Saturday, January 23, 2010

Milking the aam aadmi, forgetting legends and forgiving terrorists

So, what has been the activity in the political circles off late? While media continues to focus on every small thing Rahul Gandhi does, they seem to forget that Nitin Gadkari deserves much more of the limelight because he has already proved his credentials as an administrator while Rahul Gandhi still can't answer a simple question on price rise except with standard "I have spoken to the PM and he has assured me he till take steps". But anyways, the paid mediawallahs aside, the political scene this week was all about Pawar milking the aam aadmi (actually that been the consistent weekly news for more than a year or two now), ignoring legends like Netaji and attempts to forgive Nalini, the LTTE terrorist who was involved with killing of many people including former PM Rajiv Gandhi

Milking the economy - Sharad Pawar is one minsiter who skin can be used for making strong chappals because hardly anything or anyone can get under his skin or mind for that matter. I guess even Sonia and Manmohan have given up on him as they allow him to loot the common public while he ensures that the traders and hoarders get their money back after all the help he got from them in Maharashtra assembly elections. So after the prices of essential commodities and sugar, it is the turn of milk and milk products. Nice minister we have who makes milk costly while allowing more production and consumption of alocohol.

Forgetting Legends - Last year after UPA won elections, there were huge advertisements and programmes on birth anniversaries of Nehru, Indira Gandhi and Rajiv Gandhi. So all tax payers paid for paying tribute to the family which is responsible for the 'lack of development' this ocuntry has seen. But that aside, it was surprising to see who Sardar Patel, Lokmanya Tilak and today Netaji Subhash Chandra Bose's anniversary has been completely forgotten. Is it an attempt to wipe of the legends of the history who did not belong to one family or did not share the family name ?

Forgiving terrorists - In the year 1991, at an election rally in Tamil Nadu, LTTE terrorists used a suicide bomber and killed scored of people including the former PM of India Rajiv Gandhi. While the main actors of the suicide bombing died on the spot, the police and intelligence agencies caught all those involved in the incident fairly quickly. This so-called involvement of DMK and it's sympathy for LTTE was used as an excuse to bring down I K Gujral's govt by Congress. Today the same Congress riding on DMK's support in the centre is ready to forgive those accused in the case. There have been high profile visits by Priyanka Gandhi to Nalini, one of the main accused and media announcments of how the Gandhi family has forgiven the accused. This brings to the table 2 main questions - Why was then a government brought down using DMK's sympathy for Nalini and LTTE as an excuse to push the nation into a midterm poll in mid-90s? Who gave the right to the Gandhi family to decide who the Indian law should punish or forgive? It's not about the death of their husband or father. This is about other people who were at the venue and who died in that incident. Why has no body asked their families on what they feel? Will law in India become a puppet in hands of one family just like other constitutional structures.

Wednesday, January 13, 2010

Price Rise - Steps to beat it

Yesterday, I had a discussion turn into arguement with a friend. His view was that the price rise was a global phenomenon and that I was being unfair to the government. He challenged me if I could think of some steps which can help beat price rise currently and on a longer run as well. So here I take up the challenge. I will humbly say that I am no economist and I am no expert on these matters. So whatever I am writing is based on my reading and some common sense having been in business.

Take strict urgent action against hoarders - MP government on 11th Jan cracked down heavily on hoarders. This crackdown yeilded nearly 10,000 crore worth of sugar. Same has been the case with Gujarat government. Both these governments have cracked down hard on hoarders and brought out in market a huge supply of essential items. Just imagine if all state governments can follow this. It could result in a huge amount of foodgrains, sugar, pulses being recovered and for market consumption.

Put a gag on Commodity Trading for some time - The trading in commodity market specially the future trading results in traders holding on to the food stock without releasing it for consumption. This creates an artificial scarcity and pushes the price up. While commodity trading is here to stay, one can surely put a temporary stop to it.

Ask the ministers to shut up - Our Minsiters, specially Mr. Sharad Pawar needs to be told to shut his mouth when it comes to food stocks in India. He passed a comment about India facing sugar shortage and next day the price of sugar in international market zooms up. He has to understand that with China and India being 2 major consumers in the world, any shortage in any of the country can push international rates up.

Improve food logistics - Why is it so tough for the government to have an efficient food logistic system? A network of cold storages and other warehouses with a good network of transport is enough to ensure that no area in the country faces food shortage. It's a shame that even after 6 decades of independence, we can provide food security to our people. Since this is a long term plan, immediately what can be done is to involve private players with warehouses, cold storages, transport facilities to ensure faster time to market.

These are just four basic steps that came to mind. There surely will be more like a more conservative approach to food exports, strengthening of PDS, bringing labour balance to NREGS so that argriculture labour is not made costly and is available. But all these need just 2 things - One is the will to really ensure that India actually grows and has no pockets of underdevelopment and second is to ensure a clean, unbiased approach to food and agriculture without lobby pressure and temptations. As of now, the government seems to lack both.

Tuesday, January 12, 2010

Why Congress calls common public 'Aam' Aadmi

If ones sees the way the current government is playing dirty over the price of essential commodities, one will know why Congress calls common public 'Aam' Aadmi. Well simple, suck the pulp out of the people the way it is done to Aam (mango)

Never in history has India seen such terrible price inflation. And what is government doing? Still dithering on what needs to be done and blaming everybody right from opposition ruled states to global warming maybe leaving ISI out this time or foreign hand out as in distant past.

If one looks at how the government itself is responsible for such a price rise, one can find variety of reasons. Why should government allow production of alcohol from foodgrains, knowing fully well that alcohol being more profitable business, the foodgrains needed for regular consumption will be pushed there. Many call it Thanksgiving for the money spent in elections. Same is the case with sugar. It follows the famous rule of "Scarcity, Scheme and Scam". You first export the sugar and create a scarcity, then try and bulldoze the farmers in selling for less, meantime the sugar industries have a field day, then you import raw sugar in emergency and God knows how many zeroes will be seen in this scam. Why is that while there is a shortage of foodgrains and vegetables outside, the FDI warehouses complain of essentials food items rotting there without anybody to move it out. If we look athe the time span, this has been going on for last 2 years with only respite coming during the General Elections. This should demand a quesiton as to when the government could bring prices under control then, why is it helpless now?

For all those who talk about Dr. Manmohan Singh being such a great economist, have you ever wondered why is he so helpless when economy is going for a toss and people can't make their ends meet. Also why has India seen most scams when he was the Finance Minister earlier and now the PM?

The much hyped up NREGA scheme can be called a brilliant plan badly implemented. It has changed the balance of labour in agriculture. What it has done is it has guaranteed employment to people at the base per day rate. This has now created a scarcity in labour available for agriculture in rural India. This has obviously led to increase in rates for the labour and thereby increasing the cost of essential items. This imbalance can be compensated by strict anti-hoarding law enforcement and efficient PDS systems. But that's where the government is failing miserably. So looking at just one side of the scheme has resulted in such an alarming increase of cost of daly lliving for everyone across India.

So while the Aam Aadmi struggles to stay afloat, the Congress sucks the juice out of 'Aam' because only if the common is needy, poor and helpless, Prince Rahul will get the opportunity for photo-ops.

Thursday, January 7, 2010

3 crumbling pillars of Indian Democracy

Democracy has 4 main pillars - Politicial System, Administators, Law Agencies (courts and police) and Media. No democracy can function properly if one of the four develops a crack. In India while all the focus has been on blaming the political system for every failure, the other 3 have by and large gone scotfree. Most of the times, attempts have been made to pinpoint the blame on just the political system without looking at how others performed. Here's a look at how the other three have developed serious cracks and need repairs.

Administrators - These are civil service officers and senior bureaucrats. Name one officer who has been caught and punished for any failure till date? The Intelligence Agencies are run by these bureaucrats and they have failed msierably at every level to prevent terror attacks but has any officer even been punished? The Public Distribution System is the key to control price rice and food shortage. The entire PDS is supposed to be driven by senior bureaucrats in Food Ministry but there has been total decay of this system over the years. Who is to blame? The ministers who change every year or the officers who are supposed to run it and have been in the system for a long time now. No corruption is possible without active involvement of the bureaucrats. Finally the ministers change every few years but the bureaucrats stay. They are the ones who run the system at the micro level. So nothing can be done or not be done without their knowledge and participation. But nowhere have they been blamed for the continuing failures.

Law Enforcement - Recently when some senior police officers were caught on camera grooving wiht underworld gangsters in Mumbai, media created a huge hue and cry. Was this something new? No, the nexus of police and underworld is wellknown and has been there for years now. But no top cop has ever tried to break it. 1993 Mumbai Blasts had seen involvement of so many customs and police officers which only proved how they were active members of D Gang and many still continue to be. 26/11 was a classic saga of faillure of top cops but has any cop been punished for it? Politicians did lose their ministries (though most of them got back or were promoted thanks to the Madam Sonia) but was any cop even demoted, leave alone removed? THough be fair to police they have taken the most abuses after the political class from the ignorant citizens. But what about the judiciary. The Dinakaran case has shook people's faith in judiciary. No one till nwo questioned him how did he amass such wealth. But he is still sitting pretty because the process to remove an errant judge is a long drawn process. No one knows how his impeachment go. Till recently the Chief Justice of India was vehemently oppsed to the judiciary coming under the bill which required them to declare their assets. Cases of judges getting involved in murky deals are increasing but still they are not sharing the blame for the weakening of the democracy.

Media - Ah, the co-called conscience keepers of the nation. My personal view is that media in India is the most corrupt pillar of the democracy. To compound that they are also arrogant and self-centred. they want everybody else to be accountable but they turn red when asked to be accountable. The way media behaved during Mumbai attacks was just not immature, it was also anti-national. So what did they do? They turned the anger of the public to politicians with their sponsored sms, candle lit vigils and other events. Media in India acts more like an event management company or a tabloid. They have not spared a single attempt to weaken the other pillars of democracy and the faith of people in the democracy. Starting right from Tehelka, which was nothing but a political pawn playing at the hand of the master. One thing to notice is why has media never tried to show or honestly admit to the corrupt practices within the media? Why has media always resisted the idea of being accountable. What was NDTV's reaction when it's coverage of Mumbai attacks questioned? They replied with criminal disdain and I am holier than thou so don't question attitude. Why is media shying away from declaring who their invesotrs are?

Sunday, January 3, 2010

Repeating the same mistakes which casued partition and terror

In early 1900s, the British unleashed the weapon of reservations for minorities and seperate electorates. This weapon sowed the seeds of a tree called Partition after 4 decades. Instead of learnign from this mistake, India looks like repeating it again for mere political gains. The Rangnath Mishra report which talks about 10% reservations for Muslims and a pie of reservations within the 27% already set aside of SC, ST and OBC for their counterparts in minorities. To start with the who argument of SC,ST and OBC in minorities sounds an antithesis because apart from Hindu religion, no other religion believes in caste system and so once converted how can peopel still be SC, ST and OBC surprises many a minds.

While no one is against reservations in principle to empower the poor class, the idea of reservations on religious grounds is as divisive as an idea can get. Slowly the pressure on the government will increase to implement it. It would be interesting to see how the government implements it because this government so far has shown a tendency to pander to minority radicalism on most cases be it Sachar committee report, Taslima Nasreen case or modernisation of Madarassas.

Another event which sows similar seeds is the recommendation by the PM's Committee on Jammu and Kashmir. The report (as reported by other members of the committee) was a unilateral report and recommended an autonomy for Jammu and Kashmir. The recommendations include J & K having it's PM, flag and Cabinet. The only control Indian government will have will be over Finance, Defence. Now this is a proper recipe for disaster. To start with, it's only some section of the Kashmir vallye which is asking for a seperation. This call has no takers in Jammu, Leh or Ladakh. Once J & K has it's autonomy, one can just imagine the plight of the Hindu, Sikh and Buddhist communities in the state as the state will be governed by hardline Muslim factions. Once the state is given autonomy, there won't be anything to stop other states from taking to arms asking for the same. So this entire recommendations by PM's man should be dumped into the dust bin without a thought. To borrow an old slogan - Ek desh mein do pradhan, do vidhan, nahin ho sakte (there can't be 2 PMs and 2 constitutions in one country)

One just hopes that in it's race to win over the minority votes, the current UPA government does not move ahead on the above 2 issues as they will only divide the country.