Counterfeiting of new notes worries agencies
That the new Rs 2,000 and Rs 5,00 notes have the same security features as the old Rs 500 and Rs 1,000 ones has the security agencies worried. At a high-level meeting last week to discuss the presence of fake currency notes, officials were informed that the “covert security features” had not been changed since 2005.
Water marks, security thread, fibre and latent image comprise the security features and these require several representations, evaluation and a Cabinet nod. An official had said then that since the decision to introduce the new notes was taken only around May 2016, there was no time to alter the security features as the entire exercise takes between five and six years.
Officials have suggested now that to check counterfeiting, the security features of higher denomination notes should be changed every 3-4 years in accordance with global standards.
In the four months since the government announced its decision to scrap the old Rs 500 and Rs 1,000 notes on November 8, 2016, fake Rs 2,000 notes with a face value of over Rs 66 lakh have been detected by the Reserve Bank of India and the state police forces across the country.
As per the Home Ministry’s reply in the Lok Sabha, from 9 November 2016, to 7 March 2017 , 3,346 pieces of fake Rs 2,000 notes had been recovered.
“The newly introduced notes have no additional security features and were similar to those in the old Rs 1,000 and Rs 500 notes. Though the fake notes recovered so far have all been photocopies and of poor quality, it is not impossible for the enemy country to replicate them,” a senior official said. (The Hindu)
RBI needs to print only Rs 1.15 trillion more currency: SBI
The Reserve Bank need not print the entire amount of extinguished currency but only Rs 1.15 trillion more from March 24 levels, which will in turn bring down the cost of printing in the range of Rs 500-1,000 crore, says a report. According to SBI’s research report Ecowrap, already there was excess cash floating in the system before demonetisation and secondly, the push for digital transactions has shifted a sizeable population towards less cash usage.
“Taking these into account, we believe RBI should only print Rs 1.15 trillion more from March 24 levels,” the report said, adding that around Rs 1.17 trillion worth of notes need not be printed and this will bring down cost of printing in the range of Rs 500-1,000 crore. Going by the average pace of printing, the remonetisation process could be completed in the first fortnight of April, it noted.
The report said there was excess cash floating in the system before demonetisation took place. Even by a conservative estimate, there was a minimum of Rs 2.5 trillion excess cash before November 8, 2016 in financial transactions, it said.
Meanwhile, the recent data on digital payments, published by RBI indicates sharp growth in digital payments, but this needs to grow even more. “The current size of digital banking is around Rs 2.3 lakh crore. This size has to increase from the current level to at least Rs 3.5 lakh crore (which is a conservative estimate of the gap between the actual currency in circulation and required currency in circulation),” it noted. (PTI)
KPMG-FICCI report explains why newspaper industry is still growing
Despite strong growth of digital media in India, the traditional formats of television and print still account for the largest portion of total media ad expenditures. eMarketer’s recently updated forecasts estimate TV ad spending will account for 39.3% of total media ad outlays this year, with newspapers making up 33.9%.
New ad revenue figures from KPMG and the Federation of Indian Chambers of Commerce (FICCI) roughly align with those estimates. Research from the two entities found that print advertising generated Rs 201.3 billion (USD 3.0 billion) in revenues in 2016, while TV was responsible for Rs 201.2 billion (USD 3.0 billion).
India remains somewhat unusual in that print revenues continue to grow, with newspapers still serving as an effective way for advertisers to reach a significant audience. The research from KPMG-FICCI found that newspapers generated Rs 289.9 billion (USD 4.3 billion) in overall revenues — including advertising and circulation — in 2016, while magazine revenues declined, hitting INR13.4 billion ($199.5 million) last year.
KPMG-FICCI reported that newspaper growth is coming from papers published in Hindi and in other local languages. According to the research, ad revenues for English-language papers grew 3.5% in 2016, compared with 7.1% for Hindi-language papers and 8.7% for those in regional languages. English is really only prevalent in India’s largest cities, leaving readers in smaller cities and rural areas with an appetite for content in their local languages. (eMarketer.com)
Schools asked not to sell own textbooks, uniforms
The Bombay Booksellers’ and Publishers’ Association has written to schools in the Mumbai Metropolitan Region requesting them to refrain from selling textbooks, uniforms and other such items on their premises.
In its letter, the association alleges that schools have found ways to get around a 2005 government resolution and a 2004 Bombay High Court order prohibiting schools from conducting commercial activities on campus. This, they say, will result in parents paying more than the market price and lead to the loss of livelihood for booksellers and wholesalers. It is also in violation of as many as seven laws.
"Many schools have found a way to circumvent the High Court order by setting up an online portal where parents can buy school essentials. The catch here is that these items are not available for sale anywhere else in the open market," said Jayant Jain, president of the Forum for Fairness in Education (FFE) —a non-governmental organisation, which tackles corruption in education. It was after the NGO filed a petition in 2003 that the court passed the order.
Jain explained how in such cases, the market price of these products will be much less than the amount charged by the school. “You cannot arbitrarily make certain essentials mandatory and charge your own prices,” said Jain.
He added that several schools also tie-up with a third party that sells their products exclusively in a bid to avoid violating the order, while others set up wholly-owned subsidiaries.
Schools claim that they do this only to ensure uniformity.
According to the GR of March 29, 2005, “No school can exhibit favouritism by specifying a set of vendors and making it compulsory for students to purchase their items only through them.”
“We personally do not indulge in this practice but there is no uniform structure in place. It is only for logistical convenience and to facilitate the process that schools undertake such activities,” said Ashish Tibdewal, chief executive officer of a group that runs seven schools across the country.
He claims that the items sold are of little value and schools cannot derive any financial benefit from them. He added that the situation was just getting blown out of proportion. (Mumbai Mirror)
Sangrur printer charges seven times more for printing job
A scam worth Rs 1.25 crore has come to the fore in the Rural Development Department of the Punjab government, which reportedly paid seven times more than the market price for the printing of publicity material for MGNREGA scheme during the SAD-BJP government’s tenure. The department had placed an order to print 6.75 lakh copies each of a coloured booklet (20x7.5-inches) containing basic information regarding MGNREGA, a coloured pamphlet and a coloured poster (20x15-inches). All three items were printed on 65gsm maplitho printing paper.
As per the bill submitted by Sangrur-based Mittal Traders, the booklet cost Rs 4.28 each, pamphlet Rs 6.56 and the poster Rs 8.46. Besides, 6.05% VAT was levied on the entire order cost. For all three items, the supplier had asked for a payment of Rs 1.38 crore in November 2015.
During an enquiry, it was found that almost every printing press in Chandigarh quoted six to seven times less the price than what was charged. It was found that the booklet costs around Re 1 each and the poster Rs 1.85.
It was also found that the quantity of material supplied was much lesser than what was stated in the bill. Sources said the payment for the bill was done without any verification of the material supplied.
Mittal, meanwhile, refused to comment, saying that he did not supply any such material. (The Tribune)
US ad revenue to grow by 3.7% in 2017
Global ad growth will slow in 2017 to 3.7%, with total advertising revenues reaching USD 511 billion, according to Interpublic Group’s Magna. By comparison, Magna estimates that 2016 ad revenue grew at a stronger 5.7% pace, reaching USD 493 billion. Magna states the slower rate of growth is attributable to lack of cyclical events such as the Olympics and major political campaigns that added USD 3.5 billion in incremental ad spend last year.
Advertisers are reallocating their budgets. Digital-based ad sales will grow double-digits in the US, Magna said. Last year, digital ad sales finally surpassed total linear television in the US.
This shift took place years ago in many other countries analysed by Magna — 10 years ago in the UK and two years ago in China. The fact it happened in 2016 in the US is a testimony to the strength and resilience of television in America: “Linear TV is losing viewers but remains attractive enough to national advertisers that they are so far willing to tolerate high CPM inflation to try and maintain their investment in the medium,” the report said.
Digital-based ad sales are approaching 40% of total sales in 2017 and projected to reach 50% by 2021. Magna found social and search captured the bulk (95%) of digital dollar growth in 2016: USD 10.5 billion out of USD 11 billion total net growth.
US advertising sales grew by nearly 6.6% this year to $180 billion, which Magna asserted was the strongest growth in six years, and it’s a new all-time high for US ad dollars.
In 2017, US growth will be in line with the global outlook, decelerating to 3.7%. Out of home (OOH) media ended 2016 at an all-time high of $7.6 billion, up 3.3%. This jump was driven by digital OOH revenues, with growth of 14%. (MediaPost.com)
What a small-town press says about Hindu nationalism today
Writing for UAE daily The National, Samanth Subramanian revisits the history of Gita Press.
Nearly a century old, Gita Press is the world’s largest publisher of Hindu religious texts. Since its inception, it has run off half a billion copies of various books, including 114 million copies of the Bhagavad Gita.
Through its lifetime, Gita Press has been instrumental in twinning Hinduism with nationalist politics, twisting the two strands tightly around each other. To a great degree, Gita Press has been instrumental in crafting modern Hindu nationalism.
Founded in 1923 by a pair of businessmen, Gita Press began publishing its texts just as the Indian independence movement was fracturing along religious lines. Throughout Uttar Pradesh – then called United Provinces – riots raged over the issue of protecting the cow, an animal held sacred by Hinduism but also a source of meat for Muslims. The newly founded Hindu Mahasabha, a political party, was campaigning for the “reconversion” of India’s Muslims to Hinduism, believing their ancestors to have once been forcibly converted from Hinduism by Islamic invaders. Sectarian politicians were realising that, by harking to the purity of a bygone Hindu identity, it was possible to forge a new national consciousness – an asset of immense value as India struggled to throw off the British yoke.
Gita Press capitalised on, and advanced, all these preoccupations. Its religious texts aside, it printed a monthly journal named Kalyan in Hindi, which contained commentaries and columns on religion and spirituality; Kalyan is still being published today, with a circulation of around 200,000 per issue.
Once a year, Kalyan came out as a special issue revolving around a particular theme: the cow, for instance, or the role of the Hindu woman, or the ideal Hindu child.
Kalyan believed that “the all-round decline in society was the result of Hindus having moved away from the path of religion,” Akshaya Mukul wrote in his 2015 book Gita Press and the Making of Hindu India. What was needed, the ideologues of Gita Press reasoned, was to restore Hinduism to the centre of Indian life.
These views overlapped perfectly with the growing influence of the Hindu nationalists, and Gita Press was glad to serve as their “foot soldier”, Mukul observed. Frequently, the leading lights of these nationalist groups were given column space to expound upon their theories.
Even after India gained independence, Kalyan continued to play upon its pet themes. Its ideas came from, and were then reabsorbed by, the political outfits of Hindu nationalism, the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS). (The National)
The rise and fall of midlist books
Writing for Scroll.in literary agent Kanishka Gupta explains the rise and fall of the midlist.
Midlist are those books that have neither the mass market appeal of a commercial novel, nor the gravitas or complexity of a literary one. It is, literally, in the middle of the publisher’s list.
The category thrived in India till the end of the first decade of the 2000s, when the country still had several huge retail stores for books as well as robust independent bookstores. While the print-run for most of these titles rarely exceeded 3,000 copies, most of the stock that was sent out to the stores were sold.
It was also a time when India had just a few mainstream English publishers, and the wave of mass market writers hadn’t washed up on the shores yet. But soon afterwards, some of the largest retail stores, such as Reliance, Odyssey and Landmark, either shut shop or downsized massively, and the book-reading population started buying books online instead. As a result, titles that used to consistently sell out their first print runs were now barely crossing 1000 copies.
A veteran sales manager explained the reason the decline of the midlist coincided with that of brick and mortar stores: “Online bookstores either promote bestselling local or international authors, or perennial sellers like Power of Mind, Think and Grow Rich, or Word Power Made Easy. Most of the promotions are reserved for these books, and not enough is done for midlist writers. This is why sales of evergreens like Paulo Coelho’s The Alchemist and Robin Sharma’s The Monk Who Sold His Ferrari are growing by almost 20% annually.”
Explained Renuka Chatterjee of Speaking Tiger, “Most books editors either ignore debut and lesser-known authors. At best, they lump them under a digested list of recent releases. Very few of them are discerning enough to judge the book on its own value. For instance, one of our titles, Mallika Amar Shaikh’s wonderful autobiography, I Want to Destroy Myself, just hasn’t got the attention it deserves, though it is such an important book, and one of the few really candid memoirs around.”
With growing production costs, larger revenue targets, increased competition, and endless demands for publicity from writers across genres, it started becoming untenable for publishers to continue publishing books with smaller print runs. Sure, some of them still bring out books with small and at times even miniscule runs, but these cannot be termed midlist titles.
“These books serve another purpose. There is nothing like them in the market, the authors have a high profile, and they have a high price point. That’s why poetry, graphic novels, coffee table books and translations continue to be published,” a senior editor explained. (Scroll.in)