The Daily Fix

The Daily Fix: Sushma Swaraj threat to Amazon shows how governance is becoming a social media event

Everything you need to know for the day (and a little more).

The Big Story: Of, for and by the Tweeters

If there’s one thing the Bharatiya Janata Party has been widely commended for, it is its social media outreach. It reached platforms such as Twitter and Facebook before its rivals and used them to disseminate its message – an act that helped it win the 2014 Lok Sabha elections.

However, three years after that campaign, is the BJP be overdoing the social media bit? On Wednesday, foreign minister Sushma Swaraj threatened e-commerce giant Amazon on Twitter. Her anger had been sparked off by a user bringing to her attention that Amazon Canada was selling doormats with the Indian flag printed on them. Unless the company stopped selling these items immediately, Swaraj said, the government would not grant Amazon officials visas to India.

Given the religious reverence with which Indians treat nationalist symbols, it was easy to see where Swarj’s anger was coming from. However, a different set of values in the West means flag-printed doormats are rather common – and perfectly legal.

What was inexplicable, though, was for a Union minister to formulate policy on the fly on Twitter. What message was India sending out to investors when it was framing business policy on social media? Did Swaraj sit down to understand that the flags were being sold by Amazon Canada, where it violates no laws?

With 96 followers and an egg profile picture, Atul Bhobe was an unlikely candidate to shape India's trade policy with respect to Amazon. It was Bhobe who brought the doormats to Swaraj's attention.

Even as this particular event will soon blow over, it has revealed the Modi government’s use of social media not as an enabler but as a substitute for governance. Swaraj has earlier treated her social media account as a visa helpline, responding to Indians in distress while travelling abroad or who have hit bureaucratic hurdles. This has, ironically, helped her get positive PR from an Indian public, unable to grasp that the job of a Union minister is to frame and implement policy, not to act as a one-woman customer service operation.

Swaraj is not the only one to blame. Prime Minister Modi has used social media extensively to build his personal brand – most recently tweeting about having breakfast with his mummy. Yet, even as visa troubles and meals are tweeted out, the Union government rarely uses social media to engage with the people on actual matter of policy. Modi rarely tweets on the burning issue of the day such as, say, demonetisation.

Social media is a great medium to get one’s message across. But social media should not be allowed to become the message itself. Especially for a matter as urgent as governing the world’s second-largest country.

Political Picks

  1. Blaming the Manmohan Singh government for banning jallikattu, the Modi government said it was ready to allow the sport but would wait for the Supreme Court’s order first.
  2. The Supreme Court has rejected a probe into the Sahara-Birla papers, saying they are not credible. Rahul Gandhi had used them to accuse Narendra Modi of corruption.
  3. The Trinamool-Bharatiya Janata Party tussle continues, with Mamata Banerjee attacking Modi about the Godhra riots and party members filing cases against each other.

Punditry

  1. The Enemy Property ordinances subvert both the primacy of the legislature and the spirit of the Constitution, argues Aadil Boparai in the Indian Express.
  2. Apart from its ethical cleansing role, Modi’s demonetisation programme appears to be heralding a fundamental social change for the Bharatiya Janata Party, argues party MP Swapan Dasgupta in the Telegraph.
  3. Bengaluru is a city in distress, writes V Shobha in Open.

Giggle

Don’t Miss

The Navsarjan Trust has been fighting manual scavenging, Dalit exploitation and untouchability for years. Yet, the Modi government has deemed its activities undesirable and cancelled its foreign funding licence. Aarefa Johri reports on the effect this would have on the organisation.

“Uday Makwana is barely 12 years old, but he has already experienced a form of discrimination that many Indians like to believe no longer exists. Makwana, a Dalit from Kamlapur village in Gujarat’s Rajkot district, has been beaten in school by boys from the higher Koli caste for the crime of touching them.

‘In my old school, even if we brushed against the Kolis, they would beat us,’ said Makwana. ‘And they would not let us enter their temple. We were three Dalit boys in that school, and we were given a separate bench to sit.’

Life has been better for the boy in the past two years but only because his parents moved him to a different school – Navsarjan Vidyalaya – almost 150 km away from home.”

Subscribe to “The Daily Fix” by either downloading Scroll’s Android app or opting for it to be delivered to your mailbox.

We welcome your comments at letters@scroll.in.
Sponsored Content  BY 

Want to retire at 45? Make your money work for you

Common sense and some discipline are all you need.

Dreaming of writing that book or taking that cruise when you hit your 40s? Well this dream need not be unrealistic.

All it takes is simple math and the foresight to do some smart financial planning when you are still young. If you start early and get into the discipline of cutting down on unnecessary expenditure, using that money to invest systematically, you can build wealth that sets you free to tick those items off your bucket list sooner than later.

A quick look at how much you spend on indulgences will give you an idea of how much you can save and invest. For example, if you spend, say Rs. 1,000 on movie watching per week, this amount compounded over 10 years means you would have spent around Rs 7,52,000 on just movies! You can try this calculation for yourself. Think of any weekly or monthly expense you regularly make. Now use this calculator to understand how much these expenses will pile up overtime with the current rate of inflation.

Now imagine how this money could have grown at the end of 10 years and overcome the inflation effect if you had instead taken a part invested it somewhere!

It is no rocket science

The fact is that financial planning is simpler than we imagine it to be. Some simple common sense and a clear prioritization of life’s goals is all you need:

  1. Set goals and work backwards: Everything starts with what you want. So, what are your goals? Are they short-term (like buying a car), medium-term (buying a house) or long-term (comfortable living post-retirement). Most of us have goals that come under all the three categories. So, our financial plans should reflect that. Buying a house, for example, would mean saving up enough money for up-front payment and ensuring you have a regular source of income for EMI payment for a period of at least 15-20 years. Buying a car on the other hand might just involve having a steady stream of income to pay off the car loan.
  2. Save first, spend later: Many of us make the mistake of putting what is left, after all our expenses have been met, in the savings kitty. But the reverse will have more benefits in the long run. This means, putting aside a little savings, right at the beginning of the month in the investment option that works best for you. You can then use the balance to spend on your expenditures. This discipline ensures that come what may, you remain on track with your saving goals.
  3. Don’t flaunt money, but use it to create more: When you are young and get your first jobit is tempting to spend on a great lifestyle. But as we’ve discussed, even the small indulgences add up to a serious amount of cash over time. Instead, by regulating indulgences now and investing the rest of your money, you can actually become wealthy instead of just seeming to be so.
  4. Set aside emergency funds: When an emergency arises, like sudden hospitalisation or an accident, quick access to money is needed. This means keeping aside some of your money in liquid assets (accessible whenever you want it). It thus makes sense to regularly save a little towards creating this emergency fund in an investment that can be easily liquidated.
  5. Don’t put all your eggs in one basket: This is something any investment adviser will tell you, simply because different investment options come with different benefits and risks and suit different investment horizons. By investing in a variety of instruments or options, you can hedge against possible risks and also meet different goals.

How and Why Mutual Funds work

A mutual fund is a professionally managed investment scheme that pools money collected from investors like you and invests this into a diversified portfolio (an optimal mix) of stocks, bonds and other securities.

As an investor, you buy ‘units’, under a mutual fund scheme. The value of these units (Net Asset Value) fluctuates depending on the market value of the mutual fund’s investments. So, the units can be bought or redeemed as per your needs and based on the value.

As mentioned, the fund is managed by professionals who follow the market closely the make calls on where to invest money. This makes these funds a great option for someone who isn’t financially very savvy but is interested in saving up for the future.

So how is a mutual fund going to help to meet your savings goals? Here’s a quick Q&A helps you understand just that:

  1. How do mutual funds meet my investment needs?Mutual Funds come with a variety of schemes that suit different goals depending on whether they are short-term, medium-term or long-term.
  2. Can I withdraw money whenever I want to?There are several mutual funds that offer liquidity – quick and easy access to your money when you want it. For example, there are liquid mutual funds which do not have any lock in period and you can invest your surplus money even for one day. Based on your goals, you can divide your money between funds with longer term or shorter term benefits.
  3. Does it help save on taxes?Investing in certain types of mutual funds also offers you tax benefits. More specifically, investing in Equity Linked Saving Schemes, which are funds that invest in a diverse portfolio of equities, offers you tax deductions up to Rs. 1.5 lakhs under Section 80C of the Income Tax Act.
  4. Don’t I need a lot of money to invest in MFs?No, you can start small. The returns in terms of percentage is the same irrespective of the amount you invest in. Additionally, the Systematic Investment Plan (SIP) allows you to invest a small amount weekly, monthly or quarterly in a mutual fund. So, you get to control the size and frequency of your investment and make sure you save before you spend.
  5. But aren’t MFs risky?Well many things in life are risky! Mutual funds try to mitigate your risk by investing your money across a variety of securities. You can further hedge risk by investing in 2 to 3 mutual offers that offer different growth stories i.e. a blue-chip fund and a mid-cap fund. Also remember in a mutual fund, your money is being managed by professionals who are constantly following the market.
  6. Don’t I have to wait too long to get back my returns?No! Mutual Funds, because of the variety of options they offer, can give you gains in the short or medium term too.

The essence of MF is that your money is not lying idle, but is dynamically invested and working for you. To know more about how investing in mutual funds really works for you, see here.

Disclaimer: Mutual Fund investments are subject to market risks, read all scheme related documents carefully.

This article was produced by the Scroll marketing team on behalf of Mutual Funds Sahi Hai and not by the Scroll editorial team.