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Monday, January 15, 2018

Interesting readings

Fixing Aadhaar: Security developers' task is to trim chances of data breach by Sunil Abraham in Business Standard, January 10, 2018.

The next level of credit analysis by Ajay Shah in Business Standard, January 8, 2018.

Financial Services: Ready for the Cloud? by Lim May-Ann in NIPFP YouTube Channel, January 8, 2018.

The China model: A Chinese Empire Reborn by Edward Wong in The New York Times, January 5, 2018.

The President Who Doesn't Read by David A. Graham in The Atlantic, January 5, 2018.

Where Are Indian Institutions Going Wrong? by Nikhil Govind in The Wire, January 3, 2018.

A great look into transparency, accountability, media and national security: The Biggest Secret by James Risen in The Intercept, January 3, 2018. Also see.

A Diary From a Gulag Meets Evil With Lightness by Eva Sohlman and Neil MacFarquhar in The New York Times, January 3, 2018.

It took the kidnapping, rape, and death of a white woman to bring down the KKK by Laura Smith in Timeline, January 2, 2018.

Climbers Set Off to Be First to Summit World's Most Notorious Mountain in Winter by Sarah Gibbens in National Geographic, December 29, 2017. An earlier story on the same team: Scaling the World’s Most Lethal Mountain, in the Dead of Winter by Michael Powell in The New York Times, May 9, 2017.

What happens when you dial 100? by Rudraneil Sengupta in Mint, December 28, 2017.

America and the Great Abdication by Richard Haass in The Atlantic, December 28, 2017.

The internet is broken by David Baker in Wired, December 19, 2017.

The End of the Social Era Can't Come Soon Enough by Nick Bilton in Vanity Fair, November 23, 2017.

Thursday, January 11, 2018

Disclosure of default: The present SEBI disclosure regulation is adequate

by Ajay Shah and Bhargavi Zaveri.

There is much economic sense in achieving rapid disclosure about default. Volume 1 of the report of the Bankruptcy Legislative Reforms Committee (BLRC) articulates a clean strategy for disclosure about default (Section 4.3.5). SEBI and RBI are at the early stages of implementing this. Many people who are used to opacity about default are surprised at the new concept of immediate disclosure of default. We argue that economic logic and the existing SEBI regulations about disclosure (the SEBI (Listing Obligations and Disclosure Requirements) Regulations, 2015, or "LODR") are consistent with immediate dislosure about default by listed issuers. LODR does not require modification in order to achieve the desired outcome. The lack of disclosure that is presently prevalent reflects an endemic state of violation of the LODR. Executive action by SEBI, to enforce against a few violations, will deliver the required change in the behaviour of listed issuers, on disclosure.

How does the credit market benefit from the disclosure of default?


A firm in distress is a melting ice cube. Every day of delay harms recovery rates. The central idea of the bankruptcy code (and the resolution corporation proposed under the FRDI Bill) is to rapidly resolve the problem. Speed in resolution reduces the bankruptcy cost that is ultimately borne by society.

When a default takes place, if it is rapidly known to the community of bidders, they will gear up to toss bids into the Insolvency Resolution Process (IRP). Reducing delays in disclosure of default thus reduces the delays (or increases the quality of the work done by bidders) in the IRP, and improves recovery rates. Thus, rapid disclosure of default is a tool for obtaining a well functioning bankruptcy process.

How does micro-prudential regulation benefit from the disclosure of default?


Micro-prudential regulation involves ensuring that financial firms, such as banks or insurance companies, recognise losses and hold adequate equity capital after taking losses into account. Financial firms have an incentive to hide bad news. Disclosure of default helps to block evergreening, and thus works in favour of micro-prudential regulators. RBI and IRDA will thus benefit when there is immediate disclosure of default.

How do capital markets benefit from a disclosure framework?


Speculative trading discovers prices on financial markets. Every market participant combines hard information with a process of analysis and formation of a speculative view about the future. The interests of society are best served if the maximal hard information is made available, on an equal footing, to all speculators.

This guides the regulation of disclosure. Exchanges coerce issuers to disclosure a comprehensive array of information that helps speculators peer into the future and form a view about the fair value of each security.

The push for better disclosure could come from any of these three channels: From a government agency such as IBBI which is tasked with building a healthy credit market, from micro-prudential regulators such as RBI and IRDA and from the financial markets regulator, SEBI. In India today, the natural way forward seems to run through SEBI, which shapes the listing agreement between a firm and the exchange. Through this, listed borrowers and listed lenders can be coerced to disclose defaults. Hence, in the remainder of this article, we focus on securities law and its impact on disclosure of defaults.

The firm, not the security


Corporate finance involves multiple securities that stand at different levels of seniority in the waterfall. Information about all aspects of the corporate financial structure is required for the valuation of any of these securities.

Another way to think about this is through derivatives pricing. All securities issued by a firm (e.g. equity, debt of various kinds) constitute derivatives that have, as the underlying, the value of the firm. Facts about the firm are thus relevant for pricing all these derivatives.

Hence, while a lot of real world rules about disclosure flow from each security that is listed, disclosure rules should be a rulebook that kicks in when an issuer has one or more listed security in the public domain.

Materiality of defaults


The LODR governs the disclosure of information by listed issuers, that is, issuers that have a single listed security. The essence of LODR is a principles-based perspective on what should be disclosed: Disclosure obligations under the LODR are triggered for all information that is 'material'. What constitutes material information is left to the judgement of the issuer's board.

The LODR lists the following indicative criteria for determining the materiality of any given piece of information:

  1. if the event or information is not disclosed, it is likely to result in the discontinuity or alteration of an event or information already available publicly;
  2. if the event or information is not disclosed, it is likely to result in a significant market reaction if the said omission were to come to light at a later date;
  3. even where neither of the abovementioned conditions are satisfied, an event or information may be treated as material, if in the opinion of the board of directors of the issuer, such event or information is material.

This covers all the issues associated with default: A listed company should disclose any default, a listed bank should disclose when a large borrower defaults, etc.

A default on a loan to a bank or financial institution is, by itself, a material event for the valuation of all securities issued by a listed issuer.

As an example, consider a company financed by equity and one bond issue. Default by the company to any one bondholder is a very important event for the shareholder, for this raises the possibility of large losses for the residual claim (equity). It is also a very important event for every holder of the bond (including to the bondholders who were actually paid on time). Hence, the default by the company to any one bondholder, should be disclosed. The LODR explicitly recognises this and makes specific provisions for the expected as well as immediate disclosure of default on bonds. For instance, it mandates a listed entity to inform the stock exchange of any action that will affect the payment of interest on or the redemption, of debt securities. A listed entity is required to similarly inform the stock exchange of an expected default in the timely payment of interest or redemption amount in respect of debt securities. Notices of board meetings that propose an alteration of the date for payment, or amount, of interest or redemption on bonds, are required to be given to exchanges atleast 11 days prior to the date of the meeting.

Suppose the company were, instead, financed by equity and one loan. The same logic holds. Default by the company on the loan is an important event for the shareholder. Suppose the same firm had issued debt securities as well, a default on a loan is equally important for the bond holders. It is also equally material for all other stakeholders, such as the firm's vendors and employees, as it may show signs of impending or ongoing financial stress. Hence, such default should be disclosed as soon as it occurs.

Additionally, the LODR deems certain information to be material, and mandates its disclosure, notwithstanding the judgement of the issuer's board. It lists information "deemed" to be material in Schedule III. However, Regulation 30(12) clarifies that the list is inclusive and where the listed entity has information, which has not been indicated in Schedule III, but which may have a material effect on it, the listed entity is required to make an adequate disclosure of such information. Listed issuers are required to have in place a policy for determining the materiality of information for the purpose of disclosure.

Definitional issues relating to 'default'


In India, the concept of default has often been conflated with the RBI mandated prudential norms on income recognition, asset classification and provisioning for banks and financial institutions. While RBI's prudential norms classify an asset as a NPA only after the expiry of atleast 90 days from the due date, the price discovery process in the financial market happens independently of the prudential norms.

The Insolvency and Bankruptcy Code, 2016 (IBC) has dispensed with this conceptual confusion by defining default as the non-payment of the whole or any part of the debt when due and payable. It allows the enforcement of creditor rights on the occurence of a default. The IBC has, thus, already made a paradigm shift in how we think about default and the timing of enforcement of creditor rights in India. The same standard should be applied for the purpose of default disclosures as well.

Information overload?


It is possible to disclose too much. As an example, suppose an Indian software services company loses one customer. Should this be disclosed to the public security-holder? The answer depends on the size of the customer. Material information should be disclosed. As an example, Nielsen has a contract of $2.25 billion with TCS: events of contract renewal or contract disruption for this contract are large when compared with the size of TCS which had consolidated revenues of about $19 billion in 2016-17, to merit disclosure.

This takes us to the question: What is material information? It is neither feasible nor sensible for a regulation to pinpoint every fact that must be disclosed. LODR is principles based and should remain principles based. These details should evolve through jurisprudence.

A good way to think about what is `material' information is to compare the stock price impact against normal security price fluctuations. As an example, suppose the share price of a company has a daily standard deviation of 3%. Suppose the revelation of default generates a share price impact of 1.5%. This is a pretty big piece of news, by the standards of the ordinary price fluctuations experienced by the security. Hence, this news should be disclosed. We suggest that what is material to the price of a security is news that is likely to have an impact upon the price of above half the standard deviation of daily returns. This quantifiable construct can be used by practitioners and prosecutors when translating the principles-based LODR into rules for living and acting when faced with events in the real world.

Fixing enforcement


Why do we have poor disclosure of default in India? This is not a failure of regulations: the LODR is quite fine on the principles. Defaults are material events and thus should be disclosed. This is a failure on the executive side. The materiality thresholds under LODR are being pervasively ignored, and SEBI has not punished violators. Sound enforcement of the LODR against firms who have failed to comply with the disclosure of material debt defaults, should get the job done.

Is there a conflict with banking secrecy?


In the past, the fiduciary obligations of banks towards their consumers has been used to avoid disclosing the identity of defaulters. However, contractual obligations of banking secrecy are consistent with disclosures as long as such disclosures are mandated by law. For instance, confidentiality obligations in standard contracts between banks and their clients, commonly exempt disclosure obligations under law. Similarly, even where the confidentiality obligation is imposed by statute, such as the State Bank of India Act, 1955, specific exemptions are carved out for information that is mandated to be disclosed by law. The LODR is law, and hence disclosures that flow from LODR are consistent with banking secrecy.

Conclusion


A sound credit market requires rapid disclosure of default. A sound capital market requires rapid disclosure of default. Rapid disclosure of default plays in favour of micro-prudential regulation. In India, so far as concerns the capital markets, the principles-based LODR is in place, and the text of LODR is sound. The gap is in enforcement. Enforcement of the existing LODR will deliver sound disclosure of defaults by listed companies and important defaults faced by listed lenders.

Anticipating India’s New Personal Insolvency and Bankruptcy Regime

by Adam Feibelman.

The Insolvency and Bankruptcy Code has been in force for commercial debtors for over a year, and it has already been employed in over two thousand cases, including some cases that involve large non-performing loans clogging the banking system. These cases have generated numerous important questions of law and policy, and thus the IBC has become a regular and important topic of news, discussion, and commentary within the country.

Meanwhile, there has been hardly any public discussion or commentary about the personal insolvency and bankruptcy provisions of the Code. While the provisions for personal debtors have not gone into effect, the nearly complete lack of attention to portions of the Code covering personal debtors is puzzling. The Insolvency and Bankruptcy Board of India (IBBI) has given clear indications that it is planning to notify those provisions in the relatively new future. Those provisions will introduce a new and complex system of legal tools for citizens across India’s financial spectrum and their lenders, dramatically expanding the global scope of personal bankruptcy and insolvency law by over 1.3 billion people. It is surprising and unsettling that fundamental questions about the purpose and likely impact of these provisions remain largely unaddressed in public discourse.

My working paper, Anticipating the Function and Impact of India’s New Personal Insolvency and Bankruptcy Regime, aims to contribute to discussion of the new personal insolvency and bankruptcy regime by describing it in some detail; analyzing the goals of policymakers who drafted and enacted the regime; assessing the design of the regime in light of those goals; and anticipating the function and impact of the law as enacted.

Provisions of the IBC for Personal Debtors

The Code’s provisions for personal debtors represent a unique combination of approaches from other jurisdictions with some distinct features that harmonize it with the provisions for commercial debtors and others that are designed specifically for the Indian context. The Code provides a “fresh start” chapter for debtors with relatively low income (less than 60,000 rupees), few assets (less than 20,000 “non-excluded” assets), low levels of debt (less than 35,000 rupees), and who do not own their own home. Excluded assets include tools, equipment, books, and vehicles of personal or business use; basic household goods, furniture, and equipment; certain personal ornaments of religious significance; life insurance policies or pension plans; and a dwelling unit up to a value to be determined by the Board. The fresh start chapter simply discharges the debtor’s unsecured debts; it does not require that debtors give up any assets or income to unsecured creditors. Thus, it can be thought of as analogous to a loan waiver regime. It is extremely difficult to anticipate how many individuals in the country who have some debt would be eligible under this chapter, but it could cover significant numbers of borrowers from micro-finance institutions and informal lenders.

Those ineligible for the fresh start chapter will be eligible to file under the Code’s insolvency chapter, which requires debtors to propose a plan of repayment to their creditors and then complete the plan to be entitled to a discharge of their remaining unsecured debt. Unlike the fresh start chapter, creditors can file an application to initiate an involuntary insolvency case for their debtors; they can do so if their debtors default on a payment and fail to timely respond to a demand for payment. In any event, three-fourths of creditors must vote to approve a debtor’s repayment plan, which must provide a minimum budget to the debtor and allow the debtor to retain excluded assets. If creditors fail to approve a debtor’s repayment plan or if the debtor fails to complete an approved plan, the debtor is then eligible for bankruptcy under the Code, which can be initiated by either the debtor or any of the debtor’s creditors. The bankruptcy provisions require the debtor to give unsecured creditors his or her non-excluded assets and then allow for the discharge of the balance of unsecured debts. For the most part, none of the chapters of the Code disrupt secured creditors rights.

Policymakers' Goals

There is relatively little in the public record about the precise goals that policymakers had in mind in designing and adopting the personal insolvency and bankruptcy provisions of the Code. An initial interim report of the Bankruptcy Law Reforms Committee that was charged by the Indian Parliament to propose and draft the new Code briefly noted the need for changes to the personal insolvency laws to address the financial distress of micro, small, and medium enterprises, most of which are sole proprietorships or benefit from personal financial guarantees. The Committee did include broadly applicable provisions for personal insolvency and bankruptcy in its draft legislation, but its final report did not explain the underlying motivation for its work in this area or the social or economic need for the new provisions. It noted only "the importance of such borrowers in the economy," and that, under the preexisting framework, creditors often had difficulty recovering from individuals and often resorted to coercive debt collection, which compounded the social costs of indebtedness. It appears that, to the extent that policymakers considered non-business debtors in drafting and enacting the Code, their primary goal was to promote increased consumer lending in the economy and, secondarily, to provide some degree of protection to individuals in financial distress, especially from aggressive debt collection.

Thus, unlike the provisions for corporate debtors under the new Code, the provisions for personal insolvency and bankruptcy do not appear to have been driven by acute economic or financial conditions. This is noteworthy because countries that have adopted or reformed their consumer insolvency regimes in recent decades have tended to do so in the wake of consumer financial crises or dramatically expanding consumer financial markets. Countries across Europe and elsewhere -- including Hong Kong, South Korea, Israel, and Indonesia -- have adopted or reformed their personal insolvency regimes under such circumstances in the last two decades. While the amount of consumer debt in India has increased significantly in recent decades, and instances of household over-indebtedness appear to be growing, it has not reached levels that suggest systemic vulnerability or a looming threat of household financial crisis. Aside from the ongoing financial travails of farmers in certain regions, a spike in financial distress in some sectors due to the recent demonetization, and a generally acknowledged problem of aggressive debt collection practices across the country, there does not appear to be an emerging crisis of intractable over-indebtedness among individuals and households in India.

Anticipating Function and Impact

The IBC appears to represent a rare instance of a country adopting or modernizing a personal insolvency or bankruptcy regime at a relatively early stage in the development of a consumer financial market, before one is acutely necessary. Doing so avoids costs of responding too late, after consumer financial markets have over-heated. It may also have a beneficial effect on the development of those markets in the first place. Especially since the recent global financial crisis of 2008-10, scholars and policymakers around the globe have begun to appreciate that a personal insolvency or bankruptcy regime is an important component of the institutional framework for consumer credit markets. If properly designed and operated, such a regime can help promote a stable market for consumer credit, making creditors more willing to lend and individuals more willing to borrow, disciplining both, reducing the social costs of consumer financial distress and perhaps the amount of household over-indebtedness in the economy as well.

But such potentially beneficial effects likely depend on a system that improves or accelerates creditors’ insolvency state returns, or at least makes their losses relatively predictable, and that effectively insures individuals against the risk of over-indebtedness without creating incentives for them to act opportunistically or recklessly. It is not clear how well the provisions for personal insolvency and bankruptcy under the Code as enacted will serve these functions, and there are some causes for concern. Certain aspects of the institutional design may exacerbate inter-creditor conflicts, for example, by enabling individual creditors to easily initiate a case and by requiring majority votes among creditors to approve repayment plans. The regime’s reliance on negotiated repayment plans may also limit the predictability of outcomes.

While the fresh start process for individuals with low incomes, few assets, and relatively little debt, is designed to provide a robust insurance function, the insolvency provisions that apply to all other debtors provide much more limited protection for individual debtors. To the extent that there is an effort to target fresh start relief to debtors who need it most, i.e., those who genuinely cannot repay a significant amount of their debt, it is done rather bluntly through the narrow eligibility requirements for the fresh start provisions. The insurance function of insolvency or bankruptcy law can be particularly important to debtors, including those with business-related debts, who have income and assets to protect or who have significant amounts of debt, most of whom would ineligible for a fresh start. The bankruptcy chapter of the new Code promises to provide some meaningful debt relief to such debtors, but they must first go through the insolvency process, which requires a plan of repayment subject to creditor approval, during which the debtor is allotted only a minimum budget, and which formally ensures only a minimum level of relief or protection. Added to which, it is likely that large segments of the population of individual debtors covered by the law will not have sufficient information about the law to utilize it, will face logistical challenges even if they do have sufficient information, or will be deterred by stigma or other reputational concerns.

It is possible, therefore, that a significant portion of debtors in financial distress will not voluntarily use the new insolvency and bankruptcy regime and that it will primarily be employed as a debt collection tool for creditors. If so, the scope of the insurance function of the new system may not end up providing sufficient relief to individual debtors who become mired in debt, may not promote risk-taking entrepreneurial activity, and may not provide a meaningful safety valve to developing consumer financial markets.

Time to Plan, Prepare

To be sure, these concerns are highly speculative, and the last year of activity under the new IBC for commercial debtors has shown that it is too easy to make dire predictions about the challenges facing the new law. Yet, the stakeholders of the new personal insolvency and bankruptcy regime have the relative luxury of some time to prepare for the operation of that part of the Code. Hopefully, policymakers have begun to anticipate some of the potential macroeconomic effects of a newly available, robust regime for personal insolvencies and bankruptcies and consumer lenders have begun thinking seriously about how they might be affected by the new law. Ideally, policymakers are also considering how to disseminate information to individuals and households about the personal insolvency and bankruptcy provisions of the Code that will soon become available so that they can make informed decisions about whether, when, and how to employ it.

 

Adam Feibelman is a Professor of Law at Tulane University, he has been a visiting scholar at National Law School of India University, Bangalore, and the Center for Law and Policy Research.

Tuesday, January 09, 2018

India's Visa Policy Reforms

by Natasha Agarwal.

In 2016, global travel and tourism contributed US$7.6 trillion to world GDP and supported 292 million jobs worldwide (WTTC, 2017). Undeniably, the sector benefits the economy. It generates employment opportunities and export revenues, creates sectoral linkages, and stimulates infrastructure development. However, to fully reap the benefits from international tourism, countries have to make it easier for travellers to visit. Travellers perceive visa formalities as a travel cost – direct in terms of monetary, and indirect in terms of time spent in waiting in lines, complexity of the process – which exceeding a threshold, can put them off a particular destination or lead them to choosing alternative destinations with less hassle (UNWTO, 2016).

Countries are, therefore, increasingly focussing on visa policies and procedures which in recent years have resulted in some notable progress. In 2015, 61 per cent of the world's population required a traditional visa from the embassy prior to departure, down from 77 per cent in 2008 (UNWTO, 2016). Moreover, between 2010 and 2015, a total of 54 destinations significantly facilitated the visa process for citizens of 30 or more countries by changing their visa policies from "traditional visa" to either "eVisa", "visa on arrival" or "no visa required" (UNWTO, 2016). Ranked at 50, India was identified as one of the 54 destinations that has carried out substantial visa policy reforms.

India's eVisa programme

On 1st January 2010, India introduced a visa on arrival programme. This was replaced by an eVisa programme on 27th November 2014. On 1st March 2016, the visa on arrival programme was re-introduced for nationals from Japan only.

India's eVisa programme allows foreign travellers to apply for their Indian visa online. Once the application is approved, travellers receive an Electronic Travel Authorization (ETA) by an email. The ETA permits their travel to India which has to be within the period mentioned on the ETA. On arrival at the port of entry where the eVisa facility is available, travellers have to present their printed ETA to the immigration authorities who would then stamp the travellers passport thereby permitting entry into the country. Travellers can then travel within India up until the expiry date of the stamped visa in their passport.

Since inception, the program has been reviewed and modified frequently. It is now available to citizens of over 150 countries. The fees are based on principle of reciprocity and categorised into four slaps: 0, 25, 48, and 60 US dollars. There is a bank charge of 2.5%. eVisa’s are categorised into three groups: e-tourist, e-business and e-medical. Double entry is permitted on an e-tourist and e-business visa and triple entry is permitted on an e-medical visa. All three are issued for a period of 60 days, and can be availed up to two times in a calendar year.

Despite these efforts, the data shows a lukewarm response. In year 1 (December 2014 – November 2015), only 5% of international travellers availed their Indian visa online. This fraction grew to 12% in year 2 (December 2015 – November 2016) and just 16% by year 3 (December 2016 – November 2017).

Limitations of the eVisa programme

What explains the low uptake of India's eVisa programme?

A closer examination reveals that the implementation of the programme has been poor.

eVisa's are available under three sub-categories: e-tourist, e-business and e-medical visas. The eVisa online application form lists all the activities which travellers can carry out under each of the three eVisa categories. In addition to choosing a primary purpose of visit, the online application form seems to suggest that travellers are permitted to undertake multiple activities within a group. Upon selecting the visa type on the application form, a pop-up window states "all the following activities are permitted, however select the primarily purpose from the following". This means that a traveller on an e-business visa whose selected primary objective is to, for example, recruit manpower, can undertake any other activity permitted on an e-business visa.

However, instruction number one on "Instructions for Applicant" on the official website states: "e-visa has 3 sub-categories, i.e. e-Tourist visa, e-Business visa and e-Medical visa. A foreigner will be permitted to club these categories (emphasis added)." The online application form therefore permits travellers to combine one activity from each of the three eVisa categories. When a combination of activities is chosen, it is not clear what category of visa will be issued.

Let's imagine a Mr. Smith, a national from one of the eVisa programme eligible countries. While filling his eVisa application form, Mr. Smith opts to primarily participate in a short-term yoga programme (activity listed under e-tourist visa category), attend a business meeting (activity listed under e-business visa category), and go through a short-term medical treatment (activity listed under e-medical visa category). India is liberal: Mr. Smith is not restricted to his chosen primary activity. Nonetheless, the question that arises is: since he has opted for one activity listed under each of the three visa categories, will he travel to India on an e-tourist visa and/or an e-medical visa and/or an e-business visa? Surely, the Indian government does not intend to issue multiple visas to Mr. Smith all in one go.

This is further complicated by the number of entries permitted: double entry on e-tourist and e-business visa, but triple-entry on an e-medical visa. For activities across multiple categories, it is not clear how many entries are permitted. Therefore, will Mr. Smith be given a double or triple entry permit?

An array of questions pertaining to re-entry requirements have also not been answered. For example, would travellers require a re-entry permit if they wish to leave and re-enter India within the 60-day eVisa validity period? If a re-entry permit is required, are there any requirements for issuing this permit, such as a last destination restriction? Do travellers have to re-enter only from the ports of entry at which the eVisa programme is available? Travellers have posed their queries with regards to alternative port for re-entry when travelling on eVisa’s especially when the re-entery is from India’s neighbouring country via land (see here and here).

The programme also has administrative glitches. For example, travellers have repeatedly blogged on the difficulties they experience while using the eVisa application form (see here, here and here). The difficulties of the payment gateway, and limited helpful response from the help desk have been highlighted. Despite the programme being in its third year, these difficulties continue to linger making it an unpleasant experience for travellers.

How can we do better?

Let's run through one problem at a time.

The first area is the permission to come into India under multiple categories. There are two ways to solve this problem.

  1. The first solution: change the rules and not permit clubbing activities across the three categories.

    This means that Mr. Smith can primarily choose to either participate in a yoga programme OR attend a business meeting OR a short-term medical treatment of self. For his chosen primary activity, the government would accordingly issue him the visa.

    This is easy to implement. The sentence "A foreigner will be permitted to club these categories." from instruction number one on "Instructions for Applicant" on the official website would need to be deleted. As a result, instruction number one would then read as following "e-visa has 3 sub-categories, i.e. e-Tourist visa, e-Business visa and e-Medical visa. An e-tourist visa, an e-business visa and e-medical would be issued for any activity chosen under the respective visa category." Consequently, the online eVisa application form would also need to incorporate this change, and restrict travellers to choose activities across categories.

    While this is not a great option - we are restricting what visitors can do while travelling, it removes the confusion that has come with clubbing categories.

  2. The second and better solution: travellers be permitted to club activities across the three eVisa categories.

    This solution is already in place. However, to avoid the current confusion associated with this solution given the existing premise of the programme, there are two alternatives:

    • Permit three entries under each of the three categories. Once this is done, it is even simpler to abolish the three categories, and just allow anyone to visit India with three entries in 60 days.

    • Permit three entries under each of the three categories. On the eVisa online application form, change e-tourist visa/e-business visa/e-medical visa to tourism purpose/business purpose/medicinal purpose. Accordingly, ETA would reflect the 'purpose of visit' along with the details of the purpose, and the number of entries would be changed to "triple" (see Figure 1 – changes in red). The eVisa stamp in the passport would only state that it is an eVisa, and 'number of entries permitted' would reflect 'triple' (see Figure 1 – changes in red).

      Abolishing the three categories altogether is lucrative. However, having three categories is useful as it facilitates tracking the number of applications within each category which in turn can be used to for drawing sectoral development strategies.

    • Figure 1: Proposed changes to ETA and eVisa stamp in passport marked in red. Photo courtesy: Traveller's Website

The second area for simplification is the problem of re-entry. This can be solved if the government says:

  1. Irrespective of travellers chosen activity across tourist, business and medical categories, the following is applicable:

    • Travellers can re-enter India without a re-entry permit within the 60-day eVisa validity period.

    • There are no last destination restrictions imposed on travellers when re-entering India on an eVisa.

    • Travellers on an eVisa can re-enter India through any port of entry, be it land, air or sea ports

A third improvement lies in greater flexibility for renewing an eVisa in India, capping the number of days a traveller can stay in India on an eVisa. This has been done by many countries e.g. Kenya where travellers can renew their eVisa for a further 90 days at the immigration headquarters in Nairobi, capping the maximum number of days on an eVisa at 6 months.

A fourth area for progress is on information access. The 'Frequently Asked Questions Relating to Tourist Visa' on the website of the Bureau of Immigration, Ministry of Home Affairs, needs an additional FAQ item stating:

  1. Travellers who wish to travel to India for a short period, can also avail their India visa through the eVisa programme. Please check the website of the programme (https://indianvisaonline.gov.in/evisa/tvoa.html) for eligibility and requirements.

  2. Travellers on an eVisa can carry out activities that spread tourism, medical and business categories. For a list of activities please visit the eVisa online application form.

These four initiatives would solve the flaws of the Indian eVisa program in the following ways. First, it would help in avoiding confusion at the border especially when travellers want to enter and exit India, a country incorporated in intraregional travel plans. Second, it would also help in avoiding policy glitches with respect to the number of entries permitted, and the type of visa issued when activities are chosen across tourism, business and medical categories. Third, it would enable travellers to undertake multiple activities without being held up for violating visa norms. Fourth, it would help rationalise benefits from availing eVisa's over the traditional embassy route visa especially for travellers from countries to whom the government, with effect from 1st April 2017, provides multiple entry tourist and business visa. This benefit becomes even more apparent when travellers incorporate India in their regional travel plans as travellers have blogged of their preference to avail a traditional visa rather than have to worry about the nitty-gritty missed details of the eVisa programme (see here). Fifth, it would help resolve the consequent administrative glitches especially those that are seen on the ETA and the eVisa stamp in the passport.

Conclusion

To encourage and reap socio-economic benefits from cross border movements of persons, addressing visa procedural bottlenecks can be as, rather even more, important than liberalising visa policies. As a matter of fact, UNTWO reports that communication around visa policies provided by destinations are among the simplest but least addressed areas of opportunity (UNWTO, 2016). While India’s efforts to liberalize the eVisa programme are to be lauded, it needs to ensure that the programme is free from procedural bottlenecks. Afterall, "easy and hassle-free availability of visas is one of the basic ingredients for attracting foreign tourists" (WTTC, 2012).

References

UNWTO, 2016 Visa Openness Report 2015.

WTTC, 2017 Travel and Tourism Global Economic Impact and Issues 2017.

WTTC, 2012 The Impact of Visa Facilitation on Job Creation in the G20 Economies.

 

Natasha Agarwal is an independent research economist affiliated with Research and Outcome Consortium (R&O).

Wednesday, December 27, 2017

Interesting readings

One Man's Stand Against Junk Food as Diabetes Climbs Across India by Geeta Anand in The New York Times, December 26, 2017.

The long winter in banking by Ajay Shah in Business Standard, December 25, 2017.

Jim Simons, the Numbers King by D. T. Max in The New Yorker, December 25, 2017.

The internet is broken by David Baker in Wired, December 19, 2017.

The Rise of Poland’s Far Right by Volha Charnysh in Foreign Affairs, December 18, 2017.

Health care in India by Rajiv Mehrishi in NIPFP YouTube Channel, December 17, 2017.

Turf wars between IAS, IPS officers not good for governance by Basant Rath in Business Standard, December 15, 2017.

Promoter buy-back in insolvency: 'Phoenixing' in India by Pratik Datta and Suharsh Sinha on University of Oxford, December 15, 2017.

SC's wake-up call with bail law by Somasekhar Sundaresan on Wordpress, December 14, 2017.

The Glory of Democracy by David Brooks in The New York Times, December 14, 2017.

Inside China's Vast New Experiment in Social Ranking by Mara Hvistendahl in Wired, December 14, 2017.

Our Policymakers no longer Trust Holders of Capital, and it's Showing by Subhomoy Bhattacharjee in Swarajya, December 12, 2017.

Don't undermine the IBC in Business Standard, December 11, 2017.

Code Girls: The Untold Story of the Women Cryptographers Who Fought WWII at the Intersection of Language and Mathematics by Maria Popova in Brainpickings, December 11, 2017.

How Silicon Valley Kowtows To China from ChinaFile in FastCompany, December 8, 2017.

What Happens When the Government Uses Facebook as a Weapon? by Lauren Etter in Bloomberg, December 7, 2017.

Visions, Ventures, Escape Velocities: A Collection of Space Futures by Center for Science and the Imagination on Arizona State University, December 6, 2017.

Shredding the Putin Playbook by Laura Rosenberger and Jamie Fly in Democracy, Winter, No. 47.

Thursday, December 14, 2017

How well is India's land record digitisation programme doing: Findings from Rajasthan

by Anirudh Burman and Devendra Damle.

Good titles in land improve the security of land tenure, and also enable land holders to capitalise land, either by mortgaging it, or making productive use of it. Conversely, the lack of clear titles in land reduce the security of land tenure since titles are prone to challenge, and inhibit productive use of land since it is difficult to signal title over land (here). It is therefore essential for a well functioning land market to have a well developed land titling system.

The Government of India has been running a program for improving land titles called the Digital India Land Record Modernisation Program (DILRMP, titled the National Land Record Modernisation Program until 2015) since 2008. The DI-LRMP was initiated to improve land titles in India, with the ultimate objective of creating a system of conclusive titling. The title recorded with the state is considered conclusive proof of the title to land in a conclusive titling system.

To be conclusive, a titling system requires that (a) all land transactions be recorded by the government, (b) the applications for registering land titles be verified scrupulously before they are registered, (c) the status of a title once registered is final and not open to dispute (curtain principle - or drawing a curtain over past defects/ disputes), and (d) the registry be completely updated in relation to the status of titles as they are present on the ground (mirror principle). The DI-LRMP aims to create this system all over India through the following activities (see NLRMP Guidelines):

  1. Digitisation of textual revenue records (contained in Record of Rights, revenue records are updated through "mutation", and are presumptive proof of the title recorded in the RoR) and registration records (records with the registration department - all agreements pertaining to transfers of land have to be registered, save specified exceptions), including maps.

  2. Integration of the processes of mutation (RoR updation), registration and map generation/ creation.

  3. Creation of modern record rooms, capacity building within the administrative machinery.

  4. Allowing for processes of land registration to be initiated online in addition to physical processes.

  5. Fresh land surveys and mapping in areas where required.

The completion of these activities is envisaged to take India close to a conclusive titling system. Our team was one among three coordinating research institutions to conduct the first assessment of the progress of the DI-LRMP. The NIPFP team chose the state of Rajasthan to conduct this study. Rajasthan is the largest state in India constituting 10.4 percent of the total area and contains 5.67 percent of the total population of India.

Our study was able to highlight:

  1. Issues with the implementation of the DI-LRMP, at different stages of implementation; and

  2. The issues faced by the local administration in the maintenance of land records and in implementing the DI-LRMP.

The removal of systemic and administrative issues highlighted in this report may make the implementation of the DI-LRMP more effective. The report based on the study is available here.

Land records in Rajasthan

Work on computerisation of Records of Rights started in 1999-2000, well before the NLRMP was conceived. These activities got subsumed by the Land Records Computerisation project which was later subsumed by NLRMP.

Rajasthan's history presents some interesting challenges to this exercise. The state was originally composed of five main Riyasats (princely states), and several smaller ones. Each of these five Riyasats used different units to measure land. For example, a bigha in one Riyasat was the equivalent of 3000 sq.ft., while in another it was close to 1600 sq.ft. These differences still persist today. Not only are the units of measurement different, but some of the official terms used in relation to land records also vary across districts. The state government tried to introduce the metric system in 1976, but as per discussions with local officials and villagers, it was rarely used in practice by the local populace who were more comfortable with the old measurement systems. With the DI-LRMP there is a renewed effort to standardise units of measurement across the state.

1976 was also the year the state government last undertook re-survey operations across the state. The re-survey operations which will be undertaken under DI-LRMP will be the first since then. All maps currently in use were made using traditional techniques. They will be replaced by maps made using High Resolution Satellite Imagery.

In spite of early movements towards improvements in land records, the level of implementation of DILRMP in Rajasthan remains low. This is highlighted in the findings from our study.

Scope of the study

Our study evaluated the implementation of DI-LRMP through four activities:

  1. Collecting state-level data from government websites of the Department of Land Resources, Government of India, as well as the websites of the Departments in charge of Revenue and Registration, Government of Rajasthan;

  2. Interviews with senior officials in the Departments of Revenue and Registration in the Government of Rajasthan;

  3. Performing test-checks on the land record websites on the government of Rajasthan, and

  4. Studying the implementation of DI-LRMP in two tehsils in Rajasthan.

The research team undertook the tehsil level study with the help of local retired revenue officials. This facilitated interactions with local officials in the revenue and registration offices in the two tehsils. In addition, the study involved a visit to five villages each in the two selected tehsils, interactions with villagers, and collection and verification of information relating to a sample of ten parcels in each village (a total of 50 parcels in each tehsil).

Findings


State-level findings

We first collected state-level data from websites of the Rajasthan Government, and verified it in conversations with government officials. The state-level data reveals the following:

  1. Most RoRs (revenue records) have been digitised, but maps have not been updated through modern survey methods and the maps available online at present are digitised copies of cadastral maps.

  2. Our test-checks revealed that while most records of rights are available online, there was a significant volume of cases where the records were not available/accesible. There is a uniform problem of the absence of legacy records online.

  3. The RoR is available only in paper form locally in a total of 1603 villages out of 47,918 villages.

  4. Only a small proportion of the RoRs are available with digital signature of the designated official (3,632 villages out of 47,918), and RoRs of most villages are not available in a legally usable form (42,683 villages).

  5. Most tehsils in Rajasthan have functional and usable maps, albeit in paper form. 88 tehsils out 242 have some proportion of damaged or mutilated maps. In all other tehsils, 90 percent or more of maps are in a usable condition.

  6. While there has been some provisioning for online registration, most of the processes are still manual. Out of 527 Sub-Registrar Offices (SROs), 117 SROs have online systems for verifying documents and paying stamp fee duty.

  7. The state of Rajasthan has made very little progress on integration of all three processes - mutation, registration and map generation. The process of registration alerts the revenue records database by noting the fact of registration in some form in 15 SROs, but this does not work the other way round, i.e. the process of changes in revenue records does not alert the registration database.

An analysis of the findings from the state highlights significant steps required to be taken for the implementation of the DILRMP. This was also confirmed by our study of DILRMP implementation in the two tehsils selected for the study.

Tehsil-level findings

Tehsil selection: The two tehsils selected for the study were Girwa and Uniara. Both tehsils are at different stages of implementing DI-LRMP:

  1. Girwa: Girwa is part of the sub-humid southern plains agro-climatic zone. It is situated on and around the rocky hills of the Aravalli Range, at an average elevation of 540 meters. The climate is moderate year-round with moderate seasonal variation in temperature and humidity. Rainfall is scanty with little to moderate year-on-year variation. The main reason for selecting Girwa as one of the sample tehsils is that it is a good representative of the typical tehsil. It represents the typology of about 184 tehsils, out of 314 tehsils in Rajasthan in terms of the status of land records computerisation.

  2. Uniara: Uniara is a tehsil in Tonk, Rajasthan and is situated approximately a three-hour drive away from Jaipur, the state capital. The tehsil is primarily agricultural, with little or no industrial activity. The tehsil is largely rural, with no large cities in its close vicinity. Uniara is part of the semi-arid eastern plains agro-climatic zone. The terrain is flat barring a few areas to the northwest. The climate is predominantly dry and there are large seasonal variations in temperature. Rainfall is scanty with large year-on-year variation. Uniara is cited as an example of a model tehsil in Rajasthan with respect to land records modernisation. It was also featured in the Success Stories of NLRMP report published by the Department of Land Records, Government of India.

Findings from Girwa and Uniara

Vacancies: We found significant vacancies in the local administrative units in both tehsils. Tables 1 and 2 provide details of the sanctioned and vacant positions in Girwa and Uniara respectively.

Table 1: Revenue Department Vacancies in Girwa
Post Sanctioned Vacant
Patwari 52 20
Land Revenue Inspector 13 0
Naib-Tehsildar 3 1
Tehsildar 1 0

Table 2: Revenue Department Vacancies in Uniara
Post Sanctioned Vacant
Patwari 54 35
Land Revenue Inspector 13 4
Naib-Tehsildar 3 1
Tehsildar 1 0

Accuracy of recorded land area: We measured a total of 99 parcels across the two tehsils (Figure 1). In 30 percent of the cases the area is within 5 percent of the area on record. In 25 percent of the parcels, the difference between the area on record as compared to the area as measured, is 10-20 percent. In 24 percent of the sample parcels, the difference between the area on record as compared to the measured area is more than 20 percent. It must be noted that digitised cadastral maps were not available for either tehsil for the purpose of our study. The deviation recorded here is the deviation from the area recorded in the RoR.

Figure 1: Difference Between Area on Record vs Measured

Causes for deviation from recorded area: Encroachment onto neighbouring land is the most frequently observed cause for deviation from the recorded area. We observed two types of encroachments:

  1. Encroachment onto adjoining fields i.e. onto private property, and

  2. Encroachment onto public property. This can be further subdivided into two types: (a) encroachment onto roads, nallahs and farm roads, and (b) encroachment onto pasture land, forest land and other government-owned land.


Figure 2 provides details on the causes for differences between recorded area and measured area.

Figure 2: Causes of Difference Between Area on Record vs Measured
Note: Only shows parcels where the difference is 10 percent or larger.

Information recorded in Record of Rights: We noted that a number of transactions and kinds of titles are not recorded in the RoRs at the tehsil level. For example, construction on agricultural land is not recorded if less than 500 square metres. Possession, independent of ownership is also not recorded. Encumbrances other than mortgages are also not recorded. This is an impediment in providing conclusive titles, as a number of rights over land are not recorded at all.

Administrative issues: We found local administration under-staffed, lacking basic infrastructure (at the patwar-mandal levels) including electricity in some places, and without network connectivity. Most of the administrative processes are manual. In addition, revenue administration is burdened with a number of tasks at best incidental to land revenue and record management. Some officials pointed out that land revenue collection, a core activity for the revenue department, does not seem like a feasible activity any longer as the costs of collecting revenue far exceed the revenue collection. Building administrative capacity is therefore an important challenge for the state.

Conclusion

Our report makes the case for legal and administrative changes based on the results of our study. It is important to realise that the process of digitisation must be accompanied by complementary legal changes and administrative capacity building. Rajasthan has an advantage in the fact that its digitisation program is not yet at an advanced stage and some of these issues can be fixed right now rather than later. Additionally, while digitisation may remove some dependency on human interaction with revenue officials, land record management will continue to require sufficient human capital.

 

Anirudh Burman and Devendra Damle are reasearchers at National Institute of Public Finance an Policy.

Emerging Markets Finance (EMF) conference, 2017

The Emerging Markets Finance (EMF) conference has been an annual feature in Bombay from 2010 onwards. The 2017 conference program is up.

Wednesday, December 13, 2017

Commercial wisdom to judicial discretion: NCLT reorients IBC

by Pratik Datta and Rajeswari Sengupta.

When a company defaults on loan repayment, there are various possibilities - the debt could be restructured, the business could be sold as a going concern or the company could be liquidated. The crucial policy question here is: who should make this decision about the company's future? Traditionally, Indian laws have brought an arm of the state - judiciary or executive - to bear on this decision. The Bankruptcy Law Reforms Committee (BLRC) broke away from this tradition and recommended that: when 75% of the financial creditors agree on a resolution plan, this plan would be binding on all the remaining creditors. If, in 180 days, no resolution plan achieves the support of 75% of the financial creditors, the company goes into liquidation. Effectively, no judge or bureaucrat is to substitute for the commercial wisdom of a super-majority of financial creditors. The Parliament adopted this legislative design and enacted the Insolvency and Bankruptcy Code, 2016 (IBC). Recently, the Hyderabad bench of NCLT in K. Sashidhar v. Kamineni Steel shifted this position of law.

The NCLT held that even if the committee of creditors (CoC) fails to approve a resolution plan with 75% of voting share, the tribunal could approve the resolution plan. In short, the future of an insolvent company will be determined not by the commercial wisdom of the CoC but by the tribunal. This decision is not only antithetical to the original legislative intent behind IBC, it also militates against the plain language of the statute.

Background

Kamineni Steel went into insolvency resolution in February 2017. The resolution plan proposed by the resolution professional (RP) was supported by financial creditors who had 66.67% of the voting power. The remaining financial creditors with 33.33% voting power did not support the plan. They preferred liquidation. According to them the liquidation value of the company was higher than the enterprise value. Faced with the threat of imminent liquidation under IBC, the RP approached the NCLT to approve the resolution plan supported by only 66.67% votes.

The company had also been undergoing the Joint Lender's Forum (JLF) process under the aegis of RBI. Before IBC was enacted, RBI had issued the JLF Guidelines in 2014. These Guidelines provided that on payment default by a corporate debtor in a consortium lending arrangement, the lenders were required to form a JLF to explore options to resolve the stress of the debtor. Any restructuring decision agreed upon by 75% of creditors by value and 60% of creditors by number in the JLF would be binding on all lenders. To facilitate timely decision making by the JLF, on May 5, 2017, RBI issued another notification lowering this threshold to 60% of creditors by value and 50% of creditors by number in the JLF.

The RP of Kamineni Steel relied on the 2017 RBI notification to argue before NCLT that since 60% of creditors by value can make binding decisions in JLF, a resolution plan under IBC supported by the same 60% should also be adequate. NCLT agreed with this argument and approved the resolution plan of Kamineni Steel supported by only 66.67% creditors.

Analysing the judgement

The judgement was broadly based on three legal arguments.

Argument 1

It relied on section 30(4) of IBC which states:

The committee of creditors may (emphasis added) approve a resolution plan by a vote of not less than seventy five per cent of voting share of the financial creditors.

The tribunal held that since the legislature used the word "may" instead of "shall" in section 30(4), the 75% vote rule is not mandatory. The potential consequence of using "shall" in this sub-section has been overlooked in this argument. Had the legislature used "shall" instead of "may" here, it would have meant that in every case the CoC was mandatorily required to approve any resolution plan submitted to them by the RP. That is not the intent of the law. The intent of the law is to let the CoC and not the RP decide the future of the insolvent company and to give the CoC the discretion to approve or reject a resolution plan. This discretion is reflected in the use of the word "may" in section 30(4). In other words, the use of the word "may" is intentional because not every resolution plan submitted by the RP needs to be approved by the CoC. This reasoning has also been supported by Professor Varottil.

Secondly, the word "may" does not dilute the 75% rule either. Section 30(4) of IBC uses the language, "...committee of creditors may approve (emphasis added) a resolution plan by a vote of not less than seventy five per cent of voting share of the financial creditors". This implies that if the CoC chooses to approve the resolution plan, then the plan can only be approved if it has at least 75% vote of the CoC.

Finally, section 30(6) of IBC states:

"The resolution professional shall submit the resolution plan as approved (emphasis added) by the committee of creditors to the Adjudicating Authority .

This implies that if the resolution plan has not been approved by the CoC (by at least 75% voting share as mentioned in section 30(4)), then it should not be submitted to the adjudicating authority by the RP.

If the relevant provision in IBC were ambiguous, the appropriate external aid to statutory interpretation would have been the BLRC report. For example, the Supreme Court in M/s. Innoventive Industries Ltd. v. ICICI Bank, heavily relied on the BLRC report to interpret various provisions of the IBC. The report would have provided clarity to the legislative intent behind section 30(4). The judgement did not make any reference to the report.

Argument 2

The judgement relied on section 31(1) of IBC which states:

If the Adjudicating Authority is satisfied (emphasis added) that the resolution plan as approved by the committee of creditors under sub-section (4) of section 30 meets the requirements as referred to in sub-section (2) of section 30, it shall by order approve the resolution plan which shall be binding on the corporate debtor and its employees, members, creditors, guarantors and other stakeholders involved in the resolution plan.

NCLT used a broad interpretation of the words "if the Adjudicating Authority is satisfied" in this sub-section to give itself the power to approve any resolution plan which has not been approved by 75% of creditors by value. This argument overlooks the fact that section 31(1) is triggered only after a resolution plan has been approved by the CoC by 75% vote. If the resolution plan has not been so approved, the need for NCLT to check if the resolution plan meets the requirements of section 30(2) does not arise. In the case at hand, since the CoC did not approve the resolution plan of Kamineni Steel by 75% vote, the NCLT could not have used its power to review under section 31(1).

Argument 3

The judgement held that since IBC is a new law and RBI as a banking regulator has issued guidelines governing the voting share of banks, the 75% rule in IBC has to be read in conjunction with RBI's circulars.

There is an inherent problem in this argument. JLF is conceptually based on the London Approach - a non-statutory informal workout mechanism originally developed by the Bank of England since 1970s. In India, the process is guided by notifications issued by RBI under the Banking Regulation Act, 1949. Only lender banks can participate in this process. In contrast, IBC is a formal statutory mechanism for collective insolvency resolution. Unlike JLF, all financial creditors, including non-banks, can vote in the IBC creditors' committee. JLF and IBC provide for different procedures under two different statutes. In the event of any conflict between a subordinate legislation under the Banking Regulation Act, 1949 and the IBC, the IBC being a parliamentary legislation should have overriding effect.

Conclusion

The judgment of K. Sasidhar v Kamineni sets a wrong precedent in the nascent Indian corporate insolvency law jurisprudence. If the dissenting creditors appeal this decision before the relevant appellate tribunal it is likely to be overturned. It is worth noting here that the Mumbai bench of NCLT in a subsequent decision has taken an opposite stand, as highlighted by professor Varottil. The K. Sasidhar v Kamineni judgement should nudge Indian policymakers to consider two issues.

First, in light of IBC, policymakers need to question the rationale for retaining JLF. Even if they choose to retain it, there must be concrete reasons for vital differences between the two procedures. For instance, policymakers need to ask why should there be two different percentage requirements - 60% under JLF and 75% under IBC?

Second, the role of the resolution professional in an insolvency proceeding needs to be reviewed. In the Kamineni case, without securing 75% votes by value of financial creditors, the RP should not have submitted the resolution plan to the adjudicating authority in the first place. Policymakers need to explore institutional reforms to ensure that RPs act in an unbiased manner, like an officer of the court who the adjudicating authority can rely upon.

 

Rajeswari Sengupta is an Assistant Professor at the Indira Gandhi Institute of Development Research. Pratik Datta is a Chevening Weidenfeld Hoffmann scholar at University of Oxford. The authors thank two anonymous referees for their comments.

Interesting readings

The World Might Be Better Off Without College for Everyone by Bryan Caplan in The Atlantic, December 11, 2017. On the question of what is worth knowing: Will BPO hit a staffing crisis? by Ajay Shah in Business Standard, December 21, 2005.

Monika Halan and Shaji Vikraman on the resolution corporation.

Resolution Corporation: The 3rd element of the exit framework by Ajay Shah in Business Standard, December 11, 2017.

Trillion, or 10 kharab? by T N Ninan in Business tandard, December 8, 2017.

Chronicler of Islamic State 'killing machine' goes public by Lori Hinnant and Maggie Michael in AP News, December 8, 2017.

Maternal and child health by Anjini Kochar in NIPFP YouTube Channel, December 7, 2017.

The G.O.P. Is Rotting by David Brooks in The New York Times, December 7, 2017.

Evidence That Ethiopia Is Spying on Journalists Shows Commercial Spyware Is Out of Control by Ron Deibert in Wired, December 6, 2017.

How to Stand Up to the Kremlin by Joseph R. Biden, Jr., and Michael Carpenter in Foreign Affairs, December 4, 2017.

The IMF’s Latest World Economic and Financial Outlook by Andreas Bauer in NIPFP YouTube Channel, December 3, 2017.

Remembering the Chicago Pile, the World’s First Nuclear Reactor by Alex Wellerstein in The New Yorker, December 2, 2017.

Inside the secretive nerve center of the Mueller investigation by Robert Costa, Carol D. Leonnig and Josh Dawsey in The Washington Post, December 2, 2017.

Hospital birth and health in Uttar Pradesh: Trends, opportunities, and constraints by Diane L. Coffey in NIPFP YouTube Channel, December 1, 2017.

How Cashews Explain Globalization by Bill Spindle and Vibhuti Agarwal in The Wall Street Journal, December 1, 2017.

Literarily Hitler by Paul O’Mahoney in Dublin Review of Books, December 1, 2017.

Flynn's Plea Raises New Questions About Whether Trump Obstructed Justice by Adam Serwer in The Atlantic, December 1, 2017.

As FCC Contemplates Repealing Net Neutrality Protections, Indian Telecom Regulator Reaffirms Support for Principles of Non-Discrimination by Jyoti Panday on the Electronic Frontier Foundation blog, November 30, 2017.

The Internet Is Dying. Repealing Net Neutrality Hastens That Death by Farhad Manjoo in The New York Times, November 29, 2017.

Banks as buyers of last resort for government bonds by Daniel Gros in Vox, November 27, 2017.

The Nationalist's Delusion by Adam Serwer in The Atlantic, November 20, 2017.

Great Scott by George Scialabba in Inference Review, August 2, 2017.
Get his books from amazon.in.

What Is a Populist? by Uri Friedman in The Atlantic, February 27, 2017.