Higher education in India gets a Rs 8,000 crore boost

Government’s estimated schematic budgetary expenditure on health, education and social protection for 2018-19 is Rs 1.38 trillion. Photo: HT

Government’s estimated schematic budgetary expenditure on health, education and social protection for 2018-19 is Rs 1.38 trillion. Photo: HT

New Delhi: To increase investment in higher educational institutions, the Union Cabinet today approved a proposal for expanding the scope of Higher Education Financing Agency (HEFA) by expanding its capital base to Rs 10,000 crore and tasking it to mobilise Rs 1 trillion by 2022.

Briefing reporters after the Cabinet meeting chaired by Prime Minister Narendra Modi, Union minister Ravi Shankar Prasad said the government wants to increase investments in higher education, for which an announcement was made in the last budget and HEFA was established.

“At that time its authorised capital was Rs 2,000 crore and now it has been increased to Rs 10,000 crore,” Prasad said, adding that earlier central government universities and other new varsities didn’t get advantage of HEFA but in today’s cabinet meeting, it was decided that they can utilise this fund.

In his Union Budget 2018, the then finance minister Arun Jaitley had announced a new initiative of the government—‘‘Revitalising Infrastructure and Systems in Education (RISE)”—to step up investments in research and related infrastructure in premier educational institutions, including health institutions. HEFA, a joint venture company of Canara Bank and Ministry of Human Resource Development which provides financial assistance for creation of educational infrastructure and R&D in India’s premier higher educational Institutions, was tasked to fund this initiative.

Government’s estimated schematic budgetary expenditure on health, education and social protection for 2018-19 is Rs 1.38 trillion against estimated expenditure of Rs 1.22 trillion in 2017-18.

[“Source-livemint”]

How to fund child’s education: Take a loan or use own funds?

Keeping your accumulated savings invested and taking an education loan instead can benefit you. Photo: Alamy

Keeping your accumulated savings invested and taking an education loan instead can benefit you. Photo: Alamy

Any big-ticket spending requires you to either have the required funds in place or a financing option. When dealing with long-term financial goals, such as higher education of children, you have the advantage of planning much in advance. Here’s how you can go about the planning.

Start early

A lot of parents have an inclination to send their children abroad for higher education, at least at the post-graduate level, said Suresh Sadagopan, a certified financial planner and founder of Ladder 7 Financial Advisories. “In that case, the planning needs to start really early. They would need a horizon of at least 10-15 years. When we talk of international education at post-graduate level today, most likely it is not going to happen below ₹40 lakh,” he said.

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How do you work towards saving that amount? Prakash Praharaj, founder, Max Secure Financial Planners, said that the future cost of a particular course needs to be calculated taking into account at least 10% annual inflation. “Then calculate the current assets and investments accumulated for these goals. Then the remaining gap for the aimed amount is to be filled through monthly SIPs over the years,” he said.

Starting an SIP of ₹5,000-7,000 in an equity fund for 15 years and increasing it by 10-20% each year could help. However, Sadagopan said, given the fact that there are so many ongoing expenses these days, including other loans, it becomes difficult for parents to put aside a huge amount for the child’s post-graduation alone.

Consider taking loan

Even if you have been working on creating a higher education corpus, you need to consider taking an education loan. At present, the total expenses for higher education abroad could be in the range of ₹1 crore per child, Sadagopan said.

“A realistic thing that parents need to realise is that the child’s higher education is not their only goal. Retirement is also an important goal and they need to be aware of the fact that you can get a loan for all other requirements but not for retirement,” he said.

Own funds versus loan

But if someone has already accumulated the required amount, why should another repayment burden be taken on? The answer lies in two things, Praharaj said. “A cost benefit analysis suggests that taking an education loan and keeping the accumulated amount invested works in your favour. Moreover, it also helps in developing a sense of responsibility in the student. The realisation that a repayment has to be done by them keeps them focussed,” he said.

The math of keeping your accumulated savings invested and taking an education loan instead suggests that taking a loan results in significant benefits. For instance, if ₹1 crore is kept invested and an education loan for the same amount is taken, at the end of nine years, including the repayment holiday on the education loan, the net benefit could be around ₹87 lakh (see graph).

This includes the tax saved on repayment of loan. Borrowers of education loans can claim deduction on the interest paid, though not on the principal amount. Also, unlike in home loans, there is no limit to the amount that can be claimed as deduction.

Sadagopan said it is better that the parents keep the money with themselves and let the child take the loan. “In future if the child is struggling to find a job and pay back, you can step in to help at that point,” he said.

[“Source-livemint”]

Solo: A Star Wars Story Has Lots to Show, Nothing to Say

Solo: A Star Wars Story Has Lots to Show, Nothing to Say

Alden Ehrenreich as Han Solo, and Joonas Suotamo as Chewbacca in Solo: A Star Wars Story

HIGHLIGHTS

  • Solo: A Star Wars Story is out in theatres
  • It’s set before the events of 1977’s Star Wars
  • Alden Ehrenreich, Donald Glover, Emilia Clarke star in Solo

Last year, George R.R. Martin – the author of A Song of Ice and Fire series of novels that have been adapted at HBO – said that of the several Game of Thrones spin-off ideas in development, not even one touched upon the period immediately prior to the current saga. “There would be no surprises or revelations left in such a show, just the acting out of conflicts whose resolutions you already know,” he added. Instead, Martin wants them to show parts of his universe that haven’t already been talked about.

On the other hand, the powers that-be at Lucasfilm – under Disney’s ownership – are more than happy to take the safer route and expand on events and characters we already know about, as it guarantees a financial windfall by drawing most if not all existing fans of the franchise. Partly thanks to Harrison Ford, Han Solo is one of the most famous characters in pop culture, let alone Star Wars. Telling his origin story, as the new standalone Star Wars film – Solo, out May 25 worldwide – does, is the definition of low-hanging fruit.

What makes that problem worse is that even before it starts, the big pieces of the puzzle are already in place. Owing to the original trilogy – now retroactively titled Episode IV, V and VI – that ran from 1977-1983, we know Han will meet Chewbacca, the two will then encounter Lando Calrissian, from whom Han will win the Millennium Falcon in a bet, with which he’ll make the Kessel Run in less than 12 parsecs. That’s not a lot of room to create a meaningful story – written by Star Wars veteran Lawrence Kasdan and his son Jonathan – in addition to the fact there’s no stakes for our heroes.

 

On top of that, Solo: A Star Wars Story is also dealing with a limited arc for a young Han, since he has to end up as the cocky and overpromising guy Luke Skywalker and Obi-Wan Kenobi meet in the Mos Eisley cantina. And that means the film can’t attribute qualities to him that you wouldn’t normally associate with him, even though he’s about a decade younger in this than in the original trilogy. That doesn’t mean it doesn’t try; Solo has moments where it pokes fun at his ill-advised bravado, but it’s still filling in the portrait of a guy who thinks he can do everything himself.

Solo: A Star Wars Story begins by introducing the pair of Han (Alden Ehrenreich, from Hail, Caesar!) and Qi’ra (Emilia Clarke, from Game of Thrones) on their homeworld of Corellia, who are in love and languishing in slum-like conditions. Years later, Han enlists in the Imperial forces, meets a criminal of dubious morals named Tobias Beckett (Woody Harrelson, from War for the Planet of the Apes), and then takes on a job for crime lord Dryden Vos (Paul Bettany, from Avengers: Infinity War). That sets Soloin motion and brings other characters into the picture.

What unfolds from there is a part heist and part Western film, as Han and Co. go about achieving their mission – it involves stealing something ultra-valuable and getting it somewhere else as quickly as possible – while making new friends and new enemies along the way. The former involves Lando Calrissian (Donald Glover), the captain and original owner of the Millennium Falcon, and his first mate, a hilarious and outspoken droid called L3-37 (voiced by Phoebe Waller-Bridge, from Fleabag). There are bit part roles for Westworld’s Thandie Newton and director Jon Favreau (Iron Man) as well.

solo star wars lando calrissian Solo A Star Wars Story

Donald Glover as Lando Calrissian in Solo: A Star Wars Story
Photo Credit: Jonathan Olley/Lucasfilm

 

Like the previous standalone chapter Rogue One, there’s nothing about the Jedi and lightsabers here, and even less about the Empire or the Force. Similarly, all the new characters Solo: A Star Wars Story introduces are ultimately dispensable too, since none of them can show up in later entries. But unlike Rogue One, the film, seemingly with an eye on potential sequels – Ehrenreich has a three-picture deal in his contract – creates subplots that aren’t tied up properly by the end. It’s here that Solo even connects to the prequel trilogy from 1999-2005.

Unfortunately, there’s little justification for a second visit, when the first is rather unimaginative. Save for a few scattered moments, the film doesn’t grab you until an hour in. And though it’s got the makings of some unique action set-pieces, they aren’t handled in a way that would make them memorable. Even when the Millennium Falcon is being attacked by TIE fighters late-game, there’s no sense of the excitement that was apparent in J.J. Abrams’ 2015 soft reboot The Force Awakens, and Rian Johnson’s 2017 follow-up The Last Jedi.

Part of this stems from the botched handling of the production. The original directors, Phil Lord and Christopher Miller (The Lego Movie), were fired over four months into filming, after clashing with Lucasfilm execs including Kasdan over their directorial approach. They thought they were hired to bring their comedic flavour to Star Wars, but their heavy improvisational technique – the duo sometimes shot a dozen takes that weren’t always in line with what the script said – didn’t sit well with Kasdan, and they were replaced by Ron Howard (A Beautiful Mind), who’s seen as a safe choice.

It’s a testament to Howard’s experience that he not only managed to keep the film on track for its scheduled release, but that Solo: A Star Wars Story feels cohesive despite being the product of two entirely different visions: according to a behind-the-scenes report, 70 percent of the finished film is Howard’s, with the rest being the work of Lord and Miller. But because Howard was hired last minute to simply bring the script to life, the film lacks an authoritative touch and ends up feeling like a by-the-numbers bland heist film.

solo star wars qira Solo A Star Wars Story

Emilia Clarke as Qi’ra in Solo: A Star Wars Story
Photo Credit: Lucasfilm

 

Moreover, less than six months after Star Wars took some of its boldest steps courtesy Johnson – including a welcome dressing down of why trigger-happy hotshots can cause more harm than good – Solo is happy to play it easy. A few unexpected twists towards the end, and the work of its top-notch cast – Waller-Bridge is excellent and powers some of the film’s best moments, Glover is instantly charismatic and a scene-stealer as the trailers promised, and Clarke lands the note she’s asked to play, that of an intriguing yet enigmatic female lead – simply aren’t enough.

Despite how damning the preceding paragraphs may sound, Solo isn’t a bad movie per se. It’s just fine. The film will help buff up the encyclopaedia pages in a certain period, give Disney another chance to sell more Star Wars merchandise, and lays the groundwork for sequels leading up to Episode IV – A New Hope (“Star Wars” for the purists). But it never takes off in a fashion that would please its titular hero – John Williams’ iconic soundtrack is also on a leash for the longest time, unfortunately – mainly because it’s too predictable to make any wild manoeuvres.

We’ll never know what Lord and Miller would’ve done with Solo: A Star Wars Story, even as the underlying story would’ve been the same. It’s also possible their version would have been horrible, and that Lucasfilm was right in removing them before it was too late. But if Star Wars is going to keep swinging the pendulum back even as its world expands – reports abound of more standalone chapters with Obi-Wan and others, alongside all-new stories from Johnson, Favreau, and Game of Thrones creators – the least it can do is not be borderline cynical about it.

[“Source-gadgets.ndtv”]

A quirky workspace for a creative workforce at Wieden+Kennedy’s

Pichwai-style illustrations of Wieden+Kennedy staff by artist Mahendra Kumar. Photo: Pradeep Gaur/Mint.

Pichwai-style illustrations of Wieden+Kennedy staff by artist Mahendra Kumar. Photo: Pradeep Gaur/Mint

Wearing a bright maroon printed dress and white Nikes, Sarina Grewal, 25, looks extremely comfortable sitting on the carpet in her office, talking animatedly to her colleague, Akhil Thakur, about a new design they are working on. Grewal and Thakur can often be found working together in the library area—even if it means sitting on the floor—to escape the noise and chatter near their desks. This jells well with the casual comfort vibe of Wieden+Kennedy’s (W+K’s) Delhi office. “I joined right after college because I didn’t want to waste time. This place made me want to stick around. It has been three years already!” says Grewal, an art director at the creative agency.

The mascot : The vibrant office in Saket, Delhi, is quite a hit. “I have often seen random people walking past and pointing out to the red horse at the entrance of our office. As a matter of fact, the red horse is the most popular selfie destination too,” she laughs. It has turned into a sort of mascot for the office, with official paraphernalia like coasters and tote bags bearing its picture.

Employees play a video game. Photo: Pradeep Gaur/Mint

Employees play a video game. Photo: Pradeep Gaur/Mint

This is not the only thing that makes the Delhi office stand out. On one side of the lounge is a ceiling full of illustrations. “These are all illustrations of my colleagues. When someone joins, we get their photos clicked, send it to a Pichwai artist, Mahendra Kumar in Ajmer, and get these illustrations made. It is a W+K tradition,” she says. The entrance also has a wall to showcase exemplary art/creative work by employees. For now, it also serves as a noticeboard announcing the next movie for their Thursday movie evenings.

“We have these fun things every week. Our Amsterdam office has wine Thursdays, so we decided to do movies instead. Some days we are at work till 2-3am and these things help us to de-stress,” adds Grewal.

Sarina Grewal next to a red horse that is a selfie magnet. Photo: Pradeep Gaur/Mint

Sarina Grewal next to a red horse that is a selfie magnet. Photo: Pradeep Gaur/Mint

The nomadic life: The W+K office is flexible about who sits where. By lunchtime, Grewal says, most people are sitting somewhere other than their usual seats, discussing projects. A round table near her work desk serves as an informal meeting space, as do couches in the lounge-cum-library area. The library is the most popular venue though, both for meetings and video-game sessions.

The studio has recently moved to the main office space. This, Grewal believes, is less alienating for the people working on the final product. The erstwhile studio is right opposite the main entrance, with a large Make In India lion standing proudly within. Make In India was one of the campaigns W+K worked on. Around the office are signs of other campaigns—posters from Nike’s last print campaign and miniature IndiGo aeroplane models.

Photo: Pradeep Gaur/Mint

Photo: Pradeep Gaur/Mint

The thinking spot: The library houses magazines and books on design and art. There are a few yearbooks as well. A table next to it serves as a standing desk—its height is adjustable. There are witty posters too. One such poster declares, “Be mediocre. You will sleep better.”

“The office is always very casual. You will see us joking and laughing. But then again, everyone here is passionate about the brands they get to handle. Which makes it a wonderful place to begin your career with,” Grewal says.

Photo: Pradeep Gaur/Mint

Photo: Pradeep Gaur/Mint

The Work Tour is a series which looks at how people are engaging with office design and how it impacts their productivity and positivity at work.

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