Category Archives: Global Causes- iCare

Children of the world

When one man dies, it is a tragedy. When thousands die, it is statistics.No one chooses to be a refugee. In a time when humans are proving to be the biggest villains, we have to step up and be the heroes for each other that we know we need. There is no running away from this. It’s time to stop being escapists and start accepting the reality of all that is going on around the world. 

Waking up to a little and then a little more heartbreak every single day, It’s easy to be sitting miles away and browsing through global crises’ and local “intolerance” wars, but the truth is we as a breed are losing our grip on humanity- a little every day. Wherever the stories are coming in from- Lebanon, Beirut, Baghdad, Afghanistan, Peshawar, Iraq, Saudi Arabia, gaza, Paris, Syria- remember that this is our story. This is a world our predecessors have created for us and left us to survive in. What we build together is the only thing that will count. We are one with those without a home, without a country and without a god. We can simply not deny ourselves the reality that we are who the refugees will be, and the refugees will be who we make them. 

Acceptance is a funny thing. Dynamics do not offer the possobilities of taking sides. Having lived in Mumbai all my life apart from my time spent our studying, I understand the complicated equations of tolerance and intolerance that Indians from different parts of the country have towards each other. One cannot be blamed for being uncomfortable with people taking over their homes, their cities. With a growing population we face issues of placement and displacement all the time in India. 

However, survival is core. And that is what everything really boils down to. I think it’s imperative to recognise a feeling  of empathy towards those that are suffering. We can not get anywhere till we empathise. It’s pointless trying to decide who is right and who is wrong, this issue is must more complicated than anyone has anticipated with large scale political agendas and missions that have been in the making for decades now. 

I hope I can get the message across to whoever may be reading this, that the point is to not get drawn into the politics of the situation but rather understand the relevance of your own opinions and support towards those suffering at this point of time. We are all children of the same world, the same sky, the same God. #refugeecrisis 

 

The Game changer! The Companies Act 2013 and all that cannot be ignored anymore

“The Business of Business is Business”

Friedman’s fundamentalist theory

The Companies Act or The Act 2013 has been in the making for over ten years now since the time it was drafted by the then government that believed that the current corporate scenario was in dire need of change. The law although only partially implemented is expected to have far reaching effects on the Indian corporate scenario in the years to come. Like everything else, the companies Act 1956 was in need of intervention, having been deemed incapable of keeping up with shifting global market trends and increasing need for protection of stakes in companies. There was a need to “raise the bar on governance”, a step in the right direction which was initiated with the passage of the Act 2013 which as a law is bound to affect each and every one working in Corporates today. Change is coming, although the level of change that may affect your organization may vary and the implications of passing it may differ in scale and complexity.

Passed on 29th August 2013 the Companies Act 2013 has been designed to appreciate the economic environment of India whilst focusing on protection of stake-holders interests and investments in companies. Application of Lean six sigma tools in processes has been seen coming under focus as companies are becoming more process rather than employee oriented, given the high attrition rates in the market today. The act/ law aims at easing administrative burden at several points of a process and is broadening avenues to deal with international market as a direct impact of globalization. With just 470 sections and 7 schedules, the act is much more concise as compared to the 1956 act though it runs hand in hand with more than 300 references to rules in the 1956 act that play an important role in the optimal functionality of the new law, although in my opinion the job of managing the corporate scenario while referring to the companies Act which is actually a co-existence of TCA 1956 and 2013 by the ministry of corporate affairs is commendable.

An act with this much weightage is bound to come with consequences, the following effects in my opinion which everyone part of the corporate scenario today must be aware of:-

Say hello to the rapidly evolving concept of Corporate Reporting!

Corporate reporting framework has been a topic explored vastly even during conception of the Companies act 1956 with introduction of new changes keeping new age objectives in mind like maintenance of consistency and relevance while submitting financial reports, alignment with international protocols and more. Some of the major changes that every corporate has been made aware of and are now in the process of executing are directly affecting the reporting framework internally as well as externally.  Every company that exists as a joint venture or has any subsidiaries now has to provide a consolidated financial statement which is considered as the sum total of all financial statements applicable to the firm and its counterparts. Although this order is applicable only to companies listed under SEBI as of now, it will soon apply to all existing companies as a consolidated financial statement is considered to the only general statement capable of conveying the true state of financial affairs within a company as per international protocol.

A number of people seem to have several interpretations of subsidiaries, joint ventures and associate firms. The new Act 2013 has clarified the terms and implications each association brings in crystal clear terms basically indicating that while a subsidiary is a company “controlled” by the parent company due to more than 50% share value in the same. This thing to note is that while several companies will turn to preference shares, this act rules out any significance of the voting power of an enterprise which was not the case in the previous Act. An associate company or a joint venture is one over which the company has significant influence where joint ventures are expected to present a disclosure regarding amounts depending on equity and cannot indulge in joint accounting as per equity method.

Up until now companies were not allowed to revise their financial statements submitted at the end of the annual cycle. In this case any discrepancy from the previous year believed to have occurred due to error, fraud or whatever reason needed to be adjusted in the next cycle as a past year adjustment. The new act however has opened a new gateway which allows companies to revise their financial statements, although the same can be applied only and only under the following circumstances- if there is a genuine doubt on the reliability and authenticity of the financial statements submitted by a company raised to the board either by organizations like SEBI or any person directly concerned with the finances of the company, or voluntary revision or reinstatement ordered by board of directors in the event that they believe the financial statement may not comply with changes in the new act of 2013. The new law expects all companies to adopt a uniform financial year of April 31st to March 1st along with relevant changes to the depreciation regulation and corresponding impact on the cost and recovery regarding useful life of a company or asset.

Don’t keep Calm, The Auditor is here!

Internal financial controls of companies are now under stringent regulation and this can be seen directly through the increase in relevance of and reliance on internal audit programs and reports. Governments have the power to conduct audits at any given time interval while each company is expected to have an internal auditor the band of which post may be decided by the board of directors. While the internal audits are required for all private listed companies and public listed companies with loans amounting more than 25 Cr the act also demands the reports of internal audit controls from Directors with regard to listed companies and auditors for all associated companies on whether the company is compliant and whether it has the funds to sustain.

The new age is seeing changes with respect to the appointment of auditors/ audit companies by companies, breaking the 5 year rotation period of auditing companies and prevention of the concept of staying with the same audit company for more than a two terms of 5 years each. While audit companies catering to partners are out of the running to be considered for appointment the central government continues to have control over the rotation of audit firms as and when they come and go through the standee company. A growing concern is seen regarding non auditor services which although may go unofficially unaudited, yet have seen to benefit the company either through investment banking services or management services. I cannot say I completely agree with prohibition of rendering “non-auditable” services by the auditor to the auditee in strong legal terms as it may include various dimensions of human and economic factors which need not be regulated all the time.

The importance of reporting fraud, sticking to auditing standards and have been highlighted but the main point to be noted which exhibits how seriously the government is combating corporate crime and fraud is by establishment of the NFRA [National Financial Reporting Association] which not only has the power to guide and advise the central government with respect to laws and strategies for Audit control but also enjoys judicial power with the capabilities to investigate frauds on account of wither companies or individuals.

Organization Restructuring- Control Vs Commitment

The main objective of this in my opinion is to make the process of mergers and acquisitions efficient, easier and compliant with limited timelines. The judicial power and sanctioning authority for re-structuring of companies not lies at the seat of the NCLT [National Company Law Tribunal] and the goal is to maintain transparency regarding the real owners of a company by prohibiting a company from making more than a two level investment in a subsidiary. Restructuring transactions include compromise or agreements, amalgamations, demergers while the valuation of each of these transactions must necessarily be carried out by a registered valuer. The concept of minority buy out is great as this removes the complications that arise from minority stakeholders in the company as the ownership moves back to the parent units although this amendment is also subject to several terms and conditions applicable at the time of the movement.

Cross border mergers are now allowed and encouraged, fast track mergers are available for small units amalgamating while dormant companies which can be proved to be potentially and productively active in the future are now recognized. Pros of this amendment include recognition of small scale companies, limit on number of members in partnership firms, relaxed provision for BOD meetings in smaller companies and so on.

A few good men! Increased corporate responsibility at the Managerial level

Increasing the cap on number of Directors that a company can have, laying down rules for a director to have experienced India for at least 182 days before being appointed and provision for women directors are a few changes which can be expected. Mandatory committees to be involved in the removal or appointment of a director, role of central government in exercising control over unlisted public companies by appointment of leaders, protection of independent director rights, differentiation between nominee and independent directors, managerial responsibilities on part of auditing firm directors and stringent punishment for non-compliance when it comes to inside trading are welcome changes which only go to show how much India is advancing and growing and realizing the need to set some ground rules. However, in my opinion inside trading when performed in defined limits may not always be as harmful as is deemed. Either ways, the new era will see added responsibilities and more importantly, accountability on the part of corporate leaders aiming at creating an atmosphere of transparency.

Corporate social responsibility- The way to Go! 

As per the new act, companies over a specified net worth of 500 Cr are expected to spend 2% of their net revenue on CSR activity [Section 135]. CSR committees per qualifying company are mandatory, required to plan the CSR activity for the company along with the budget of expenditure for the same, whilst also monitoring the activity returns and performance. The CSR committee is crucial to regulate and approve of CSR policies, ensure 2% spend on the program and draft a report on the success of the same while presenting to the board. CSR activity can be anything that deals with Environment sustainability, social business enhancement, women empowerment, infant and women health protection, poverty reduction, socio- economic development, education and so on! Companies can pool together in order to perform CSR and CSR projects or programs may also integrate into existing business models of the company, a recent example being of  General Electric Healthcare where the CSR activity focusing on education and eradication of unemployment grew into an economic structure integrating with the existing business models of GE India and is today a separate entity belonging to GE Healthcare called GE HC Education.

Now, accounting statements will represent more than just numbers- the growing focus on Investor Protection!

This is a focus thought discussed at length in the new Act of 2013. The transactions of companies with related parties which may not be in the order of ordinary business are now to be sanctioned by board of directors and privy to strict compliance standards. Income tax regulations on national and international transactions, provisions to do with caps in inter-corporate loans as well as fraud rick mitigation by defining fraud in clear terms and placing more responsibility on directors, management leaders and auditors has increased accountability and clarity in terms of  corporate investment protection. The Investor Education and Protection fund is also established to engage in reimbursement of funds to investors who may have suffered losses due to fraud. Investor protection is not only given utmost importance but also happens to be the section of the new act with most number of amendments in consideration with growing markets, globalization and increase in corporate fraud with establishment of the Serious Fraud Investigation office [SFIO] and increased responsibility on part of directors through direct reporting, auditing and investment management.

The Company Act, 2013 arrives in turbulent markets and during a time of integration, globalization and strained economic variations. It is determined to inculcate transparency, penalties and governance that can surely not be taken for granted anymore. While most changes are welcome and eventual like the encouragement of Start-ups, lower registration fees for smaller companies, reduction of time wastage on administrative and procedural issues, protection of confidentiality of board decisions and resolutions, one wonders if the extreme fraud penalties are necessary considering the dynamically changing markets and rupee value consideration, especially when it comes to transacting with international entities. Alternatively, CSR which used to be a voluntary activity taken up by companies in good faith, to boost employee morale, make a visible difference to the world, one wonders if making it mandatory loses the basic foundation of the concept. Changing auditor rotation schemes is also something I have my doubts about, as this way one loses the historical expertise that comes with past company rotations. Like I have maintained earlier we are all surviving in turbulent times where one sees a changing India every day in one way or another. Whether we are talking about genetically modified organisms, biotech crops, food labeling or other social, environmental, economic, political or corporate issues, all that matters today is taking responsibility and keeping in mind that this may be a step forward in the right direction, the direction being the betterment of India’s economic investment climate. Only time will tell.

References: KPMG 2013 , E&Y LLP, Translegalllc, The Economic Times

How deep is your Love? – #neverstaysilent against animal abuse

“The Darkest corners of hell are reserved for those, who in times of a crisis maintain neutrality.”

It is a little challenging not to wake up and voice your thoughts when mornings begin with “news” like this. A little over a year ago an incident that occured in the Delhi zoo where Vijay the Tiger “maulled” a man to death compels you to question- What is the extent to which one can be held responsible for his or her Reactions? As the “responsible” people in power sat and contemplated whether Vijay had turned into a man eater and should be “put down” , it made many of us wonder if “putting an animal down” or “executing and clearing landmasses because they were potential roads” were options commonly resorted to just because they were feasible and easy actions that COULD be performed.

You see, there is nothing special about us Humans. The greatest advantage that we have over other species is that we have the power to choose. The power to choose what we do with our lives, and unfortunately to choose what we do with other’s lives. Blame it on an age long struggle to ensure survival of the fittest or simply the lack of anything more imaginative, we humans have become a selfish race, a lazy race which would rather get rid of problems than face them. In light of cruelty subjected towards animals in the past year, I would like to take this opportunity to express grief, sorrow and fury… but lets not forget shame over the actions of my fellow humans.

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I have always maintained through my articles that we have been pushed into turbulent, disturbed times where no man and no animal is safe. Seeing acts of atrocities towards animals in specific and this planet in general all over the the world, one begins to question the basic core of his or her own foundations. Are we as a race really so discontent that we look for such outlets to destroy and acquire? I have listed a few events here which in my opinion need to be escalated, need to be pondered upon. Take some time out, click on the links, see whats happening and process it. This happened, but whats important is what can be done about it now that its out there. These events affected me deeply and I cannot wake up everyday knowing this is still happening while I do nothing. Circumstances have made me an activist and I hope that a look into a mere handful of cruelties in the last year will shake your beliefs and awaken your soul as well.

Whale Hunting in Japan, Iceland, Faroe Islands- http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/worldnews/europe/faroeislands/11762447/Horrific-images-show-slaughter-of-250-whales-in-Faroe-Islands-hunt.html

Follow WDC- an organization committed to helping dave whales and dolphins around the world- http://us.whales.org/wdc-in-action/whaling

More than 2000 whales killed every year. (Above) A pic from the whale hunting festival, Farow Islans 2015

Dog Meat festival in China – http://www.bbc.com/news/world-asia-china-33220235

Upto 10000 Dogs  Tortured, Mutilated, killed and eaten every year in China. Picture from the Yulin festival 2015

Dolphin hunting festival, Japan

To fight Such hunting practices and to help release  whales and dolphins back into the wild in a challenging fight against Sea worlds around the world, follows Ric O’ Barry’s Dolphin project and be part of a movement which is the need of the hour. Always aiming at #thecoverunsblue.

You can also follow the Ocean preservation society and Mission Blue, which is fighting the never-ending doog fight everyday.

Dolphin killing in Taiji.. Picture from the OVS journalism blog

Lion Poaching in Africa: http://www.worldanimalprotection.org.in/news/un-resolution-tackles-illegal-wildlife-trade-wake-cecil-lion-outrage

Be it Cecil the Lion’s story who was poached within a sanctuary or the the fight against zoos and parks which use lions as entertainment value-ads, You can follow inspiring leaders like Kevin Richardson or follow World Animal Protection to do your bit and help make a difference!

Kevin Richardson- The Lion Whisperer. Follow him to be inspired each and every day!

Shark Poaching, Africa- http://www.bbc.com/news/science-environment-29418983

Shark poaching in Somali

Shark Poaching in Somali

Tiger Hunting: www.savetigersnow.org

Tigers today have advanced towards the endangered species list. There used to be over 100,000 roaming the asian wild with less than 322 left today.

WHY HASN'T THIS MADE IT TO THE NEWSPAPER COVER?
WHY HASN’T THIS MADE IT TO THE NEWSPAPER COVER?

In the name of Fashion?

Canada Seal Slaughter – http://www.peta.org/issues/animals-used-for-clothing/fur/canadian-seal-slaughter/

Skinning of crocodile and snakes for fashion, All in the bags and shoes- http://www.peta.org/issues/animals-used-for-clothing/exotic-skins-animals/

Don’t get me wrong, I love my bags and shoes, but in today’s day and age of alternatives isn’t there an ethical way to be fashionable? Be responsible, not callous.

Monkey Kidnapping in india- http://www.petaindia.com/blog/alleged-monkey-kidnappers-arrested/

Poaching of Rhinos- http://www.kariega.co.za/blog/video-thandi%E2%80%99s-inspirational-story-and-baby-rhino

From Poaching victim to Doting Mom, Follow Thandi the Rhino’s inspirational rescue story through wildlife film-maker Adrien Stern

As of today, September 2015- Experts claim that there has been a decline in the natural ecosystem and corresponding wildlife by 52%. 52%.. If now is now the time to wake up, I don’t know when is. Animal populations have halved, fresh water species have dwindled by 76 %, marine animals show a decline of 39%. Tigers and elephants are being driven towards extinction while the human population has doubled. What now? It doesn’t really matter what you work for, if you you remain this apathetic towards the state of your own planet, and of the animals on it. Please live responsibly, and work everyday towards making a change. Little changes DO matter. Follow world organizations, almost all of which have active branches in India. Volunteer, make a difference, and more importantly learn to say NO!

I have been to several animal enclosures around the world, The Tiger temple in Thailand, Sea world enclosures in Asia, elephant orphanages in Sri Lanka…but I honestly believe that we are conditioning animals in a way that is against their nature. Before we forget how we are supposed to exist, let us join hands and do the right thing no matter how hard it may seem. Join the movements protesting against the taming of wild animals for the sake of entertainment and focusing on releasing them into the wild, the only right way to co-exist. And if we do take their responsibility lets take better care and speak up for those who do not have a voice. Let us not come to a stage where we lose faith in humanity altogether.Wildlife-population-decline-jpg
Main Threats to SpeciesJoin world organizations today- WWF, PETA, Greenpeace International, Greenpeace India, Change.org, Humane society International India- Something. anything. Our own extinction starts with the extinction of every minute species that has died in the name of humanity. There is so much awareness today, everyone is fighting some or the other battle, whether iit involves freedom of animals from circuses, putting an end to animal sacrifice, preventing destruction of mangroves.. but mostly I’ll probably just request you to go easy on yourselves, take a moment and decide how you can make a difference. the world is well connected today, it is smaller than we think it is absolutely fragile. Its time to stop taking it for granted and show some compassion to fellow humans, to stray dogs, to animals and to nature.

Maybe it is time to Stop acting like we actually have another planet to go to.

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I will #neverstaysilent against animal abuse. #tryme

My Story: Being True to yourself, Despite your Gender!

We are faced with turbulent times as we face a changing India in front of us, in an era where the fight for justice is inherently being fought every day, every second. It is challenging to keep up with a country which has so many changing dynamics where people’s views and ideals are constantly shifting shapes with the events making “news” around us. I have been raised in Mumbai and one of the followers of the notion that almost every Mumbaikar carries within him or herself- “You can remove a person from Bombay but you cannot remove Bombay from a person”.
In an age where India has become so aware of crimes against women and women empowerment, most girls and women don’t realize that we are consistently being built around a foundation that we need to fight for equality, raise our voices against the slightest injustice and adopt absolute intolerance towards people who “dare to enrage our modestly”, it may be an eve teaser on the road or one of the guys that gawks and stares till the hairs on your arms rise! In my opinion we women carry a rage inside us, always ready to retaliate and set the world right if necessary. Keeping this in mind, I have a story to share which my friends and family think I should talk about to send across a message to women in general, Society in particular! I have led a sheltered childhood in Hiranandani Gardens, Powai where I live with my mother who is a teacher at Hiranandani Foundation School and has single handedly brought me up in this beautiful city after the demise of my father in the early years. My mother has always taught me to be fiercely independent which might be a good way to start the retelling of my account.
This happened at the Goregaon Oberoi Mall junction, which is known not only for the tediously long signals but also for the notorious lot of eve teasers and pick pocketers who have terrorized people there springing back and forth from the adjacent Pathanwadi slums. It was a weeknight and I was travelling back from work at about 9:30 PM when my auto-rikshaw stopped at the signal junction while I furiously sat inside typing away a message on my phone. This was the same area where my colleague had been harassed by a man two nights ago who tried to snatch her bag from inside the rikshaw. The thing with any unfortunate incident is that one always thinks it cannot happen to him or herself. As I waited at the signal, Suddenly out of nowhere I felt someone pass by me almost like a ghost staring straight at me and then within a second, my phone was snatched away from my hand. I don’t remember feeling anything but instant rage at that point which has led me to opinionate that we have a latent fury that we carry wherever we go. I looked out and saw the man running towards the slums. Instantly on impulse I dropped whatever I was holding, jumped out of the rikshaw and ran behind the man. I followed him into the slums and ran behind him through the turning and twisting alleys of the slum. Soon people in the slum started noticing that something was up, and before I knew it I was joined in my chase by 10-15 other people- men, women and children.
As we ran behind the guy who had my phone, we suddenly reached a dead end where three men were standing having a conversation. Seeing us run into the clearing chasing the thief, the men rounded him up and started questioning me as to why I was chasing him. At that moment all I could feel was fury. So much rage it is almost impossible to fathom. It was then that I realized, I felt this way not because the man had run away with my phone but because he thought he COULD just snatch my phone and run away, not because he ran away with something that was not his but because he thought he COULD just violate my personal space and then run away because a “girl would not chase him” or a “girl would not risk the chase into a chawl” or a “girl would rather lose her phone than FIGHT”!
Fathoming all the strength and rage I could, I slapped the man hard against his face. He was shocked. I will never forget the look on his face, which screamed that he had not expected this and then the people around me took over as I began to catch my breath and understand what it was that had taken over me. I then dragged the man out while the slum dwellers told me how common this had become and that I should hand him over to the cops. Next thing I knew he snatched his hand back and ran into the busy street, and while I stood there holding my phone I realized I have never seen anyone running for their life the way I saw him that day.
As I thanked the slum dwellers for their help I realized that I had left my bag in the rikshaw when I had run behind the man on impulse and just as I was beginning to lose faith in humanity there I saw the auto rikshaw guy, standing on the side of the road searching for me, with my bag in his hands. There is a reason why we love our Mumbai auto rikshaw bhaiyas no matter how much grief they give us they will never lag behind when it comes to honesty. I took the rikshaw and went over to the closest police station where I lodged a complaint. At first none of the police officers wanted to write down an FIR against someone from the pathanwadi slums but on much coaxing and seeing my bruises they agreed and made an entry.
All this while the rikshaw driver waited with me at the police station while I called my colleagues over telling them what had happened. I realized I had dropped my wallet on the street as well and gave up hope on finding it almost as soon as I had realized it was missing. However, about an hour after the incident I got a call on my phone asking me if I had lost my wallet! When I asked the man on the phone where he had found it he said he had found it fallen at the signal but hadnt been able to locate anyone around it or find a number to contact. So he used my shopper’s stop card to call the store, find my number and return the wallet to me! To see someone go through such an effort just to return something to the rightful owner just after seeing someone steal something from me had me overwhelmed, and it was then that I realized the paradox which was this city! A day of so much bad, and yet so much good!
My friends have often debated whether it was right of me to chase the man that day, I know my family would prefer me not pulling stunts but the fact of the matter is that if I had not run behind the man the other day, a part of my would have always carried the weight of that around. Women go through a lot in this country on a daily basis, and I believe that it is the women of today that can change that. We can’t wait for men to come and change the way things are, it is time to take responsibility and to fight our own battles. The answer may not always be running behind a stranger or getting into inadvisable confrontations. But the answer does lie in being true to yourself and not letting a gender bias ever, ever hold you back.