The nomadic millennial is giving a major face-lift to India’s real estate sector.
Thanks to the emerging concept of co-living, where a living space is shared among a group of people, the very idea of “home” is undergoing a transformation. These are initial days but shared living has a huge latent market. It has found favour among students and migrant working professionals.
The term co-living may sound new but, as a concept, it has been around for ages. From the days of dharmashalas (monastical refuges) to Mumbai’s chawls (slums) in the 1960s and 1970s to the concept of paying guests and student housing/hostels, co-living has existed in India in myriad forms. But recently it has emerged as a new business model, trying to give a new dimension to India’s residential real estate market.
Traditionally, India’s rental market has been extremely unorganised and fragmented. It is only in the last two years that tech-driven platforms have started to organise it.
Consequently, venture capital funds and investors are eyeing this space with anticipation. Given the fact that millennials comprise 30% of India’s current population, the idea of co-living spaces are potentially staring at a huge business opportunity.India’s rental market has been extremely unorganised and fragmented.
MagicBricks data suggests that in 2017, the rental real estate market was pegged at 10 million units and valued at $22 billion (Rs1.5 lakh crore). By 2023, this volume is expected to almost double to 18 million to reach a valuation of $41 billion. So, as a business proposition, co-living could prove to be lucrative in terms of scale and profit margins.
However, there are few challenges along the way that need to be solved for the potential to be realised. Three primary hurdles on this front are:
Over the last 12 months, there has been a considerable increase in both the supply and demand for co-living on the MagicBricks platform. Co-living supply grew by almost 75% year-on-year in tier-1 cities in 2017 and, in 2018 the supply growth rate jumped to 110%.
Cities like Chennai, Hyderabad, Kolkata, Pune, and Mumbai have witnessed a doubling of supply. In fact, in Chennai, Hyderabad, and Kolkata the supply has grown 200% last year. In cities like Noida, MMR, and Gurugram, both the supply and demand numbers are much higher than the national average share of co-living segment in overall rental property market.
While these are positive signs for the co-living industry, it remains to be seen whether the model would prove its feasibility. Can the co-living platforms deliver a product and experience that would prompt users to move out from where they are living today and shift to these new spaces and in the process make a significant economic value? This sure will be interesting to watch out for.
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Peter Gleick is the founder and emeritus director of the Pacific Institute in Berkeley, California, and perhaps the world’s leading authority on the global water…
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Muhammadu Buhari’s election four years ago as Nigerian president was greeted with great enthusiasm, and expectation. US President Barack Obama invited him to the White House less than two months after his inauguration, an honor rarely accorded to newly elected African leaders. Many Nigerians saw Buhari as a messiah rescuing them from years of economic disempowerment, institutionalized corruption and insecurity.
These high hopes were unsurprising. The Nigerian economy, though growing at a robust rate, wasn’t benefiting most Nigerians. Unemployment, especially among young people, was widespread and growing. The World Bank estimated Nigeria’s poverty rate to be as high as 70%, an embarrassing number given that the country is ranked as the eighth largest oil exporter in the world.
The result of the toxic combination of high joblessness and poverty rates, is a life expectancy of 55 years, one of the lowest in developing countries.
As Buhari prepares to go to the polls, pundits have been analysing his scorecard and asking whether he deserves another four years in office.
Most of the things Nigerians complained about in 2015, unemployment, poverty and economic disempowerment remain unresolved. What is clear is that, this time around, his re-election campaign has not been greeted with the same level of enthusiasm. Some analysts, including the London-based Economist Intelligence Unit, have gone as far as to predict that he will lose the election. Why the change of fortunes? The answer seems to lie in the fact that most of the things Nigerians complained about in 2015 are still unresolved. In particular, unemployment, poverty and economic disempowerment remain firmly in place. Since Buhari came to power, Nigeria’s unemployment rate has more than doubled from 10.4% in January 2016 to 23.1% in July 2018. In June last year CNN reported that Nigeria had overtaken India as the country with the largest number of people living in extreme poverty. About 87 million Nigerians, or half the population, live on less than $1.90 per day.
The big question is: can Buhari win reelection amid his disappointing economic performance? I believe that he will, in fact, win the election. But this will be for reasons to do with the weakness of other candidates, rather than his own strengths.
When he came to power in 2015, Buhari promised to tackle three interrelated problems: corruption, insecurity and the economy. Of the three, Nigerians regarded economic problems as paramount. But the administration appears to have focused on corruption and security issues and paid less attention to the economy.
For example, Buhari failed to prevent an impending recession that followed the collapse of oil prices in 2015. This was because he didn’t prioritize the economy and took too long to articulate an economic transformation strategy.
Another example of lack of focus on the economy was his meeting with US President Donald Trump in April 2018. Buhari asked for fighter jets, not economic support.
Despite shortcomings, Buhari’s campaign against corruption is regarded by Nigerians as the most intense the country has seen. Critics also point to the fact that Buhari ceded the management of the economy to his vice president Yemi Osinbajo. Though a brilliant lawyer, Osinbajo had no background or experience in economics. To make matters worse, Osinbajo surrounded himself with incompetent and inexperienced advisers. Buhari claimed he was unable to jump-start the economy because of falling oil prices and dwindling government revenue. Before he came to power the oil price was as high as $108 per barrel. It plummeted precipitously to $63 the month he was sworn in as president. The oil price continued to slide during the early stages of his administration, reaching an all-time low of $35 per barrel in February 2016.
The collapse affected Buhari’s ability to put together a coherent budget. For instance, his 2016 budget had a deficit of over 2.2 trillion Naira. His attempt to borrow $30 billion to finance the deficit was vehemently opposed by the country’s lawmakers. Nor was public opinion favourable about an external loan. This forced the administration to pare down the number of projects it intended to undertake.
Because of the administration’s inability to implement an expansionary fiscal policy, the economy has been grappling with anaemic growth since Buhari’s election. The country went into recession in 2016 followed by a rebound to about 2% in 2018. But the IMF projects that growth will remain weak at an annual average of about 1.9% from 2019 to 2023.
Buhari’s scorecard in fighting corruption has been mixed. On the one hand, he has prosecuted high-profile politicians, civil servants and retired military officers for corruption and secured convictions in a handful of cases. His administration has also recovered billions of Naira in stolen assets from corrupt Nigerians.
Scores of corrupt politicians and government officials, including the Chief Justice of the country’s Supreme Court, are currently undergoing trials for various forms of financial impropriety.
Buhari is likely to win because his main opponent, Atiku Abubakar, is a weak candidate with a lot of baggage. But Buhari’s anti-corruption efforts have been marred by the perception that they have been selective and targeted mostly at members of the main opposition party, the People’s Democratic party. And his failure to prosecute a prominent state governor who is one of his close political allies, after the governor was shown on video collecting several thousand dollars in bribes, has accentuated the perception that he is only interested in prosecuting his political enemies. Another political ally, a former Secretary to the Government of the Federation, also got a pass from Buhari after being credibly accused of corrupt practices.
Despite these shortcomings, Buhari’s campaign against corruption is regarded by many Nigerians as the most intense the country has ever seen.
Buhari is likely to win not because he has fulfilled the expectations of Nigerians, but because his main opponent, former Vice President Atiku Abubakar, is a weak candidate who carries a lot of baggage.
Abubakar is a very prominent and wealthy businessman. But his business credentials and the source of his wealth are controversial. Many believe he made his money through cronyism and questionable activities rather than through genuine entrepreneurship.
Nigerians will be faced with a Hobbesian choice between two problematic candidates. In that choice, Buhari seems to have an edge over Abubakar.
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For lovers of large-denomination paper money, Harvard economist Kenneth Rogoff is enemy No. 1. His book, The Curse of Cash, outlines the case for getting rid of as much of paper money as possible, and larger notes in particular, because of the role cash plays in money laundering and tax evasion.
The European Central Bank agrees with these concerns, but has moved slowly to address them. This month, most of the euro zone’s national central banks stopped recirculating the €500 note (worth about $570 at the moment). Two holdouts, Austria and Germany, will phase out the common currency’s highest-denomination note in April.
The ECB made the announcement almost three years ago, and hasn’t printed fresh €500 banknotes since 2014, but its national banks have continued accepting and redistributing the infamous note, sometimes dubbed the “Bin Laden” for its supposed role in helping finance terrorism (but rarely being seen in public). The ECB says the mega-note will always be accepted within the euro system.
Rogoff has been agitating for these kinds of changes for some 20 years. The former chief economist at the IMF says the gradual phasing out of the €500 note is “a small but constructive step, and a tacit admission that large notes are disproportionately used for tax evasion and criminal activities.” He has long argued that the main reason policymakers are reluctant to give up on cash is because they make so much money from it.
Central banks generate “seigniorage” when they print money, giving them a revenue source that arguably helps preserve their independence. But as Rogoff see it, governments likely lose far more money through cash-facilitated tax evasion and crime than they make by printing cash. He says central banks could find other ways to come up with revenue.
There are, of course, legitimate reasons to keep physical cash around. Its electronic substitutes are more traceable and susceptible to government (as well as corporate) surveillance. Some people find it easier to budget their money when they use cash. Others simply don’t trust banks, fear deflation, or want to guard against negative interest rates. If society were to move away from paper money too quickly, the elderly, poor, and homeless are vulnerable to being left behind. That’s why Rogoff says he advocates moving away from large banknotes first, rather than quickly eliminating paper money altogether.
The euro zone’s €500 notes are so valuable to the criminal underworld that they’ve exchanged hands above face value, according to a Europol report in 2015. The EU’s law enforcement agency pointed out that the banknotes weren’t often used for payments, yet still accounted for one-third of the value of all banknotes in circulation. Large-value notes are especially attractive to criminals because they make it easier to hide and transport large sums of money.
“Although not all use of cash is criminal, all criminals use cash at some stage in the money laundering process,” Europol said.
Cash use in terrorism finance is likely one of the main reasons that policymakers have cracked down on large bills. That said, getting rid of paper money is probably less useful (pdf) for preventing attacks than it is for snuffing out tax evasion. That’s because the amount of money needed to finance terrorism appears relatively small. In his book, Rogoff suggests that the funding needs for ISIS, one of the best-financed terrorist organizations, are comparatively meager compared with those of a major drug cartel.
Central banks have one more reason to be wary of paper money: interest rates have declined around the world, giving policy makers less scope to reduce borrowing costs the next time there’s an economic shock. The widespread use of electronic money could help them impose negative interest rates if needed, to jumpstart the economy during a major downturn more effectively. (Depositors pay for banks to hold their money when rates go negative, an incentive to spend or invest the funds instead.)
Even without official decrees, people in many parts of the world are giving up on cash on their own. Apps make it easy to swap money with friends, and contactless payments—which are expected to roll out widely in the US this year—are faster for small transactions than paper money. When that trend reaches an inflection point, Rogoff says central banks will be under even more pressure to get rid of large denominations like the €500 note.
“There will eventually be a tipping point,” he wrote in an email, “where it no longer becomes possible for central banks to hide behind the fig leaf of pointing to the modest legal demand for large bills.”
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India’s richest man just can’t help being disruptive.
After ushering in a crackling internet data usage boom in the country, Reliance Industries Limited (RIL) chief Mukesh Ambani plans to transform its already rising e-commerce industry, till now a bastion of the two American retailing rivals Amazon and Walmart.
On Jan. 18, Ambani said two of his group companies, Reliance Retail and Reliance Jio Infocomm, will together launch a new e-commerce portal, that will benefit nearly 1.2 million small retailers and shopkeepers in the western Indian state of Gujarat alone. Ambani was speaking at the state’s flagship annual event, Vibrant Gujarat summit.
Given RIL’s history, most recently in the telecom space, experts believe Ambani is a rival that incumbents need to seriously watch out for.
“Reliance has an Indian presence for many years and, therefore, understands the on-ground realities, especially of small-mid-sized shopkeepers. Moreover, it is a company that knows how to launch businesses and scale them,” said Yugal Joshi, vice-president of Texas-based consultancy Everest Group.
However, the oil-to-telecom conglomerate will not be immune to the incumbents’ challenges. Besides, the group is “yet to prove its success outside of traditional business models of oil and telecom,” Joshi said.
Ambani’s e-commerce ambitions
While the Ambani-led group has not yet shared any further details on what its new e-commerce venture would look like, the business will definitely have a giant scale given Reliance Retail and Reliance Jio Infocomm’s current reach, and Ambani’s deep pockets.
Reliance Retail currently has nearly 10,000 stores in over 6,500 towns. And within less than three years of its launch, Jio already boasts of a subscriber base of 280 million users in India.
Reliance’s e-commerce venture’s “success could be built on an ecosystem or bundling strategy, and a home court advantage, similar to Alibaba’s success in China, beyond explicit or implicit policy support,” brokerage firm UBS said in a note on Jan. 24.
In addition, the untapped opportunity in the e-commerce segment is big considering the low internet penetration in India. While the country is home to the world’s second-largest internet user base, e-commerce is not as popular here as in the US or China. In fact, in 2018, e-commerce accounted for only under 3% of India’s overall retail sales.
Besides the merits of its retail and telecom arm, Reliance is a far more popular brand name in India than its American rivals, making it a more likely candidate to attract first-time shoppers.
Right time, right place
Reliance could not have found a better time to launch its e-commerce business.
Late last year, the Narendra Modi government announced several restrictive changes in its foreign direct investment (FDI) policy for online retailers, which was first floated in 2016. These changes could potentially force retailers to change their business models.
Among other things, starting Feb. 01, online marketplaces are barred from entering into exclusive deals for selling products on their platforms. Additionally, no more than 25% of the inventory on an e-commerce platform can be from a single vendor.
So far, online retail in India has grown mostly on the back of deep discounts. With the government capping discounts, the incumbents may now struggle to even retain existing customers.
“Indian customers are by nature bargain hunters so that is not changing anytime soon.” “Indian customers are by nature bargain hunters so that is not changing anytime soon,” said Ankur Nigam, partner, Transaction Advisory Services at consultancy EY. “Also, most of the customers that any online portal has today are overlapping. They (online platforms) are all going to be chasing the same set of customers.
The existing e-commerce companies are currently struggling to meet the new norms. Sector leaders, Walmart-owned Flipkart and Amazon, have already requested the government to grant them additional time to meet these guidelines.
But there’s struggle
Funding, which has so far fueled e-commerce firms in India, is not an issue for either of the three main contenders, Amazon, Walmart, and Reliance.
However, each lags in particular areas while claiming strength in others, according to multiple experts Quartz spoke. For instance, Walmart has a strong understanding of the supply chain, sourcing, and consumers; Amazon is the frontrunner when it comes to technology; Reliance understands India and the Indian consumer best and has robust political connections.
Although Reliance’s offline retail game has been strong, “replicating success in the e-commerce world will take some sharp learning and a lot of spending,” said Vidhya Shankar, executive director at advisory firm Grant Thornton.
Paralleling or beating Amazon’s repeat customer count won’t come easy. Neither will it be simple to take a bite of India’s $53 billion business-to-business e-commerce pie, where Flipkart eclipses even Amazon.
“…we’ve seen large Indian business houses get into the e-commerce fray before and burn their fingers. I think the big reason for that is the DNA,” said EY’s Nigam. “Most companies in India, as well as overseas (Walmart included), are great at running brick and mortar businesses. What they lack is the DNA to run a digital platform.” The fix is to “pick up outstanding talent from the digital world and combine that with the great business acumen that they have in building large profitable businesses.”
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This week, prime minister Narendra Modi’s government will present its last budget before the country’s national elections, and it is under pressure to address Indians’ most pressing concerns.
These concerns include jobs and women’s safety, according to a recent survey by data analytics company YouGov, which collected responses from 1,020 people in India between Jan. 22 and Jan. 25. Of this group, 69% identified job creation as the top area the government should pay attention to in the budget, while women’s safety came second with 68%. Health care and addressing farmer distress were also high on the list.
The results reflect growing concerns over a deepening crisis in India, the world’s fastest-growing major economy, where the employment rate declined to 40.6% in March 2018, from 43.5% in January 2016. Despite high-profile moves such as implementing job reservations for economically weaker sections and announcing 230,000 vacancies with Indian Railways, the Modi government faces heavy criticism for failing to fulfill its 2014 campaign promises.
And over six years after a brutal gang rape in New Delhi sparked national outrage over the state of women’s safety in India, not much has actually changed on the ground. In the past year alone, several brutal cases of rape and sexual assault were recorded across the country, and most women still face hurdles in seeking out justice. Late last year, India’s #MeToo movement exposed the staggering extent of sexual harassment and abuse at the workplace, taking down several big names, including a minister in the Modi government. So there’s a clear need for more action to improve women’s safety.
Beyond these concerns, the respondents in the YouGov survey are also looking for changes in taxation and a universal basic income support for farmers, who have taken to the streets repeatedly in recent years to protest government apathy in the face of rural distress.
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An international legal firm has sought to allay the Indian government’s fear of cryptocurrencies. As with any emerging technology, the associated risks and concerns usually outweigh their potential benefits, it has told a panel vetting the country’s official policy on digital coins.
“Like electricity, railways, telecommunications, motor vehicles, aircraft, mobile phones, and the internet in the past, many are today concerned about the risks posed by cryptoassets,” says a submission made by the international law firm Nishith Desai Associates to the Subhash Chandra Garg panel set up by India’s finance ministry in November 2017.
“Crypto-assets bring substantial benefits and risks, and in the early stages of the technology, the risks may appear to outweigh the benefits,” the firm says.
Presented last December, these recommendations were made public yesterday (Jan. 28).
The firm, which has represented several cryptocurrency exchanges till now, cited the example of ride-hailing apps such as Uber and Ola, which are immensely popular in India but threatened in the past with bans by various state governments. A similar ban on crypto assets may increase money laundering and illegal transaction risks, it argued.
India’s policies are largely hostile to the virtual currency ecosystem. While the government was expected to stipulate regulations for the industry by March 31, 2019, there is no predetermined timeline for the task.
Meanwhile, there are indications that the use of blockchain—the technology that underpins cryptoassets and a host of other applications—may be allowed in the country, not of virtual coins themselves. This, however, may not be a tenable idea.
“Blockchain without cryptoassets is a severely hampered system since cryptoassets create the incentive for decentralisation, the very innovation of blockchain technology… Aiming to do so would be like allowing the internet, but not websites or emails,” Nishith Desai Associates has told the Garg panel.
Cryptocurrencies are being adopted even in blockchain-enabled government projects in India, the report noted. For instance, the local government in a district in West Bengal has been using blockchain technology for an implementation relating to birth certificates, which is a non-financial use case, and even that uses a crypto token.
For the over 1,500 cryptoassets that exist in India today, a multi-pronged approach would work best, the law firm says. These assets can be divided into payment tokens (almost exclusively used for value transfer), security tokens (representing rights in physical property, company shares, or other underlying assets), and utility tokens (that grant right of access to a digital product or service).
Security tokens can be regulated by market regulator Securities and Exchange Board of India under the Companies Act, the report said. Current regulatory gaps can be plugged by making anti-money laundering laws and know your customer (KYC) norms more stringent and finetuning the Information Technology Act and the taxation structure, it added.
“There are businesses which are operating under their own code of conduct and they don’t fall under any regulation right now. Therefore, a licensing regime should be introduced to ensure better standardisation and accountability” Jaideep Reddy, a senior member of the law firm and one of the authors of the report told Quartz.
Only time will tell if the Garg committee will consider these suggestions or not.
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After her victory at the Australian Open over the weekend, 21-year-old tennis star Naomi Osaka is being feted in Japan, which finally has its first-ever tennis player to be ranked No. 1. In less than nine months time, however, she faces a difficult choice that will determine whether she can ever play for Japan again.
Osaka, whose mother is Japanese and father is Haitian, was born in Japan but spent most of her life in the US, and holds both Japanese and American citizenship. By Japanese law, however, anyone with dual citizenship (paywall) must choose whether they want to retain or give up their Japanese passport when they turn 22 as Japan does not allow its citizens to hold other nationalities.
Japan’s strict law on citizenship has long been debated and criticized, particularly as more and more people in Japan are either born with one foreign parent or have spent enough time overseas to gain citizenship in their country of residence. About 27% of the world’s countries automatically revoke the citizenship of those who get a second one, including Norway.
Osaka’s father said that (paywall) he and his wife decided when Osaka was young that she would represent Japan rather than the US, where the family has lived since she was three, because they have “always felt Japanese.” Japan’s tennis association supported Osaka from a young age, while its US counterpart did not vigorously try to poach her until 2016 when she played in the Australian Open. Osaka’s father decided that his daughter would continue to represent Japan because of Japan’s long-standing support of Naomi, Japanese media reports (link in Japanese).
But Osaka’s recent successful run—starting with her victory at the US Open in September—has reinvigorated the discussion to a fever pitch. Michio Ushioda, a veteran journalist at Japan’s Mainichi newspaper, said in a tweet (link in Japanese) that as the date of Osaka’s choice looms, he believes that it’s likely that she’ll choose to give up her Japanese citizenship for her American one. The disappointment in Japan will be so great, he added, that it could even lead to the downfall of the Japanese government.
Ushioda’s comments may be an exaggeration, but they illustrate the added urgency of the discussion over Japan’s citizenship laws as the country prepares to host the Olympics next year. The country will no doubt want Osaka to choose her Japanese passport over American.
Osaka’s predicament is one that is shared by thousands of people who have parents of different nationalities or have the citizenship of other countries by birth. In practice, however, the justice ministry has never revoked the Japanese citizenship of any dual nationals by birth, according to a detailed report by the Japan Times (paywall) last year. One high-profile individual who was ensnared by the law, however, was opposition lawmaker Renho, who was born to a Taiwanese father and Japanese mother in Japan, and was forced to publicly prove in 2017 that she had given up her Taiwanese nationality.
Some Japanese nationals who became naturalized citizens of other countries, however, have had their Japanese nationality canceled. A group of Japanese citizens residing in Switzerland, France, and other European countries, for example, last year sued the government over being forced to relinquish their Japanese citizenship after they acquired foreign citizenship in order to continue living and working in those countries.
Whatever Osaka does when her birthday arrives on Oct. 16, the current debate is clearly about much more than sports.
Hers is a situation that will become increasingly commonplace in a Japan that is fast shedding its racial homogeneity, particularly as the country opens its doors wider to foreign workers starting this year to tackle its labor shortage. Osaka’s success has also advanced the discussion in Japan over what being Japanese means (paywall), in a society where many mixed-race Japanese still face discrimination. Officially allowing dual citizenship is a step toward acknowledging a more diverse and inclusive Japan.
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On Jan. 25 this year, the Indian government awarded 94 people (pdf) the Padma Shri, the country’s fourth-highest civilian honour. And the upcoming national elections might have had something to do with that number.
An analysis of Padma Shri awards given out—in recognition of “distinguished service” in any field, including the arts, science, social work, and public affairs—from 2000 to 2019 by data journalism portal Factly shows that this number tends to spike in election years.
Since 2000, India has held three national elections, in 2004, 2009, and the last one in 2014 when prime minister Narendra Modi’s Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) came to power. The number of Padma Shris given out in each of these election years was 29% higher than the average of the preceding four non-election years, Factly founder Rakesh Dubbudu writes.
Both the BJP and its rival, the Indian National Congress, were each in power for two of the four years analysed by Factly (2004 and 2019, and 2009 and 2014, respectively).
This year, the country is expected to hold its 17th Lok Sabha elections in May.
“I can only think of electoral considerations for increased Padma Shri awards in an election year,” Dubbudu told Quartz in an email. “If it happens only once, it could just be (a) coincidence. But it has happened in almost every election year…” He argues that this could have something to do with the government expressing its care for certain states and their people, culture, and heroes ahead of polls.
In fact, writer Gita Mehta, who was among the awardees this year, turned down the honour, saying its timing might be “misconstrued,” given the approaching general elections. Mehta is the older sister of Naveen Patnaik, the chief minister the state of Odisha.
The Padma awards, which include the Padma Vibhushan (for “exceptional and distinguished service”) and the Padma Bhushan (for “distinguished service of a high order”), besides the Padma Shri, have been given out almost every year since 1954. Past winners include actors such as Aamir Khan, Aishwarya Rai Bachchan, and Priyanka Chopra; writers such as Ruskin Bond, and sports stars, including badminton player Saina Nehwal.
The awards are open to everyone, regardless of occupation or gender, and are sometimes even given to non-Indians. But the total number is limited to 120 a year. The governments of states and union territories, certain institutes, and past winners are all asked to recommend names the year before, and now even average citizens can send in nominations. For the 2019 awards, the government reportedly received nearly 50,000 applications last year.
However, over the past 20 years, some states have dominated, notably the larger, more politically influential ones, as Factly found.
“States like Delhi and Maharashtra have won disproportionately higher number of awards compared to the rest of the states,” Dubbudu writes. “Out of the close to 1,500 Padma Shri awards given in the last 20 years between 2000 & 2019, Delhi and Maharashtra account for 30% of these awards. Add Tamil Nadu, Kerala, & Karnataka to the list, (and) the percentage of awardees from these five states is close to 50%.”
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Facebook will work to monitor threats to the upcoming Indian general election from an operations centre in Singapore, Quartz has learnt.
Yesterday (Jan. 28), Facebook uploaded a blog post that discussed measures that the company is taking to fight fake news and maintain the integrity of elections across the globe. The post states that Facebook is “planning to set up two new regional operations centres, focused on election integrity, located in our Dublin and Singapore offices.”
A senior employee of Facebook India confirmed to Quartz that the Singapore office will be a hub for the team managing threats to the Indian election.
Facebook’s blog post says having regional centres that focus on election integrity “will allow our global teams to better work across regions in the run-up to elections, and will further strengthen our coordination and response time between staff in Menlo Park and in-country.”
The centres in Singapore and Dublin, the post specifies, “will work cross-functionally with our threat intelligence, data science, engineering, research, community operations, legal and other teams.”
Curiously, this news comes soon after Facebook restructured its India unit to make its senior leaders report to the country head instead of the Asia-Pacific regional office in Singapore.
Many of the points related to Indian elections highlighted in Facebook’s blog post have already been publicised by the company. These include increasing transparency in political advertising and beefing up third-party fact-checking initiatives in the country.
The first will involve making sure that entities’ identities are registered and vetted before they can buy ads. Facebook will also launch a digital library that will display information about India-based advertisements related to politics and “national importance,” including ones that have been removed for violating site policies.
The ad library has already been rolled out in the US, the UK, and Brazil. Facebook’s recent blog post specifies that it will launch in India in February.
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