Titbits from real life 25022020!

Our life is full of interesting and annoying things. Some events create anguish in our minds, but life is good, in general. When you watch the video below, it will confirm that all is well with this world.

The incident took place in Pune. In Pune, the corporation is trying to do its best to make better footpaths, to start with, and in certain areas, the roads are getting converted into a walking plaza. For example, Fergusson road and J M road, main arteries in central Pune. Both are unidirectional roads, and the footpaths on both these roads are being widened. In India, we must have wide pathways because there are a considerable number of people walking. Before this widening, people would walk on roads because the footpaths were narrow and hawkers occupied a part of it. Since the traffic is unidirectional on these roads, the action taken will allow people to walk on the footpaths, comfortably.  Pictures of J M Road and Fergusson Road are given below.

But Pune has a unique road culture. Supreme Court has mandated that two-wheeler riders must wear a helmet. But wise people of Pune think otherwise. They don’t like to wear helmets, so they don’t. In between, there are drives to catch these rule-breakers. But even wiser politicians of Pune intervened and made the government stop such drives. Ultimately, it is my head! Who the hell is Supreme Court to tell me to wear a helmet?

The video above shows Mrs Gokhale from Pune. She did not take law in her hand. The wise riders in Pune treat the footpath as a unique way of riding bikes. Pedestrians don’t exist in Pune. Anyway to hell with them! Gokhale madam, one day decided to stand on a footpath and ensured that the bike riders got down from their High Horse position of riding on footpaths. There is a simple rule in life. If you need thirty minutes to reach somewhere, give at least ten minutes buffer. If you plan your schedule correctly, you don’t need to do stupid things like riding on footpaths. Yes, once in a while there could be an accident which would delay not only you but everybody. It should be treated as Force Majeure in business terms. Force Majeure is unforeseeable circumstances that prevent someone from fulfilling a contract and it is a legal term. But no events give you the freedom to break the fundamental laws with impunity. I have seen individuals helping traffic coordination in the absence of police. Mrs Gokhale and these good samaritans give you a good feeling about life. Way to go folks!

Then there was an exciting event about Usain Bolt of India. There was a news item in papers.

Srinivas Gowda, 28, broke the record in Kambala, a sport where people sprint 142m through paddy fields with buffalo. He is said to have finished in 13.42 seconds, while Bolt holds the world 100m record of 9.58 seconds.

People extrapolated the timing for a hundred meters, and it comes to 9.55 seconds. Wow! Incidentally, Gowda looks very fit in pictures. But we all start believing that this is true. Of course, it is printed in the newspapers. Immediately the government agencies woke up and sent him a train ticket to travel to Sports Authority of India office in Bangalore for trials- he did not go. Central Minister Rijju took notice and instructed experts to check.

Somehow in all this hallagulla, we forgot one thing. Gowda is 28 years of age, the age at which or before, the sprinters retire. Nobody gave a thought, how the timings were measured. Was the “start” tracked? No, it was not. Only the end was tracked,  of all the things, by a laser system. We have gone high-tech in buffalo racing!

Athletes like Bolt, practice with equipment, shoes and artificial track. They have special diets, coaches and a whole team of people supporting them and they practice, practice and practice. Their life revolves around athletics. Once these athletes show results, many of them get sponsorships.

Gowda has been running this buffalo race in a sport called Kambala. In the race, the buffaloes run, and persons like Gowda run behind them. They are definitely not pushing the animals, but animals are pulling them. He cannot be running in tandem with the animals. When he gets pulled, is it running? In athletics, the athletes use their toes while running while in Kambala the runner uses the heels for running. The Kambala is a sport where running is done in paddy fields full of water and mud!

Comparing Gowda and Bolt is like comparing Apples and Oranges! But how people fall for such traps? Why is such news even printed? Why a minister sends him an invite?

For records purpose, Anil Kumar Prakash (born 28 August 1978) is a retired Indian sprinter. He holds the current 100 metres national record of 10.30 s set at the National Circuit Athletic Meet held in New Delhi in 2005.

Can it be compared with the rumour of Ganesh Idol drinking milk? Why don’t we see through such items? It should start with news reporters. Poor Gowda may not have even heard of Usain Bolt.

Another surprising thing that we see in India is about the egos of people. For the formal banquet, in honour of President Trump, the opposition leader was invited. The opposition leader decided that because their “Interim” party president was not invited, he would not attend the banquet. Why the party president did not become the leader of the opposition is for that party to decide. Ex-Prime Minister Manmohan Singh also chose not to join because of the same reason. Was he invited because he belonged to a party? No, he was not. He was invited because he was the Ex-Prime Minister. Party affiliation has nothing to do with the invite. It is because of sycophancy in Indian politics, such decisions are taken. Does it matter to President Trump? He will not even notice, either way. During the Namaste Trump event in Ahemdabad, Modi introduced Amit Shah to Trump. From his expression, Trump looked confused. He was asking Modi, ” Who is this guy?”

Another hilarious thing I read was a news item from Kolkata. Communist Party of India (Marxists) took out a procession shouting, “ Trump, Go Home!” What a joke! Who cares for them? People don’t even bother about them in West Bengal? Will their sloganeering matter globally? What is this group of people trying to do? What are they trying to show? Communism does not exist in Russia and China today!

We have all sorts of jokers in our public life so no point keeping the count of these people. They give us relaxation in our daily grind.

Dictatorship or Democracy!

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Currently, there is a trend or fashion, whatever you want to call the world’s largest two democracies, India and the US, as dictatorships or moving towards the dictatorship. I asked a friend who was vehemently arguing why these are dictatorships. When people are highly excited about their ideas, I generally don’t counter-argue. It is because their mind is not open.

Modi won the election initially in 2014 and then again in 2019 with a higher majority. Trump won the elections in 2016. Their immediate predecessors were Manmohan Singh and Barak Obama. Chalk and the cheese are the accurate descriptions of their style of working in comparison with the incumbents. Though Modi’s victory was expected, Trump was a surprise winner for many.

By no means, I agree with all what Modi and Trump are propagating. It is liberals, seculars in both the countries who are troubled by this development. But in India, at least, these people are happy when minorities are appeased and are given benefits. Both Modi and Trump are right-wing leaders. In a democracy leftist, left of centre, right of centre thought processes are reasonable and acceptable. But the extreme right of centre becomes a dictatorship. Then what does extreme left become?

The latest trend that I see is that the veteran politicians of various thought processes are not used to the so-called right-wing thoughts. Anything that does not match with their thinking is not acceptable, or it is evil. It is a dictatorship. These liberals are okay even with Maoist/Naxalite thought. Some of them take out marches to support convicted terrorists. The latest march was in Mumbai to support Sharjeel who is arrested on sedition charges.

So how is the health of democracy in these two countries? I think it is good. People may not agree with me. How does democracy compare with other forms of Government? Compared to dictatorships, oligarchies, monarchies and aristocracies, in which the people have little or no say in who is elected and how the government is run, a democracy is often said to be the most challenging form of government, as input from those representing citizens determines the direction of the country. The basic definition of democracy in its purest form comes from the Greek language: The term means “rule by the people.”

But when the “Opposition” wins, those in power don’t accept the result of the election gracefully. The ruling gentry is used to the benefits that they get when they are in power. Opposition for the sake of opposition is the name of the game. Many times it surprises me that others vehemently reject any action taken by the ruling party. How can two sides be never on the same page for any decision? Does it mean that either of the sides is antinational? When a budget is declared, it is natural to have different views on the same. The opposition should be giving a point by point reply. But since both sides are citizens of India, at least 20/30 per cent of budget points should be acceptable to both. But from the statements, it appears that their views are a 100 % mismatch. Is this the correct way of taking part in the governance of the country?

Democracy is a system where all and sundry are allowed to air their views on all the subjects in the world. Both in the US and India people can openly do this. There is an old joke about this. An American and a Russian are chatting over a drink. The American says, “In my country, I can easily say that our President is an idiot.” The Russian smiles and says, “ Oh! We also have that freedom. I can openly say in Moscow that the American President is an idiot!” Democracy gives freedom to pursue your right to live anywhere in the country. It means you can follow any religion, and you may dress the way you want. You may have political views which could be from far left to far right. The freedom that humans get has to be used within the guidelines or the framework of the law.

The last couple of months, we have continuous protests in various parts of the country. The legal system in the country ensures that protests are peaceful; at the same time, it makes sure that the police don’t go overboard when they act. But the unfortunate part is those parties which are discretely supporting these protests claim that the government is moving towards dictatorship. They write in newspapers, and they give interviews on TV channels. Is this not freedom? In the same breath, they keep on talking of dictatorship. Such acts indicate the thought process of “my way or the highway!” A couple of days back, the US opposition leader Pelosi, tore off the copy of the speech given by Trump in the house. It is absolute freedom that allows such an act. The tearing away of the address is seen in a video, but that is democracy.

Why does this happen? It is because of the myopic view that people take. In the US, people do not now that there is a large group of people in the Central part of America, who are called the rednecks. (These states are known as “Flyover” states, the word Flyover is a verb!) 🙂🙂 These are mostly white Americans from a poor background and were easily driven by Trump’s speech of “Americans First!” They get the feeling that new immigrants are taking away their jobs. They do not know that the US is mainly a high tech economy which needs high-end people to run the organisations. These experts move to the US from anywhere in the world. But rednecks voted Trump to victory because of the “feel” and not fact! A similar thing has been happening in the last few years in India where the middle class has got that “feel” which brought in the current government. Does it mean that there is a dictatorship? It only means that the prevailing ruling party could catch the nerve of the people and have a great marketing department. There are no Goebbels and Hitlers seen anywhere on the horizons. But how can the liberal and their ilk see dictatorship? Maybe, it is their marketing trick to create xenophobia to come back to power!

For democracy to sustain, nobody can enforce it the way dictatorship can be implemented. In vast countries like the US and India, in today’s times of social networking, dictators will find it exceedingly difficult to take over. There will be a mutiny in every other Facebook or Whatsapp group. Due to anonymity behind the screen, each and everybody is an expert on every subject. Democracy is a culture. We have the concept of local committees, panchayat raj, starting at the village level for a very long time. We had the concept of a joint family from time immemorial. Democracy is embedded in our blood. Indira Gandhi’s attempt failed miserably during the emergency.

The Chinese managed to accelerate their economy at a rapid rate. The thinking was that if people have money in hand, they will not bother about dictatorship. But the Hongkong protests are showing the world that money is essential, but freedom is far more important.

As I write this, I read a news item that Trump has been cleared of impeachment charges! It is the beauty of democracy. In a democracy, there is a process to try and remove the head of the government which can go either way!

I think that everywhere Heil Democracy will work better than Heil Hitler!

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Slowdown! Recession and the cycle! 

Economic cycleThe science of economy is something which I don’t understand, seriously! Noble laureates give their theories, experts write essays, but an engineer like me understands only physics. Whatever goes up must come down! It is the theory of gravity. Sometimes it goes up slowly and comes down fast with a thud. Sometimes both speeds are similar. Economic growth goes up swiftly and comes down slowly sometimes. India has been lucky that it came out of the 2008 recession reasonably unscathed and bounced back for the last eight years to a decent growth rate of 6 to 8%.

Many factors lead to growth. Similarly, different factors slow down the economy. These factors are market sentiment, buying power, and so on; the Indian economy since independence did not show correct growth due to a parallel economy. The parallel economy, in the local language, is called Black Money. What is black money, and how does it get generated? Many businesses like construction, land dealings, trade pay each other by cash. Cash payment is made to avoid Income Tax. A part of business activity is never shown on paper. When there is “no business” there is no profit hence no Income Tax. The parallel economy also grew because of unprecedented corruption activity. Nobody takes bribe by cheque, so spending is also done in cash.

In some cases, corruption is in kind by gifting condos, high-end cars, or items which can be bought in cash. Such gifting is done in the name of non-earning spouse or a relative. In Many cases, such assets are “Benami” assets in the name of one’s sweepers, peons and drivers. In a recent interview, Mahindra & Mahindra Chairman Anand Mahindra said that the economy has been going through a process of ‘detoxification’. Since the negative impact of disruptions is now over, the economy is expected to see an upside in FY21, Bloomberg TV reported Chairman Mahindra as saying at an event in Davos, Switzerland. “The prime minister has been quite obsessed with the kind of growth he wants, and that is transparent, free of corruption” Mahindra also said. He also felt that the upcoming budget is expected to be watched closely by different quarters of the economy amid the slowdown.

The Indian economy is seeing a slowdown for some time now on account of a fall in consumption and demand. The government announced a slew of measures in the past few months to revive growth ranging from bank recapitalisation and boost in liquidity.

The perception right now is that government actions caused the slowdown. But on the other hand, if you are going to detox yourself, you always have a process of cleansing before you start recovering and running again. Demonetisation and GST were the part of disruptions that have now ended, and the economy is already seeing signs of life. From the next fiscal, India will surprise the world on the upside is the general market sentiment.

The International Monetary Fund (IMF) recently slashed the growth estimates for both the Indian and the global economy. The global growth is expected to reach 3.3 per cent in 2020, compared to 2.9 per cent in 2019, the slowest pace since the financial crisis a decade ago. The Washington-based international crisis lender revised downward India’s GDP growth projection to 4.8 per cent for FY20 and 5.8 per cent for FY21. “India’s domestic demand has slowed more sharply than expected amid stress in the non-bank financial sector and a decline in credit growth,” the IMF report said.

Detoxification had to be done. It has not eliminated black money. But the reports say that it is reduced to some degree. The government is relentlessly after the businesses and businessmen who have cheated their customers and banks. People like Modi and Mallya are in jail in Britain. Other business people like Sahara Subrata Roy, D S Kulkarni, Wadhawan are in prison. Unitech projects have been taken over by the government to give homes to 21000 people like you and me. The authorities did not have the guts to detoxify the banking system in olden days. The detoxification process has started bringing out huge NPA’s (non-performing assets) of many banks. These NPA’s were created with the help of bank employees sometimes. But many times, the businessmen cheated the banks. Under the garb of hidden NPA’s our economy was “doing well”. When the cleansing act began a few years back, the loan sanctioning processes became a little tougher. The result of more scrutiny was that credit availability came down. When the available credit comes down, business activity slows down. It is a spiral that any economy dreads. But system correction was a must.

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Growth any any country cannot be perpetually high. As the base increases rate of growth is bound to come down.

On one side, the automotive industry has slowed down, but there are reasons like availability of Ola’s and Uber’s of this world. But there is a surprise that the SUV introduced by KIA is selling like hotcakes. There is going to be one more hurdle here; the government is pushing for Electric Cars or initially more efficient IC Engine Hybrid cars. These cars will be more expensive than current IC Engine cars; the young generation is now changing their thought process. They don’t buy cars, but prefer Uber and Ola; they rent homes instead of buying homes. India has now become number two in the world behind China for the Smart Phone market. Spending ways are changing.

I am happy about this downturn for another reason. Gita Gopinath from IMF explained that the Indian recession has caused a 0.1 % reduction in the growth rate in the world economy. It indicates that India is not a small cog in the world economic wheel. At the same time, she has also said that the worst for the Indian economy is over, and it will start the upward movement in growth rate from this year 2020! The statement will disturb some people because they hoped that bad times would continue. Each group has his/her agenda! Some for political reasons and others for TRP reasons! The lousy news is THE news!

Indian economic experts had made similar predictions and statements! But we believe in someone who sits in cool climes; even if the person is desi, it is okay! Old habits die hard!

I have observed an interesting thing in international diplomacy. Turkey and Malaysia had no business to poke their nose in the internal affairs of India. They made some statements which were not necessary. When India protested, they continued in the same vein expecting the docile Indian response of yester years. But they must have got a shock of their life. India kicked them where it really hurts. India had ordered one ship worth US $2.2/ billions, on Turkey; it was put on hold. For Malaysia, India was the most significant customer of refined palm oil. A few hints here and there, the purchase pattern changed within a few months. Indian traders switched over to Indonesian palm oil. Malaysia was shocked, and they have no option but to accept it. Their prime minister accepted that Malaysia is too small to retaliate. They are trying to offer some sweet deals to India. But India is ignoring them.

Friends, in the economy of any country and for that matter world, there are always cycles of growth and downturn. A downturn can be because of market sentiments, inflation and sometimes the combination of two, stagflation. The experts of every country find ways that suit their economy. Japan for years is not doing great because of their efficient methods of working. The Japanese markets are too small for some of their giants like Toyota, Honda, Docomo. They have no option but to export and open plants in different countries. The German case is also like Japan because its economy is entirely dependent on the exports of superb engineering products. The economies of different countries are now changing from a global open market to the one which is suitable for own requirements. The US has become a leader of such self centered thoughts.

It is going to be a game of diplomacy where each country will look for ways which will be to their benefit only. Brexit is a latest classic example of this thought process. In each country, the opposition plays the political games of troubling the incumbent governments. Whichever is the government in any country, they can make mistakes, but they all put the interest of the country ahead of everything else.

For commoners like you and me, it is necessary to be remember that economic activity is a cyclic process. It goes down and then it bounces back; we need not worry about these issues.

 

 

 

 

Reporters and their ilk! 

What is a reporter? Who is a reporter? A reporter is a person who reports, especially one employed to communicate news or conduct interviews for the press or broadcasting media. Now the definition of press, broadcasting media itself is changing. Methods of collecting information to reach the readers are fast changing. am confused about what a reporter is. 

In mythology, the well-known reporter was Narad Muni. He was known to pass on information (or rumours) wherever he went.  

Narad was a master of the Sankhya and Yoga systems of philosophy, conversant with sciences of war and treaty and proficient in concluding by judging things, not within direct knowledge. He knew about the six sciences of the settlement, war, military campaigns, maintenance of posts against the enemy and strategies of ambushes and reserves. He was a thorough master of every branch of learning. He was fond of war and music; he was capable incapable of being repulsed by any science or any course of action. But he was cursed by Gods that most of the people will not believe in whatever he said.  

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It looks like the definition of today’s reporter! The knowalls! In the western media, the days of printed news are numbered. The simple reason being the proliferation of news apps and online portals. The young people and millennials read their news online. In western countries, the concept of receiving printed newspapers at home and office are almost gone. Old school people like me still prefer to “read” the paper as the newspaper is called. 

A nephew of mine once (ages back) told me a story; he had just started to read newspapers. I told him that something is wrong in the story about which he spoke. The nephew said, “But Pramod kaka, I read it in today’s paper, so it must be true.” I told him, “I will give an advertisement in the same newspaper tomorrow and declare that my nephew is an idiot. Tomorrow it will become true because it is printed in the paper. Buddy, the reporters, can and do make errors.” He said, “Now I understand.” The story is shared just to indicate how we were trained to believe in the printed word. 

So what is it that the reporter supposed to do? With the internet, everything is changing very rapidly. News media was described as the fourth estate of society. The first three being the clergy, the nobles and the commoners. The fourth estate was news walas and the media. But now the internet is defined as the fifth estate. The internet is rapidly changing the way the fourth estate works. Don’t be surprised if the fourth estate becomes the poor cousin of the fifth estate.  

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But what are THE reporters doing in India Many of them look as if they are descendants of Narad. They think they know every subject in the world. Not only that but they are experts in all the issues. 

There are exceptions to this rule. We have Sunandan Lele who has been reporting on cricket for a long time. But he sticks to cricket all the time. Besides reporting, he writes a few articles, but those too are about cricket. Harsha Bhogale is another such expert who talks, gives commentary, writes only about cricket. But these are honourable exceptions. There may be a few in other fields too. It is no surprise that Sunil Gavaskar talks, writes only about cricket; he was India’s cricket superstar in yesteryears. 

But some of them do not follow basic rules. There was a news item in the papers today, which was a statement made by Alia Bhat. Newspapers reported that she was hurt during the shooting of some movie. Alia Bhat has given a statement, “I request people to check before referring to some news. What happened was that during the shoot, my old injury started “talking” again.” When people come to know about an accident about our near one, we become anxious. Till all the near ones come to know that it was the old injury, they keep on calling. Why not check before reporting? It is simple logic. It is ok to “talk” about affairs, flings and so on. These are part of Bollywood glamour folklore. But in this case, too, there should be a limit. They should not hound a person like it was done recently in the case of Meghan and Harry. Imagine the mindset of Prince Harry. His mother, Diana, was bothered by press people and the Paparrazi. She died in a car accident while Papparzi were chasing her. During his childhood and adolescent years, Harry has seen that the press behaved with Diana poorlySimilar behaviour with his fiancé and later the wife Meghan must have brought those memories back. He ultimately withdrew from the royalty!  

The argument put forth by the news people is that they are doing their job; it means that they have to earn money for their channel/paper by means fo ensuring that TRP (Target Rating Point) remains high. Nowhere has anyone told them to break the privacy of anyone. A few years back, they used the telescopic lens to photograph Kate, the Princess of Oxford, in the privacy of her beach. One person’s rights cannot be at the cost of another person’s privacy. It is said that this is the cost of being a celebrity. A celebrity is also a human being. In the case of Harry, he is a celebrity because he was born in a royal family. He loves his privacy more than his celebrity status.  

About TV channels less said, the better. The duties of a journalist are to uphold truth, unbiased reporting, serving the public as a watchdogToday these things remain only on paper. In today’s times, both anchors and the owners of the organisations are hypocrites. They are highly opinionated. Republic TV, India Today, Times Now and NDTV are at the forefront of this reporting. Today while watching the news on NDTV, during break they showed Kanhaiya Kumar reading the preamble to the constitution. Do we need to know whom NDTV is supporting? I am okay if they formally work as a mouthpiece of a particular party. But don’t call yourself a leading channel for the betterment of society and following responsible journalism. What does one say about Arnab GoswamiRajdeep Sardesai used Modi’s victory in 2019 to write a book “How Modi won India?” His twitter handle says that the only ism I am following is Humanism! Modi is right for the business, but when it comes to politics, anything that suits on a particular day is the direction Rajdeep’s ship takes!  

What should we make of all these complex issues? Which news to believe? Okay, there are some sites which tell us about false news and false photos. How do we know the exact situationThe good idea is to see the websites of established newspapers. They at least give the news correctly. Their analysis, justification, commentary will be as per their leaning left/right or centre! BBC at least tries to be balanced, sometimes. But New York Times and Washington post are dead against us on almost everything. The articles in such papers are written by people of Indian origin who live in the US. There was an article written by Kashmiri Pandit scholar lady. Living in the cool climes of the University, she claimed that nothing wrong has happened with Pandits. They have excellent relations with Muslims in Kashmir. She is a third-generation US citizen! 

What is the solution for you and me? Don’t believe things on unknown social media forwards. When it is reported that all the Bollywood is against something, it translates into 15/20 of social media savvy guys are writing and making a show. Someone does it because that person’s movie is being released. There are 5 lacs (five hundred thousand) people working in Bollywood. Some people want top cricketers and Bollywood stars to comment on every subject. The wise ones don’t because they know their limitations. They have expertise in a different area. Common people are made to protest blocking main roads in the dead of winter. It is continued for months together. All the “Leaders” sleep in their cosy homes in warm blankets. Cheers!

 

 

 

 

Leaders of Indian Democracy- a tough journey!  

I prefer not to write blogs about politics, but so many things have happened in the last six months, that I am compelled to write one more time. The blog is not about comparing leader A with leader B. It is about the leaders who took decisions and moved forward as against those who preferred the status quo. It is about accidental leaders; it is about “leaders” who were led by remote control. The discussion is also about the changes in society and its thinking. Hindsight is always 20:20. So it is easier to comment on things that happened sometime back. We need to understand that today’s times and decisions will only be understood better 50 years hence. History is an easier science than prediction.

We also need to consider separate periods as “Before the Internet” and “After the Internet”! Nehru led the post-independence era. The society loved the handsome, cigarette smoking prince. One hundred and fifty years of British Raj ensured that society became naïve.

Anything that the authorities did was considered good, and people rarely challenged them. The nation glorified poverty, but Nehru’s fashionable lifestyle was never challenged.

The first significant unrest was in the late fifties as Maharashtra was being split into Gujarat and Maharashtra. During this agitation, people from Maharashtra wanted Marathi speaking area around Belgaum to merge in Maharashtra. In this agitation, 106 people died in Police firing. It led to the conversion of Flora Fountain in Bombay into Hutatma (Martyr) Chowk. The leader at that time was Moraraji Desai. Then there was Goa agitation. Indians wanted Portuguese to leave Goa. But this happened after a lot of unrest and a small armed forces confrontation. Then occurred the 1962 China war, where Indians were unprepared. Luckily, China stopped the fight unilaterally. It was the first kick that made us understand what the real world is all about. Nehru’s downfall started from this incident, and he died, a sad man, in 1963! India continued to be led by the old guard as they never wanted to retire. China war did not need history to prove how India was ill-prepared to face the world both politically and otherwise.

Shastriji’s quiet leadership during the 1965 war made India a little more confident!

In the case of decision-taking leadership, history decides whether their decision was right or wrong. In came Indira Gandhi. She had to remove the old guard, which she managed with aplomb. Indira Gandhi took two significant decisions. She helped Bangla Desh to become independent, thus splitting Pakistan. The act indicated that India had some spine! You don’t need only to be tough, but you also need to show that you are tough. She nationalised all the banks leading to the start of the socialistic era in India. In hindsight, it proved to be not a very right decision. For joining the global economy, it was a retro step. Her next brave decision was to send the Army into the Golden temple in 1984! Had she not taken that decision; Khalistan movement would have created another Kashmir due to indecision. Operation Blue Star resulted in her assassination, but it was necessary to have Blue Star! Here the terrorists were Sikhs! They were trying to take advantage, hoping that the government will be soft and will not enter the Golden temple!

Rajeev Gandhi took some excellent decisions about computers with advice from Sam Pitroda! But his miscalculation cost India dear in Sri Lanka; LTTE took their revenge by assassinating him in Sri Perambuddur!

By the time Narsimha Rao’s term was over, the system got used to status quo. He is said to have opened Indian Economy to the world. But this was done under duress in 1992 as India’s financial condition was critical. India had to borrow money against “family” gold. Coalition governments, Bajpayee Government and later Manmohan government were in status quo mode. Good, soft people sometimes are not enough to run a vast country like India. India is a complex country and has diversity. Different people think differently and want their solutions to suit themselves. These may contradict with the requirements of other states!

The effectiveness of government actions, people’s reactions and court interventions collectively define the society’s acceptance or rejection of any event. Two events show how unfortunate events were allowed to happen. After Indira Gandhi’s assassination, the silent support by the then government allowed hundreds of Sikhs to be murdered. The Gujarat government was a mute spectator and silent supporter of riots after the Godhra incident. But during the last ten years, “Post the Internet” news and rumours have started spreading fast with the advent of social media.  The significant aspect of the Internet is that Government cannot hide any news from people. But at the same time rumour mongering is rampant. The courts intervene whenever they can at a reasonable speed. During the recent CAA event, there were 99 litigations entered with the Supreme Court. The court quickly acted upon these by clubbing them together. They told the litigants that CAA could not be stayed legally, at the same time they informed the Government to have all India campaign to share with people the detailed information about the law. The court told the political litigants to stop the riots first before the litigations would be heard.

Now let us talk about the government from 2014. The government took actions on many issues and went away from the status quo norm. It has been acting fast and is seen to be implementing many schemes. Aadhar Card, GST was the action started by the previous government but was implemented by the Modi government. When massive all India changes of this nature are being implemented, problems do crop up. The opposition must question the government for errors but should give support in the process. Article 370 was a similarly swift decision by the government. Ayodhya Ram Mandir decision was handled with finesse by the government!

Similarly, NRC has been in discussion for more than a decade. The Supreme Court had intervened in 2015 and had given the directives to the government. But one thing is sure; the current government is taking fast actions and not maintaining the status quo! At the same time, people have changed. During the emergency in 1975, the people of my parent’s generation were not brave enough to show dissent, openly. “Post the Internet” information flow has speeded up. It is a good thing that people of my generation express disagreement openly, now. The young people of today have been trying to push the government effectively. After all, these are young people, so they behave like young people. In their enthusiasm, they go overboard and make significant mistakes. They are, after all, young folks are with hot blood. It is the responsibility of opposition parties to ensure that harmful elements of the society don’t take advantage and create an unhealthy atmosphere by rioting and arson. It is the responsibility of every adult irrespective of their political allegiance to help make these demonstrations peaceful! Demonstrating against something which we don’t approve is our right given by the democracy.

Governments usually act when their backs are to the wall, or there are elections around. Current governments tenure is till 2024! So these actions were not crucial for them to act.

In a diverse country like India, it is difficult for any government to take action which will please everybody. Now with BJP losing elections in many states, there will be strong opposition at the state level, which is essential. But state governments must remember which laws are in the Central Government list and which ones are under state government list. They should not take an unreasonable stand like eight or ten states have said that they will not allow CAA in their states! The position is legally not tenable because it is under Central Government list. By taking such a stance, these states are starting unavoidable fights.

What is my preference; a government taking actions or status quo governments? Status quo is a big no, no! Any entity that acts is likely to make mistakes, like Indira Gandhi’s emergency. Such acts are known immediately to be vicious. But the effects of other actions would be known after twenty or thirty years.

But one thing is for sure that all governments should be benevolent and be soft on people, especially the young ones. They should ensure that society does not get divided. It should not be us versus them under any circumstances. Words like revenge are not acceptable. The UP government recently used this term. But at the same time, the UP government is the first state government in India which has shown the guts to use the Supreme Court ruling. The ruling allows the authorities to fine rioters to reimburse the property damaged. Today it is easy to prove the participation in riots because of video recordings.

Action, softness with people and non-divisive methods will lead to vibrant and better India! There will be some unhappy people whatever you do! But one thing is sure. There will be tough decisions, there will be fights but my country will never be divided! There will be Prime Ministers who take actions, but there won’t be dictators!

India’s tallest flag at Guwahati!

IndianFlagatguwahati

Even Better India!

My previous blog was Better India! The blog got responses from people, and the subject has touched many hearts! My friend Ajit was very vocal and made strong pointsThese many comments induced me to write this blog, Even better India! 

https://panvalkarpramod.wordpress.com/2019/11/18/better-india/ 

Most have agreed about self-discipline, and road discipline and rule-breaking by ordinary people. But the comments also suggested that if specific actions are taken against a group of people, we can have “Even Better India”! Who are these people? Which is this group of people who need to be controlled? Politicians, Bankers, Rogue business persons? Or all these can be defined under one group, Goondas? Maybe this is too strong a word! People working in government have great opportunities to take bribes, but let me assure you it happens in the private sector too! Let me tell you that taking bribes has been happening even in my parent’s generation! I know it because my father was a police officer and retired as a DCP! Since he was an honest officer, after retirement, he did not have enough money to buy his own home too! Our family found a different solution for them. While I was in school, at some family friend’s house, I had accidentally seen a few bundles of hundred-rupee notes! He was a government official. So how do we start to make even a better India?  

Independent India started with people who had their needs barely covered, but there was only small higher middle class and wealthy class. Our country was in a euphoric mood, and the income tax slab at the top end was 97 %! We were in a socialist mood. There was general hate about wealthy people as if they were some aliens. Wealthy Kings and Royalty were expected, but there was dislike about rich people. At 97 % income tax rate tendency to hide profits and not showing correct income started becoming a norm. My personal view is that I would have also done the same thing had I been a taxpayer in those days. Over a period, the government understood the folly of such high taxation plus need to get linked with the global systemTax % over a period became more realistic and with global links business activity in India started increasing. IT industry suddenly put many Indians in the worldwide workforce. The number of people in the middle class and higher middle class started growing.  

Now we have millionaires and billionaires in the working class. Along with this change, businesspeople started becoming superrich. Income tax compliance increased, but people still started hiding their income, the most standard method was to create a group of shell companies, thanks to the creativity of chartered accountantsSome well-known global accounting firms also started helping businesspersons by suggesting the Swiss Banks and Cayman island routes. Some super-rich became roving Casanovas and had lifestyle which created many Nonperforming assets. Homes in London, Villas in Cannes, spending summer months in St Moritz became the lifestyle of these people.  

When there were so many super-rich people, politicians could not be far behind. The nexus became stronger. The lawmakers tweaked the laws for their friends, and the quid pro quo was not far awayWhen money levels reached thousands of crores, the need for bank loans increased, with this cheating the banks also increased. Over some time, friendly managers, general managers and directors of the banks started the quid pro quo acts with the rich! You help me; I will “help” you!  

Some of the super-rich entered the political arena, along with these people some harmful elements from the society also joined the bandwagon, including those with murder charges, started becoming netas and getting elected in Vidhan sabha and Lok SabhaWe all forget that theoretically, India is a great democracy with significant rules and laws to keep check on malpractices! The income tax departments, enforcement directorates, and other authorities were around but were kept dormant under pressure by politicians. These group of officials were “told” to ignore malpractices done by certain groups of businesses. Politicians thought that they were immune to such actions.  

But in recent years, the government is trying to ensure that the vigilance departments would start doing the job actively, without any influence from interested” people. The action created Mallyas, Modis and Kotharis. People who thought that they could never be caught have become official fugitives. Government has started action against shell companies, and three lac shell companies were forced to closeThe act of closing shell companies automatically brought out the trail of black money. Government has started acting against chartered accounting firms who were “guiding” people to hide the black money trail. A chartered accounting firm in Bangalore was guiding thousands of employees to “steal” money from Income Tax. All these people were made to pay correct tax, and it was easy for the department to locate who was guiding them. The authorities acted against this particular company too! 

The nexus between all these groups is so deep in the system that it is going to take time to bring them to books. Some political families, who were middle class twenty years back now have thousands of crores with them, without any specific known source of income. How is this happening? Will the government have the guts to act against such families? I think the government has shown courage already by taking action against individuals and families 

Supreme Court is also quite proactiveThey are actively pursuing cases like Sahara, DSK, Unitech, Amrapali and many others. The court has put many big shots in jail. They have been told, arrange to return people’s money if they wanted to come out of jail. Mallya, Modi, Kothari have been shamed as they are declared fugitives! They are living the life of fugitives in other countries. The courts, even in the UK, are making it very difficult for them to get bail. These folks ran away from India before they were declared offenders, so their exit from India and entry into the UK has been legal, so extradition has become a tough and longdrawn process.  Banks have also started correcting their errors. The NPA money to the tune of four lac crores has been recovered from defaulters 

One thing is sure that the system does not like non-corrupt officials and politicians. But some non-corrupt people have shown that one can work in the present corrupt environment. When the government started giving various subsidies based on Aadhar card links, many groups and individuals were upset. Some state governments are already acting on corrupt officials, but there is a long way to go!  

Making changes is not as easy as it looks, but again it is about the culture. The world over there is significant corruption in large business deals. But usually, it does not happen on day-to-day be basis like our policemen, anti-encroachment team taking hafta (speed money)! So, it comes back to the same issues what I wrote in the blog “Better India”! If the policeman on roads, clerks in the offices, peons sitting outside the boss’s cabin stop taking haftas, things will change.  

Government action on business people, politicians, and goondas is going to help create “Even better India”! But as Ajit had also mentioned in his comments that the general public is good; no, I don’t agree! All the big guns or goons whatever you want to call them, are being chased and are being taken to task; the same non-hafta culture and culture of self-discipline must filter down to the lowest common denominator!  

Actions need to be taken right across the board and not against only some groups! Combination of these two actions is going to make “Even Better India”!

 

Are you not proud of your nation?

tiranga3

As usual, let me make a disclaimer! I don’t care which party is ruling our country! Whatever I am writing in this blog is apolitical! We were under the British rule for 150 years before the independence we got on the 15th of August in 1947! Thanks to strong personalities like Sardar Vallabh Bhai Patel, we became India or Bharat as we are known in the world todayOur national wealth was looted by the British under the garb of collecting taxestaking away raw materialBritish presence (and their final going away) did a few good things for India. We became one nation, we had railways, we had an established all-India administrative and police services.  

In Nehru era Public Sector units, Irrigation got significant importance. Indira Gandhi broke Pakistan into two, thereby correcting the problem created by the British by at least 50%! Kashmir issue resolution opportunity was lost; it could have been achieved in the Shimla Agreement. Indian population showed great maturity in overcoming Emergency, the black patch on the Indian Democracy! Jayprakash Narayan led the movement though he was old by that time.  

Next twenty years were tumultuous, but India somehow overcame the same, though we did not have strong leadership. India’s jumping the IT bandwagon successfully started the financial growth processAlong with fast economic growth, crony capitalism and corruption at different levels increased at breakneck speedCheating the government with shell companies was at peak and was used for money laundering.  

All the governments did a lot of good things in their times and bad things too! Then came the Modi Government in 2014 and looks like it will run till 2024! They have had their ups and downs. They have also done some good things and some bad things. From this angle, it is not much different than the previous governments.  

Along with fast economic growth, crony capitalism and corruption at different levels increased at breakneck speedCheating the government with shell companies was at peak and was used for money laundering and diverting funds. These issues created a need for strong actions.

There are specific actions taken by this government which were never considered by any other government before. These were essential for a mature democracy and were generally discussed previously with a glass of Chivas Regal. Nobody ever thought that it was possible in India. 

Yesterday, I shared a certificate displayed below with my friends. The reactions to the certificate were varied! “I have already done it” was message sent by many. Some people sent me a congratulatory messageMy friend Shrikant appreciated this very strongly, and that is what led me to write this blog. 

Certificate ofCommitement

He wrote an elaborate message which I am sharing verbatim!  

“What did you do? Please elaborate?? Such certificates are sent by IT/Vigilance department of Govt of India, to persons having an impeccable track record of regular tax payments & no offences registered, in Govt data tracker! Just a law-abiding citizen. I am also told this is an initiative to motivate/thank taxpayers while furthering the stated objective of putting a high premium on honesty. I have received two such certificates already. Many others also must have! 👍😊 

An individual or an organisation can go to the website https://pledge.cvc.nic.in/ and take this pledge if one desires so. When I went to the site, it also shared information that 85,86,062 individuals and 123,138 organisation have taken this pledge. In the discussion  on our WhatsApp group, somebody said, “Why do you need a certificate?”  

Then a thought came to my mind. We always ask the question what has my nation done for me? But should we not be asking the questionwhat have I done for my nation? I feel that the British have, along with many things, ensured that our pride for our nation was killed. Even today some people say, “We don’t deserve to run our nation. The British should be brought back to run it.”  

The current government has taken many actions in international diplomacy, where people listen when India talks! Now, do we not feel proud of the nation? One major historical correction by India of removing article 370 provisions for Kashmir got allround support in the world. Except for Pakistan’s all-weather friend China, all major countries have supported India. China too is looking at Pakistan from strategic and commercial point of view. Let Pakistan default on repayment to China then it will be interesting to see what China does!  

From the beginning of the 21st centurythe concept of media changed drastically. We started having TV news Superstars” who considered themselves knowledgeable in everything. They started behaving as if they were Gods of media; all others were treated by them as mere mortals. Sycophancy was at its best during this phase. Corruption, both material and moral, reached its peak. There formed a group of people who had jumped the free jaunts bandwagon. They would travel with ministers and the Prime Minister. They ended up giving sermons to others — Social Media like Facebook, Twitter, et al. added to this list. You and I were immaterial. 

Now this government has started the initiative of pledging integrity to the nation. It is like saluting when Jan Gan Man is sung or keeping your hand on your heart! I felt proud to take the formal oath; I felt proud of my nation. All through my life, I have always tried to avoid paying bribes for personal work or business. Sometimes I failed as I was not the final authority to take that decision; I was an advisor to some companies. But in my software and furnacerelated business, I have never paid a single Rupee bribe.  

Some of my friends were cynic about this drive. India has had a poor record as far integrity is concerned. Sometimes, we say God Promise; similarly, here we are saying “Nation Promise”! Till date, not even one per cent of people have taken the pledge mainly because many may not be aware of this initiative. When we say God Promise, do we break the promise? The same logic can be and should be applied to your nation. Assume that even 5% of people take this pledge, will it not make any change in India? Will you beak your new version of “God Promise”?  

What have to say to the cynics? For those who tried to make fun of the certificate, I shared, I will say in the endI can understand the doubters because things have not been as they should have been, so they feel that people will take the pledge but keep on doing what they have been doing! We are always going to have Naysayers who are fashionably called Liberals! Liberals group was not very much against government stuff as they were getting their foreign jaunts and were able to run Nalanda Vidyapeeth-just to give an example.  

Government has started a new portal for a portal http://www.pgportal.gov.in/ The portal is used as  Centralised Public Grievance Redressal Monitoring system 

Such an initiative has never been tried before.  

External affairs ministry under Sushma Swaraj was helping individuals stuck in foreign countries due to some issues. Mr Modi makes it a point to spend a day during Diwali with soldiers on the borders.  

I am not at all saying that it is hunkydory on all fronts. In many areas, issues and problems continue. To run a nation as big and as diverse as India is not going to be easy. On top of that, the British had looted our wealth for 150 years and made us a developing countrywhere famines were a part of life initially. But the green revolution, white revolution (Milk and Sugar) have taken place. In many areas like infrastructure, India is progressing fast. Metros are being built in many large cities. Let’s not forget ISRO!  

To me, the definition of naysayers is a bit different, besides the conventional oneThese are the people who after having toilets at home, want to go to the fields because they feel manly. It is those people who routinely break many laws and rules of public life, like parking, wrong side driving. These are the people who behave rudely with service providers like waiters; they cut corners at every possible opportunity in public lifeThese are the people who follow every general rule just after taking a fivehour flight from Mumbai to Singapore!  

About the friend who made fun of my statement about the certificate should go and ask the Sahara Boss, DSK Boss, Unitech Boss and many other such socalled big people if things are funnyMallya and Neerav Modi are enjoying their new status as fugitives and are forced to take shield behind the slow legal process in Britain. I am sure they have very high social status in the British page, three people!  

Income tax department sends certificates to people who pay personal Income Tax above specific value and appreciates them for being honest and proud citizens.  

Government is trying to push honesty culture, and if people find it funny, they must laugh loudly! If someone finds that it is a joke that I am proud of being an Indian, so be it! Some people have queer sense of humour!