(March 12/13, 2016, No. 11/2016)
Weekend Lighter is posted every Saturday @mgwarrier.blogspot.in
Feel free to mail your views on this edition of WL to mgwarrier@gmail.com
Excerpts from a forthcoming article
Kerala Model in Tourism
Naveen Tandon who did a project ‘Developing a branding approach to overcome the negative image perception of Chattisgarh’ last year, as part of his Post Graduate Programme at IIM, Ahmedabad (2016 batch), is all praise for Kerala Model in tourism development. Listen to him:
“When it comes to branding for tourism in India, the runaway success is Kerala and we could learn a few things from the Kerala story to have an idea about how states have rebranded themselves to occupy enviable spots on the tourists’ map. Kerala went from being a budget travel destination to being the biggest tourism brand in the country. Branding has played an important role in this transformation with the tagline ‘Gods Own Country’ and a strong campaign focused on targeting the affluent. The building of the brand preceded the building of necessary infrastructure. The building of the brand created the necessary demand for good hotels and other facilities for the tourists and other players.”

Unexploited potential

Within Kerala, there is need to formally promote ‘Festival Tourism’. I mean the Onan celebration at districts and state levels, Thrissur Pooram, Aattukaal Pongala, Sabarimala Pilgrimage, Theyyams in Malabar area and several other Hindu/Muslim/Christian festivals. If transport and stay arrangements improve, tourists will make it a point to link festivals in their travel plan.

Kerala has some artificial water parks. But we do not have a theme park of international standard. I think a beginning could be made from Aranmula, if the decision to abandon the international airport project is final.
Aranmula has all the linkages and resources necessary to grow into a large modern ‘Herbal Tourism Village’. The concept could include:
a)     Participation of major Ayurveda Hospitals like those at Kottakkal, Coimbatore and Government’s own department concerned with Ayurveda.
b)    Facilities for stay and treatment for different economic classes including the Indian middleclass and ‘rich’ outsiders.
c)     A couple of parks/entertainment areas comparable with Disney Land and Ocean Park(Hong Kong)
d)    Development of medicinal plantations in adjacent villages. This could be further extended to nearby forests in course of time.
e)     Helipad and other transport conveniences of international standard. The place has the advantage of having two international airports and the Kochi Port in the vicinity (within 150 km)


Big bank theory

This refers to your editorial “The big bank theory” (The Hindu Business Line, March 11, 2016). The debate on the ills of Indian financial sector, with focus on stressed assets, is catching up. This season, there is more clarity in the approaches of RBI and finance ministry on the steps to be taken to cleanse the banking system. Judiciary at the highest level is also taking a proactive stance in handling wilful defaulters. In the long run, the present moves will help the system work better and in the effort to meet expectations of the clientele and stakeholders, professional efficiency improves.
The criticism faced by PSBs in isolation these days, emanates from  the lobby which has been vehement in its plea to privatise several sectors in Indian Economy and has all along been playing a role in painting a gloomy picture of PSUs and the banks in public sector in particular.
The Indian banking sector is not in as bad a shape as is being made out by some analysts and external agencies. Major Indian commercial banks including SBI have been able to meet all statutory requirements. Unlike their corporate co-travellers, banks are meeting their payment obligations on due dates and in the recent past there have been no bank failures in the commercial banking sector in India. Part of credit for this should go to the vigilant regulator. This is not to argue that all is well as regards functioning of commercial banks.
There is immediate need to restore the health of the banking system impaired mainly by reluctance of big borrowers to make timely repayment and heavy burden on public sector banks (PSBs) arising from workload and drain on resources in performance of social responsibilities.
There is no point in arguing now that the overhaul and professionalization of public sector banks (PSBs) should have happened along with bank nationalisation and there should have been regular ‘health checks’ and ongoing corrections. Just as a ‘health check-up’ does not change the condition of a person, the re-classification of more loans as NPAs does not alter a bank’s ability to change. The need of the hour is to support banks to recover their dues from borrowers who have the capacity to repay, infuse professionalism in the banks’ working and restore the faith in the banking system. The present moves from government and RBI should be seen in this perspective.
As private sector banks have failed to perform their responsibilities and are not too willing to grow (their share in banking business is less than 30 per cent), the call from certain quarters to privatise the existing public sector banks does not make much sense. Failure of several banks in the private sector, including the Global Trust Bank, is fresh in our memory. Perhaps, time is opportune to reverse the thinking and for the government to consider nationalising entire banking business outside cooperative sector and restructuring the commercial banking system to serve public interest.
M G Warrier, Mumbai

Pensioned society

This refers to the report “Govt Remoulds EPF Clay to Build Big Pension Pot ” (Economic Times, March 10, 2016). This is a welcome move in the right direction. This is the natural follow-up of the FM’s commitment expressed while making a statement withdrawing paragraphs 138 and 139 of his budget speech, to do a comprehensive review of the pension reforms. The forced retreat, in a way, denied an opportunity for parliament to have an informed debate on the government’s plan to ‘move towards a pensioned society’. It is comforting to see that Govt has accepted the challenge and will make up for the flip-flops so far, since 2003.

Ideally, a High Level Experts Committee should be appointed now to go into the pros and cons of all initiatives taken since 2003 when New Pension Scheme (the present National Pension System) was introduced through an executive order without any legislative sanction. Of course, there was no opposition to the move, as the NPS was made applicable to employees joining service after introduction of the scheme and the position has since been regularised through PFRDA Act recently.
The said Committee should go into all types of retirement plans involving pensionary benefits including (a) Defined Benefit Pension Scheme existing in government and PSUs for employees who were in service before introduction of NPS (b) Pension, PF and Insurance schemes administered by EPFO, LIC and now NPS and (c) Pension Scheme for senior citizens not covered by (a) and (b). Perhaps a merger of sorts of NPS with schemes administered by EPFO also could be thought of.



"You start dying slowly"* - By Pablo Neruda
You start dying slowly
if you do not travel,
if you do not read,
If you do not listen to the sounds of life,
If you do not appreciate yourself.
You start dying slowly
When you kill your self-esteem;
When you do not let others help you.
You start dying slowly
If you become a slave of your habits,
Walking everyday on the same paths…
If you do not change your routine,
If you do not wear different colours
Or you do not speak to those you don’t know.
You start dying slowly
If you avoid to feel passion
And their turbulent emotions;
Those which make your eyes glisten
And your heart beat fast.
You start dying slowly
If you do not change your life
When you are not satisfied with your job, or with your love,
If you do not risk what is safe for the uncertain,
If you do not go after a dream,
If you do not allow yourself,
At least once in your lifetime,
To run away
You start dying
Pablo Neruda,
Spanish poet
Nobel Prize for Literature in 1971
*Copied from a mail received from K Balasubramanian


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