Future of Creative India lies in its past

Reviving Indian cultural goods and making them commercially viable will boost jobs and entrepreneurship

India has thrived on its creative economy since time immemorial, only to lose it all, in a space of the last 150 years. If we take an example of just the textile industry, we had a share of about 30 per cent in the global trade until late 19th century. This is now down to less than 5 per cent. The place of pride we once held is now just visible in museums, whether it is the 3,500 years old terracotta handspine at Lothal in Gujarat or the legendary transparency of the Indian muslin housed at London’s V&A museum.

The question facing us as Indians today is will we continue to play the cost game with generic products? Will we remain a factory to the world? Or can we hope to make a significant difference in the lives of our citizens, especially the most creative at the bottom of the pyramid. If that hope is real, we would need to restore and leverage our unique creative advantages and build value added business propositions.

In order to do that, we need to look into and learn from our past, trace back the journey and take the faster, more sustainable route to the future. Let us take examples of two plants that Indian textile trade rested on, Cotton and Indigo.

The cotton example

At the time of independence, 98 per cent of the cotton grown in India was the desi variety. Today, it is less than 2 per cent. As the industrial spinning mills in India emerged to help meet the needs of a large population, they needed more production-friendly cotton with longer staple lengths that desi varieties could not provide.

However, this transition happened without paying attention to our unique local semi-industrial ecosystem and we lost our ability to produce yarns and fabrics that nobody else in the world could or can. Up until the late 19th century, we were producing very fine hand spun and hand woven fabrics from the same short staple desicotton varieties. But instead of simultaneously developing technology to support desi cotton, our industry and research institutes (even post-independence) chose to abandon that direction to focus entirely on hybrid and BT cotton.

The indigo story

The second example is of the Indigo dye. Such was our claim to its provenance, that even the term ‘Indigo’ itself is derived from its Indian roots that meant “Indian” or “Indian Ink”. No surprise then that we had near monopoly in the world. We, however, lost our place to the German chemical version, which was much cheaper and the natural medicinal properties of Indigo that permitted miners to live in their jeans for days, was lost to the world.

While these are references from the past, clues on how we could turn these two crops back into a strong and scalable competitive advantage, also reside in our economic history. History has a habit of repeating itself. But only the bad things repeat themselves on their own. Good things, if relevant to current times, need to be cajoled back.

It is in our interest to think of ways how we can revive and accelerate the creative economy, more for commercial reasons than patriotic ones. A strong creative economy will not only provide a strong sense of identity to the future generations, but also generate employment at the grassroots level. But such a revival requires young entrepreneurs to come forward and reclaim the lost traditions and re-establish some of these missing links. There are multiple ways this can be achieved.

For example, we need to invest in finding innovative ways to mechanise post-harvest processes to enable spinning of the very short staple desi cotton. Once the link between the farmer growing desi cotton and the handloom weaver is re-established, the economic value chain will be active again. The small and marginal farmers have natural proclivity towards desi cotton due to their hardiness and low cost.

An assured market would be the only incentive they would need. Such incentives will lead to production of desi cotton on large scale, resulting in yarns that are uniquely Indian and can only be woven on the gentleness of a handloom. This would also render redundant, the questions around the relevance of handlooms in current times.

Likewise, natural indigo is like wine. Production of indigo relies on the characteristics of the soil, micro-climate in the region, skills of the farmer to extract dye, the local water quality and the dyeing techniques. No two lots dye the same, no two regions or tracts of land produce same quality, depth or shades of the colour. Just how wines from different regions have different “tastes”. So while dyers using synthetic indigo will produce a standard product, natural indigo users could produce fine wine like Chateau Margaux!

A combination of fabric made from desi cotton and dyed with natural indigo can recreate the magic of Indianness that is lost in time. Imagine a beautifully textured canvas in the hands of skillful and creative indigo artists. Where else in the world could this happen?

It is time that the current generation of creative entrepreneurs, many with the finest of design education in the world, exposure to global markets and a strong desire to work with Indian artisanal heritage find their own expressions with these two magic crops, to drive not just ‘Make in India’ but also ‘Create in India’.

Some brands like ‘Pero’, ‘11.11’ and ‘Maku’ have made exciting beginnings. Likes of Probiotics in Auroville, who have even created a unique anti-septic, anti-oxidant bath bar from the indigo plant provide an inspiration for many others to follow in their steps. We also have numerous organisations spearheading efforts in support. Malkha, Selco Foundation, Asal and Khamir are coming forward to finding real solutions to building the broken desi cotton value chain.

A beginning has been made, but there are miles to go. This requires a collective effort not only from the ecosystem partners and government, but also from customers. A first step could be recognising the beauty and relevance of Indian cultural goods in contemporary times. Ask not just what the world has to bring to us but what we have to bring to the world.

Anchal is an advisor, teacher and mentor specialising in creative and cultural industries, and an alumnus of IIM Ahmedabad. Amit Karna is Associate Professor of Strategy and Innovation at IIM Ahmedabad. They together offer the creative and cultural businesses programme for entrepreneurs and industry at IIM-A.

[“source=thehindubusinessline”]

‘The Division 2’ Restarts Its ‘PvE Dark Zone’ Debate With The Arrival Of 515 Gear

The Division 2

I thought we would be having this conversation again at some point after The Division 2’s launch, but I didn’t think it would be this soon, or for this reason.

Massive recently introduced 515 Gearscore gear, over the current cap of 500, to drop in the Dark Zone. While 515 gear will join it when the raid arrives, many players are upset that they are being forced to travel to the DZ as the only place to farm this gear as it’s something that doesn’t interest them, at least not in its current form.

This has resparked a very old debate, one from the early days of The Division 1, where there’s an idea that there should be a PvE version of the Dark Zone free from Rogues and gank squads, so people can explore and farm these areas without being bothered by other players when they have no interest in PvP.

The counterpoint to this is that removing PvP and Rogue would destroy the entire concept of the mode, and people just need to “get good” if they want to survive in what is supposed to be the most harrowing zone on the map. This is roughly the position that Massive has taken as well, as despite all the requests for a PvE Dark Zone in The Division 1, that never happened.

The Division 2

The Division 2

MASSIVE

Instead, what we saw was kind of alternative for PvP-focused players rather than the thing PvE players wanted. That’s how we have Conflict, a dedicated PvP experience which improves PvP play for those who were tired of trying to kill enemies in the Dark Zone who didn’t want to fight at all and just wanted to run and be left alone. But the PvPvE element of the Dark Zone remains, and now some people are getting annoyed by it once more.

It may not surprise you to learn that I am on the side of “yes, the Dark Zone would benefit from a PvE option.” I don’t think you need to remove the PvPvE mode that currently exists for the game. Those that like that aspect can still play it, but offering a PvE version has too many upsides to ignore. I know plenty of players that have not even done so much as the intro quest for the Dark Zone because they remembered how much they disliked it in The Division 1. I did the intro quest and got up to level 10 or 15 or so in the DZ, but I haven’t been back since for the same reasons. I have no real interest in fighting other players, be it well-geared adversaries or easily killable noobs. I have no interest in farming for loot only to end up losing it because of ganks or other mishaps. And so I farm activities that are more reliable, won’t pit me against other players and don’t have the risk of losing anything. But I would love to explore an additional 25-30% of the map in the Dark Zone areas with a PvE version of the DZ, because otherwise it’s just wasted space to me. This was also true of the first game where the DZ was even larger and kept getting larger with future updates.

There is always a hardcore contingent of Dark Zone players who push back on all this, but I am genuinely unsure of what they’d lose if PvE was just an option for the Dark Zone. Players who like the current Dark Zone could still queue up for that version. To me, this is more about denying players zones and loot they haven’t “earned” because they can’t stand the heat of the “real” Dark Zone which is stupid gatekeeping I don’t respect or appreciate.

The Division 2

The Division 2

MASSIVE

I have no way of checking this, so far as I can tell, but I am willing to bet that as vocal as the hardcore Dark Zone community is, the DZ has a fraction of the players of the larger PvE world, and probably only a fraction of those actively want to be there and would care if there was a PvP option. I think there’s a reason that Massive put 515 gear in the Dark Zone, because they’re trying to lure people to actually play it. Right now, tons and tons of people are avoiding it completely because it’s much easier to queue up for missions or bounties or strongholds with a more straightforward path to loot, working with other players rather than against them. And if they do want to fight other people? That’s what Conflict is for, and that too comes with no risk of surprise attacks and lost loot.

The Dark Zone has always been Massive’s pet project, the concept that was supposed to make The Division stand out compared to its competition. And yet it has always remained my least favorite aspect of the game, and that has not changed in the sequel. If we didn’t see a PvE Dark Zone in all the years of The Division 1 doubt we’ll see one now, but I think it’s a bad path forward for Massive to try and simply bribe people to play the DZ when clearly something is gone wrong if they have to do that in the first place.

[“source=forbes”]

Centre justifies certification of Finance Bill, 2017 as money bill; SC reserves verdict

Supreme-court-BCCLNEW DELHI: The Centre on Tuesday in the Supreme Court justified certification of Finance Bill, 2017 as a money bill saying it has provisions which deals with salaries and allowance to be paid to members of tribunals from the consolidated funds of India.

The top court reserved its verdict on a batch of pleas challenging the constitutional validity of Finance Act, 2017 on the ground that it was passed by the Parliament as a money bill.

The Centre contended that certification of Finance Act as money bill was done by speaker of Lok Sabha and court cannot judicially review the decision.

A five-judge Constitution bench headed by Chief Justice Ranjan Gogoi said, “Hearing concluded. Order reserved”.

At the outset, Attorney General K K Venugopal, appearing for the Centre said that certification granted by the speaker cannot be challenged in the court of law.

The Attorney General justified before the bench also comprising Justices N V Ramana, D Y Chandrachud, Deepak Gupta and Sanjiv Khanna the certification of Finance Act as a money bill saying it deals with payment and receipt made from the consolidated funds of India.

“It is the whole part which has been certified as a money bill and not in parts. Therefore no part can be severed to say that this cannot be called as a money bill,” Venugopal said.

He referred to provision for money spent on tribunals from the consolidated funds and said salaries and allowances of tribunal members would come under incidental matters referred in the Article 110 (1)(G) of the Constitution.

Article 110 of the Constitution deals with provisions as when can a Bill shall be deemed to be a Money Bill.

Venugopal relied on Aadhaar verdict of last year and said that the apex court has held that the main object of Aadhaar Act was to extend benefits to marginalised section of society in the form of aid, grant or subsidy from the consolidated fund.

Senior advocate Arvind Datar, who led the arguments for the petitioners, argued that a bill which says that salaries shall be paid to the members of tribunal does not in itself make it a money bill.

He sought making the tribunals independent saying their core judicial duty cannot be taken away or at least they can be brought under the control of law ministry or one nodal agency as held in 1997 and 2010 verdicts of the apex court.

The top court was hearing a batch of petitions challenging the Constitutional validity of the Finance Bill of 2017.

On March 28, the Centre has told the apex court that it cannot question the speaker’s decision of certifying a bill as a Money Bill and it is a well settled law.

Venugopal said contention that certification of Finance Bill of 2017 as Money Bill was not right cannot be a ground for a challenge to validity of the Bill.

He had said that apex court has repeatedly held in its verdicts that certification cannot be questioned and courts cannot inquire into the decision taken by Parliament.

Venugopal had said Finance Bill comprises of amendments to several Acts and statutes and the petitioners have challenged only one particular aspect saying it cannot be termed as Money Bill.

The apex court had earlier sought the Centre’s view on bringing all the tribunals under one central umbrella body for ensuring “efficient functioning” and “streamlining the working” of quasi-judicial bodies.

The top court had said it would not like to be bogged down with what is right or wrong and all it wants was that “the tribunals work efficiently and independently”.

The court had said it is tentatively of the view that directions given by the apex court in its two verdicts of 1997 and 2010 for bringing all the tribunals of the country under one nodal agency should have been “implemented long back”.

[“source=economictimes.indiatimes”]

A Murky Flood Of Money Pours Into The World’s Largest Election

Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s party has spearheaded moves to loosen campaign finance laws in India, generating criticism that businesses—and foreigners—could potentially wield unprecedented influence over the election starting next month.

The new rules let corporations, including those partly owned by foreign entities, fund elections anonymously. They also permit businesses to bankroll political parties through opaque instruments called electoral bonds and enable shell companies to be conduits for election funding.

A Murky Flood Of Money Pours Into The World’s Largest Election 

The changes, which Modi’s party has said were designed to at least partially account for undocumented cash long used during India’s elections, may actually make it easier—and legal—for anonymous donors to support political parties. Spending on the election ending May 23 is set to rise 40 percent to 500 billion rupees ($7 billion), according to the New Delhi-based Centre for Media Studies.

“It won’t be an exaggeration to say our elections will never be the same again,” said N. Bhaskara Rao, the group’s chairman, who has advised previous Indian governments. “What is this if not the auctioning of our democracy to the highest-paying corporation?”

Modi swept to power in 2014 promising a business-friendly administration that would transform India’s image on the world stage. He remains the favorite for many investors, despite more recently introducing populist policies to boost support in rural India and tightening rules against corporate defaulters.

The biggest innovation in India’s campaign finance laws is the anonymous electoral bond. Despite the name, they bear little resemblance to the promissory notes investors are familiar with: Buyers aren’t paid any interest.

Anyone can buy an electoral bond at the government-owned State Bank of India in denominations ranging from 1,000 rupees to 10 million rupees ($14 to $140,000). Afterward they are delivered to a political party, which can exchange them for cash. They don’t carry the name of the donor and are exempt from tax.

A Murky Flood Of Money Pours Into The World’s Largest Election 

“Electoral bonds have made political parties completely beholden to unaccounted money, which could even be foreign money or money from dubious sources,” said Jagdeep Chhokar, the former head of India’s top business school and the founder of the Association for Democratic Reforms, a group that researches elections. “Corporate agendas can run the show.”

Finance Minister Arun Jaitley, who first announced plans for the electoral bonds in 2017, argued last year that they actually help improve transparency because they are banking instruments and every political party has to disclose how much it received. If full transparency is required, donors would go back to cash, he wrote in a January 2018 Facebook post.

For those in India worried about anonymous money in politics, the process for changing the laws has offered little reassurance that the new measures are an improvement.

System Overhaul

India’s campaign finance overhaul began in 2017, when parliament approved an amendment that made it easier for companies to donate to campaigns, including removing a cap on corporate donations (the maximum used to be 7.5 percent of a company’s average net profits over three years). Now new firms can also donate to political parties, opening the door for shell companies to be set up expressly for the purpose.

Also eliminated were requirements for companies to disclose how much they donated and to which party.

A Murky Flood Of Money Pours Into The World’s Largest Election 

The changes were introduced in parliament via a money bill, a measure that only needs to be passed by the lower house controlled by Modi’s ruling coalition and not the opposition-led upper house.

A similar tactic was used to pass with little debate rules that changed the definition of a foreign company. Previously, all subsidiaries of international entities were treated as overseas donors and not allowed to make political contributions. Now if a foreign firm has a stake of less than 50 percent in a company operating in India, that unit can fund Indian elections.

While several lawmakers protested the moves, analysts said the amendments will benefit both Modi’s Bharatiya Janata Party as well as the main opposition Congress party.

“Nobody from the opposition spoke up,” Rao said. “Maybe everybody realizes they stand to gain if they come to power?”

In 2014, the Delhi High Court found both major parties guilty of violating foreign-exchange laws when they accepted a donation from London-based commodities giant Vedanta Resources Plc.

(The suit, filed by a former top bureaucrat and the Association for Democratic Reforms, was against the political entities and Vedanta wasn’t a party. The company didn’t respond to request for comment. The BJP and Congress argued the donations weren’t foreign because the Vedanta units that channelled the money were registered under Indian law.)

The law passed last year changed the definition of a foreign company all the way back to 1976, effectively nullifying the court’s verdict because Vedanta’s overseas parent owned less than 50 percent of the Indian unit.

The government has defended the revisions, saying they were intended to align the definition of “foreign source” with the nation’s foreign direct investment policies, and other laws bar political funding from abroad. GVL Narasimha Rao and Nalin Kohli, representatives of Modi’s BJP, didn’t respond to requests for comment.

The latest official data show that Modi’s ruling party won the bulk of financing in the year ended March 2018, both through corporate donations and electoral bonds.

A Murky Flood Of Money Pours Into The World’s Largest Election 

In 2018, electoral bonds worth about 10.6 billion rupees ($150 million) were purchased, according to data obtained under India’s Right to Information Act by Factly, a data journalism portal in India. About 90 percent were of the highest denomination available, which is out of reach for the average citizen.

India’s rules governing political contributions are looser than other major democracies. In the U.K., companies aren’t directly allowed to make donations to political parties. The U.S. allows unlimited funding through political action committees called super PACs on federal election campaigns, but requires them to disclose the names of donors. Milan Vaishnav, Washington-based senior fellow at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, who’s edited a book on Indian political funding, said he hasn’t seen an instrument like electoral bonds in any other country.

“In most advanced democracies, transparency is a core principle,” Vaishnav said. “Few advanced democracies legitimize opacity in the way India has done.”

[“source=bloombergquint”]