Moral Corruption!

 

Ghosn

Moral Corruption is the worst form of corruption in this world. When I read the news about the arrest of Carlos Ghosn, Brazilin born Chairman of Nissan Corporation, I was both surprised and sad at the same time.  

Carlos Ghosn, KBE born March 9, 1954, is a Lebanese–Brazilian–French businessman, who has served as the chairman and CEO of France-based Renault, chairman and CEO of Japan-based Nissan, and chairman of Mitsubishi Motors. From June 2013 to June 2016, Ghosn was chairman of Russia-based automobile manufacturer AvtoVAZ. Ghosn is also chairman and CEO of the Renault–Nissan–Mitsubishi Alliance, the strategic partnership overseeing Nissan, Mitsubishi and Renault through a unique cross-shareholding agreement. The Alliance, which includes AvtoVAZ, has held approximately 10% of the global market share since 2010, and as of 2017 is the third largest automobile group worldwide, having previously been the fourth largest automobile group worldwide since 2010. 

 Nissan moved to oust long-serving boss Carlos Ghosn after accusing him of misleading investors about the size of his salary and misusing company assets for personal gain, marking an abrupt downfall of one of the automotive industry’s most feted executives. 

The usual question coming to my mind is why, why and why? Why did he do this? Money cannot be the reason, saving on taxes illegally could be the reason but that again means that he was trying to make more money, which my mind cannot accept. His package for 2017 was reportedly 7.4 Million Euros.  He was found to have misreported his earnings. Over years he misreported the earnings to the tune of US $ 88.70/ million. How much money does a man need? This question is similar to the title of the famous Tolstoy story, “How much land does a man need?” What makes humans corrupt? It is said that the power corrupts people and absolute power corrupts people absolutely! He had many enemies and people felt that too much power was concentrated at one centre. He brought the group of the companies mentioned above from the brink of bankruptcy! As a group, this is considered the third largest group in the world.  

To me, corruption is of two types where people take bribes to do some work (more corrupt amongst this group take the money and don’t do work!). Others are like Ghosn who have everything going for them but think that they can get away with anything. While doing unscrupulous things such people give many excuses. What excuse Mr Ghosn will give will be interesting to note. While he was doing such dealings, did he have the moral authority to question people reporting to him about malpractices?  As a CEO how did he guide the teams to create company policies against corruption?  Is it not hypocrisy? 

A friend was running many businesses. He was head of the family and came from a typical business trading community. He, his brothers and the family homes were raided by Income Tax sleuths 3 to 4 times. There would be headlines in the newspapers giving the family name too! But he took pride in this. He said people will know how much money they had! Once after a raid, he was in a great mood and shared with me details of how he made much more money by following incorrect business practices. His calculation included the tax paid, fine paid and bribes paid! He said the after bribes IT sleuths would not bother to see the real amounts of cheating! He proudly said that they made an additional 50% profits than what they would have made. Newspaper item be damned! I had gone to his office just after the latest raid. He was in a sombre mood, so I asked him what happened to his “I don’t care” attitude? He said that his mother had given him a piece of mind. She rightly asked him that when the family has so much money why do all this wrong stuff? He had no answer to that. I asked him, “How will answer HIM when you reach the pearly gates?” He again had no answer. He died a few years later and I hope that HIS immigration authorities did not trouble him too much; I am told that they do not accept bribes!    

Terms, Politics and Moral Turpitude can be treated as synonyms. Moral turpitude is a legal concept in the United States and some other countries that refers to “an act or behaviour that gravely violates the sentiment or accepted standard of the community”. The concept of “moral turpitude” might not have precise definition, but it has been described as an “act of baseness, vileness, or depravity in the private and social duties which a man owes to his fellowmen, or to society in general, contrary to the accepted and customary rule of right and duty between man and man. Very rarely do we see politicians who do not fit this definition.

Politics has supposedly started with a view of doing social work. Hundred years back we really had politicians who took this work as their life’s mandate, did everything as God’s work. But today’s politicians do the “Social Work” only for power and making money. We have hundreds of examples where politicians have made money that could last their seven generations. At least one good part is they do it openly and are not ashamed of doing these deeds. Moral Corruption has taken over the politics and it appears that the things will go from bad to worse.  

Once in a while educated and polished people do enter the politics. But to me today is sad in the life of Pune city. Vivek Velankar, social worker, an engineer by training, worked in IT area for 15 years and then took a plunge in social work. He was doing a good job and people like him are the safety valve to the conundrum called our liberal, democratic society. Such persons ask tough questions when needed and debates happen and many times right decisions are finally taken. Today he has joined the forces with a group of people in Pune, who feel that making it mandatory to wear helmets while riding two-wheelers is wrong. Unfortunately for them, the Supreme Court has given this ruling so nobody can change it.  This group argues that it is the concern of the individuals to decide what is safe for them. They will do whatever they want. But the statistics have shown that in fatal two-wheeler accidents at least 90% riders are helmetless. Many get major head injuries; ultimately it is a burden on the health system of the society because only so many hospitals can be built and run. Persons like Velankar should be helping the government agencies and the courts using their forum to make sure that riders wear helmets. If people like him take this awkward stand the unnecessary confrontations happen, police system is burdened to catch non-users. What is achieved? I used to drive two-wheeler to work in the late ’70s. All the time I used to wear a helmet! It was not compulsory then!  

We have read about morally corrupted people in public life! M J Akbar was supposed to be a thinking writer, editor and publisher. Sanjay Gandhi was another example; his aim was to get people thinking strongly about population control but the way he bulldozed was simply not acceptable! Trump giving sermons is a big joke; he is well known for his funny ways in personal life and business practices. A President of a large, developed nation like the USA using doctored videos for the political propaganda is simply not acceptable.

Life is full of surprises, you never know what you may find about someone, whom you think you know well! Of course, I do not know Mr Ghosn. But my friends’ attitude towards life came out into open after Income Tax raids. People talk of social work, donations, nation first and all such moral things but real life when their mask opens up, you only feel surprised and sad! How much money does a man really need? Maybe I am too naive! But one thing I know, how much land does a man need! It cannot exceed 6’*3′!

 

 

          

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Don’t Break the Flyovers!

Our personal life and life around us has many things in common. In both cases, issues crop up, they are studied, they are discussed, and decisions are made. In retrospect, we realise that better choices could have been made, more elegant solutions could have been found. As the saying goes, the hindsight vision is always 20/20! Had we been able to make decisions closer to 20/20, things could have been better! Mistakes happen in both public and personal life. The result is complications and stress. This thought gave me an idea of comparing these two aspects together.

COEPFlyover

In Pune’s newspaper, I saw a photograph of the perpetual traffic jam on the flyover system near COEP. The city planners built an elaborate system of flyovers to overcome the traffic snarls in that area. I have read somewhere that by making flyovers, planners tend to push the traffic snarls into the next traffic junction where we have traffic signals. But in this case, something else happened; just after the flyovers, there are traffic signals, and the traffic gets choked there itself, even after flyovers were commissioned, not much has changed. At the next junction, which is signal free, there are no traffic snarls.

Life is always in WIP (work in progress) mode. It means that at every stage we keep on processing information that reaches our brain. We, of course, know that our brain is the world’s most advanced and fastest Super Computer. All new data is processed, churning takes place, information is sent back and forth to the stored database/ information in the brain. The result is arrived at, on the basis this churning and processing. The exchange happens so many times during the day that we tend to make decisions, but we process results based on priorities. Sometimes our priorities clash that results in issues.  Humans tend to push the specific problems under the rug or come up with a temporary solution. These solutions are reached, based on the analysis of the available data, to solve the questions based on the current situation. Most of the times, humans don’t consider long term view, and this action sometimes creates problems, slater.

Did you observe any similarity in the above two paragraphs? Indeed, there is a similarity, and we tend to put issues on the back burner, we sometimes ignore problems. City-related matters are handled by humans,  in a very similar way. Ignoring problems affects a large number of people in society. But in our case, incorrect resolutions affect personal lives directly. What needs to be done in such instances? For any issue or a problem, the overall solution needs to be considered and not a short-term solution.

 MumbaiPuneHway

I have displayed a google map of the area in Pune, where there are traffic snarls after new flyover system came up!  The Red circle indicates the snarl area. If we consider the traffic is arriving from 4 to 1, we will know the real problem. The new flyover system helps people to cross the railway line in the problem area. All four points do the same thing. But point 1 has been closed for this crossing long time back. Location 3 has been closed recently. Point 2 and four help in crossing the railway line, but these crossings pass through narrow or congested roads. In the last few years, besides traffic from 4 to 1 coming in the red circle, traffic has been pouring in through the new highway, from the airport, parallel to the river. All this indicates that problem definition and solution did not go hand in hand. Huge traffic volume comes to the red circle area. The answer should have been not to bring traffic to snarl area and divert it via different routes. But the studies were not proper, and hence answers were incorrect. What is the answer? I don’t know. In Mumbai, some such issue about a flyover was resolved by breaking a special flyover to be replaced by another one, which fixed the issue. We have a similar problem in Pune University circle area. In the University circle area, one could see from the beginning, that solution was not correct. On top of the wrong decisions, judgement about future traffic density was also grossly underestimated. The result, the same. In peak hours, a group of policemen is required to handle the traffic chaos manually!

In our lives, we also misjudge many things. Sometimes, we make the wrong investments. Sometimes we underestimate our future requirements at home as well as finances. Sometimes, we do not take decisions and let the problems linger. I have seen this happening in people about their health. They try to ignore issues or postpone the checkups. A friend I met after many years, told me that he is afraid to get himself regularly checked up by doctors. I asked him the reason. He said, ” I am afraid that some health issue may get detected”. I said that is the reason for getting yourself checked.

In the public domain, if we make a wrong decision, we can find different solutions, including from above example, break the flyover and build a new one. Such solution creates inconvenience and costs a lot of money. No individual is directly troubled with this solution. But in our case, family and we are the direct sufferers. Wrong career moves, wrong investment decisions, involvement with the wrong type of people, are described as errors or wrong choices, in retrospection.  But they take their toll!

Friends, try and learn the art of visualising things about the future while taking life’s decisions. We have enough information stored in our brain, learn to utilise it correctly while we decide something. When we have to make significant decisions in life, sleep over it before making the final decision, ask friends and mentors. Don’t feel shy to seek advise. Ultimately, it’s your life!

Real Life PhD!

A PhD is a degree earned by people who have studied deep and hard after their graduate study or Master’s degree in their own subject. What is a PhD? A Doctor of Philosophy (PhD, Ph.D., DPhil, or Dr. phil.; Latin Philosophiae doctor) is the highest academic degree awarded by universities in most countries. PhD’s are awarded for programs across the whole breadth of academic fields.  

My colleague for more than 20 years, Deepti, once asked me while discussing, about the importance of PhD. I told her that I am not aware as I am not one! But I have personally known some persons who have done their PhD’s in their field and have done brilliant work and contributed to the knowledge big time! Both Jaya and I have done our Master’s in our fields and felt that we understood the engineering much better during these years when did Master’s. Like anything in life, there are brilliant PhD’s, there are good PhD’s and there are run off the mill PhD’s, the last being the major volume. I have recently seen a trend, that when a person becomes well-known in his or her field, people start referring to the person as Dr.! This probably indicates the people’s perception of the knowledge acquired by that person. 

When I read newspapers in Pune (again this activity is getting diminished due to rapid digitization.) I read the large number of list of people earning their PhD’s from Pune University! Have people become brilliant suddenly? Has research activity become major thing in Pune University? I understand that in education field, to become a professor, you must have a PhD as per norms, these days. This to me appears to be the main cause of abundance of people acquiring PhD’s. What are our education standards and research standards? What is the relevance of acquiring degrees? To me this should be done with the purpose of advancement of knowledge and doing research in own field. Later, when one gets experience, these persons should guide more people. All movement is expected to create mushrooms of islands of knowledge.  

Honestly, I don’t see this happening. In the countries like the US, PhD’s really perform the way they are expected to perform and help the society in general, and industry in particular to make rapid strides in development of products, processes, systems and concepts. They help create new things, improve existing things. Their contribution to the society is unbelievable. I am really not sure how far this is true in India. I very rarely hear of industry providing funding to premier education institutions, to develop or improve products, processes. PhD’s are awarded for work that remains more theoretical and how far the theoretical work is useful to the society, is a subject for another PhD.  

I will share a couple anecdotes. People get Fullbright scholarships do some post-doctoral work in premium universities in the world. A person went the prominent university on the west coast in US, under a world-renowned professor, who was a classmate of mine. They had met at a couple of conferences in India. After initial hiccups, things were settling down for the visitor, at least that is what my friend thought. Later on, my friend  tried to help him in various ways but end result was almost nil. My friend asked this gentleman what was his purpose of going to US on this scholarship. At least he was honest. He said, ” My son is trying for education in the US. I wanted to earn dollars for the purpose!” 

In another case I was on a committee in Pune University management school for an event. While having tea during a break, I asked one the professors, about the standard of PhD’s. He smiled wryly! I asked him the reason. He said let me share something with you. ” I was an examiner for a student’s PhD defense. When I got his thesis, I found that the synopsis and the subject content were totally different. So, I informed the concerned professor, the guide, about the error. When I went for the exam, there was no change; I had thought that it was a binding mistake. The synopsis and the subject had no correlation.” When I asked the guide, who was a “renowned” expert and guide from Pune, he simply ignored it!  

Thinking about Deepti’s question, following thoughts came to my mind. Our company has been in the software business. Out of our many clients, four were either Indian giants or global giants who used our product in India. For these projects there were stages. Simplistically, these can be requirement gathering, design and coding, implementation and running the project for years. Final phase would be enhancements and improvements. All this required huge subject knowledge in technical, business processes in auto industry, commercial as well as taxation field.

Deepti, let me assure you with my meager knowledge about PhD, that each stage in our  project was worth a thesis by itself. We have dealt with many aspects in real life, commercial technical, design, implementation strategies and brought them successfully under one umbrella, that is our organization and our team. Deepti, you as a project leader, have done at least one PhD per project if not more. What is the proof of this? Proof is in the Pudding! People have eaten the pudding. The projects have been technically and commercially successful. We have run the business all these years and people have paid us for our products. It is the real-world work, done by all of us together!

What should I call you? You have earned PhD’s given by real life! Dr. Dr. Dr Dr. Deepti? Go ahead fearlessly, with the new path that you have chosen! You have enough PhD’s in your kitty to handle all eventualities! God bless you!  

Sridevi Meri Chandani!

24th Feb 2018 was a shocking date for all us film lovers when Hawa Hawaein lady Sridevi passed! It looks like HE likes all beautiful people and decides to take them away early. Sridevi was just 54, very young by today’s standards when she died. She had just started her second innings. Madhubala died at the age of 39 and Marilyn Monroe at the age of 36! In case of Madhubala at least her health issue was known to the close ones, Marilyn was veering towards her death but in case of Sridevi there were no known issues; her sudden passing was all the more shocking to everybody!

She started acting in the film industry at the tender age of 4; so, she was in the industry for 50 years! That is a very long time to be in any field and I am sure that she must have been doing her work on auto pilot! She was a beauty, she was a fantastic dancer in classical mold and a terrific actor. People always talk of her dancing prowess but I feel that her acting prowess was even better! The classic example of this, is the film Sadma. In this movie, she is a modern young lady who loses her memory due to retrograde amnesia, following an accident. Her mental age becomes 6 or 7. She goes through a horrible phase in her life as she is pushed into prostitution. Kamal Hassan meets her in a brothel and realizes that she has been cheated to go into prostitution. He takes her away and nurtures her back to life; a doctor finally is able to cure her and she becomes original modern girl. After this change she simply does not remember Hassan, as her amnesia is cured! Life goes on! Her acting in this movie is seen to be believed. Behaving like a 6/7-year-old girl is not easy when you are a normal person! She was nominated for film fare best actress award. She won a lot of critical acclaim for her role! This gem of a song, from the movie Sadma, “Ae Zindagi” is to me the best song picturized on her, ever! Suresh Wadkar, the singer, is also at his best in the song! Did she enjoy her childhood in this song, as she may have missed the real one?

Public life has it pluses while going is good, but when things turn up differently it is really nasty, what with our TV shows, newspapers, WhatsApp and FB! People in general and reporters and commentators in particular forget that the celebrity is normal human being like you and me. They have their family, husband or wife, children like all human beings have. When stupid and nasty things are mentioned, poor jokes are circulated, they forget that they are troubling a family and a group of friends; it was a heart wrenching experience to see this tamasha. When celebrities are alive they can ignore, smile and sometimes rebut! But when Sridevi died it was pointless to discuss everything threadbare. There was that unfortunate change in the reason for death, found in autopsy. This took the rumour mongering to crescendo! Naturally, I do not want to go into details but I have the usual questions why, why and why? Why get into this mode? Why discuss threadbare unnecessary details? Why not let the family be, in their sorrow? Everybody simply forgot that someone had died.

Sreedevi Boney Kapoor Ayyapan was born in a Tamil orthodox family. She started working at the age of 4! When you start working at that age, I am sure that you never have a normal childhood; again, I am not going into details. According to Ram Gopal Varma, she became penniless when her father, who looked after her finances, died because he trusted wrong people with money. Later her mother made wrong investments and she became penniless the second time. When her mother died, Sridevi’s own sister cheated and looted her money! She finally got her solace in Boney Kapoor! I am sure that also must have been a tough call for her because she became his second wife. How much can a person take in a life time, I really don’t know. Even he her death, there was no peace but a great turmoil for her family!

We only look at the glamorous side amongst lovely people, beautiful dresses, going to exotic locations, traveling all over the world. According to Ram Gopal Varma she had a fantastic ability to switchover, once she was in front of the camera. Probably films was the only thing that gave her peace!  She turned into a different persona! Her eyes would sparkle and feet would start dancing to rhythm and what rhythm she had, what expressions she had, what flexibility she had! She had a tough time when she moved from South to Hindi movies because at that time she was not at all proficient in both Hindi and English. It was not rose petals all the way in Mumbai but she came up with sheer talent, hard work and brilliance of her performances! She became the first lady super star of Hindi movies.

Who would want to die at prime and a young age of 54! At this stage now people start new companies, new projects! Sridevi had started he second innings with a fantastic performance in a movie called English Winglish! She looked so natural all through the movie, it felt as if the role was written specifically, for her! She had kept herself perfectly fit in real life by way of exercise and diet. There are murmurs going around that she had gone through many surgeries; this beautification is probably need of the profession, and people do like to look beautiful and young all the time. People dye their hair suitably, they follow various anti-aging regimens which include procedures and surgeries, some of them can be risky. But Sridevi’s death was not because of this; she somehow fainted and died!

There is a turmoil going on in my mind, after I read about her cremation; but I will be a little selfish and say that my last memories of her will always be beautiful, bubbly Chandani! How can Madhubala and Monroe and  Sridevi be 80! Who knows she could look beautiful even at 80 but I will surely not be around! In our younger age we had Waheeda Rahaman, Sharmila Tagore who have kept themselves very graceful at their current ages 80 and 71 respectively. But not all manage this!

So what is my favourite memory of Sridevi? There are so many dances, performances, expressions, it is impossible to choose! I will give her 9 on 10 for everything or maybe 9.5 but I will give HIM 10 on 10 for his decision to take her away! What a selfish decision. He made a surprise move to have her back with Him! Perfect 10 on 10, bhagwan! Tusi great ho! Teri Lila agadh hai!

With moist eyes, and heavy heart! Alvida Sridevi!

GST ground realities!

Some human emotions and reactions are excitement, frustration, ignorance, arguments! I never thought that GST, Goods and Services Tax, a drab subject will invoke so much of emotions. GST was implemented by Government of India effective from 1st July 2017. Before GST, the tax structure was extremely complicated and each state had its own tax rates and taxes. Doing business and managing tax compliance was an extremely complex thing with many different tax agencies, with many obstacles in doing business, it was almost like a hurdle race. I am not going to write about technicalities of implementation or real life details but about the human angle in GST implementation.

This change is supposed to be a game changer in the business ecosystem of India. GST was being planned since last ten years. But usual political lack of will, government change and horse trading delayed the implementation. First date declared for implementation was 1/10/2016 which was changed to 1/4/2017 then finally to 1/7/2017. Humans are of different types and the tendency in some is to crib about everything. On one side people said how can this government implement GST when they cannot even fix up the date of implementation! Though GST is being discussed for more than 10 years, when it really happened main refrain was “we were not given enough time”. How do you define enough time? Main preparation required for any business reform, other than infrastructure, is the change in mental setup. If you are mentally not ready, 20 years also will not be good enough time for getting ready!

All the big industry and many in trade have been under some tax regime all the time. Laws under excise regime were very strong but it was easier to play around in other tax types. Why do people avoid taxes? Is it with the noble cause of selling goods at a cheaper rate? No way! They do it basically to avoid showing the real volume of business they do, thereby saving on income tax. This is the so called parallel economy or cash economy. This is nothing new and it happens world over. When you have complex laws and equally complex systems, those who want to play around are happy because they can tweak the system and reach their ultimate goal, hide the real income. A friend Mahesh always used to say, “Pramod excise is the best thing that has happened to India.” Mahesh headed a manufacturing organization. He would say, “These laws mandated people to complete their work every day, only because of fear of going to jail!” Many people will be sloppy if allowed and would not complete their daily! It is fear that mandated people to complete the work.

GST compared to previous tax regime before 1/7/2017, is a very simple system. It is addressing many demands of business groups about cascading effect of taxes, causing heavy/double taxation on end products and services. Tax levels all over India for same product are same, so are tax levels on services. When the government decided to go ahead with GST, it was required to fix tax rates for each item based on available information, knowledge and discussions with trade and business groups. With such a large exercise there can never be 100% acceptance and there are bound to be changes over a period, and modifications made on the fly. The affected groups were bound to be unhappy and made a lot of noise! Authorities listened to most but some demands were unreasonable, so government ignored them. Human learns from birth that if you cry loudly mother will give you milk. These people are crying loudly to grab attention. The implementation phase saw cribbing at its best!

In some cases, there were errors and flaws which were not corrected even on approaching helplines, writing to right authorities and making genuine attempts. There were no resolutions coming, initially. This is a small group of businesses and these are the groups that are bound make maximum noise, in some cases justifiable. There were interpretation errors by consultants which resulted in chaos. But there are some groups who on one side say that GST is the best thing that has happened to India but and in the same breath say that it is a draconian system! The system has just started  since last ¾ months. How draconian nature of system can be viewed or experienced by these people in such a short period? I doubt that other than non-resolution of their queries there is hardly any interaction with government agencies. Government is already publishing advertisements in newpapers showing FAQ’s for various group of businesses. I get a feeling that GST system will make life difficult for those who want to avoid taxes, but nobody can openly say so! So beat the drums and trumpets against the system!

People tend to tell false stories to complain against the changes. One person claimed that he was required to spend Rs. 80000/ for getting his organization registered for GST. There are no fees for registration. Governments drive for digitalization requires digital signature during registration. This person claimed that Rs. 30000/ was spent for digital signature process. It is false, consultants charge Rs.1500/ to get this done. Digital signature is valid for two years! So real expense was Rs.1500/. On asking about Rs.50000/ expense he claimed that he could not take Rs.50000/ tax credit because of the delay. This is again false because he could easily have taken it had he registered on time, maybe he did not know the right procedure or his consultant was not competent. Such false stories are floated because of lack of knowledge. Throwing tantrums due to lack of knowledge pretty easy.

Humans don’t want a change, if it is possible, as per Newton’s law of inertia. They will make statements like “Change is the only constant!” But in real life change management needs new systems, processes, retraining and change in thought process. This needs leadership to encourage people to change. Absence of these things will create situation where it is easy to blame everything on GST! Government or GST is a faceless entity so it is very easy to make such a drama if you get an audience. Some people have reached very high in life’s station, but this does not mean that they have total knowledge about GST. In cocktail parties they will make “knowledgeable” statements. When they meet a person with knowledge they tend to drift to join another group for discussion!

I feel that by Diwali next year, these strong emotions, discussions, reactions will taper off. People will then start singing praise of GST as if the whole world is reformed by GST, it is only a change in tax system! People will get used to GST, Newton’s law of inertia will set in and discussions during next Diwali maybe about North Korean nuclear bomb!

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