Saturday, August 25, 2012

Not about the man, either?

"I know who won those seven Tours, my team-mates know who won those seven Tours, and everyone I competed against knows who won those seven Tours."

Well, millions of admirers do not. Some of them will continue admiring.

"There comes a point in every man's life when he has to say: Enough is enough"

Hard to believe that fighting allegations was that point, not fighting cancer.

Either he drugged or/ and gave up. Either ways, his name takes a beating. Either ways, it is a sad thing to have happened. 

He still is inspiring. 

Tiger Woods lost all his reputation because he was an exceptional sports person - just that. Lance Armstrong stood for way more. And its only his sporting achievements which are tainted. 

It never was about the bike - or what he did with it!

Friday, June 1, 2012

All thats wrong with our economy is not economic!!!

Till about a year ago, India along with China was one of the bright spots of the world economy. Our economy seemed to be doing reasonably well with GDP growth in the 7-7.5% range when the western powers were going through their worst time post the Great Depression.

Things have changed. A lot.

The latest economic numbers are dismal enough to send shivers down each and every Indian spine. Both the Q4 as well as annual growth figures are at their 9 year low. The thought that we are doing much worse than how we were doing at the peak of the 2009-11 recession is indeed a scary one. The repercussions are deep enough with this article in the Economist ( sounding out the possibility of social unrest as a long term result.

While I believe that the above article, like most external opinions is overly pessimistic, a brief analysis does seem to suggest that we are in some sort of a downward spiral. The most straightforward option for any establishment to break the shackles of slow economic growth, of course is monetary easing, or lowering the interest rates and printing more currency. Not a very viable option, in the current situation, though. More money in the hands of the people will lead to a) higher inflation which will in turn result in b) the Rupee deteriorating further.Monetary action in this situation seems to be a recipe for sure-shot stagflation.

The other route available to the economic policy makers is the fiscal one. Which means that the government needs to invest more in building infrastructure and support systems for businesses. While fiscal measures take some time to yield results, the effects are also long term due to the multiplier effect that they generate. Of course, this is not as easily done as said. Why? Because of yet another demon of high fiscal deficit. Put in simplest of terms, the government does not earn enough from our taxes to spend on infrastructure. Definitely, we need other sources to pump in money into our economy because a widening fiscal deficit would again lead to high inflation and we are yet again caught in the same stagflation loop.

But, why do we all of a sudden find ourselves in such a mess? Precisely, because the 'other sources' which were supposed to pump in the cash to fill our fiscal deficit and fuel our growth have dried up. Yes, foreign investments is what we need to bring ourselves back on the growth trajectory that we wish for. And that is where our economic problems cease to be economic and become more political in nature. We simply need a fresh bout of reforms along with consistency of regulation/ public intervention to boost investor confidence. I do believe that most people in our establishment understand this simple fact, but are bound by their political compulsions.

The kind of policy paralysis that we have observed in the last couple of years is truly beyond what any of us conceived. When I posted this ( 3 years ago, I was hoping that the exit of the left front from the national arena will let the UPA unleash a series of reforms. Alas, little did I know that the alternative (read M-A-M-A-T-A) would turn out to be 'lefter than the left'! Of course, the lack of political will power from the PM and his leadership team is also of the highest stature. One would believe that this would be the ideal scenario for the opposition to stake a strong claim about their eligibility to run the show. Well, to that I just have one 3 letter word to say - BJP!! Times like this make you realize how a strong opposition can transform things in a democracy, or, how a weak one can let the government be as lethargic as it wants to be.

To sum it up, with the Presidential and then the Parliamentary elections looming large, things do not look likely to change much on the political front. In that case, monetary and fiscal actions (without the accompanying reforms) will have to be taken and we may be moving closer towards a stagflation or at least, a sustained slowdown. 

Yet, at some level, I believe that this is not the complete story yet. Life in the country does not seem to be as badly hit as the economic numbers seem to suggest. Something tells me that things are going to change much faster than we believe and for the better. In the end, its just a question of one bold political move somewhere coupled with some patience. May be it is just the fact that I have been fed on 'the India story' all my conscious life, but I do believe that that one bold step will be taken (if not by those in the power, then by those against them) pretty soon. 1991 is history and I hope it will remain that way.

Thursday, May 26, 2011

Bhaag DK Bose – The tyranny of inconsistent regulation

Everytime I hear the ‘DK Bose’ song, the only thought that I get is “How did the censor board let that pass!!” Don’t get me wrong, I am definitely not among those who are in favor of heavy control on the content in the media (India TV does make me want to re-consider though). In fact, I would believe that it would be best if we could live in a world without bans and regulations.
My point, however, is that if there is regulation, it must be consistent across time and for different people. As an example, let’s go back to the DKB song. It definitely is a very catchy song and the idea of using the name DK Bose is indeed smart. But, it’s not something new. DK Bose has been used in this kind of humor about ten years ago in a Bollywood comedy. But, I guess the reason why nobody could even conceive of putting it in a song was that it was not expected to pass the filters applied by the Censor. Extending the logic, it is possible that the person who thought of this could not make most money out of it because he was not able to capitalize it completely by putting it in the prime song of his/ her movie. On the other hand, somebody who copied this idea would end up making lots of money.
Definitely not a healthy and competitive environment to do business in, is it? This is exactly why I believe that regulation should be kept at a minimum as it would always tend to get discretionary.
Among other stuff, Ghulam Nabi Azad has said that Mrs. G is sad about Miss Kani’s arrest because she being a woman is in jail. Oh yes, she is the first female to go to Jail it seems!!! I wonder how much good can all the money siphoned off by the Rajas and Kalmadis do to Indian women if put to proper use. Not a word from the super PM on that, as usual.
Petrol prices have risen again!!! Really, yet again! WTF! Although a Rs. 5 increase in the fuel price does not really turn my budget upside down, the press coverage makes me react this way every time the prices of petrol or onions rise. Like most other middle class Indians, I am OK with a rise in prices of other commodities, but not these 2. And we don’t even need India TV for this kind of hype. The inflation (including food inflation) has been super-high for almost a year now, yet the only time people seem to be affected is when these 2 commodities get costlier.
Well, I have somehow ended up talking about politics, prices and media. The title of the post has lost its relevance probably. Perhaps, it’s just that I have been thinking about lots of stuff but haven’t blogged for like 2 years. In fact, the last I blogged was in an upbeat mood after UPA-II had a thumping majority. Guess the title is just my way of telling them and the media – Bhaag Bhaag DK Bose DK Bose DK Bose, Bhaag Bhaag DK Bose DK Bhaag!

Saturday, May 16, 2009

My Vote Goes To....

The last time I posted on this blog was more than a month ago. This period of inactivity was more out of laziness than anything else. But, the message delivered by the Indian electorate today and the euphoria generated by the same has compelled me to come here again.So...

At one level, the verdict seems to be a strong mandate in favour of the policies of the UPA and also some chief ministers who supposedly focussed on development. I cannot but agree with the second half of the statement with people like Nitish Kumar, Naveen Patnaik, Sheila Dikshit and Narendra Modi getting the strongest of mandates.

A lot of you are not going to agree with the reason I believe Modi has such a strong support base in Gujarat. The fact of the matter, as far as I understand, is that divisive politics works only for a short period of time. This was more than evident in the last Lok Sabha elections where Congress gave a decent fight to Modi's BJP in the state. This was the time when the public was fed up with the polarisation based strategy of the BJP and was starting to look towards Modi to actually deliver. And deliver, he did. In fact, there are people (including yours truly) who I personally know would not have voted for Modi in the 2002 assembly elections but now would not give a second thought about their support to him. Of course, its that much more difficult for the Muslim electorate to come around and forgive him for 2002 than someone like me.

This, however, does not mean that divisive brand of politics does not work at all. The Congress' clean sweep of Mumbai is an interesting case study here. The MNS, which has only been in the news for the filthiest of acts, cut very sharply on the BJP-Shiv Sena votes, which helped the Congress immensely. The policy of the state government to play along wid Junior Thackeray has evidently played off. These are incidents which seriously dent the assertion that the mandate is a positive one.

Another place where the electorate has disappointed me is Tamil Nadu. This is the state where politicians (and I mean every single one of them) have stooped to their lowest levels in this election by openly supporting the LTTE. I just cannot comprehend how India can seek international support in fighting Pak-sponsored terrorism while it does not stand strong against terrorism in other countries in the region. We are trying to play the same dangerous game that the USA played by ignoring terrorism in countries like India. 9/11 was a big price that Uncle Sam paid for the same. The worst part is that Sonia Gandhi, who lost her husband to these terrorists and her mum-in-law to another variant of extremism has befriended people who have traditionally been sympathetic to the Tamil Tigers. Of course, a certain Mr. Vaiko deserved to be hanged long ago. I hope the fact that these parties have been voted for is more because of the lack of options than the choice of the electorate. Because if that is the case, options are bound to emerge with time. 

It is these parties which make us seriously ponder if India should actually be a two-party democracy like the other big democracy of the world. But, I believe that India is such a diverse country that the multiple opinions and aspirations cannot be represented by just a couple of parties. There is definitely a scope, and in fact, need for good responsible regional parties. In fact, the strongest message of this election is for the likes of Mayawati, Mamta, Deve Gowda, Jaya, Karuna and Lalu. The electorate has shown them that responsible regional parties like JD(U) and BJD are the future of Indian democracy. 

There have been strong messages for each of the other big players as well. I would like to take this opportunity to contribute the current favourite flavour of Left-bashing. I will not say much , however because the statement made by none other than Prakash Karat in reaction to the results sums it up for them. He stated, "We will keep fighting. We have been fighting since the first general elections in 1952. We have even been fighting when we have been supporting the government. We have been fighting to make the people of this country understand our ideology. And we will keep fighting for the same." I think its high time he realised that there's a reason why the public has not understood their ideology for the last 57 years.

Another camp which needs to do some serious "Aatma Chintan" is the BJP. I think this party is facing two major problems: lack of leadership and ambiguity of ideology. Lets talk about the leadership issue first. L.K. Advani is not half as effective and atal as the venerable Vajpayee. The viability of Narendra Modi getting a wide support outside his home state is seriously doubtful. And there is no one else I can think of!!! I think BJP, under Vajpayee's leadership worked together as a party. A factor for the same was that it had decisively put its controversial (some of which like the Common Civil Code were highly desirable) issues on the back burner. The present BJP leadership is pretty much confused as to what issues it wants to pursue. In fact, the choice is not really between Hindutva and development. Development can most certainly go hand-in-hand in with some (only some) of the BJP's traditional talking points. The party however needs to decisively take a stand as to which of those issues is it going to fight for and which of them are going to be dropped from its agenda. Because the electorate, and the youth in particular does not know what the BJP stands for and hence does not feel appealed to vote for it. 

The youth factor I believe was what made the BJP project Varun Gandhi as an icon. I think the BJP was somewhat shaken by the rise of Rahul Gandhi. The rise of Rahul can be attributed to nothing else but his last name, in my opinion. Apparently, the BJP also felt the same and tried to make Varun stand up as its youth face. Who better than another Gandhi to halt the rise of one. Of course, the youth of India is not looking for leaders like Varun (who, by the way, before these elections, was a nobody and hopefully will remain the same). The last time the BJP tried this trick was when it pitched the other Gandhi bahu Maneka against Sonia. I think the BJP would be better served if it tries to create leaders out of the Aruns and the Sushmas, rather than going on the look out for the Varuns to be the party's youth face. Needless to say, Pramod Mahajan is being sorely missed. I think the country needs the BJP to sort these issues out and not fight elections on Swiss bank accounts (always thought its going to be a non-issue for the Indian people), so that it could be the strong and responsible opposition the country so desperately needs.

Lastly, the Congress. It has every right to be euphoric over this victory and have a party for now. But the lessons to be learnt are most important for them as they are going to be the ones running India for some time to come now. First of all, they need to understand that the people have put faith in them to drive them through these tough economic times. And its time they took some action on that front. They do not have the luxury of blaming inactivity on the Left or SP or any of their allies (who have all been cut to size). Also, if at all this is a positive mandate, its for a UPA government led by Manmohan Singh. So, irrespective of the "feedback of the ground workers" on Rahul's contribution in this win and "their aspiration to see him as their leader", its Manmohan who should be the PM for the complete term. Because, I feel that the party is in power more because of the people's trust than the workers' committment. And it must not betray this trust. Also, I as an individual, hope that we would not return to the controversies of reservation and the "first right of the minority on the country's resources". The public has stated much more clearly than even Spiderman that with great power comes great responsibilty. 

I know I am probably asking for waaaayyyy too much but I would love it if all these parties could do all these things. Of course, its much easier for me to write a blog about it then it being implemented, especially in the quagmire of Indian politics. But the fact remains that I can only express my opinions and the actual work has to be done by the people involved themselves. Over to the politicos now. Lets see how the next five years span out.

Thursday, April 9, 2009

The Tribute

Not that I am too emotionally attached to the issue here, but still found it interesting enough to share. So,...

I saw this hoarding at the Prasar Bharti HQ in Delhi which said: A TRIBUTE TO THE LEGACY OF URDU. And ironically enough, it said that in English. This left me wondering if its a tribute to the current state of the language of the Nawabs or its legacy, as the hoarding claimed.

Friday, April 3, 2009

Diversity, disparity and contradictions

Well, i am finally entering the blogging space today...i have had thoughts regarding this a number of times...i always used to think that my first blog would be about a fun thing...maybe india's cricket performance, or maybe bappi lahri's music or some strange co-incidence of life.

In short, i never thought that i would begin with some serious thoughts of mine. Not that anything i write would change something but what struck me was so stark that i could not keep myself from blogging, so .....

India, a land of diversity, diversity of cultures, of traditions, religions, beliefs and what not. I was always so proud of this diversity. But diversity is associated with inevitable disparity and this disparity always presents itself in the form of contradictions between you and the others. For me, this contradiction presented itself in the most simplistic form over a routine snack of maggi. In my last 5 years of hostel life, i have started believing that maggi is the most routine thing to eat. I have become so dependent on it that its tough to imagine life without maggi. And i thought its so true for all us Indians. For everybody i know eats maggi and just loves it. With these thoughts i went to a chai-ki-dukan outside my hostel when the emptiness of my stomach disrupted my game of cards at 3 in the morning. Me and my friends gave our usual order of "char plain maggi" and continued with our chat about how my stupidity cost my partner a game of "sweep". Our maggi was still on the burner when a truck driver stopped for tea. He said to the chaiwallah "what is this thing that you are cooking ? Its something like the sewai that we make at our home." Me and my friends were shocked that there is a part of India who has never seen maggi, when we consider it to be the country's staple food. And thats when the realisation dawned. I knew only a small part of India. I believed India was shining when farmers were committing suicide. I was fascinated by Obama's rise when the dalits were fighting against the Ranbir Sena. I was pleased with the Bombay Stock Exchange's sensex's bull run when people in slums of the same Bombay itself were living like bulls. 
As it turned out, what i saw that day was just the surface. Upon exploration, I came across several facets of life of this other India, which I never knew in my 22 years of existence. 45% of Indian women get married before the age of 18, yet i had never heard of one.  India has the largest number of AIDS patients in the world and yet I thought the HIV exists only in some distant land, if it does at all. About a third of the country's populace falls in the BPL category (that too when you have to shit in the open to be categorised BPL) and yet I thought that 8% GDP growth is "real economic progress".
Yes, life is full of contradictions but nowhere are they as stark and as real as in India.