Saturday, November 27, 2010

SOCH VICHAR: Traveller cheques are now outdated ..................

SOCH VICHAR: Traveller cheques are now outdated ..................: "I approached my bank for traveller’s cheques (TCs) as I am going abroad on a holiday. Instead, it advised that I should carry a prepaid card..."

SOCH VICHAR: I’m C2 and Fat-free

SOCH VICHAR: I’m C2 and Fat-free: "I’m C2 and Fat-free Several years ago I heard about a fellow who returned a phone call and when the phone was answered the response was, ..."

SOCH VICHAR: Explore NPS for good returns on retirement

SOCH VICHAR: Explore NPS for good returns on retirement: "Explore NPS for good returns on retirement For the unorganized sector, retirement plans are even more difficult and hence you need to com..."

Explore NPS for good returns on retirement

Explore NPS for good returns on retirement

For the unorganized sector, retirement plans are even more difficult and hence you need to come up with a good strategy to ensure you have your retirement funds in place. This article touches upon the impact of new pension schemes (NPS) introduced by the government and the latest developments that have taken place in retirement plans.

New Pension Scheme (NPS)

What is a NPS? NPS is similar to Mutual funds. You keep aside some money for your retirement and this money is put into the capital market. Hence, the sum which you will get post retirement will be dependent on the performance of capital market. These are managed by fund managers.

Currently 6 fund houses appointed by the government are available under NPS. These are SBI Pension Funds Private Limited, UTI Retirement Solutions Limited, ICICI Prudential Pension Funds Management Company Limited, Religare Pension Fund Limited, IDFC Pension Funds Management Company Limited, and Kotak Mahindra Pension Fund Limited. There are 3 schemes available under NPS which is:
Fund E: If you invest in this fund, then a portion of not more than 50% of your invested money will be put into equity. You should consider investing in this retirement plan only if your risk appetite is high as up to 50% of your money will be linked to the performance of equity.
Fund C: if you invest in this fund, then all of the money will be put into fixed income instruments like corporate bonds and government securities. You should consider investing in this fund if your risk appetite is medium as corporate bonds are not that risky.

Fund G: In this fund, all of your money will be invested in government securities. Hence, this is suited for you if you want it to be an almost risk free investment.

You can choose to invest in any of these funds or you can invest in a mix of these funds. If you are not able to choose between these funds then your contributions will be invested in a fund with 15% in equity, 45% in corporate bonds and 40% in government bonds.

However with increase in age after 35 years, the government bond exposure will increase with a maximum limit of 80% and 10% each in equity and corporate bonds. To ensure you avail the scheme you should compulsorily contribute at least Rs 500 per month.
Amendments Proposed For Workers In Unorganized Sector

The government has proposed to roll out a ‘fixed income pension’ plan to the workers in the unorganized sector. This will be done in three steps. Firstly, the monthly contributions you make will be invested as per NPS guidelines. Secondly, state funds for old age savings scheme will be added to this.

Thirdly, if any gap exists between the sum guaranteed and sum generated from the above two steps then the central government will provide the requisite fund. The new plan will be started off initially in states like Haryana, Karnataka and Andhra Pradesh which are known to be quick in implementing government schemes. However this amendment is only meant for workers in the unorganized sector. Central and State government employees will continue to get pension through NPS.

Tips for Employees
If you are planning to save for your retirement then you should avail NPS as the fund management charges are very low which is 0.0009% compared to 1.5% – 2.5% for mutual fund or insurance products.
Currently, NPS does not offer any tax exemptions unlike other retirement plans. It falls under the category EET (exempt-exempt-tax) system which means that maturity benefits you receive post retirement will be taxable. However, with DTC replacing the current tax code, NPS will be tax exempted upon withdrawal too. Therefore, you should avail this scheme when DTC comes into place.

You can also make weekly contributions in NPS. But for every contribution, your transaction cost will increase. Hence, it is better to keep some money from your monthly compensation and contribute it to NPS once in a month.
As compared to other retirement plans like (Employee provident fund) EPF, the returns are better. Currently, EPF gives 8% interest rate. However, investing in NPS will earn you much better returns because of the equity portfolio of the scheme.

To conclude, NPS should be given serious consideration as a possible scheme for accumulating your retirement funds as it is comparatively a much better scheme in the market currently. It has earned an impressive average return of 19.5% which makes sense of ploughing back some money in the capital market. For the unorganized sector, amendment proposed by the government will ensure you get an assured sum post retirement.

I’m C2 and Fat-free

I’m C2 and Fat-free

Several years ago I heard about a fellow who returned a phone call and when the phone was answered the response was, “286-7495.”  The gentleman replied, “Yes, I’m returning Mr. Anderson’s call,” and the operator said, “Who is this?”  He responded, “233-9191.”

It seems to be true that many people have become mere numbers in our non-caring, technological world.  This was brought home to me recently when I checked in at the gate for one of my numerous flights.  When I showed my ticket with the boarding pass to the gate agent, he picked up his microphone and said to the flight attendant aboard, “C2 is here.”  What he meant was simply that I had seat C2 and was now aboard. I kind of laughed and said to the fellow, “Well, that’s the first time I’ve been identified as a seat number.”  He smiled as I walked aboard the airplane where I sat down and we took off.  When meal-time came, the flight attendant began listing the menu choices for the passengers.  When he got to me I said, “I believe I have a special meal.”  He turned to another attendant and said, “Fat-free is here.”  Since I prefer to be called Zig, I’m glad the names C2 and fat-free did not stick.

I find it to be amusing and yet, in a strange way, a little sad that we’ve reached that point in life when we can so casually deal with each other as a number or a letter.  That’s especially true at this time in our history when mergers, downsizing, rightsizing, buy-outs, early retirement and bankruptcy have created stress and fear in the marketplace. Today, people need hope and encouragement, combined with genuine care and concern from those with whom we deal on a regular basis.  When we pay our bills with a check or credit card, we like to be called by name.  I’m not “C-2? and “fat-free,” I’m a human being – and so are you.  So let’s treat each other that way

Traveller cheques are now outdated ...............NEW CONCEPT.......... PRE-PAID CARDS...........Vs CREDIT/DEBIT CARDS

I approached my bank for traveller’s cheques (TCs) as I am going abroad on a holiday. Instead, it advised that I should carry a prepaid card. Why is it not advisable to carry TCs or credit and debit cards? How do prepaid cards work, and are these beneficial? Are these also available for domestic travel?

Travel cards are foreign currency prepaid cards that are accepted at more than 9,00,000 VISA/MasterCard-enabled ATMs and over 20 million point-of-sale (POS) terminals worldwide. They can be used to settle hotel bills, pay for airline tickets, shop, etc.

Travel cards are a much superior alternative to TCs, as the latter are available in fixed denominations and can be encashed only with money-changers.

Travel cards are a better alternative to foreign currency cash, as these ensure a high level of convenience and security. Also, there is no way of salvaging cash, if lost/stolen. The card, if lost, can be blocked, and the amount can be protected and a replacement card taken.

In debit and credit cards, the customer is exposed to the exchange risk every time he/she uses the card. In travel cards, the rate gets locked at the time of purchase of the card (in India). Also, if a debit or credit card is compromised, the full account/limit is at risk. In travel cards, the risk is limited to the amount loaded. Debit and credit cards usually have very low daily transaction limits for ATM (cash withdrawal) or POS, which are often not sufficient internationally. Travel cards are normally not available for domestic travel.

Recently, I redeemed my mutual fund investments and received Rs 8 lakh. Prior to this, I had applied for a personal loan of Rs 6 lakh, which got approved a week back. Since I have enough cash in hand after redeeming the mutual fund units, can I cancel my loan or lower the quantum of the loan? What is the process?

If the loan requested has been approved by the bank and not availed of, the customer has the option of either cancelling the request or seeking a reduced amount. Accordingly, the loan will either be cancelled or a revised loan amount approved.

My son is pursuing his higher education in the US. He took an education loan for which I am the guarantor. His university grants scholarships to students, based on their first semester performance. He has been chosen for it. With the scholarship, his loan requirement has reduced substantially. Can we request the bank to reduce the loan? If yes, will we be penalised?

In education loans, the interest is charged only on the outstanding amount (amount availed). In case the loan is not fully availed, the remaining loan amount will only be disbursed when you request the bank (according to your new requirement). Thus, there is no need to modify the sanctioned limit and reduce the loan amount.

However, when your son finishes his education and decides to repay the loan in equated monthly instalments (EMIs), he/you will have to approach the bank with a written request to schedule the EMIs according to the reduced loan and not on the basis of the sanctioned amount. There will be no penalty.

Keys to Being a Top Performer

Keys to Being a Top Performer
There are three things essential for becoming an outstanding performer:

1) You have to remain technically competent. The half-life of knowledge gets shorter every day. Become a lifelong learner to remain technically competent throughout your career.

2) You need to set and achieve high goals. Set milestones to help you keep on track with your goals. Focus on your goals every day. Do at least one thing every day that moves you closer to accomplishing each of your goals.

3) You need to be well organized. Manage your time, stress, workspace and lifestyle well.

There are three things essential for becoming an outstanding performer:

1) You have to remain technically competent. The half-life of knowledge gets shorter every day. Become a lifelong learner to remain technically competent throughout your career.

2) You need to set and achieve high goals. Set milestones to help you keep on track with your goals. Focus on your goals every day. Do at least one thing every day that moves you closer to accomplishing each of your goals.

3) You need to be well organized. Manage your time, stress, workspace and lifestyle well.

What about corruption in corporate deals?

What about corruption in corporate deals?

Around the time allegations poured thick and fast at A Raja for selling spectrum cheap to a horde of telecom companies, Ratan Tata created quite a stir at Dehra Dun when he alleged that he was asked to pay a bribe of Rs 15 crore to a minister some years ago when he wanted to set up an airline. In short, corruption thrives in India. The Licence Raj may have been dismantled but there is still a lot of clout that ministers and bureaucrats wield — and there’s a price attached to it.

What is perhaps not reported in the media is the corruption that happens when corporations deal with each other. Contracts are handed out, orders are placed, purchases are made, and money often changes hands here as well. In the past, most promoters kept the “purchase” function with themselves — either a family member or a confidante. Why? The reason is obvious. Punitive tax rates, combined with low shareholding, meant there was not much money to be made legally. The real rewards, though in black, came from kickbacks. Little, it seems, has changed.

How deep does the rot run? In January 2008, PricewaterhouseCoopers (PwC) had come out with a report called Confronting Corruption. As many as 390 senior executives across the world were surveyed by the Economist Intelligence Unit for the report, and this was supplemented with in-depth interviews with 36 senior executives and anti-corruption experts from 14 countries. It was an eye-opener. Sixty-three per cent indicated that they had experienced some form of actual or attempted corruption; 39 per cent said they had lost a bid because of corrupt officials; 45 per cent said they have not entered a market or pursued an opportunity because of corruption risks; and 52 per cent believed their rivals bribe their way to business.

Clearly, people were aware that unethical practices are not uncommon in the world of business. If it comes to light, any incident of corruption can blow a company’s reputation to smithereens. Still, corporations pay only lip service to curb such practices. The PwC report said while 80 per cent respondents said that they have some sort of an anti-corruption programme in place, only 22 per cent were confident of their effectiveness; less than half said these programmes are clearly communicated to all and rigorously enforced; and only 40 per cent said the current controls are effective at identifying high-risk business partners or suspect disbursements.

This, mind you, was a global report. The situation in India, if the country’s score in the various corruption indices is anything to go by, could be far worse. KPMG, earlier this year, had come out with the India Fraud Survey 2010. It spoke to CEOs, CFOs, heads of audit and compliance, fraud risk managers and other senior managers across industry verticals. “The mistrust of employees towards their senior management is unmistakable,” it concluded. “Despite this, control mechanisms are not in place in most organisations, and hence the need for risk-mitigating strategies is unquestionable. It is time that India Inc stood up and ended its tolerance of unethical behaviour, bribery and corruption.”

Seventy-five per cent of the respondents said that fraud in the corporate world is on the rise; 54 per cent said fraud is on the rise in their industry; and 45 per cent said fraud (actual or suspected) has risen in their organisation. Eighty-one per cent said fraud in financial statements is a huge issue; 63 per cent said the desire to meet or exceed market expectations is the main factor behind such frauds; and 62 per cent disagreed that strict action is taken when such a fraud comes to light. Prepare yourself for more alarming stuff: 41 per cent said they do not have in place a formal fraud-risk management framework; 60 per cent said usage of technology in detecting trends and anomalies in data is average to poor; and 58 per cent said data analytics are either not used or used partially.

Some bits of the survey didn’t come as a surprise. Thus, the supply chain (procurement, distribution and revenue leakage) is the function most exposed to fraud, internal controls are weak, ethical values have eroded and line managers are reluctant to take action against perpetrators. This, in turn, encourages fraudsters. The link between the financial earnings of the company and the remuneration of the senior management has its own perils. Precious little is done to encourage and protect whistleblowers. And few companies have the forensic skills to detect frauds. Nothing shows it better than the Satyam fraud. Till Ramalinga Raju confessed to his monumental fraud in early 2009, nobody was aware that he had been cooking the books of the company for seven long years! The company had over 50,000 employees, topnotch people on its board of directors and high-profile auditors. Evidence that has been collected so far shows that apart from a handful of people nobody had a clue of what Raju was up to. There may have been some tightening of controls and screening of business partners, especially of clients by auditors, since the scam broke out, but there is nothing to suggest that corruption is on the decline. It is just a way of life in India.

There is gold in Zoellick's idea

There is gold in Zoellick's idea

In recommending a modified gold standard, the World Bank President is only anticipating the emergence of a new monetary order. Many countries are already wary of holding currency, and have turned to gold.

The President of the World Bank, Mr Robert Zoellick, has generated a storm with his article in The Financial Times of November 7, 2010, where he recommends a modified global gold standard to guide currency movements. He calls for a system involving the dollar, euro, yen, pound and the yuan, that would help in internationalisation of the reserve currency.

In this context, Mr Zoellick has argued that the system should also consider employing gold as an international reference point on market expectations about inflation, deflation and future currency values.

With the obvious problems being faced by the dollar, there is merit in a neutral benchmark.

Opponents of Mr Zoellick's proposal are concerned that a gold standard lacks the mechanism to offset deflationary pressures. Some analysts, like Martin Wolf, are of the view that there could be a flood of gold into a currency which is well-managed and that there could be severe deflation.

It is well known that when a country's currency becomes a reserve currency it becomes heavily indebted which, over time, shakes the confidence in the reserve currency.

This was the experience of sterling in the first half of the 20th century and the dollar in the second half. It is for this reason that the euro, the yen and the yuan resist becoming reserve currencies.

The Zoellick proposal has incurred the wrath of otherwise sober and balanced economists. For instance, Bradford Delong, Professor at the University of California (Berkeley), argues that attaching the world's economy's price level to an anchor that central banks cannot augment to ward off deflation is a major drawback of the Zoellick proposal. Some analysts feel that Mr Zoellick has rightly diagnosed that monetary policy is being overly politicised.

It is, however, recognised that a monetary system based on a commodity whose availability is dictated by natural conditions would not allow adequate discretion to tackle instability generated by a rigid system. There appears to be a contradiction in what the G-20 is endeavouring to do. While it is agreed that countries should not take recourse to competitive depreciation, the US Fed's policy of quantitative easing is weakening the dollar and thereby appreciating other currencies, particularly the yuan.

If the appreciating countries retaliate by printing money to foreclose an appreciation of their currencies, the world would be caught in an uncontrolled global inflation, which would inevitably end in a crash.

The Zoellick proposal should be a warning to the comity of nations that there is a need for caution in unbridled fiat money. Mr Zoellick's message is very clear that the present international monetary order is dying. And, as Reuters columnist James Saft says, when old religions die, new ones spring up to fill the void.

Mr Zoellick recognises that investors have figured out that currency holdings could be hazardous and that markets are already using gold as an alternative monetary asset. Saft argues that the Zoellick proposal is not a call for a return to the pre-1914 gold standard but a guide in the kindergarten of currency disputes.

Importance of Gold

Critics of Mr Zoellick consider any link with gold as anathema. It is pertinent to note that a number of major countries have over 60 per cent of their foreign exchange assets in gold — the US, Germany, France, Italy, Netherlands and Portugal. While there is so much talk about the irrelevance of gold in the international monetary system, it is not for nothing that the major industrial countries hold a large proportion of their reserves in gold and a number of other countries, including China, Russia, India and the West Asian countries are augmenting the proportion of gold in their foreign reserves.

In response to the wild and thoughtless criticism, Mr Zoellick has clarified that he was in no way advocating a return to the pre-1914 gold standard. He says that “gold is the elephant in the room” and policymakers need to take cognisance of this.

New Reference Index

Policymakers need to build on the Zoellick proposal. A reference index could be constructed which would include the major currencies and gold. Illustratively, initially gold could be given a weight of, say, 20 per cent and the major currencies 80 per cent.

Gradually, over time, the weights of gold and other currencies could be made equal. Each country could evolve its exchange rate policies bearing in mind the reference rate. This would avoid fractious inter-country conflicts. Mr Zoellick is being burnt at the stake by anti-gold zealots as he has sounded the death knell of their religion.

As the new international monetary order emerges, however, Mr Zoellick may well be beatified and could be on the way to sainthood as the founder of a new religion. Charles de Gaulle and his adviser, Jacques Rueff, who called for a return to gold in 1965, are perhaps chuckling in heaven!

Discovery of Nehru

Discovery of Nehru
There were severe critiques of Nehru’s economic thinking in policymakers documents in the 1992-97 period and in 2004-05. There has been now an appreciative stance on his emphasis on knowledge creation and basic industrialisation. But most of the discussion is by the discussants based on bees in their bonnets and has little to do with what Nehru actually wrote. Since this is his birth-month, I decided to look at what he really said. Before Independence there was considerable thinking on the nature of the economic policies that would be followed after the country was free from colonial rule. The Congress Party’s National Planning Committee, under Nehru, the Bombay Plan produced by industrialists, a Gandhian Plan by SN Aggarwal and a People’s Plan by the radical humanist leader MN Roy, all contained first ideas on principles of economic organisation, embellished with some statistical details and targetery. Nehru’s work was the most detailed.

In this medley, a core of interrelated economic ideas underlies Nehru’s economic thinking through a long period. This comes out very strikingly if one compares sections of the Discovery of India (Ch VIII and X) and one of his last overall analysis of his own policies and views contained in the article on Changing India, published after the Chinese invasion in Foreign Affairs (April 1963).

To Nehru the harnessing of modern technology to economic development was very important. There were two implications of this. The first was an acceptance of the emphasis on heavy industries in the process of industrialisation. While there has been considerable controversy in India on large scale vs small scale industrialisation, Nehru himself had clinched the issue in his own mind even in his early economic thinking. This was perhaps one of the few economic choices he really made. Discussing the issue of the big machine vs cottage industries, he stated emphatically that “it is not a mere question if adjustment of the two forms of production and economy. One must be dominating and paramount, with the other as complementary to it, fitting in where it can. The economy bases on the latest technical achievements of the day must necessarily be the dominating one.” The second, wider implication of this approach was his emphasis on scientific education and research. He seems to have a particular fascination for the idea that under “proper” social conditions, experimentation with the machine would inculcate the “scientific temper” and widen he experience and outlook of men. Formal economics is now accepting this idea in the shape of the productivity implications of “learning theory approach”.

The economic implication of this to him was the emphasis on basic minimum needs. His earlier emphasis on rural development was argued with this end in view. (Later speeches accept the role of agricultural production as a constraint in the process of economic development). The role of cottage industries, albeit a secondary one, was argued from this objective, as also the long-term employment potential of heavy industrialisation.

Another basic economic idea for Nehru seems to be a concept of “national self-sufficiency”, with a strong autarchic element in it. Heavy industrialisation and a scientific research policy were argued partly with this end in view. The emphasis was conditioned by early experience. (“We were anxious to avoid being drawn into the whirlpool of economic imperialism.”)

There was in Nehru a genuine concern about the need for a peaceful transition through consensus in the developmental phase. There is frequent emphasis on the “social” implications of economic ideas and programmes. The late Prime Minister was liable to discuss it sometimes along “wider” national, international or even philosophical lines. The earlier method of “democratic collectivism” remains later in the shape of “democratic socialism” and the “mixed economy”. Equality of opportunity for all remains a basic theme.

This concern for a consensus comes out strikingly in his own words when he was writing about the work of the National Planning Committee set up by the Congress Party before Independence under his direction: constituted as we were, it was not easy for all of us to agree to any basic social policy or principles underlying social organisation. Any attempt to discuss these principles in the abstract was bound to lead to fundamental differences of approach at the outset and possibly to a splitting up the Committee. Not to have such a guiding policy was a serious drawback yet there was no help for it. We decided to consider the general problem of planning as well as each individual problem concretely and not in the abstract, and allow principles to develop out such consideration.” Those who mangle him need to read the man.

Calming Angry Customers

One of the fastest and most effective ways to diffuse customer anger is to agree with them. Saying, “You’ve got a right to be mad,” or “I can understand why you’re upset – I would be, too” can literally stop an upset customer in their tracks.

Their case has been made … the fight they expected never happened. And, if the next thing you say is, “Let’s see what I can do to make it right,” you’ll immediately take the discussion from negative complaining to constructive problem solving.

Salaried can claim deduction for employment-related expenses.........Employees need to incur expenses to upgrade their skills

Salaried can claim deduction for employment-related expenses
Employees need to incur expenses to upgrade their skills
The most wronged persons in the income-tax regime are salaried persons. The scheme of the Income-Tax Act, 1961 clearly shows that the income to be taxed under the Act has to be worked out after allowing the expenses, which are permitted under the Act or are allowable on the basis of commercial expediency/practices.
However, in the cases of incomes from ‘salary' or ‘house property', the expenses are deductible not on the basis of actual expenditure but on estimated basis by way of standard deduction (SD) to ensure simplicity in tax administration.
On this analogy, persons deriving income from salary were allowed deduction on standard basis (up to a maximum limit of Rs 30,000) in the computation of taxable income.
It needs to be appreciated that a salaried employee too has to incur expenses, to continue and progress in the present day competitive environments, on books, newspapers, journals, computers, stationery, floppies, traveling, training, etc., on his own account. If he does not incur such expenses, he may stagnate and may even lose his job. These expenses cannot be considered as ‘personal expenses'. Even the history of SD shows that it was being given in lieu of individual employment-related expenses.

Untenable grounds
However, ignoring these realities, the then Finance Minister, Mr P. Chidambaram, vide Finance Act, 2005, withdrew the SD available to salaried employees on totally untenable grounds, namely: (i) it is in the nature of personal allowance; (ii) exemption limit for taxpayers has been raised; and (iii) tax brackets have been scaled up.
None of these justify withdrawal of SD, which was being given, in a consolidated way, for expenses incurred in the context of employment. The other two grounds — (ii) and (iii) — do not apply only to salary earners. All taxpayers are entitled to these benefits. Hence, there were no grounds to deny SD to salaried employees for these reasons too.
However, despite the withdrawal of SD, salary earners can still claim deduction for employment-related expenses for the reasons mentioned hereinafter.
As mentioned earlier, the ‘gross receipts' are not to be taxed under the I-T Act. Taxable income is to be computed after deducting the expenses incurred in earning the income.
The expenses allowable could be of two categories: (i) specifically mentioned in the Act; and (ii) allowable on commercial principles/expediency basis. It is, no doubt, true that the I-T Act has laid down its own standards and limits for allowing the expenses, but it nowhere provides that other expenses relating to earnings should not be allowed at all. In this context, the courts have held that expenditure is allowable if it is incidental to the business and is incurred in the character of a trader.

Commercial principles
Decisions in this regard are to be guided by commercial principles and expediency and if an expenditure is incurred for earning income/profit, it would be deductible even if there is no specific provision for the same in the Act.
Section 29 of the I-T Act provides that income from business/profession shall be computed in accordance with the provisions contained in Sections 30 to 43D, that is, after allowing the deductions mentioned in these sections. But it has been candidly held in many decisions that an item incidental to the business, will be deductible even if it does not fall within any of these sections (see CIT vs Chitnavis, AIR 1932 PC 178; Ramchander Shivnarayan v. CIT (1978) 111 ITR 263 (SC), and so on).
In CIT vs Mysore Sugar Co. Ltd (1962 46 ITR 649 SC), the court has said that Sections 30 to 43C do not deal exhaustively with the deductions, which must be made to arrive at the true profit. The same logic should apply to Section 16 deductions.
Even if an expenditure is not mentioned in Section 16, but it is necessary in the context of employment, it should be deductible in computing income under Section 15 if it has a direct nexus in earning the salary income.
Hence, salary earners can claim employment-related expenses now (without any limits) if these (i) have nexus with the employment; (ii) have been genuinely incurred; and (iii) are prima facie reasonable

Stem cell research on treating diabetes still on: Experts

Stem cell therapy for treating diabetes is still not adequate enough to combat the disease and research on this is still on, experts said Friday. "The therapy is still in the process of research, with separate studies carried for Type 1, Type 2 and Type 3 diabetes," Edward Horton, professor at the Harvard Medical School, said at the Hindustan Times Leadership Summit here.
According to experts, transplantation of insulin-producing cells can offer promising therapy to treat diabetes. Diabetes, a metabolic disorder, usually occurs when the body does not produce or properly use insulin - a hormone that is required to convert sugar and other food into energy.
"The research is not yet substantiated, as it is being tested and carried at research centres across the globe," Horton added. While researchers and experts are working on innovative technologies to treat the disease, experts also emphasized on preventive care and awareness-generation on diabetes.
"We also need to intensively educate our youth. 'Be one with them' needs to be the mantra to create awareness amongst the youth of the country," said Anoop Misra, director and head of diabetes and metabolic diseases at the Fortis Hospital in the capital.
A recent study conducted by the National Diabetes, Obesity and Cholesterol Foundation (N-DOC) revealed that obesity has increased from 9.8 percent to 11.7 percent in children in Delhi. "There should also be a ban on the audio-visual advertisements of fast-food products during prime time on television. We need to introduce children to lifestyle-related habits that cause diabetes," Misra added.
According to a report by the International Diabetes Federation (IDF) in 2009, India accounted for 50.8 million diabetes patients -the largest of the 285 million diabetics in the world. The obese and those with a family history of diabetes should consult a doctor by the age of 35, Misra suggested. The symptoms include increased fatigue, frequent urination, weight fluctuation, blurry vision and poor wound healing. Nearly nine percent of the country's over one billion population is expected to be affected by the disease.
Echoing Misra's views on bringing in changes in lifestyles, former Pakistan cricketer Wasim Akram said: "People working in multinational firms or anywhere should try and inculcate various forms of physical exercise in their routine."

In her defence

Women have to continually live with the threat of sexual harassment. Rajesh Gill deliberates whether the passing of theProtection of Women against Sexual Harassment at Workplace Bill will make working women breathe easy

The Bill on Protection of Women against Sexual Harassment at Workplace, which is going to be tabled in Parliament in the winter session is more than welcome in view of the large number of women having entered into employment sector in the country. Most vulnerable have been the unskilled and semi-literate women working in the unorganised sector constituting more than 90 per cent of total gainfully employed women in India.

Therefore the most significant feature of the proposed Bill is that it has a comprehensive coverage, which is likely to benefit all women who are in employment. Further, it is not only the women employees who can seek justice under the provision but even other women at a workplace, like students or service recipients would also benefit in case of sexual harassment at workplace. Whether in villages, towns or cities, men in a patriarchal set up that we have always had, are not used to having women around, especially surpassing them in efficiency as colleagues or using their authority at superior positions.

There have been numerous cases since the implementation of 73rd Constitutional Amendment Act in which women sarpanches and members of Panchayats, especially when they were assertive and non obliging to male members, have been "taught a lesson" by the men around by humiliating them in full public view.

After the Vishakha case, it was made mandatory for all public sector organisations, including universities, to have actively functional bodies known as Gender Sensitisation Committees against Sexual Harassment (GSCASH). But in reality, these have hardly been functional in most of the cases.

If the proposed Bill comes into force as an Act, this provision shall certainly get teeth. But there is no need to over-estimate the Act. Like most of other provisions, such as Dowry Prohibition Act, Section 498-A of Indian Penal Code, Protection of Women against Domestic Violence etc., this provision too shall be liable to misuse. In fact, this Act has already evoked a mixed response with a strong apprehension among men that women are going to misuse the provision against men in order to meet their vested interests.

Instead of brushing such fears under the carpet, there is need to counter them, debate them and build public opinion so that the objectives for which this Act is being formulated, can be met. These apprehensions can be effectively handled provided the "Internal Complaints Committees" the Bill talks about, are methodically and judiciously formulated. As per the proposed Bill, these committees shall have to discern the malicious complaints, and identify the genuine ones. Persons of high integrity and calibre need to be engaged for the job so that justice is not denied but delivered.

The most crucial aspect of the acts of sexual harassment at workplace (as elsewhere) relates to the fact that such an act is always committed in complete privacy, generally when the relationship between the person committing it and the victim is either fiduciary or that of super ordination. In such cases usually there is no witness and it is extremely difficult to produce direct evidence by the victim. Consequently, while the victim, for want of witnesses and evidence, generally chooses to remain silent (not complain) for the fear of getting stigmatised, the person committing the act gets encouraged.

But it is important that the proposed Bill has taken up a comprehensive definition of "sexual harassment" from Vishakha case, encompassing sexually coloured remarks, sexual advances and gestures etc., apart from actual physical acts, thus coming to the rescue of thousands of women who are persistently harassed at workplace not necessarily with physical acts but through sexually flavoured gestures or remarks, coming so naturally from men. Of course, in modern job environment, it is common for women to mix around with men, have live-in relationships, now legalised, and be comfortable with the advances of men. But the point is that no man has a right to force himself upon a woman who refuses to take it. Several judicial pronouncements in Indian courts have categorically ruled that even a prostitute has a right to privacy and no man has a right to force himself upon her against her consent.

The proposed Bill reminds us, especially men, that it is time we mind our language, at least at the workplace, show some professionalism and look upon women at workplace as human beings. The recent cases involving complaints of sexual harassment by women officers in defence services against their male officers have generally aroused a backlash blaming the presence of women at workplace as mind polluting. It is time our men build up strong minds along with strong bodies.

Let us hope that the Act giving protection to women against sexual harassment at workplace comes into force and enables women to give their best professionally, not fearing men while using elevators, or while working with them in subordination or as colleagues. But for that women, especially at the bottom of the hierarchy, shall have to be educated about the legal provisions regarding their protection. Finally, there is no need for men to fear because it is not only their women colleagues or subordinates who are going to get protection at the workplace, but more importantly their wives, daughters, sisters and mothers too.

Protective provisions

v        The Bill recognises the promise or threat to a woman's employment prospects or creation of hostile work environment as 'sexual harassment' at workplace and expressly seeks to prohibit such acts.

v        The Bill provides protection not only to women who are employed but also to any woman who enters the workplace as a client, customer, apprentice, and daily wageworker or in ad-hoc capacity. Students, research scholars in colleges/ university and patients in hospitals have also been covered. Further, the Bill seeks to cover workplaces in the unorganised sectors.

v        The Bill provides for an effective complaints and redressal mechanism. Every employer is required to constitute an Internal Complaints Committee. Since a large number of establishments in our country have less than 10 workers for whom it may not be feasible to set up an Internal Complaints Committee (ICC), the Bill provides for setting up of Local Complaints Committee.

v        Employers who fail to comply with the provisions of the proposed Bill will be punishable with a fine which may extend to Rs 50,000.

v        Since there is a possibility that during the pendency of the enquiry the woman may be subject to threat and aggression, she has been given the option to seek interim relief in the form of transfer either of her own or the respondent or seek leave from work.

v        The Complaint Committees are required to complete the enquiry within 90 days and a period of 60 days has been given to the employer/District Officer for implementation of the recommendations of the Committee.

v        The Bill provides for safeguards in case of false or malicious complaint of sexual harassment. However, mere inability to substantiate the complaint or provide adequate proof would not make the complainant liable for punishment.

v        Implementation of the Bill will be the responsibility of the Central Government in case of its own undertakings/ establishments and of the State Governments in respect of every workplace established, owned, controlled or wholly or substantially financed by it as well as of private sector establishments falling within their territory.