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VK Singh clarifies that he was misunderstood

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New Delhi: Union minister VK Singh on Thursday triggered a huge row when he spoke of a dog’s stoning while commenting on the burning of two Dalit children. As opposition parties demanded his sacking, the former army chief clarified that he had been misunderstood.

Asked about the gory killings of the children in a Haryana village, the former army chief said: “If someone throws stones at a dog, the government is not responsible. It was a feud between two families, the matter in under inquiry.

“Failure of the administration should not be put on the government’s head,” he added.

The opposition immediately pounced on the Bharatiya Janata Party MP.

The Congress sought his removal from the Narendra Modi ministry, adding he should be booked under the law.

“What VK Singh said was shocking, inhuman and unacceptable… I do not understand what is happening to Modi’s ministers,” spokesman Randeep Surjewala told the media.

He said a case should be filed against the minister under the Scheduled Caste and Scheduled Tribe (Prevention of Atrocities) Act, 1989.

Delhi Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal also called for VK Singh’s sacking and a police case against him.

“VK Singh’s statement is shameful and prosecutable,” the Aam Aadmi Party leader tweeted.

Bihar Chief Minister Nitish Kumar also slammed him: “Aghast at the senseless comment made by some BJP leaders… on the tragic Dalit killings in Haryana.”

Amid the volley of criticism, the Minister clarified that his statement wasn’t intended to draw an analogy.

“My men and I put our lives on the line for the nation irrespective of caste, creed and religion.

“I standby to serve India with the same spirit, right now and always. Our nation, its success and its people motivate me daily,” he said in a series of tweets.

He, however, said that “localized issues” should not be blown up.

V.K. Singh’s comments follow the torching of a Dalit family’s house in a village in Faridabad district bordering Delhi in Haryana that left two children dead and their mother in critical condition.

The gory killings have triggered widespread condemnation and large scale street protests.

The minister told CNN-IBN that if “anyone feels if I called Dalit dogs, they are out of their minds”.

Talking to reporters later, the minister sought to blame the media for mixing up his analogy of a dog’s killing with the burning of two Dalit children.

“If the journalist mixes the two (issues), the person should leave journalism and go to the mental asylum in Agra,” he said.

That comment too drew flak even as the BJP tried to defend him.

BJP spokesperson Sambit Patra said: “The minister has given a clarification (that) he was misquoted…. Let us not blow it out of proportion.

“A trend has started to politicize all issues on caste and communal lines. Let us not make everything a caste and communal issue,” said Patra.

(IANS)

(Photo: Indian Express)

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How telecom has become driver of economic change in India

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The country's hyper-competitive telecom sector has led the revolution from the front.
The country's hyper-competitive telecom sector has led the revolution from the front. Wikimedia Commons
  • India has done well to stay ahead of the curve in the technological revolution
  • The sectoral change in productivity has been the highest in the telecommunications sector since the reforms of 1991
  • India has managed to provide the cheapest telephony services around the world

For the most part of human history, the change was glacial in pace. It was quite safe to assume that the world at the time of your death would look pretty much similar to the one at the time of your birth. That is no longer the case, and the pace of change seems to be growing exponentially. Futurist Ray Kurzweil put it succinctly when he wrote in 2001: “We won’t experience 100 years of progress in the 21st century – it will be more like 20,000 years of progress (at today’s rate).” Since the time of his writing, a lot has changed, especially with the advent of the internet.

India has done well to stay ahead of the curve in the technological revolution. The country’s hyper-competitive telecom sector has led the revolution from the front. In fact, according to Reserve Bank of India data, the sectoral change in productivity has been the highest in the telecommunications sector since the reforms of 1991, growing by over 10 percent. On the other hand, no other sector has had a productivity growth of above five percent during the same period. It is no wonder that it has also been one of the fastest-growing sectors of the Indian economy, growing at over seven percent in the last decade itself.

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Such an unprecedented pace of growth has been brought about the precise levels of change that Kurzweil was so enthusiastic about. Today’s smartphones have the power of computers that took an entire room in the 1990s, and the telecom sector has had to keep up with a provision of commensurate internet speeds and services. Meanwhile, India has managed to provide the cheapest telephony services around the world, which has hit rock bottom after the entry of Reliance Jio. This has ensured access to those even at the bottom of the pyramid.

A rise in internet penetration has distinct positive effects on economic growth of a country.
A rise in internet penetration has distinct positive effects on economic growth of a country. Wikimedia Commons

Even though consumers have come to be accustomed to fast-paced changes within the telecom sector, the entry of Jio altered the face of the industry like never before by changing the very basis of competition. Data became the focal point of competition for an industry that derived over 75 percent of its revenue from voice. It was quite obvious that there would be immediate economic effects due to it. Now that we’re nearing a year of Jio’s paid operations, during which time it has even become profitable, we saw it fit to quantify its socio-economic impact on the country. Three broad takeaways need to be highlighted.

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First, the most evident effect has been the rise in affordability of calling and data services. Voice services have become practically costless while data prices have dropped from an average of Rs 152 per GB to lower than Rs 10 per GB. Such a drastic reduction in data prices has not only brought the internet within the reach of a larger proportion of the Indian population but has also allowed newer segments of society to use and experience it for the first time. Since the monthly saving of an average internet user came out to be Rs 142 per month (taking a conservative estimate that the consumer is still using 1 GB of data each month) and there are about 350 million mobile internet users in the country (Telecom Regulatory Authority of India data), the yearly financial savings for the entire country comes out to be Rs 60,000 crore.

To put things in perspective, this amount is more than four times the entire GDP of Bhutan. Therefore, mere savings by the consumer on data has been at astonishing proportions.

Today's smartphones have the power of computers that took an entire room in the 1990s, and the telecom sector has had to keep up with a provision of commensurate internet speeds and services. Wikimedia Commons
Today’s smartphones have the power of computers that took an entire room in the 1990s, and the telecom sector has had to keep up with a provision of commensurate internet speeds and services. Wikimedia Commons

Now, this data has been used for services that have brought to life a thriving app economy within the country. So, the second level of impact has been in the redressal of a variety of consumer needs — ranging from education, health and entertainment to banking. For instance, students in remote areas can now access online courseware and small businesses can access newer markets. Information asymmetry has been considerably reduced.

Third, a rise in internet penetration has distinct positive effects on economic growth of a country. These effects arise not merely from the creation of an internet economy, but also due to the synergy effects it generates. Information becomes more accessible and communication a lot easier. Businesses find it easier to operate and access consumers. Labour working in cities has to make less frequent trips home and becomes more productive as a result. Education and health services become available in inaccessible locations. Multiple avenues open up for knowledge and skill enhancement.

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An econometric analysis for the Indian economy showed that the 15 percent increase in internet penetration due to Jio and the spill-over effects it creates will raise the per capita levels of the country’s GDP by 5.85 percent, provided all else remains constant.

Thus, India’s telecom sector will continue to drive the economy forward, at least in the short run, and hopefully catapult India into 20,000 years of progress within this century, as Kurzweil postulated. The best approach for the state would be to ensure the environment of unfettered competition within the industry. Maybe other sectors of the economy ought to take a leaf out of the telecom growth story. The Indian banking sector comes to mind. However, that is a topic for another day. (IANS)

(Amit Kapoor is Chair, Institute for Competitiveness, India. He can be contacted at Amit. Kapoor@competitiveness.in and tweets @kautiliya. Chirag Yadav, a senior researcher at the institute, has contributed to the article.)