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  • 12/16/17--22:00: A sash of safety
  • With the increasing number of vehicles in the city, accidents are a common sight these days. The reasons for this vary from rash driving to neglecting ones safety. And Bengaluru Traffic Police is making all effort to rectify this situation - from enforcing the use of helmets for both the biker and the pillion rider to encouraging people to not use mobile phones while driving.

    However, another common scenario in Bengaluru is the unwillingness to wear seatbelts. Seatbelts for the longest time have been known as live savers. In fact, a report by the World Health Organisation says, wearing it reduces the risk of a fatality for the front seat passengers by 40-50 percent and 25-75 percent in case of rear-seat passengers. But, looks like people choose comfort over safety.

    Though Rajath Paul, an engineering student, feels that wearing a seatbelt is of utmost importance, he also questions its role in metropolitan cities like Bengaluru and Mumbai where there is slow-moving traffic.

    He explains, "It is obviously important to wear a seatbelt for ones own safety. But what if a car is hardly moving, how does wearing a seatbelt make a difference? Anyway, drivers and passengers are agitated and tired of the slow-moving traffic, and wearing a seatbelt and being confined to their seat will only add to the irritability."

    He also points out that many people abstain from wearing seatbelts because it can mess up their carefully arranged outfit. "For someone on their way to an important meeting, a seatbelt is an inconvenience that can wrinkle their shirt or leave a sweat mark below the belt," he says with a laugh.

    He also points out that if a vehicle is moving at a high speed on the highway and empty roads, wearing a seat belt must be made mandatory for everyone, including the person in the rear seat.

    Dechka Astha Kumar, a student, believes that with the rate at which the number of accidents is increasing every year, its time that people become more sensible and responsible as motorists. She says, "If people are more careful and cautious, they will not only do themselves a favour but also their fellow motorists. Obviously, the Bengaluru Traffic Police is doing their bit to put a full stop to this reckless behaviour but we as citizens also need to spread awareness among people."

    She adds, "However, I myself know some people who tend to brush off this topic whenever I explain the importance of wearing a seatbelt. This, I believe, is a careless attitude and needs to be changed."

    Well, as the saying goes, better safe than sorry.
    Its high time we as individuals take a step forward to lend our support to campaigns and awareness drives and make our roads
    a safer place.


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  • 12/16/17--22:02: On the road again
  • This photograph was taken in 2011 when my husband (Rakesh) and I decided to go on a trip with our friends Sajin and Divya. We both share the same wedding anniversary date and ever since we remember we have always spent it together. The four of us usually plan a trip and head out to try some delicious food and explore the place. This photograph was taken on Rakesh and my second wedding anniversary. We were on our way to Kerala where we travelled through Kozhikode and Wayanad. It was one of the best trips together as it was also the celebration of buying our first car.

    During our road trip, we went shopping in Tirupur, stopped to enjoy the backwaters at Kumarakom and had some of the best dishes at Mattancherry. This trip also became a special trip for us as our daughter Megan came into our lives a year later. I recollect our first anniversary which was at Puducherry also being about food, fun and lots of shopping. Sajin and Divya are a few years ahead of us in their anniversary celebrations but they still celebrate it with us. Even though many years have passed since, its become a tradition to spend our anniversaries together. Though we have a daughter now and Sajin and Divya have a dog, the time we give to each other hasnt changed. Our daughter and the dog have become best buddies now!

    Our hangouts wouldnt be too fancy. We enjoy our occasional (read very often) house parties where we come together to cook some delicious food and have fun. Sajin and I met as we were colleagues but even after our respective spouses came into our lives, nothing has changed. Rakesh and I run our own company Happy Knots, Divya is an independent architect and Sajin has his own company. We are all busy with our lives but that doesnt stop us from catching up regularly.

    Though we dont head out of Bengaluru for our anniversaries anymore, we head to a resort on the outskirts and spend a day there. Were glad that we have wonderful friends like them in our lives and we will continue to cherish our friendship for the years to come. Its like they say, The most beautiful discovery true friends make is that they can grow separately without growing apart.


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  • 12/16/17--22:08: Rock, paper, scissors...
  • It was a prize in grade seven that turned Nanditha Sandeeps focus towards the world of arts and craft. "We had an annual event called Open day in school where children displayed their artistic creations. My artwork was chosen as the best that year and it is still one of my most cherished memories," she says.

    She kept at her hobby over the years with praises and encouragement coming her way. Now the entrepreneur has an extensive inventory as well as a place in the Limca Book of Records to her credit.

    "After marriage, I decided to do something while sitting at home. Within a span of a year, I made 1,000 paintings of Lord Ganesha. I did so with an aim to set a record but someone had already done the same thing."

    Nanditha refused to give up and set about creating a unique dress for her daughter - a long gown made entirely of 1,000 Dairy Milk wrappers. A record was set and recognition followed.

    "Everyone was impressed, especially my family. They knew the struggle and effort I had put in for my paintings so when I didnt get the record, they thought I would give up. But the frock was next and they were all so proud of me," says Nanditha.

    Now Nanditha makes a variety of things, which are proudly displayed on her Facebook page. From explosion boxes (a type of photo album) to name boards, she manages to give a colourful twist to even the most mundane items. Zentangles, sospeso art, laser cutting, decoupage - everything finds a way into her artefacts.

    "My favourites are the scrap album. Each and every page has to be different yet creative. In designs, I love working with zentangles. When I incorporate this into my work, the finishing is very good. Its a very satisfying process; more so because I can directly draw these with a pen," she explains.

    She spends about three hours a day in her world of images and colours. Her inspirations are varied and range from a print on a bedspread to a picture on social media. She aims to make her themes and colour combinations as different as possible ("my favourite colours are pink and white though"), though this can sometimes be a challenging task. "When I dont get something right, I will be upset but I keep trying. I take it as a challenge and ensure that I get it right eventually, no matter how tough it is or how many attempts I have to make," she points out.

    Asked about the requirements to stand out in the field she explains, "An interest in arts and craft is necessary. Not everyone has a flair for it. Those who have the capacity can just pick it up but others can hone their interest and skill by way of workshops and classes. Patience is also necessary."


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  • 12/16/17--22:10: Driving home a message
  • Christmas and New Year are just around the corner and travelling across the city to take part in festivities, especially for women, can be a challenge. This is where a safe ride home becomes imperative. There are lot of cab services offered exclusively for women and these are also driven by women.
    Metrolife spoke to women drivers and representatives of service providers to understand the safety options involved in such a commute.

    Anuradha B M, co-founder of Go Pink, says, "We do not have women taxi drivers in Bengaluru. We have to hire and train them. There may be hardly 50 women drivers. So, the ratio is still less when compared to the female population that we may have to cater to. This is despite working two and a half years towards training women drivers."

    "We cater to only women and men from their family accompanying them. Many senior citizens whose children are staying abroad book cabs for picking them up and dropping them to temples, hospitals etc," she says.

    "Since it is the festive season, there are many people who will be partying or going to churches for the mass. We do cater to them depending on the behaviour of the client as we are also concerned about our drivers safety when they go to such places during odd hours."

    Most of these drivers are put through a training period of 60 to 90 days and face a skill test at the end of it. Post which they are all taught self-defense and put through etiquette training. They are also given English coaching classes to communicate with our clients. Roopa, a driver with Go Pink, says, "We hear remarks or derogatory comments while driving but we keep our cool because it is our duty to safely drive our customers to their destination. People purposely overtake you so we allow them to pass by slowing down."

    Meera, a driver with TaxShe says, "We are all trained not to react to people who pass lewd comments. For safety purposes, we carry a knife and a pepperspray. But luckily we have not faced such instances till date." When asked about their uniforms, she says, "We do not use white uniforms. We use a black coat on coloured clothes so that as women we do not face any issues."

    Pradeep Nayak, operations head of Women Cabs, says, "All our cabs have GPS tracking systems and panic buttons placed in all the vehicles. This is mapped to the operations team, including the boss. There are five people at the back end office. There is also an sms trigger with a timeline of 0-2 minutes."

    "We have a routine mock drill with our registered clients as well as with the drivers. Till date there is no drop in these trigger controls but if the instrument doesnt work during the mock drills, we immediately replace them with our partner firms. In the night, we avoid bookings from isolated areas which could be risky. We ask the drivers to take the safest routes during night like Outer Ring Roads or main roads," he says.

    "If a vehicle breaks down, then the nearby person reaches out to the drivers. We have about 25 people spread across the city and three to four people near the airport. The drivers are also being instructed to check air pressure in tyres, at least thrice in a week," Pradeep adds.

    Chayashree, a driver with Women Cabs, says, "I feel if more women begin to drive, then people will consider us on par with men. Then women cab drivers will not be an unusual thing. Once this is achieved, peoples perspective will change and they will consider us like any other driver."

    Priyadarshini, another driver with Women Cabs says, "Most of our male counterparts driving for Ola, Uber or Meru cabs, are surprised when we go for pickup at the airport at midnight. They also have respect for us and our families as they feel we are very confident."

    "Sometimes they also compliment us by saying, What are we going to do if women work at midnight and make us jobless?"
    Priyadarshini says with a smile.


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  • 12/16/17--22:12: For the young and restless
  • The brand caters to the curious and adventurous souls. It encourages the customer to explore, wonder and discover. In the latest collection, The Dessert Nomad and Wild Kingdom depict the basic principles of what the brand stands for.

    The colours, graphics and prints of the Dessert Nomad collection are designed to give a complete safari look for those with an innate passion for travel and adventure. The elements used for the collection blend fashion and nature coherently. Wild Kingdom is inspired by the jungle traveller and for people running their day-to-day life in a totally different setup.

    The collection uses the elements of animals in order to aptly represent the features. Elements like dragonflies and camouflage of animal skin clearly highlight the edginess of the collection. Outfits in this line include fit stretchable cargo pants, reversible shorts, animal skin printed shorts, camouflaged T-shirts and cameo jackets, to name a few.

    Speaking about the collection, Shibani Mishra, chief marketing officer, FLF, brand-division, says, "Dessert Nomad is inspired by travellers. The prints and graphics are inspired by fossils and the dusty and rugged look gives the line a complete desert safari look. And the Wild Kingdom collection has prints and graphics inspired by animals and camouflaged of animal skin."

    The brand encourages effortless dressing for people who are carefree, with an attitude that is subtle yet has its own edginess.

    Urmila Mandangada a student of KIMS kept her look sporty by wearing a crop top with a pair of joggers.

    Punchline: "My outfit was casual yet very stylish. The best part was one can wear it as a gym wear or for an outdoor activity."

    Price: Crop top (Rs 899) and joggers (Rs 1,699).

    Aishwarya Baruah from CMRIT wore an army-printed top and paired it with black shorts.

    Punchline: "My attire was an easy wear. It can be worn with heels or with a pair of sneakers, according to ones mood and need."

    Price: Top (Rs 899) and shorts (Rs 1,299).

    Rashmi Madhuri, a graduate of National College, Jayanagar wore a knee-length checked shirt dress.

    Punchline: "This dress was a combination of both style and comfort. The light and breathable fabric is a good option for biking or trekking too."

    Price: Shirt dress (Rs 1,799)

    Vaishali Rajput of Mount Carmel College slipped into a beige- coloured shirt and olive green shorts.

    Punchline: "The khaki and olive green colours instantly enhance ones look. I would definitely wear this outfit for a day out with friends."

    Price: Shirt (Rs 1,399) and shorts (Rs 1,199).

    Ashika Kumar from Mount Carmel College slipped into a camouflage print shift dress.

    Punchline: "The dress gave me a pretty relaxed look. The print on the outfit is trending at the moment. I loved the colour combination."

    Price: Shift dress (Rs1,399)

    Bhakti Devraj, from Dayananda Sagar College of Engineering, wore a shirt and cargo pants.

    Punchline: "The shirt and the cargo pants gave me a cool and confident look. It will be great for college and while camping."

    Price: Shirt (Rs 999) and cargo pants (Rs 1,899).


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  • 12/16/17--22:12: The tale of Hulk and Sulk
  • There has been no looking back since Charlie and Cairo came into my life. And they have debunked myths and broken many stereotypes. Charlie is a three-year-old rottweiler and Cairo is a five-year-old golden retriever, who have been with me as grown up dogs, they both are adopted furry friends.

    Charlie came first. He was that rottweiler bought as a status symbol who became too much to handle because of the high energy and training needs. He was left tied to the gate all day and all night. I came to know about him through a post on social media and soon enough, he was mine.

    Cairo is a golden retriever who was abandoned at Cubbon Park. Some morning walkers took her into their custody and later she spent time at Anvis Pet Care, from where I adopted her.

    Charlie, being a rottweiler, has unknowingly earned the infamous tag of being an aggressive pet, but this fellow doesnt even know what it is to be aggressive. More often than not, I have to deal with people screaming and shouting when they see him because they think a rottweiler will rip ones face off. That said, his adoption wasnt a cakewalk, he needed to be dealt with a firm hand and consistent training.

    On the other hand, I have Cairo, she is a big ball of fuzz who is so eager to please everyone. You just have to say it once to her and she would have learnt it. Anyone who says you cant teach an old dog new tricks, has not met Cairo.

    She has the most dramatic eyes ever. If you talk to her in the same tone used for Charlie, she will consider it the end of the world. She needs to be spoken to with tender loving care, else you will have to deal with a sulking furry child all day! I call the duo Hulk and Sulk.

    Charlie has been with me for two years and Cairo just completed a year. They
    are the thickest of friends but the moment they are naughty, the will outbeat each other. There are times I look at them and feel jealous, what a life they have - eat, sleep, play - repeat. Though they are complete opposites of each other, their love for the other is too evident to ignore.

    I have an 8 am to 5 pm job and people often ask me about who looks after the dogs when I am at work. My answer is that they look after themselves. Its a misconception that when one gets a dog, one needs to assign someone to look after the dog. Dogs needs their time and space too. After I am back, its undivided attention.


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  • 12/16/17--22:12: Sooraj denies fight rumours
  • It seems that rumours of Sooraj Pancholi having a problem with Sushant Singh Rajput over the latters alleged misbehavior with him havent gone down well with the actors. Both are considered close friends and have been spotted hanging out together on several occasions.

    "The reports doing the rounds are completely baseless. Sushant and Sooraj are good friends and hang out a lot socially. In fact they even met last week. Naysayers hinted at a possibility of a fight between the two but they laughed it off recently at a common friends birthday party and even posted a mock fighting image shutting down the rumours," said a close source, denying the reports. He added, "These vicious lies are a figment of someones imagination as in reality it is far from the truth."

    Sooraj himself reveals, "These rumours are completely baseless and ridiculous. Sushant and I are like brothers and in fact we just hung out last week!"


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  • 12/17/17--01:34: Music and dance reviews
  • Ghata galore

    Vikku Vinayakram is a great Ghatam Maestro, known all over the world. His 75th Birthday was celebrated in a unique way, by the Sunadam Trust, in collaboration with the Indira Gandhi National Centre for the Arts.

    The programme started aptly with the lyrics "Kumbarati" of Shishunal Sharief. 75 Ghatam players (It actually exceeded 75 by the time they started) from different states - right from 7 to 75 years young - led by Vikku Vinayakram himself. Divided into 13 groups named after the rivers of India, in different permutation and combinations like - 13 types of thalas, 10.5, 3 1/2=14 and 5.5, 4.5 = 10 - so on. After each group playing individually, all of them joined together to reach great heights. Of course Vinayakram stole the show with his unmatched strokes and in the end, they played in unison and took it to a crescendo. Kudos to Sukanya Ramgopal for organising such a mega event.

    Colourful dance festival

    The Adyasha Foundation held the Shishirachaanda - a celebration of dance and the seasons - in which Bharathanatya, Kathak, Odissi, Kuchipudi and Kathakali recitals were performed by seasoned artistes,

    Madhu Nataraj, who gave the inaugural dance programme, is not only a senior Kathak artist but also a well known contemporary dancer. The "Matha Bhavani" gave Madhu Nataraj a pleasant start and the Akkamahadevi Vachana "Kaanutha Kaanutha" - was appealing. The thumri was again proof of her experience and talent.

    Beautiful Odissi

    Padmasri Aruna Mohanty is one of the reputed Odissi dancers of India and a choreographer. She opened her programme with Samsara", the souls journey, from childhood to old age, which was executed with a good feeling. In the "Bhumi-Sutaa" the portrayal of Seetha lend credibility to her inheritance feeling, which glowed with an evocative performance of Aruna Mohanty.

    Matured Abhinaya

    Guru Bhanumathi, is a reputed Bharathanatya dancer, a fine choreographer, more than all, a popular teacher (Nritya Kala Mandira). So also Sheela Chandrasekhar is another senior dancer and an able teacher.

    Bhanumathi had chosen a devaranama of Purandara Dasa "Aadu Hodalle Makkalu". Young Krishna complains to his mother, about teasing by his playmates. Bhanumathi dramatising different episodes of young Krishna, performed with beautiful and impactful Abhinaya. In the Gopalakrishna Bharatis lyrics Nandanars devotion, grievance and sorrow and "Sakshatkara" of Nataraja - were proof of Bhanumathis long experience and impactful expression. Sheelas selection was also on Krishna (Krishna Arjuna Samvada) and the performance was pleasing.

    Impactful performance

    Veteran Usha Datar has practised different forms of dance and is known for her teaching and choreographic skills. She presented the familiar Puthani episode dramatising with popular appeal. Though a wee bit loud, Abhinaya was appealing and received thunderous applause.

    Connoisseurs enjoyed the performance of senior dancers in different forms and appreciated the efforts of Sarita Mishra.

    Vocalist from Singapore

    The Malleswaram Sangeetha Sabha conducted the annual "Hanuman Jayanthi Music Festival" in collaboration with the Sri Rama Bhajana Sabha, Malleswaram, in which several young musicians took part, enthusiastically.

    Ashwini Satish, who gave a vocal recital in the festival is a student of Dr T.S. Satyavathi and has settled in Singapore, where she teaches Karnatic music to young aspirants. She is a post graduate in Music and has also passed proficiency examination with distinction.

    An infrequent varna in the raga Mandari, gave Ashwini a flying start. After pranamamyaham, Ranjani was briskly elaborated and the keertane Sujana Jeevana brought nostalgic memories. Dropping the frequent devaranamas, she chose "Mamaju Bhapure" of Parundara Dasa which was appreciated by the gathering. She also sang compositions in Madhyamavathi and few other ragas. But she crowned the concert with a raga, thana and Pallavi. In that Ramapriya glowed colourfully and the Pallavi set to Khanda Triputa was rendered lively, without overdoing anything. Ashwini Satish has a good future in the years to come. Mathur Srinidhi, Sunil Subramanya and Raghunandan gave support on violin, mridanga and ghata, respectively.

    -Mysore V Subramanya


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    The storied success of Indian tech startups is nearly a decade-old. It is estimated that there are 5,200 of them today, and growing at 7% (over the previous year). Some things remain unchanged though. For instance, Bengaluru, Delhi NCR and Mumbai constitute 68% of the startup base and continue to remain hot spots. Although, promising startups are emerging from Tier II and III cities as well (up from 16% in 2016 to 20% currently), ushering a whiff of democratisation.

    India has nine Unicorns, and though we are behind the US and China on absolute count, we have the second highest average unicorn valuation. This year, approximately, 1,000 startups were added, and though it is lower than last year, interestingly, 47% were in the B2B segment, signaling a definitive shift from B2C. To be fair, this is a trend that has been gaining prominence in the last couple of years, and this year, it was even more pronounced.

    The increasing influence of Chief Digital Officers (in large enterprises) and the compounded impact of a changing business model, customer experience and culture may have catalysed the avowed shift. While not wanting to risk obsolescence, even some of the traditional organisations do not want to be perceived as digital laggards.

    The Digital Revolution that is yet unfolding in India at breakneck pace has definitely benefitted the common man. Today, he has a bank account, a mobile phone and a unique identity. Despite these stark improvements, age-old problems that the nation faces have not been addressed to an extent it is desired.

    Undeniably, pockets of success remain luminescent, but the overall imbalance has been a glaring one. Especially true in the areas of healthcare, education, financial inclusion, clean energy, and infrastructure. Is it then any surprise that the idea of Build for India resonates so strongly with entrepreneurs who are wont to look at market imbalances as great opportunities? These enterprises, immersed as they are in solving for India, have been growing at 18% annually; but to really make a significant impact, two things are required. We need a lot more infusion of Patient Capital â€" a plea of sorts to philanthropists (if you will), and for them to come forward to fund such ventures. In addition, the used cases have to be showcased in various platforms through concerted efforts and outreach programmes. These are inspirational stories and will have to be told with gusto. Perhaps someday soon, touching a billion lives would secure a place on the same pedestal as those clocking a billion dollars in valuation.

    Advanced tech startups have grown at a 30% CAGR in the last five years, of which the last two years have been particularly impressive. Today, there are approximately 700 advanced tech startups in analytics, AI, IoT, AR/VR, robotics, blockchain and 3D printing. In overall funding, this segment has garnered more than 20% share in H1 of 2017, of which, AI startups have proved to be the winner â€" quite incredibly, they received 3X more funding than those in IoT. In as much, Enterprise Product, FinTech and HealthTech have emerged as the top verticals being disrupted by advanced tech.

    The question that looms large: the funding winter witnessed in 2016, is it behind us? As things stand today, in all likelihood, it may have bottomed out. In comparison to H1 of 2016, this year, there has been a drop in overall funding, but encouragingly enough, average funding for funded startups has improved by 7%. If anything, investors want to tread cautiously and have taken their money to early and growth stage â€" a discernible shift from betting on seed stage.

    So, whats the typical profile of a startup founder? Median age 32 (a gradual increase from 31 in 2016), and is likely to be an engineer nurturing an ambitious dream. This year, however, there has been a significant increase (~30%) of student startups, which indicates that academic incubators have delivered. This is indeed a positive trend for a nation where young people have traditionally been job-seekers, and now we may see many more job creators. A much needed fillip in times, when demographic dividend comes at a premium.

    That, Ease of Doing Business index has gone up significantly, and the recent TRAI recommendations on Net Neutrality reinforces our belief that the ecosystem is being fostered and the future bodes well. Though, continual governmental support is required to break down existing regulatory barriers further (including those around Angel Tax), which allow for quick exits.

    What we are seeing right now is a market consolidation of sorts. Call it the Startup Wave 2.0, where the focus is on advanced technologies with much wider applications at competitive price-points. Young enterprising Indians are realising the potential of the domestic market â€" the Gold Rush is right here!

    (The writer is Vice President for Industry Initiative at Nasscom)


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  • 12/17/17--02:18: Economic disruptions in 2018
  • Two steps forward and one step back! Politics of five years to win elections. Hard decisions are bunched in the first three years, and last two years are SOPs to soften the blow and win over the electorate.

    Well, the Indian government undoubtedly took the most courageous decisions during its first three years namely, Demonetisation, GST and Aadhaar, all aimed at crippling the parallel economy and bringing more businesses under the tax net. The impact of the same is already visible in real estate and branded vs unbranded goods. While the short-term pains will be there as the process of adjustment happens, long-term benefits, such as an increase in cashless activity, more businesses under the tax net and a smaller parallel economy, will be more permanent. These measures have undeniably attacked the black money and its creation. The next logical step would cement the initiatives in the right direction.

    The government should focus on streamlining the direct tax structure, besides taking steps to bring vibrancy in economic activities, twin initiatives that it has already started working toward. There is an inevitable need of broadening the direct tax structure, as India is probably the only country in the world with a very small direct tax base, compared to its population. We believe that a major re-haul of the direct tax structure is in order and would be planned for 2018, just in time for the elections, and would be a major plank to woo the electorate.

    Indias tax revenue as a percentage of its GDP was 16.7% in 2016, compared with 25.4% in the US, and 30.3% in Japan. Taxes that corporations pay account for more than a fourth of the governments total tax receipts in a year. In 2016-17, these collections accounted for almost 29% of the total tax receipts. An overwhelming 80% of the total corporation tax revenue comes from large firms. A widening of the tax base here by increasing the compliance will be very useful and appropriate.

    The US has pledged to reduce tax on corporate earnings to 20% from 39%, and the UK is already following similar footsteps. Should India then remain an outlier in the global landscape, where corporation tax rates are progressively coming down to encourage local manufacturing and reduce capital flight? Not a good idea. To avoid the same, corporate tax rate needs to be rationalised from 30% to 25%, and the impact can be minimised by removing a host of exemptions that skew the benefits in favour of large companies. Apex business chambers Ficci and CII are clamouring for a substantial reduction, stressing on the need to reconsider the impact of the Dividend Distribution Tax and the Buyback Tax, which together with the basic corporate income tax, pushes Indias overall tax rate for companies well beyond 40%. At the very least, these additional taxes can be removed in this Budget and a clear road map laid down for taking down the tax rate, in line with the government promises in 2015.

    It is the personal income tax that should be rationalised the most and the government has been dragging the feet over the same for a long time. A nation of over 125 crore people had only 3.65 crore individuals filing their tax returns in the assessment year 2014-15. India has just 24.4 lakh tax payers who declared an annual income of over Rs 10 lakh, and just 76 lakh tax payers with an income of Rs 5 lakh and above (out of which 56 lakh people are salaried). The numbers show why only 2% of our GDP comes from personal income tax, lowest in the world.

    We believe a big rationalisation here will go a long way to get more people into the tax net, along with the efforts to catch tax evaders. How far the rationalisation can go is difficult to guess, but if we go near the following suggested tax slabs, we would be very well off. The personal income tax structure of 5% rate should be widened to Rs 2.5 lakh and Rs 10 lakh bracket, 10% for Rs 10-30 lakh bracket, 15% for Rs 30-50 lakh, and 20% for Rs 50 lakh and above.

    The real challenge, however, would be to get more people to pay taxes, where a strong nudge is required and these slabs, would be a nudge in the right direction. The impact on the GDP would be minimal but the sentiment impact would be huge, creating a wave of positive sentiment across the country.

    We believe that the lowering direct tax rates, along with infrastructure spending, would be the key disruptions planned for 2018, in preparation for the elections. We just hope that it does not derail the fiscal deficit!

    (Mr Padode is Secretary of Centre for Development Education, while Prof Sinha is Chairperson of Centre for Excellence in Banking at IFIM Institutions)


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    The Supreme Court has extended the deadline to link Aadhaar with various welfare schemes and financial services to March 31, 2018. Instead of waiting till the eleventh hour to comply with the guidelines, it is better if you link your Aadhaar at the earliest.

    The following is the ready reckoner giving the deadline for various services and the consequences you will have to face for non-compliance of the same:

    Linking of PAN with Aadhaar

    The earlier deadline of July 1, 2017, for linking the two was extended since a number of people faced difficulty due to mismatch in the name between PAN and Aadhaar due to spelling mistakes etc.

    The IT department has said that it will process returns of only those assesses who have successfully linked PAN with Aadhaar before 31 December 2017. However this deadline is mandatory for those who have to file the IT returns and is not applicable for those whose gross income is below the exemption limit of Rs 2.5 lakh.

    Since Aadhaar is a biometric based verification, an individual can have only one Aadhaar and any PAN not linked to Aadhaar will become invalid after the deadline. So no one can have multiple PAN cards, but one PAN only. It was also found that PAN cards were used to divert funds to shell companies.

    Linking of Mutual Funds Folio

    As per recent amendments to Prevention of Money Laundering Act (PMLA) Rules, 2017, mutual funds are mandated to obtain Aadhaar number from investors and link the same to the respective accounts. Here are the links of the RTAs for Aadhaar seeding:

    For CAMS: http://www.camsonline.com/investorservices/COL_Aadhar.aspx

    For Sundaram: https://sundarambnpparibasfs.in/web/service/aadhaar

    For Karvy : https://www.karvymfs.com/karvy/Aadhaarlinking.aspx

    For Franklin Templeton : https://accounts.franklintempletonindia.com/guest/#/customerservices/updateaadhaar/accountdetails

    You can complete the process either through the online link, or a SMS, if your mobile number or email ID is registered in your folio.

    If neither the phone number nor the email ID is registered, you can download the Aadhaar linking form and submit it to the office of RTA.

    Linking of your bank account

    You can log into your net banking account and click on Update Aadhaar link, enter the details and the OTP sent to your registered number to complete the process.

    If you do not have net banking facility, visit the branch personally and complete the process.

    Linking of your investments with
    Post Office

    If you have any investments in any small savings schemes like PPF, Sukanya Samriddhi Yojana,NSCs or KVP, log on to the India post website and download the Aadhaar Linking form, fill it up and submit it to the branch where you hold the account. There is no online facility for linking of Aadhaar with India post.

    Linking of Insurance policies

    You can link Aadhaar with your policies by logging on to the website of your insurance provider/company, fill in details of PAN, your date of Birth, Aadhaar, your mobile number and the policy number. Enter the OTP to complete the process. Alternatively you can visit the companys branch and complete the process.

    Linking of mobile number

    You have to visit the store of the service provider and complete the process. Or call the Call Centre and request for linking of mobile number with your Aadhaar. All unlinked mobile phone numbers will be deactivated after March 31, 2018.

    Do remember that the said biometrics collected will be encrypted by the service provider and sent to UIDAI at that moment itself and any storage of biometric by them is a criminal offence punishable with up to three years imprisonment under the Aadhaar Act 2016.

    (The writer is a former banker, and is currently with Manipal Academy of Banking, Bengaluru)


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    All of us work hard to earn money. We want to save, invest, make our wealth grow and become financially secure. This requires careful investment planning.

    What do we expect from our investment?

    Ideally, good investment should have five attributes: regular returns, appreciation in the value of the invested asset, liquidity, safety and tax benefits. There are very few investments which give all these five benefits. Bank deposits give regular income, but no capital appreciation. Gold and land can give capital appreciation in the long-run, but no regular income or tax benefits. Real estate, which needs huge investment, has no liquidity.

    Good stocks and Equity Mutual Funds/ Balanced Funds, though risky in the short run, can give all the above mentioned benefits in the long run.

    Asset classes for investment

    These days, investors have a wide variety of asset classes to choose from: Bank deposits, Non- Convertible Debentures, gold, PPF, NSCs, PO deposits, stocks, mutual funds, ETFs, real estate, REITs(Real Estate Investment Trusts), InvITs (Infrastructure Investment Trusts) and National Pension Scheme.

    Bank deposits, PPF andNSC have very low risk, but real returns from these investments are low. Interest rates on these investments are trending down. REITS and InvITs are yet to emerge as popular asset classes. On the other hand, investment in stocks, either directly or indirectly through mutual funds, can yield all the benefits of investment mentioned earlier. There is an element of risk in the short-run; but in the long-run risk is low and the benefits can be substantial.

    Financial history tells us that stocks out-perform all other asset classes in the long-run. Rs 10,000 invested in BSE Sensex stocks in 1979 (BSE Sensex which was 100 in 1979 is now around 33,000) would have a market value of around Rs 33 lakh today, excluding dividends. On the other hand, Rs 10,000 deposited in a bank fixed deposit in 1979 would be worth around Rs 1,50,000 today.

    A major attraction of investment in stocks and mutual funds is the tax advantage. Dividends from stocks are exempt from tax up to Rs 10 lakh a year.

    Dividends from equity mutual funds and balanced funds are completely exempt from tax. Another major attraction of investment in stocks and equity/ balanced mutual funds is the exemption of long-term capital gains from tax. Long-term capital gains are the gains accruing to investors when they sell stocks/equity funds at a profit after holding them for a minimum period of one year. If investment is done under the ELSS, investors get 80C tax exemption too. This makes the returns from MFs extremely attractive.

    Why mutual funds?

    An important lesson of the last 100 years of financial history is that stocks out-perform all other asset classes by a wide margin, in the long run. Very few people have the time and expertise to invest in the stock market directly. Therefore, a very good option for investors is to invest in stocks through the mutual fund route.

    Mutual fund investment can be done either in lump sum or in installments. SIP is an ideal form of investment where the investors invest at regular intervals, say, weekly, monthly or quarterly. Monthly SIP is an ideal strategy. Since the investment is done systematically, the investor gets the benefit of Rupee Cost Averaging. This means that since investment is done regularly, the investor gets more units when the prices are down, thereby reducing the average cost. During the last 37 years, in India, bank fixed deposits have yielded around 9% annual return; return from gold has been less than 9%, while returns from stocks has been around 16%. Clearly, stocks have out-performed bank deposits and gold by a wide margin.

    Choosing a good mutual fund, however, is not easy. This requires some expertise. Returns from mutual funds can vary from fund to fund and across schemes.Conventional wisdom forbids us from putting all eggs in one basket.

    Therefore, it is desirable to have a good variety of assets in your portfolio. However, it is important that an investor has the best performing asset class â€" equity/ mutual funds â€" in his/her portfolio. So, invest a part of your investible funds in mutual funds, ideally through the SIP route.

    (The writer is Chief Investment Strategist at Geojit Finance)


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    Airbus confirmed the departure of planemaking chief Fabrice Bregier as part of a series of board moves to clear the air over succession plans following weeks of speculation surrounding Europes largest aerospace firm.

    The move gives rival Chief Executive Tom Enders a free hand for the rest of what will now be his last term as CEO, ending in April 2019, but also casts him as a caretaker as Airbus looks for fresh blood to lead it out of a growing corruption scandal.

    Airbus said Bregier would be replaced in February as president of the main planemaking division by fellow Frenchman Guillaume Faury, the 49-year-old chief of Airbus Helicopters who has also worked in automobiles.

    German-born Enders, who had earlier this year voiced interest in staying beyond 2019, will now step down at the end of his current term, saying in a statement it was time for "fresh minds for the 2020s".

    "Fabrice ... was very popular with airlines for his rapid response and attention to details. Airbus has a big pool of talent ... and will power on with new leadership," Peter Bellew, chief operations officer at Ryanair and former CEO of Malaysia Airlines, told Reuters.

    Airbus officials sought to dampen speculation that Enders had a hand in his deputys departure and presented the move as the work of an independent board.

    But analysts said the push for a fresh start had curtailed the ambitions of both executives, ending a longstanding but troubled partnership at the helm of Airbus. Even so, many saw Enders as a clear winner.

    Collateral damage

    Enders in 2014 froze payments to middlemen and later shared an audit revealing misleading filings with UK authorities, but has seen his authority challenged as the discovery triggered UK and French fraud investigations and a backlash in France.

    "It means two things: that despite his wishes, Enders could be replaced, and it would not automatically be Bregier," a senior source with close links to the company said.

    The overhaul is not directly connected to investigations but both men appear to have suffered collateral damage from the probes, which made their differences clearer, one source said. The company said the board had acted to secure an orderly succession at the worlds second-largest planemaker.

    During 2018, the board will look both inside and outside for a successor to 58-year-old Enders "in good time" for confirmation at the 2019 annual shareholder meeting, it said.

    The shake-up came after Bregier, a 56-year-old who has long been seen as the natural heir to Enders, told the board he did not intend to be part of the selection process for 2019 and would therefore step down in February to "pursue other interests" - widely viewed as code for not being short-listed. Enders said he would work to ensure a smooth transition.However, both scarcely tried to mask tensions as Bregier recalled changes of title - a pointed reminder of a bitter feud with Enders - while Enders said he agreed with Bregiers decision "and frankly, I would not have done differently". Some sources said Bregier had sought support from the French government and Airbuss French chairman, prompting the board to show its muscle. But the selection process will remain under scrutiny from investors worried about any return to past efforts by shareholders France or Germany to tilt appointments.


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    This was a terrible year for the tech industry. Thats an odd thing to say at a time of record growth and profits.

    In 2017, large US tech companies have kept hauling in more money and more users, and - to a degree that might seem dystopian - they continued to expand their foothold in our lives. This was a year in which Amazon created a way for its delivery drivers to let themselves into your house, and Apple created a phone you can unlock with your face.

    Yet underneath this apparent success was a momentous shift in how the tech business deals with the world. Five or 10 years from now, we will come to regard 2017 as a turning point.

    Why? Because this year, for the first time, tech giants began to grudgingly accept that they have some responsibility to the offline world. The scope of that responsibility, though, is another matter entirely.

    Let me explain how this is all playing out.

    The dawning realisation that a tech platform comes with real-world responsibilities."Platforms" are the shiniest prizes in the tech business. The reason the five most valuable US tech companies - Amazon, Apple, Facebook, Alphabet and Microsoft - are also the five most valuable US companies of any kind is that they own these fundamental building blocks of the digital economy, whether they are operating systems, app stores, social networks, cloud servers, or shipping and logistics infrastructure.

    Think of these platforms as the roads, railroads and waterways of the information economy - an essentially inescapable part of life for any business or regular person who doesnt live in a secluded cabin in the woods.

    For years, despite their growing power, tech platforms rarely garnered much scrutiny, and they were often loath to accept how much their systems affected the real world. Indeed, the online ethos has been that platforms arent really responsible for how people use them. It might as well be the slogan of Silicon Valley: We just make the tech, how people use it is another story. In 2017, that changed. At first grudgingly and then with apparent enthusiasm, platform companies like Facebook began accepting some responsibility for how they are affecting the real world. They did not go as far as some critics would have liked - but in many significant ways they offered a shift in tone and tactics that suggested they were rethinking their positions.

    You could argue that they had no choice. In the past year, social networks and search engines have been blamed for undermining the news media, fostering echo chambers, and spreading misinformation, hate, misogyny and other general social unpleasantness (YouTube, for example, removed lots of videos of kids being pretend-tortured by their parents). There was also, of course, the unfolding saga of the companies role in Russias propaganda efforts, which resulted in their being hauled before lawmakers.

    And then there were the larger questions about who makes the platforms and who benefits from them. The tech industry is overwhelmingly run by men, and it is a place of little racial and class diversity. A whistle-blowing blog post by Susan Fowler, an engineer who detailed a culture of harassment and misogyny at the ride-hailing company Uber, sparked a womens movement in tech that was then subsumed by the global #MeToo movement.

    Many tech titans were obviously unprepared for the serious questions that began coming their way a year ago. When Facebook chief executive Mark Zuckerberg was asked about his sites role in the 2016 election just days after Donald Trumps victory, he responded with a line from techs old playbook: It was a "pretty crazy idea," he said, that misinformation on Facebook had "influenced the election in any way."

    Now that tone is gone. Zuckerberg has apologized for his glibness. And during Facebooks last earnings report to investors, he put the companys social mission at the top of his agenda. "Protecting our community is more important than maximizing our profits," he said.

    Several other tech execs have expressed similar commitments to a deeper mission. Tim Cook, Apples chief executive, told my colleague Andrew Ross Sorkin that Apple had a "moral responsibility" to attempt to heal the nations social and economic fissures. Sure, all this could just be marketing. But Im inclined to believe the shift represents a new way of navigating the world, for a few reasons.

    First, employees are demanding a new way. The highly paid workers of Silicon Valley were lured on the promise of changing the world, and in the past year many became demoralized about their companies apparent impact. In some cases theyre pushing their bosses to change.

    Second, for the first time in years, theres real pressure from lawmakers. That has resulted in some real-world retreats. For instance, tech giants last month stopped fighting a bill in Congress that would allow victims of sex trafficking to sue websites that supported the sex trade. In another time, this would have been a gimme for tech companies - they arent responsible for how people use their services, remember?

    Not this time.

    But nobody really knows what responsibility means.

    If the big shift of 2017 is that tech companies now accept some responsibility for how their platforms impact the world, the big mystery of 2018 and beyond is what, exactly, that responsibility will look like.

    Zuckerberg said he was willing to risk the companys profitability to improve its community. Facebook has been testing new ideas for making its News Feed less divisive and less prone to misinformation, and for promoting what the company calls "meaningful" social connections. Facebook is also testing systems that it said would more stringently police advertising, in the hope of preventing foreign actors from using its ad network to influence an election.

    And in response to criticism from former Facebook employees that its tech might be addictive, the company said this week that it has conducted extensive research on the subject and was "using it to inform our product development."

    But what if these early efforts dont mitigate the problems? What if Facebook finds that offering people a less polarized News Feed dramatically reduces engagement on its site, affecting its bottom line? Or what if the changes disproportionately affect one political ideology over another - would Facebook stick with a kind of responsibility that risks calling into question its impartiality?

    I dont mean to offer a barrage of hypotheticals just for the fun of it. My point is that these issues would probably be pretty hard to solve.

    "Just as the packaged food industry did in the 1950s, Facebook and Google have lured users with convenience, while feeding them a diet certain to cause lasting harm," Roger McNamee, the musician and venture capitalist, told me. "The problem cannot be addressed by hiring; it can only be fixed by changing the algorithms in ways that will materially reduce profitability."

    Or consider the question of diversity. I asked Ellen Pao - the former Reddit chief executive who unsuccessfully sued the venture capital firm Kleiner Perkins Caufield & Byers for gender discrimination - what she made of the industrys efforts to address the issue this year.

    "I would give tech a C grade," Pao, who is now the chief diversity and inclusion officer at the Kapor Center for Social Impact, wrote in an email. "Leaders are doing the bare minimum to address problems and are far from doing all that is necessary to solve the problem."

    She said she hoped for a far more vigorous effort that ushered in a complete overhaul of the culture of tech companies, and that held leaders accountable.

    "It means firing all the people involved in the failures, from the CEO to the HR leaders to the board members in some cases," she wrote.

    Paos and McNamees comments underline the real problem for the industry. Once you accept that youre on the hook for fixing problems caused by the thing you built, people will start to expect that you really will fix them - even if the solutions are expensive or otherwise conflict with your business interests.

    So, yeah, 2017 was a terrible year for the tech industry. If the fixing does not actually happen, 2018 might well be worse.



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    You write a lot about artificial intelligence. What is the strongest AI product that people can use right now?

    A good thing to try is the digital assistant on the latest Google Pixel phone because it shows both the power of artificial intelligence and the limitations.

    It is very good at recognising what you say, and it responds in a voice that sounds more human than most computer noises we are used to. Researchers at a Google AI lab in London built a system that learns to speak by analyzing recordings of human voices and identifying the patterns that make them human.

    But it still doesnt sound exactly like a human. And though the Google Assistant - like other digital assistants from the likes of Amazon and Apple - does a decent job of responding to some questions and commands, it is a long way from not just recognizing but actually understanding conversational speech.

    That is the story of AI over the last five years. The improvements have been enormous. But there is still a very long way to go.

    Do you use it at all to help you do your work?

    Nope. I reviewed the new Pixel phone. But I get along fine with my older Android phone. The irony is that I am a techno-skeptic.

    At least in my own head, this makes good sense. I dont cover a consumer technology company. I cover the people and the ideas that are driving the next wave of technologies. And I took at where these technologies will take us - for better or for worse.

    But here is what I would like: a service that automatically transcribes my recorded interviews. There are services that use humans to do this, but theyre expensive.

    Speech recognition technology has improved to the point where machines should be able to quickly and accurately do this for me on the cheap.

    What are the potential pitfalls of so much AI in our lives?

    They are myriad. The latest AI services, like the one that handles the voice for the Google Assistant, learn tasks by analyzing enormous amounts of data.

    By analyzing millions of llama photos, for instance, a system can learn to recognize a llama.

    But this kind of machine learning can have unintended consequences. A few years back, Google got into trouble because its image recognition service identified some black people as gorillas.

    Whats more, researchers have shown that these kinds of systems can be fooled into seeing things that arent there. That becomes an issue as the latest computer vision techniques find their way into security cameras, cars and other robotics.

    The other worry is that the rise of certain technologies - including autonomous cars and other robotics - will significantly shift the job market. This is sure to happen at some point, but experts disagree on when.

    Tech companies have hyped up virtual reality for the last few years. But VR is still mostly a gaming accessory. Do you think it will ever be used by everyday people?

    Like AI, VR is overhyped. The difference is that AI is changing the everyday world in very real ways. Look at the Amazon Echo, the autonomous cars now being tested in places like the Phoenix area, the enormous improvements of widely used services like Google Translate. VR is, as you say, still mostly a gaming accessory.

    There are some interesting possibilities, though. Therapists are using VR for exposure therapy, after two decades of published research in this area. Basically, it can help people conquer phobias or other conditions like post-traumatic stress disorder.

    But everyday use? That is not happening anytime soon - especially for people like me, who wear glasses and dont like heavy equipment strapped to our heads.

    What tech product do you love using in your daily life?

    Apples iTunes. And the Amazon Kindle app. And Stitcher, a podcast app that reliably delivers everything from Revisionist History to archived episodes of Desert Island Discs. I also like my headphones.

    The beauty of technology is that you can read, watch and listen to anything you want when you want it. Almost.

    Some researchers are developing robots that learn on their own. Is Skynet inevitable?

    This fear is blown way out of proportion. But that might be a good thing. Though the Skynet scenario is unlikely to be a problem for many, many years - the far more immediate worry is the coming shift in the job markets from automation, and that is still years away - we certainly dont want Skynet catching us unawares.

    That is why some researchers are already starting to think about what they call AI safety.

    They want to make sure that miscreants cant fool security cameras into seeing things that arent there - and that AI systems cant prevent humans from flipping their off switch, however far away that possibility may be.


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    Hes tall, handsome and makes heads turn with his outfits. Apart from this, his love and appreciation for food makes Matt Preston who he is. He has been teaching and learning some of the best cooking tricks through MasterChef Australia, which airs from Monday to Friday at 9 pm on Star World India.

    The show introduces some great cooks this year too and as a judge, Matt is quite thrilled about it. He chats with Anila Kurian about his time on the show and what he wishes to do in the future.

    How has the journey of MasterChef Australia been this season?

    It has been amazing and I believe this season saw some of the best cooking. There were a lot of surprises, especially when it came to the Top 8 contestants.

    You, George Calombaris and Gary Mehigan share a great chemistry onscreen...

    Were very privileged to make it this far. I really do think we have the best job in the world. We laugh an awful lot, travel regularly and have some of the best dishes. It really feels like a dream come true.

    What have you learnt from the contestants this year?

    There was something new to learn every day. Simple recipes like the lemon mousse, which reminded me of my grandmother, to the use of bok choy, every day was a learning experience in the MasterChef kitchen. After we reached the Top 10 week, we didnt have anything more to teach them!

    According to you, whats the weirdest food discovery this year?

    Ive seen different food trends in different countries Ive travelled to. In Australia, its the ridiculous milkshakes that have doughnuts, ice creams and other desserts stacked up. Its great for Instagram but its just weird.

    What are you expecting to top the chart of weird foods next year?

    Hopefully, I will catch it early enough to stay away from it! But you never
    know, its a weird world. I mean, in America and Australia, the unicorn cakes are a fad. But I really hope local vegetarian flavours are looked into in the coming year.

    When will you be visiting Bengaluru again?

    Whenever anyone wants to have me! Its been a while since I last visited. Honestly, I really want to play a villain in Bollywood or Tollywood. Id be perfect for it and there wouldnt be any dancing.

    Some of the villains dance too...

    But they dont have to do it too well, do they? (Laughs)

    Have you added any more pink suits to your collection?

    (Laughs) You know what? Ive actually stopped wearing pink suits. But my choice of bold colours is perfect for a Bollywood entry, dont you think?

    But you were quite proud of those suits...

    Of course! When I was in London a few months back, a mens fashion magazine had an article about how every man should buy a pink suit. That made me remember how when I started wearing them four years ago, many said that it wasnt the right thing. But then Harry Styles started wearing it and it became a trend.

    Which new fashion trend are you hoping to start?

    I already have a few that Ive started, so lets see. I think I find myself in the fashion trends because I end up being in the right place at the right time, allowing me to have the last laugh.


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    Rome wasnt built in a day! This expression best describes the snails pace at which Indias infrastructure development was advancing over the last five years, and its gradual rise back to a state of progress and a better future.

    The country has patiently persevered in understanding the bottlenecks afflicting infrastructure â€" the most critical component for India in order to realise its aspiration of emerging as a superpower â€" and the government, along with industry stakeholders, has been working towards giving the sector a new lease of life, even as economic and policy factors play their respective roles.

    Largely enabled by government will, infrastructural development finding its place in the country again has a direct correlation with manufacturers of construction equipment, commercial vehicles, related ancillaries and MSMEs. It enlivens a vast ecosystem, which creates jobs and generates GDP for the country.

    Building slowdown

    The infrastructure industry did fairly well until 2007, before the global financial crisis the following year. Then, from 2011-12, the slump was more pronounced.

    According to a report by ICEMA and Feedback Consulting, titled Building India@75 â€" Indian Construction Equipment Industry, which was released at the CII EXCON 2017 exhibition: "The slump from 2011-12 levels was due to a mix of policy paralysis, land acquisition challenges and resultant implementation."

    The impact was in turn felt by the Indian construction equipment (ICE) industry. The ICE sector logged sales of 49,760 units in 2007-08 (worth Rs 16,450 crore), zooming to a high of 73,340 units in 2011-12 (worth Rs 25,240 crore). Thereon, it fell to a low of 64,110 units in 2012-13 (Rs 19,710 crore), registering a deep drop of 49,700 units during 2014-15 (Rs 18,600 crore).

    Similarly, in the medium and heavy commercial vehicles (MHCV) arena, 1,65,043 units were sold in 2012-13, which dived to 1,24,106 units in 2013-14. This slowdown was attributed to the ban on mining, fleet underutilisation, and woes related to resale.

    Coming back to life

    The next few years, however, saw structural changes in government policy, which also kick-started many development projects, including road and highway network expansion, port development, inland waterways, irrigation and canal construction, the UDAN regional air connectivity scheme, and so on.

    "The Government of India has made infrastructure creation a major pillar for sustained growth and announced a number of projects in roads, railways, metro-rail, mining, irrigation, power and urban development, which are growth drivers for our industry," says Vipin Sondhi, Managing Director and Chief Executive Officer of CE giant JCB India.

    One of the principle purposes of urbanisation is poverty alleviation by connecting the rural poor to the mainstream, and to create numerous long-term sustainable jobs.

    "Over the next five decades, India will see urbanisation equivalent to what was seen in the last 5,000 years. The government has provided impetus to 100 smart cities, 50 metros, and corridors between Delhi and Mumbai. Such initiatives would be harbingers of growth, and on either side of the freight corridors, there would be rapid urbanisation," says Niti Aayog Chief Executive Officer Amitabh Kant.

    In the Union Budget 2017, the Centre announced a massive push to the infrastructure sector by allocating $61.92 billion. Projects like Sagarmala, Bharatmala, Jal Marg Vikas, Smart Cities, AMRUT, Housing For All, Expressways, Diamond Quadrilateral, dedicated fleet corridors, and river linkages are a few infrastructure programmes across the country that are expected to accelerate demand for CEs in the coming years.

    Road construction has expanded by over 40%. There is a necessity for hi-tech machinery and smart equipment that will help India leapfrog. Similarly, a lot of work is being done in irrigation, which is critical for agricultural growth in the country.

    "Impetus is being provided for the Railways too, turning it into an advanced system in terms of safety, technology, facilities, and new rail corridors and high-speed trains," Kant says, adding that housing and electricity for all would boost the construction sector, which would go on to become one of the greatest growth drivers of the economy.

    "Today, the government is the primary demand driver (67%) for construction equipment by its share of public works projects. However, when it comes to ICE purchase and use, the private sector is the main customer (89%)," says the report.

    Engineering an empire

    A proactive approach by the government to boost the economy has motivated CE and CV manufacturers to seek higher industrial growth. "Existing projects have taken off. Stressed contractors are being bailed out through a hybrid-equity model. Thanks to this, the government got its revenues back, while contractors benefitted too. The vision to build 10,000 km of road is possible. Today, 33 km of roads is being covered in a day, from 18 km earlier," Caterpillar India Country Manager and MD Vivekanand Vanmeeganathan says.

    US-based Caterpillar or CAT as it is popularly known is one of the largest CE players in the country, competing with other leading players such as JCB, Tata Hitachi, L&T Komatsu, Sany, and Volvo CE, among others. In all, there are 27 medium and large CE companies operating in India, which have collectively, yet significantly, contributed to its infrastructure growth story. In fiscal 2016-17, the CE sector rose to a high of 74,990 units, valued at Rs 29,330 crore. During this period, a majority 67% of CE volumes were utilised for earthmoving applications, followed by concrete (11%), material handling (9%), road construction (8%), mining (4%), and a tiny fraction for material processing, the report informs. Of all CEs used in India, backhoe loaders and excavators contribute 60% of all volume sales, followed in fair share by compactors, pavers, cranes, concrete segment products (pumps, batching plants, transit mixers, etc), and so on.

    "While demonetisation hit the sector, and GST had its own impact, July-October was a bad period for the industry. But the government has felt that construction and infrastructure are important, and hence, brought down the GST for our space. We can now hope to see an upswing in growth," Tata Hitachi Managing Director Sandeep Singh tells DH.

    With a view that India must grow by 9%, the construction sector must grow by at least 30% in the long-term, states Kant, informing that GST for the CE sector has been brought down to 18%, from an earlier 28%. The Ministry of Heavy Industries has also implored the industry to seek assistance and benefits from the National Capital Goods Policy.

    As concerns the heavy commercial vehicles space, much like its CE counterpart, it began to pick up again, with 2016-17 witnessing sales of 2,21,379 units. The tipper is the foremost HCV used in the infra sector. Tippers registered sales growth of 24% in 2016-17.

    "The CV industry has gone through a lot of ups and downs in the last few years. There was a lot of disruption. But everything is behind us now. From demonetisation, to transition from BS-III to BS-IV, macroeconomic factors are on the positive side. The GST is also settling in," VECV MD and CEO Vinod Aggarwal says.

    Make in India is playing a critical role in rapid industrialisation. At EXCON 2017, 925 exhibitors showcased their best technologies. In the last decade, the ICE space registered a CAGR of 7%, while this calendar year alone it is expected to double at 14%. The construction industry is headed for better days of a projected stable growth of 10% CAGR, over the next five years. The ICE market in sales value is likely to reach Rs 56,000 crore by 2021-22. The process to re-build India has commenced.


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  • 12/17/17--17:26: Historical churches of Udupi
  • Inaugurated on July 16, 2012, the Udupi Diocese has been religiously facilitating the Roman Catholic community spread over more than 50 parishes in Udupi district. Among the most visited historical churches located in the district are, the Holy Rosary Church in Kundapura, St Peter Church in Barkur, the Basilica of Attur in Karkala, Mount Rosary Church and Our Lady of Miracles Cathedral in Kallianpur. Our Lady of Miracles Cathedral in Kallianpur has been the cathedral of Udupi Diocese. It is also known as Kallianpur Milagres Church.

    Located on the banks of River Panchagagavli in Kundapura, the Holy Rosary Church is dedicated to Our Lady of Rosary. Kundapura was an important port town during the Portuguese rule in the 16th century. The church was founded here by Rev Fr Joseph Vaz in 1682 and the tricentenary of the church was celebrated in 1982. Our Lady of Rosary Parish is known for its outreach and seminary services.

    Barkur, 15 km from Udupi, has an ancient parish dedicated to the apostle, Saint Peter. The Church of St Peter was originally a filial church of Kallianpur Milagres Church. It became an independent parish in 1863. One of the oldest churches in the Udupi diocese, Barkur St Peter Church celebrated its post centenary golden jubilee in 2013. This Gothic-style church has a community hall, prayer chapel and an eye-catching altar.

    The St Marys Syrian Church, known as the Indian (Malankara) Orthodox Syrian Church, was founded in 1889. This church houses a much-revered tomb of Fr Noronha who died in 1936. He conducted the first mass at the Brahmavar Orthodox Syrian Church in the year 1889. He also initiated the Cosmopolitan Higher Primary School in 1916 for children of needy families.

    The Mount Rosary, the Milagres and the Attur churches are among the rare religious structures of historical importance. The 180-year-old Mount Rosary Church was originally built in 1837. It was rebuilt and inaugurated in 2015. The church has an artistically designed altar, adoration chapel, tinted glass windows with Biblical depictions, statues of saints and the statue of Our Lady of Mount Rosary. The 150 years of Mount Rosary Church was celebrated in 1988.

    The Our Lady of Miracles Cathedral in Kallianpur was originally built in 1680 and was rebuilt in 1806. The church was reconstructed in the year 1881. It is said that followed by a treaty with the Portuguese, Rani Chennamma of Bednur had gifted the required land to build this church for the Christian families, who were forced to migrate from Goa. The Attur Church is located in Karkala, a town around 40 km from Udupi. T he church is as a prominent landmark in the town. St Lawrence Church, situated in the foothills of Parapale Gudde, was inaugurated in 1901. It is believed that a shrine existed here before 1759, and a new building was erected in 1801 and rebuilt 1839.

    Dedicated to the third century Saint Lawrence, the Attur Church has a holy shrine with a statue of St Lawrence adjacent to the sacristy and it has a 100 feet high tower symbolising cosmopolitan religious culture. It was rebuilt in 1975 and 1997. The miracle pond, the huge gateway (built in 1999) and the alluring greenery are added attractions.

    The pride of Udupi Diocese, the St Lawrence Church was elevated to the status of minor basilica in 2016. It is one among the 21 basilicas in India and the second basilica in Karnataka, after the St Marys minor Basilica in Bengaluru.


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  • 12/17/17--17:30: The flavours of Badami
  • At the crack of dawn, when the sun rises to the tingling sounds of the bells at the historical Banashankari Amma Temple in Badami of Bagalkot district, the aroma of freshly seasoned dal drifts into the air from the houses in the villages located around the temple. The women here are multitasking with household chores. As they juggle between washing, cleaning, sweeping and mopping, the stuffed brinjals filled with masala get deliciously cooked. The children are attended to and the ablutions are completed, as the steaming rice is prepared, along with rasam and papad. The tangy pickle is packed, the green and red chutneys are made.

    A delicious spread

    The piping hot dal is precariously placed in the bread basket, or colloquially, in the rotti butti. It is secure in the company of a jar of spicy and dry chutney powders made of roasted peanuts and black sesame. An earthen pot of thick curds and roasted green chillies also go along. The task does not end here. Its now time for main course. Soon, the dough is kneaded and the pan heated as the deft hands roll out jowar and pearl millet rotis one after the other. The rotis are stacked and wrapped in a soft cotton cloth. The salad comprises slices of finely chopped onions, cucumbers, carrots, tomatoes and capsicums.

    A panting Gurammajji balances the rotti butti on her head and rushes to the bus stand to catch the first bus to Badami. She is on time as her feet carry her quickly to the saalu mantapa, her destination. As buses from other villages like Jaalihaal, Pattadakal and Katapu arrive, Gurammajji is soon joined by her peers, Pampamma, Hanumavva and Mudukavva, with their respective bread baskets.

    They spread out their delicacies at the saalu mantapa and the search for customers begins. The usual locations for the famished visitors are the temple entrance where devotees stand in a queue, at the parking lot where tourists park their vehicles; at the Haridra Theertha pond, or the temple tank where devotees take a holy dip and at the row of shops where customers are engrossed in purchasing souvenirs.

    The ambience

    After paying obeisance to the presiding deity and seeking the blessings of Goddess Banashankari, an incarnation of Goddess Parvathi and Amma Annapurneshwari, the devotees are now ready to soak in the pristine glory of the temple town. After visiting the monuments and shopping, the tourists are tempted to relish the mouth-watering delicacies of North Karnataka. The famished travellers are ready to relish every bit of food served to them. The women take their positions and play their hospitality to the hilt, cajoling and coaxing their guests to try every item. Just as a loving mother feeds her child, the hungry travellers are gently prodded to have some more morsels.

    The monumental splendour of the saalu mantapa, the cool breeze, the ringing bells of the temple, the banter of the women serving with warmth and affection, and the delicious spread, create a perfect ambience. No wonder after being treated to gastronomic delights, one is induced to an afternoon siesta.

    The women are good entertainers too. They discuss a variety of topics including politics, drought, rising prices and even the latest Sandalwood flicks. They are chatty and witty, leaving their guests amused. The women laugh with their guests, share their woes, and even pack parcels for the journey ahead. They are also gifted guides who ensure that the tourists have made the best of their visit to Badami.

    On an average, each woman packs at least 60 rotis a day. From a humble Rs 5 per meal, in the last 30 years, they have hiked it only to Rs 20. Even if Rs 500 is collected at the end of the day, it is a bumper. After attending to their guests, they rest, chatting about with their mouths full of paan. They pack the leftovers as dinner for their families. Soon, it is dusk and they hurry to the nearby market to purchase vegetables for the next day.

    For Gurammajji, life has not been kind. Shouldering the responsibility of her family, the worry of kin who have migrated to greener pastures, the perennial drought, the drying Malaprabha River, are all matters of concern. Hailing from a region which depends on crops that are rain-fed and rainfall playing truant most of the time, the money earned from the bread basket has become the only means of survival for these women.

    Despite their woes, these women do not forget to thank Banashankari Amma for looking after them. Neither are they deterred by the mushrooming hotels nor by the Anna Dasoha that has begun at the temple for the last few years. Their unmatchable culinary skills have kept their houses running. The only thing that bothers them is the dwindling number of tourists in the temple town. The adjacent Haridra Theertha pond has touched the bottom and the number of tourists has declined. The drying Haridra Theertha mirrors the grim realities of these women. But they hide their pain behind those beaming countenances. As for the visitors, the spread is unlimited and the affection infectious.

    (Translated by Jyotsna P Dharwad)


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  • 12/17/17--17:32: For the love of plants
  • Are you forgetful? Then drink tulsi and brahmi juice. If your back aches, rub the inner skin of half a lemon over it till you transfer the pain to the fruit. When your eye smarts, eat a raw onion every day. These arent voodooed chants but just simple home remedies for common ailments, propagated by Treasure and Utilise the Life Sustaining Ingredients of Nature (TULSI), a non-profit organisation started by research scientist Prathibha Vinay.

    Prathibha is the first non-physician member of the Indian College of Allergy and Immunology, a research scientist with a doctorate in Palynology and specialisation in Aerobiology.

    Plant-based remedies

    Currently, in order to promote the benefits of plants, Prathibha travels across the State, conducting workshops and awareness programmes. Through workshops on awareness of primary healthcare and simple home remedies for common ailments, she spreads awareness and gives practical demonstrations of home remedies, along with sensitising school children. She gives children medicinal plants and saplings, in order to encourage them to grow and get a sense of clean environmental care and natural resources.

    TULSI has planted medicinal plants at Dhanwantri Park at J P Nagar, Bengaluru, with the co-operation of the citys municipal corporation. The organisation has also planted medicinal herbs in old and unused parks in different parts of Bengaluru. Poet and psychologist, Anita Belagodu, a resident of J P Nagar, is fascinated by the therapeutic healing powers of the herbs in the park, which she says, "...lead to measurable changes in physical and mental health." She is also a former president of Soroptimist International Bangalore (SIB), a service club of professional women that Prathibha is a member of. Prathibha spreads TULSIs message through this platform.

    TULSIs workshops have flared interest in plant medicines. "Many Kannada channels have broadcast its programmes. Satellite programmes for villages have communicated its messages to people in the rural areas," Prathibha adds. She recalls some interesting quotes from the villages. Thimappa from a village had told her that TULSIs workshops have been an eye-opener and made him realise that he could turn to nature for common ailments such as cough, cold and stomach ache.

    Courses and workshops

    The organisation also conducts workshops in companies. That apart, The University Grants Commission of India (UGC) has approved a syllabus for a certificate course in Biodiversity and Role of Medicinal Plants in Primary Healthcare, as a career-oriented programme. It was recommended by Prathibha and is today offered in a few colleges in the city.

    Her plants battle the most common ailments of the day - dengue, SARS (severe acute respiratory syndrome), anti-immune deficiency, malaria, respiratory problems, etc. These modern illnesses spread by contamination and pollution can be fought with traditional herbs.

    When asked which plant is the hero on her list - "Our own tulsi plant! It can be used to battle 108 diseases," she exclaims. Followers in the list include dodapatre, mint, turmeric, dry amla powder and methi seeds. They are the foot soldiers in battling the most common disorders like
    diabetes and blood pressure.

    As a member of the SIB, she has written a book, First Aid by Nature. The profits generated were used to fund the Meru Garden project in Kenya. The book is a compilation of knowledge collected through centuries, with some nuggets of wisdom: a German diary from 1726 records that Siddha doctors knew about 4,448 diseases as well as their corresponding treatments. More than 2,00,000 herbs have been recorded in many German diaries.

    "The interest in plants thus seems to be eternal, crossing borders and eras, even if the messages across place and time are being given by our own local plant lady,chimes in businesswoman and SIB member Jhuma Guha.

    Expert opinion

    However, even medicinal plants should be taken only in small doses and should be used only for borderline ailments, such as diabetes. Prathibha agrees with Dr Nalini Subbaiah, paediatrician and SIB member, who cautions that it isnt completely safe to replace allopathic medicines, but only taper them off slowly and under expert recommendation.

    If you are looking for medicinal plant points in the city, you can search for the following centres: Dhanavantri nursery at Bangalore University Campus, Foundation for Revitalisation of Local Health Traditions (FRLHT), Lalbagh Nursery and many private nurseries.

    You can also collaborate with Prathibha as a member if you join SIB, a service club for women, children and the underprivileged.

    For more information, log on to www.sibangalore.com or contact 9243002034.


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