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World Bank Says It’s Easier Doing Business In India. But Is It, Really?

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It is very hard to be seen as non-partisan. Even if you know you are one, to be seen as one, is another entirely different thing.

In short – India jumped 30 places in the rankings of  ‘ease of doing business’. From 130 to 100. Awesome. We are already receiving the highest investment in the world, in terms of FDI, for the second year running in 2016. Awesome. Now, you may try to break the FDI (Foreign Direct Investment) parameters down to say, well, the FDI is only for greenfield capital investments which would only generate low-level construction jobs and mid-level engineering jobs, in a time where high-skilled jobs are needed. If you concluded by pointing out that that is not really representative of the overall amount of FDI coming in the country, by investment portfolios, for example, you would be right, but slightly disingenuous. You would be slightly disingenuous because that does not tell the whole story.

You did not point out that the report itself mentions that developed countries still face high levels of risk and uncertainty. The investment in India was generated because of strong economic growth (before demonetisation). In 2016, the FDI by capital investment was $62.3 billion in 809 projects in India. For the record, for overall FDI, we are 9th overall in the world, which is one better than last year’s rankings. Pointing out how flawed rankings do not negate the effect and positive perception it generates among foreign investors is something we badly need as private investment has been falling down at record levels. Even our Gross Fixed Capital Formation (GFCF) was 37% in 2007 and is now at 27%.

Nuance, in that same way, must be applied to seeing the World Bank’s ‘ease of doing business’ rankings. The 10 parameters for this ranking are simple – how fast can a business be set up, how rigorously are contracts enforced in a country, is the tax code simple, can you get electricity for your business and is winding up (closing) your business straightforward, etc.

The full report describes how, for example, the Insolvency and Bankruptcy Code (IBC) passed in 2016 which allows a 180-day maximum timeline to dissolve a business which will be administered by professions in the insolvency industry has helped India in jumping 30 places. For the life of me, I could not understand why India did not have a proper code for failing or dissolving companies. At the same time, India still suffers from productivity issues and inefficiencies due to a still prevalent ‘Licence Raj’ according to the same report.

One thing to be understood is that the rankings are only measured for two cities – Mumbai (47% weightage) and Delhi (53% weightage). The rankings measure various things, however, out of 10, only six parameters fall largely under the domain or are granted by the central government. Getting electricity is done through the state electricity board, clearances for starting a business and registration of property also comes under the state government’s domain. Construction permits are the municipal corporation’s domain. Credit must be given to all and the blame must go to all. It also emphasises that all levels must work cohesively for economic reforms.

The rankings themselves are based on subjectivity. They are based on field surveys and interviews with specific companies like PwC India. However, they are very strict in terms of judging reforms, only, accepting those which truly show the ground reality such as the industrial sector, when out of 42 reforms, the World Bank only accepted two reforms fully.

The rankings can easily be manipulated as you only have to focus on aggressively improving the parameters of two cities. The government had only engaged the Delhi and Maharashtra (specifically, for Mumbai) governments as noted by the Standing Committee on Commerce. The ‘ease of Doing business’ indexes can be rigged to be improved greatly, which is what Russia did, by improving the select parameters of a few states rather than the overall business climate. How is the government engaging the weaker states (NER or the BIMARU states) to improve their ease of doing business? That is the bigger question.

India still has a long way to go. However, so many people are missing the perception about the rankings that generate positive growth at a time when it is desperately needed. When the rankings came out, the words ‘irrelevant’ and ‘biased’ were used a lot. The government still has not exempted small businesses from event-based filings which reduce the compliance burden at a time of transitional taxation system by the name of the GST. Our electricity generation has actually worsened this year. A great solution recommended by the committee is to create hubs from where entrepreneurs can draw electricity initially to commence their production, while utilities follow up and regularise the supply in specified time. We are already at a surplus in terms of electricity generation, what we need is to sort out our DISCOMS. Speaking of states, the average implementation by all states for State Level Business Reforms pushed by the Ministry of Commerce & Industry is 48.93%. This is not good. Better co-ordination between the Centre and states is required as it is the basis for the functioning of our federal structure.

Despite all that the government has not done and the weaknesses in the accounting of these rankings, India, at a time of slowdown, must appear as a friendly place to do business. What the government has done, is push for private investment by streamlining procedures. This incremental improvement is a great step in the right direction. Yes, India has certainly eased the doing of business.
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Image source: Sanjeev Verma/ Hindustan Times via Getty Images
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An ambassador and trained facilitator under Eco Femme (a social enterprise working towards menstrual health in south India), Sanjina is also an active member of the MHM Collective- India and Menstrual Health Alliance- India. She has conducted Menstrual Health sessions in multiple government schools adopted by Rotary District 3240 as part of their WinS project in rural Bengal. She has also delivered training of trainers on SRHR, gender, sexuality and Menstruation for Tomorrow’s Foundation, Vikramshila Education Resource Society, Nirdhan trust and Micro Finance, Tollygunj Women In Need, Paint It Red in Kolkata.

Now as an MH Fellow with YKA, she’s expanding her impressive scope of work further by launching a campaign to facilitate the process of ensuring better menstrual health and SRH services for women residing in correctional homes in West Bengal. The campaign will entail an independent study to take stalk of the present conditions of MHM in correctional homes across the state and use its findings to build public support and political will to take the necessary action.

Saurabh has been associated with YKA as a user and has consistently been writing on the issue MHM and its intersectionality with other issues in the society. Now as an MHM Fellow with YKA, he’s launched the Right to Period campaign, which aims to ensure proper execution of MHM guidelines in Delhi’s schools.

The long-term aim of the campaign is to develop an open culture where menstruation is not treated as a taboo. The campaign also seeks to hold the schools accountable for their responsibilities as an important component in the implementation of MHM policies by making adequate sanitation infrastructure and knowledge of MHM available in school premises.

Read more about his campaign.

Harshita is a psychologist and works to support people with mental health issues, particularly adolescents who are survivors of violence. Associated with the Azadi Foundation in UP, Harshita became an MHM Fellow with YKA, with the aim of promoting better menstrual health.

Her campaign #MeriMarzi aims to promote menstrual health and wellness, hygiene and facilities for female sex workers in UP. She says, “Knowledge about natural body processes is a very basic human right. And for individuals whose occupation is providing sexual services, it becomes even more important.”

Meri Marzi aims to ensure sensitised, non-discriminatory health workers for the needs of female sex workers in the Suraksha Clinics under the UPSACS (Uttar Pradesh State AIDS Control Society) program by creating more dialogues and garnering public support for the cause of sex workers’ menstrual rights. The campaign will also ensure interventions with sex workers to clear misconceptions around overall hygiene management to ensure that results flow both ways.

Read more about her campaign.

MH Fellow Sabna comes with significant experience working with a range of development issues. A co-founder of Project Sakhi Saheli, which aims to combat period poverty and break menstrual taboos, Sabna has, in the past, worked on the issue of menstruation in urban slums of Delhi with women and adolescent girls. She and her team also released MenstraBook, with menstrastories and organised Menstra Tlk in the Delhi School of Social Work to create more conversations on menstruation.

With YKA MHM Fellow Vineet, Sabna launched Menstratalk, a campaign that aims to put an end to period poverty and smash menstrual taboos in society. As a start, the campaign aims to begin conversations on menstrual health with five hundred adolescents and youth in Delhi through offline platforms, and through this community mobilise support to create Period Friendly Institutions out of educational institutes in the city.

Read more about her campaign. 

A student from Delhi School of Social work, Vineet is a part of Project Sakhi Saheli, an initiative by the students of Delhi school of Social Work to create awareness on Menstrual Health and combat Period Poverty. Along with MHM Action Fellow Sabna, Vineet launched Menstratalk, a campaign that aims to put an end to period poverty and smash menstrual taboos in society.

As a start, the campaign aims to begin conversations on menstrual health with five hundred adolescents and youth in Delhi through offline platforms, and through this community mobilise support to create Period Friendly Institutions out of educational institutes in the city.

Find out more about the campaign here.

A native of Bhagalpur district – Bihar, Shalini Jha believes in equal rights for all genders and wants to work for a gender-equal and just society. In the past she’s had a year-long association as a community leader with Haiyya: Organise for Action’s Health Over Stigma campaign. She’s pursuing a Master’s in Literature with Ambedkar University, Delhi and as an MHM Fellow with YKA, recently launched ‘Project अल्हड़ (Alharh)’.

She says, “Bihar is ranked the lowest in India’s SDG Index 2019 for India. Hygienic and comfortable menstruation is a basic human right and sustainable development cannot be ensured if menstruators are deprived of their basic rights.” Project अल्हड़ (Alharh) aims to create a robust sensitised community in Bhagalpur to collectively spread awareness, break the taboo, debunk myths and initiate fearless conversations around menstruation. The campaign aims to reach at least 6000 adolescent girls from government and private schools in Baghalpur district in 2020.

Read more about the campaign here.

A psychologist and co-founder of a mental health NGO called Customize Cognition, Ritika forayed into the space of menstrual health and hygiene, sexual and reproductive healthcare and rights and gender equality as an MHM Fellow with YKA. She says, “The experience of working on MHM/SRHR and gender equality has been an enriching and eye-opening experience. I have learned what’s beneath the surface of the issue, be it awareness, lack of resources or disregard for trans men, who also menstruate.”

The Transmen-ses campaign aims to tackle the issue of silence and disregard for trans men’s menstruation needs, by mobilising gender sensitive health professionals and gender neutral restrooms in Lucknow.

Read more about the campaign here.

A Computer Science engineer by education, Nitisha started her career in the corporate sector, before realising she wanted to work in the development and social justice space. Since then, she has worked with Teach For India and Care India and is from the founding batch of Indian School of Development Management (ISDM), a one of its kind organisation creating leaders for the development sector through its experiential learning post graduate program.

As a Youth Ki Awaaz Menstrual Health Fellow, Nitisha has started Let’s Talk Period, a campaign to mobilise young people to switch to sustainable period products. She says, “80 lakh women in Delhi use non-biodegradable sanitary products, generate 3000 tonnes of menstrual waste, that takes 500-800 years to decompose; which in turn contributes to the health issues of all menstruators, increased burden of waste management on the city and harmful living environment for all citizens.

Let’s Talk Period aims to change this by

Find out more about her campaign here.

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A former Assistant Secretary with the Ministry of Women and Child Development in West Bengal for three months, Lakshmi Bhavya has been championing the cause of menstrual hygiene in her district. By associating herself with the Lalana Campaign, a holistic menstrual hygiene awareness campaign which is conducted by the Anahat NGO, Lakshmi has been slowly breaking taboos when it comes to periods and menstrual hygiene.

A Gender Rights Activist working with the tribal and marginalized communities in india, Srilekha is a PhD scholar working on understanding body and sexuality among tribal girls, to fill the gaps in research around indigenous women and their stories. Srilekha has worked extensively at the grassroots level with community based organisations, through several advocacy initiatives around Gender, Mental Health, Menstrual Hygiene and Sexual and Reproductive Health Rights (SRHR) for the indigenous in Jharkhand, over the last 6 years.

Srilekha has also contributed to sustainable livelihood projects and legal aid programs for survivors of sex trafficking. She has been conducting research based programs on maternal health, mental health, gender based violence, sex and sexuality. Her interest lies in conducting workshops for young people on life skills, feminism, gender and sexuality, trauma, resilience and interpersonal relationships.

A Guwahati-based college student pursuing her Masters in Tata Institute of Social Sciences, Bidisha started the #BleedwithDignity campaign on the technology platform Change.org, demanding that the Government of Assam install
biodegradable sanitary pad vending machines in all government schools across the state. Her petition on Change.org has already gathered support from over 90000 people and continues to grow.

Bidisha was selected in Change.org’s flagship program ‘She Creates Change’ having run successful online advocacy
campaigns, which were widely recognised. Through the #BleedwithDignity campaign; she organised and celebrated World Menstrual Hygiene Day, 2019 in Guwahati, Assam by hosting a wall mural by collaborating with local organisations. The initiative was widely covered by national and local media, and the mural was later inaugurated by the event’s chief guest Commissioner of Guwahati Municipal Corporation (GMC) Debeswar Malakar, IAS.

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