Freedom and Responsibility!


Freedom means the power or right to act, speak, or think as one wants. Responsibility means the state or fact of being accountable, or to accept blame for something. We hear these words regularly, especially regarding the Press or the digital media. In the autocratic regimes, the word freedom is meaningless as everything right or wrong is decided by the governments. In a democracy, there are disputes about these words. Freedom is well explained by a funny anecdote. A Russian and an American are discussing freedom of expression in their countries. The American says, “In my country, I can bad mouth our President. Most likely, I will get away with it.” The Russian smiles and says, “We also have equal freedom in my country. I can curse the American President anytime. I will definitely get away with it.”

Two important events took place recently in India and the United States of America, the two largest democracies in the world. In India, the Press Trust of India published a news item; they interviewed the Chinese Ambassador in New Delhi. In the interview, the Ambassador made a one-sided statement and blamed the Indian Government for the fracas that took place between the Indian Army and the Chinese Army at Galwan. PTI gave this news. With the current strong sentiments against China, Prasar Bharati, a government-controlled news agency, blamed PTI. They said that PTI published a news item which is anti-India. PTI is a cooperative which gives the yeomen service of news collection and distribution. It is established as a reliable news agency. Prasar Bharati pays about Rs.6.5/ crores (65 million) to PTI as its contribution every year. If Prasar Bharati breaks the pact with PTI, PTI will be in big trouble, financially.

The second event took place in the US. Based on the policies of Facebook, Coca Cola, Nike, and many other companies decided to stop advertising on Facebook. The reason was the policy about banning hate speeches or about the false news. FB started censoring hate speeches after Floyd episode, but they did not act on similar statements or expressions made by President Trump. Their argument was that when the President says something, it is a policy matter for the nation. Should the President’s policy statements be banned? So according to them, it was important news. But FB business is entirely dependent on the advertisements given by organisations like Nike and Coca Cola. Ultimately they have toed the line, and now Trump hate speeches also get banned.

It is a very critical situation, and honestly, I may not have the right answers. In the complex world, the news gets gathered in different ways. There are rules and regulations which many follow, but some do not comply. What is right or wrong, history will judge. It is a well-known fact that newspapers, news sites, TV channels have corporate policies. These policies are based on the “corporate board” or the owner. The news items will show the “colour” approved by the top bosses. In crude language, the entities are sold. So when you hop from A to B to C, we see different versions of the same news. At the end of the day, an average person gets confused. Then there are mouthpieces owned by some political parties. Mouthpieces “advice” the world on subjects of how to run the country. They teach the generals how to fight a war in the harsh terrain of Himalayas. It is okay if their party cannot run a city government efficiently. Such editors, the anchors of news channels and the “analysts” of all hues always ride on a high horse. For them, everything is one article away or one grilling interview away.

I am not saying that we should ban these entities. They have a definite role to play in a democracy. Many valuable news items that remain hidden in the debris of news that gets generated. Some organisations, some authorities or governments are trying to hide them. Investigative journalism helps bring out many such hidden items. Bofors case during Rajeev Gandhi’s time was a classic case which needed to be exposed. Such exposes are necessary for any society and must be brought out. Even this one example that I have quoted can become controversial because of the people connected with Rajeev Gandhi, and his party will not like what I have written. My idea is not to write something sensational or controversial but to try and analyse the need for such investigations. The investigations, in my opinion, are an essential part of our society. But I want to share a couple of stories that I saw on a news channel.

There was a piece of top breaking news sensationalising the failure of the central Government to procure sixty thousand ventilators in time. A tender was floated for this item and orders were placed on 14th May to be completed by 30th June. Ventilators till then, were all imported. Due to Corona pandemic, it would have been challenging to get them from abroad. Many companies developed them quickly, locally. Based on the feedback of their capabilities, orders were placed for fifty thousand ventilators. By 30th June only one company supplied its quota, and all others failed due to various reasons.

A highly complex product was being tried by Indian companies, including some large organisations. But they collectively were unable to supply their quota within a stipulated time. Now the news headline is “Government failed to procure ventilators on time.” Twenty thousand ventilators were procured, and the completion date was 30th June. The news item was discussed on 5th July. One company completed its quota and must have told the news channel that we have no orders though we have completed our contract. (This company can supply 2500 ventilators per month) The news channel generalised the news and blamed it on the Government. The last date for completion was 30th June, the performance needs to be analysed. Based on this data, the new orders can be placed. TRP, jingoism, channel policy? Your decision, friends.

The same channel has this story about a COVID patient who died because the Ambulance came late. Bangalore has suddenly seen the surge of COVID patients. Ambulances have a protocol that after each COVID patient is taken in the vehicle, it is thoroughly disinfected and sanitised. Bangalore is not geared up for the surge; hence there is a shortage of ambulances. The Ambulance reached the home and was told to park away from their home. It was done to avoid neighbours knowing about Corona infection. Is Corona infection a stigma? The patient tried to walk towards the Ambulance. Half-way through he collapsed and died! So much for delay caused by the Ambulance. But the story continued in the same vein on the channel.

Why sensationalise something when there is no sensation? Could TRP be the only reason? Or the ego does not allow these channels to say, “Oh! Sorry, it was our mistake.” They are never wrong!

After writing the piece, I am still confused! What is important, the news or a piece of suitable news? Ultimately, FB and Twitter of this world check for the hate speech using algorithms. Algorithm before Trump episode condoned the President even if he promoted hate speech or shared the fake news. Specifications for the algorithms are written by a human being who follows the company policies. Is sharing the Chinese Ambassador’s blaming India right thing or it should be treated as anti-national? If political parties keep bickering about everything in this world, how the generated news should be treated? They talk against the Prime Minister of the country as well as the armed forces. Should this be treated as treason? I am not sure. The jury is still out!


Should we really bother?

There is a news item in today’s newspaper that Twitter had suspended the Twitter account of Amul for some time, yesterday. The reason was that the above advertisements did not fit into the policies of Twitter. Facebook and Twitter are two mediums which have become popular as social media apps. There are many differences in traditional media and these new social media apps. Unless we understand the differences, it will be difficult to understand the impact of specific policies and decisions. I am not sure if the image below reflects the correct media status.


Creation and dissemination of content done by traditional Media are based on the principle of one-to-many. An editor decides what news, which news reports should be published in the day’s newspaper or which stories should be telecast in the next bulletin is. The news consumers that is the readers and viewers have no role to play in the creation or dissemination of content.

Social Media, in contrast, is a media that works on the principle of many-to-many. Any individual can create and share content. It makes the content creation process more democratic.

Focus or purpose of social media is a media where people come to interact with friends, relatives, acquaintances etc. It need not be news-based. A tiny part of the Social Media universe is devoted to the creation or dissemination of news.

Traditional media is primarily a news media. It has traditionally performed the function of gathering and disseminating news, and continues to do so.

That is why the two media are like chalk and cheese.

Interactivity: Social Media allows users to comment on content created by their friends, relatives or peer group. No Big Brother is watching you. All comments are in real-time. They enrich published content and empower people to share views.

Traditional media is tightly controlled. All communication is one-way: from the editor to the readers. The most that a reader can hope is to get a letter published in the Letters column of the newspaper. There is no guarantee as to how much of the message will be edited before it is published. This interactivity is even more limited in the case of television.

I will share with you an interesting story about two news items published in Pune’s Daily Sakal. These stories are from the late ’80s of the last century. Two professors from the Fergusson college had fought in the college, yes it was physical slapping and all. Sakal published it on the first page with their names. The reason was one of the professors had an affair with the others’ wife. There was another news on the same page; another “Maramari” (fisty cuff) that took place in a washroom area of a Latif’s restaurant in the camp area. The fight was between two ex mayors of the city. One of them was drunk and passed lewd remarks about the other person’s wife. Now both these items were on the first page of Sakal with biggish headlines. Both news items had become public since a police case was registered in both cases. But the names of the ex mayors were not printed. I saw this anomaly and as a naïve person wrote a letter to the editor of Sakal. I said, “Both these news items were in the public domain, but you have published the names of the professors but not of the ex mayors. Since you call yourself a fearless newspaper, at least publish my letter.” I dropped the letter in their letterbox. That was the end of the story. So much for the fearlessness!

Speed: Social Media is instant. Reports published on Social Media sites can be accessed instantly.

Traditional media takes time to disseminate information. In the case of newspapers, this is limited to once a day; television or radio can update reports more frequently. But they cannot match the speed of Social Media unless they go live.

Why so?

Cost of creation: It costs a small fortune to set up a newspaper, radio or television station. Few individuals can, therefore, hope to become publishers.

Social Media platforms allow free posting of content. Anyone can, therefore, become a publisher or broadcaster.

Reach and numbers: The reach of Social Media is staggering. It connects billions of individuals across the globe.

In contrast, the reach of traditional media is limited to the number of readers or viewers that individual newspapers or channels may have.

Now that we have understood the similarities and difference, we can understand the issues involved.

A couple of events occurred in the last couple of weeks on Tweeter. Tweeter marked one of the tweets by President Trump with a caution note. As expected, Trump and his team were furious.

Twitter highlighted two of Trump’s tweets that falsely claimed mail-in ballots would lead to widespread voter fraud, appending a message the company has introduced to combat misinformation and disputed or unverified claims.

“Get the facts about mail-in ballots,” read the message beneath each tweet. It linked to a curated fact-check page the platform had created filled with further links and summaries of news articles debunking the assertion.

Twitter said the move was aimed at providing “context” around Trump’s remarks. But Twitter’s unprecedented decision has raised further questions about its willingness to apply the label to other Trump tweets consistently. The tweets have been deemed misleading by third parties, particularly as the president has lobbed baseless allegations against former Rep. Joe Scarborough regarding the death of a congressional staffer years ago.

Does this mean that all Tweets published by Trump before were with no issues? He has 55 million followers on Tweeter, and he is using Tweeter for keeping in touch with his electorate and followers. He and his team have understood the dynamics of the Tweeter handle so well that he has milked it to his advantage.

But what happened suddenly to the dynamics between Tweeter and Trump’s team? Why did the labelling suddenly start? Let me tell you how the “labelling” or the locking of accounts is done. They have an algorithm to track the content of what people write. The policy is decided by the “management” or in this case of Dorsey- Twitter boss! Dorsey has said in an interview that he thinks left of centre about the world. Trump is a showcase right-winger always discretely talking of white supremacy. What took so long for Dorsey to change Twitter policies? Now, do you understand why Twitter locked the account of Amul? It was about discretely pushing Indian products as against the Chinese ones. After all, Amul is our most reliable brand, so why not? And it was not about politics. But then the algorithm is a tool written by a company and by a group of people. Naturally, it has its leanings; in the current case to the left!

But should we bother so much about Twitters and Facebooks of this world? They only publish whatever you and I write; they do not have their views. The algorithm does what it is told to do- and it is created to push Dorsey’s views. But Zuckerberg is even worse. He is endorsing Trumps’ views by not saying or doing anything about Trumps’ vitriolic statements or is behaving like Daily Sakal! When Facebook has so much power, their “not saying anything” against Trump is as good as endorsing it! The latest news is that FB has finally removed Trump’s campaign video where he is trying to use “Floyd” protests to advantage- on one side he is calling the army and wants to crush the demonstrations!

Should we really bother about Twitter and FB? I do not think so! These apps are not the creators of news like Newspapers and TV channels. These are used by you and me to share our views. But apps have a responsibility, and writing algorithms is their prerogative, and these will be decided by company policy! They are NOT creating false news, but anybody can try to create false interpretations or views of real matters. Trump’s video is an attempt to create content on Twitter! So who cares? But newspapers and TV have to care. As per the current trend, the advertisements are getting diverted to social media, print and TV media better be careful.

 




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!

Demo1

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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The world is changing! 

Our world is changing and changing fast. The change may not be much in human nature. I am sure that humans from olden times have been smart, stupid, kind, vicious. I am sure they were greedy, hard-working, lazy, and what have you. The only thing that is changing is that we come to know about these traits more easily because of improvements in communications. Twenty-four-hour TV news channels, online news sites try to keep us updated with everything from all over the world. I will share some items I have read recently in newspapers. I will leave it to use the appropriate adjectives about the incidents.  

In Pune, one person was going home on his bike after his duty got over around 10 pm. On the way, a lady asked him for a lift. He was going in the same direction, so he agreed. After reaching that place, she requested him to drop her to her sister’s home about ten Km further. He reluctantly agreed. They chatted a lot on the way. After reaching there, he went up for the proverbial cup of coffee. One thing led to another, and the lady suggested that they go to the terrace. On the terrace, they had consensual sex after which the lady demanded Rs ten thousand from him. They fought and had an altercation. He threw her down from the third floor, and she died. He called a friend. They carried her on the bike and dumped her body in the river. Matter finished.  

There is always some discussion about online fraudsThe real hacking attacks are not so many. It is the foolishness of people that causes issues. To me, calling them online fraud is incorrect. A lady lost her purse in which she had kept her debit cards. In four days, money was withdrawn from her account at different times. She had written her PIN behind the card. She did not inform the bank to block the card. 

A forty-year-old man, married with one daughter, was searching for dating sites. He found one phone number and called it. He was “guided” how to join the site, and create a profile. Then he was told that his profile needed to be modified. At every step, the person asked him to pay money. Finally, he took a loan and made the final payment. Just guess how much total money he paid. He ended up paying Rs65/ lacsThe person paid so much money just to join the site and modify the profile a few times. A newspaper reported this as online fraud. Here the problem is that reporters also don’t understand the meaning of online fraud. It was not an online fraud; online was the method of payment. The idiot had taken a loan of Rs.30/ lacs. 

One more “online fraud”. A lady was running a consulting business. One fine day she got a call from an international number from a global placement agency.” They offered her a fantastic job. They also promised her that the wouldbe employers wanted to give her an advance of US $ Sixty thousand. She told them that she would take three months to wind up her business. Naturally, there were some processing fees to the tune of Rs 3.5/ lacs. The lady paid the amount. At the end of four months, she had no work in India; the dollar advance was still on its way. She ended up in a police station to complain. Online fraud?  

The real online frauds are for large sums; these happen mainly on weekends from business accounts. On weekends, business bank accounts are generally not accessed. People know about such scams by Monday noon.  

Some things never change in India. I came to understand that during a marriage, there were two functions one on the marriage day, and one on the previous evening. The groom’s side arrived a couple of hours late for the evening function. After arriving, they suddenly felt that the weather was sweltering. The asked the bride’s side to arrange portable air conditioners at the last moment. The venue was decided jointly by the two families, and both sides knew that it was a venue without air conditioners. There were a lot of heated discussions. It was impossible to arrange the air conditioners at such a late hour. Somehow the brides side managed to convince the groom’s side otherwise.  

Another horrible news I read recently was about a doctor of Indian origin. He was practising as a GP in England. Some complaints about indecent behaviour were heard. The authorities in that area decided to check on him. They found out that he would talk to his female patients glibly. He created fear in the minds of some ladies, and they fell in his trap. He would check their breasts and do the vaginal checking by hand. He would tell them that it is better to check these things regularly to avoid diseases like cancer. He was a GP. He was not a specialist in any branch of medicine. Finally, during the investigation, six ladies came forward to register their complaints against him. One of the patients was an eleven-year-old girl. What do you do with such doctors? Shoot them or castrate them? It was a rape under the garb of professional work.  

When I read various news item described above, I feel disgusted, sad and frustrated. Where is the world going? I think that the world is changing. People have hundreds of “friends” on Facebook, but in real life, there are hardly any friends. The people are becoming lonely and there are less and less face to face meetings. How many “friends” do you have with whom you can do heart to heart talk? Do people have a connect with their parents or siblings?  They do not have time for such things because of FB’s and Instagram’s of the world. I have always said that technological advancements have been fantastic in the last twenty years. But people have got too immersed in them. After their working hours- and sometimes during office hours, they only have “Me Time”, on social networks. That makes them self-centred, and they don’t communicate with each other. Such loneliness is changing their mindset. I have seen some people who are all the time looking at some screen or the other. When I tell some friends that I did not hear my phone ring because it was in another room, they are surprised that the phone has not become my appendage.  

Is the world changing for better too? Oh, yes! There is no doubt about it. Today I read about the first commercial flight of a sixseater Electric aeroplane from Vancouver. We may curse the democracy, but it is going strong. It is the governments who make it weak by not taking decisions on critical matters. They try to procrastinate all the time. But healthy democracy, the US, is starting the impeachment proceedings against President Trump. Many nations are trying to come together to fight terrorism. Hongkong residents in lacs are showing the way to challenge the might of communist China! If we prepare a balance sheet of the world in general, the world is in profit, though sometimes pressures get developed to make us worry if the balance sheet will show red marks!  

So cheer up! Life is good if you want it to be good!

 

What did “Howdy Modi” achieve?

As you are aware that I am not much into political discussions. But to me “Howdy Modi” an event held on 22nd September 2019, at Houston, Texas was a game-changing event in the history of India. I am not bothered if Prime Minister Modi is from Party A or Party B. Till the end of the last century, India was that dirty country, under-developed, chaotic Place, and of snake charmers. We almost went into bankruptcy in 1992, till we were bailed out by a large loan against national gold reserves.

IT service industry was the first Indian show of technological prowess, well-proven by Y2K and India’s large English-speaking workforce. Rest as they say is history. Not everything is hunky-dory with us even today, but the significant change in our thinking and confidence of all us as a nation, is seen as a substantial change by the whole world. The change has not happened suddenly. There have been reasons as to why this is happening. People of my generation, those born just in 1947 or just after, were a docile lot as far anything foreign was concerned. But some of us were not as docile as they were thought to be. The change started with people like Sunil Gavaskar who looked international players eye to eye and would sledge back. Sachin Tendulkar was born in 1973, and his generation was even more confident; Sachin “screamed” with his bat. Today people of Kohli’s age create fear in the minds of players with their prowess, aggressive and polished behaviour when required.

Such changes started taking place slowly in every field. Finally, the real difference is observed in international diplomacy. In 50 s and 60 s of the last century, we were busy in NAM (non-aligned movement), the favourite baby of Nehru. It was frankly a group of nobody’s; they were neither on NATO side nor the Communist side. India had no identity, and we had forgotten the principle that it’s a power game in this world. But we had no power, including electricity; we were coming out of our problems post-independence and post-emergency. We were meek and weak, and our leadership reflected the status of the nation. We had the leaders we deserved.

During the last twenty-five years, India jumped the fast-growth groovy train. We managed good yearly growth of around 7 to 8 % for some time; even the current low rate of growth is still at about 5%! India managed to give the first non-coalition majority government in many years, and that helped the government to implement many schemes which supported the masses. India is also coming up with decisions that will help new businesses to come up and old companies to grow.

The complete change in the atmosphere was also helped by the strong leadership provided by Modi! Re-election of Modi in 2019 has further helped India to become more confident. We have a large diaspora living in various countries and doing well for themselves as well as for their adopted country. In the last few years, the Indian government provided simple procedures for NRI’s to acquire PAN card and now Aadhar card.

How is this helping India? With confidence, a person or a nation can take bold decisions, make bold statements. Others start taking you seriously and listen to what you say and do! After 5th August action on article 370, Rajnathsingh was asked about dialogue with Pakistan on Kashmir. He boldly declared, “We will have a discussion with Pakistan, but it will now be about Pakistan Occupied Kashmir (POK) only.” External affairs minister answered similarly on the subject recently. He said, “ We are willing to discuss with Pakistan but not with Terroristan!” Except for the terror aspect, Pakistan is not even there on India’s Radar.

AnandMahindra1

Howdy Modi was a Bollywood style show where India managed to invite the President of the United States to share the stage with Mr Modi. Some people may call it showmanship; some may call it histrionics. Some liberals have already started comparing this event with Hitler’s Goebbels style propaganda before starting the second world war. The above picture shows Nazi rally in Madison square garden; such pictures and dialogues are already being circulated by “liberals” on the social media. The comparison shows the beauty of democracy. Your own countrymen and your enemies are allowed to show dissent. Dissent was seen outside the stadium in Houston.

What did Trump’s decision to give a speech and then be with the spectators in the first row indicate? It showed that the most influential country in the world and democracy to the core is now actively backing India.  Mind you, many people hate Trump, but he is no Hitler, neither is Modi! As typically happens in world diplomacy, Trump had a meeting and a press conference with Imran Khan, Pakistan PM,  the next day, in New York. In this conference, Trump said that Mr Modi is capable of solving the Kashmir problem.

AnandMahindra2

I am not going to display any pictures from Houston show, but Imran Khan press conference presents a vital facet of the situation. While Trump was talking about Kashmir, Imran Khan was seen counting prayer beads. These prayer beads are called Misabaha. Imran was either hoping that now only Allah can help him and Pakistan, or was it a show for Islamic World that he is the most devoted servant of Allah and the leader of the Muslim world. Is this the same Imran Khan, the playboy, the Casanova of 80s and 90s? I have purposely not reduced the size of the picture so that you can see the beads in Imran Khan’s hands!

 

AnandMahindra

I respect Anand Mahindra for his maturity, openness and sense of humour on Twitter. He has aptly expressed the feelings of all Indians in his Tweet above! If Anandaji says this, I am sure of many of us will believe in the effects of Howdy Modi event.

What next after all the showmanship is done? Next day in New York, there was a United Nations conference, Indian top brass met  top brass of more than 20 nations on the side of the meeting, mainly to discuss bilateral cooperation. Kashmir issue might have been discussed too! But India’s stance on Kashmir was boldly declared to the global audience from Houston meet.

Another important effect of Houston meet is that there were fifty thousand plus Americans of Indian origin present. They must have felt really proud to see their Bharat  projected in a very effective positive manner. The diaspora will become more confident and try to see how they can help push India’s interest forward. They now know that there is a robust system that is getting established in India under the current government. They see the effect of transparency by way schemes like Visa on arrival, Passport in seven days and so on. They are also observing the fate of corrupts and cheats irrespective of their social and political status. They know that the government means business.

In case if some of you are not aware of efficient ways systems are working, I will share two examples.

On the last day of filing Income Tax returns 31st August 2019, fifty lacs (5 million) returns were filed. In 24 hours we have 86400 seconds. It means on an average, 58 returns were being filed every second!

State Bank of India has a customer  base of more than population of many nations. Now they have started a new system for ATM withdrawals. Before leaving home, send a request for withdrawals (max Rs ten thousand per day) from an App. You will be sent an OTP (valid for 30 minutes). Go to any ATM, currently owned by SBI, punch your OTP, and you are done. Transaction time at ATM must have come down by 75%, is my rough judgement!

Jaihind!

Sequel to Election-nama!

My previous blog was about Election results concerning the path taken by Indian Democracy post-independence! 

https://panvalkarpramod.wordpress.com/2019/05/26/status-quo-election-nama/ 

But I could not write more things on the subject, as I limit my blogs to less than certain number of words. For want of a better title, I have given the title to this blog Sequel ….”! I had written about the Khan market gang, Tukde Tukde gang and others who were dead against the Modi regime. Somehow I was very uneasy with their extreme discomfort. Why were these people so uncomfortable? What is the difference between these people and others like you and me? 

I read a blog by Shobha De in Times of India dated 26/5/2019.

https://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/blogs/politically-incorrect/how-liberals-living-in-la-la-land-misread-the-asli-hindustani/

She has accepted in the blog that she is from this group of people who thought Modi might just survive or lose the election. ( I feel that gang is too harsh a word). She felt that people like her have now become irrelevant. She has also said that she had hoped that all of them would wake up on 23rd May, the election day, with a big smile on their face. Shobha is one of the very few who have accepted what has happened. 

Some of the reactions from liberals on the election results were

  • Don’t underestimate ‘intelligence’ of voters! They had also voted Hitler, Mugabe, & Marcos to power! They have also voted Trump, Putin & Erdogan to power! 
  • It is a wave; it was always meant to be a wave. The hate wave has gripped India for a while. 
  • I clearly remember 16 May 2014. Everyone was rushing to JNU Students’ Union office to watch the Lok Sabha results. I had a naive belief that @ArvindKejriwal would become PM, that India would reject a mass murderer. That was the first time that I felt like a Muslim in India. 

I have nothing against the different views that people have. One of my closest friends is dead against Modi. I must have discussed election results with at least 50 people known to me. They are all professionals. They have been there and done that! Out of these 50, only one friend was against Modi. But he expected NDA to get 250 seats and he was not against everything by NDA. On the similar basis, I assume that comments above were from a specific group of people, who are in Media, who are in public eye, who had  enjoyed the government jaunts of foreign trips with Prime Ministers and other ministers in “olden days”. (Translated to preModi days). They have also been saying how much Modi is wasting money on foreign trips by taking a jumbo jet with very few advisors; he should travel in a smaller plane! (Translates into reporters don’t get free rides!)  

The 50 people I am talking of are very successful people in life, intelligent, smart and what have you. They were the CEO’s and owners and directors. Does it mean that all these liberals speaking diagonally opposite are better and more intelligent than my friends group? No way.  

Another thing I noticed was the discussion on the exit poll day. On a Marathi channel, there were many reporters as experts. The exit poll figure swung between 237 to 350 for NDA. All the “experts were unanimous in saying that figure would be much less than 237 and could go to as low as 137! It looked as if they wished it to happen. The reporters are supposed to be in touch with the ground realities; they are the knowalls! How can all of them be so wrong? When such vital predictions go wrong, does it affect their performance card? Are they demoted because of such blunder in the forecast? Are they forced to take a salary cut? Such project failures would, in any other job, could lead to people being terminated. I have not read any such news about reporters. 

Reporters, Liberal experts, along with the opposition politicians, have proved one thing during this election that they did not have the pulse of the masses. When they use the word masses, they mean to say, idiots. Other than these groups, no one else  knows what is happening in India.  

I am again quoting from Shobha’s blog because no one else has the guts to accept that they failed to predict the people’s verdict miserably.

The toughest thing people like me — like ‘us’ — have to face up to is our irrelevance. And do so, while keeping that stubborn chin up! Do we have what it takes to look within and find out what changed when we weren’t looking? When were we busy trying to convince ourselves, the past five years were nothing but an aberration? How wrong we were! Not just wrong in our assessment but wrong about virtually everything else! We were clinging on to our nostalgia — our over-romanticised idea of India — while refusing to accept the cold, hard reality that India had changed. It wasn’t even India anymore! It had become Hindustan!  

What by the way was an alternative to Modi? Naidu who could not retain his government? Banerjee whose workers created mayhem during the election campaign? Banerjee who refused to meet the prime minister (as per her- the “Outgoing PM.”) who wanted to discuss what help Central Government could give to cycloneravaged Bengal? Mayawati who asked a question, “If we can have Ram statues all over, what is wrong in having my statues too?Lalu Prasad who is languishing in jail with a 13year jail term. Rahul Gandhi who proved his merit by the Congress score of 0 in 17 states, including losing at Amethi.  This opposition governing us, was the “over-romanticised” idea of the experts!

I will share with you how people think, differently. A family friend, an excellent mathematician, has different views. She said, “It is the pharma and weapon lobby in the world who made sure that Modi, the hawk, won the elections. Modi will make sure that their products will be bought by India as Modi will definitely go to war with Pakistan.” I do not argue with such brilliant ideas.

All these wise, bright, sharp people were hoping to get the alternatives that are mentioned above. Had this group of politicians won the election to form a government in Delhi, where would they take India? Consider each persons expertise, and we can imagine that they would have been squabbling, fighting all the time with each other; each state trying to steal the projects irrespective of  whether they were useful for India. Yes, the foreign jaunts of the reporters in Jumbo jets would have started. Politicians and business people could have continued to try and loot the institutions and banks without fear.  

All the “experts” sit in their ivory towers in Delhi. Has anyone travelled to villages in Assam? Has anyone seen the bloodletting happening in Bengal? Following a few TRP story of Gau Rakshak killers make these people think that these incidents are controlled from Delhi. Yesterday when all channels were showing Modi’s speech, one channel showed breaking news Video of some horrible beatings in MP. I am all for Exposés! But we should not forget that bad things have been always happening in the world.  There is no extraordinary increase in these numbers during Modi’s time.

Social media and TV has its pluses and minuses. When a bad incident is telecast repeatedly for TRP we feel that the world is bad. Same is the case with WA and FB. But what people actually have in their minds will be known only by direct contact with them. So let us hope that the media, the opposition, the gang all learn their lessons and become responsible and thereby more effective.  I also hope that they stay away from their romanticism and live in the real world! Amen!

Jingoism or Pragmatism!

Years back when Japan started exporting good cars to the USA in a big way in the ’80 s of the last century, there was a lot of noise created in the US! The US decided that this needs to be handled at the highest level. During a visit of a President of the US, they had informed the Japanese government that the President would push Japanese to open their market for American cars. Japanese agreed immediately. During the meeting it was it was declared officially. When the detailing was being worked out, Americans found that American car makers, engineering-wise, were unprepared, to make right-hand drive cars needed in Japan. They lost ¾ years in this! Rest as they say is history.

In the last few years, the winds against the so-called free trade have started blowing in the USA! Even in Britain, Brexit has happened, and Britain is hoping to walk out of the European Union. Brexit is a classic case of a referendum. The young people who did not want Brexit were too busy to take part in the poll. The seniors did. Currently, the British people have a significant advantage of visa-less travel to Europe. The young brigade could jump to holiday locations, for a job or weekend excursions to the places of their choice. British business had a big, trade barrier-free market available to them. Current British Government is trying its best to find a face-saving formula or do what the majority population wants. (even though referendum said otherwise) Another option may be a second referendum.

Every nation, every society needs to look after self-interest and self-respect. As the country grows, its business grows. The business growth will make the nation and its people proud. Value-added growth could happen when modern products and services are developed in the nation internally. The business needs support from the government, for such a growth. The Indian government is attempting to follow this method. When they sign a contract for import of high technology defence items like radar, planes etc. they try to ensure that the deal is in two parts. Initially, India imports some quantities fully assembled; later at least 30% of production is done in India along with some local partners. Make in India is the name of this project. The results of such initiatives will be seen 20 or 30 years hence.

Why do nations change their thought processes? A country like the United States is technologically the most advanced nation in the world. In the last 50 years, they have many world-class organisations, especially in the IT field. Most of the other countries play the catch-up game with them. They have created world-class hardware and software products like iPhone, Android OS, Windows OS, Microsoft Office to name a few of them. They are also famous for aircraft manufacturing facilities. But where hardware manufacturing was involved, they slowly moved production to China. China also has done a terrific job of going up the value chain; China is now called the world’s manufacturing setup.   Similarly, India has become back office of the world. Since the last couple of years, India is also trying to go up the value chain.

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With the election of Trump, thinking in the US has started changing. Why did this happen? When we refer to the USA, we think only of the East coast and the West coast. We never bother regarding the Rust Belt. Rust Belt is the American midwestern area where industries went into decline due to various reasons. The decrease is mainly in sectors like steel, mining and to some extent automobile.  Add to that the local culture which went into a social rot. The problems of this area can be understood if you read a book called “HillyBilly Elegy” by D Vance.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hillbilly_Elegy

We will understand better, Trump’s election victory, after reading this book. Jingoism has started after the win and America began to looking inwards by having tariff wars with China and India. Trade wars also led to the wave, “Make in America”!

History repeats due to lack of proper planning. Apple is the classic case of Make In America failure. There is the story “A Tiny Screw Shows Why iPhones Won’t Be Assembled in the U.S.A.” in New York Times. Apple started churning out great products in the last decade, after struggling since ’80 s of the previous century. They wanted to make the most of it and began subcontracting work. This improved their profitability. Over a period, they shifted all their assembly work in China to Foxconn. Most of the significant components in iPhone were made in the USA or other parts of the world. Assemblies and small parts were made in China. As assemblies entirely moved to China, US industries were left with unused capacity for many small items, and they closed shop or moved to other business. The classic case is of a non-standard screw needed in the assembly. China can produce any quantity of such screws. When an attempt was made to move production back to the USA, capabilities for producing such items were found missing. On top of this, Chinese wages are the US $ 2.10/hr for workers as against the US rates which are very high. On top of this, the totalitarian regime in China does not bother about labour laws. Meeting the targets are achieved by waking up the workers from home at night (when required) and are made to work the night shift. Getting people out of bed for factory work is not possible with US laws and culture.

Jingoism does not solve the problems; it merely creates an unhealthy atmosphere. In the case of Apple, history is getting repeated as it did in the case of cars in the last century! Governments and industry both need to be pragmatic. Apple is facing another issue. The iPhones assembled in China get a tag “Made in China”! The US government wants to charge high tariffs on “Made in China” items. On one side iPhone sells are sliding, margins are slipping; market capitalisation is dropping fast. Higher tariffs will add to Apple’s woes!

While taking any decisions in life, especially when these decisions are business related pragmatism should come to the fore and not Jingoism. The British decided in the referendum about Brexit. The analysis found that high % of citizens in the group above 55 age were for Brexit. Whereas against Brexit was a mixed group, young and old. Brexit is going to create problems for the young ones.

Jingoism takes a society towards a situation where governments promise something during an election or political rhetoric but are not able to deliver — not being pragmatic leads to further churning. Governments try to show their strength by taking a firm stand which is not sustainable. Politicians remain in political mode all the time leading to Jingoism.

Hope the leaders and nations who are following the path of Jingoism learn their lessons quickly; otherwise, the voters correct the same anyway. But for the period till next election, a lot of damage is done to the fabric of the society, and most importantly economic setbacks can cause long term damage to all concerned.

US Government Shut down!

Currently, there is shut down going on in specific departments of the US government. From what I have been reading it appears that the United States is the only country where such shutdowns can occur. All other nations have alternative methods of keeping the departments working. Why has this shutdown occurred?

A government shut down occurs when non-essential discretionary federal programs close. It occurs when Congress fails to appropriate funds. In the normal budget process, Congress appropriates funds by September 30 for the following fiscal year. When that doesn’t happen, it enacts a continuing funding resolution. If Congress can’t even agree on that, it forces a shutdown. That signals a complete breakdown in the budget process.

In the United States, the financial year is from 1st January to 31st December. These shutdowns can occur if certain political adjustments do not happen in time. Current shutdown is the longest ever shut down in the US history. Before ’80 s of the last centuries, such events did not occur because though people did not get paid during the shutdown, they could continue to work without pay. At the beginning of ’80 s, the then attorney general gave a legal opinion that during the shutdown nobody can work. In today’s reference, this means that the affected government employees need to return the government issued electronic devices like cell phones and laptops. They cannot even access their official emails. Not allowed to access the official emails is a real “shut down”. If you have some work pending it will not get done until the government resolves the issue.

Imagine day to day problems in the USA. The flights have taken off, and the Air Traffic controllers come under the shutdown. The flights will not be able to land. (Ok, I am exaggerating!) Assume that security guys come under the shutdown, no flights can take off. I need to check up with my niece; she works for the US government in Washington DC if she is under the shutdown. What will be the effect on people? They will not be paid during this period. Some departments may use their emergency funds to pay the employees for this period, but that has limits. Then they will have to keep on working without pay. The contract workers are the worst hit. They do not get back pay. They go home and await instructions. The people who are on pay cheque to pay cheque budget will be walloped. Their loan default will start. Loan default, in turn, will decrease their credit ratings. There will be a mad rush to look for temporary jobs to handle the financial crisis. Three hundred eighty thousand non-critical employees have been told to go home, but 50000 out of these have been called back, without pay. Four hundred twenty thousand critical employees are already working without pay.

On January 8, 2019, the president Trump addressed the nation. He said a $5.7 billion wall on the border with Mexico is the only solution for a growing crisis at the border. The wall is a crucial piece of Trump’s immigration policy. Since November, the number of migrant families applying for asylum at the border has increased. Homeland Security does not have the funding to process the new surge. Many are showing up in remote areas.

The House had approved a bill on January 3, that would fund all departments except Homeland Security. It would support that department through February 8, 2019. The Senate won’t vote on the bill because Trump opposes it.

On January 4, 2019, President Trump announced that he would continue the shutdown until Congress included $5.7 billion for the wall. He has threatened to declare a national emergency. Trump could then readjust military spending to build the wall without Congressional approval. The administration is also exploring whether it could adjust the funds from the Army Core of Engineers designated for hurricane disaster relief.

But the main problem in all this is that along with Democrats many Republicans also are against the Mexican Wall proposed by Trump. How this will get resolved is anybody’s guess because this issue has now taken a political turn. Republicans say that the wall may not work; there is a need for additional security forces. Democrats say that these funds should be used to improve medical health support given to the public in Obamacare.

There are still a lot of federal cybersecurity workers at their posts carrying out what has been deemed “essential” operations, like defending government networks from attacks and keeping confidential documents from being compromised. But experts warn that trying to thwart hackers at less than full strength is risky. It is evident that cyber threats don’t operate on Washington’s political timetable, and they don’t stop because of a shutdown.

What are the similarities and differences between the world’s two largest democracies? Indian parliament many times does not do any work and is suspended because of chaos. Parliamentary chaos affects future lawmaking and future policies. Non-functional parliament makes sure that the new proposals are not taken for discussion. In the US, the government does not allow the day to day functioning of departments. Who are critical workers and who are non-critical? If workers are non-critical, does it mean that they are surplus?  By this action, there must be a small dent in the GDP too! The conclusion is because government spending is also a part of GDP.

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In the US, the system stops current working and in India system allows the future to be delayed. What system are we discussing? It is the politicians who do all this under the garb of principles. But when it comes to horse trading, politicians in both countries are replicas of each other. Their first priority is always their own seat, then their party and finally their nation. Nation first is a slogan for election times. But then there are many things said in the election time. Elected representatives follow their chosen path, self before everything else!

 

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′!