Category: Lifestyle

Lifting the smog from pollution

It’s mid-December, and still, irrespective of discussions, debates and suggestions, the overall air quality index (AQI) of Delhi, as recorded by Central Pollution Control Board (CPCB), remains ‘poor’.

It has been established that NCR’s pollution woes are not merely due to bursting of Diwali crackers, but also stubble burning in neighbouring states, biomass burning, rising vehicular emissions, and industrial pollution, power plants and restaurants being major offenders. Accumulated dust, ‘trapped’ when there are no winds, from large-scale construction work is another major pollutant.

GoI introduced the Graded Response Action Plan to combat this menace in October. Under this, air pollution levels are monitored closely by CPCB, and any spike is countered with a temporary ban on construction work, diesel generators and waste-burning, alongside ‘odd-even’ car rationing, mechanised watering of roads, and closure of brick kilns and stone crushers.

This has somewhat improved the situation, but we need to maintain the momentum in this battle.

Till not long ago, Beijing was grappling with a similar problem. Its successful strategy is worth emulating, especially given the similarities with NCR in terms of population pressure, industrial activity, etc. The Chinese implemented a systematic policy suite focusing on:

Reduced use of coal and increased investments in renewable energy.

Reduced infield burning, and wise crop residue management through alternative uses.

Quotas to limit new vehicles and retiring old polluting vehicles, while strengthening the mass rapid transport system.

A greening drive in the form of setting up urban forests and parks.

A potential congestion cess, and buildings having internal green belts to purify air.

While India has embarked on the journey to address similar problems plaguing the NCR, this must be backed by a strict enforcement regime. It implies regular inspections and prompt penalties for any breaches. An in tegrated plan with proper policy coordination between Delhi and its neighbouring states is also critical. Such a plan must set predefined targets for curbing pollution from various sources, in a time-bound manner.

Alternate end-use market for crop residues should also be looked at.

Earlier last month, furniture and home appliance MNC Ikea announced that it is planning to get Indian farmers to sell it the straw left after harvest, instead of burning it, for the company’s cardboard and particle board requirements. Stubble could also make entrepreneurial sense for the incentivised farmer if used for converting biomass to energy.

Industry also needs to get into the act. In October, the Confederation of Indian Industry (CII) set up a ‘Task Force for Making NCR Less Polluted’.

It has already launched pilot programmes across Punjab that can be scaled up. Corporate members have adopted villages, and are training farmers to use subsidised modern technology to better manage crop residue. Other programmes to be implemented include adopting best available technological interventions to mitigate pollution from construction work and industrial units, switch to clean-fuel technologies like multi-fuel injection kits for diesel generator sets, and exploring enhanced usage of recycled products in construction and infrastructure projects.

Air pollution is a crisis that must be seen as such. And to mitigate it, we must work together for the long haul.

Keep the cash machine well-oiled

Today, the country is staring at a very real possibility of 50% of automated teller machines (ATMs), numbering more than one lakh, shutting down by March 2019. Naturally, the big question is: can the disaster be averted? Here are a few solutions that may defuse the crisis.

Rural poor: The biggest stakeholder for the automated teller machine (ATM) industry in terms of numbers is the rural poor. Many members of the Confederation of ATM Industry (CATMi) now state that rural ATMs are financially unviable because of the abysmally low revenues. And, yet, these ATMs represent the lifeline for the rural masses, especially in the aftermath of the Pradhan Mantri Jan Dhan Yojana (PMJDY), where wages are paid directly into people’s bank accounts every month.

GoI should provide financial subsidies to rural ATMs so that low revenues and financial losses can be offset. Subsidies are a good measure to ensure that ATM deployers continue to produce service and even selectively set up new ATMs in under-penetrated rural India. This will meet the objectives of making cash available in the primarily cash-based rural economy and bring about overall financial inclusion.

Deadline implementation: Another possible solution is if the regulators defer the deadline of implementation for ATM hardware and software upgrades, recent cash management mandates and the cassette swap method of loading cash by at least 9-12 months.

Considering that the latest guidelines were only announced in August 2018, and a very limited six-month window was set for their execution, a deferment by a few more months would actually enable ATM serviceproviders explore suitable solutions with other stakeholders. GoI should constitute a task force with representatives of the Reserve Bank of India (RBI), banks, cash in-transit companies and ATM service-providers.

The task force should conduct a joint dialogue on understanding the costs of implementation of these compliance mandates, debate the cost structure, revise the interchange rate — the fee paid by an issuing bank to an acquiring bank for accepting card-based transactions — and finalise the payout mechanism on compliance. This four-way dialogue should result in reaching a middle ground that will benefit all concerned, including end-customers.

As of date, the interchange rate stands at .`15 per cash transaction in ATMs. CATMi has been petitioning RBI and banks to increase it for the last three years. Nothing, unfortunately, has changed. If this rate alone is increased to .`18, which was the pre-2012 rate, some of the costs and losses borne by the ATM industry will be offset.

The ATM deployers serve customers of banks that use these ATMs. Hence, it is only fair that if there is an increase in the cost of running ATMs, part of the cost is recovered from the issuing bank (whose customers use these ATMs) in the form of an increased interchange. Interchange is an interbank fee created to share the costs of providing ATM infrastructure to customers. An increase in interchange doesn’t mean an increase in cost to the end-customer.

If a revised and uniform interchange fee is a problem — especially as urban consumers have access to more ATMs or other methods of digital payments — a differential structure for interchange rate in urban, semi-urban and rural areas can be explored to incentivise the deployment of ATMs in semi-urban and rural areas, which have seen increased RuPay card issuance from the PMJDY. And, in case hiking the interchange rate is also a problem, banks are welcome to simply reimburse the losses incurred by ATM deployers till date on running existing ATMs.

Increasing transaction fee: GoI could consider making cash expensive for the general public by increasing the fee on monthly ATM transactions beyond the first five free withdrawals. Currently, the cardholder is charged a fee of .`20 per transaction from the sixth transaction onwards. This could be increased to .`25 per transaction. This will increase the fee for only a very small category of consumers, as five free monthly ATM transactions is sufficiently high for most consumers’ monthly expenses.

This will have the following dual effects: the issuing bank will provide improved digital payment solutions to customers, and a fraction of cardholders — who actually transact more than five times on ATMs — will begin to transact either at higher per-transaction value or through digital channels. The banks can use this increased levy to compensate the increased costs of compliance.

The ATM industry in India has reached a tipping point. Unless loss-making ATM deployers are adequately compensated, there is likely to be large-scale ATM closure.

COURTESY- @EconomicTimes

Digital payments are secure and India is ready to go 100% cashless.

For: Yes, digital payments in India are secured. To safeguard the details of users, systems are tokenizing, encrypting and authenticating data before use. But users should carry out digital transactions carefully. They should only opt for more secured processes like transacting on TFA (Two-Factor Authentication) supporting gateways only.

Against: No! There have been many instances of online accounts being hacked. In a country with 98% cash in circulation, electronic payments replacing cash is not going to be easy. Especially after the severe cash crunch post demonetization, we are scampering to carry out digital transactions. This is not right. Cyber analysts have already warned us about serious vulnerabilities in payment systems. The need of the hour is to have security features embedded in the hardware and software, as a part of the basic design (not as an add-on feature), otherwise, there will be more and more hacks.


पीपल की मुट्ठी में कैद मुस्कुराहटें

घर से कुछ दूर तिराहे पर अचानक एक ओर निगाह उठी तो कुछ क्षण के लिए ठिठक गया। खाली पड़े प्लॉट के कोने पर एक पीपल जैसे तालियां बजाकर खिलखिला रहा था। उसके ठहाकों में ऐसा जादू था कि मुझे गाड़ी किनारे लगाकर रुकना ही पड़ा। कुछ क्षण उसे देखता ही रह गया। दोपहर की शुरुआत में माथे से पसीने की धार निकलने लगी थी और ये जनाब उन गर्म हवाओं में भी झूमकर नाच रहे थे।

पूरे बदन को धानी रंग की मखमली पत्तियों से ढंक रखा था। पत्तियां क्या शरारतों से भरी बच्चियां ज्यादा लग रही थीं। जिन्हें हर घड़ी बस उछलकूद के लिए बहानों का इंतजार हो। हवा का जरा सा झोंका आया नहीं कि ये उछल पड़तीं और देर तक उधम मचाती रहतीं। आसपास के पेड़ जरा से में हांफ कर थक जाते, थम जाते, लेकिन इनकी ऊर्जा में जरा कमी नहीं आती।

वैसे भी पास के पेड़ों पर मौसमी बुढ़ापा छाया है। अधिकतर पत्तियां सूख चुकी हैं और गिरने पर आमादा हैं, लेकिन पीपल पर तो बचपना तारी है। मानो सबको उलाहने दे रहे हों कि अगर वक्त से पहले बदलाव के लिए खुद को तैयार नहीं करोगे तो यही हाल होने हैं। गर्मी हर बार ऐसे ही आती है, तुम हर बार ऐसे ही उससे मिलते हो। कभी मेरी तरह मिलकर देखो गर्मी भी अपना अंदाज बदलने को मजबूर हो जाएगी।

मुझसे रहा न गया, मैं उसकी छांह में जाकर खड़ा हो गया। ऐसा लगा जैसे उसने सिर पर हाथ रख दिया हो। बड़ी ठंडक थी, उस छांह में, अलबत्ता उसने रोशनी पर अपना हक नहीं जताया था। नुकीली-पैनी पत्तियां भाले लेकर सूरज की किरणों को घेरकर खड़ी नहीं हो गईं। उनके साथ एक लय में आ गईं, जिससे पत्तियों का रंग और चटक कर ताम्बाई हो उठा, खिल गया, दमकने लगा। पत्तों से छनकर सूरज की किरणें वैसे ही मुझ तक पहुंच रही थी, लेकिन उनका तीखापन पत्तियों की कोमलता की संगत में मृदु हो गया। मैं जितनी देर उसकी छांह में खड़ा रहा, वह प्रेम से मेरे बाल सहलाता रहा।

आधी रात के बाद लौटते समय वह वैसे ही मुस्करा रहा था। पत्तियां दिनभर धमाचौकड़ी मचाकर थोड़ी थकी जरूर नजर आई, लेकिन जैसे छोटे बच्चे पूरी रात बिस्तर पर लोट लगाते हैं, वे भी हवा के झोंकों के साथ वैसे ही लटपट हो रही थीं। चारों तरफ एकदम शांति थी, लेकिन पीपल के आगोश में जैसे कोई संगीत निकल रहा था, स्नेह की बांसुरी बज रही थी। तभी मुझे महाभारत का प्रसंग याद आया, जिसमें कृष्ण ने कहा कि सभी वृक्षों में मैं पीपल हूं। इतनी चंचल पत्तियों के नीचे गौतम की मौजूदगी का अहसास हुआ, जो इसी छांह में बुद्धत्व को प्राप्त हुए।

मैं सोच में पड़ गया कि ये कैसा विरोधाभास है। जो पेड़ एक क्षण रुकने को तैयार नहीं है, थमना-ठहरना, जिसने कभी सीखा ही नहीं, उसी की छांह के नीचे कैसे ध्यान का अलख जगता है। सारी गतियां विराम को पा जाती हैं। कोई मन की चंचलता से पूर्ण रूप से मुक्ति पा जाता है, वैराग्य के शीर्ष को छू लेता है, आत्म दीप प्रदीप्त हो जाता है, बुद्ध हो जाता है।

नीचे कुछ पुराने मिट्टी के दीपक रखे थे, पूजन के लिए लपेटे गए सौभाग्य के सूत के अंश भी नजर आ रहे थे। मैं पूछना चाहता था, देव वृक्ष ये मन्नतों का बोझ तुम्हारी चंचलता को कम तो नहीं कर रहा। क्या है ऐसा, जो तुम सबकी फिक्र ओढक़र भी अपने आनंद में मग्न में हो। कहीं इसी गुण ने तो तुम्हे सभी का प्रिय नहीं बना रखा है। वह कुछ नहीं बोला, बस हंसा और मेरी तरफ कुछ पुरवाई छोड़ दी। उनका स्पर्श संगीत की तरह अब भी मेरे रोम-रोम में प्रकम्पित है।


पीपल सारी गतियों की दिशा परिवर्तन का ही नाम है। मौसम की धूप-छांह से विरत हो अपने ही आनंद में डूबे रहने का नाम है। अब जब भी उसके पास से गुजरता हूं वह मुट्ठियों में भरकर मुझ पर मुस्कुराहटें फेंकता है।
Courtey # अमितमण्डलोई