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#Noteban: Sales fall, anger rises; why the fishing industry can’t go cashless

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fishermen

Siolim/Mapusa/Panaji/Margao (Goa), December 20: Gangu Kundaikar is a small-framed, sari-clad woman who rises at 3 a.m. every day, wraps a cloth around her waist so fish do not soil her sari, and takes a rented vehicle to the Malim jetty in Panaji, North Goa, 8 km from her village in one of Indias most prosperous and literate states.

Kundaikar, 50, brings her day’s supply of fish back home to her village, Chimbel, to sell. Kundaikar, who studied up to class 10, has no bank account and a phone without an Internet connection. She is the only earner in her family of three, which includes her ageing mother and unemployed son.

Kundaikar bought fish worth Rs 3,000 to Rs 4,000 every day and kept the unsold catch in her refrigerator – her only asset. She worked through most of the day and barely made enough to keep her family fed.

That was before midnight on November 8, 2016, when Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s government scrapped 86 per cent of India’s bank notes, by value. Since then, Kundaikar has struggled to balance her family’s budget: Demand for fish has fallen and sales have dropped by 30 per cent. “We are poor, hard-working people,” she told IndiaSpend. “Because of this move by the government, it has become hard for us.”

After China, India is the world’s second-largest producer of fish, but it is a perishable commodity, and less than 19 per cent of fishing centres nationwide have infrastructure that allows fish to be processed or stored: Less than 23 per cent of fishing villages have Internet access, and the fishing economy depends on cash. Profit margins vary according to the species sold, varying from 3.5 per cent (medium-priced fish) to about 10 per cent (high-priced fish) to 20 per cent (low-priced fish), according to a 2012 research paper.

So merchant charges by banks – of 2-2.5 per cent (on credit cards), 0.75-1 per cent (on debit cards) – and even the 1 per cent fee charged by Paytm, a digital wallet – is largely unaffordable, even if fishing villages had good internet access, which they do usually do not.

With notebandi – as the scrapping of Rs 500 and Rs 1,000 notes is colloquially called – stories like Kundaikar’s have become common in fishing communities nationwide. Distress sales, market closures and anchoring of fishing fleets have been reported from West Bengal, Andhra Pradesh, Tamil Nadu, and Kerala. A particular hammer blow appears to have been dealt by the new Rs 2,000 note because there is no change to return.

The crisis of 14.5 million Indians – more than the population of Greece or Portugal – dependent on fishing has crippled an industry that generates almost 1.1 per cent to India’s gross domestic product (GDP). A quarter of these people work along 8,118 km of India’s coastline and 10 million along 197,024 km of inland waterways.

Most of these 14.5 million are part of India’s informal sector, unorganised workers, who constitute 82 per cent of India’s 500-million-strong workforce – more than the combined populations of the USA, Germany and South Africa – and generate half of national GDP. Their world, as we found, changed almost overnight.

Ground reality: Over 50 per cent loss in business, anger at government

Of the 20 fish sellers that IndiaSpend surveyed at a government-run market in Margao, south Goa, more than 80 per cent reported buying less fish from wholesalers because demand was low, while 75 per cent reported income-losses of half or more over the past month.

Our survey also showed that 30 per cent of women did not have a bank account and that 55 per cent did not use phones. Of the ones that did, only 33 per cent had internet on their phone, which they did not use for banking.

Small-scale fish retailers earn between Rs 3,000 and Rs 4,000 every day, IndiaSpend found. If they were to use Paytm for transactions, they would be paying 1 per cent charge to withdraw their money, which is Rs 30-40. For a daily profit of Rs 350-400, they said, this is unaffordable.

Cashless transactions are not an immediate option, so the losses will continue. In any case, most have no internet on their phone and hardly use their bank accounts, said Shashikala Govekar, president of the Fish Vendors Association at the Mapusa market.

We found a cascading effect of such losses. Before November 8, 2016, fish sellers got Rs 280 to Rs 300 per kg of mackerel (bangda), which is now down by about 35 per cent to Rs 180 to Rs 200 per kg, according to members of the All Goa Wholesale Fish Market Association. The Margao Wholesale market is the only wholesale market in Goa where catch from the neighbouring states of Maharashtra and Karnataka is also sold. Vehicles carrying fish from outside the state have fallen by a third.

Unless frozen, fresh fish must be thrown away, if not sold within two days: 67 per cent of fish consumed in India is fresh; no more than 23 per cent is processed (dried, frozen or canned).

Neither fish markets nor landing centres (harbours where fishermen land their craft) have cold storages. Post-harvest fishing losses due to lack of infrastructure (for landing and berthing vessels) and domestic marketing are estimated to be as high as 20 per cent, according to a 2011 report of the erstwhile Planning Commission. These losses are exacerbated by the current market slump.

Can Goa really go cashless? Even the Chief Minister does not think so

On November 25, 2016, 16 days after the demonetisation announcement, the Indian Express reported Defence Minister and erstwhile Goa Chief Minister (CM) Manohar Parrikar saying that Goa would become India’s first cashless state by December 30, 2016.

“Goans are using cards (ATM/credit) in a big way,” Parrikar was quoted as saying at a public meeting near Panjim. “Goa will soon be the first state with cashless society fulfilling a dream of the Prime Minister.”

On December 7, 2016, after his party and the opposition reflected the resentment across Goa, CM Laxmikant Parsekar said that there would be no deadline for Goa to go cashless. “There cannot be a deadline to go cashless,” said Parsekar. “I have always said that it is not cashless, but could be less cash to start with. Goa can do it.”

A major reason that India is unprepared for a cashless economy is a lack of connectivity. At least 73 per cent of Indians (912 million people) do not have access to the internet, IndiaSpend reported on December 3, 2016.

Within 3,237 marine fishing villages in nine of India’s coastal states, 91 per cent villages had mobile phone coverage, but barely 23 per cent had access to the internet.

IANS

India

Time to fight destructive elements: Amjad Ali Khan

How can someone disturb the peace, tranquility and why is nobody reacting to it?

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Amjad Ali Khan

Veteran sarod player Amjad Ali Khan feels that it’s high time everyone stood up against “disturbing elements that are trying to take away peace from the world” — and artistes should show the way.

“Creative freedom needs some space. No world can stay united if you are not together from heart and soul. It’s time for us to stand together against terrorism and other destructive elements that are curbing our growth and making us go back in time,” Amjad Ali Khan said when asked about his take on the backlash faced by some artists from a section of society.

“How can someone disturb the peace, tranquility and why is nobody reacting to it? Education is important, but that is not the only way to bring compassion in a human being. It’s time to raise a hand and fight against destructive elements as we all know that it’s just one section of the world which is committed to destroying it,” he said, adding that “it’s time to fight against arrogance, hatred and destruction.”

Controversy over Sanjay Leela Bhansali’s “Padmavati” is one example of how the medium of art and films is going through a tough time. Not only films, even comedians in the country, and music artistes from across the border, have had to face strident, and sometimes violent, opposition.

However, Amjad Ali Khan says, it was heartening that the world had more peace-loving people than those who would destroy it.

“I hope and pray… let the younger generation experience peace, harmony and tranquility in the world. As a human being I feel proud to see the achievements of mankind. However, I feel that an educational degree is important for any artiste today as a back-up plan. Creative fields don’t have formulas or methods (for success),” he said.

“I wish to have music shape the consciousness in a way that contributes to oneness in children; it must be more practical and less theoretical,” added Amjad Ali Khan who was in the capital to receive the 2017 Dayawati Modi Award for Art, Culture and Education for his contribution to Indian classical music.

Amjad Ali Khan is one of the undisputed masters of the music world. Over the course of a distinguished career spanning more than six decades, he has won numerous accolades, including a Grammy nomination, the Crystal Award by the World Economic Forum, Unicef’s National Ambassadorship and the Fukuoka Cultural grand prize. He has performed at venues the world over, including Carnegie Hall and the Royal Albert Hall, as well as at the Nobel Peace Prize Concert in 2014 in Oslo, Norway.

He feels that musical vibrations can convey moods and emotions and have the ability tomould and shape our consciousness. “Different types of music can have different effects on the mind — both positive and negative. Our mind is like any living organism. It must be nurtured and needs stimulation to develop and grow. Music is one of the most important ‘foods’ for the intellect. Each musical note is connected to this most important part of our minds,” said Amjad Ali Khan.

He said is happy to see the progress of young artistes in India. “They are very fortunate to get access to so much content today through YouTube and many other mediums. However, to be a professional, you must learn from a teacher.” Amjad Ali Khan’s sons, Ayaan and Amaan, are taking forward the legacy and so he is satisfied with the way they have kept the tradition going.

“My years of teaching my sons were quite an experience. It was a first time that I was able to hold a student in my lap. In a family where music is a way of life and is basic to life, the training starts from the moment a child is born,” he said.

“In the course of Amaan’s and Ayaan’s training (which is an ongoing process for a classical musician), I never encouraged them to copy my style of playing beyond a point. As they developed and matured as musicians I was relieved to see both brothers developing a very distinctive and rather different approach to what was taught. This, I feel, is only natural as music is a reflection of an individual’s mind and soul,” the veteran sarod player said.

So what keeps him busy nowadays? “Today, I am experimenting, doing interesting projects. The world has indeed become a global village. Musically, there is so much more that has to be done. It’s a long journey. I am looking forward to my collaborations this year with Norwegian Radio Orchestra and Moscow State Philharmonic Orchestra. I hope that we can bring these projects to India too,” he said.

IANS

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NIIT announces strategic initiative to drive cultures of service excellence across organizations worldwide

Enters into an exclusive partnership with UP! Your Service, founded by award-winning Service Culture Consultant Ron Kaufman.

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NIIT Limited

New Delhi/ Goa, 2nd November, 2017: NIIT Limited, a global leader in Skills and Talent Development, entered into a strategic partnership with UP! Your Service, the global leader in creating cultures of service excellence worldwide. Founded by Ron Kaufman, the globally renowned Service Culture Consultant, UP! Your Service works with organizations across the world, equipping them with customer service principles, training tools, and best practices to make their strategy of continuous service improvement come alive – to make it real, scalable, and sustainable. Under this partnership NIIT will help implement a culture of service excellence across organizations using UP! Your Service’s global expertise and tools in this area.

NIIT’s partnership with UP! Your Service is a strategic move to expand its Corporate Learning portfolio to deliver internal and external cultures of Service Excellence. In addition to its cutting-edge Managed Training Services (MTS), NIIT will now offer services like Service Culture Indicator, Service Leader Workshops, and Service Excellence Workshops to take organizations to a new level of service that is enabled by fundamental principles and actionable models. Through this tie-up with UP! Your Service, NIIT aims to create a huge difference in the way organizations work to create value for their customers and colleagues.

Sapnesh Lalla

Mr. Sapnesh Lalla, CEO, NIIT Limited

Speaking on this significant partnership, Mr. Sapnesh Lalla, CEO, NIIT Limited, said, “We at NIIT, have always believed in Quality and Value Creation. We are excited to embark on a very significant initiative – Delivering Service Excellence and Increasing the Value that our Customers derive from their association with NIIT. We are delighted to partner with UP! Your Service, the world leader in this space in a strategic move to significantly expand our Corporate Learning portfolio.”

The world is in a deep service crisis. With the global economies transforming at record speed, most companies are largely unprepared for the service demands they face day and night from around the world. To address this service crisis, NIIT has partnered with UP! Your Service, founded by Ron Kaufman, one of the world’s most sought-after educators, consultants, business thought-leaders, and motivational customer service keynote speakers on the topic of achieving superior service. His methodology includes a set of proven service principles, leadership rules, culture-building blocks and implementation roadmaps that apply effectively across all industries and cultures. This methodology is easily customized to suit the unique needs of each organization, including all departments and team members from the leadership to the frontline.

Service Earns a Higher Premium

Ron Kaufman

Ron Kaufman, Founder and Chairman, UP! Your Service, said, “Providing superior service is essential to achieving continued success in our competitive world. Organizations with a powerful service reputation and a superior service culture will attract and retain the best talent, achieve market leadership, and enjoy sustainable success. Digital transformation is not just about embracing new technology, it is about a change in thinking and in organization culture. We are happy to partner with NIIT to work towards creating more digital-savvy and customer friendly organizations.”

The NIIT group of companies has been working with UP! Your Service for the last 3 years in related assignments. With this announcement, NIIT & UP! Your Service are taking their association to the next level to benefit customers worldwide. Building on the success of NIIT Technologies, NIIT Limited has embarked on a journey of strengthening its culture of service excellence. This initiative will be rolled out in every business and function of NIIT over a 24-month period commencing October 2017.

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India

Workers demand increase in NREGA wages, work days

“After peaking at 0.6 percent(of GDP) in 2009-10, Central government expenditure on NREGA declined steadily to 0.3 percent in 2015-16 and 2016-17,” he said.

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New Delhi, Sep 11 : Scores of workers and activists today staged a protest here demanding an increase in wages and work days under the NREGA scheme.

They also alleged that the Centre is “diluting” the scheme through budget cuts, low wages and delay in payments.

“Its like slow poison to kill the National Rural Guarantee Act (NREGA),” said activist Anuradha Talwar.

The women working under the rural employment scheme complained of low wages and delays in payments in their respective states.

“I get 10-15 days in a month and the payments are never on time. The wages are also less than what is expected to be paid,” said Galku Devi from Rajasthan.

Under NREGA, workers from rural areas are guaranteed 100 days work. They are also eligible for a stipulated wage of Rs 192 per day within 15 days of completion of work.

Nikhil Dey of the Mazdoor Kisan Shakti Sanghtan said the NREGA Sangharsh Morcha, the umbrella organisation seeking improvement in implementation of the scheme, has raised the demand of hiking the wages to Rs 600 and increasing number of work days to 240.

“NREGA wages have been held constant in real terms since 2009. In the last two years, the wages have increased by as little as one rupee per day in some states,” he said.

The activists also charged that the use of technology has further “hampered” smooth functioning of the scheme.

“The workers as needed to get their numbers listed with Management Information System(MIS) and bank accounts where the wage payments are to be made. This is just one example how cumbersome it could make the scheme,” said Professor Ritika from IIT Delhi.

Another NREGA activist from Rajasthan, Mukesh, highlighted “glaring lapses” in social audit of the scheme and how, despite a demand from the rural workforce, no jobs were available for them.

“After demonetisation, large number of workers have returned to their villages and want work. But, there is no work for them due to several reasons including budget cuts,” he said.

NREGA budgets have been “inadequate” for several years, Dey said.

“After peaking at 0.6 percent(of GDP) in 2009-10, Central government expenditure on NREGA declined steadily to 0.3 percent in 2015-16 and 2016-17,” he said.

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