Seven Things You Need To Know About GST Bill

The Goods and Services Tax (GST) Bill was tabled in the Lok Sabha on 19 October 2014. This Bill has faced stringent opposition from states in the past, the main reason why the bill couldn’t be passed by the previous Congress government.

The Bill seeks to rationalise state and central indirect taxes into a harmonised tax structure. Currently, companies pay multiple taxes at the state and central levels, which raises the prices of their products, making them less competitive compared with imports from China and other low-cost locations. The hassle and time wasted in filing myriad taxes also deters entrepreneurs and foreign companies from investing in India.

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India set to become second-largest internet market

According to a report by the Internet and Mobile Association of India (IAMAI) and IMRB International, the number of people online in India is forecast to touch 302 million or 30.2 crore by end of 2014, overtaking the US as the second-largest Internet market in the world.

The Internet user base in the country is further estimated to grow to 35.4 crore by June 2015.

China has the largest user base with more than 60 crore Internet users, while the US has an estimated 27. 9 crore users.

Of the 27.8 crore users, 17.7 crore are in urban India, higher by 29 per cent from 2013. This is expected to reach 19.0 crore by December 2014 and 21.6 crore by June 2015.

In rural India, the number of Internet users is expected to reach 11.2 crore by December 2014 and 13.8 crore by June 2015.

E-kranti—Digital revolution on the anvil

The ₹113,000-crore ‘e-kranti’ project of the Narendra Modi government’s ‘Digital India’ initiative is the world’s most ambitious broadband project that seeks to provide digital access to all citizens, from the rural and elderly to the poor. The ‘Digital India’ blueprint revolves round ‘nine pillars’ — broadband highway, e-governance, electronics manufacturing leading to ‘zero import’, universal phone access, electronic delivery of services, jobs, rural internet, information for all and ‘early harvest’ programmes.

The aim is to move governance online, and for that to happen, bridging the so-called digital divide is essential. The government  aims to expand its rural internet coverage to 250,000 villages by 2017, from the existing 130,000. In two years, 150,000 post offices will be transformed into multi-utility centres (providing a range of government services, banking for instance, and not just postal services). Some 250,000 government schools will get broadband and free WiFi and all schoolbooks will have e-versions.

The digital drive is also integral to the government’s plan to create 100 smart cities. Under the plan, all cities with a population of more than a million will get public WiFi hotspots. All government communication will move to a universal secure email client.

Forbes most powerful list – 2014

Prime Minister Narendra Modi (ranked 15th) made his debut in the 2014 Forbes list of the world’s most powerful people.

Russian President Vladimir Putin pipped his US counterpart Barack Obama for a second year in a row to remain first on the list..

The top five remain the same as 2013—Chinese President Xi Jinping ranked third, Pope Francis at No. 4 and the world’s most powerful woman German Chancellor Angela Merkel ranked fifth.

The list of 72 most powerful people in the world also includes the names of Reliance Industries chairman Mukesh Ambani at 36th place, ArcelorMittal chairman and CEO Lakshmi Mittal at 57th and Microsoft’s Indian-born CEO Satya Nadella at 64th.

A notable omission from the list is Congress party president Sonia Gandhi, who was the highest ranked Indian at 21 in 2013.

India’s 2014 gender gap rank worse than 2013

India has performed poorly in removing gender-based disparities, ranking 114 out of 142 countries in World Economic Forum’s 2014 gender gap index, scoring below average on parameters like economic participation, educational attainment and health and survival.

India slipped 13 spots from its last year’s ranking of 101 on the Gender Gap Index by the World Economic Forum. India is part of the 20 worst-performing countries on the labour force participation, estimated earned income, literacy rate and sex ratio at birth indicators.

On the other hand, India is among the top 20 best-performing countries on the political empowerment subindex.

The index was first introduced by the World Economic Forum in 2006 as a framework for capturing the magnitude of gender-based disparities and tracking their progress. The index benchmarks national gender gaps on economic, political, education and health criteria.

via India’s gender gap rank worse than last year – The Hindu.

September 2014 Current Affairs updated

The current affairs sections – Notes on Current Affairs, Current GK, Appointments Etc, Sports News – have been updated and are now available on our Blog and not the main website. We are in process of updating our servers hence the website could not be updated. The blog will eventually be merged with the website.

Group Discussion Case Study

Quite often, for group discussions, a caselet is given on which the candidates have to form their opinions and discuss it out. Different people may have different solutions and viewpoints. This requires a different approach, since a group discussion is on a particular topic while a case is situational. Based on this, a student can learn the methodology to tackle case studies.

CASE: You are the manager of a nationalised bank in a busy area. The branch has done very good business in the past but is now facing competition from private banks. One day, an influential customer comes to get a demand draft made but finds that the cashier is not on his seat. He waits for 10 minutes after which he approaches you. You find the cashier and direct him to attend to the customer. The cashier tells the customer that he would have to wait another 10 minutes as he is doing an important piece of work. At this, the customer loses his patience and there is an altercation between the customer and the cashier. Angry, the customer walks into your office and threatens to take his business elsewhere. You pacify him.

Considering the fact that bank unions are very strong and would immediately call for strike if you took any action against the cashier, what would you do in the given situation?

Candidate I: This is a common situation faced by bank customers. Nationalised banks have traditionally given poor service and employees have behaved irresponsibly towards their customers. That is the reason that they are losing customers after private banks have come in. I feel that the cashier should not go unpunished. As bank manager, I would like to be strong and suspend the cashier, since he has led to an important customer withdrawing his business. It is true that I would have to face the wrath of the unions but in the long term interest of the bank, it is better to face the unions once than to live in fear of them. My action would also send a message to other employees and set an example. This is the only way that our branch can face up to the competition. We have to provide good service. By going on strike, we may lose business for a few days but in the long run, the bank would work more efficiently. It is time we faced inefficient employees once and for all, rather than live in dread of them. After all, the prime objective of the bank is customer service and increasing business. If we cannot do that, do we have a reason to exist?

Candidate II: I would like to motivate the cashier and explain to him how his action has affected the bank and one of our best customers. If he really withdraws business from the bank, would it be beneficial to us? I think the problem lies in motivation. If bank employees feel responsible for their job and realise the importance of the work they are doing, they will want to contribute to the branch. The solution thus lies in motivation and guidance. I would try to find out what work the cashier was doing at the time the customer came. Maybe he was doing something which was not part of his duties, or maybe he needs some assistance, which I will provide to him. I am sure he will appreciate my concern and improve in the future.

Candidate III: Before knowing the facts of the case, how can I take action? I would constitute an inquiry committee to find out the facts. If the cashier was found to be doing something which he shouldn’t have been doing,. I would recommend his immediate transfer or sacking. I would not take an arbitrary decision like throwing him out or even try to motivate him, since bank employees do not respond to such things. When I have the inquiry committee report with me, I can decide about suitable action to be taken. Maybe the cashier needs assistance or maybe he was at fault. In this way, I would avoid a strike but send a message to other employees too that I was serious about my job. An arbitrary decision would hurt my credibility and also expose me to risk of union activity. Under the circumstances, an inquiry would buy me time as also serve the purpose. It would also be safe, as my subsequent action would not be criticised, since I was going by the committee recommendations.

Candidate IV: I find that there is nothing much I can do in this situation. Bank managers have few powers over their employees and can neither motivate them nor throw them out. We also have to realise that managers are not responsible for the business of their banks. They have only temporary tenure and promotions are based on length of service. I would thus try to ensure that everything is peaceful during my tenure and no major disruptions take place. My transfer may be due in a few years anyway, so why should I rock the boat? By appointing committees or taking action, I would be unnecessarily spoiling my relations with colleagues and it would also spoil my reputation in the bank. So I would do nothing. I would try to pacify the customer, but if he wants to take the business elsewhere, let him. I would also pacify the cashier but would not take action against him. Wisdom lies in maintaining the status quo, not in rocking the boat. The case says that the bank is nationalised, so that is important. We are not in the private sector where we are responsible. We have to fulfill social responsibility. Employees are important. Moreover, you cannot change the system. So my advice is: do nothing. Just sit tight and wait for your transfer. Maybe it will be to a better place.

We now have different viewpoints, each quite different from the others. The first is to take drastic action, the second to motivate the errant employee, the third to appoint a committee and the fourth, to do nothing. Each has its advantages, as explained. Clearly, there is no one answer or the best solution. But when one makes any recommendation, one must see what impact it will make on the selection panel.

The first response would show that the manager is tough and ruthless, brave and daring. However, it would also show that he does not care about human relations. The second shows that the manager is too concerned with human qualities. He wants to motivate the employee, but that is a long process. The message he would send that he is too soft and does not care about the efficiency in the bank. The third response is to buy time by appointing an enquiry committee. This would make practical sense, though it would show that the manager is indecisive. The last response is perhaps the most practical: given such situations a real bank manager will probably ignore the whole episode. Each response, thus, has its positive points but would send a negative signal too. What would be the best response in this case?

Best response:
It must be understood that any case is a situation and a candidate is not required to show his business acumen or insight. What is required is that the candidate shows some leadership skills and is able to articulate his ideas. We give below a method which would be the best response in doing any case discussion.

The idea is that the candidate must keep the initiative and is able to interject at several points in the discussion. Do not give your viewpoint, no matter how wise you think it is. When you advise a particular piece of action, you immediately paint yourself in a corner from where you have to defend your thoughts without the possibility of shifting your stand later on. There is no point getting into an argument. The best way would be to assume a leadership position and, without committing any course of action, to guide the group. Help it arrive at a consensus. Agree or disagree to others’ viewpoints. After sufficient arguments have been made, take your stand and agree with the group. Your role should be of a facilitator.

Here are the steps you can follow to achieve the above:

Describe the problem.
Ask for different viewpoints.
Identify possible solutions.
Discuss pros and cons of each alternative.
Select the best alternative and agree with it.

By following this strategy, you can make a contribution to any case, even if you do not know anything about it. Start by paraphrasing the case and put in your words, explaining it to others. Stick to the facts mentioned in the case. Having made your introduction, ask for the opinion of others. Do not criticise anybody but help analyse the alternatives. Bring in advantages and disadvantages of each alternative. Having thrashed out all suggestions, help the group select the best one. Agree with the group consensus and conclude, bringing in all the points that were brought up in the case.

You can show your leadership abilities through this strategy. The selection committee would no doubt be impressed by your contribution as also the fact that you are able to guide the group. This would thus be the winning strategy to succeed in any case discussion.