Women operate just 13.76 per cent buz estds

Women empowerment may be a catch phrase for policy makers but when it comes to running businesses, the fairer sex are not getting their due.

Women operate just 13.76 per cent (80.50 lakh) of the 5.84 crore establishments engaged in different economic activities in the country, according to the latest Sixth Economic Census.

Tamil Nadu (10.87 lakh) and Kerala (9.13 lakh) have the highest number of units owned by women entrepreneurs. Karnataka is ranked sixth with 5.45 lakh establishments while Delhi has just 70,434 such units, just 0.87 per cent of the total units in the national capital.

Agricultural sector has the highest number of women-headed units at 27.61 lakh units (34.3 per cent) followed by manufacturing 23.99 lakh (29.8 per cent) and trade 14.80 lakh (18.23 per cent).

“Women’s equal access and control over economic and financial resources is critical for the achievement of gender equality and empowerment of women as well as equitable and sustainable economic growth and development,” the report said.

Data on women entrepreneurialship at national level is “rather scanty” and this is the first time questions related to women entrepreneurship in proprietary ownership are added in the Economic Census, it said.

Another interesting aspect of women entrepreneurs are that 79.07 per cent of their units are self-financed while funds collected through financial assistance from government is a dismal 3.37 per cent. Borrowing from moneylenders accounted for 0.84 per cent with West Bengal topping in this list with women running 28,454 units taking this route for raising funds.

According to the report, Hindu women owned 65.6 per cent (52.78 lakh) of the establishments while 12.8 per cent (10.34 lakh) were by Muslim women. Christian women operated 5.2 per cent (4.20 lakh) such units.

Percentage of Hindu-owned units was found less than the national average in Jammu and Kashmir, Lakshadweep, Jharkhand, Meghalaya and Nagaland.

The report also showed that percentage of Muslim-owned units was found higher in Jammu and Kashmir, Uttar Pradesh, Assam, West Bengal, Gujarat, Karnataka, Lakshadweep and Kerala. Establishments owned by Christians were prominently found in Nagaland, Mizoram, Meghalaya, Goa and Kerala.

OBC women owned 32.72 lakh units (40.6 per cent), while Scheduled Castes owned (9.8 lakh) 12.18 per cent and Scheduled Tribes (5.61 lakh) 6.97 per cent.

** Establishments owned by women employ 13.48 million people.

** 65.12 % of women-owned units are in rural areas

** No of women establishments in agricultural activities is 27.61 lakh

TOP STATES with Women-owned Establishments

** Tamil Nadu 10.87 lakh

** Kerala 9.13 lakh

** Andhra Pradesh 8.49 lakh

 ** West Bengal 8.31 lakh

** Maharashtra 6.64 lakh

** Karnataka 5.45 lakh

(An edited version appeared in Deccan Herald on Apr 14, 2016)

Death Penalty in 2015

At least 75 people were sentenced to death in India last year with some imposed by special courts whose proceedings did not meet international fair trial standards, a report has claimed.

The report ‘Death sentences and Executions in 2015’ released by Amnesty International on Tuesday also said there were at least 1,634 executions in 25 countries in 2015, which included one in India where Mumbai serial blast convict Yakub Memon was hanged.

The number of executions could rise as Amnesty said it could not access data from China, which is a “state secret”.

The executions for 2015 was the highest in last 25 years, it said adding it was more than 50 per cent compared to 2014 figure of 1,061 in 22 countries. Iran follows China with 977 executions, Pak 326 and Saudi Arabia 158.

While India had around 75 death sentences last year, Egypt was on the top of the list after China with 538, Bangladesh 197, Nigeria 171 and Pakistan 121.

In India, almost all death sentences were for murder while at least four people were sentenced to gallows for aggravated circumstances of rape following amendments to the Criminal Code in 2013. At least 320 people remained under sentence of death at the end of 2015.

The Amnesty report also claimed that special courts whose proceedings “did not meet international fair trial standards” imposed death sentences in Bangladesh and India.

On Memon’s execution, the report said, “he had been convicted under the Terrorist and Disruptive Activities Act 1987, a law that contains provisions incompatible with international fair trial standards”.

The number of death sentences could rise as the National Crime Records Bureau has not provided this year’s official figures. In 2014, Amnesty had reported at least 64 death sentences while later NCRB reported that there were 95 such sentences in 2014.

The report also noted that courts and authorities had commuted a number of death sentences during the year. Three prisoners whose mercy petitions the President had rejected in 2014 had their death sentences commuted to life imprisonment by courts.

The Amnesty also found fault with the Law Commission for falling short of recommending abolition of death penalty for all crimes. The Commission had suggested retention of death penalty for terrorism-related offences.

Reported Death Sentences in 2015


Egypt 538+

Bangladesh 197+

Nigeria 171

Pakistan 121+

Cameroon 91+

Iraq 89+

India 75+

Algeria 62+

USA 52

Sri Lanka 51+

*China figures not known


Iran 977+

Pakistan 326

Saudi Arabia 158+

USA 28

Iraq 26+

Somalia 25+

Egypt 22+

Indonesia 14

Chad 10

Yemen 8+

*China figures not known

(An edited version appeared in Deccan Herald on Apr 6, 2016)


Now, SOP for cash vans

Non-banking entities are ferrying over Rs 15,000 crore daily to ATMs amid rising incidents of attack on cash vans but they still operate without proper guidelines, forcing Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA) to intervene.

The MHA has now proposed a draft Standard Operating Procedure (SOP) for secured cash handling and transportation by private security agencies, which sets an 8 pm deadline for replenishing ATMs in urban areas, 5 pm in rural areas and 3 pm in naxal areas.

The MHA also wants the cash transportation agencies to collect money from banks in the morning working hours.

Such vans should not carry more than Rs five crore per trip. Also, cash vans should compulsorily be used for carrying Rs five lakh per trip.

“Privately owned cash vans and currency vaults have become soft targets and are resulting in serious crimes across states. The risk of large volumes of cash falling into the hands of undesirable elements is ever increasing,” the MHA said in its reasoning for the need of an SOP.

There are around  8,000 privately owned cash vans plying across the country and the non-banking entities are also holding Rs 5,000 crore overnight on behalf of banks at their private cash vaults.

The MHA’s proposal comes as it feels that the private agencies were not taking enough precaution to handle such issues. There were several incidents in which cash carrying vans were looted.

According to the proposal, cash vans should be equipped with CCTVs and GPS. It should also be equipped with hooter, fire extinguishers and emergency lights to ensure quick reaction in case of an attack.

Two armed guards should be deployed in every van besides the driver and two officials dealing with cash. They should also be trained to deal with situations involving robbers.

The draft also wants cash transportation and ATM cash replenishment activities only be carried out in secured cash vans fitted with GPS tracking device.

Cash van should have CCTVs

** GPS

** two armed security guards

** should not carry more than Rs five crore per trip

** should compulsorily be used for carrying Rs five lakh per trip

Cash loading to should be done before

** 8 pm in urban areas

** 5 pm in rural areas

** 3 pm in naxal areas

(An edited version appeared in Deccan Herald on Apr 4, 2016)

Govt plans tweaking police verification norm

The Centre is mulling to tweak the requirement of obtaining prior police verification of prospective employees before appointing them.

The move, government believes, would help tackling demands for bribe by policemen from job aspirants for issuing verification reports on time and in filling up vacancies faster.

As per the new plan, the provisional appointment will be done based on self-declaration certificate by the prospective employee. Once the police verification is done, the appointment will made regular based on the report.

The candidate who submitted incorrect information will be rendered unfit for employment and liable for action under relevant provisions of Indian Penal Code.

At present, formal appointment letters are given only after police verification. However, this process takes two to six months time, resulting in “undue delay” in issue of appointment orders and consequent filling up of the post.

The note also said, “there have been informal feedbacks about undue gratification being demanded at the lower bureaucratic level to obtain this police verification. This contributes towards fresh incumbents entering Government services with cynical attitudes towards the system.”

The Department of Personnel and Training (DoPT) has now sought the opinion of various ministries and departments within a fortnight before finalising the guidelines.

“As a general policy, the police verification will be carried out, but the issue of appointment letters need not be withheld pending such police verification. The appointing authorities will issue provisional appointment letters after obtaining a self declaration from the candidate,” a policy note issued by DoPT said.

According to the note, the prior need of police verification will be done away with and it will help the competent authorities to issue appointment letters and fill up the vacancies faster. “Since the pressure to send police verification in time will also be removed, the chances of official demanding illegal gratification will also be reduced,” it said.

The DoPT has set a six-month deadline for completing the police verification process. If it is not met, then the recruiting ministry can approach the DGP first and later Union Home Ministry for their intervention.

(An edited version appeared in Deccan Herald on Apr 1, 2016)

Fireworks start after unusual Pak probe team visit

Finally, the verbal fireworks have started once again threatening to sink whatever little the forever sparring neighbours – India and Pakistan – have gained in the past few months. One was wondering why it did not happen when Pakistan’s Joint Investigation Team (JIT) was in India probing the Pathankot terror strike. The team went on its business as India’s National Investigation Agency (NIA) played the perfect host, taking them to Pathankot airbase besides providing case documents and access to some key witnesses. Sharing the results of investigations in their country, the JIT told India that they were collecting admissible evidence outside Pakistan that would legally enable them to be used in prosecution. NIA demanded a reciprocal visit to Pakistan and access to Jaish-e-Mohammed (JeM) chief Maulana Masood Azhar, whom India consider the mastermind of Pathankot attack and a string other terror strikes.

An official statement on April 1 cited these demands and a JIT promise to act on India’s Letters Rogatory seeking information Azhar and others. Unofficial briefings by Indian officers suggested that JIT gave its nod for NIA investigators to hit the Islamabad streets soon. They too gave a picture of the JIT officers, who included an ISI officer, surprised at the extent of evidences provided by the Indian side, a claim that was not verified by Indian media. The JIT officials never interacted with the Indian journalists. However, subsequent events that unfolded in Islamabad and New Delhi with Pakistani players as the lead actors showed how fragile the latest shot at finding a starting point for renewed peace process. It had all the potential for a flare-up. At the same time, it also gives an opportunity for India not to fall into the usual trap but to play the cool-headed, patient player looking at a permanent solution.

Yes, it is not easy. But no one ever expected that the JIT visit would dramatically alter the ground rules. The maximum one thought was that it could provide positive optics, a platform to dispel the doomsayers’ predictions that Islamabad could do little to contain state-sponsored terrorism against India. The first sign of trouble emerged when a Pakistani media report cited unnamed JIT officials to claim that India “stage-managed” the Pathankot attack. Another report fictitiously linked the murder of an NIA official probing the Pathankot case to India’s lack of evidence in the terror strike. It appeared the Pak media gulped what a section gave them without a wink, in a similar way Indian journalists highlighted reports about JIT’s acceptance of NIA’s version during their week-long interactions that began on March 27. India prudently waited for Pakistan Foreign Ministry’s statement on the matter, which was sober.

The googly was not fired till Pakistan Ambassador to India Abdul Basit walked into the lawns of Foreign Correspondents Club located near Supreme Court of India for a press conference. He talked about “suspended” peace process and virtually ruled out a reciprocal visit by NIA, an international norm in such instances. Again, the Pakistani Foreign Office has some sober words to offer. Basit’s wasn’t a slip of tongue and he was not echoing his political masters in Islamabad. This exposed the countering influences in Pakistani establishment besides raising questions whether the Army was fully backing Nawaz Sharif’s efforts for peace in the region.

What does it mean for Prime Minister Narendra Modi? The Indian leader had invested his personal stake in improving the ties with its troubled neighbour, which some analysts say is a failed state. He had made a surprise landing in Lahore to meet Sharif on Christmas last year. A week later, JeM terrorists targeted the airbase. For many, it was the re-run of a backstab 17 years ago – Kargil happened soon after A B Vajpayee’s historic 1999 bus ride to Lahore. With the Parliament all set to re-open later April, Modi will face tough questions on what India gained from the JIT visit. One who criticised the previous UPA government for what he described as meek responses to Pakistan, Modi will face the same kind of rhetoric he once unleashed.

Congress and Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) have already taken to high-octane campaign on the issue. They protested outside Pathankot airbase when the JIT visited there, citing ISI official’s presence. AAP’s Delhi Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal wanted an apology from Modi for bowing to Pakistan while his party minister even sought to describe him as an ISI agent. Their pro-active protest in Pathankot could be linked to their positioning ahead of Punjab Assembly polls next year. CPI(M) General Secretary Sitaram Yechury is more direct when he says that we need a consistent and coherent Pakistan policy, not something which fluctuates between cancelling NSA talks to inviting ISI to Pathankot. He also questions the efficacy of the JIT exercise as it was not backed by a Letter Rogatory from a Pakistan court and how the evidence given by NIA have any value.

Questions like these remain, raising doubts about the whole exercise. The government needs to address these concerns and instill confidence among people about its intentions on dealing with the issue. India needs to corner Pakistan on its action against terrorists and at the same time support the section that is eager for a permanent solution. Modi needs to take his allies and opposition into confidence. It may be easy to demonise the opponent but rhetoric and grand standing is not going to help, the rulers and opposition need to accept it. New Delhi needs to pick up the threads and move forward because to expect a diametrically divided Pak administration to take the lead is just high hope. For that, the ruling and opposition coalition needs to be on the same page.

(An edited version appeared in Deccan Herald’s Panorama section on Apr 12, 2016)

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