Sunday, June 26, 2011

Fuel Price Hike- Why Govt Did it NOW?

It's very often quoted statement about politics- that -"Politics is art of possibilities". The exploration of possibilities is joyful and life enriching experience. At last, Govt. of India has explored one possibility of getting rid of Lokpal and related hype by increasing the fuel price.

Surge in commodities is happening phenomenon from last 6 months or so. Govt. postponed the fuel price hike due to 4 state assembly elections. Post elections, Lokpal and related drama unfolded. So again, time started disfavoring the Govt. It never wanted to do any hike in that unfortunate moment.

However, this fight with civil society lasted more than Govt's expectation. Even, it's missteps contributed to the same. So, when the meetings between civil society and the Govt got over, and people started waiting for the June 30th deadline for submitting the draft Lokpal bill to Govt. This offered the Govt the right time to take the public attention away from Lokpal bill. What better than increasing the fuel price, that too without any sign of notice.

India reacted. Possibly,it might react furiously because, it hits India's probable savings. The bleak Monsoon is already giving signal for more Govt spending and more inflation, this hike has surely the first step in that direction.

It also offers an opportunity for opposition parties to reclaim their position within the democracy. Due to civil society's heavy presence in media, pushed them inevitable absence. We all started feeling that it is the democracy having no opposition party. This has really put them off from public psyche. Therefore, opposition parties will surely fuel the fuel price issue. That is what exactly Govt. wants.

With this fuel price issue, opposition make their entry into Parliament's monsoon session. To protect itself, the Govt. takes the shelter under Food Security bill- proposed act to provide legal entitlement to food- which it introduces in this session. There is also controversial Communal Violence bill, which attracts huge opposition from right wing parties like BJP and its other allies. And for all this media has to pay attention. They cannot ignore the constant supplier of news- opposition parties- to them. Thus, civil society is left with little space within media.

By the time Mr. Anna launch another hunger strike, possibly on August 16th, the nation may take it as casual affair. It attracts less attention because of all the reasons I mentioned above. So, Govt may forcefully feed him or keep him like Irom Chanu Sharmila- a Manipur woman who is on hunger strike from last 10 years.

With this, India may end it's another level of flirting with the institution of Lokpal which it is doing since 1966. Let's watch to see what possibilities that this current politics offer .

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

Why Middle Class is the Champion of Rationality?

I suddenly got this question because of recent lunar eclipse. If we observe, we find that it is the middle class that advanced the world's rational behaviour and not the rich and very much not the poor. why is such case is so obvious?

We all know that coming into being of middle class is to protect and maintain the capitalist interest. This class engages in such economic activity. And it is placed uniquely in economic order. They don't carry the risk of rich (or read enterprenuer) nor the vulnerability (of going to bed with hunger) of poor. They are secured with basic needs but deprived off the luxury. Certainty is what they carry as an asset.

See the rich. Uncertainty always hang on their head. Their economic well being depend upon their talent as well as luck. But they cannot distinguish between what is the contribution of talent and as well as of luck to their current position. Similarly, the poor face the same problem of distinction. This makes them to protect their economic well being with all possible ways that includes some behaviors that middle class name it as "SUPERSTITIOUS".

This is my experience as well. I worked for some time as an employee and am a freelancer from last 3 years. I myself wondered why I got some clients? Is it because I did make an effort to get them or Is that my luck to have them on board? I still fail to distinguish. When such distinctions are failing to come out of your thinking, you take a safe bet. That's why rich and poor are the consumers of all beliefs that middle class name them as superstitious.

When human being is put more to uncertainty he behaves in similar manner irrespective of class where she comes from. I think your education, reading, upbringing etc come less to your rescue in exploring all possibilities, including all so called superstitions, to protect your interest. I have stopped calling any belief as unworthy long back. My reason is let people enjoy their beliefs. Even commenting upon them- having no element of harm to others- is intruding into the privacy of others.

Let me wish economic vulnerability of middle class makes this world more rational, more inquisitive, than its current position.

Friday, June 10, 2011

M.F.Husain- A Gypsy at Heart

Let me make one point clear. I am not a painter nor I understand the grammar of painting nor am from artistic background. I came to know more about M F Husain when I saw the film- Gajagamini- in 2003. I fell in love with him instantly. What mesmerised me was Husain's great love towards life and the way he led it. Today he is no more. I lost a person who stood for me as an example as to how one can lead a passionate and meaningful life.

In spite of all the controversies attached to his name, he is a great human being. He loved all aspect of the life and lived the life king size- an analogy that itself is too small. He is a Mughalai- an expression that describes a person who is uncaring of materialistic aspects and lives quite passionately- in all respect. He cared least about the world- when it comes to expressing himself through his art, film, or statements.

He considered film as the finest medium of expression and did two superb films ( I have seen only two the other one I have not- which was released in 1967) one Gajagamini and the other Meenaxi. One cannot match the awesome Madhuri and her graceful appearance in the film. I bet you could have never seen Madhuri anywhere in such frame with such gracefulness. ( See Madhuri in M F Husain eyes). In Meenaxi what I loved is the music, lyrics and the way Tabu is captured. (See this Song from Meenaxi)

Such a great human being is made to go on self exile by his fellow countrymen. He was ill treated,disrespected, threatened. He was made to suffer a lot. We created such an environment that, he gave up the citizenship of the country that he loved the most.

I personally thank first lady of Qatar (in picture)- Sheika Mozah bint Naseer al Missned- who took personal interest in providing him Qatar citizenship and accorded due respect by creating separate museum for Husain's artwork in Doha-Qatar.
I think future generation will never forgive for what we did for Husain. However, this great soul died in a great civilized country- Britain- and his body is laid to rest in that soil. At least, I am happy for it.

Tuesday, June 7, 2011

Why Anna will surely Fail?

I usually resist commenting on "passing" current affairs. They are- in real sense- passing because they are unworthy of attracting any comment. However, from last one week, I was carrying an itch of making one on this ongoing graft related strikes and its occupancy of Indian psyche. And today, my friend, Mr. Halley also messaged me and asked what I think about the drama that is unfolding.

Let me just reflect what I instantly felt when Mr. Anna Hazare announced his decision to sit on hunger strike. I thought " WHAT A TIMING?". When an entire country was in a jubilant mood of winning the Cricket World cup, suddenly, without any hint, Mr Anna announced that he will sit on hunger strike on Lokpal Bill. Since 1966, India is flirting with Lokpal institution, yet, not made any decision of having one. But, Mr Anna made it an inevitable, urgent kind of stuff by calling for one in such in a jubilant times. It suddenly changed the entire country's mood like how the entire mood of the cinema hall used to change when suddenly a brother, a mother or other siblings are found or shocking incident is revealed in an old Hindi movies or for that matter, any old Indian language movie.

As an average citizen, we all wonder Can Anna ( or Ramdev or anyone) bring any change to the way country works? The obvious answer is no. The certain tone of mine has very strong reasons to offer. I will point out the same.

Corruption in any society has two important dimensions. One is economical and other one is cultural. Let us look at the economic dimension of it. Recollect your own past. When you were a child, when no is around, you pick a sweet that is kept in a refrigerator and eat it, even though your mother strictly said no to one. We human beings, when no control mechanisms are in place, are generally corrupt. I am saying corrupt in a sense we do what is the most beneficial to us. That's the human instinct. Modern society has attached value of justification to some economic actions and declared some as unjustifiable economic actions. These latter are what we call corrupt practices. To be simple- they are improper or unfair means to make economic benefit . That's the current value system we carry.

But it is very difficult to make every one to cherish this value system. Thats the reason why modern societies and institutions are devised on the principle of having internal checks and balances. This is enforced through laws, regulations, rules etc. However, these enforcing mechanisms like laws, rules, and regulations fail to work when they are not in sync with human economic behaviour. For example, when you wish to have the driving licence you encounter the fact that it requires minimum two full days and related stress. Lawfully, you can obtain a two wheeler licence at Rs 350 to 400 in Karnataka. At the same time, if you hire an agent to get the things done you can save one day as well as related stress at an extra cost of another Rs 400 to 500. A rational human being pick the second option, as we feel that with extra Rs 400-500 we can save one day labour instantly and on road police harassment over next 15 years ( Next licence renewal comes only after 15 years). And thats the better bet. You pay the RIGHT PRICE and get the licence.

Consider if licence costs you Rs 2000-2500 and its validity is only of two years, most of us would not have given single pie as a bribe. Reason- its too costly to afford. In economics this (of pricing low or high than what should have been on demand and supply basis) is called vitiating the PRICE SIGNAL in the market. By wrongly pricing the public good ( Licence providing activity is public good) Govt creates an opportunity- in jargon a market- for filling the gap by charging extra to consumers by Govt. servants. That's what we call corruption and for this no hunger strike is cure. "Its all about right pricing stupid!"- just to tweak the Bill Clinton's famous Presidential campaign slogan.

Then why most of the public goods here in India are priced thus? They are priced in the name of poor. Diesel is given subsidy by saying poor farmers use it when there is no electricity supply. But its quite obvious that poor farmer has no land holding that can sustain the cost of diesel generator as well as using diesel at current price. You take any public good either in the name of poor or in the farmers name prices are vitiated. We did this because of the Gandhian and Marxists influence on our political leaders and our hypocritic nature- which makes us to boast what we are doing is right without any reasoned reflection- of the society. " India is socialist country for the rich and Capitalist for the Poor" is aptly captures how vitiated the pricing signals are in the economy.

Consider what Mr. P Manivannan- Brilliant IAS officer of Karnataka cadre 1998 batch- did in my own city Hubli-Dharwad. Being a commissioner, he studied the entire Hubli- Dharwad politics and power systems for a year. No one noticed of his presence in one year. He gave notices to all unauthorized structures in the city. That was considered routine by big-wigs and was ignored. Suddenly, on one fine morning, he started off the demolition drive and astutely picked those stretches which were Hindu dominated. In next 15 days he demolished all Hindu people's unauthorized structures and did not touch the Muslims.

When, after a month, he went to Muslim's area he was immediately transferred. However, all Hindu's stood with him because they want to see the Muslim structures to be flattened. Allegedly, it is said that, the then Union Parliamentary Affairs Minister, Mr Gulam-Nabi Azad called up the then CM (Hopefully Mr. Dharm Singh) and pushed for his transfer to protect the Muslim interest. However, public outcry was such that, Mr Manivannan was made to stay for next 2 years to make Hubli-Dharwad a CITY in real sense. He increased all civic amenity charges and collected the price for all services 3 to 4 times more than the previous one. The City civic authority revenue increased from Rs 10 lac to 2.5 crore ( if my memory is correct) in that year. Currently, my city makes a excess income over its expenditure (profit) of over 15 Cr a year.

What Mr. Manivannan did and still it cannot be destroyed is- decentralization, right pricing, feeling of empowerment among citizens. Now, if I still go to the Muncipal Corporation, I see people paying no single rupee of bribe. (See the Official Website here) Thanks to maverick Manivannan. Currently he is the MD of the BESCOM and you can see what he is doing in his office 24*7 through the BESCOM website ( See here Click on view MD office you can see Manivannan from Morning to late night). And there are several initiatives are in pipe line like pay more in peak load time, smart grid, prevention of theft etc. BESCOM, I hope, under Manivannan's leadership will become model electricity supply and distribution organization within India.

This is what is required to take out graft from the public life. Not the hunger strike, not the media coverage, certainly not the Bhajans from Hazare and his group will take graft out. What we need to support is these kind of initiatives in our daily lives. We need to make our neighbour better by being better citizens. We need to pay all our taxes and push for better pricing through the available mediums all along our life.

A thing that what we need to under stand is clean society cannot be bought like a an Ice-cream, it has to be built, properly maintained, and if required rebuilt over a period of time. The sad part is we are too poor in building (or inventing) an institution and too rich in mindless borrowing. I don't think we can appropriately borrow the Lokpal- a maverick institution created in the 18th Century by Swedish people called Ombudsman in Sweden- to Indian conditions. And of course, it's not our cup of tea I think. We are good in doing these things what we see and let us do it all along. All the best to Saintly Anna and again 'saintly dressed Baba Ramdev'.

Wednesday, June 1, 2011

Indian Education System- Why we have this one?

"India is said to have an examination system but not education system... When will young people stop taking exams and do something worthwhile?" said Prof. CNR Rao- Head of the Scientific Advisory Council to the Prime Minister of India. To this- I would have added - Even those who make it to the destination after being successful in the exam, have done nothing worthwhile. They are just system following creatures than creating one. That's what I feel about the alleged "Indian Education System".

Our construct of education is very narrow. In fact, culturally India allowed only few privileged to have the education, that too in oratory tradition. Knowledge passed through oral and other unwritten mediums, which requires huge memory. For the rest, they were not required to have any formal education. That was our social make in Pre-British India about education.

When British thought of managing this vast geography with so much diversity in thinking, culture, taste, and social structures, they found education as a state instrument to keep the subjects under control. Thus, Macaulay minutes were drafted and implemented. The single aim of the minutes was to create the rule bound and docile "Brown English Men"- The English educated Indians as they were known.

Naturally, Brahmins picked up the English education system. They were ready made input to the Macaulay system. The Indian oratory traditional learning tuned them to cram and keep in memory so many things at a time. Even, British system wanted to achieve the same thing and it was perfect meetings of mind. Under British, across Indian subcontinent, Brahmins got wealth, power. This went unnoticed in our history, like how so many people made money in Harshad Mehta scam yet went unnoticed. ( Eg: Cafe Coffee Day's V G Siddharth!!)

Indians learnt one thing post Macaulay period. That education mean power and wealth. More education means more wealth, if not the power, in post liberalised India. We consider education as an investment and resultant job and money as return on investment. Though, world over same construct is prevailing with one exception. Rest of the advanced world considers skill acquisition (not simple formal education as is prevalent in India) as investment and it pays off over a period of time. This focus of ours (read students) on future money spinning prospect of the course, makes our vision too narrow and the output will be too bad in terms of creativity etc.

Here culture also plays major part. Ours is non civilized society. Every social group has culture and not civilized code. We boast to have great culture that may be a truth. Why I am saying "May be a truth" because, each culture claims so and we are not exception to it. This culture of ours has greater influence on our thinking as to how we construct the education. European construct of education is to unleash the power of human thinking. To make living more comfortable and interesting. This gives them edge in this world over all other societies. Obama is correct in saying that, still America matters though it's economic power prospect is gloomy post crisis period. No country in this world can match the US and other western countries prowess.

Then how to correct this? I don't have a single answer to this question. Sometimes, I don't have none. I'm keenly observing the trend that is happening within the education sector. I wish Indian Govt. wish of making education as shown this ad come true at the earliest. ( See This)

Monday, April 4, 2011

CRICKET- Game, Culture, or Money spinning machine- What it means for India?

Cricket once a gentleman's game- now has almost lost or on the brink of loosing that title- is quite popular in India. You don't need no more than recent reaction to the World cup win to gauge its popularity. In fact , non association with the game raises, most obviously, the eye brows and it makes you surely odd man (or woman?) out. Our politicians, film stars, celebrities ( including Poonam Pandey), have never missed the opportunity to exploit this occasion. All are doing whatever required to make their presence felt in this rare cheerful atmosphere.

What surprises me with respect to cricket is- less or certainly no play of cricket by Indians. Like football or baseball as have been played in those game worship countries, common Indian don't play cricket. Parents scold their children if they take bat or ball out. There are no clubs at local level which encourage local talent and conduct the local level tournament. However, still this game is surprisingly popular here in India.

Game, as is understood world over, is played for recreational or entertaining purpose. Sometimes used as educational tool. It seems Indians, in that sense, have no gaming culture. We, like Australians, don't give up everything for sport. Nor like British, have the definite season for games in our life style. Our entertainment is mostly sought through religious festivals which often make their way into our lives along with agricultural season.

Then why Indians are frenzy with cricket? Because it suits our hero worshiping and gambling culture.

We are tuned to hero worshiping. Be it in religious (Deities), economic ( Tata, Birla, NRN etc), political ( Gandhi family), social ( Mahatma Gandhi) space. We need a hero. That's the reason why we are great in individualistic performing arts. We are not good in playing sports (like foot ball) or performing art (like western symphony) which requires harmony. Our religion makes us hero worshipers and we are wired to it.

Gambling is something we cherish the most. Though, because of Gandhian ideological influence, Indian state is too restrictive on gambling activity. Indians, ironically, are quite crazy about it. There are so many local sports which encourage gambling. Be it a hen fight, goat fight etc. We gamble upon all possible movements of life. ( During common wealth games all Indian politicians, news channels said " Like a Indian wedding every thing will fall in place" when stadiums were not ready. It's an example of gambling attitude.)

Cricket has come to our fold to nurture these instinctive behaviors. In fact, we have made it so gamble friendly that IPL is a great contribution in that effort. Some people use it as hero worship tool and some as gambling. See how, in last one year, Sachin has caught the attention of the mass and the usage of "GOD" as appendage to his name. Also observe, how for every ball and every possible action in the ground bet is made. In this sense cricket has taken our traits to its zenith.

So cricket has no single meaning here in India. It means different thing to different people. For budding professional player ( who only play it as a sport) its future career option and money making avenue. For gambler's too its a safer betting option. For the rest its "GOD" making machine who worship them until someone is manufactured either from Bollywood ( another hero producing machine) or from cricket.

But picture is not so faded as I am painting it now. Still there are very few Indians who cherish it as a sport. They wake up early morning to watch the Ashes. Even, some watch local matches over Australian channel 9. These people like test cricket. They cherish the Lakshman's cover drive more and hate to see Dhoni's so called helicopter shot. Still they remember Bangalore's Prasanna or Chandrashekar's bowling majesty than Malinga's speed. But, very sadly, they are small in number and it's not a good news for cricket as sport.

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

Why Vishwa Kannada Sammelana in Belgaum was such a hit?

The recent Vishwa Kannada Sammelana (World Kannada Meet) held in border district of Karnataka- Belgaum- is of great success. With all initial hiccups- associated with choosing Mr.NRN as a Chief Guest- the meet was held successfully by the organizers. In fact, the more jubilant CM of Karnataka announced, on the concluding day, that this meet will be held, going forward, once in five years.

No one imagined this level of success, when the meet was announced. And to increase the anxiety of all, raising the question of Mr. Narayana Murthy as a suitable Chief Guest for the meet brought thicker cloud over its success. In fact, some people- who opposed Mr. NRN’s candidature- held alternative meet in Bangalore just few days earlier to the actual meet.

Before making any effort to conclude why the meet was successful, we need to understand the association of district of Belgaum with Karnataka vis a vis Maharashtra. This makes us to clearly understand as to why meet has succeeded beyond the organisor's expectation.

Karnataka, as a state, is uniquely placed in south India. In fact, during the British time the northern part of Karnataka belonged to the Bombay province and Southern part to the Madras province. The dividing point was the Tungabhadra River. Even today, if you travel along the banks of the Tungabhadra river you find striking difference in terms of food, culture at the both sides of the river.

The association of people of northern Karnataka with Maharashtra, especially western Maharastrian cities, is very deep. This depth encompasses political economical and social layers. Even before the British, the current Maharashtra based king- Chatrapathi Shivaji- ruled the most part of the northern Karnataka region. He still has the dominant cultural influence.

Even after the independence, that association grew significantly so much so that, even today, Mr. Sharad Pawar- a sugar dominant farmer leader of Maharashtra- influences the political future of many MLA’s and MP’s of the Belgaum district. This political clout of Maharashtra politicians is mostly driven by economic dependence of Sugar farmers of the Belgaum district on Maharashtra’s Sugar mills. For the middle class youth, for almost five decades, Pune and Mumbai were the ultimate destination for education, job and a decent life. Eventually, people started sharing greater social relationship as an extension of this political and economic relationship.

If we observe last 10 years development in economic sphere, we can notice some significant changes. More Sugar mills, within Karnataka, have reduced the farmer’s dependence on Maharashtra based Sugar mills. Educated youth now consider Bangalore as a better place to work and live than that of Pune or Mumbai. On a political front also, kannada as a language and a culture has grown as a mass mobilizing instrument. It has the ability, in 24*7 dedicated news market environment, to fuel the passions of the people either real or fake. Socially also, middle class is started having more association with kannada either on meaningful or hypocritical grounds.

Therefore, we need to see the success of this meet as a culmination of above factors in various degrees. It is not just an accident or sudden change in the people's attitude towards kannada. But this is not a denying fact that, Belgaum has got good roads, business reached its zenith in all three days. All thanks to Kannada Meet.