World Economy

Modi Revamp Hits India Logjam

Modi Revamp Hits India LogjamModi Revamp Hits India Logjam

Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi today risks failing to win approval from lawmakers for one of his biggest policy changes yet, a setback that dims prospects for other key bills until he wins greater sway in the upper house.

In a parliamentary session expiring Tuesday, upper house members have refrained from a vote on raising the foreign ownership cap in the insurance sector to 49 percent from 26 percent. Under a best-case scenario, Modi won’t control the body until 2017; more realistically it’ll be 2018.

Further delays for the bill would jeopardize other key moves to overhaul Asia’s third-biggest economy, including implementing a national sales tax and making it easier for companies to acquire land. Expectations of swift changes after Modi won a lower house majority in May helped put India’s main stock index among the world’s best performers this year.

“Out of two houses, one is functioning normally and the other isn’t being allowed to function normally,” Finance Minister Arun Jaitley said in the upper house on Dec. 18. “It’s the arrogance of numbers” of the opposition parties in the body, known as the Rajya Sabha, he said.

The upper house functioned for about 75 hours over the current month-long session compared with 122 for the lower house, with both spending about a third of the time discussing legislation, according to PRS Legislative Research, a group that tracks India’s parliament.

Modi’s Bharatiya Janata Party now controls 45 seats in the 245-member upper house, a number that rises to 59 when allies are included – still well short of the 123 needed to pass legislation. Securing another 64 seats will take up much of Modi’s term, which expires in 2019.

 E-Commerce Expanding

In India’s burgeoning e-commerce sector, hundreds of online retailers are peddling food, fashion, furniture — and everything in between.

As fervent global investors set the sector ablaze, the biggest boom is in the category of deliverymen, the uniformed workers who lug bagfuls of packages to the doorstep of online shoppers, Forbes reported Tuesday.

India’s most valued e-commerce firm, Flipkart (current valuation $11 billion) for instance, currently delivers 5 million shipments every month.

According to Reuters report, shares of third-party delivery firms such as Gati and Transport Corp have risen over 80 percent this year in India’s $50-billion logistics sector.

Many of these deliverymen have 12-hour workdays and nearly all ride two-wheelers in chaotic Indian traffic in unpredictable, even extreme weather.

A tangible and early consequence of the online retail explosion is the availability of thousands of these delivery jobs to men in their twenties with driving skills and minimal education. Barely any training is involved. In India’s ever-expanding e-commerce sector where hiring is growing speedily, delivery employees is the fastest-growing segment of workers.