“Life”, a new take!

This is my narrow interpretation of life!



I saw this Marathi song today on you tube. The title of the song is  दमलेल्या बाबाची कहाणी “Damaleya Babachi Kahani”, a story of a tired father! So many thoughts came to my mind while listening to this song. The song was presented by the famous duo, Poet Sandip Khare and Singer Dr. Salil Kulkarni, presenter was Sunil Barve. At the end of the song, there were tears in my eyes and I had very heavy feelings in my heart. I thought that I am a person who can hide his emotions, men folk generally attempt that! That reminded me of the time, when I had gone to see off my daughter, after her marriage, I had the same feelings. Probably all fathers have the same feelings for their daughters, at least I hope so. By the way, this not something against the Sons! But the feelings for sons and daughters have the similar difference like the behavior of “Men who are from Mars, and Women who are from Venus”! They must be giving some different potion to drink on Venus, to make daughters think and act the way they do! 

When your daughter is born, you know that at some stage she is going to get married and go to her husband’s home. Though this is known, the fathers keep on hoping or maybe pretending that this is never going to happen. Slowly the marriage age is reached and “Daddy’s Love” is ready to get married. In the mind, father wants to delay this if it is possible. But at the threshold point, which is the day of marriage, the day of reckoning arises. The father’s mind is in great turmoil, though he is busy in marriage activities. But at the back of his mind, there is a big turmoil going on.  

 The father in the song, is in a somber mood and he remembers that when his daughter needed him to be available to play with her, he has been away in the office. The father says, that he wants the daughter to become young again and fight with him, playfully. He remembers the day when the child was blessed with her first tooth, he remembers how she crawled all over their home and took control of everything, including their minds. He then asks her a question, “Will you please remember me, when you get married and go? Will you shed a few tears while going away? ” The song simply overwhelms your mind! It is also beautifully rendered in a modern way!  

Such situations do arise in many facets of our lives. The situation can be with mixed feelings, when we move to another city after a long stay, or we complete our studies and move out of hostels after 5/6 years of stay with friends. It can be when you retire after a long innings. In all these scenarios, some very close relationships relationships are formed. Sometimes, them become extended families. I feel that a daughter is father’s “Life”; similarly your work, you career, is also your “Life” if you have worked at only one place in your life time. Cutting off from both “Lives” is equally painful!  

In my life, I have seen only seen one person retire, that too twice! I watched it from close as I am talking about Jaya, my wife. Years back she retired from a Government research institute. She had taken voluntary retirement, and after a small break, she had plans ready for her future. For her it was kind of transit retirement. I could see that she was both happy and sad with the retirement. Sad that so many years of association with many people was going to break, a few had become life time friends. As she had future plans, she was able manage the transition quite well. Second time when she retired, she “really retired” from work in the industry. But our granddaughter’s arrival and my health issue did not give her time to get the feel of the new phase. We kept her so busy for first 8/9 months, that she did not have time to enjoy the change or feel the vacuum, retrospect or get the feel of real retirement. When she retired, our life pattern had changed so much, that she had to really juggle & struggle her time to manage life.  

I felt that there are quite a few similarities in one’s daughter getting married and the retirement from work life. In both cases, you have spent quality time with your daughter and as well as at your work. Some people get involved a lot in their work, sometimes forgetting everything else in life. Such people, I am sure will find it tough to adjust to retired life. Maybe those are the people on whom the song is based!  

Friends, it is quite tricky to decide which is more difficult from the two inevitable things that are going to happen! Giving away your first “Life”, your daughter or the second “Life” when you retire from your career! I have already, done the tough one so probably when time comes for me to retire, I hope to handle it more deftly! How you about you folks? 

Viva Democracy!

Extortion, Threats using democracy!

Democracy is supposed to be the better among the many forms of governments that we have world over. It gives freedom of speech, freedom of religion, freedom of thought process. In democracy, sometimes both sides are right! We tend to forget this point. We sometimes think that when I am right other side is wrong and that needs to be corrected. This thinking needs to be reformed as sometimes these things lead to bitter disputes, agitations, and many avoidable confrontations.

This struck me, when I read about controversy during ceremony to give national awards for film personalities, at the hand of the President of India, Mr. Kovind. It appears that he remains present for such occasions for not more than one hour. His office had already communicated this to the concerned ministry. When the stipulated one hour got over, he excused himself and left the function. There was a big uproar after he left and many of the artists who were yet to receive the awards, made big noise. The awards then were presented by the minister concerned. Many of the artists who were in the queue for the awards, decided to boycott the ceremony. They said that they will receive the awards at the hands of the President and no one else. Finally, many of them left the ceremony, without awards. My question is why the big uproar? I have seen many such functions where the chief guests, give say about 10 % of the awards, all others are given by someone else. I have seen this when degrees are conferred at the convocations too! I am sure it would have been a good feeling to get the award at the hands of President of India. But five years down the line, it is important that you have the award and not WHO gave you the award. But this event has created unnecessary scenes and bitterness involving highest office in our country, though it had nothing to do with the President.

This year India did quite well in the Common Wealth Games in Australia. Athletes from Haryana did very well in various categories. Government of Haryana declared a prize of Rs.15 million each, i e Rs 1.5/ crore, for gold medalist and so on. A substantial sum by any standards. They put one rider. Many athletes had already taken jobs in railways and such national organizations. They were getting a lot of support for training and otherwise from their respective organizations. These government organizations had declared their own prizes, for gold medalist Rs.50/ lacs or five million and so on. Government of Haryana felt that all the winners should get the equal amount as gift hence they declared that if athletes are already getting cash gift from their employers, then that amount will be deducted from the from prize declared by Haryana government. The athletes felt that government was cheating them; they wanted additional money. Government in all fairness thought that all should get the same amount as gift! Athletes decided to boycott the ceremony. Government said thank you, closed the subject. Again it shows the greedy character of our people. It was a gift being offered, it was not your right to get the money! Substantial amounts were offered by government as prize but athletes were not satisfied. It shows the character of our general populace.

Pune University is an old institution with a new name. Recently there was an issue going on. Students from post graduate course in English were on strike. Their demand was to postpone the exams, have a replacement teacher and change the Head Of Department! But what was the story? This was basically rural/city divide. The students from city background had none of these issues. They appeared for the exam on specified date. The problem of rural students was that teacher did not explain them in vernacular language, Marathi! Really? For post graduate students who have basic degree B A in English, wanted subject to be explained in Marathi! When you select a subject at post graduate level, that too English,  you should not expect teaching medium to be Marathi or special explanation in Marathi. The real problem I hear is that these students from rural background take admissions to post graduate courses, one after another, as they are studying to appear for government competitive exams. Admissions to these courses gives them staying place in hostels, in Pune, at a very low cost. In the democracy, placing various demands is the right of the students. But University authorities have acceded to their demands to remove the teacher, though there was nothing criminal against the teacher, students simply wanted him removed! Can you believe that? Or is this dictatorship by students? This sort of soft giving up, will lead to many such acts in future!

A farmer in Maharashtra committed suicide as he could not repay his loans. He owned nine acres of land. There has been big drive from government to give subsidies to poor farmers by way of loan waivers. I am not sure about details of this case, but to me this individual did not fall under any subsidy scheme as he owned 9 acres of land. When this unfortunate event occurred, his family concocted a suicide note purportedly written by the farmer, blaming the government for his suicide. When Police asked them why they brought the note so late, they had no answer. It was obviously a fraud. Then the family declared that they will not receive the dead body unless two conditions were met. First was Mr. Modi should visit the family and second was Maharashtra government should pay the family Rs. One crores! Ten million! This is plain extortion. Obviously, there was some backing from political people, but government handled this very deftly and ignored their demands. If a farmer does not make income with nine acres of land then who can help him.

Disparity in incomes is leading to a big divide in the society. Aspirations of people are going up. Better solutions for such issues is hard work and some support from governments. Poor and backward people need support. But is this correct to go on hunger strikes, or try some methods of extortion, at the drop of a hat? People try and convert each and every event into a circus. Is it the right way? Is this what democracy is for? Friends, share your thoughts with me!

EV’s! The Eco System Disruptions!

Are we prepared for major disruptions in many Eco System due to advent of EV’s?

Below is an article which informs us about governments seriousness regarding introduction of EV’s in India. It is hoped that at least 30% of all new new vehicles by 2030 will be EV’s. Last year, government ordered 10000 EV’s and there is a plan to order the same quantity this year too! Government is also encouraging bus fleets to buy Electric buses. Himachal Pradesh has ordered 25 such buses and are being run in hilly areas. I saw a few of them plying, during my recent holiday in Manali.


What EV’s are going to do to various Eco Systems? When we discuss EV’s, discussion is about pollution, how long petroleum products will last etc. There is also a discussion about petroleum cartel holding human race to ransom. But there are many more disruptions that need to be considered. These are not only for individuals but for various agencies like government, businesses and many other systems. These need to adapt, change and modify to suit new environment created by the EV’s.

Take the case of governments tax collection. Tax collected on petroleum products are so huge that these are almost 100% of the price of the petroleum products. At every stage tax is collected. From refining, to distribution to sell. Both central and state governments will start losing this revenue when critical mass of new EV’s is reached. 2030 as indicated in the above mentioned article, may be that year. Government needs to find methods to make up for this revenue loss. Not all revenue will be lost but there will be a loss of big chunk. Another issue is the “fuel” that will replace petroleum products will be electricity which traditionally is being manufactured in Public sector. This fuel cannot be taxed very heavily,  as its usage will be multi-purpose, vehicles, industrial and domestic usage.

Another major change that has to happen is the growth in production of electricity. If this continues to happen using petroleum products, then pollution will come out of chimneys instead of car exhaust systems. Main thrust appears to be on solar systems but they will also have their own issues which need to be tackled in parallel with increase in production. Another method that is being undertaken is nuclear power. This will also help the ecosystem to achieve the same goals.

Why would people switch over to EV’s? In case of buses, since it is a public transport this can happen faster if funds are made available. These organizations are anyway public sector. Of course, cost of the vehicles needs to come down. From present knowledge, it appears that maintenance cost will be lower. With decrease in Electricity price, battery replacement costs may also become quite manageable over a period of time, due to mass production.

But the real numbers will be coming in cars. Why will people change over to EV’s, the cars? Cost of ownership is the going to be the answer. This is made up of Price of the Vehicle, Cost of servicing, cost of repairs, resale value and ease of use. To me the last factor is also very important though it is not a tangible factor. All other factors have been there in IC engine cars too! But this is a new factor that has come up. We are all used to just using the key to go where ever we want; if required, we go to the petrol pumps and fill it up! With EV’s it may not be as simple, to start with. We need to plan, we need to have cars that will give more mileage per charge. The current charging technology available takes about 30 to 40 minutes minimum, to fully recharge. How fast this technology will improve? Will the charging time reduce to 5 minutes or some such time? Only time can tell. This brings us to charging stations, which is going to be a factor by itself!

EV’s will need charging stations, bus operations will have their own stations. But cars will need a huge number of charging stations. In India, we should not forget two Wheelers. Two-wheeler companies are also thinking big in terms EV’s and those numbers could be large. First and foremost is going to be the charging time! Unless this reduces drastically, number of charging stations needed will be a big challenge! So, to me this improvement to around 5 minutes or less is almost mandatory! I am sure the improvement in battery technology will increase the capacity of batteries which in turn will increase per charge running of vehicles. Who should invest in charging stations? Who will invest in charging station? Current Oil companies can take up onus of this, being public sector companies. Chicken and egg situation will prevail in initial phase. Charging stations first or EV’s first will be the dilemma! ROI on charging stations will be tricky and priorities is going to be an issue. Till IC engine vehicles are manufactured, they will keep on having the pressure of exhaust pollution control. By 2030, something equivalent of Euro 8 or 9 standards will be prevalent.  Car companies and Oil companies both will have to invest a lot on pollution control during this phase, along with investments in EV’s. This is tricky because nobody can predict the speed at which proliferation of EV’s will take place. Lest we forget, EV’s are Zero pollution vehicles!

About charging stations, will the government agencies build them or private agencies build them? Private companies have an option of not building them. There will be  individuals who may have proper parking space in office or at their home. They will build their own station but that number is going to be small, at least to start with. But looking at vehicles parked on roads even at night in cities, common charging stations, like petrol pumps, looks to be the only way. Can there be a “Charging Station Cess” on all new vehicles sold? Will it be acceptable to burden IC’s engine car buyers to benefit EV buyers? Can local governments take part in this, in cities where EV’s will be sold in large numbers? When will they know the trend? When will they decide to do it? All these questions do not have easy answers, but these issues need to be resolved.

The drive train in IC engine cars, starting from Radiator and ending with Exhaust pipe, will be replaced by about 18 parts, maximum. Out of these, the motors and gear are the only so called moving parts! When there are less moving parts, there will be less repairs needed! In fact, Tesla is offering life-long warranty for their cars. So, the car service industry will be the first victim of EV introduction. Today major chunk of repairs after warranty period is over, are the drive train parts. When these repairs are simply not needed, will the service industry be viable at all? Will manufacturers offer the paid service life long, through owned outlets. This is already happening in spare parts business, where component manufacturers find it difficult to compete with the vehicle manufacturers.

Another major disruption will be component industry and their basic vendors like casting, forging industries and their allied industry. These industries today, employ millions of people. Since there will a major disruption in this eco system, things are going to be tough. If a certain business simply ceases to exist, what do you do in life? Not everyone plans 10/15 years in advance. By the time they realize this, it could be too late! This group of business men will have business knowledge but may not have where withal to completely switch over to something new! How many will be smart enough to change to a totally new and/or unconnected business?

Friends, I have seen my city Pune change from use of carriage pulled by horses (called tanga), to auto rikshas, to Ubers and Olas. Tangas simply don’t exist now! I have observed that riksha business will also taper off over a period of time. Riksha is not an elegant mode of transport and it appears that young generation does not want to come in this business, as it is NOT COOL! The advent of Metros in the city in next three years will push Rikshas and even Uber/Ola! I will definitely use a Metro, if possible! When I talked of major disruptions, I was talking of obsolescence too! History has been harsh, and there is no replacement or option for obsolescence. If a system has to go, it has to go whether it likes it or not! It is like death, one has to accept it. Welcome to the brave new world of EV’s.

The Family that eats together!

Common shared traits courtesy DNA/Genes!

It is said that Genes, DNA et al decide an individual’s personality or persona. The more I try to understand, the more I get confused. Genes or DNA play a very important role in children, siblings, cousins and various relatives. These come from both sides of the family trees and they come from different generations, not necessarily the next one.   Similarities are of course there but some traits are so different that my confusion increases. What better way than to compare siblings?

I can share with you examples of people I know. About some of them I know only a little but about some I know a lot of details. Let me tell you about two brothers. I know the elder one a little more. My judgement has been that they are both smart but the elder one has taken more genes from mother’s side and younger one from father’s side. Elder one is very soft spoken compared to the younger one. But they have managed all through the life to be together. I will explain the term “together”. They run a business. They always travel together to customers or vendors. They stay in the same house and apparently have never had any serious differences. Of course, there would be minor differences like in any two human beings. Their father who is still reasonably active, probably is the reason for this great bond between the brothers. Brothers are in their 50’s!  This to be a case of many similarities.

Another case is about two brothers from a couple of generations above me. Their father was an upright person and was running his family and extended family, efficiently. Both the brothers ended up working in government departments. One in Police and the other in Excise/Sales tax. The police officer continued to be upright and remained a person of integrity. He worked for anti-corruption bureau for some period. During this phase a few complaints had come to the bureau about the other brother. His police colleagues asked him a couple of times if they were related; he said no. His colleagues were smart and checked up the relationship, they were police after all. This probably saved the Police brother from ethical issues! Later on, both retired. Police officer in routine course and the other brother took premature retirement. The policeman ended up with a modest rented dwelling with modest pension and the other brother ended up with a large condo and a bungalow plus what more I don’t know. In fact, to hide his ill-gotten wealth, he managed to convince their upright father to take over ownership of his condo! I am sure he was a fantastic marketing guy! How can we explain the difference in two brothers? The police guy also had the same opportunities to be corrupt. They had the same father who was very upright and straight forward. They worked in a government setup. But how did one of them change so much? From where did the Genes or DNA’s come from? Or is it because the company he kept? I don’t know if the company you keep makes much difference to change basic ethics. 

Then there is another case of siblings, brother and sister. There is only a couple of years of age difference between them. Both are very intelligent, smart. Both did pretty well in their education though the sister was ahead by at least one horse length. Both started careers as trainees and ended up as director/CEO of respective organizations. Both traveled extensively abroad. Both lived extensively abroad for work. Both have been top professionals in their field. This is where the story begins. Brother has remained very conservative while sister has become very cosmopolitan. Brother appears to be money minded but the sister has a giving and sharing nature. Brother has been a difficult person to deal with and continues to do so. The sister has always been in a soft person, a leader with empathy. The brother and I have a common friend. This friend and the brother were colleagues for a long time. The friend said that once during a meeting they had ordered tea. Apparently when the tea arrived it was not hot enough. Reaction? The cup was thrown at the person who brought the tea. Luckily, he could duck! I have known them for a long time and the empathy the sister would show in any situation was to be seen to be believed. In her organization she was considered a star who could be approached even at midnight if situation demanded. She shared with me a story of her grandson all of four years old, living in the USA. For some program in school, she was also present and the parents were told to wait in a hall for the performance. All kids came but the grandson was missing. He appeared couple of minutes later, pushing the wheel chair of his classmate. When the teacher was asked how they handle who will push the wheelchair; she said for me it is very simple. Your grandson always insists that he will push! DNA? Genes? Take your pick!  

There is saying, “You get what you sow”. But I know of person from well-known family in Pune. He has become a Casanova who deceives married ladies and tries to wean away their money. Again, DNA? Genes? Take your pick!  

This last example that I shared with you, to me is an exception. The atmosphere in which you grow, the company you keep also affects your persona. I also feel that family which is close to each other has continuity in behaviour patterns in their future generations with some natural variations in the persona of individuals. It is very easy to become distant with your progeny, your siblings. In digital world of today this has become quite tricky. I will change a well-known saying a bit. The family that eats together, without cell phones, passes on the DNA’s & Genes, uniformly! Do you agree?  


Voodoo Death!

Don’t break too many rules with impunity!

Last week an event took place in Pune in a major hospital. A 25-year-old was being treated in the ICU. She was shifted from a small private hospital where she had undergone a surgery, and things started getting out of control! The doctor who did the surgery but realized the limitations of his own and the hospital. Unfortunately, things had veered so much out of control that the lady could not survive and died. This news item came in a leading newspaper and then it became viral. Initial information was, “So and so hospital tries to cure by performing rituals by a God man!” The lady had died of multiple organ failure!

There are many issues. First is that this ritual was performed in an ICU of the major hospital. Secondly the ritual was performed by a “God man” in the presence of the doctor who had treated the patient before shifting her to the big hospital. A video was allowed to be taken inside ICU where hospital nursing staff was partially seen in the video! Initial newspaper report gave importance to the name of the hospital and it appeared as if the large hospital allowed the ritual to be performed in ICU.

So many things have gone wrong in this event that it becomes difficult whom to blame. First and foremost is the ritual! How can a trained doctor allow this, that too in someone else’s hospital? He just took a decision to do it. Second is the psychology! Probably the patient’s health had reached the point of no return. So, the act was performed in desperation! Unfortunate part is that the patients 20-year-old brother was the only relative present and doctor apparently asked him if it was ok to perform the ritual. The immature person allowed this but he himself took the video of the event! How can you allow videography in a hospital room where the patient is on the death bed? The godman performed the ritual with impunity as if it is a daily event for him. It is desperation which leads to such rituals being performed as a last resort. It is a tricky thing to pass judgment on these things.

One event and see how many wrong things have been done! Is it the problem with our society? Is it in our DNA? When I point out something which is not good in our society, some of my friends get disturbed. But I feel that once in a while we should look into mirror and be reflective. The sequence starts with God man’s ritual. It is well proven that these rituals have no effect on events in our life. Still we keep on doing the same. It is illegal to perform such rituals but we don’t care.

Who should be going in an ICU? Why a patient is kept in ICU? Intensive Care Unit is an area in any hospital where critical patients are looked after. It is equipped to handle all type of emergencies that may crop up during the treatment. To me it is an area where “nobody” should be allowed to go in except may be a person who is doing the work of an attendant. But what happens in real life? We crowd the area, we go and meet the patient even though we may be carrying some infection like cough and cold. If an unexpected person goes to see a patient in ICU, excitement may get generated. In a patient who is critically ill, excitement is not good and it can affect the patient’s health. On top of this a video was taken inside ICU! Are you trying to capture last moments of a dying patient?

Allowing this event to happen was definitely hospitals failure. There are systems and processes about who is to be allowed inside ICU area? How could there be three outsiders in that room? Of course, part of the blame is with us too! We must meet the patient, irrespective of the health condition. We will do anything and everything to get the entry. What about the Doctor who was present? This doctor’s hospital had handled the main surgery, so he was very much aware of what had gone wrong! For what he did, does he not deserve disciplinary action from the authorities? Why his license should not be revoked? Will he go scot free and keep on doing what he has done?  Newspapers also have equal responsibility in this blunder. Their first reporting indicated as if the large hospital performed this ritual. It was someone else who came and managed to perform it without the knowledge of the authority. From next day reporting changed but it is a public relations nightmare created by press due to incorrect reporting! This is totally unacceptable.

When will our society come out of this backward-looking thought processes? People may justify and say that it was the last desperate attempt to bring the patient out of difficult health condition; for some it is like going to a psychiatrist! But to me, in all this affair the doctor is the main culprit, as far as I am concerned. I will tell you an event that happened in Mumbai.

In a government hospital in Mumbai, a lady was being advised by a doctor during her pregnancy. This doctor also had her own private hospital. She convinced the patient to have delivery in her private hospital. The lady died during the delivery, as complications came up and her hospital was not equipped to handle complications. The hospital was situated in a hilly terrain and approach roads were in poor condition. So, shifting the lady during complications was next to impossible. The family of the patient took the doctor to court. The doctor argued that the lady was a tricky patient; she weighed 120 kgs. So, chances of complications were very high; death of that lady was not surprising to the doctor. The judge asked the doctor one simple question. When you knew that the case was complicated, why did you ask the patient to come to your private hospital, which was not equipped to handle emergencies. Doctor had no answer. She was jailed!

Friends, let us not do things that are not correct. Let us not look at everything for personal benefit. Let us make a better society, come out of retrograde thought process. Let us keep the traditions but apply scientific thought when we follow them. Meeting sick person is ok but meeting very sick person who is in ICU is not Ok! Let all professionals take modern scientific view of the situations rather than looking through old thinking and continue with old unproven non-scientific ways. All these actions will make a better society. It’s not only about the death of the lady but Voodoo death of the whole system!

False Pride 2!

Why do we cheat en masse?

In my blog False Pride 1, I had mainly written about attitude and behavior of the people. One of the most important aspects in Indian ethos, is that many old practices and traditions have continued. We have songs, poems and writings about clean and beautiful rivers with lovely birds; we have sayings like “cleanliness is godliness”. But this is one area where we have failed miserably.

                                          जहॉं डाल डाल पर सोने की चिडिया करती हैं बसेरा, वह भारत देश हैं मेरा।

Roughly translated, the song praises India, “The place where Golden Sparrows live happily on trees, this is my great Country, Bharat!” The song also says we are peace loving and truthful, disciplined people. Sometime back a satellite was sent in space and was given the work of checking on our great Bharat! They got many high-resolution pictures. And lo what did they find? All the scientists were flabbergasted while studying the photos. The photos were taken by special laser and X ray vision.

All over India they saw bits of paper lying all over and flying in the wind, of course Kachra! All over India they also found a lot of chits of paper neatly bound and stored. They thought that Indians love cookies and as they analysed the data further, they were surprised that cookies were metallic as well as paper cookies! When this data was given to Indian Government, they found that it is hoarded money and gold!

We as a society are proud of our culture but en masse we break rules, we cheat. It all starts with our daily routine. It is about morning ablutions. Even in the year 2018, our government is still required to run advertisement informing the importance having toilets inside homes. In olden times, as there were no pucca homes, using places a bit away from home was natural, though a bit risky. This practice continues even today; in certain parts of India it is macho to say that we have toilets in home but we still go in the field. It is so manly!  But what about women folk?

Our holiest of the river is the river Ganga. It is said that if we take a bath in the river we will be purified of all our sins. Maybe it is possible, I have never had a  bath in the Ganga but I am told that it is very dirty. Many towns, cities dump their drainage directly into Ganga, the tanneries dump their waste in it. Even today the dead bodies are dumped in the river with a belief that the person will go directly to heaven, due to this final holy dip! Successive governments are allocating large funds to clean Ganga but the problem is unresolved due to unclean minds of the people.

Pune, the city where I live, has a pair of rivers called Mula/Mutha. We have the same problem of drainage going in the river without treatment, by design; corporation has not built many sewage treatment plants.  The river Mutha is so small that the water that generally flows, is drainage water. While doing survey of the river bed, while designing the path for Metro, the team leader during the visit asked, “Where is the river”? The municipal corporation shows total apathy, people also add to this apathy. The building and road construction people, dump their rubble in the river bed. There is no check on them, they are never caught even though this is done openly. While driving on any bridge on the river, we see people throw the old flowers and pooja material  in the river. It is supposed to be the correct thing to do so, as per traditions.

Then of course, we have mass looting of sand from rivers, ores from mines mafia. We have sandalwood loot from jungles. There are people who steal electricity en mass. People in certain areas just don’t pay electricity charges; when authorities come to cut their power, they are beaten and forced to go away. I read in today’s newspaper that for high school 12th grade exam in UP, 1 million examinees just did not turn up. The reason? Government has taken strict measures to ensure that the education mafia is checked. Proxy candidates appearing for exams was the norm, hence the absenteeism, now. In Marathwada region of Maharashtra, some years back it was suddenly seen that students became brilliant, their pass % almost reached 90% plus. This was simply due to lax supervision. Once government ensured that district collector was personally responsible they had to make sure that there were no malpractices;  result % of pass students went below 40%.

You go to any major city in India. Vehicles are parked in no parking areas or on footpaths in droves. Signals are similarly jumped en masse. Once the traffic policemen go home in the evening, the traffic boards of “One Way, No Parking, Even/odd date parking” exist just for the name sake. Two wheelers are meant to carry two people, we ride 3/4 at a time! Helmets are mandatory for two wheelers, majority simply don’t follow the law. We see auto rikshas ferrying 12/15 children for school, when the official capacity is 3!

Where is this leading? How to prevent this? Who are the people breaking law? It’s you and me! It is rich and the poor! It is people from city and villages! It is educated and un educated people!  All break various laws en masse! Many of us are proud of breaking laws. We sing paeans of our heritage, our culture, our traditions! These traditions came into being when people lived in smaller places, villages; there was no population pressure. Why old disciplined culture from villages not transferred to large cities? In fact, this same lack of culture from cities is now going back to smaller places. Probably, in olden times, people respected, each other, helped each other because most knew each other. In the anonymous culture of large cities, people just don’t seem to care or bother about others. But again, some of our brethren who live in foreign countries, merge seamlessly with local culture where they normally live; once they are back in India, they are back to their normal Indian behavior. Does this mean that they behave differently in foreign countries not by choice but because they are forced to so?

We have a great culture, which goes back to thousands of years. We have great traditions. I am not able to understand why these changes have happened in our mass behavior in cities as well as in villages; the foreigners politely say, ” Oh, India is a different country!” What is the way out of this? How to coax masses to behave in orderly disciplined way? How to make people understand that cheating in every thing is not the correct way? People say that this should start from school level. But we read of big scams where teachers never go to schools, to get the grants, higher number of students are shown on the roll! Teachers take the profession because many of them are not good enough to do anything else. There are institutions who do not pay the salaries to teachers for months together.

I will tell you story of my cousin. He is a PhD from IIT, Kanpur. After retirement from industry,  he taught his subject in one of the engineering colleges. Then he wanted to move to another city. His college offered him to stay on their payroll. Well they needed a good PhD. They offered him Rs. 1,00,000/ salary per month! So where is the catch? The management told him that they will withdraw Rs. 80,000/ every month using ATM card. He did not join back!

I am not a pessimist! But these are some problems for which I do not see any solution in near future. Do you?  What is it that we are proud of? My beautiful, lovely India is only in songs!

Budget! It’s not a Game show!

My take of yearly budget; handle it with prudence!

Annual Government Budget has been a political show for years together but over a period it has lost its sheen and it is less of a show. When India became an independent nation, budgeting process had to be started. India as a whole, had never been a sovereign country before independence. In 1947 November, India’s first budget was presented. Of course, India was a poor country then and even now the large majority of the people are poor. But over a period, India started many industries, services, IT services was a major proponent of growth. India has a large number of farmers and farming sector, even today, it engages largest number of people. With the rapid growth in various sectors, India’s GDP is in top five nations in the world, though its per capita income is still very low, due to large population.  

As expected, India had a great difficulty in budgeting as there was nothing much in the kitty. Balancing the budget was a great art and there was always a conflict in budgetary allocations. Naturally, we started with education, India opted for large public-sector industries, big dams to help farming and to generate electricity. Then there was war with China in 1962, Pakistan 1965 & 1971 and one in 1947. With these wars, allocation started going more towards arms and ammunition. Factories were built to produce war material. Like any poor household, this strategy put stress on other sectors like agriculture, education. Private manufacturing was looked down upon and the industrialists were looked down upon as profiteers. Profit was a cuss word in those days, hence there was permit Raj and there were limits on the quantity of goods that could be manufactured. This type of thinking always led to scarcities and shortages. This further led to hoarding and black marketing. Added to this was political turmoil of 80’s. I think Bajaj Auto was the first company who challenged the government and said we will produce more scooters than the capacity, let us see what you do!

Since last ten years things have improved in India’s finances. Money is around and governments are trying to be prudent about allocations. Making a large country like India modern in science & technology, engineering, transportation, farming and defense is not a joke. Another important area is digitalization of the nation. Huge allocations are required for all these sectors.  

There is a large middle class, rich class, and biggest class is the poor class. Other than allocations for various sectors mentioned, the poor class needs to be supported in such a way that they become self-sufficient over a period of time. Other two classes have the where withal of taking care of themselves with or without Government support. This is what the government has done in the current budget. Poor will not be helped by dole or subsidies. But government actions may help this group in the most difficult areas, handling medical expenses.

Government has proposed a medical insurance scheme which will cover 100 million people in next couple of years. This scheme will cover a family of 5, for Rs.5/ lacs each. This means that 500 million people will come under the scheme. Illnesses have been one of the major factors that have ruined poor families’ finances. This scheme can take care of expenses during illnesses. Cynics will talk about difficulty to implement such schemes etc. Have you heard of something called Aadhar lately? Aadhar will be perfect tool to launch such an ambitious scheme.  

There is one more decision that will help millions of farmers. Government has covered 23 different items where farmers will get higher than today’s assured purchase price. This will help farmers, hopefully, from their current financial difficulties. There will be discussion why item A is not under the scheme but B is under the scheme. But this discussion is natural as everyone will be interested in his own well-being. But it is about people who are poor!  

But I see people like you and me cribbing that Income Tax slabs have not been improved. Come on we pay taxes; the majority who need help are those who don’t pay taxes! We worry that deduction against money spent on medical insurance is not increased. Difference is we are able to buy our own insurance, there are millions who can’t even buy it.  People are worried that iPhone, diamonds will become costly, Mercedes will be costly. Can these be even subjects for discussions? Every group of people want their pie to be improved. All want Indian cities to look like foreign cities. Only GDP increase does not do this. There should be minimum people below poverty line in any nation. Budgets now should now try and achieve this. For this all have to work together and support the Government whether it is formed by Party A or Party B!  Let political parties play the blaming game; it is their business but why you and I should be party to this?  Let them treat it as a game show in the Loksabha or outside the Loksabha!

Another thing I have observed post budget this time, is the proliferation of “Experts” being interviewed by newspapers. Since when students, housewives start giving Stars to the budget? Are they even one star in their knowledge about budget? Ask finance guys, ask people from industry, ask people in the know of it. They should be giving an overall opinion. Many real experts have opined about the effect of budget on their areas of work. Their remaining comments were general comments and not sweeping ones. What do the newspapers achieve by asking such a wide spectrum and asking them to give “Stars”? If by chance somebody had come to interview me, I would have 100% said, ” No comments! I am no expert in national budgeting”. 

Our nation is now on auto pilot for growth of GDP because of actions by successive governments. Now our budgets are what they should be, declaration of intents, allocation of funds to the priority sectors as visualized by the government in power. Let us make sure that this does not become lopsided; help poor to come out of their quagmire. Super rich will become richer without budgetary support. You and I should stop cribbing about vegetables being a little costlier, tur dal being a bit expensive. Sky is not going to fall if income tax deduction percentage is not improved. We want better India, smarter India and cleaner and neater India; let us make it all inclusive improvement. There could a little pain for a few groups, bearing it is tough, cribbing is simple. You decide what you want to do. Jaihind!