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Job creation will drive next phase of reforms

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On the 25th anniversary of India’s economic reforms, a general consensus seems to have emerged within the country and without that the next phase reforms must address what has so far eluded agreement among the principal stakeholders: land and labour. Make in India will not happen if these two main factors of production remain entangled in political one-upmanship.

The government has made some overtures in the domain of land reforms, but the issues surrounding it have not yet fully crystallized. Unless there is clarity and consensus around land reforms, including land acquisition for implementing government’s industrialization and infrastructure development projects, the vision of converting India into a global manufacturing hub will remain unrealized. It is essential to pursue efforts towards a comprehensive land reforms policy relentlessly to bring the matter to a satisfactory conclusion.

In the field of labour, the exercise for rationalization and consolidation of labour laws undertaken by the government in the last two years has suddenly taken a breather. Despite earlier attempts to push the agenda forward, the feeling that the main stakeholders were not taken fully on board has provoked angry reactions among the major trade unions, which have threatened a nationwide strike in September. Recognizing the possible implications of unilateral action, the Prime Minister has reportedly decided to proceed more cautiously in future by taking the workers’ representatives into confidence.

Industry lobby FICCI had set up a special tripartite group to consult the stakeholders and make suitable recommendations for the government’s consideration. As convener of the special group, I held extensive consultations and submitted my report making a host of recommendations. Among other things, I advocated gradualism and proposed an incremental approach to labour law reforms in place of the wholesale reforms that were being attempted.

There really is no alternative to dialogue, compromise and consensus in the realm of social re-engineering. The efforts may appear tardy and frustrating at times, but sustainable results can be achieved only if we are able to hone the strategy of tactical retreat with a view to eventually finding the winning formula that will be acceptable to all.

The rolling back of government’s publicly announced EPF policies earlier this year is a case in point. The massive street protests in Paris in April and May 2016 against the French government’s labour reforms that were perceived as pro-capitalist portend social unrest that may become intractable if such sensitive matters are not handled with understanding and empathy.

The fact that recent amendments to the Child Labour (Prohibition & Regulation) Act encountered widespread criticism from academia, social activists, international organizations like Unicef and others exposes the absence of broad-based dialogue and consensus building that is the cornerstone of progressive and sustainable labour reforms architecture.

Despite all the wishful rhetoric over the last two years of the present government, it is now common knowledge that enough jobs — especially decent quality jobs — are not getting created in the economy, particularly in the organized manufacturing sector. The government would do well to ensure that the frustrations of youth poised to enter the job market are effectively contained. Towards this end, the recent announcement about massive injection of funds for skilling and re-skilling potential job seekers is most opportune.

The concerned department and agencies of the government must quickly respond by setting up capacity and infrastructure to absorb the funds and put them to best advantage. The youth are impatient and care must be taken to ensure that the burning embers are not allowed to be stoked by “indosceptics” who have a problem for every solution.

Clearly, job creation is the single most important direction to follow in the next phase of reforms. If adequate numbers of jobs are available in the marketplace, the resistance to labour reforms on the part of the traditional trade union movement will surely mellow.

Meanwhile, the government should re-establish confidence and trust among employers’ and workers’ representatives by organizing impartial and meaningful tripartite consultations on labour reform proposals that are doable. There is no point in biting off more than you can chew. The priorities and pace of reforms must be carefully calibrated so that the achievements can endure in the long run.

The government has three more years to go in its first term. There is sufficient time to readjust the trajectory so that results start showing before it must inevitably return to the hustings. Alarm bells are not ringing just yet, but a gentle reminder is not out of order.

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Microsoft commits $500 mn for new startup initiative

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San Francisco, Feb 15: Microsoft has committed $500 million for a new programme to help nurture start-ups, offering resources such as Azure credits and sales support.

“Microsoft for Startups” will deliver access to technology, go-to-market and community benefits to help startups grow their customer and revenue base.

“We are committing $500 million over the next two years to offer joint sales engagements with startups, along with access to our technology and new community spaces,” Charlotte Yarkoni, Corporate Vice President, Growth and Ecosystems at Microsoft, said in a blog post late on Wednesday.

Microsoft has over 40,000 sales representatives and hundreds of thousands of partners.

The programme provides dedicated resources to prepare startup marketing and sales teams to effectively sell their Cloud solutions to enterprise organisations in partnership with Microsoft’s global sales organisation and partner ecosystem.

The programme provides startups with up to $120,000 in free Azure credits, enterprise grade technical support and development tools – supporting the languages of their choice.

“In addition, qualified startups also get access to productivity and business applications, including Office 365 and Microsoft Dynamics 365,” the post said.

Microsoft “Reactorsa are physical spaces where entrepreneurs, developers, investors and the business community can come together to interact, learn and share.

“Over the next month (March), we will open the doors on new Microsoft Reactor spaces in London, Sydney, Tel Aviv, Berlin, Shanghai and Beijing,” Yarkoni said.

IANS

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56% smart cities prone to floods: Report

More than 2,200 cities and towns in India are located in districts which have witnessed at least 11 floods in the last 18 years.

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As much as 56 per cent of smart cities are prone to floods which are responsible for 77 per cent of all disasters in India, a report said on Friday.

The report, based on disaster data between 2000 and 2017, observed that India has a mean of 11 flood events per district over the last 18 years.

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Following floods, other disaster share was cyclone (22 per cent), extreme temperature (11 per cent), landslides (seven per cent) and earthquakes (four per cent). Drought, however, was only one per cent of all disasters.

“Ninety-eight per cent of India’s 642 districts have received at least one flood event,” stated the joint report ‘Decoding the Monsoon Floods’ by NGO SEEDS and Centre for Research on the Epidemiology of Disasters (CRED) based in the University of Louvain School of Public Health, Brussels.

It said that floods affect over 15 million people every year. Of 15.6 million people affected by floods in India in 2017, over 316,185 were people with disabilities.

“More than 2,200 cities and towns in India are located in districts which have witnessed at least 11 floods in the last 18 years,” the report said.

Further signifying the scale of infrastructure that needs to be secured against the future risks, the findings said that 56 per cent of India’s planned smart cities fall in districts reporting a high number of flood events.

Since 2000, India has faced 215 flooding events both from floods and cyclones. This accounts for 77 per cent of all disaster events.

“Assam is the most flood-prone state, with areas like Lakhimpur reporting over 30 flood events within this period. Even known drought-prone areas of Gujarat and Rajasthan have witnessed more floods than the country’s average in the last 18 years,” said Anshu Sharma, Co-founder and Mentor, SEEDS.

“Unpredictability, urbanisation and invisibility of flood risk are major concerns that need to be addressed urgently,” Sharma added.

Citing the 2015 Chennai floods in Tamil Nadu, the report pointed out how the natural sinks like wetlands, that act as a sponge against floods, had shrunk due to rapid urbanisation, leading to catastrophic results.

“Estimates put the remaining original wetlands of Chennai at just 10 per cent.”

“Concrete encroachment on Cooum River, Adyar River and Buckingham Canal which serve as the main rainwater drains, poorly designed drainage systems and ageing civil infrastructure added to the problem,” the report said.

Debarati Guha-Sapir, Director, CRED, said: “We are witnessing a disturbing trend of a large number of climate induced disasters… The launch of this regional report is a huge step towards better understanding of local nuances of disaster events.”

Suggesting preparations for the 2018 monsoon and cyclone seasons at policy and community levels, the report said that with a scale this huge, informal nature of the losses and limited resources, coping practices at the community level are very beneficial.

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Microsoft Accelerator, Accenture Ventures to empower start-ups in India

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Bengaluru, Jan 12: Microsoft Accelerator and Accenture Ventures on Friday announced a new ecosystem partnership To further strengthen the start-up ecosystem in India.

The two companies will help growth-stage technology B2B start-ups specialising in Artificial Intelligence (AI), Internet of Things (IoT), Augmented/Virtual Reality, Blockchain, fintech, Big Data, security and customer experience solutions boost their enterprise readiness and go-to market strategy.

Microsoft Accelerator is a global programme built to empower start-ups while Accenture Ventures partners and invests in growth-stage companies that create innovative enterprise technologies.

“The partnership with Accenture showcases our commitment to connect start-ups with large corporates and help them scale up to become successful businesses,” said Bala Girisaballa, Managing Director, Microsoft Accelerator.

The partnership was announced at Microsoft Accelerator’s “ThinkNext 2018” event here, attended by over 400 business and industry thought leaders, start-ups, venture capitalists and entrepreneurs.

The ecosystem partnership will help start-ups deploy solutions in large India and global client environments and improvise on their business model.

“This ecosystem partnership is an example of how we orchestrate the innovation ecosystem and create opportunities for start-ups to grow and scale-up,” added Avnish Sabharwal, Managing Director, Accenture Ventures, India.

Microsoft Accelerator and Accenture Ventures will also host various start-up events and summits in India.

The event also marked the graduation ceremony of Microsoft Accelerator’s 11th winter cohort.

IANS

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