25 January 2021

CAIT seeks action against Amazon, Zomato, Flipkart and Swiggy for 'daylight robbery'

New Delhi, Jan 25 : The Confederation of All India Traders (CAIT) in a communication sent to Union Commerce Minister Piyush Goyal demanded immediate action against e-commerce entities including Amazon, Flipkart, Zomato, Swiggy and others."It is a case of daylight robbery of e-commerce entities in India and therefore demand immediate action against the erring e-commerce portals and online mechanism providers," CAIT said.

CAIT has accused Amazon, Flipkart, Zomato, Swiggy and various other e-commerce entities for violation of mandatory display of Country of Origin and Manufacturer, seller Details on products sold through their respective E-Commerce Portals as required under the Consumers Protection (E Commerce) Rules,2020, Legal Metrology (Packaged Commodities) Act, 2011 and guidelines of Food Safety & Standards Authority of India.

CAIT has asked Goyal to take action against E-commerce entities including Amazon, Flipkart, Zomato, Swiggy and others.

"It is a case of daylight robbery of e-commerce entities in India and, therefore demands immediate action against the erring e-commerce portals and online mechanism providers," CAIT said.

CAIT National President B.C. Bhartia and Secretary General Praveen Khandelwal in a communication to Goyal said that e-commerce entities conducting business in India including Amazon, Flipkart and others are highly violating the mandatory conditions spelled out in above Acts.

"It is a pity that particularly in e-commerce every guidelines, Rules & Regulations, Laws and policies are being flouted openly and no department has so far taken any cognizance of compliance issues resulting in a highly vitiated and mess like e-commerce trade of India," CAIT said.

Bhartia and Khandelwal said that Rule 10 of Legal Metrology (Packaged Commodities) Rules, 2011 provide that e-commerce entities should have to display name and address of the manufacturer, name of the country of origin, common/generic name of the product, net quantity, best before/use by date (if applicable), maximum retail price, dimensions of the commodity, etc.

This rule was introduced in June 2017 and provided a transition period of six months thereby its implementation from January 1,2018 but even after a lapse of three years, the above rules are not being complied by e-commerce companies prominently by Amazon, Flipkart, etc.
Failure to make declarations as above will amount to selling non-standard packages and will invite penalty under the above said Act, including fine or imprisonment or both, CAIT said.

Both trade leaders further said that similar obligations were imposed on e-commerce food business operators vide guidelines issued by the Food Safety & Standards Authority (FSSAI) on February 2,2017.

"But such FBOs like Zomato, Swiggy, etc. are not complying with the above rules," CAIT said.
Bhartia and Khandelwal said that under Rule 4(2) of the Consumer Protection (E Commerce) Rules, 2020, it is provided that every e-commerce entity shall provide the following information in a clear and accessible manner on its platform, displayed prominently to its users, namely, legal name of the e-commerce entity, principal geographic address of its headquarters and all branches, name and details of its website, and contact details like email address, fax, landline and mobile numbers of customer care as well as of grievance office. Similar provisions are also spelled out in Press Note 2 of the FDI Policy, 2016.

CAIT said no e-commerce entity has appointed a Nodal Officer as also complying with above provisions. Important rights of the consumers are being violated as they are not aware of the seller or description of the product at the time of purchase of products from e-commerce portals.

Arnab Goswami paid me $12,000 to fix ratings: Partho Dasgupta

 A 3,600-page supplementary chargesheet, filed by Mumbai Police on January 11 in the TRP scam case, includes a BARC forensic audit report, WhatsApp chats purportedly between Partho Dasgupta and Arnab Goswami, and statements of 59 persons, including former council employees and cable operators.

By Mohamed Thaver , Krishn Kaushik
Arnab Goswami paid me $12,000 and Rs 40 lakh to fix ratings: Partho Dasgupta
Partha Dasgupta and Arnab Goswami. (File Photo)

Mumbai, New Delhi, Jan 25, 21: The former CEO of Broadcast Audience Research Council (BARC) India, Partho Dasgupta, has claimed in a handwritten statement to Mumbai Police that he received US$12,000 from Republic TV Editor-in-Chief Arnab Goswami for two separate holidays and a total of Rs 40 lakh over three years, in return for manipulating ratings in favour of the news channel, according to the supplementary chargesheet filed in the TRP scam case.

The 3,600-page supplementary chargesheet, filed by Mumbai Police on January 11, also includes a BARC forensic audit report, WhatsApp chats purportedly between Dasgupta and Goswami, and statements of 59 persons, including former council employees and cable operators.

The audit report names several news channels, including Republic, Times Now and Aaj Tak, and lists instances of alleged manipulation as well as “pre-fixing” of ratings for the channels by BARC’s top executives.

The supplementary chargesheet was filed against Dasgupta, former BARC COO Romil Ramgarhia and Republic Media Network CEO Vikas Khanchandani. A first chargesheet was filed against 12 persons in November 2020.

According to the second chargesheet, Dasgupta’s statement was recorded in the office of the Crime Intelligence Unit on December 27, 2020, at 5.15 pm, in the presence of two witnesses.

Dasgupta’s statement reads: “I have known Arnab Goswami since 2004. We used to work together in Times Now. I joined BARC as CEO in 2013. Arnab Goswami launched Republic in 2017. Even before launching Republic TV he would talk to me about plans for the launch and indirectly hint at helping him to get good ratings to his channel. Goswami knew very well that I know how the TRP system works. He also alluded to helping me out in the future.”

It states: “I worked with my team to ensure manipulation of TRP ratings that made Republic TV get number 1 rating. This would have continued from 2017 to 2019. Towards this, in 2017 Arnab Goswami had personally met me at St Regis hotel, Lower Parel and given me 6000 dollars cash for my France and Switzerland family trip…also in 2019 Arnab Goswami had personally met me at St Regis and given me 6000 dollars for my Sweden and Denmark family trip. Also in 2017, Goswami had personally met me at ITC Parel hotel and given me Rs 20 lakh cash… also in 2018 and 2019… Goswami met me at ITC hotel Parel and gave me Rs 10 lakhs each time…”

Dasgupta’s lawyer Arjun Singh said: “We totally deny this allegation as the statement would have been recorded under duress. It does not have any evidentiary value in the court of law.” When contacted, a member of Goswami’s legal team declined to comment. Goswami has repeatedly denied any wrongdoing and alleged he was being targeted.

The chargesheet also includes BARC’s audit report, dated July 24, 2020, which states that evidence “indicated favouritism shown to few channels” and “in some cases, we suspect that the ratings were pre-decided”.

For instance, the report mentions alleged suppression of viewership for Times Now to boost Republic’s weekly rankings, and highlights a purported conversation between BARC’s top executives and a senior marketing executive of India Today Group on “pre-fixing” Aaj Tak’s ratings.

With multiple emails and messages between BARC officials attached as annexures, the report states that one of the reasons given by the council for changing Times Now’s viewership data is to cater for “outlier” data, which is meant to identify spikes in viewership due to the channel being the “landing page” on some distributors.

The practice of placing a channel on the “landing page” was prohibited by the Telecom Regulatory Authority of India. But that direction was set aside by the Telecom Disputes Settlement and Appellate Tribunal, and the matter is now in Supreme Court.

The audit was conducted by Acquisory Risk Consulting. The executive summary of the audit report states that “manipulation was evidenced in 2017, 18 and 19 across English News Genre and Telugu News Genre”.

The report states that six top executives of BARC at the time were involved in “manipulation of ratings and violation of the code of ethics” between 2018 and 2019, including Dasgupta, Ramgarhia, Head of Products (South) Venkat Sujit Samrat, Head of West Rushab Mehta, Vice President of Strategy Pekham Basu, and Chief People Officer and Strategy Manashi Kumar.

In October 2019, Dasgupta was replaced by Sunil Lulla as CEO. The supplementary chargesheet includes a statement by a BARC official claiming that in “February 2020, Sunil Lulla told me that there were allegations of TRP rating manipulation from the media industry” against Dasgupta, Ramgarhia, Mehta, Samrat, Kumar and AVP Pekham Basu. The official states that in “the first week of June 2020, from the server I took the backup of the emails of the suspected persons on a hard drive and gave Ramgarhia’s laptop in the last week of June” to the auditing agency.

Mehta, Samrat, Kumar and Basu have not been charged by police. The audit report was provided to Mumbai Police in December, two months after it registered an FIR in the TRP case.

Some of the instances cited in the report point to changed ratings that resulted in Republic being the top channel in English news from 2017. It cites emails and messages as evidence for weeks in which Times Now’s data and ratings were decreased, giving Republic the edge.

On June 18, 2017, the report states, Mehta wrote to Ramgarhia: “As required, Times Now numbers are changed, while Republic is kept the same”. According to the report, “this is pointing that the senior management wanted Republic TV to be number 1, and the team was working to achieve this objective”.

According to the audit report, conversations between BARC’s executives and a top marketing executive of India Today Group, in 2016, pointed towards “pre-fixing” the ratings for Aaj Tak. The report cites “chat message conversations between Romil, Partho, and external officials of channels, hinting about pre-fixing the channel ratings during our analysis”.

When contacted, BARC said in an email: “As the matter is a subject of an ongoing investigation by the various law enforcement agencies, we are constrained to respond to your enquiries.”

Republic said in a statement that “there has been a collusion of corporate and political interests to target” Goswami. “This collusion, which is a result of commercial, political and personal interests, is aimed, quite obviously, at illegally trying to create prejudice against the Republic Media Network,” it said.

Times Now defended the use of landing pages, stating that they are “not ruled as illegal” and “are simply the most preferred frequency which is sold and bought at a Premium by perfectly legal means”. It said the outlier policy was “abused by corrupt BARC officials to manually intervene and wilfully and deliberately improve channel ranks for favoured channels” and that it is “contemplating legal action”.

India Today Group did not respond to queries from The Indian Express.

While Dasgupta is in jail, The Indian Express reached out to Mehta, Samrat, Ramgarhia, Kumar and Basu. Only Kumar responded. “I had remotely nothing to do with research or ratings as it was a different team which handled market analytics and data,” he said, adding that everything else was “slander”.

The chargesheet also includes statements by cable operators that they were asked to show Republic on two channels to increase its TRP in exchange for money — two operators said they were asked to raise vouchers of Rs 11,800 each.


“Times Network uses only bonafide and legally valid means to do its business. We do not indulge in Panel-Tampering or bribing BARC officials which are common cheating practises followed by unscrupulous actors. TRP numbers are a function of 2 factors: Reach of channel and Time Spent by Viewer on the Channel (TSV). TSV depends upon the Content plan, style and quality of story-telling. Reach depends upon Distribution efficiency and Opportunity To See (OTS). There are laws of the land that govern distribution, and as per them Landing Pages are not ruled as illegal. Landing Pages are simply the most preferred frequency which is sold and bought at a Premium by perfectly legal means. It is the same as FMCG Companies strategy of acquiring best Shelf Space in supermarkets for higher visibility. Or advertisers placing ads on the front page of newspapers for highest visibility. This is available to all and is not done by any underhand deals. Times Network has optimised its Product, Brand and Distribution with the best in class inputs including Landing Pages at high cost to deliver its channels to maximum viewers. It is also worthy to note that such viewers are real and genuine as far as advertising reach is concerned and the Advertiser gets the viewership that he has paid for.

“The Outlier Policy of BARC to filter Landing Pages is a contentious issue as this is not Spurious reach. It is pertinent to note that the Landing Page Filtration Algorithm has been officially announced by BARC only on Sept 03, 2020 after which Times Network has challenged this in the Bombay High Court and the matter is sub judice as on date. The 44 week Forensic audit is for the period May 2017 to March 2018 when no such Outlier Policy was in place and BARC had no mandate to remove bonafide reach from landing pages. The outlier policy or moderation policy is a mechanism provided by BARC Technical Committee to remove statistically significant anomalies, mainly abnormal TSV from unlikely homes or spikes in data that don’t represent the logical true picture. The Outlier Policy is the key provision that has been abused by corrupt BARC officials to manually intervene and wilfully and deliberately improve channel ranks for favoured channels.

“Times Network views this as the gravest breach of trust by BARC and is contemplating legal action. The timing of misrepresentation of numbers makes it even more damaging as it was done at a critical juncture in our Brand history when Times NOW was engaged in a marketing battle, energetically defending and retaining its position. The resultant financial and brand impacts are being ascertained at the moment.”


Source: Indian Express

NEW DELHI: Remote voting, or allowing a voter to cast her franchise from any polling station in the country and not just the polling station or constituency where she is registered, is among the key future initiatives that the Election Commission is working on, chief election commissioner Sunil Arora said on Sunday and added that mock trials of the project would begin soon.

Sharing an “important dimension of the vision of Election Commission of India for future electoral processes”, Aro ..

Could bitcoin ever become gold?

 The Market Ear Picture

Different views have been delivered on this subject. It is the younger generation that is buying bitcoin compared to who buys gold. On the other hand, since the second half of 2020, more institutions have become buyers of bitcoin. As JPM points out;

"...private gold wealth is mostly stored via gold bars and coins the stock of which, excluding those held by central banks, amounts to 42,600 tonnes or $2.7tr including gold ETFs. Mechanically, the market cap of bitcoin at $600bn currently would have to rise by almost x4.5 from here, implying a theoretical bitcoin price of $146k, to match the total private sector investment in gold via ETFs or bars and coins."

Source; JPM

This is just a theoretical exercise. Before serious investments in bitcoin could occur, volatility would need to converge and trade at similar levels to gold volatility. Fund managers need to allocate money according to volatility of each asset. Bitcoin vol converging to gold volatility seems rather distant as of writing.

On the other hand, average of bitcoin 1-2 mth bitcoin vol is around 85%. GLD 1-2 mth average vol stands around 18%. That is aprox 4.7x higher vol for bitcoin than gold. Apply the 4.7x to bitcoin's $600bn market and we have a "vol adjusted" market cap of bitcoin matching gold. This is why we at TME have been coming back to the argument explaining that most people have no clue of how to manage downside volatility, and we see this as the biggest "risk" for "non dynamic bitcoin fans".

So while many are arguing bitcoin is the new gold going forward, you could argue it is already here.


Source; Refinitiv

It is easy to get carried away by a narrative that has worked, you made money and lately your p/l diminishes, but you still trade the old narrative. This has partly become the case with bitcoin lately. Same arguments are made, but the price has been all but rosy.

Institutional buying sure, but let's not forget, institutions also have to manage risk, so the new hot buys at 42k by some "smart" guys will need to be sold when bitcoin falls. Grayscale bitcoin trust flow has been declining lately...

Source; JPM

With regards to momentum strategies that were pressing momentum higher, especially during the illiquid Xmas and New Year weekends we outlined weeks ago, they have no directional preference or bias.

Momentum traders do not care about no blockchain nor fundamentals. They chase momentum and have no emotions. Lately these momentum models are all but pointing higher...


Source; JPM

What about the short term px action? TME has been pointing out "why not try the 50 day moving average" over past weeks (note Fibonacci 38.2% level trades around that level as well). It would would be a first real support to see how well new smart bulls have managed downside exposure...


Source; Refinitiv

Is Gold Money?

Is gold money? Many would say so, and a web search returns tens of thousands of additional affirmative responses. If you want to start a fight with a gold bug, take the opposite view.

But is it so?

To answer the question of whether gold is money requires a definition. This one, from Wikipedia, is typical:

Money is anything that is generally accepted in payment for goods and services and in repayment of debts. The main uses of money are as a medium of exchange, a unit of account, and a store of value.

Wikipedia refers to three properties of money. However, according to the Austrian economist Carl Menger, its acceptability in trade is the defining property. While money undoubtedly does serve as a store of value and a unit of account, these properties are derivative, not definitional properties. The reason that a medium of exchange necessarily is also a store of value is the anticipation of its exchange value in the future.

On this point Menger wrote,

[I]t appears to me to be just as certain that the functions of being a "measure of value" and a "store of value" must not be attributed to money as such, since these functions are of a merely accidental nature and are not an essential part of the concept of money.

Using the above definition, the question of whether any particular good is or is not money, can be posed in this way: is the good in question accepted as the final means of payment for transactions?

At present, in the developed world, nearly every nation has its own money or belongs to a currency union, such as the EU. Some nations in the developing world use the US dollar. In highly inflationary environments, the local currency is often spontaneously rejected in favor of the dollar or another foreign currency. Hardly anywhere do we find gold generally accepted as a means of payment. So gold must fail the definitional test of moneyness.

Is this the end of the argument (and so the end of a very short article)? Not quite. Gold is not money, but it has most of the desirable properties of money, and the process by which it became money in the past gives some clues about how it may become money once again.

A store of value is not necessarily a medium of exchange. As Menger says, a nonmonetary commodity can serve as a store of value:

But the notion that attributes to money as such the function of also transferring "values" from the present into the future must be designated as erroneous. Although metallic money, because of its durability and low cost of preservation, is doubtless suitable for this purpose also, it is nevertheless clear that other commodities are still better suited for it.

Analyst Paul van Eeden has shown that gold has maintained its purchasing power relative to the time that the gold standard ended. In "Is Gold an Inflation Hedge?" I have provided links to Van Eeden's articles and a more detailed discussion. I will summarize his analysis here. A theoretical gold price equivalent which would give gold the same purchasing power as it had at the end of the gold standard is calculated by taking the convertibility ratio of $35 in 1933, and then multiplying by a factor representing the growth in the quantity of fiat money from that time. Under the classical gold standard, gold was the entire world's money. By counting worldwide growth in currency (not only US dollars) and comparing it to a worldwide price currency index of the gold price, van Eeden avoids the pitfalls of looking only at gold's dollar price, which can experience significant volatility due to the dollar's exchange rate against other national currencies.

Van Eeden's research shows that, since the end of the gold standard, the price of gold in units of fiat currency has tracked its purchasing-power-equivalent price fairly well, oscillating in a band around its theoretical value. In essence, the purchasing power of gold has been reasonably stable in the time since the end of the gold standard, which is only another way of saying that gold has served as a store of value.

Even today most of the demand for gold is not for direct use, but demand to hold. In the developed world, people purchase coins and bars for storage in vaults. In other areas, people save by accumulating bullion jewelry. Distinct from ornamental jewelry, bullion jewelry has low workmanship value added. Its price is not much greater than the melt value of its metal content.

I wrote the following in "The Myth of the Gold Supply Deficit":

The World Gold Council estimates that 52% of gold is held as jewelry. James Turk subdivides jewelry holdings into low carat and high carat. The former is purchased mainly for the gold value, as an alternative to buying bars and coins. The latter is purchased mostly for fashion. According to Turk's estimate (which was published in 1996), monetary jewelry at that time accounted for about 60% of jewelry with fashion jewelry accounting for the remaining 40%. However, even when made into jewelry, the gold is not destroyed and can come back into the market as scrap. The WGC figures show significant recovery from scrap.

That gold continued to be a store of value post–gold standard was unexpected by many economists. In the early 1970s, when the dollar's link to gold was cut, economist Milton Friedman predicted that the price of gold would collapse.4 The Nobel laureate believed that the gold derived its value from its relationship with the dollar; without gold backing, there would be far less demand for gold. There would, of course, continue to be industrial demand for the metal, but without monetary demand provided by the dollar, the vast supply that had been accumulated during the preceding centuries would overhand the market, depressing the gold price for the foreseeable future. Friedman could not have been more wrong. It was the dollar that collapsed in the 1970s, while the gold price in dollars began a bull run that was not eclipsed in nominal terms until late last year.

A similar and still widely held view in the world of mainstream financial analysts is that gold has been "demonetized." The argument goes like this: central banks decide what money is; central banks have determined that gold is not money; therefore gold is not money. Only the stupid gold investors haven't figured this out. This view of the gold market sees the price of gold as determined primarily by central banks (who own an estimated 10–17% of aboveground supply). The critical variable is how they will time the sales of their gold hoards without causing a selling panic as market participants realize that their gold coins and bars have no monetary value.

But why is gold a better store of value than most any of a vast number other nonmonetary goods? Why were Milton Friedman and the other economists wrong? Their error was the assumption that political institutions have the final say over what is and is not money. But this is not so: the market has final say. Looking at the process by which money originated from barter helps to understand why. According to Menger, money came into being through the efforts of individuals to expand the range of goods they could acquire through exchange beyond the possibilities available. Some individuals in a barter economy begin by bartering their goods for a commodity that they do not need but is generally in demand throughout the market, with the intention of later exchanging that commodity for other goods. This strategy is called indirect exchange. These astute traders realize that "the acquisition by trade of the consumption goods that he needs…can proceed…much more quickly, more economically, and with a greatly enhanced probability of success."

As societies moved from barter to monetary economies, different goods were in competition with each other for use as money. Over time, as monetary exchange expanded in proportion to barter, some commodities were found to work better as money than others, until only a handful of them became "acceptable to everyone in trade." Those were gold and silver.

What qualities have made gold (and silver) the winners of the monetary competition in centuries past? The qualities most often cited by monetary historians are durability, divisibility, recognizability, portability, scarcity (the difficulty of producing more of it), and a value-to-weight ratio that is neither too high nor too low. Too low a ratio would make it hard to carry enough for spending, while too high a ratio would make small transactions difficult and prevent the commodity from being sufficiently widely owned in the prior barter economy. Gold still has these qualities today. While fiat money has some of them, it fails the scarcity test: it is too easy to create more of it.

The result of market competition is not necessarily permanent. Market competition is an ongoing process. Even when one commodity emerged as money, there continued to be competition from other nonmonetary commodities. Once the world's money, even gold could have lost its place had a superior alternative emerged. But that is not the reason we no longer use it. Political money did not prove its superiority through a market process. What happened instead was a politically imposed change from a better system to a worse system.

Although the central bankers have used political means to replace gold with paper, they do not have the power to end the competition between their money and commodity money. The "demonetization" of gold by central banks has rigged the competition—but not ended it.

Gold as money may not be over for all time. As the monetary system melts down, gold functions as "shadow money," an alternative that competes with the political money. It remains a store of value because of its potential to become money again. There is continuing demand for gold as a hedge against the breakdown of the fiat system.

Governments cannot force people to use their money beyond a point. The market will only continue to accept fiat money as long as it works well enough (or even, not too badly). If governments debase their currency beyond a point where it maintains some value over time, people will stop using government currency and switch to something else.

In countries suffering hyperinflation (or even just excessive inflation), people typically start quoting prices and accepting in trade in the more stable currencies of other countries. Earlier this year, VietNamNet reported that land prices are being quoted in gold rather than the local currency, the dong.

The world is lurching through a serious monetary disorder. The proximate cause is the collapse of the housing bubble and the subprime-credit crisis, but the ultimate cause is the inherently unstable monetary system foisted upon us by a banking cartel. Central bankers are called upon to act as lenders of last resort, but in their efforts to inflate their way out of the credit collapse, they risk igniting a hyperinflationary bonfire that will destroy the world's major fiat currencies. Gold was money once, and could become so again.

[Originally published September 2008.]

Cape Clean - India's Top Facade and Window Cleaning

Ethereum Surges To New Record

Coins that power decentralized finance (DeFi) protocols are soaring recently as bitcoin treads water.

While bitcoin grabbed all the headlines early on in the year, it is the rest of the crypto space that is stealing its thunder most recently as Ethereum, the backbone of the smart contracts that define much of the DeFi space, has drastically outperformed...

Source: Bloomberg

That is the highest for ETH relative to BTC since

Source: Bloomberg

In fact, as Bitcoin drifts, Ethereum is up over 17% since Friday...

Source: Bloomberg

Back above the recent highs....

Source: Bloomberg

Making new all-time highs...

Source: Bloomberg

The incredible surge in the price of AAVE (driven as surge in the growth of flash loans) most recently is a good example of what is driving this push into DeFi tokens. As CoinTelegraph notes,

Flash loans allow cryptocurrency holders to collatoralize their portfolio to fund other purchases or new crypto purchases.

The loans also help investors utilize the value in their tokens without the need to sell see them and create a taxable event.

Since launching flash loans less than 12 months ago, more than $1.7 billion have been issued and it’s expected that this figure will increse as the crypto bull market progresses.

Simply put, the crypto market is becoming its own bank.

If "Facebook Is Private", Why Are They Feeding Users' Private Messages Directly To The FBI?

 Authored by Matt Agorist via TheFreeThoughtProject.com,

Despite decrying censorship when it was happening to them last year, when Donald Trump was banned from Twitter and Facebook earlier this month, the left praised the move by big tech. “Facebook is a private company and can do what they want,” the pro-censorship hypocritical crowd chanted ad nauseum through the digital ether after bad orange man was silenced. But as we have said time and again, Facebook being private is simply not true.

Now, however, Facebook has made an unscrupulous Faustian bargain with the federal government which should eliminate all doubt once and for all. They are now willfully handing over private messages of Trump supporters who talked about the events at the capitol on January 6.

Google, Apple, and Amazon all moved to wipe the pro-Trump social media network Parler from the internet earlier this month because of what users on the platform discussed. It was alleged that the handful of dolts who stormed the capitol on January 6 had solely used Parler to plan their laughable, unarmed, silly, unsuccessful, and pitiful attempt to keep Trump in the White House.

Despite the ragtag group of Trumpians posing for selfies, photo-ops, and hanging from banisters, the only thing they accomplished was having D.C. turned into a scene akin to North Korea for Biden’s inauguration. Most honest experts in the media have acknowledged that though a few members of the mob thought they were part of some historic coup to keep their leader in power, the idea that they had any real chance at an insurrection was misleading at best and sheer propaganda used to further the domestic police and surveillance state at worst.

Deferring all responsibility for the planning of the raid on the capitol, Facebook chief operating officer Sheryl Sandberg had stated shortly after the incident that the protests were largely organized off Facebook. However, she was not telling the truth, and likely knew that large portions of the pro-Trump protests were talked about and organized on Facebook. But was Facebook wiped off the internet like Parler? No, no it was not. Here’s why.

This week, Facebook began furnishing the Federal Bureau of Investigation with data on Trump supporters who discussed the events at the capitol on their platform - up to and including their private messages. Through this action the social media giant is acting as a de facto intelligence collecting arm of the US government.

In contrast, when Syed Farook, otherwise known as the San Bernardino mass shooter, wouldn’t unlock his iPhone for the feds, Apple refused to create a backdoor for them to access it acting as an actual private company supporting the privacy rights of its customers. But Facebook is more than willing to open up its data mining services for their friends in the federal government — because, as we have stated numerous times, Facebook is not private.

As TFTP reported in 2018, Facebook announced that it partnered with the arm of the government-funded Atlantic Council, known as the Digital Forensic Research Lab that was brought on to help the social media behemoth with “real-time insights and updates on emerging threats and disinformation campaigns from around the world.”

The Atlantic Council is the group that NATO uses to whitewash wars and foster hatred toward Russia, which in turn allows them to continue to justify themselves. It’s funded by arms manufacturers like Raytheon, Lockheed Martin, and Boeing. It is also funded by billionaire oligarchs like the Ukraine’s Victor Pinchuk and Saudi billionaire Bahaa Hariri.

The list goes on. The highly unethical HSBC group — who has been caught numerous times laundering money for cartels and terrorists — is listed as one of their top donors. They are also funded by the pharmaceutical industry, Google, Goldman Sachs and others. However, the funding that comes from the United States, the US Army, and the Airforce directly negates the “private” aspect of the partnership.

The “think tank” Facebook partnered with to make decisions on who they censor is directly funded by multiple state actors — including the United States — which voids any and all claims that Facebook is a wholly “private actor.”

The Atlantic Council wields massive influence over mainstream media too, which is why when this partnership was announced, no one in the mainstream press pointed it out as the Orwellian idea that it is. Instead, headlines such as “US think tank’s tiny lab helps Facebook battle fake social media(Reuters)” and “Facebook partners with Atlantic Council to improve election security (The Hill)” were put out to spin the fact that a NATO propaganda arm is now censoring the information Americans see on Facebook.

But this partnership with the state-funded “think tank” is not the only reason Facebook is not private.

From government funded censorship arms to the revolving door of high level bureaucrats who fill the ranks of the oligopolies, the “private company” Facebook concept comes crashing down when taking a closer look. Private-sector firms do not need to be explicitly nationalized to further the establishment’s interests; it’s enough to install their alumni in top regulatory positions. Through these methods, Facebook can put on the façade of privatization while actually acting as deputies for the state but alleviating any constitutional checks in the process.

All the while, whenever the censorship acts in their benefit, half of the masses cheer it on and defend it, keeping resistance at a minimum.

What’s more, as the government hangs the threat of antitrust litigation over their heads, it can force these companies to act in their benefit even without explicit partnerships like that of the Atlantic Council. In fact, prior to the state getting involved in the talks of regulation into big tech, information flowed relatively freely with Facebook only removing racist and violent content. Now, however, as they bend to the will of their partners in the federal government, people like myself find ourselves on 30 day bans for saying “censorship leads to tyranny.”

This is why the answer to the government big tech censorship leviathan lies not in regulation but in boycott. The time is now to get off these platforms who spy on you, ban you, sell you to the highest bidder, and who are tearing society apart. Censorship free platforms exist and are far more user friendly and treat you as the actual customer instead of the sheep they are leading to slaughter. You can check them out here.

24 January 2021

Banks repeatedly violate RBI’s circular, deny student loans citing parents’ credit score

By Aathira Konikkara

Despite the mandate of an education-loan policy to benefit poor students that has been in place since 2001, India's public-sector banks continue to deny student loans citing poor credit ratings.

Nearly twenty years after the National Democratic Alliance government introduced an education loan scheme to benefit students from poor families, India’s public banks continue to deny loans to students whose parents have poor credit ratings. The Indian Banks’ Association, a representative body of all banks with offices in the country, had prepared this proposal as a model education loan scheme in 2000. The next year, the NDA government announced the scheme in the union budget, promising concessions to students wishing to pursue higher education, and the Reserve Bank of India notified it in April that year. But the experience of students and the continuing need for judicial intervention indicates that the scheme’s implementation is not steered by the benefit to aspiring students, but by the caution of banks.

The RBI’s circular stated that the loan scheme “aims at providing financial support from the banking system to deserving/meritorious students for pursuing higher education in India and abroad.” To be eligible under the scheme, students should have scored 60 percent in the qualifying examinations for graduation courses; for Scheduled Caste or Scheduled Tribe applicants, the requirement was 50 percent. The scheme permitted all commercial banks to provide loans “subject to repaying capacity of parents/students,” with a ceiling of Rs 7.50 lakh for courses in India and Rs 15 lakh for courses abroad. Further, it offered a moratorium on the repayment of the loan for the period of the course and one year afterwards, or six months of getting a job, whichever came earlier.

“The main emphasis is that every meritorious student though poor is provided with an opportunity to pursue education with the financial support from the banking system with affordable terms and conditions,” the RBI’s circular stated. “No deserving student is denied an opportunity to pursue higher education for want of financial support.” Yet, students from economically disadvantaged backgrounds who apply for an education loan are commonly rejected by public-sector banks, citing their parents’ low CIBIL score. A CIBIL score refers to a three-digit number issued by the Mumbai-based credit-information company TransUnion CIBIL, which was formerly known as the Credit Information Bureau India Limited.

Banks refer to this score while assessing the creditworthiness of a potential borrower. However, the RBI’s circular does indicate that the students, and not their parents, are considered the principal borrowers. In fact, in August 2015, the Indian Banks’ Association released “Revised Guidance Notes” on the education loan scheme. “The student borrower has no credit history and as such he is assumed to be creditworthy as this is a futuristic loan,” the Guidance Notes state. It even addresses circumstances where an applicant-student’s parents have a poor credit rating. “It is likely that the joint borrower for the loan has a credit history and any adverse features could have a bearing on the assessment of credit risk … To overcome this, the bank may, as a prudent measure insists on a joint borrower acceptable to the bank, in case of adverse credit history of the parent/guardian of the student.”

But none of these appear to be implemented in practice. Vani Rajeev, a student pursuing her bachelor of science in radiology, was one such student whose education-loan application was declined by the State Bank of India citing her single mother’s poor credit history. “We had applied for the loan in February,” Anju Jayan, Vani’s mother, told me on the phone. “My daughter does not have her father. She only has me. I had a CIBIL record since I had applied for a housing loan before. The loan was rejected because of my CIBIL record.” In February 2020, Jayan applied for a loan of Rs 4 lakh for her daughter’s education, but SBI’s Kulasekharamangalam branch, in Kottayam, rejected the application soon after.

In July 2020, the Kerala High Court ruled in a similar case against a decision by a branch of the same bank in Kerala’s Kollam district, where a student’s loan application was rejected by the bank because of his parents’ low CIBIL score. “I am of the opinion that unsatisfactory credit scores of the parents of the petitioner cannot be a ground to reject an educational loan in view of the fact that the repayment capacity of the petitioner after his education should be the deciding factor as per clause 10 of Ext R1 (a) scheme,” the verdict stated. The exhibit cited by the court referred to a 2016 circular issued by the IBA, which revised the original model education loan scheme to “enlarge the coverage” and “address some of the weaknesses noticed.” The clause 10 mentioned in the judgment stated, “In the normal course, while appraising the loan, the future income prospect of the student only will be looked into.”

The petitioner in the case was a 20-year-old student, Pranav SR, who had applied for an education loan of Rs 5,70,000 in order to pursue a bachelor of technology course in Tamil Nadu. The loan application was rejected on the grounds that Shaji R, Pranav’s father, had defaulted on a commercial vehicle loan, according to his CIBIL report. “I paid the money that was due this month in the following month,” Shaji explained to me. “I paid the dues this way for two months. They informed me that my CIBIL score is low because I had a month’s arrears pending.” Shaji then closed the vehicle loan so that Pranav could apply again, but the bank rejected his application again stating that his parents had poor credit histories. 

Shaji said he felt dismayed by the treatment of bank officials towards borrowers, noting that his wife and Pranav had approached SBI’s Kadakkal branch to apply for the loan. “The manager there told my wife that if you have children, you should educate them only if you have money,” Shaji said. “It really upset me to hear that. What is even more upsetting is that they never bother to even accept the application by hand. They just ask you to drop the application on the table and leave.” The application was declined again, in May 2020.

The family then moved the high court and received a favourable order in two months. But even after the order, Shaji said, the bank tried to delay the sanction of the loan “as much as possible,” before eventually processing it. Their advocate, B Mohan Lal, said the bank officials were “reluctant to comply” with the order. “We had to intimidate them with the prospect of a contempt notice,” he said.

The previous year, Lal had appeared for another student, Noorjahan NS, who had filed a writ petition in the high court against SBI’s Kottarakara branch in Kollam after her application for an education loan had been rejected on similar grounds. Noorjahan had applied for a loan of Rs 7,40,000 to cover the expenses of her course at a dental college. As in Pranav’s case, her loan was also rejected because of arrears on a vehicle loan availed by her father. “I had bought a four-wheeler in 2010 on a long-term loan that could be repaid until 2017,” Najeeb Khan, Noorjahan’s father, said. “I missed paying three instalments of the loan on time. It affected my CIBIL score.”

The SBI’s counsel argued in the case that the court cannot interfere “in a commercial decision of the present nature.” However, the court observed that the loan scheme was introduced as a “socially and economically relevant scheme” to support the pursuit of higher education of students who may be in want of financial assistance. The court finally ruled in Noorjahan’s favour, noting that SBI’s rejection of the loan application based on her parent’s credit score was arbitrary. The court stated that repayments under this scheme “were contemplated to be made not on the financial position of the parents but solely on the projected future earnings of the students on employment after education.”

Lal pointed to the similarities in the two cases. “In both the cases, the parties had paid off their dues through a one-time settlement or otherwise,” he said. “But when you apply for a loan and you have to deposit a particular amount by say, 15th every month and you pay the amount on 16th, you are treated as a defaulter. Even if you pay dues of two or five months in a single instalment, you will still be a defaulting person. Then they will always perceive you as a thief.”

The advocate also pointed out that both students belong to Other Backward Classes, a fact mentioned in both court orders. “In the case of Noorjahan, she had obtained admission in the management quota in a self-financing college,” Lal told me. A management quota refers to seats for admission that are filled by a university based on its discretion, and not strictly by the general eligibility criteria. “So they argued that she is not a meritorious candidate. They raised the same point in the second case as well.” But the IBA’s guidelines, as revised in 2015, stated that “a student getting admission offer under merit quota may choose to take up a course under management quota as a personal preference. Such students may be sanctioned loans under this Model Scheme.”

Despite the recent court orders, Lal said that rejection of education loans based on parents’ CIBIL records continues to be commonplace, as reflected by the case of Vani Rajeev. In July, soon after Pranav’s case was reported in the papers, Rajeev approached SBI’s Kulasekharamangalam branch again, and tried to argue her case using the high court’s ruling. “But they said that they have received no such directive,” her mother Jayan told me. She was working as an accountant in UAE until 2014, when she lost her job and returned to Kerala. In desperation, Rajeev even wrote to the prime minister Narendra Modi and the union finance minister Nirmala Sitharaman, informing them of her situation, in October last year. “I am requesting you with great agony and advice me to continue my studies to support my family,” she wrote. “My only hope of survival is the education loan.”

On 30 December, Rajeev received a letter from SBI referring to her letter to the prime minister. It simply repeated that Jayan was denied the loan because of her CIBIL score. The family was unsure about challenging the bank’s decision in court because the legal fees would be expensive. “I am educating her by borrowing money,” Jayan told me. “Denying her an education is not an option.”

As early as 2011, the Madras High Court had ruled that students are the principal borrowers of education loans, and not their parents. In its judgment that year in the case of Hannah Dotris versus Assistant General Manager, State Bank of Mysore, the court held, “The bank should adopt a more reasonable and pragmatic approach to the entire issue bearing in mind that the repayment shall be made by the student concerned, who avails loan and such repayment commences after completion of her course of study.” Yet, public-sector banks have continually denied the loans, leading the Madurai bench of the Madras High Court to take note of it in 2018. Citing the 2011 judgment, the bench observed, “It is rather unfortunate that the aforesaid order came to be passed in the year 2011 and various subsequent orders of this court had also passed, even then the financial institutions have been continuing to reject applications of this nature on similar grounds.”

K Srinivasan, the convener of Education Loan Task Force—a Chennai-based voluntary body that offers guidance to students in the application process—said that housing and vehicle loans, unlike education loans, are sanctioned after assessing the present financial status of the borrower. “IBA has clarified that educational loans have to be dealt with in an independent manner and not to be linked to the CIBIL rating of your parents,” he said. In case a bank is concerned about the credibility of a borrower because of their parent’s poor CIBIL rating, Srinivasan suggested that a family member or anyone who does not have a low CIBIL score can stand in as a third-party guarantor on the repayment of the loan.

In 2015, the union ministry of finance collaborated with the department of higher education—under the ministry of human resources development—and the IBA to launch Vidya Lakshmi, a web portal to ease the process of securing education loans. According to Srinivasan, while the portal created a single window for students to apply to multiple leading banks across the country, its implementation has been poor. “You apply to three banks but none of the banks will take it seriously and the students don’t know where to complain. Nobody takes a decision because they think the other person will,” he told me. He suggested that instead of a simultaneous submission of loan requests to three banks, there should be a hierarchical process where the student has to consult a second or a third bank only after her first choice of bank declines her application.

Emailed queries to the concerned SBI branches, the IBA and the MHRD went unanswered. This piece will be updated if and when a response is received.

Srinivasan pointed to one recurring factor that led to mistrust between banks and borrowers in Tamil Nadu—during election seasons in the state, political parties promise a waiver on education loans. “It unnecessarily misguides the students,” he told me, noting that he receives hundreds of queries from students who ask him when the loan waiver would be implemented. “Later, when a statement is given that it is not possible, no media will take it up. If DMK or AIADMK declare that education loans will be written off, that will come as a prominent news item. Then all students who borrowed will get misled. With the hope that the government will write it off, they will stop repayment.”

The data suggests a steady decline in education loans to less privileged students. In January 2020, the Business Standard reported that according to RBI data, there has been a steady drop in the growth of education loans since 2016, with outstanding loans contracting by 3.4 percent as of November 2019. The report further stated that high-value loans—of above Rs 10 lakh—were rising, and only smaller loans, which benefit the lesser privileged, were shrinking. According to RBI data, the report stated, the sum of outstanding education loans smaller than Rs 10 lakh declined from Rs 60,000 crore in March 2016 to Rs 53,000 crore by the end of November 2019. In December 2019, Sitharaman had said that there is no proposal under consideration for waiver of education loans, adding that banks have been instructed to adopt a “non-coercive strategy” to recover the loans.

Srinivasan said education loans were not a priority for the banks or for the government. “There are serious attempts at every level—at the banks’ level, at the government level—to discourage educational loans,” he said. “Nobody takes it seriously. Interest subsidy also is not properly disbursed.” Srinivasan added, “Education loan is an investment, it is not a loan at all. It is a national investment, investment on the future knowledge of society.”

Source: The Caravan

Indian Medical Association (IMA) calls for nationwide relay hunger strike against surgery by Ayurveda doctors

The IMA on Thursday announced a pan-India relay hunger strike of doctors starting February 1, in protest against a notification issued by the Central Council of Indian Medicine (CCIM) that authorises post-graduate practitioners in specified streams of Ayurveda to perform general surgical procedures, stating that it will lead to "mixopathy".

The Indian Medical Association (IMA) is giving immediate directives to all members across the country to launch the "Save Healthcare India Movement", the doctors' body said in a statement.

Under the campaign, the IMA will launch a massive awareness drive across the country as this is a clear threat to the safety of healthcare of people.

Doctors will take turns to sit on the hunger strike 24x7 from February 1 and the IMA will release posters and banners to raise awareness on the issue across the country, the statement said.

"All IMA members shall update their Members of Parliament and MLAs regarding the true picture of the notification and the integration policy. The IMA will also give its representations to all state governments. Under this movement, all NGOs will be updated about the core issues," it added.

Besides, all IMA members will write and convey their feelings to the prime minister, the association said.

Representatives of the IMA shall visit various places across the country to raise awareness among the public and apprise various associations from different countries of this "unscientific" notification, it said, adding that the global voice of modern medicine shall echo the feelings of the Indian Medical Association and its members.

The IMA has condemned the notification issued by the CCIM, a statutory body under the AYUSH Ministry, authorising post-graduate practitioners in specified streams of Ayurveda to be trained to perform surgical procedures such as excisions of benign tumours, amputation of gangrene, nasal and cataract operations.

The doctors' body further said the recent policy tilt, as evidenced in the medical pluralism advocated by the National Education Policy 2020 and the four committees of NITI AAYOG for officially integrating the systems of medicine in medical education, practice, public health and administration as well as research ostensibly for a "One Nation, One System" policy, will "ring the death knell of all systems of medicine as a whole".

"The IMA respects all streams of healthcare. We object mixing of the streams as it is unsafe and unscientific...one doctor cannot give all systems of medicine to one patient. Mixing the Pathies and providing substandard healthcare is definitely wrong.

"The IMA demands withdrawal of the CCIM order and dissolution of the NITI AAYOG committees for integration. The IMA appeals to the government to consider the sensitivity of the medical fraternity and take appropriate steps. The IMA will be constrained to intensify the agitation until the steps towards implementing mixopathy are abandoned," it said.