The Week That Was:

From: Vartaa Editorial Team on Mar 13, 2016

World Culture Festival

The Art of Living Foundation and its patron Sri Sri Ravi Shanker were at the center of the news in India this past week. The Foundation's marquee event to celebrate its 35 years, the World Culture Festival came under controversy as the National Green Tribunal imposed a cess of Rs 5 crore for the temporary venue being constructed on the banks of the River Yamuna in Delhi. After initially refusing to pay the 'fine', Sri Sri climbed down and his foundation deposited its first instalment. PM Modi and members of his government however attended the event and spoke there as well. The event saw huge crowds but also had its share of problems. Other organizers who have denied permission to hold events on the Yamuna riverbed voiced their protest while unseasonal Delhi rain turned the venue into a swamp while also causing massive traffic snarls in the eastern part of the city.

Tough times for the king of good times

The most flamboyant face of Indian industry, Vijay Mallya, continued to face 'tough times'. After reports came out that Mallya had left the country, the CBI came under the heat for changing its lookout notice from preventing Mallya from leaving India to merely informing it of his travel plans. Mallya, meanwhile issued a statement of his own, stating that the time was 'not right' for him to return to India. The action against him on the ground continues. His lenders seized trademarks related to Kingifisher Airlines, a Hyderabad court issued a non-bailable warrant against him and the Enforcement Directorate issued summons directing him to appear in person before it on March 18. The regulators are belatedly swinging into action too. SEBI issued a circular stating that wilful defaulters will not be allowed to raise money from the market while the Finance Ministry stressed the need for enacting an insolvency code to deal with the non-performing debts that banks are laden with.

Cricket World T20

As the World T20 gets set to undergo in India, the issue of the Pakistani team's security finally got resolved with the governments of West Bengal and the Union Home Ministry giving assurances to the team of full security. Both the men and women Pakistani teams have now arrived in India. The action, quite rightly, has shifted to the game itself with Pakistan captain Shahid Afridi feeling that it would be a contest between his bowlers and India's batsmen when the two teams meet in Calcutta in the World Cup.

Opinions you must read:

  • The recent funeral of Mumtaz Qadri, the man who shot dead Salman Taseer, ex-Governor of the state of Punjab in Pakistan, drew massive crowds of supporters prompting concerns in the country for the depth of support for extremism. In the Hindu, Ayesha Siddique, a vocal voice of sanity in Pakistan examines this issue in depth.
  • The Mint examines why Indian banks are facing such a big problem of Non-Performing Assets.
  • Does India need a Sovereign Wealth Fund of its own? The Indian Express reflects on the question.

Chart of the Week

Internet usage in India has risen sharply and more than doubled in the last 5 years. It would not be an exaggeration to say that Internet connectivity is an essential service almost at par with electricity and telephony. According to the World Bank, as of 2014, Iceland lead the world in terms of internet penetration- a whopping 98% of its population is connected. Among large developing nations, Brazil’s progress has certainly been impressive. At 58%, it’s the leader in the group. Half of China’s huge population is online. At 18%, India is a laggard among developing nations but the size of the connected population is massive at close to 240 million.

The rate at which the nation has been gaining Internet users has been encouraging. Most of the 80% offline population should het connected over the next decade. This has important implications for several sectors of the economy. The online retail sector is experiencing unprecedented growth currently with several startups receiving frothy valuations. How many of these will be successful remains to be seen but online retailers will invariably gain a bigger share of the total retail pie. The banking and finance sector too will see significant gains. The government will hope for the gains to spread to the agriculture sector through price transparency, easy access to market for farmers etc. The newly connected population will hope for the government to provide information and services virtually which in itself could lead to tremendous gains in efficiency, productivity, and transparency.

*Chart renders best on Desktop. We publish a modified version for phone.