I don’t care!

Inculcate discipline from childhood by your own example!

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A news item in Pune’s newspaper said that a 14-year-old kid was stopped by the police as he was driving a two-wheeler on public roads. Obviously, he had no license and on top of it, when the police asked for the vehicle documents, he and his family did not have them. The number plate on the scooter was bogus. Questions arose if the vehicle was stolen? How did the family allow the kid to take the scooter on public roads? When asked, they did not have answers; the police arrested two people, the father and the uncle of the kid. The uncle supposedly owned the scooter. Was this family in some kind of funny business about stealing of vehicles?  

The sheer arrogance, impunity with which people allow kids to use motorized vehicles cannot be believed. ” My kid drives beautifully though he is only 13″, kind of stuff! This reflects poorly on the society and irrespective of income levels, family backgrounds, such incidents keep on happening. The result of such actions is that kids at an early age learn to do illegal things. They have no fear of law as they are falsely protected by the parents. Similar “training” is given to kids when their mothers take them on scooters and jump the red signal. At the young age, for kids, mother is everything. If she jumps red signal then it is their green signal! Another thing, is that it leads to is accidents. There is always a reason when society makes rules. Age allowed to drive motorized vehicles, age for getting married, age for consuming alcoholic drinks, these are all decided after observing human behavior vis a vis their age, over a period of time. Maturity required for performing these activities is lacking at younger age. This lack of maturity gives false sense of confidence to kids! In India, certain low powered scooters are allowed to be driven legally, when the child becomes 16! At the same age, in the US, they allow cars to be driven by kids but an adult with license needs to be sitting next to the kid in the car. We forget or we don’t care that these rules are made for the safety of individuals and in general safety of the people in society.  

Today morning, I was going out for a walk. In our building parking area, a kid 12 or 13-year-old, came on a scooter with his older brother, sitting behind him. I stopped them, gave them a bit of sermon. The older brother was a sensible guy. When I threatened that, I will report this to the police, he immediately agreed that he will never allow the kid to drive the scooter again, illegally. His argument, “Oh I just allowed him to drive in the society premises”! Same thing happened years back when I lived in a large society with good roads. The kid was similar age and he was driving a car. His father was sitting next to him. I stopped the car and asked the kid to get down. His father started an argument, I removed the car key and kept it in my pocket. His father’s argument; “Oh he drives beautifully blah, blah, blah”! When I asked the father about the risks and legality he had no answer.    

Now in India, a law has been promulgated to prevent such use of vehicles. The parents of such defaulting kids cannot hide behind the argument that their kid took the vehicle without their knowledge. But let me assure you that this has been happening from the time cars came into existence. I had a friend Ashok, when we were in engineering college. We used to “steal” his father’s car late at night when everyone was asleep. We would push it to a certain distance, away from home, without starting it, for obvious reasons. Not only Ashok, but all of us had driving licenses.  

We at younger age feel that we are infallible, immortal. Today a major fatal accident happened in Pune. A 20-year-old man had a different idea in his mind. At 4 am in the morning, he took his uncles car and went for a drive on an empty carriageway. He had a brilliant idea that he should send a live video feed to Instagram. He did the set-up on his cell phone, informed his friends and started driving at a very high speed. Can you imagine where his camera was focused? It was focused on the speedometer. The only way he could have done this was by holding the camera in one hand while driving. Great recipe! Empty road, high speed, one hand away from steering wheel! Add to this the exhilaration of sending live feed on Instagram. The inevitable happened, the car crashed against a barrier, the guy died instantaneously. The car was total loss; when I saw the picture in the newspaper, even without reading the news item, I knew that there would be no survivors! 

When such inevitable is known why some elements in the society, do not follow basic discipline? We sing paeans about western society, their discipline, their cleanliness, their organized way of life. But what do we do from our side to ensure that we will follow the same in India? In every phase of life, we break rules, we break laws, we are afraid to confront our kids who want to try something illegal; we never tell our kids that this is the law of land, you are just not allowed to drive a vehicle at this age. Kids just follow what their parents do at home or in the society. I remember an incident that I had seen years back. Two families were having dinner at a restaurant, enjoying their liquor too! No harm! But one of the mothers, drank way beyond her capacity! Her husband told their ten-year-old son, “Beta, take your Mumma to the wash room!” The Mumma could not take two steps in a straight line! 15 years later the same boy who must have turned into a dashing man, must have said when totally drunk, “Mumma was always right”!  

Disciplined, clean, advanced society? Start at home, confront your kids when required, follow the same path again and again. But looks like we definitely have something in our DNA. Leading actor Priyanka Chopda, was asked in an interview recently, what she misses from India as she is in the US most of the time! Prompt came her reply, ” Oh, reaching on time on film sets in the US is a big bore, in India I could reach as late as I wanted”! It might be her sense of humour but it is a bit weird!  

Another View Point! The Native place!

My controversial take on “Going to Native Place”!

This is a very emotional and controversial subject I have touched and some of my friends may not agree with most of what I have written. But I have just tried to understand the conflict in minds of the people, that are tough to handle. 

Most of my life has been spent in cities of Pune and Mumbai with small breaks in between, when I was very young. So, I do not have the concept of “going to native place or गांव  or  मुलुख!” These two places have been my gaon! Pune is the native place for me. I have many friends who have their native places, which are much smaller towns or maybe tiny villages. So, I do not have the experience of going to the native place, like these people have. I am sure it must be nostalgic, lovely feeling. I hear many stories of these places, in some cases 50 years old and in others 30 years old. I was trying to imagine how wonderful it must be to have such memories. 

But the pragmatic guy in me poked me and said, “Hey, Pramod you also have a native place. But the only difference, between those who “actually” have a native place to go and you, is that you have lived almost all your life in your native place! Probably this is the reason you do not become nostalgic when talking about your native place!” Remembering olden days, enjoying the memories of old times is the best thing that a human has, which nobody can take away, ever! It’s must be fun and emotional  to go down the memory lane and enjoy oneself. I was talking to my friend Ram, who has his native place, a small town. He recently traveled to his native place. He shared with me the same thoughts as I visualized. He was nostalgic, he remembered many old things right from his grandfather’s time.  

The difference in the “native place” of others and my native place is that many of my friends from olden times are still in my native place, in fact some of them are still living in the same dwellings. I have seen my native place change in front of my eyes! Whereas in the “native places” that come up in discussion have changed from villages to much bigger villages or towns. Towns have become much bigger towns. When I think about this, I always felt how people feel when they go to native places that have lost many things to Time! How many of the old friends live there? If they have lived there all their lives, then have they changed with time? Do you have things common with them after 50 years? Are these things relevant today? 

I came across a poem by Kedarnath Singh, a Gyanpeeth award winner. The Poem is “Gaon Ane Par”!  (“On arriving at my native place”) First few lines of the poem are  

अब आ तो गया हूँ 

पर क्या करुँ मैं? 

एक बुढे पक्षी की तरह लौट-लौटकर 

मैं क्यों यहां चला आता हूँ बार -बार ? 

Below lines are my humble attempt to translate in English, the crux of what Kedarnathji has said. 

” I have come back to my native place,  

to do what?  

I keep on traversing here like an old bird,  

why do I keep coming here, again and again”? 

He is confused and it is obvious that he is not sure why he keeps on doing this. Are these the same people for whom I come here? He muses further. But when I see them, I need to go back in the old time-frame. These are the same people who are mine or are they mine? I don’t know where they live but why am I insistent that this is my home? 

The confusion in the poet’s mind is what happened in my mind too, about my friends who go to their “native place”. Their old homes where ever they lived, in most cases, do not exist. These have been replaced by new structures and maybe have new ownership. None of their close relatives live there. None of their old friends live there. Except for nature, the sea, the river, the hills everything else has changed. The people whom they see, are unknown to them like what you have in big Metros, the anonymous. School building has changed completely or a business center is built in its place. Landmarks of olden times have simply vanished. So, what do my friends go there for? For the name of that place? The place which has become foreign to what is in their minds!  

I am sure that there will be some nostalgic memories about some very specific things, which still exist. In my case, where I lived in my childhood in Mumbai, the same building still exists and is bit renovated. Families don’t live there anymore and a charitable trust runs an institution in that building. This institution provides low cost stay for people from outside Mumbai who are required to come and stay for medical treatment, a noble cause. But its presence kicks me in the butt and tells me how time has flown. There is zero  chance that someone will even vaguely know me. Will I become nostalgic by just entering those rooms where I lived in my childhood? To me nostalgia is something with a human touch. At least in my case, luckily, the building exists as it was in 1965! 

The poet further meanders with lines, what should I do to make people in the native place feel that I am one of them? They are mine, or are they? For whom I am writing this poem, will they ever read my poem…. should I touch someone, can I hug someone? He has a small fear in his mind. He has become a Dilliwala, a person from Delhi! He is not sure if his “Delhi” version will come in the way of their hug! These and other lines of  the poem have beautifully brought out the conflicting thoughts of this community of people going to their “native place”. Ram felt that very small percentage of people going back to native place feel really connected. Is it the pilgrimage taken out of some compulsion?  

There is new “going to native place” phenomena due migration to different countries. These people and people receiving them in the country of birth, naturally have different viewpoints. But it is painful and slightly embarrassing to know what some people have said about their native place. The well-known actor Priyanka Chopda said the other day, ” What I miss about India, is that I cannot reach the film sets late for work in the USA”, where she works currently! A young 30 something CA, a finance professional in Sydney, Australia said, when asked what he misses about his native country India? He said, ” Next week, I am going to Delhi for a holiday and break these damn traffic signals 30 to 40 times in first two days; I am fed up of straight jacketed life in Sydney”. If these persons were saying these things jokingly then they have a dark sense of humour!  

I can understand nostalgia, old memories and lovely times spent in the native place. But I think one should be more pragmatic about basics. When a lot of time has passed, maybe humans tend to become too dogged in thinking that nothing has changed in the native place. When you were young, your family, your culture of that time (cultures do change with time), your friends of that time, also change from the way you remember them. It is your mother or aunt or elder sister who were giving you the love and the lovely food of those times! So maybe the “going to native place” is the journey like jumping from a plane, using parachute! The thud you hear when you reach the ground is what brings us back to reality!  

 

 

A little deviation!

My little probe on current politics!

I generally avoid writing about things that are in public domain and especially related to politics. But some recent events have forced me to temporarily tweak my rule, maybe just this one time! So, pardon me. Many actions in public domain are supposedly taken with elections in view, or some such ulterior motives. As usual ruling party and oppositions parties do not see eye to eye on most things. Only time both sides seemed to have come together, are during national emergencies. But there have been no such emergencies. I am not talking of this government or that party. 

Today I read about a small plane carrying Rahul Gandhi and his close aides, flying from Delhi to Hubli. It appears that as the flight was approaching Hubli, the airplane suddenly lost height, became unstable, and pilots lost control. This was during day time and weather was clear with no obvious winds. Pilots took charge of the plane by shifting from Auto Pilot to manual mode and landed safely. On landing, the entourage approached the police and lodged an FIR, claiming sabotage. The FIR is lodged against the pilots! Do pilots not know if the plane crashed, they will also die? I do not know why FIR was lodged. All, including crew were petrified. If someone wanted to kill the leader why will they put the lives of unknown persons also, in jeopardy? The plane could fall and kill a few on ground too! Are we such a vicious country that we will try to kill some senior leader because of elections? Are we a set of “Stupids” to react this way? Are we so malicious, that we want to charge our opponents of murder? After getting down, the complaint could have been made to authorities. These authorities could have been requested to stop flying the plane for thorough inspection. (apparently this is now done) Who advised this group of people to complain about saboteur? What is this, stupidity or viciousness, naivety?  

On the other side, due to the rise in Oil prices in international markets, petrol and diesel prices at home are also sky rocketing. With elections around in some states and national elections next year, this is supposedly a disaster for the current government. But they are sticking to basic finance rules and not taking any action to reduce these rates by way of subsidies. Sometime back, Indian petroleum sector was linked to international oil prices. A couple of years back, we got the benefits of very low petrol/diesel prices. Popular measures may be good politics but it is not good for the nation. This is an extraordinary courage being shown by the government.  

Supreme Court Chief Justice issue is one more such saga. I do not understand much about law of the land. But it was apparent from the beginning that this action was going to boomerang on the people who started the action. First and foremost was that the opposition parties could not form a coalition, based on similar thinking. The numbers were not there, and according experts, logic behind the action was not tenable. With this background there was no point in moving ahead. But why they moved forward is a mystery! Do they have no other agenda? Do they have nothing viable to pressurize the government?  

AFSPA is Armed Forces (Special Powers) Acts (AFSPA), are Acts of the Parliament of India that grant special powers to the Indian Armed Forces in what each act terms “disturbed areas”. Tripura government has withdrawn this act after 18 years. This was promulgated when situation there was bad and there was no option left. But somebody has reviewed this and taken a decision to withdraw these. This is creditable because generally nobody wants to bell the cat. Decisions in the government, are generally left to bureaucracy and their motto is status quo! Generally, there will be no review, things keep on lingering. One arm does not know what the other arm is doing! That reminds me of a small anecdote from Solapur district. In the district collector’s office, there was a file called “Report for the Queen”! Nobody knew what it was. But every month a group of officers was creating a mundane report, to be sent to the queen (of England), naturally! This procedure was started more than 100 years back during British Raj and continued till the year 2000! Review? What is that! 

Last but not the least is current China visit by our PM. Both our countries are large and with big population. Somehow China has been coming in the way of many things that India wanted to do on the world stage. May it be Pakistan, Sri Lanka or United nations China has always tripped India; on top of that there has been continuous probing on border posts in Himalayas. These type of skirmishes, are always stressful and can prove to be very expensive, even money wise, with no tangible results. Our PM has realized this and has taken first step to cool down tensions with China. There will be give and take, but we need to be pragmatic and keep our egos aside! That is the real diplomacy. I always felt that India was always lagging in finesse in diplomatic relations, though there has been improvement in last ten years or so. There were no declarations, no noise, just tête-à-tête between top bosses; it appears that meetings will be regular in future! I felt that this is a feather in the cap of our Government!  

Are we showing maturity in our governance? Are we not afraid to take steps which may be termed bold? But one thing is sure, we continue to be idiots, stupids and smart at the same time. Mainly the political arena has to change! Can we be a little smarter in our internal political moves also and try to be less confrontational? Hope we mature in this area too!  

Jaihind!  

 

 

  

Human reactions!

Greed or abnormal thoughts over come normal humans!

It is impossible to predict how humans will act, react and behave. We expect that the human behavior will be more rational in developed countries but it does not appear so! This thought came to my mind when I read a news item today about death of Jeff Murphy in Yellow Stone National Park in the USA along with other news items. 

A guy called Fenn has written a memoir where he talks about treasure hidden by him. Fenn claims his treasure chest contains 265 gold coins, ancient Chinese jade figurines, rubies, emeralds, diamonds and hundreds of gold nuggets, some as large as chicken eggs. He estimates tens of thousands of people have gone looking for it, sharing their experiences on blogs and treasure hunting forums. One of his motives in hiding it, he told an ABC affiliate in 2015, was to “get the kids off the couch and away from the game machine.” 

A mysterious 24-line poem in his memoir is supposed to hint at the location. It ends with the following lines: “So hear me all and listen good, your effort will be worth the cold. If you are brave and, in the wood, I give you title to the gold.” 

In last few years, beside Murphy 5 to 6 more people have died looking for this treasure. I just cannot believe, that just because someone has claimed to have hidden some treasure, people are getting killed to look for the same. Fenn appears to be a person who has done this for some purpose, with all the trappings of treasure hunt where hints are hidden in a poem he has published! What makes people, in today’s times, with so much technological advancements, to fall into such traps? Do their families not stop them? Amount involved is not such that one should get himself killed. The place where the treasure is supposed to be hidden is from southern most USA to up North! From whatever little I could understand, the people who attempted and died, did not appear to be “crazy’ persons!  

Another news item I read today’s newspaper is about an ex Minister from the Indian state of Bihar! His tenure in the ministry was completed and was required to vacate his bungalow as a normal practice. As a real world normal practice, the politicians squat on the property and prolong their stay as much as possible. Suddenly, he vacated the bungalow. He claimed that the chief minister has sent some ghosts in the bungalow to ensure that he will vacate! Can you believe such statement?  This person was a minister the government, he was supposedly running a department. In the year 2018, the claim that ghosts have been sent to the bungalow is ridiculous and bizarre to say the least! How do such people become ministers? How do they get elected? It is said that the society is governed by the people it deserves? Are we such a bad society? Or maybe I see only a miniscule part of society that appears modern!  

In United States, there has been a trend in last 20 years of random shootings in schools where innocent children are killed. Till today, in 2018 there have been 18 deaths and 40 plus injuries. All over US, there are  lot of discussions and protests going on. Finally,  US President felt that it is important enough to meet the families of the kids who died. All have demanded that the Gun Laws in the US should be tightened. A young person cannot buy beer in US till he becomes 21 but he can buy a Gun when becomes 18!  

The Second Amendment (Amendment II) to the United States Constitution protects the right of the people to keep and bear arms and was adopted on December 15, 1791, as part of the first ten amendments contained in the Bill of Rights  Supreme Court of the United States has ruled that the right belongs to individuals, while also ruling that the right is not unlimited and does not prohibit all regulation of either firearms or similar devices. State and local governments are limited to the same extent as the federal government from infringing this right, per the incorporation of the Bill of Rights. 

This was adopted in the year 1791 more than 200 years back when there was wild west, carpetbaggers and gold diggers! The country itself was like the last frontier. This amendment was suitable for those days! In between the gun lobby and industry has taken over the thought processes. National Rifle Association was founded in the year 1871 and the same thought process continues! Their motto is “people kill people”, guns don’t! This lobby just does not allow any changes in the law. End result is that we see the random killing of innocent kids! American authorities including their President have come up with a beautiful solution. The President finally had listening meeting with parents of the children killed. He suggested that teachers should be provided with weapons to handle random gunmen who come with rifles! Currently teachers try to hide in the classroom along with the students. Now they will be exposed as they have guns and there can more killings in crossfire. The officials in Florida have suggested that their officers will attack the gunmen with assault rifles! Wow! What a solution! How these people’s minds work? Gun lobby should not be disturbed! That is a sacred cow giving donations to political parties! How can you disturb the bandwagon? Will this ever change in the USA?  

Friends I have shared some random examples of human behavior. The first one is about individuals who got themselves killed because of their greed. The second one is about a minister in the government who believes in paranormal stuff and was supposedly running a department. Third example is about killings of innocent kids due to adamant behavior of authorities in the society. Why do such reactions happen? Is greed so bad that that people don’t bother about their own death or deaths of innocents due to an irrelevant law which came into being 200 years back and was relevant at that point of time! I am writing this with a great anguish and sadness! What do you feel about these issues?  

 

 

 

Richie Rich!

Cheat your way to become Richie Rich!

RIchieRich

 

Richie Rich! This is my favourite comic character, in fact I still read these comics when I get a chance to read them. This kid is from a rich family and has everything that one may dream of. I used to wonder, how hard his family must have worked to reach this stage. Even today I dream of becoming Richie Rich but now there appear to be simpler ways than working hard, slogging all through life!

Nirav Modi has shown us the way of doing these things. This Modus Operandi had started with Harshad Mehta when he got a bogus Rs.200/ crores fixed deposit certificate. This was done in connivance with some bank official from Bank of Karad. The original FD certificate was for Rs.2/ crore and was conveniently changed the certificate to Rs.200/ crores. Using this fictitious certificate Mehta borrowed money from institutions, and rest as they say is history. When you borrow money against a Bank Deposit, it is assumed to be correct one in all respects and loan is simply given against the most liquid asset. Bank of Karad later went into liquidation. Why work  hard when you can cheat? A little jail term and some bad name is ok as long thousands of crores are available to you.

What we all have seen is that real money is created over a period a few generations of consistent efforts and hard work, sometimes a bit of luck also plays part. But during last 50 years, share markets, and IT companies with their very high  valuations and hence their skyrocketing share prices, have created billionaires. But in share markets real billionaires are far and in between. Not like those from IT industry. Classic case is Jeff Bezos, founder of Amazon. Even after 25 years in business, Amazon is constantly in loss, but keeps on doing business, gives deep discounts on products, Bezos is currently the richest person in the world. Some years back he bought iconic Washington Post for US $ 250 million , in all cash deal. These people have huge personal wealth, they have money to pump in business continuously, but their companies are loss making all the time! But at least they are not cheating banks and you and me!

In normal course, non- IT businesses do become bankrupt, fail but in IT industry failed companies on your CV make you special! Venture Capitalists pump more money in your next  ventures. Cheating happened to some extent, like in case of Enron. There are normal cheats but those of the size of Mallya’s and Modi’s were not many. There was a classic case of Chrysler corporation, who were given special loan by US Government. After a couple of years, this loan was repaid! The Chairman, Lee Iacocca at that time made a famous statement. “We borrow the money the old way, we repay it!” This one statement explained the way the business is done, world over, including India !

But with Modi’s and Mallya’s of this world, things are different. In recent years, there is a big list of people, from different sectors of industry like, power, construction and steel. These companies were given such huge loans that they have sucked the banks in trouble because they are all on the verge of bankruptcy. The beauty of current law in India is that the personal assets of the defaulting promoters cannot be attached. So, most are enjoying life as if nothing has happened.  A bankrupt company’s assets were being auctioned. The original promoters had failed to repay Rs.800/ crore. Original promoters took part in the auction and bought the same assets back at Rs.50/ crores; due to declaration of bankruptcy Rs.800/ crores went into thin air! A law was recently modified to stop people from cheating further.

In case of Modi, fraudulent LOU (Letter of undertaking) were issued by Punjab National Bank. Officers from the Bank issued these without any guarantees. This issue came up in January as the suspect officer had retired and when Modi needed fresh LOU’s, the new officer asked for guarantees. Modi’s people said that they had never given any guarantees before. Why they are being asked now? The whole Pandora’s box opened!

There are many checks and balances in the system but those who are supposed to check, break the rules, how to stop such frauds? It seems that the sizes of fraud are increasing in proportion to inflation and lifestyle. With whatever wealth they had,  before fraud, both Modi and Mallya could easily have lived with whatever lifestyle they wanted! But why do something fraudulent? What is enough money? It comes to basic question; how much land does a man need? What does one do with tens of thousands of crores of Rupees? There is a reverse trend started by Bill Gates who is encouraging the superrich to donate their assets because those assets by remaining under control of an individual or organization, remain idle. If these are donated and correctly used, world will be a better place to live.

In case of Modi he has been living in Europe most of the times, in case of Mallya also it is the same! At least at present they are lucky otherwise, when and if they are brought back to India, they will meet the same fate as Sahara Chief, Unitech boss, Jaypee team and now probably D S Kulkarni. What is the thinking of these people? All these people had done reasonably well in life, till they started doing wrong things. What were they trying to achieve? To become biggest in their field? These four groups have cheated individuals like you and me! Many of us have taken loans to buy flats, many have given life’s savings as FD’s after retirement!  Now there is no way for any new infusion of funds; income for these retired people have stopped, and capital is locked!

Let us hope that government of India, irrespective of party in power, continues the good work they are doing. They are ably supported by our courts by giving strongest possible indictment for bad deeds of the suave looking bad guys! But in discussions with some friends, I found that some people have sympathy for the these fraudulent people! They felt that it is just bad luck in their business cycle and people should support such business people. If you are supposed to be doing Rs.10,000/ crores of projects, and cannot raise Rs.50/ crores to repay depositors money, you do not deserve sympathy, they deserve law to take over and may free stay in Tihar jail or jail of your choice!

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!