lakh.

 A candidate who fails to file the necessary information within 90 days after the end of a general election can be barred for five years from contesting an election—instead of three previously. The fine for political parties who fail to file information on time will be Rs25,000 per day, up from Rs10,000, and they could also lose tax benefits.
 

Given that none of the major parties filed expenditure statements on time after the 2014 general elections, these higher penalties could help. The deadline to file expenditures was August 26, 2014, but the two major parties—the Congress and the BJP—filed their expenses only in December and January, respectively.