Thursday, December 29, 2011

Blocking the Strait of Hormuz – Will Iranians really do that?


"Closing the Strait of Hormuz is very easy for Iranian naval forces...Iran has comprehensive control over the strategic water way...” Iran's Navy Commander Rear Admiral Habibollah Sayyari told Press TV – a State run news Channel. Only a day before, Iran's Vice-President Mohammad Reza Rahimi warned that not a drop of oil would be allowed to pass through the Strait of Hormuz if sanctions are placed against Iran's oil exports.
The narrow Strait of Hormuz separates Oman and UAE from Iran. With 6 mile wide traffic lane (2 mile for inbound traffic, 2 mile for outbound traffic and another 2 mile act as separation median) is the only gateway to open seas for many of the major petroleum producing areas. According to a New York Times report, this Strait carried 33% of all the oil shipped by sea in 2009 (around 20% of all oil traded worldwide). To cover the strait ships needs to pass through the territorial waters of both Iran and Oman.

If Iran, currently under severe sanctions by US and Europe, cut the oil supplies through the Strait of Hormuz we may have to see another Oil Shock. Global economy, which is already suffering from various chronic deceases, may need to suffer one more. But the question is will Iran bloke the passage? If it did, will it be able to continue with the blockage?

Let’s take the first question; will it really block the passage? I think they will not be. Firstly, apart from the rhetoric it may not be possible for Iran to do so. This will not only hurt the enemies but their numbered friends as well. This action may not go down well with Chinese - one of the main importers of Mid-East oil and gas. If Iran hopes to block any future economic sanctions in UN it can happen only through China or Russia, as other veto empowered members US (no hope), UK (no hope especially after the recent Embassy crisis), France (in the end it may vote along with US and UK) will vote for sanctions.

Secondly, with one close ally - Syrian administration - facing existential threats, evaporated support from Turkey (a conclusion Iran may already reached after the deployment of NATO radars in Turkey) in multinational forums Iranians may became totally isolated.

Thirdly, by this action they will only end up in supporting US to insert more sanctions on them; as it will be easier for US to push forward more sanctions through Security Council. US, becoming more and more independent of Mideast oil may suffer less in face of Mideast oil crisis compared to Europe and developing countries of Asia. Europe may get supplies from Russia even though it will solidify their oil dependency relationship with Russia. So in the end of the day Iran will end up as a lonely player with more hostile neighbours.

Fourthly, it will become more difficult for Iranians to run the country under water tight sanctions. Without enough refined oil, squeeze on essential supplies it may not be easier for administration to pacify any future revolution - Now-a-days revolutions are not so peaceful anyway.

Consider the next case – Iran blocked the Strait. How long they will able to hold on that with US fifth fleet parked at nearby Bahrain? Apart from the three Russian built attack submarines, and ships loaded with Chinese built anti ship missiles most of the Naal assets are very old - bought form US at the time of Shah. Airforce also faces the same issue. ‘Navy of the Army of the Guardians of the Islamic Revolution’ - bigger in numbers than the regular Iran Navy, is also in a similar shape. Many of their bases are in the small islands of Persian Gulf – a vulnerable target to powerful enemy bombing.

In case of attacks - if restricted to sea, it may result in the destruction of major Iranian naval assets. In such a situation if US or Israel attempted for precision strike on Iranian nuclear sites, it may or may not end up with destroying the facility but it will certainly creates more problems. Moreover Iran possesess a good missile system capable of hitting many important targets in the region. This will create problems for US and its allies in the region. If US needed an administration change in Iran they need to wait, such changes should come through the efforts of common citizens otherwise it will only create instability.

But apart from the rhetoric chances for a real blockade of Hormuz strait is quite low. Iran may create some disturbances but it may not enlarge to the level of a naval engagement.

It will in be in the interest of Iranians to solve the problems peacefully. Iran is a country blessed with huge natural resources and geography. Located close to South Asia, Central Asia, Southern Europe and East Africa they can act as a trade source as well as hub for these regions. If assets are properly used and engaged peacefully with other countries they can achieve bigger influence than that of neighbours on other side of Persian Gulf. Europeans will be happy to buy more oil from Iran to reduce the dependency on Russian supplies, US may be happy to get an alternate route for NATO supplies to Afghanistan, relations with Israel may not improve much - but it will reduce the tensions in middle east, Sunni Arab countries may not like a powerful Shiite neighbour. But if both leaders displayed statesmanship, it can stop many bloody sectarian conflicts in the region.

Still a great path is available for Iran to move on. Now it’s on the hands of Iranian administrators to decide in which way they want to proceed, before taking any decision it will be helpful for them to travel in Ethihad airways to Dubai and to see what peace combined with oil money can do for the people. I am sure that everybody wants to write their name in the history using golden letters… the question is who will get the chance?

Sajeev

Tuesday, December 27, 2011

Athirapilly, Vazhachal and Valparai – The music of water and Hills – Part II


It was not an early morning, still the atmosphere behaved so. I reached Coimbatore stand around 6.30 in the morning, Rajesh reached before me. After walking through the city for some time we came back to Ukkadam and boarded a bus to Pollachi. Well we reached Pollchi and walked towards the bus stands opposite to the one we got down.

From there we got another bus to Valparai. Well only 65km, what we thought was finish Valparai by afternoon come back to Pollachi and take a permit from the forest department to visit TopSlip. Well, let us what happened. Within a short period of time we were out of Pollachi city limits and heading right in to heart of Western Ghats. Our first stop was close to Aliyar dam. This 2.5 sq mi reservoir, constructed on 1959-69 era is located on the foot of Anamalai Hills of Western Ghats. A a 10 minutes long tea break we continued our journey around the reservoir and then slowly the old engine started her assent. It didn’t take much time for us - conductor was the other party - to become friends. His Tamil and my half Tamil someway worked.

After a brief stop at Monkey falls we started counting the hair pins. We need to cover 40 hairpins to reach Valparai, 35 hairpins to reach the top (and then 5 down). From the higher regions dam and the zigzag roads at the foot of the hills created interesting scenery. On the down side visibility started coming down, by the time we reached 30th hairpin, it’s dropped to some metres.

We were close to the back door. Conductor explained about the weather and the beauty of the place. Finally he looked towards me and asked, “Isn’t it looks like Kashmir?”  Well I don’t know, I never saw Kashmir except in movies and documentaries. Still I can’t compare it with icy Kashmir. Valparai was different, its displays the beauty of evergreen green forests, its greenery, its density and diversity characteristic of Western Ghats. Aliyar dam in the bottom only added its beauty. As our bus crossed some more hair pins the wind coming inside became colder and colder. Yes, conductor finally got my approval.

Finally we reached the top; tea plantations dotted with trees welcomed us. Cut in to beautiful patterns these plantations, from a distance, looked like the work of a great artist. Bus stopped here and there, homes started to appear close to the roads, and bi trees gave her way to tea plantations. After covering the 35 hairpins up, we started the final 5 hairpins down. Rajesh suddenly jumped out of his seat and started looking here and there, he thought that Valparai was over and we are coming back. It took some time for him to digest the reality. After a short interval we reached Valparai town. Indeed the journey was better than destination, Valparai town looks like any other small town in the plains.

After walking through the roads for some time, we seriously started looking for the nearby places. After much discussion we selected 'Sholayar Dam' as our next destination. You will get direct buses from Valparai junction to the dam area.  The tail of the reservoir is visible from a distance itself connected through small channels this channels forms a part of reservoir.  Tea plantations - cut in to beautiful shapes - in the sides of the reservoir made it a picturesque area. After walking through the top of dam's wall – visitors are permitted to a certain extent only- we decided to go back to Valparai town. Buses are not so common in these routes, after waited for a long time, waking here and there, sitting, standing etc; finally we heared the sound of a bus.

After lunch, we decided to go to Balaji temple. Another long wait for a bus, this time we need to go to Akka Malai – the highest area in Indira Gandhi National Park (IGWLS&NP) with a maximum height of 8146ft. I looked the tea plantations and slept for some time. After waking up also we are still in the bus and the person sitting next to me told its very close only one or two stops to go. Well in the hilly areas one or stops mean quite a long stretch of road. As the bus charge is very low in Tamilnadu (recently increased after an interval of 10 years) you can’t guess the distance by working out the rates in Kerala or Karnataka.  After reaching a point bus started her return journey - we were wondering – where the temple, is it over? But the conductor informed us that in the return journey it will go through the temple route. 

Finally we got down and looking for some signs of the temple. We followed an arrow mark indicating temple, and reached a private road suddenly a security guard stopped us and asked somewhat angrily - "Didn’t you see the board?" What board? We looked around for some board. There was a board hanging in the sides of the road with list of things not permitted from that point - which also includes 'camera'!!!

I was wondering after reading the board. Are we showing our power by banning more and more things? If you are in road side and want to take the photo of a butterfly, you need to answer a hundred questions coming from the passerby. If you are taking a photo of an innocent looking old architecture (say a public building) you need to answer another set of questions coming from the gate keeper, custodian etc. All in the name of security!!! Well if it’s some military or strategic area we can understand. But this one... temple is almost 2 km away. If the temple authorities ban the usage of camera in premises it was ok, we could have understand. What is the point of banning it in a 2km long road leading to it? I simply don’t understand.

We reached the temple, almost exhausted. Rain came and gone, sitting on the temple floor we looked the big rain drops coming with all her force only to hit the ground and split to hundreds of pieces. Listening to the sound of the rain and to the voices coming from the vocal cords of thousands of small creatures we spend a good amount of time there.

Finally it was the time to return. From the bus stop close to the temple you can catch a direct bus to Pollachi – only if you reached there in correct time. Sun started setting in the western mountains, by the time we reached Valparai it was dark. Bus stopped there for some time and started the long journey to Pollachi.

The bus was tightly packed. Even for standing there was not much space left. I was sitting in the seconding row from driver’s cabinet- if I can say it as a cabinet. Bus started slowly and went past the hairpins one by one. I was looking to the glass in front of the driver. In many points visibility reduced to some meters. In some areas I can’t even saw the things just some meters in front; head lights didn’t help either. Only the driver knew how he was driving in such visibilities.

Knowing well that I need to wake up all the night, I tried to sleep desperately. But unfortunately the person standing close to my seat was in some other world - thanks to the effect of liquor. He told me a lot of sorry in that journey. Well there was a couple standing front of us - in fact they were not couples - I need to appreciate their talking capacity!!! They discussed everything in that night - about their relatives, neighbours, that lady's current life etc; that too on the top their voice.  As we were in the front and there was only one door at the back people need to swim through the human ocean to reach the door. For the above mention group it didn’t matter, shouting at the top of the voice then made their way.

Finally we reached Pollachi, from there another bus tool as to Coimbatore. Around 12 in the night I said good bye to Rajesh and took a private bus to Gandhipuram. From there one more to Salem and around 3 in the morning got a direct bus to Bangalore.

How to reach:

1. Athirapilly & Vazhachal

From Thrissur take a bus to Chalakudy or any bus passing through Chalakudy. From here you will get direct buses to Athirapilly and Vazhachal (both are in the same route - Athirapilly comes first). If you continue through that way you can cross the Kerala - Tamilnadu border and reach Valparai. It better to have your own vehicle, otherwise you need to waste a lot of time by waiting for bus.

From Palakkad side:  Palakkad - Thrissur – 66km, Thrissur – Chalakudy – 29km, Chalakudy - Athirapilly - Vazhachal – 32km
From Cochin Side: Kochi – Chalakudy – 54km, Chalakudy - Athirapilly - Vazhachal – 32km

2. Valparai

If you are coming from Tamilnadu you can reach Coimbatore and if you coming from Kerala, there you will get a lot of Coimbatore buses from Palakkad KSRTC stand. From Coimbatore bus stand take a bus to Pollachi. There two buses stands in Pollachi as in the case of Coimbatore, but here the bus stands are close to each other (on both sides of the road). From here you will get buses to both Valparai and TopSlip. For going to TopSlip you need to take a permit from Pollachi Forest office. Here also having own vehicle will save you a lot of time.

From Thrissur side: Thrissur – Chalakudy – 29km, Chalakudy - Vazhachal – 32km, Vazhachal – Valparai (Anamala Road – 65km)
From Palakkad Side: Palakkad – Coimbatore – 56 km, Coimbatore - Pollachi - 40 km, Pollachi - Valparai - 65 km
From Salem:  Salem – Coimbatore – 215 km, Coimbatore - Pollachi - 40 km, Pollachi - Valparai - 65 km

After reaching Pollachi you can also visit

Pollachi - Topslip - 35 km
Pollachi - Udumalpet - 40 km
Pollachi - Vaalparai - 65 km (don’t go by numbers, it’s a hill route will take considerable time to cover this length)

Sajeev

Please visit this space for seeing the photos taken during the trip.

Athirapilly, Vazhachal and Valparai – The music of water and Hills – Part I

Athirapilly and Vazhachal are one of the most common destinations for annual school tours, atleast in central Kerala. Even though we – me and my friend Gokul – were no longer in school there was no reduction in excitement. After all, the extended monsoon finished her Kerala visit only a couple of weeks back. Heavy monsoon means more water in Chalakudy River which forms a gorgeous water fall at Athirapilly.

We left Bangalore around nine in the night; crossed Kerala – Tamilnadu border and reached Palakkad before sunrise, as it was in the early morning there was not much traffic and we reached Thrissur quickly. Another bus took as to Chalakudy, from there another one more to Gokul’s home. We reached home at breakfast time.

Buses are not frequent in Athirapilly and Vazhachal route. Around 11 in the morning we got one from Chalakudy private bus terminal and reached Vazhachal around 12.15am, of course late for seeing a water fall. After buying the passes (separate passes for camera) we went in (same pass is valid for Athirapilly too). Contrary to the expectations water level was low. Alas!!! The beautiful falls I saw in the pictures remained in the pictures only – atleast for this time.

Still the stepped falls of Vazhachal looked nice – water was getting down through a number of steps to see as if to welcome the visitor. Fences were erected to keep the people from going close to the middle section – everyone warned us about the strong undercurrents. The other side of the river is guarded by hills wearing a green uniform. If I can borrow the words of Gokul, in Vazhachal river is trying to spread her hair as long as possible. Even though, we were in a forest area and close to water there was no escape from sweating.

A short and zigzag side walk, constructed by the department, ends close to a small hotel which serves the fresh fishes from the river – a claim by the owner. We roamed around the area for some time and finally decided to leave Vazhachal and went to Athirapilly. Well, the guard informed us that 'next bus would come at 2.30 only' – an unavoidable fallout for depending on bus. We spent the rest of the time by sitting, standing, walking, watching the various acts of monkeys jumping over the vehicles parked at one side of the road. Finally the bus came and we reached Athirapilly around 3.00 pm.

Athirapilly was crowded with vehicles and people, ranging from school kids to foreign citizens. After showing the passes at the entrance we walked straight to the river. Here a calm river is flowing without knowing that it need to take a deep dive to continue their journey. I suddenly remembered the last seen from Mel Gibson's Apocalypto were the hero will jump from the top of a waterfall.

The advantage in Athirapilly is both sections – before and after the falls are easily accessible for the people. We went to the upper section, were a calm river is flowing without knowing the dangers laying ahead. After spending some time there we climb down to reach the bottom of the falls – where the water actually hitting the rocks. Getting down- through the zigzag path was not so easy; we almost tired by the time we reached the bottom. But the falls were there to refresh and encourage us; the water was hitting the rocks in the bottom and split to hundreds of pieces. Due to the difference in the elevation of riverbed in the top water split in to three streams before coming down with her full power. Gokul told me that if there was enough water instead of three there will be five streams – unfortunately there was not!!!

I spend a good amount of afternoon near to the falls; the high level of water content almost drenched me. As it was getting late, we decided to go back. The zigzag path through which we came down almost looks insurmountable. As always happen in the return journeys hunger and fatigue set in. Finally we reached top and slowly walked towards the road. Gokul was silent for some time – maybe he was thinking about the school days. I simply turned towards the river one more time.

By the time we reached the bus stop, rain slowly started her music. By the time bus came around 5.45 she gained strength and forced us to pull down the shutters. It was a long journey, but the road sides looked more interesting in that evening river appeared and disappeared in one side of the road. We reached Chalakudy by 7pm. By that time the faint sun light giver his way to night. After getting down at Chalakudy private bus terminus we walked towards government run KSRTC stand. By this time Gokul’s brother also joined the company. We went to KSRTC station, after saying bye to Gokul and his brother; I boarded a bus to Thrissur.

I reached Thrissur around 8.30 pm - too early for my plans as I need to reach Coimbatore by 6.30am only. I spend around four hours in the bus stand –looking towards the busses coming in and going out of the station – all seemed to be in a hurry to reach home. Finally around 12.30 I boarded another bus to Palakkad, which reached Palakkad by 1.30 in the morning. Another three and half hours spend on the not so comfortable plastic chair in the stand. Finally around 5am boarded another bus to Coimbatore to see another reserve – Indira Gandhi National Park.

Athirapilly, Vazhachal and Valparai – The music of water and Hills – Part II

Sajeev

Saturday, December 24, 2011

Will the N-E transform to India's eastern gateway? An analysis based on 121 days long Manipur blockade

Women's market in Imphal
Blockade... In Wikipedia Blockade is defined as '...an effort to cut off food, supplies, war material or communications from a particular area by force, either in part or totally'. In the war history, you can saw a enormous number of references for blockades. Well it’s during war... but what about peace time? What about cutting of supplies for a part in a nation which believes 'Unity in diversity'?

It is not that blockades never happened in India, for various reasons people created blockades on road, rail etc. But most of it didn't last long; some went on for hours, another for some days. But the recently concluded 121 days of economic blockade and counter blockade in NH 39 (connecting Manipur with Nagaland - one of the two National Highways linking Manipur to rest of India, the other one is NH 53), wrote one of the black chapters in recent Indian History.

North-East is notorious for its deep rooted tribal rivalries; the situation in Manipur is no way better. The fault lines between Meiteis in the Valley and Tribal’s in the hills, between tribals - Nagas Vs Kukies, in between Nagas etc are causing problems for a normal civilian life in the state. There are around 40 militant organizations in Manipur. Even though not unprecedented (as the there was a 60 day blockade in the past), this blockade crossed the limits of a protest even in its wildest imagination. The first one ran from July 31 to Oct 31 and the counter one started from Aug 21 and ended on Nov 29.

Reason? Kuki tribes want to create a new district called Sadar Hills by splitting Senapati district and Nagas are opposing the division. According to reports Kuki tribal’s lifted their blockade when state government signed an agreement with them favoring their demands and Nagas lifted theirs saying that Indian Home Ministry had assured them that there will not be any split without their consent.

The irony is how both of the agreements are possible at the same time? In fact they postponed scenario to a later date. But how long we can continue the status quo? There is no guarantee that same demands will not be raised again. How long we can suffer the pain it creates on the civilian life and strain in inter-ethnic relations?

At the peak of the blockade petrol price touched 200 INR/Liter in Manipuri black markets, even though the government brought in tankers using the other highway - NH 53 - with paramilitary support. Just imagine what happened across the country when the central government raised the price of petrol by some rupees!!!

It is interesting to note that the parliament was in session from November 22 (second blockade was lifted only in Nov 29) and was wasting its valuable time on accusations and counter accusations - whether the Home Minister is party to the 2G scam? Member's alleged harassment by Prime Minister's security personnel, verbal clash between CPI-M and Trinamool Congress members etc.

Can't the members wait for the court verdict and the reports from two parliament committees (where opposition is also a party) on 2G scam? Regarding to the members alleged harassment issue - can't he give a formal complaint to PM or House Privilege committee? Oh... verbal clashes, can't they argue with reason by taking their own slots instead of forcing the entire house to adjourn?

The issue of blockade is critical to the unity and integrity of India. When two ethnic groups are raising contradictory demands political leadership can handle the situation in a better way. A constructive discussion on Lok Sabha regading this issue may results in an agreement and a mechanism to handle the similar situations in the future. But how much time parliament spent on discussing Manipur blockade?

These types of barricades are shows the vulnerability of poor road links between the states. If we are not able to remove blckade from one of the important entry point for a N-E state, then how we can implement our grand vision to open the north eastern border of India to the trade with ASEAN countries? In order to transform the closed NE border to India's eastern trade gateway we have to do much more home work...

Sajeev.

Friday, December 23, 2011

Curious case of Indian Economy - Supporting the outsourcing but opposing FDI in retail

It didn't take much time for the fear to spread its tentacles across the industry. Key people from the lines argued about the additional expenditures the US companies need to accommodate in their balance sheet, if the suggestions became law, how a common man in US needs to shell out extra money to avail the same services in the future, how it will affect the economy and erode the values like open markets, no tariff barriers etc.

Some described it as "efforts to tap anti-outsourcing sentiment ahead of the US Presidential election next year." NASCOM added that "U.S. adopting ‘protectionist' measures like these that restrict free trade and establish discriminatory trade practices". The Hindu reported that "The benefits of commercial consideration will outweigh disincentives through the legislation. Unless the U.S. economy wants to move from open economy to protected economy, these half measures may not work’, the source adds."

You may be wondering, about what we are talking? Well, its name is ‘The United States Call Center Worker and Consumer Protection Act', introduced in the 'House Of Representatives' by Mr. Bishop, Mr. McKinley, Mr. Michaud and Mr. Gene Green. Bill primarily focuses on two main points,
1. "To require a publicly available a list of all employers that relocate a call center overseas and to make such companies ineligible for Federal grants or guaranteed loans.."
2. "…and to require disclosure of the physical location of business agents engaging in customer service communications."

Well, as far as the disclosure of Physical location is concerned there are some waivers. It’s not applicable "...If the communication is initiated by customer, knows or reasonably knows that the person is not physically located in US..." This bill also gives Federal Trade Commission and Secretary of Labor the power for giving waivers and takes decision according to circumstances (although in special cases).


I was wandering how strongly we are currently opposing this anti-outsourcing bill (a way of making trade barriers) and opposing the opening of Indian multi brand retail sector for FDI (removing the trade barriers) in the same breath. The Irony is the reasons we are providing on one issue - anti outsourcing bill -  is contrary to the second one - FDI in multi brand retail. If outsourcing is so beneficial for US, then why opening of retail is not at all beneficial for India? If we are implementing innovative solutions for US business - as one of the BPO Promoter said, and helping US economy to grow, why it is not at all applicable in Indian retail supply chain?


In the age of open markets and comparative advantages, we need to fuse the technical know-how and come up with better products and supply chains. If Wal-Mart can handle the logistics so efficiently across thousands of kilometers there should be something we can learn from them. If they are coming here with their experience in handling lengthy logistics networks, efficient supply chains and implementing the same here, it will not only enhance our standards but will create a pool of people with better skills in the area.
 According to the report 'The Vegetable Industry in Tropical Asia: India' published in 2008 

Amul plant at Anand - why can't we replicate this success?
 "...Postharvest losses in India are very high—probably enough to feed at least 20% of the population. According to the Indian Government, US$ 14.3 billion worth of perishable and durable agri-produce is wasted, while > 200 million people remain underfed, and almost half of the children are underweight. Wastage occurs at various stages due to fragmentation of the supply chain, deficiencies in the Agricultural Produce Marketing Act, and inadequate infrastructure (India's Minister of State for Food Processing Industries Subodh Kant Sahai quoted on India Info Line, 2007a, 2007b, 2007c). Rolle (2006) indicated fresh produce losses ranged from 10 to 40% globally, with losses in India at the high end..."


These statistics should be enough to open our eyes towards the seriousness of the problem we are facing. In any scale wastage at the rate of 40% is not an acceptable one especially when Indian hosts the highest number of people living under the poverty line. We need to mechanize our farming sector, improve warehousing, and supply chain and logistical sector. Here is where the technical know-how of foreign companies will play a significant role. If they are investing in cold storage, warehousing sectors – which required significant amount of money, there will be improvements in these areas.


It is not the opening of the markets we need to oppose; we need that energy to be reserved for defending the open market rules, opposing predatory pricing, monopolizing the sector etc.  But for all this to happen we need to change our mind set. We can hope that one day the Oranges from Nagpur will reach the market of Trivandrum or fruits from J & K will reach that of Kolkata without significant wastage and enormous change in prices.  If implemented properly these reforms will give some air for the struggling Indian economy and brings it back it from slipping in to stagnation...  and may bring down the price along with giving a better shares to farmers. 


It is not only about opposing FDI. If we shutting down our markets for foreign entities then it will not take much time for the outside world to shut down thiers in front of us...


Sajeev.

Photo courtesy : wikipedia

Thursday, December 15, 2011

Is Indian economy slipping from the main Road?

Competition is not so easy
As per the Index of Industrial Production (IIP) released by CSO, the industrial growth has reduced to 5.0% in 2011-12 (April - September). It was 8.8% in corresponding period of previous year. According to government the GDP growth in first quarter of 2011-12 was 7.3% and in the second quarter it slipped to 6.9%. In the sector wise break up, services leads with 9.3%; agriculture and industry struggling in the tail end with just 3.2%.

One of the main reasons is attributed to the increase in policy rate by RBI to curb another monster - inflation. Many of the problems can also be attributed to the problems in North America and the Euro Zone crisis, which is already affecting many other countries too. But is that the only reason? Can we accuse foreign factors for all our structural problems?

If we are searching for the number of reforms we successfully executed in the past few years there may not be many things to count. In fact after the sweeping reforms in the 1991, executed under the sword of balance of payment crisis, we went lazy in going forward with more reforms. When UPA II came in to power with a clear majority people expected a broad range of reforms in critical sectors - which are really choking the growth rate. Instead it was scandal after scandals of corruption, non functioning parliament, policy paralysis etc.

Even the most advertised policies too didn’t reach anywhere. Consider the case of much publicized Civil Nuclear Treaty; it’s far from fully operational. Reforms in power sector never saw the light of the day other than some blinking here and there. So is the case in mining, agricultural etc. Now one more thing added to the list - Reforms in Retail. It went back to cold storage faster than it came out.

One of the beacon areas of early successful reform was Telecom sector. It really able to link the entire India, but we failed to copy the same level of success in other areas. Now the 2G spectrum case results in the adjournment of Parliament, even though it is under consideration by two parliamentary committees - where the opposition too is a partner and court. Why the parties can't leave the rest of 2G scam proceedings to the court and concentrate on the real issues in Parliament? There are a lot of things to discuss - price rise, inflation, sector reforms in power, mining, retail, climate change issues etc. Losing the valuable time in the parliament will not help in the progress of the country.

If we are ready to accept the current course and live in the state of policy stagnation and structural paralysis it will not take much time for foreign investors - why only foreign investors, even the domestic ones will start looking for overseas grazing grounds. Simply because we have demographic advantage, growing middle class etc we can’t consider the growth as taken for granted. If we are so complacent in moving forward with reforms it will not take much time to return to low growth rates. Will it stop there? No over and above we will be considered as a bunch of people who are not ready to move ahead even in the favorable circumstances – in short the loss of faith in Indian markets.

Sajeev.

photo courtesy: wikipedia

Sunday, December 4, 2011

Hum Sab Bharatiya hain...

It was almost nine years back, I sang this song for the last time. Official song of NCC (National Cadet Corps) still sounds as fresh as I heard it for the first time around one decade back. NCC was created through National Cadet Corps Act in 1948 (even though its origin can be traced back to 'University Corps’, created under Indian Defence Act 1917) by Indian Parliament. This tri-services group considered as one of India's biggest organizations with a strength of 1.3mn.

Written by Sudarshan Fakir these lines are still in the tongues of thousands of students across India.

Lyrics:

Hum Sab Bharatiya hain, Hum Sab Bharatiya hain.
Apni Manzil Ek Hai, Ha, Ha, Ha, Ek Hai, Ho, Ho, Ho, Ho, Ek Hai,

Hum Sab Bharatiya hain.
Kashmir Ki Dharti Rani Hai,
Sartaj Himalaya Hai.
Sadiyon Se Hamne Isko Apne Khoon Se Pala Hai
"Desh Ki Raksha Ki Khatir Hum Shamshir Utha Lenge.
Bikhre Bikhre Tarey Hain hum Lekin Jhilmil Ek Hai
Ha, Ha, Ha, Ha, Ek Hai
Hum Sab Bharatiya hain

Mandir Gurudwara Bhi Hain Yahan 
Aur Masjid Bhi Hai Yahan
Girija Ka Hai Ghadiyal Kahin
Mullah Ki Kahin Hai Ajaan
Ek Hi Apna Ram Hai, Ek Hi Allah Taala Hai,
Ek Hi Apna Ram Hai, Rang Birange Deepak Hain Hum,
Ek Jagmag Ek Hain Ha, Ha, Ek Hai, Ho, Ho, Ho, Ek Hai.
Hum Sab Bharatiya hain, Hum Sab Bharatiya hain.

Sajeev.

Lyrics Courtesy: NCC