Facebook launches app that will pay Android users in India, US to monitor phone usage

After facing flak for using unethical and discreet ways of collecting user-information, Facebook has decided to pay Android users in India and the US just to monitor how they use their phones.

To fulfil this purpose, the social networking giant has launched a new app called Study which is available for download on Google’s Playstore for Android users aged 18 and above.

The app would not only monitor installed apps on a person’s phone but also observe the amount of time spent on those apps along with details like the users’ location and additional app data which could reveal other specific features being used, The Verge reported on Tuesday.

“When analysing data from this app, we reference other information Facebook has about you, such as your age, gender and you use Facebook Company Products. This allows us to learn more about how participants use different services,” the Study app description on Google Playstore reads.

The company says it would not see any specific content, including messages, passwords, and websites the users visit, the report said.

Earlier this year, it was revealed that the social media giant was secretly paying people to install a “Facebook Research” Virtual Private Network (VPN) that was letting the company access user’s data.

It was also highlighted that, since 2016, Facebook was paying users aged 13 to 35 up to $20 per month, plus referral fees, to sell their privacy by installing the iOS or Android “Facebook Research” app.

Moreover, media reports also claimed that Facebook even asked users to screenshot their Amazon order history pages.

However, the launch of Study shows that Facebook clearly feels that it still needs this data on how people are using their phones, and that the company has learnt a thing or two from the last controversy, the report added.

The company has so far not disclosed the amount of money it is planning to offer the participants, who are required to have a PayPal account for receiving payments.

[“source=thenewsminute”]

Article 35-A: Tension mounts in J&K ahead of SC hearing

Image result for Article 35-A: Tension mounts in J&K ahead of SC hearingPalpable tension is building up in different parts of Kashmir valley in the run up to the crucial hearing of Article 35-A in the Supreme Court next week.

The apex court is hearing a bunch of petitions in the matter, including the one filed by NGO ‘We the Citizens’ seeking quashing of article 35-A, which confers special status to permanent residents of Jammu and Kashmir.

Article 35A, was incorporated in the Constitution by a 1954 Presidential Order. The regional mainstream political parties, including the National Conference (NC) and the People’s Democratic Party (PDP), have opposed the move.

Anticipating more trouble on ground zero, the state government Saturday launched massive crackdown against separatists, Jamaat-e-Islami activists  and several others by carrying out nocturnal raids on their premises.

Meanwhile, to contain public anger and handle law and order situation centre also rushed additional 100 companies by air to further beef up security ‘bandobast’ in the region.

The move triggered endless rounds of speculations  in different parts of Kashmir valley as local residents in the valley and mainstream politicians linked it with the emerging security scenario in the aftermath of terror strike on a CRPF convoy in which 40 CRPF personnel were killed.

To register their protest against the detention of Yasin Malik and  Jamaat Chief Ameer Abdul Hamid Fayaz the joint resistance leadership (JRL) comprising Syed Ali Geelani,  Mirwaiz Umar Farooq and Muhammad Yasin Malik issued a shutdown call for Sunday.

In a statement issued on Saturday, JRL said the “arbitrary” arrest of JKLF chairman Yasin Malik and the “mass crackdown and illegal detention” of more than 150 Jamat-e-Islami cadre and leadership including its Ameer Abdul Hamid Fayaz in nocturnal raids across the valley looks to be not only part of the continued policy of “suppression of pro-self-determination leadership and narrative, but in the case of hearing of 35A in Supreme Court most likely on Monday, an indication of what may be expected.”

Several mainstream politicians also reacted strongly to these developments on ground zero.

Former chief minister and Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) president, Mehbooba Mufti Saturday said the ‘arbitrary’ moves will only precipitate matters in Jammu and Kashmir.

Mehbooba in a tweet while reacting on arrest of Hurriyat leaders and workers of Jamaat said under what legal grounds are their arrests justified?, saying “You can imprison a person but not his ideas.”

“In the past 24 hours, Hurriyat leaders & workers of Jamaat organisation have been arrested. Fail to understand such an arbitrary move which will only precipitate matters in J&K. Under what legal grounds are their arrests justified? You can imprison a person but not his ideas,” Mehbooba tweeted.

Hurriyat Conference (M) chairman, Mirwaiz Umar Farooq also condemned nocturnal crackdown on JKLF chief  Yasin Malik and Jamat-e-Islami leadership and cadres.

In a tweet, Mirwaiz said such illegal and coercive measures against Kashmiris are futile and will not change realities on ground, saying that force and intimidation will only worsen the situation.

“Strongly condemn the nocturnal crackdown on Jamat-e-Islami leadership and cadres and the arrest of Yasin Malik. Such illegal and coercive measures against Kashmiris are futile and will not change realities on ground. Force and intimidation will only worsen the situation,” Mirwaiz tweeted.

Peoples Conference Chairman and former cabinet minister Sajjad Lone tweeted, “Gov seems to be on an arrest spree. Just a word of caution. Large scale arrests took place in 1990. Leaders were ferried to Jodhpur and many jails across the country. Things worsened. This is a tried tested and failed model. Please desist from it. It won’t work.Things will worsen”.

Authorities in Srinagar have ordered imposition of restrictions under section 144 of CrPC within the territorial jurisdictons of Khanyar, Rainawari, Nowhatta, Safakadal and MR Gunj police stations of the district on Sunday. The restrictions have been imposed as a precautionary measure to avoid any untoward incident.

Local residents, in panic mode are stocking ration supplies and other essential items like Petrol and medicines to sustain themselves for longer duration.

Reacting to the situation former Chief Minister Omar Abdullah tweeted, “People in the valley, especially the cities & towns, are taking everything said or done as a sign that some big trouble is just around the corner. People are hoarding food & fuel. Some government orders are adding to the sense of panic”.

[“source=dailypioneer”]

EA and Activision Blizzard CEOs featured in ‘The 100 Most Overpaid CEOs’ report

EA and Activision Blizzard CEOs featured in 'The 100 Most Overpaid CEOs' report

The chief executive officers of two major video game companies have found their way onto As You Sow’s 2019 report on “The 100 Most Overpaid CEOs”, a report that uses pay data to call out pay disparities in publicly traded American companies.

Both Electronic Arts’ Andrew Wilson and Activision Blizzard’s Bobby Kotick have earned spots on this year’s list along with the likes of Walt Disney’s Bob Iger, Netflix’s Reed Hastings, and 96 other high-earning execs. This all comes just a week after Activision Blizzard announced that it would lay off an estimated 800 employees following the close of a record year.

As You Sow takes more than a CEO’s yearly earnings into account when ranking its list, something detailed in full in the full report. In short, the organization looks at factors like total shareholder return and votes against CEO pay packages to calculate the chief execs earning in excess. The methods for calculating that exact excess can be found in Appendix C in the full report as well.

Following that methodology, the group clocked Activision Blizzard CEO Bobby Kotick as number 45 on that ranked list of the most overpaid CEOs. By As You Sow’s data, Kotick is paid $28,698,375 (an excess of $12,835,277 by the organization’s estimates). The ratio of Kotick’s pay compared to median worker pay at Activision Blizzard is 301:1.

The median pay ratio for S&P 500 companies is 142.1, while the median pay ratio for the 100 members of As You Sow’s list is 300:1.

Electronic Arts’ Andrew Wilson, meanwhile, is ranked a bit lower on the list as number 98. His yearly take is $35,728,764 (an estimated excess of $19,673,861 as determined by the report), a paycheck that was supported by 97 percent of shareholders’ votes. Though median pay ratio wasn’t used as a metric for ranking those high-earning CEOs, the difference between Wilson’s own pay and that of the median Electronic Arts employer is greater than Kotick’s. As You Sow records that ratio as 371:1.

The gap between median worker pay and CEO pay has ballooned in just the past several decades, as explained in the following quote captured by Axios.

“If you look at the pay of top CEOs relative to workers, that ratio in the 1950s was 20 to 1, was about 30 to 1 by the late ’70s, and by the mid-1990s it was 120 to 1,” said Robert Reich, former Labor Secretary for President Bill Clinton, during a recent call with Axios and other reporters. ”When I was working in the White House that was a cause of real concern. That ratio seemed appalling to most people. Now it’s 300 to 1.”

[“source=gamasutra”]

Self-love in the age of technology

As Valentine’s Day rolls around, here’s how technology took centre-stage in our ‘self-love lives’ — for better or worse

At 10.30 pm on October 29, 1969, the first message on the Internet was sent by UCLA student Charley Kline in the form of two letters ‘lo’. Romantics, to this day, debate that it was obviously meant to be ‘love’, whereas irrefutable records show Charley meant to type ‘login’ and the system had crashed after the first two letters.

Fast forward 50 years to present-day and we can send all sorts of lovey-dovey messages in the form of quick texts, GIFs, SnapChats, videos, Instagram stories… the list is endless. Given there are countless expressions and forms of love in the digital space, thanks to technology mediating everything we do, this behemoth blanket of binaries became more than just an aid — it is now a crutch, a platform and our confidante.

We’ve seen love traverse from paper to screen to holograms to Artificial Intelligence — even to the point when, if we’re bored enough, we can ask Siri if they love us. It’s not just romantic love to which our technology panders; there is body positivity and self-love, so let’s take a look at these, and evaluate if the Internet is doing justice or doing harm.

Micro-blogging sites such as Instagram and Facebook have contributed big-time to both the depreciation and appreciation of self-love. We tend to judge our self-worth in terms of likes, responses, the number of private messages we get, and so on. Maybe, ease up on social media, whether it means taking a break for a few days or even going full-Monty and removing yourself entirely from the platform to become more purposeful in other ways.

That’s what psychologist Raisa Luther of Hope Trust recommends too. “Mental health is impacted by everything around us. As the saying goes for our body: you are what you eat, the same goes for our mind as well. What we feed our mind manifests in good or ill mental health.”

“Further, technology is a highly powerful tool in developing or destroying relationships. It reduces the importance and need for face-to-face interaction — this can result in changing the very face and nature of human relationships,” Raisa continues, “I fear that we are so influenced by technology and its various components that we may one day forget what it means to be human, or feel human. I have seen the same in my practice, where people get so influenced by technology that it affects their self-worth, self-esteem and even their identity. FOMO leads to a lot of my clients leading dual lives — and sometimes it is difficult to maintain boundaries between an online persona and the real, offline self.”

We heart pods
  • Though the rise of the podcast was driven by true crime narratives, stories on the world of startups and more, Love and relationships have not been very far behind. The popular Modern Love podcast by The New York Times is one of the most popular podcasts in this genre. Bengaluru-based Paravathi Shiva, an IT specialist, says, “When I was growing up, dealing with college breakups and infatuations, you only had agony aunt columns or extremely weird late-night radio shows, where the host spoke in a high-pitched voice and dispensed repetitive advice. That has changed now. I am married now and listen to podcasts on relationships and more. Most of these podcasts are conversational and extremely relatable, making you feel like you are part of the conversation and not just a member of the audience. In the Modern Love podcast, I was very moved by the reading of You May Want to Marry my Husband, an essay written by writer Amy Krouse Rosenthal. It was beautifully-written, of course, but listening to it was even better.” Sales manager Shuvan C from Delhi agrees with this assessment. “I do not listen to many podcasts. However, I do like to listen in to the art of love podcast, where a dating expert offers an entertaining take on love and relationships. The best part about podcasts is that it is more informative and has lovely stories. I am single and feel that it makes me more confident to negotiate the complex web of relationships.”
  • (As told to Nikhil Varma)

However, studies show the response is quite dependent on a person’s disposition; are they naturally vulnerable to social pressures imbibed by technology? “We found that having a sense of purpose allowed people to navigate virtual feedback with more rigidity and persistence. With a sense of purpose, they’re not so malleable to the number of likes they receive… Purposeful people noticed the positive feedback, but did not rely on it to feel good about themselves,” surmises Cornell University professor Anthony Burrow, co-author of study ‘‘Likes’ less likely to affect self-esteem of people with purpose’.

Video ga-ga

YouTube, despite its ongoing strife around policy and content creation, does have its happy corners, and with beauty vlogging an all-time rage, the subculture of body positivity channels has been crawling up the subscriber ladder, but not necessarily T-series-style. And no, we aren’t referring to over-hyped fitness gurus or flat-tummy-detox-tea sponsors who live for monetisation!

Pooja Kochar runs one of India’s growing channels, ‘30ish’, for body positivity chats. “30ish is trusting its internal GPS and turning towards YouTube. We are being mentored by #YouTubeSpaceMumbai to understand viewer preference for digital content,” she says on her site, “We conceptualise, create content and manage execution of social media campaigns which are completely customised. These campaigns are further supported through our blog, Twitter feed and Instagram page. We will live your brand, to give it the most authentic narrative.”

The cross-promotion of platforms for community-driven positivity is ideal in rebuilding the YouTube algorithms a lot of users have a problem with, especially with the site’s very flawed and clearly capitalistic ‘Trending’ section. With the Internet brimming with life-threatening challenge videos and dangerous pranks, it’ll be useful to employ to our advantage.

So this Valentine’s Day, when you see hearts and cheesy texts floating around, be sure to love yourself first and foremost.

 

[“source=thehindu”]

Fact Check: The news behind Indian woman soldier dying in Kashmir is fake

The post was also shared by hundreds of individual accounts on Facebook and Twitter.

A photo collage of a woman soldier is doing rounds on the social media claiming that she lost her life in Kashmir on January 23, 2019.

The archived version of the post can be seen here.

India Today Fact Check found this post to be totally false as no woman soldier died fighting this January.

The viral photo collage was posted by a Facebook page Bharatiy Yoddha’, which is followed by over 300,000 users. The post was shared by nearly 1,920 users.

The post was also shared by hundreds of individual accounts on Facebook and Twitter.

The viral post contains three photos of a woman soldier who, the post said, were martyred and two photos of the cremation ceremony. The translation of the viral post’s caption written in Hindi reads, Alas! Kashmir (23/1/19) Kavita Saini martyred, she was posted in Kashmir. May God rest her soul in peace. Pay tribute by writing Jai Hind..Jai Hind).

India Today Fact Check spoke to DIG of Central Reserve Police Force (CRPF), Dinakaran, who confirmed that the message attached to the viral post was completely false as no woman soldier have died fighting on the border in last one year. The officer also confirmed that the CRPF has never deployed women on the Kashmiri borders.

A Facebook profile named Kavita Saini’ also had these images uploaded on her timeline.

Through Kavita’s Facebook account, India Today Fact Check got a link to another Facebook user’s account which had posted more images of the same woman.

When the images were zoomed in, the name on the woman’s uniform badge revealed that her name is Kajal Kumari and not Kavita Saini.

A Google search about Kavita Saini showed an article published by Aaj Ki Satta, which also claimed that a woman named Kavita Saini was martyred in Kashmir.

The district bureau chief of the portal, Suresh Piplodiya told India Today TV that he had received this information from someone in Rajasthan and that he couldn’t confirm the source of the information.

The remaining two images claiming to be of the soldier’s funeral also do not belong to her. The first one belongs to Lance Naik Hamraj’s funeral who was killed by Pakistani soldiers on the LoC in 2014. The second one dates back to May 2017 when two Nagpur children died a tragic deathfrom electrocution.

India Today Fact Check also found that a Twitter account with Kajal Kumari’s name and her pictures in uniform. However, the account hasn’t shown any activity since March 2018.

The news behind Kavita Kumari’s death while fighting on Kashmir’s border is absolutely false.

[“source=indiatoday”]

Here’s some of the technology that’s set to make a ‘quantum leap’ in 2019

The Bell Nexus flying taxi at the 2019 CES.

From foldable cellphones to high tech burgers, more than 4,500 companies showcased their latest technology at CES, the world’s largest consumer electronics show which took place in Las Vegas earlier this month.

Even though tech behemoth Apple does not make an appearance, the trade show gives the public a glimpse at emerging tech trends for 2019 and beyond.

One of the most anticipated technologies is 5G – the next generation wireless network that experts say could be as much as ten times faster than broadband.

Cutting edge tech

Cutting edge tech  12:31 PM ET Fri, 18 Jan 2019 | 04:23

“I see a huge quantum leap from going from 4G to 5G, much bigger than 3G to 4G. And of course, my expectation is that we are going to see so much more innovation,” Verizon CEO Hans Vestberg told CNBC recently.

Chris Velazco, Engadget’s senior mobile editor told CNBC’s “On the Money” in an interview that “2019 is going to be the year of 5G, this is going to be the first year people will actually be able to buy devices and jump on the 5G networks,” he said.

As a result, 5G “will have really big ramifications for the way we use our devices and the way these devices talk to each other,” he added.

The technology won’t be for everyone, however – at least not right away. Meanwhile, Velazo admitted that 5G technology “still feels like it’s a lot of talk. We don’t have a great sense of how these things pan out in more concrete ways.”

Yet one technology that did make an impression at CES was foldable screen technology. At the event, LG showcased a 4K OLED TV that rolls up when you don’t want to watch it.

The 65-inch 4K OLED TV when it's fully unrolled.

Watch this super thin TV roll up and disappear in seconds  11:46 AM ET Mon, 7 Jan 2019 | 01:31

But it’s not just big screens: A Chinese company called Royole showed off its flexible screen technology for a smartphone/table called the FlexPai. This is the world’s first commercially available foldable phone, and it beat Samsung and Apple to market. The company is currently taking orders: The cost? A whopping $1,318, even more than an iPhone.

However you may want to hold off. Velazco had a chance to check out the device while at CES, and he admitted “they’re maybe not the most polished devices.”

Yet he found the technology compelling. “The ability to fold out and use the phone as a tablet is frankly really powerful,” he told CNBC.

If you’re looking to take a deeper dive into meditation, a Canadian company called Interaxon recently released the Muse 2.

The headband goes across your forehead and reads brainwaves in real-time. It then uses auditory cues to provide feedback on the user’s meditation state.

When it comes to virtual and augmented reality (AR) technology, it usually means wearing large glasses over your eyes, blocking out the world around you.

Chinese startup Nreal has plans this year to release their version called Light – which as its name suggests – is a lighter version.

“They’ve been able to take the technology that makes some really impressive AR devices like the Microsoft HoloLens and the Magic Leap and converted it down to this form factor,” Velazco told CNBC.

Impossible Burger

Air New Zealand
Impossible Burger

But the tech editor admits one of the bigger surprises at CES, based on the level of people that seemed into it, was Gillette’s heated razor. And the name really says it all.

“It’s a heated razor that’s meant to sort of replicate the experience of getting a hot towel wet shave at a barber shop.” The razor is not in stores yet but according to Engadet’s report, it will retail for $160.

Another surprising find at CES was burgers. Impossible Foods showed off their latest meatless burger recipe: Impossible Burger 2.0.

“The original Impossible Burger used wheat protein and it tasted pretty good, but it kind of didn’t give you the same kind of mouth feel that a traditional burger would,” Velazco explained. “So they rejiggered the formula. This [latest version] is based on soy protein.”

He added: “You actually get a bit more of the experience of eating meat, plus I think the flavor has been upgraded as well.”

[“source=cnbc”]

Solutions drive growth in smart cities, not technology

gurugram,smart city,GMDA

Smart city is the new buzzword and everyone is trying to decipher what it means to be smart. While this has become a talking point across India and abroad, there is actually not much clarity as to what it means to be a smart city.

Ever so often, it is considered to be a city with technological innovations and solutions. In fact, what a smart city should be about is attaining a high quality of life for all residents, especially the most vulnerable. Technology, then, becomes the means to the end, rather than the end itself. Thus, we should define and understand smart cities as those which are innovating for solutions to improve quality of life.

Defined like this, a smart city won’t be synonymous to the cities with smart light poles or CCTV cameras. Rather, these innovations will be seen as contributors to improving the safety and people’s access to the street. If a smart city is concerned with innovating to improve safety and inclusion, the light pole and the camera will be seen as part of the solution, rather than the solution itself.

The Indian government launched the Smart Cities Mission in 2016, with the aim of including 100 cities in the mission as a model for other cities to eventually adopt. The official smart city document states that there is no single definition of a smart city, but it does use the terms sustainability and inclusion. These are important elements and need to be understood to give smartness a wider connotation.

Sustainability, in the context of cities, refers to building systems that can respond continuously to needs and problems, while inclusion accepts that a diverse set of residents need to be catered to in the process of city development. The 100 cities were chosen in four rounds and the projects implemented are estimated to eventually impact the lives of nearly a 100 crore people.

Cities had to compete to be part of the mission and while Gurugram participated in the competition, it did not eventually get chosen as one of the 100 cities. While this means that the city will not get earmarked funds from the Centre for developing smart solutions, Gurugram can still work towards finding smart and innovative solutions to address key urban challenges. The areas identified under the mission include e-governance, waste management, energy management, urban mobility and other issues. It is clear that Gurugram has great challenges in each of these areas as it has grown in a largely unplanned and haphazard manner.

While the private sector has played an important role in addressing civic and urban problems in the city, many of these core issues of waste management, mobility or energy management are issues of governance and which need strategic responses from the city government.

The Municipal Corporation in Gurugram (MCG) is fairly new body set up in 2008, the Gurugram Metropolitan Development Authority (GMDA) has been set up only last year. Governance mechanisms in the city are in the process of being developed need to be made much more robust and participatory.

A few months ago the GMDA facilitated a workshop to get citizen input into the liveability index. Building such an index will provide a good roadmap and indicators to plan projects and innovations in the city. As Gurugram aspires to become a smart city, it needs to be able to be smart and innovative in order to help its resident achieve a better quality of life, rather than smartness as a goal in itself.

[“source-“hindustantimes”]

Revenue boost as Pune drinks up in 2018

Pune,Revenue boost,alcohol

Tipplers from the city consumed a record amount of alcohol in 2018 with 19.25 per cent more during April to December as compared to previous year, the reflection of which is in higher revenue collection, according to statistics released by state excise department.

Higher sale of alcohol has brought good news for state excise department as the revenue earned has increased by 9.18 percent for Pune district. Higher sale of alcohol and its reflection in more revenue is a boon for the excise department as the sale of liquor had undergone a severe hit in 2017 due to Supreme Court ruling banning sale and service of alcohol within 500 metres of highways. The Ban was lifted in July 2017.

According to statistics revealed by the Pune branch of state excise department, liquor sales in Pune showed an unprecedented increase which includes Country Liquor by 23.17 per cent, Indian manufactured foreign liquor (IMFL) by 14.96 per cent, Beer by 11.92 per cent and Wine by 26.95 per cent.

The state excise department collected ₹1195.07 crore from April to December 2018 against ₹1094.62 crore collected from April to December 2017. As per officials,in 2018 revenue collection rate saw an increase by almost 9.18 per cent.

In the nine months from April 2018 to December 2018, Pune consumed 209.93 bl (bulk litres) of country liquor,which is 39.4 bl more than what was consumed during the same period in 2017.

As far as country Indian manufactured foreign liquor (IMFL) is concerned, it also saw a hike in consumption by 14.96 per cent. IMFL sale between April 2018 and December in 2018 was 250.24 bl as compared to 217.68 bl during the same period in 2017.In the case of Beer, sale from April to December in 2018 was 377.64 bl as against 337.42 bl during the same period in 2017.Along with that, sale of wine also witnessed a rise by 26.95 per cent. From April to December in 2018, the sale of wine was 10.50 bl as against 8.28 bl during the same period in 2017.

“There has been no specific reason behind the spike in sale of alcohol, but the possible reasons could be increasing population,changing culture and the recently lifted government ban on serving of liquor along the highways,” said SD Phulpagar, deputy superintendent, state excise department, Pune.

Shivaji Khandve,president of Pune district wine merchants association said, “Due to strict vigilance by state excise department on illegal trade of liquor from adjoining states, there has been an increased sale of liquor in Pune. As far as our industry is concerned we are happy with these figure and hopes trend continues.”

Statistics further revealed that from April to December 2018,Punities served around 848.31 bl of liquor through 2,600 liquor establishments in Pune district.

Excise department seized liquor worth Rs 4.68 cr in April -December 2018

The Pune branch of the state excise department registered 2,343 cases of illegal sale of liquor in the city from April to December 2018 which was less by 264 as compared to cases registered in the same period in 2017.

In connection to the registered 2,343 cases the state excise department, arrested 1,599 people and seized 163 vehicles. During this nine-month-period, the excise department seized liquor worth ₹4.68 crore.

“Criminal activities in our jurisdiction have dropped significantly.The credit goes to our team,as per guideline issued by our seniors we have kept strict vigilance through the city and district to prevent illegal trade of liquor,” said SD Phulpagar,deputy superintendent,state excise department, Pune. Those engaged in illegal trade of liquor should consider themselves warned as this drive will be continued through the year, added Phulpagar.

In 2017,Pune branch of the state excise department seized liquor worth ₹ 6.64 crore in 2,607 cases registered with them. In connection to the registered cases they arrested 1,497 criminals and seized 207 vehicles from Pune district.

As far as 2018 is concerned, December month was said to be very busy in terms of keeping tabs on illegal liquor activity for state excise department. The excise department registered 366 cases in December 2018 the highest in the year while September 2018 saw registration of 207 cases, the lowest in 2018. A similar trend was seen in 2017,when December 2017 recorded the highest cases with 447 illegal liquor cases and April 2017 registered 180 illegal trading cases, the lowest in 2017.

[“source-“hindustantimes”]

Worst price slump in 18 years shows scale of farm crisis

Farm crisis,Indian farmers,BJP

This financial year, 2018-19 could end up being the worst year for farm incomes in almost two decades, government data indicates in a revelation that emphasises the gravity of the ongoing agrarian crisis and highlights a possible fault line for the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP)-led National Democratic Alliance (NDA) government ahead of the Lok Sabha elections.

According to Wholesale Price Index (WPI) data for the month of December released on Monday by the ministry of commerce and industry, the WPI sub-component for primary food articles has been negative for six consecutive months beginning July 2018. This means their prices are falling.

WPI for primary food articles is a good indicator of farm-gate prices as farmers sell their products in wholesale rather than retail markets. Even the food sub-component of the Consumer Price Index (CPI) basket has registered negative growth between October and December 2018. The disinflation in wholesale prices is not visible in the non-farm economy though. The overall WPI has shown positive growth in all these months.

Analysts say the asymmetry in inflation – falling farm-gate prices and rising non-farm prices – means that farmers have suffered deterioration in their terms of trade. They are selling their products cheaper, but having to buy other things at higher prices.

The WPI sub-component for food components was -0.1% in December. It was -2.1%, -4%, -0.2%, -1.4% and -3.3% in the preceding five months. The last time WPI for primary food articles showed negative annual growth for two consecutive quarters was in 1990. The disinflation in farm prices has also led to a collapse in nominal farm incomes, which was last seen in 2000-01.

Doubling farm incomes was one of biggest promises of the Narendra Modi government after it assumed office in 2014. It was repeated during a resolution on agriculture adopted by the BJP at its recent national council meeting in New Delhi. The resolution says: “Budget allocation for the agriculture sector has also increased in recent years and this government is fast reaching towards the goal of ‘doubling the farm income’. This National Council expresses its confidence that the aim of ‘doubling the farm-income’ would be achieved in given time period under the BJP government.”

The agrarian crisis is one of the factors that may have resulted in the BJP’s loss in three Hindi heartland states of Chhattisgarh, Rajasthan and Madhya Pradesh in December, according to analysts, and the party clearly doesn’t want it to affect its prospects in the 2019 parliamentary elections. HT reported on December 29, 2018 that the government is considering a farm package that could include farm loan waiver, direct income support to farmers, crop insurance at a flat premium of Rs 1, and Rs 2,000 per acre transfer to farmers to make up for post-harvest losses.

“The crisis of price growth in agriculture is a political economy problem. The present government has been trying to appease rating agencies and middle class at the cost of domestic economy and farmers by low inflation through keeping food prices depressed,” said Himanshu, an associate professor of economics at the Jawaharlal Nehru University. “A hike in kharif MSPs did not help, because there is also a problem of demand deflation in the rural economy. Collapse in rural wage growth has eroded purchasing power and demand, which cannot be addressed by farm loan waivers and MSP hikes,” he added.

Along with their adverse distributional impact on farmers, disinflation in food prices will also have a macro impact on the Indian economy. Fall in nominal rural incomes due to falling prices and low rural wage growth, are bound to put a squeeze on consumption demand in the economy. At a time when consumption growth is already decelerating, this will have an adverse impact on overall growth figures as well, said Niranjan Rajadyaksha, research director and senior fellow at IDFC Institute, Mumbai.

“The disinflation in food prices shows that terms of trade have worsened for agriculture. This also underlines the fact that the crisis in the rural economy is of incomes and not wealth. The government thinks that it can address the rural crisis by aiding wealth creation by promoting construction of houses and toilets. This is not going to work and it is also too late for the government to address the crisis in farm incomes,” said Praveen Chakravarty, chairman of the Congress data analytics department.

The BJP offered a different view. “Falling inflation is always a welcome sign, as it is pro-poor. But rising inflation does not always mean that the farmers are getting a good price for produce, because of inefficiency and gaps in supply chain. Falling inflation will also help the Reserve Bank of India cut down interest rates and catalyse faster growth,” said BJP spokesperson Gopal Agarwal.

To be sure, the current crisis in farming is related more to a crash in farm prices rather than output growth.

In July, 2018, the government increased the minimum support prices (MSPs) of 14 crops to give farmers a 50% return over their cost of production.

According to quarterly WPI data from June 1983 onwards from the Centre for Monitoring Indian Economy’s (CMIE) database, the last time WPI for primary food articles showed negative annual growth for two consecutive quarters was in December 1989 and March 1990. This analysis has used both the 2004-05 and 2011-12 series of WPI.

[“source-“hindustantimes”]

Global smartphone market to shrink in 2019: TrendForce report

Global smartphone market,smartphone market, TrendForce report

The global smartphone market is expected to shrink further in 2019 due to weaker demand and other unfavourable factors, a report said on Tuesday.

Global smartphone production is expected to reach 1.41 billion units this year, down 3.3 % from the previous year, according to the report from TrendForce, a leading market intelligence provider.

Replacement demand is likely to slacken this year due to a lack of devices with landmark functions, TrendForce said, adding global smartphone output could drop as much as 5 % on-year due to the uncertainty and fallout from the ongoing trade war between the US and China, Yonhap news agency reported.

Samsung Electronics Co is projected to grab the leading market share of 20 % this year, followed by Huawei with 16 % and Apple Inc with 13 %.

Among the top three industry players, Huawei will likely become the only company to post positive growth in smartphone production.

Samsung’s smartphone output is predicted to shrink 8 % on-year to 293 million units, with Apple’s production likely to fall 15 % to 189 million.

Earlier, another industry tracker, Strategy Analytics, predicted global smartphone shipments to come to 1.43 billion this year, down 0.6 % from a year earlier.

Strategy Analytics forecast a market share of 20.3 % for Samsung, 16.1 % for Huawei and 14.4 % for Apple.

TrendForce said Samsung will likely take a more aggressive strategy in terms of price and specifications as the company finds it hard to tap new business areas.

[“source-“hindustantimes”]