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Debutante writer captures our apathy towards maids (Book Review)

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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

IANS

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Equities surged on IMD’s monsoon forecast, healthy IT earnings

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Mumbai, April 21: Forecast of normal monsoon rains, along with healthy earnings in the IT sector, lifted the Indian equity markets during the week ended Friday.

Besides, supportive global cues, coupled with expectations of healthy corporate earnings, led the two equity indices — the BSE Sensex and the NSE Nifty50 — to extend their rise for the fourth consecutive week.

However, higher crude oil prices, along with a weak rupee and heavy selling pressure in banking stocks — triggered by a likely hawkish stand of the Reserve Bank of India (RBI) in its next monetary policy review — trimmed some gains of the benchmark indices, said market observers.

On a weekly basis, the barometer 30-scrip Sensitive Index (Sensex) of the BSE rose by 222.93 points or 0.65 per cent to close at 34,415.58 points.

The wider Nifty50 of the National Stock Exchange (NSE) closed trade at 10,564.05 points — up 83.45 points or 0.80 per cent from its previous week’s close.

“Markets extended their winning streak to the fourth consecutive week on strong earnings from TCS (Tata Consultancy Services), Mindtree and Cyient which posted a better than expected quarterly numbers,” Prateek Jain, Director, Hem Securities, told IANS.

“Sentiments also got a boost from postive global clues and IMD’s (India Meteorological Department) forecast that India is likely to receive a normal monsoon in 2018, which further boosted sentiments,” said Jain.

Rahul Sharma, Senior Research Analyst, Equity99, said: “Investors’ sentiment also got a boost after India’s annual WPI-based inflation eased to 2.47 per cent in March, helped by a fall in food prices.”

“Positive global stocks also supported buying,” Sharma told IANS.

Official data released during market hours on Monday showed that India’s Wholesale Price Index (WPI) inflation softened to 2.47 per cent in March from a rise of 2.48 per cent reported for February and acceleration of 5.11 per cent in the corresponding month of last year.

On the currency front, the rupee weakened by 92 paise to close at 66.13 against the dollar from its previous week’s close at 65.21.

“The Indian currency got hammered and sank to a 13-month low of 66.06 against the dollar (during the week) due to rapid surge in global crude oil prices and fiscal deficit worries,” D.K. Aggarwal, Chairman and MD of SMC Investments and Advisors, told IANS.

“The minutes of the last (previous) meeting of the Monetary Policy Committee (MPC) indicated the RBI may shift to a hawkish monetary stance in June. At present, market participants looked little worried that the commodity will continue appreciating to new highs, which would spell trouble for Indian markets,” Aggarwal added.

On the investment front, provisional figures from the stock exchanges showed that foreign institutional investors sold scrips worth Rs 2,821.24 crore, while the domestic institutional investors purchased stocks worth Rs 2,124.16 crore during the week.

Figures from the National Securities Depository (NSDL) revealed that foreign portfolio investors (FPIs) divested equities worth Rs 3,096.62 crore, or $471.78 million, during April 16-20.

“The top sectoral gainers were IT, metal, fast moving consumer goods (FMCG) and realty indices and the major losers were PSU banks, energy and bank Nifty indices,” Deepak Jasani, Head, Retail Research, HDFC Securities, told IANS.

On Friday, shares of IT bellwether Tata Consultancy Services (TCS) rose nearly seven per cent to touch a new high of Rs 3,414 per share, on the back of its robust earnings taking its market capitalisation (m-cap) to over Rs 6.50 lakh crore or around $98 billion.

The top weekly Sensex gainers were: TCS (up 8.11 per cent at Rs 3,406.40); Bharti Airtel (up 6.07 per cent at Rs 400.75); ITC (up 5.81 per cent at Rs 275.95); Power Grid (up 4.94 per cent at Rs 207.30); and Hindustan Unilever (up 3.96 per cent at Rs 1,465.50).

The losers were: Axis Bank (down 6.65 per cent at Rs 505.85); Tata Motors (DVR) (down 5.84 per cent at Rs 190.95); Tata Motors (down 5.72 per cent at Rs 336.25); State Bank of India (down 3.90 per cent at Rs 241.40); and IndusInd Bank (down 2.42 per cent at Rs 1,814.00).

IANS

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PNB claims expected recovery of Rs 1,800 cr from “Mission Gandhigiri”

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Punjab National Bank
Punjab National Bank (PNB). (File Photo: IANS)

New Delhi, April 20 (IANS) State-run lender Punjab National Bank is expected to recover around Rs 1,800 crore from its non-performing assets (NPAs) recovery mechanism — “Mission Gandhigiri” — which will soon complete one year of operation.

A senior bank official told IANS the mission, was launched in May 2017, had consistently delivered positive results with an average recovery of Rs 150 crore from the initiative.

“The mission was born out of the need to name and shame defaulters to increase societal pressure and urge them to pay back. Mission Gandhigiri has a dedicated recovery team across all circles of the bank,” the official, who did not want to be named, told IANS.

Accordingly, the passive recovery mechanism entails the team members to “visit the borrowers’ office or residence and sit their silently with placards that have hard-hitting messages such as ‘It is public money, please repay the loans’.”

On the legal side of the operation, following the government’s directions regarding wilful defaulters, the bank has declared 1,084 wilful defaulters.

“Due to PNB’s aggressive stance towards wilful defaulters, 150 passports have been impounded over the past few months,” the official said. Additionally, over the last 9 months, the bank has also lodged 37 FIRs against defaulters.

The bank is also leveraging data analytics for loan recovery and risk management.

“We have tied up with a leading credit agency and with the help of a third-party expert analytics, we will now be able to get access to contact information of PNB defaulters who have good credit record with other lenders,” the official said.

“This partnership is a part of the larger strategy to deploy technology to strengthen internal systems. This partnership will not only help the bank with loan recovery but will also help identify and automate profitable lending strategies and minimise credit and fraud risk,” the official said.

The bank has also recently started works towards “improving internal systems by incorporating analytics and Artificial Intelligence for reconciliation of accounts”.

In addition, two special OTS (One-Time Settlement) schemes have helped the bank to accelerate NPA recovery.

“From an average of recovering loan amount from 70,000-80,000 NPA accounts in a year, this move has resulted in recovery in 225,000 NPA accounts over a span of 10 months,” the official added.

“These schemes apply to small NPA accounts helping defaulters come out of debt.”

IANS

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Key Indian equity indices open flat

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Mumbai, April 20: The key Indian equity indices opened on a flat note on Friday.

At 9.17 a.m., the wider Nifty50 of the National Stock Exchange (NSE) traded at 10,558.15 points, down 7.15 points or 0.07 per cent from the previous close at 10,565.30 points.

The barometer 30-scrip Sensitive Index (Sensex) of the BSE, which opened at 34,434.14 points, traded at 34,414.73 points (9.17 a.m.) — down 12.56 points or 0.04 per cent — from its previous close at 34,427.29 points on Thursday.

The BSE market breadth so far was bearish with 710 declines and 507 advances.

IANS

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