On this podcast, we take a look at some of the biggest stories that made the most noise in India Inc.
Rakesh Sharma | R Mahadevan
Inflows into Krish Kalyan cess even after being scrapped; money vanishes from PM Kisan scheme accounts
There seems to be quite a bit going on with the farmers, and now, with the elections going on, there is continued focus on their situation. In the middle of all the talk about farmers, the Congress election manifesto also talks about a minimum income scheme, promising Rs 6,000 per month for the poorest 20 per cent of India’s population.
The BJP government had already announced in its annual budget the Pradhan Mantri Kisan Yojana, a scheme to provide Rs 6000 per year for farmers as part of the overall effort to address their issues. The first instalment of Rs 2000 was disbursed in February to over Rs 3 crore farmers.
Now, it appears as if the money has been debited from some of the accounts. RTI queries were sent to some of the nationalized banks, and the responses reveal that this could be because the account numbers were incorrect, perhaps highlighting the difficulty of putting such an enormous system into place.
However, investigations and enquiries with farmers have also found that this has happened with eligible accounts too. And these don’t seem to be random occurrences. The amount that has been taken out of beneficiary accounts, depending on the bank, has ranged from about Rs 80 lakh to more than Rs 90 crore, and these reversals have sometimes happened within a few hours of the money being credited. A few farmers also showed the messages they had received on their phone, mentioning both the credit and the later debit.
The banks have generally referred to incorrect accounts, and, in one case – Andhra Bank – claimed that the farmers themselves would have withdrawn the money. The Ministry of Agriculture has only said that it was up to the respective state governments to report these cases, and none had come to its notice.
On another side, the Krishi Kalyan Cess, which had been wound up with the advent of GST, seems strangely to have been collected even afterwards. Of the 10,500-odd crore that has been collected as Krishi Kalyan Cess, about Rs 1,300 crore is from the period after it was shelved.
The Krishi Kalyan Cess came into being in 2016, and constituted 0.5% of the taxable services. The cess was to help finance policies and reforms agriculture for the benefit of farmers.
While this has been happening, on kind of an unrelated note, the drought in Tamil Nadu has attracted the attention of the state government in perhaps the most bizarre manner. The Hindu Religious and Charitable Endowments, a department under the state government which controls over 36,000 temples, has issued a circular instructing about 4,000 temples to conduct yagnas, with specific procedural instructions so that the gods will be appeased. The Endowments commissioner, Phaneendra Reddy, who signed the circular, hasn’t made any further, while H Raja, the BJP candidate from the Sivaganga Lok Sabha seat, has firmly backed the order.
Dark web marketplace criminals arrested
In these days of heightened security concerns, the Dark Web is something that would give governments and other administrations sleepless nights. The Dark Web is essentially the part of the Internet that is shrouded in secrecy and is not indexed by the various web search engines. It uses encryption, rerouting and anonymization to remain invisible to monitoring agencies. It is a means for unauthorized and illegal trade and content sharing to happen without the authorities getting a whiff of it. The Dark Web is also the place where drug trafficking, child pornography and other such activities thrive, to say nothing of stolen personal data, and downright digital robbery.
One such online platforms, the second largest in the dark space dealing in drugs and other undesirable and illegal items, has recently been shut down by German officials with help from American investigative agencies. Three twenty-somethings have been arrested for running the platform, named Wall Street Market. The three were apparently in the process of shutting down the platform and disappearing with the money and personal information of about a million of their customers.This comes squarely to the question of privacy and security. On the one hand are governments, who would like a firmer control over what goes on, concerned about national security and wanting more information about their citizens; on the other hand is the concern about personal data and state snooping. In the middle of all this where does privacy stand and how does it fit in? Personal messaging has been moving to end-to-end encryption. Facebook itself, under fire for unregulated negative content, has indicated a move towards personal and group messaging. In an age of almost universal online presence, it becomes all the more important for people to put safeguards in place for themselves and to practise good online habits. Online security and privacy are spaces that will come increasingly into the limelight. And, as one would say, watch this space!