Saturday, 2 January 2016

Chance for India T20 hopefuls to impress

 only your second season in the unforgiving and, often, unrewarding world of domestic cricket. At 20 for two, your team is in a spot of bother. You are up against the might of Mumbai in its backyard. You have to deal with the wiliness of Zaheer Khan, the accuracy of Dhawal Kulkarni and the guile of Pravin Tambe. What do you do?
When Baroda all-rounder Hardik Pandya was confronted with this question at the Wankhede Stadium on March 30, 2014, his riposte was emphatic to say the least. His astonishing counter-attack — 82 off 57 balls — left the domestic giant and its band of supporters stunned to the core on that floodlit evening. Somewhere in the stands, Mumbai Indians coach John Wright knew that the talent scout in him had witnessed something special.
Most of us know of Pandya thanks to his exploits in you know what. But the fact is that the 22-year-old came of age in the Syed Mushtaq Ali Trophy, the BCCI-run inter-state T20 tournament, two years ago. Soon, he will be on the plane to Australia!
As the 10th edition of the tournament — it was called the Inter-State T20 Championship from 2006-07 to 2008-09 — gets under way in Nagpur, Vadodara, Cuttack and Kochi on Saturday, the question on many a lip is — how relevant is this poor, malnourished and unglamorous cousin of the Indian Premier League?
Haryana coach and former National selector Surendra Bhave offers some perspective. “It is extremely relevant. There isn’t a shadow of a doubt. The format is exciting because it’s not an inter-zone tournament any longer. Yes, the quality of cricket you see in the IPL is two or three notches higher, but a good performance here can get you there,” says the 49-year-old.
“The IPL is a pointer to the talent. It’s not the be all and end all (of Indian cricket). As a selector, I watched the Syed Mushtaq Ali Trophy with a lot of interest,” adds the Maharashtra stalwart.Bhave’s observations are significant, especially because the ensuing six months are garlanded with T20 tournaments starting with a three-match series in Australia, a three-match rubber against Sri Lanka at home, the Asia Cup and the Big Daddy of them all, the ICC World T20, followed by India’s summer pastime, the IPL.
Even Bengal coach Sairaj Bahutule endorses Bhave’s views. “The boys are upbeat. This is a very important tournament to portray their skills. The selectors are watching; the IPL franchises are watching. It’s a very competitive tournament,” says the yesteryear leg-spinner.
Two days ago, the IPL franchises released a batch of cricketers and the supposed expendables included Yuvraj Singh and Ishant Sharma. You wear the India badge on the chest but might not be considered good enough to be retained by your franchise. How times have changed!
What catches the support staff of the franchises these days are fresh faces, less in star value, but capable of a 15-ball 40. In a tournament like this, they find a fertile field to identify such talents. Not to forget that some IPL discards like Dinesh Karthik will be itching to restore themselves to the auction pool and remind they are worthy of hire.
And with the countdown to the World T20 already begun and announcement of the 30 probables awaited, there is a lot of premium attached to the tournament this year

Challenges on the water front

On the climate front 2016 will be challenging. The year is predicted to have a big El Nino event, the third biggest on record. This warming of the Pacific Ocean waters sends ripples across the world. Though the impact on the Indian monsoon is not directly c-related yet there will be an effect. So, here is a wish-list for water and sanitation for 2016.
Prepared: We will be better prepared for the uncertain monsoon rainfall and make all efforts to harvest and store as much of it as is possible. In the flood-prone areas we will make sure that the plains will be allowed to absorb and manage the spate.
Weather prediction: With a higher density of weather stations and more investments in weather prediction modelling, we will enhance our capacity to become aware of weather anomalies much in advance and will communicate the needed information to farmers and urban residents to be better prepared for water shortages or excess.
Rivers, streams and lakes: We will speed up the process of cleaning up our rivers and surface water bodies.
More and more communities will join in voluntary action to firstly not pollute our rivers and lakes and secondly to spread awareness and clean up our water bodies. They will be sufficiently supported by the government and its institutions to truly make it a mass movement.
Groundwater: We will better understand groundwater at the sub-aquifer level. We will start putting in place systems to share aquifers rather than over-exploit them individually. We will recharge and enhance groundwater storage and draw only lesser than what goes into the aquifer.
We will take steps to ensure that drinking water in all our habitations will be free from fluoride, nitrate, iron, arsenic and any other pollutant which will affect our health.
In urban areas, we will make sure that waste-water and industrial pollution is handled and treated safely, so that they do not end up in the groundwater.
Sanitation: We will clean up our act with solid waste and ensure segregation, composting, recycling and reuse.
Landfills will gradually disappear and villages will not bear the burden of the cities’ detritus management.
Every household will have access to safe sanitation including a toilet. The waste generated from the toilets will be safely treated and reused so as not to pollute the environment or affect health.
Institutions: We will build river basin institutions to plan and manage our rivers so that they flow all the year round with clean water. We will also build the right institutions to manage surface water, groundwater, piped water and waste-water in our cities. These institutions will be appropriated equipped with the right skills and finances and will be accountable to people by being open and transparent in their work.
Access: Each and every individual in the land will have the right to safe water and sanitation for life and for livelihood.
Law: We will build a legal framework which will help manage waters of India as a common pool resource. Laws will be developed to protect our rivers, streams and lakes and groundwater.
Heritage: We will identify and clean up all our wonderful heritage structures around water including ponds, step-wells, wells and springs. We will also preserve our natural heritage as much as the man-made ones.
Forests: The forests and the hills are the mothers of our rivers. We will enhance and protect forests and prevent destruction of trees, wetlands, mangroves and glaciers.
Seas and oceans: They will not become a dump yard for our plastics, garbage and sewage. Our beaches will be clean and available for all to enjoy, wade in and swim.
In 2016 we will become a water-literate society which realises its responsibility to this precious resource and will demand accountability from our governments for its cleaning up. That will be water wisdom

Revive NATGRID with safeguards

The Central government’s decision to revive NATGRID (National Intelligence Grid) is a welcome move in the fight against terrorism, but it calls for caution and nuanced planning in the way it would be structured. According to the existing plan, NATGRID will become a secure centralised database to stream sensitive information from 21 sets of data sources such as banks, credit cards, visa, immigration and train and air travel details, as well as from various intelligence agencies. The database would be accessible to authorised persons from 11 agencies on a case-to-case basis, and only for professional investigations into suspected cases of terrorism. NATGRID was among the ambitious slew of intelligence reforms undertaken in the wake of the Mumbai attacks of November 2008. Like NATGRID, most of these proposed reforms in the security establishment have not fully materialised, yet again serving as a reminder that India’s memory is embarrassingly short.

In a data-driven, digitised world, it would be foolhardy to ignore the power of big data and its potential to provide real time tip-offs and predictive intelligence to deal with the terrorist threat. Over the last two decades or so, during which the post-Cold War chaos resulted in many violent non-state actors setting up shop, the very digital tools that terrorists use have also become great weapons to fight the ideologies of violence. Social media and other platforms have become recruitment sites and propaganda machines for terrorist groups, and formal banking channels are used as much as informal ones to transact terror funding. In those same oceans of information are trends and information that could avert terrorist strikes. However, appreciation of the power of digital databases to tackle terror must be accompanied by deep concern about their possible misuse. The Snowden files are just one pointer to the widespread misuse in recent years of surveillance capabilities to compromise individual privacy and even violate national sovereignty. Increasingly, there is also academic evidence to show that states are applying excessive force and surveillance to tackle terrorism. The NATGRID’s efforts must be placed against these realities before the government rushes into reviving it. When so much sensitive information about individuals is available on a single source, the potential for its misuse would dramatically go up. The poor track record of the Indian security and intelligence agencies on individual privacy and liberty must be kept in mind as the National Democratic Alliance government tries to nurture NATGRID, which has failed to take off despite the aggressive push by the previous United Progressive Alliance government. The overdue initiative to revive NATGRID must therefore be accompanied by action on the even longer-pending need to have effective oversight of intelligence agencies by Parliament or an eminent group.

Government extends tax residency rule deadline

A deadline for comments on the draft guidelines to determine the tax residency of a foreign company has been extended to January 9.
The government felt the need to determine a company’s place of effective management due to lack of detail in the Income Tax Act leading to the possibility of tax avoidance.
“Representations requesting for extension of the last day for submitting comments and suggestions, have been received and considered,” according to a government statement announcing the extension of the deadline for comments on the issue, earlier slated for January 2.
The Place of Effective Management (POEM) of a company, as the concept was called, was introduced in the Finance Act, 2015 to determine the tax residency of a foreign company.
The draft guidelines for what defines a company’s place of effective management, released on December 23, defines the POEM as “a place where key management and commercial decisions that are necessary for the conduct of the business of an entity as a whole are, in substance made.”
“Section 6(3) of the Income-tax Act, 1961, prior to its amendment by the Finance Act, 2015, provided that a company is said to be resident in India in any previous year, if it is an Indian company or if during that year, the control and management of its affairs is situated wholly in India. This allowed tax avoidance opportunities for companies to artificially escape the residential status under these provisions by shifting insignificant or isolated events related with control and management outside India,” according to draft guidelines issued by the Central Board of Direct Taxes.
“As per the amendment brought in by the Finance Act, 2015 a foreign company will be regarded as a tax resident of India, if its POEM in that year is in India,” according to a report by Deloitte and CII.
According to the Deloitte report, there is ambiguity around some of the provisions in the guidelines, such as the duration for which a company has India as a place of effective management. “A question may still arise that for a foreign company to be resident in India, is it necessary that the POEM should be situated in India throughout the financial year under consideration or mainly in India.
Similarly, the term “key management and commercial decisions” in the definition of POEM seems to be causing some confusion.
“Unlike, for instance, the UK, India does not define the term ‘key management and commercial decisions’ and therefore these are undefined and subjective.
In the UK, judicial precedents and tax rules lay emphasis on whether directors/officers taking major decisions are independent, are empowered to take these or whether such directors/officers are acting under the influence or direction of shareholders,” Mr.Alex Postma, Leader–Global and EMEIA International Tax Services, EY had said in a note.
Enterprises have become increasingly mobile and technology and connectivity are as important as never before in their global competence. This poses risks that a travelling executive may create significant unforeseen tax burdens in India,” Mr. Postma added in his note.

RBI tells banks to replace defective 1,000-rupee notes

Out of 300 million defective banknotes that were printed in one of the printing presses of government-owned Security Printing and Minting Corporation of India, about 100 million of those notes have hit the market leaving the general public in a tizzy.
About 200 million pieces were transferred to the RBI’s currency chests, some of which was then loaded in banks’ automated teller machines, sources close to the development said.
Currency experts said that the checking of notes is done at the press-level and the banking regulator is not involved with checking each and every banknote.
An RBI spokesperson has confirmed the development and said banks have been asked to replace such notes with the central bank, when found. Banks have also been advised to replace such notes whenever a customer approaches them. The notes are genuine though they are defective, the spokesperson said.
There are four printing presses which print and supply banknotes. These are at Dewas in Madhya Pradesh, Nasik in Maharashtra, Mysore in Karnataka, and Salboni in West Bengal.
The presses in Devas and Nasik are owned by the Security Printing and Minting Corporation of India (SPMCIL), a wholly owned company of the Government of India. The printing of the notes in Karnataka and West Bengal are done by the Bharatiya Reserve Bank Note Mudran Private Limited (BRBNMPL), a wholly owned subsidiary of RBI.
Sources said the defected notes were printed in the Nashik press while Security Paper Mill of Hoshangabad produced the currency note paper. The security thread was missing in the defective pieces, the sources said. The 1000-rupee notes which was introduced in October 2000, contain a readable, windowed security thread alternately visible on the obverse with the inscriptions ‘Bharat’ (in Hindi), ‘1000’ and ‘RBI’, but totally embedded on the reverse.
As on March 31, 2015, there were 5,612 million Rs 1000 denominated notes in circulation which constitutes 6.7 per cent of the total notes in circulation. In terms of value, Rs 1000 denominated notes constituted 39.3 per cent of the total value of notes in circulation.
Notes of denominations of Rs 500 and Rs 1,000 together accounted for approximately 85 per cent of the total value of banknotes in circulation at end- March 2015. Notes of Rs 10 and Rs 100 together accounted for 54 per cent of the volume at end- March 2015, RBI data shows.

ATF price cut lifts aviation stocks

Aviation stocks soared after the government announced a 10 per cent reduction in the prices of Aviation Turbine Fuel (ATF).
Stocks of airline companies Jet Airways and Spice Jet surged to their 52-week highs during intra-day trade even as InterGlobe Aviation Ltd, which owns and operates IndiGo, hit an all-time high of Rs.1,395.50 before closing at Rs.1,341.75, up 8.73 per cent.
Jet Airways stock, which touched a 52-week high of Rs.778.60, closed at Rs.760.60, up 8.28 per cent. Similarly, SpiceJet stock closed at Rs.82.35, up 9.44 per cent. During intraday, the stock had surged to Rs.85.90. The drop in ATF prices would help the airlines to reduce their operating costs, thereby enabling them to report better performance in this quarter.
“It (the sharp rise in stock prices) is more of trading momentum. Investors were attracted to these stocks as the ATF price drop is really sharp and it will help in improving margins. ATF accounts for 30 per cent of the input costs. So everyone is happy. But the question is for how long will oil or ATF prices remain so low. Nobody is factoring this,” said Ambareesh Baliga, independent stock analyst.

Thursday, 31 December 2015

A unique fish species is endangered in Telangana

Indiscriminate fishing may spell doom for Krishna Mystus ( Hemibagrus maydelli ), the king of riverine fishes in the Krishna.
According to a study undertaken by Fisheries Development Officer, Gadwal, B. Laxmappa and Zoology Lecturer, D. Venkata Siva Narayana, the species which is called as ‘Ponduga’ locally, was much in demand since it had a high market value.
The giant fish grows about two metres long and weighs about 70 kg, the biggest freshwater fish, and fetches Rs. 350 a kg. The researchers came to a conclusion after three years of observation along 300 km river stretch in Mahabubnagar district of Telangana state that the fish is found very rarely.
Speaking to The Hindu , Mr. Laxmappa said that though the Krishna mystus was listed in least concerned category of IUCN (International Union for Conservation of Nature), its numbers was on the decline now.
During the study between 2012 and 2015, no fish was caught at three points, he said. Among the 15 fishing points they had visited on a regular basis as part of their study, catching it was very rare at six points and at the remaining six places its presence was moderate.
The fishermen from Nagarjunasagar in Nalgonda said that the presence of ‘ponduga’ had been declined largely. A trader from Chinnamunigal village of Nalgonda district, said that he saw over 10 kg of the fish way back in 2002.
The species is considered one of the best fish which was also earlier found in Bheema and Tungabadra, the tributaries of Krishna. The researchers have recommended the State government control fishing during July and August which are its breeding season to conserve it.