Please take a look at the bottom of this page for the author's disclaimer and note of caution.
Thursday 6 June 2013
At one plane, hunger and starvation deaths are a ground reality in India.
At another plane, we're running a huge fiscal deficit. We certainly require laws to ensure right to life by providing Universal Food Security.
At the same time, we can't let the fiscal deficit go out of hand. Any increase in fiscal deficit is a direct attack on the poor, because they are the ones who are most impacted by the bane of inflation.
Considering the complexities involved and the divergent opinions that are there regarding the modalities of achieving Universal Food Security across different political parties, it is certainly ridiculous that the Government is trying to push the National Food Security Bill through by way of an Ordinance. They must not do so. There must be an extensive debate in parliament with adequate time for obtaining the views and ideas of all political parties.
Obviously we must take this up on a priority basis, if required by having a special session of parliament, considering the urgency of the matter.
The delay of every single day in passing a Food Security bill results in additional loss of life of the poor.
Posted by N at 12:31 pm
Thursday 30 May 2013
Do we have a right to complain about
In the recent past, there have been an ever-increasing list of articles in newspapers and incidents covered by TV Channels pertaining to:
Violence against women
Virtually endless scams, scandals involving both governments and corporates
Paralysis in Policy-making
Problems with virtually EACH of our neighbouring nations
Lack of cooperation between states, between states and the Centre on various issues
The common thread in all the above is the declining standards of Governance.
Simultatneously, there continuse to exist a different world populated by upper middle class sophisticated urbanites and by High-networth-individuals. This group of the "Haves" continues to indulge in a quality life style, enjoying all kinds of goodies. While a small number of these may perhaps be actively corrupt individuals, the vast majority of this group is represented by:
Hard working individuals cutting across all age groups and includes women and men in equal measure
Financially successful organised sector employees
What is disappointing (in fact depressing), however, is that most of the above "Haves" actually don't give a damn about Governance related issues. They have a sharp focus on their own micro-lives. They get educated well, earn well, spend well, and live in a cucoon. Their homes are part of multi-block apartments deep inside reasonably well-protected colonies which often prove to be quasi-independent ecosystems with their own physical and social infrastructure. Like the kid Gautama Buddha, many of these folks don't even begin to see true poverty, the plight of the "Have-nots", the suffering of the vast majority.
Many of them (especially those under the age of, say, 20-25 years) have perhaps never:
Stood in a queue in a ration shops to buy their groceries (it would indeed be surprising if they are consciously aware that ration shops still exist in cities)
Understood the impact of not having more than 3-4 sets of clothing for young children of their drivers, servant maids, scavengers, peons, etc.
Comprehended the plight of having to choose between medical care for an ailing dependent parent, education of a child and saving for retirement (Often, saving for retirement takes a beating, resulting in the creation of an entire generation of dependent ailing and/or aged parents in the future as well).
Imagined that money spent by their family on a pleasant evening of a movie at a mall followed by a dinner would be sufficient to take care of the entire monthly expenditure of a whole family of 5-6 persons from an impoverished background.
Sadly, I can't even blame these youngsters from the family of "Haves". The blame squarely falls on their parents, teachers and the society at large.
To top it off, the "Haves" don't hesitate to use all their resources (legal and otherwise, ethical and unfair) at their disposal to further strengthen the prevailing disparity of income and wealth. To take a simple, mundane, day-to-day example, most of the "Haves" among the salaried classes get regular increments and promotions year after year. But when it comes to increasing the salary of their watchmen, servant maids, etc., they rarely do it automatically. Certainly not on an annual basis. Most certainly not sufficiently to cover inflation. In fact, any such revision happens only under dire threats of resignation (if the "Haves" have not planned for an alternative already).
Any person who has ever bought an apartment or got a driving licence or studied from an engineering or medical college or studied at a high-quality neighbourhood convent in any city would have directly or indirectly participated in the process of bribery and corruption. Having derived the benefits of such bribery, the very same "Haves" tend to sermonise and criticise their political masters for their corrupt practices. Taking it to ridiculous heights, many of the "Haves" refuse to participate in the political process as either candidates or campaigners or even voters, calling it "the ultimate gutter". And expect that positive changes will occur entirely on their own, almost as if by magic.
The "Haves" can't have the cake, eat it, preserve it for posterity and start a bakery. If they want to make India truly free of corruption, they need to jump into the fray and participate actively.
And this participation needs to be in numbers comparable to the crowds that one sees in an IPL match or a Rajnikant movie.
Then, and only then, will any meaningful change happen in our society.
Posted by N at 11:55 am
Saturday 20 April 2013
Demotion and ignominy first,
Appointment as IRDA Chief
This, then, is the perplexing story of TS Vijayan, ex-Chairman of Life Insurance Corporation of India, who has now been appointed as the chief of Insurance Regulatory & Development Authority, the regulator of the Insurance sector - Read this news item in Economic Times first, before moving on to my thoughts on the news:
I do not wish to go into the merits of whether or not TS Vijayan ought to have been demoted from the position of Chairman, LIC. Nor do I intend saying anything about his credentials to occupy the position of IRDA Chief.
However, I wish to emphasise that one of the above two decisions by the powers that be is blatantly wrong.
After all, when a person is demoted from the position of Chairman, LIC to the position of Managing Director, LIC, it is not a routine decision taken without due thought and due process. Obviously, the government of the day, after going through all the relevant acts of omission and commission, all the available data points, all the necessary questioning of concerned stakeholders, came to the conclusion that TS Vijayan ought to be demoted.
Let's call this Decision 1.
A few months go by. The then Finance Minister goes on to become the President of India. A different person moves into the role of Finance Minister. And guess what happens? Another round of consultations. Another due process. Presumably another evaluation of multiple canidates for a key vacancy of IRDA Chief. And, finally, TS Vijayan is appointed as the big boss of IRDA.
Let's call this Decision 2.
To my limited understanding, if Decision 1 is a correct decision, Decision 2 is not merely an inappropriate decision, but an act of negligence which is sure to have an adverse impact on the confidence of stake holders in the Insurance Regulator. And vice versa.
Is this a desirable situation?
Posted by N at 3:45 pm
Thursday 28 March 2013
Hindi Imposition through the Back-Door???
I just came across an advertisement in the Hindu and Times of India - This was released by the Rajya Sabha Secretariat. This advertisement is pertaining to the Readjustment of Representations of SC & ST in Parliamentary and Assembly Constituencies Bill, 2013:
Interestingly, the advertisement invites suggestions to be sent in this connection but, surprisingly, insists that suggestions can be sent ONLY in either English or Hindi.
Coming as it does in the aftermath of the recent attempt to change the rules of UPSC Exams (for entry into IAS, IPS, etc.), this is truly shocking and a clear case of imposition of Hindi through the backdoor.
After all, how many people from interior rural areas of Tamil Nadu, Kerala, West Bengal, etc. would know enough of English or Hindi? There must be a provision to send such suggestions in all the major official languages of India such as Tamil, Marathi, Gujarati, Bengali, Telugu, etc.
Let me make one thing abundantly clear: I am not trying to be a regional language chauvinist.
My only query: What happens to equity? If this goes on in a similar vein, I'm sure there will be a series of anti-Hindi agitations. India has enough problems of its own. Let the government not try and create more problems!
Posted by N at 12:36 am
Friday 22 March 2013
Cheating due to "Under-weight LPG Cylinders"
In the past when there was a huge subsidy being given on ALL LPG cylinders, middle-class citizens were in a position to possibly turn a blind eye and ignore the problem of under-weight LPG cylinders.
However, "unlimited subsidy" is history now. Beyond 9 cylinders per annum, we are forced to pay market rates for our LPG cylinders. Considering this fact, lesser mortals like you and me can't afford to ignore the problem of under-weight LPG cylinders.
Hence, the following article from moneylife.com makes interesting reading - Read on:
Posted by N at 1:18 pm
Tuesday 26 February 2013
Compensation for Rape Victims ... ... ...
From time to time, I've heard reports of compensation announced for the family of the Delhi gang-rape victim. A couple of examples are given below:
Delhi Government announces 15 lakhs compensation, UP Government to give 20 lakhs to Delhi rape victim's family
Perhaps this is over and above any cost incurred towards her treatment at Delhi and at Singapore.
I have nothing to comment about what should be the right levels of compensation that would be appropriate for the family of the Delhi gang rape victim. Obviously, that is bound to be a subjective decision at the moment.
However, I certainly feel quite strongly about the need for identifying a basis for determining such compensation for victims of crimes against women succumb and die or survive and suffer.
Those who are from Chennai would have heard about the recent acid attack victims Vinodhini and Vidya who did not survive despite the best efforts of the doctors.
As progressive thinking individuals repeatedly point out, the figure of over 24000 cases of REPORTED rape every year across India is obviously unacceptable. However, the absence of a public furore over a specific instance or a major protest over another incident should not be the basis on which compensation figures are determined.
Will someone tell our law-makers and the media to look into this aspect of crimes against women?
As an aside, when a specific crime against a particular woman is proven to be blatantly false and it is found that it was based on a false complaint, is there any known case where the poor man (who was proven to be innocent after a long legal battle) has got any meaningful compensation either from the courts or the government?
Posted by N at 12:33 am
Thursday 21 February 2013
Why we are responsible for blasts in our cities ...
For far too long we've been blaming everyone else for much of the mess in the country. Especially for terror strikes. Including the latest Hyderabad blasts on February 21, 2013.
It is obviously easy to blame:
The "self-centred, short-termist" politicians - across all parties
The "lazy" bureaucrats
The "inefficient" police
I personally feel that each Indian citizen ought to shoulder at least part of the responsibility. I had written a post on this subject in 2011 with reference to the Mumbai blasts. In case you missed it, you can read it here:
Apparently, nobody did anything and nothing happened.
And the Hyderabad blasts have taken place earlier this evening (on February 21, 2013) at Hyderabad.
I was watching the various news channels.
One obvious thing that was highly visible was:
Two LPG Cylinders, apparently meant for domestic use, which appear to have been located at the eatery at or near which the blasts happened.
Here are a few questions for you and me, the ordinary citizens of the country:
Why were we using domestic cylinders for commercial purposes? (I'm sure that the managers and/or owners who run the eatery are people like you and me and I'm including them among the broad subset of "you and me")
When we were eating at the eatery or working in the eatery as waiters or cashiers, we noticed these domestic cylinders - and stayed silent. Why?
When we were checking the LPG connection, we would have found that it is being used for commercial use - Why did we keep quiet?
When we delivered the cylinders every other week, we would have visibly seen that domestic cylinders were being used for commercial purposes. And we didn't bother. Why?
The single simple answer: Corruption.
It may be a case of monetary corruption by way of bribe-giving or bribe-taking. Or it may be the corruption of silently tolerating corruption.
Once you and I tolerate corruption in this manner, once you and I behave in such a corrupt manner, we
Lose the right to crib about corruption - and more importantly,
Lose the courage to go and approach a law-enforcement agency (like the police, for instance) to complain about any form of corruption
Therefore, you and I
Will not go and tell the traffic constable about the suspicious man hanging around with an odd parcel in his hand.
Will not volunteer to be a witness and volunteer information even after the blast
And if you and I still think that terror strikes will stop, you and I are living in a fool's paradise.
The time has come for you and I to own our share of responsibility.
Once we become reasonably "proper, responsible citizens", then, and only then can we expect "them" to ensure that such terror strikes don't impact us!
Posted by N at 10:39 pm