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$280 million: Money Indian taxpayers paid for Modi’s 84 trips in 4.5 years

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Mumbai: Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s hectic travel schedule over the past four-and-a-half years cost Indian taxpayers about $280 million (Rs 20.09 billion taking the value of rupee as 71.76 per dollar) as he made 84 trips around the world, according to India’s foreign ministry.

The money spent on each trip, combined with the cost of maintenance on Air India One and setting up a secure hotline, was provided in a response to a lawmaker’s question in parliament by V K Singh, the country’s junior foreign minister.

Since taking office, Modi has maintained a punishing pace of world travel, meeting some global leaders such as US President Donald Trump and Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe multiple times in a bid to boost India’s influence in global affairs and secure its strategic interests.

 

Some of his trips, including an informal summit with Xi Jinping in the Chinese city of Wuhan, are credited as diplomatic successes. His meeting with China’s leader after a tense stand-off in the Himalayas was seen as ushering in a detente between the world’s two most-populous countries.

His trip to Japan in 2016 — which came immediately after Modi eliminated 86 per cent of India’s currency, sending millions into bank queues to exchange worthless cash — led to accusations by the opposition that he was travelling the world while ordinary Indians were struggling.

Some were also a bit odd. While on a trip to Africa, Modi — a vegetarian and devout Hindu nationalist who reveres and worships bovines — gave Rwandan villagers 200 dairy cows on a beef-eating continent where there is a possibility of them getting slaughtered. He also signed a memorandum of understanding to open a yoga college in China’s Yunnan province, and pledged to cooperate with Turkmenistan on both yoga and traditional Indian medicine, according to the statement.

These sorts of agreements — aspirational, though sometimes vaguely-worded — were signed with countries as varied as China and Palestine. In Oman, a memorandum of understanding was signed pledging “cooperation in the field of health.” In Portugal, Modi’s diplomats pledged to cooperate “in the exploration and uses of outer space for peaceful purposes,” an agreement India also struck with Vietnam and Oman.


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Jobs are plenty, but techies in India lack necessary skillsets: IBM chief

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Mumbai: Global tech major IBM chief Virginia “Ginni” Rometty has said Indians lack the required skillsets even as new-age jobs galore, and exhorted all to look at education beyond obtaining/giving away degrees.

“In India, you have the same issues. Open jobs, (but) no matching skillsets,” she said, speaking at a company conference in Mumbai.

“You have got to believe in a few different things than I think you believed in the past.

 

“One is to believe that skills are perhaps more important than a degree,” Rometty said, amid reports of huge unemployment among qualified engineers who when employed at the entry level are paid much lower than those semi-skilled with experience.

There have been reports that nearly three-fourths of the millions of engineers and B-school graduates are simply not employable at all, speaking volumes about the quality of both the academics as well as the admission process in the country’s education systems.

According to private economic think tank CMIE data, as of February, there were as many as 31.2 million youth actively looking for jobs.

This is in a country where over 60 per cent of the 1.35 billion population are under 35.

“It can be that you can have folks with less than a university degree, but participate well in this industry,” Rometty said.

Contrary to perceptions of jobs being in short supply, she said there are jobs aplenty and an equivalent number of people looking for them, but the skillsets are not matching, which is the real problem.

She said businesses and governments have to work together to solve the issue at hand, underlining that “we cannot have a world of the haves and the have-nots in this new world where certain people know how to work in the new technology-led era and the vast majority of others do not.”

Posing a question on whether tech will kill jobs, she said the nature of jobs will undergo a change and also spoke about her company’s social sector projects, especially those aimed at educating women.

Two years ago, the head of a leading European tech player had alluded to similar concerns as Rometty.

He had said over 65 per cent of the Indian IT staff is “just not re-trainable”, and had taken potshots at the Indian education system and also blamed the tech companies for not doing enough.

“For some unknown reasons, we call it a knowledge-driven industry.

“If you have that kind of talent, and then making them learn the existing technology itself is such a huge challenge,” he had said.

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India to post Customs intelligence officers in China to check financial frauds

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New Delhi: India has decided to post Customs intelligence officers in China in its effort to check black money, trade-based money laundering and other financial frauds, officials said.

Two posts of the Customs Overseas Intelligence Network (COIN) have been created in the Indian Embassy in Beijing and in the Consulate General of India at Guangzhou, they said.

The Finance Ministry has begun the process to select officers for the postings.

 

The move has been initiated by the Directorate of Revenue Intelligence (DRI), the lead agency to check Customs frauds and smuggling, to curtail incidents of trade-based money laundering and other financial frauds originating from China, the officials said.

COIN officers are usually mandated to pass on intelligence or information gathered from their respective positing stations overseas to help Indian intelligence agencies – mainly DRI – check trade-related frauds, they said.

“COIN officers play an important role in checking trade-based money laundering, black money and tax evasion by sharing intelligence with Indian agencies. Since a significant import and export is done between India and China, it was considered imperative to expand the snoop network to China,” an official said, wishing anonymity.

In the past, Customs authorities in India have detected a few cases of smuggling to and from China, he said.

COIN officers have been posted in several countries, including Nepal, Singapore, Brussels, the US and the UK, to help Indian authorities check smuggling, the officials said.

The selection process involves concurrence by the Ministry of External Affairs and final approval by the Prime Minister Narendra Modi-headed Appointments Committee of the Cabinet, they said.

Giving details of the process, the officials said an evaluation committee comprising directors general of DRI, Directorate General of Goods and Services Tax Intelligence, National Academy of Customs, Excise and Narcotics and the Directorate General of Human Resource Development will evaluate the service records of concerned officers for posting.

A high-level committee comprising the chairperson, two members of the Central Board of Indirect Taxes and Customs and the director general of DRI will interview the officers, they said.

The board will then recommend a panel of three officers for each post to Finance Minister Arun Jaitley.

After obtaining the finance minister’s approval, the panel will be forwarded to the Ministry of External Affairs for its concurrence followed by a reference to the Appointments Committee of the Cabinet for final approval, the officials said.

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SEBI mulls reducing rights issue listing time

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Kolkata: After reducing time to list shares on the stock exchanges post-closure of initial public offerings (IPOs), markets regulator SEBI is aiming to cut down the time for listing of rights issue shares, an official said.

In September last year, the Securities and Exchange Board of India (SEBI) decided on reducing the time to list shares on the bourses after IPO to 3 days from the present 6. The SEBI directive is likely to come into effect from July this year. SEBI had cited mitigating external risks such as market volatility and uncertainty of financial markets as the reason behind the move.

“SEBI aims to reduce the listing of IPO shares to 3 days from 6 days now. It is supposed to be introduced for IPOs from July 2019 onwards. Now, the regulator is working on simplifying the rights issue process,” Central Depository Services (India) Ltd (CDSL) VP (operations) Nitin Ambure told PTI. “I hope the number of days for listing the rights issue shares may come down to 8-10 days from about a month now. This may happen in phases, also depending on the regulator’s final decision,” he said.

 

Ambure was in the city to participate at a discussion on demat of unlisted shares at the Merchants’ Chamber of Commerce here. The markets regulator has involved stakeholders such as depositories and transaction advisors in the rights issue listing simplification process, just like it engaged exchanges and depositories for IPO shares, he said.

From April onwards, Unified Payments Interface (UPI) will be introduced as an alternative payment option for retail investors and SEBI has already cleared a proposal on it. National Electronic Funds Transfer (NEFT) is also being tested.

Analysts said the new payment mechanisms will make Applications Supported by Blocked Amount (ASBA) mechanism less attractive to investors. ASBA was introduced by the regulator so an investor does not lose out interest component on the application money.

Earlier, the process of normal allotment of shares for IPOs took almost a month. Ambure said SEBI had granted relaxation for processing Demat Request Number from the current 15 days to 30 days in the wake of unusual surge in requests for dematerialisation in recent months. As of now, the transfer of shares in the demat form is mandatory.

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