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Debutante writer captures our apathy towards maids (Book Review)



maid in india

New Delhi, June 2: Do you have a domestic help at home to assist your family with household chores? When was the last time you stopped to take a close look at all that she goes through? Perhaps, never. This rare gem of scholarship brings their stories — of migration, pain and constant deprivation — to the fore, while reminding us of the gap between what we say we believe in, and what we actually practise in our day-to-day lives.

Titled “Maid in India”, this work of nonfiction is a result of meticulous research, which shows as one flicks through its pages. The author goes back to historical sources, ranging from scriptures to ages-old autobiographies and memoirs that mention the presence of maids in our society, to bust, point by point, all the myths that we associate with the women who work in our homes and homes around us.

The author points out that India has always had servants in some form or another, but what was once a trickle has now turned into a steady stream of women and men leaving their villages to work mostly in one of the five big cities of India. Lahiri presents and elaborates on all the reasons that may have led to this flourishing business of utmost deprivation and neglect. She also paints a thought-provoking sketch of how the trend of domestic help has been changing over time in India and elsewhere.

But there is a larger narrative that the author has themed her book around.

“Two-thirds of all domestic help employed by families are women and that share rises to 80 per cent if workers whose duties take place outside the house are included. That is almost the exact opposite of the state of affairs at the start of the twentieth century, when women supplied just a third of household help,” she writes, while also reminding us that the most recent figures show that domestic work absorbs more than eight per cent of urban female workers, compared to less than one per cent of male workers.

Citing examples from scriptures and other ancient texts, the author blames the “traditional view of housework” for this skewed distribution of household work between men and women.

She then goes on to debunk the many myths around maids that most of us have thought to be true. The readers are reminded that, in the past, everyone’s place — whether maid, ayah or cook, sahib or memsahib — was well understood. There were clear rules for negotiating (and maintaining) the vast chasm between the two sides. Today the story is different and “represents oh-so-many failures on the part of the Indian state over oh-so-many decades”.

From in-depth reporting in the villages from where women make their way to upper-class homes in Delhi and Gurgaon, to courtrooms where the worst allegations of abuse get an airing, and a peek into homes up and down the class ladder, “Maid in India” is an illuminating and sobering account of the complex and troubling relations between the domestic help and those she serves.

Equally interesting is the ease with which the author, Tripti Lahiri, succeeds in communicating her findings. Her simple yet detailed narration coupled with a striking choice of words may partly be a result of her journalistic career, but the depth and analysis that she displays is that of a seasoned researcher.

It is this that make this book, despite its heavy dose of facts, figures and historical references, a sound read. A title dealing with subjects as intense as this often tends to arouse disinterest in its readers with its thesis-like narrative.

To be able to break this monotony is the forte of an ideal nonfiction writer and Lahiri, with this book, has announced her arrival. The book at hand will perhaps live longer than the praise it will inevitably elicit.

This book also comes at a time when the objectivity of nonfiction books is challenged as they are increasingly turning into propaganda tools and PR exercises. Lahiri has set a benchmark for this genre.

By Saket Suman



Vodafone retrospective tax decision was erroneous: Jaitley



Vodafone Tax Case

The decision taken by the previous UPA government to tax British telecom multinational Vodafone Group retrospectively was an “erroneous” one, the likes of which the ruling NDA would be loath to repeat, Finance Minister Arun Jaitley said on Saturday.

He was responding to a question from the audience here on the issue at the ET Global Business Summit here.

“I always felt Vodafone tax decision was an erroneous decision. This government decided it will not be taking any retrospective decision,” Jaitley said.

It was precisely for this reason that the Long Term Capital Gains Tax reintroduced in the Budget earlier this month had been exempted for investments made up to January 31, 2018, he added.

The Budget 2018-19 has proposed to tax long-term capital gains on equities exceeding Rs 1 lakh at 10 per cent, which is expected to bring in revenue of Rs 20,000 crore.

However, capital gains made on shares until January 31, 2018, will be “grandfathered”, Jaitley said while presenting the budget, adding “we have protected all investments coming in before February 1”.

Vodafone is facing tax claims and interest totalling more than Rs 22,000 crore in India, which includes Rs 14,200 crore for acquiring Hutchison’s stake in 2007.

The UPA government had said that the Hutchison-Vodafone deal was liable for tax deduction at source (TDS) under the Income Tax (IT) Act. While the Supreme Court subsequently quashed the demand in January 2012, the government amended the IT Act retrospectively, putting the liability back on Vodafone Group.

The company last year said an international arbitration tribunal would begin trial on Vodafone’s challenge to India’s retrospective legislation to seek Rs 22,100 crore in taxes.

In this connection, the UK India Business Council (UKIBC) has said thatb predictability and clarity regarding retrospective taxation would help British companies to invest more in India.

“I think that if there was more clarity, certainty, predictability around retrospective taxation and (resolving) the Vodafone issue that would help the UK companies make their investment decisions in India,” UKIBC Managing Director Richard McCallum told IANS over a telephonic interaction on Friday.

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Equities recoup on value buying after 3 weeks of losses




Mumbai, Feb 24: After three weeks of consecutive losses, the key Indian equity indices bounced back from their lows to close this week with humble gains on value buying by investors.

Market observers said futures and options (F&O) expiry infused volatility in the domestic markets, amid global cues and a slew of domestic developments like the $1.8 billion fraud reported by the Punjab National Bank (PNB) and a weakening rupee due to the continuous outflow of foreign funds.

However, losses were trimmed as bargain-hunting by investors on the last trading day of the week lifted the benchmark indices.

On a weekly basis, the barometer 30-scrip Sensitive Index (Sensex) of the Bombay Stock Exchange (BSE) edged higher by 131.39 points or 0.39 per cent to close at 34,142.15 points.

The wider Nifty50 of the National Stock Exchange (NSE) closed trade at 10,491.05 points — up 38.75 points or 0.37 per cent from its previous week’s close.

“The week gone by saw the Nifty bouncing back from a low of 10,302 to finally end with a modest gain. This week’s gains came after three weeks of losses,” Deepak Jasani, Head, Retail Research, HDFC Securities, told IANS.

According to D.K. Aggarwal, Chairman and Managing Director of SMC Investments and Advisors, markets across the globe fluctuated wildly — highlighting the market’s fragility — as investors continued to assess the quickening pace of economic growth and the prospects of the US Federal Reserve’s tightening efforts.

“Back home, the sentiment of market participants have been dented by factors such as surging US bond yields, a multi-crore fraud in India’s second-largest public sector lender PNB and the return of long-term capital gains (LTCG) tax on equities, which put a break on the record-setting market rally,” he added.

During the eight trading sessions following the detection of a $1.8 billion fraud in one of the branches of the PNB, the bank’s shares on the BSE have plunged almost 30 per cent to Rs 113.40 per share.

Gitanjali Gems, the other listed entity involved in the fraud case, also witnessed an eight-day fall in its shares, nosediving 60.54 per cent to Rs 24.80 per share.

“The consolidation in the domestic market continued due to the NPA (non-performing assets) issue in public-sector banks, trade deficit, conflict between NSE and SGX, rise in bond yield and depreciation in rupee due to selling by FIIs (foreign institutional investors),” said Vinod Nair, Head of Research, Geojit Financial Services.

On the currency front, the rupee weakened by 51-52 paise to close at 64.73 against the US dollar from last week’s close of 64.21-22.

Provisional figures from the stock exchanges showed that FIIs sold-off scrips worth Rs 5,781.98 crore, while domestic institutional investors (DIIs) purchased scrips worth Rs 5,972.69 crore during the week.

Figures from the National Securities Depository (NSDL) revealed that foreign portfolio investors off-loaded equities worth Rs 3,054.94 crore, or $468.06 million, during February 20-23.

Sectorwise, Jasani said: “The top sectoral gainers were IT, metal and Bank Nifty indices. The top losers were auto, realty and pharma indices.”

The top weekly Sensex gainers were: Tata Consultancy Services (up 4.76 per cent at Rs 3,076.90); Yes Bank (up 3.75 per cent at Rs 323.60); Infosys (up 2.74 per cent at Rs 1,155.65); Kotak Bank (up 2.67 per cent at Rs 1,079.85); and Coal India (up 2.49 per cent at Rs 310.55).

The losers were: Bajaj Auto (down 3.70 per cent at Rs 2,988); Asian Paints (down 3.65 per cent at Rs 1,101.90); Mahindra and Mahindra (down 3.29 per cent at Rs 719.30); Tata Motors (down 2.73 per cent at Rs 360.45); and Tata Motors (DVR) (down 2.32 per cent at Rs 203.85).


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In the Indian system politicians are accountable but regulators are not: FM Jaitely on Banking frauds



arun Jaitely
Finance Minister Arun Jaitely at Global Business Summit (Photo-ANI)

Finance Minister Arun Jaitley on Saturday told that cases of periodical willful default are much more dangerous than business failure and bank frauds.

Speaking at Global Business Summit the leader pointed out that these kinds of incidents not only harm the economic atmosphere like the ease of doing business but also scars the economy.

The finance minister Jaitley also said, “If a fraud is taking place in multiple branches of banking system & no one raised the red flag, doesn’t that become worrisome for a country. Similarly, top management who were indifferent, multiple layers of auditing system which chose to look another way, it creates a worrisome situation.”

The leader also referred that Regulators plays important roles and decide the rules of the game and they have to have a third eye which perpetually is open.

“Unfortunately, in the Indian system we politicians are accountable but regulators are not,” he added.


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