Saturday, August 30, 2014

Dead Poet Society - On Conformity

Dead Poet Society (DPS) is one of my all time favorite movies. Starring Robin Williams, this movie was released way back in 1989. DPS, describes the story of an English Teacher (Robin Williams) in an all boys school. His love for teaching, his love of alternate teaching methods, conservative society's opposition for change etc are fully visible here.

I love many scenes from  DPS like, removing the definition of poetry from text book, old wise man, carpe diem, captain-o-captain etc. However, there is one scene which directly of indirectly affect us everyday. Ladies and Gentlemen, here it is - 'On Conformity....'


Friday, August 8, 2014

Tomato festival in Vadodara – A monumental wastage

India consistently holds top ranks in most of the reports on poverty. In terms of sheer number of hungry people we even beat countries in Sub-Saharan Africa. We don’t have to see those reports to understand the situation in India. However, for many, this hunger and common man’s fight for survival is a mere a joke. Otherwise they would have thought twice before organizing tomato festival in Vadodara.

This party which saw the wastage of more than 5 tonnes of tomato also witnessed a participation of close to 3,000 people.

Well, there is nothing legally wrong in organizing a tomotino (just like the one in Italy) festival in India. But, living in a modern society can we simply turn our eyes away from the life of our fellow beings and support these kinds of monumental wastage?


Thursday, August 7, 2014

Dhoti storm finally ended?

Finally Tamil Nadu government introduced a bill to remove all entry restrictions for people wearing dhoties in clubs, hotels, theatres, malls etc. Well, I agree to this bill in principle; people wearing honorable local dresses should be able to access public places.

But, I have doubts about its applicability in private clubs. Clubs may be formed around a common theme. Isn’t it possible for them to mandate strict dress code for their members, which may explicitly forbidden dhoti?


World Bank and IMF are financial institutions not charity foundations

BRICS leaders in Brazil
People from former communist and socialist (including India) world refer Bretton Wood institutions as some animal who extract blood like leeches. Reason for this particular hatred towards Bretton Wood institutions is due to the strict conditions they impose on countries (borrowers) who are applying for loans.

Let me ask you one question, will any bank would give loan to any individual or institution without making sure that, borrower have sufficient capability to pay it back? What assurance IMF and World Bank have, when they give loans to countries which are on the verge of default? After all it’s the undisciplined economic policies, which brought those countries to the economic cliff in the first place.

Today when I read Samir Saran’s article “Waking up to theBRICS” in 'The Hindu', I suddenly remembered all those accusations hurled against IMF and World Bank. This article is basically in support of New Development Bank proposed by BRICS.  I believe two points mentioned there demand a reply.

Relation between bank and borrower is going to change?

“The NDB’s mission must be to create a business structure where borrowing countries are given greater agency in prioritising the kinds of projects they would want funded. Over a decade, this could become the demonstrator project through which the relationship between donors and recipients, lenders and borrowers, will be rewritten. Hopefully this will be in favour of developing economies and will enable the reimagining of economic pathways.”

Well, I agree on giving more say to borrowing country in prioritizing projects. However, there is world of difference between normal banks giving loans to an individual and World Bank giving loans to sovereign countries. If financial institutions are not insisting on policy terms then what leverage they have? What is the guarantee that countries will move away from the dangerous path? Would India have changed her economic course in 1991, if IMF’s conditions were not there? If a country defaulted on repayment, then World Bank don’t have much chance to get the amount back any time soon. Hence, relationship between bank and borrower won’t undergo any radical change because of New Development Bank. Any bank worth its name will demand security – in the form of change in policies perused by borrower.

GDP in PPP terms

“With around 16 per cent voting share at the World Bank, the U.S. has a de facto veto. Conversely, BRICS, with 40 per cent of the global population and a combined GDP of $24 trillion (PPP), collectively accounts for a mere 13 per cent of the votes at the World Bank.”

Why Indian observers often fall back to GDP in PPP terms rather than looking at real facts? Is it because GDP in PPP terms is in favour of BRICS? It’s time for us to come out of the cocoon and face the real world.


Tuesday, August 5, 2014

Sachin, Rekha… it’s better to quit if you can’t attend Parliament

Watching Arnab’s debate on TimesNow about our absentee MPs – especially Sachin and Rekha. I agree with Arnab, if Sachin and Rekha can’t attend parliament it’s better for them to resign. What is point of having them in Parliament; if they are NOT going to participate in debates, voting, using MPLAD funds?

This disease is not limited to Sachin and Rekha. Many of our MPs are MPs in name only. They hardly go to Parliament, hardly speak to people from their constituency, hardly participate in debate, hardly use MPLAD funds for the development of their constituency, hardly suggest any modifications for any bill…

You may be thinking after all what is happening in Parliament. Who is actually participating in debate? other than walkout and making noises what else going on in parliament? Well that is not fully true, our parliament too functions sometimes. What we need is MPs who are atleast committed to come to parliament and participate in representative democracy.


Sunday, August 3, 2014

Good food and Indian Railways – Distance is growing

Bangalore City Railway Staion
I like Indian Railways (IR). If possible, I would like to switch all my short and medium distance journeys to IR. Being said that, I am not a big fan of food provided by Railways. Most often food supplied by unauthorized vendors in trains is far better than the one provided by Railways. Fact is, most of us won’t complain or demand quality food from IR. We are accustomed to the functioning of IR and often consider each journey as a short time affair, which many of us want to forget. This reluctance to complain from passengers didn’t help the matters either.

Hence, today when I read the news (Railways has imposedheavy fines totalling Rs 11.50 lakh on nine caterers including IRCTC forserving "bad quality" food on trains - TOI) I was very much happy. Finally something is happening. IR is finally acting on the complaints and made the vendors responsible for the services they provide. I seriously doubt whether this type of special drives will become a norm.

Railways can do a lot of things to improve the quality of food supplied in stations as well as in train.

1.       First of all IR has to understand the importance of food’s quality. Food is not only about its weight but also about taste.
2.       Rope in prestigious names in industry like Haldiram, MTR, Uduppi Restaurants etc.
3.       Concentrate more on local food verities. If a train is running in southern region make sure that popular southern food items are available in those trains. Same policies go for West, Central, East, North East etc.
4.       Bring in major supply chains to railway stations.
5.       Build food quality assurance team (bring an external agency) for every zone and make frequent inspections using modern tools.
6.       Renew existing contracts based on passenger feedbacks.


Photo Courtesy: Wikipedia

Return of Pandits to Kashmir Valley

When clouds of fear and doubt will fly away from Pandit's life
Kashmir was burning in the last years of 80’s and in the beginning of 90’s. It was in those horrible days the valley witnessed mass exodus of Kashmiri Pandits. They settled in different parts of the nation -Jammu, Delhi etc; refugees in their own country. Now, after more than two decades GoI is planning to bring the Pandits back to the valley by creating exclusive settlements.

Efforts were started in 2008 during UPA government’s tenure (courtesy: Outlook report),

·         “60,452 displaced families registered, 38,119 in Jammu; 19,338 in Delhi; 1,995 in other states
·         6,000 jobs promised; 1,446 jobs actually filled
·         9,000 promised incentives for self-employment; not one youth came forward for self-employment
·         Rs ,618.40 cr package announced; Rs 104.52 cr disbursed to state govt till February 2014
·         Rs 7.5 lakh per family for reconstruction, purchase of houses; one family applied and received grant
·         Rs 5 crore corpus for medical expenses”

Current NDA administration enhanced the package (courtesy: Outlook report),

·         “Rs 500 cr package in the budget
·         Raise grant for houses to Rs 20 lakh
·         Minority status to Pandits in the state
·         Reservation in the assembly
·         Acquire 2,100 acres of land for three enclaves
·         A commission of inquiry or SIT to look into atrocities.”

As expected, separatists are against the package; especially for creating three exclusive settlements. They are even comparing the proposed settlements with that of Israeli ones in West Bank and Gaza. What they are easily forgetting is Pandits were originally from valley. Pandits too have rights to their air and land. They left the valley and became refuges in their own country in 80’s and 90’s to save their own life. Separatists don’t have any right to stop the return of Pandits.

Does government’s plan to create exclusive settlement for Pandits is a good idea? If yes, then for how many years those settlements will remain exclusive? I don’t believe creating a permanent exclusive settlement will be in the interest of either Kashmir or Pandits. As the ground is improving, government should look for mixed townships; which will recreate the bond between Pandits and current local population.

Of course, spread out resettlement plan is a security nightmare as it won’t be easy for the administration to provide tight security in such situation, compared to three exclusive settlements. Still I would like to see the administration go for a mixed township of 5-6 instead of three exclusive ones.


Saturday, August 2, 2014

Mass killings of endangered species in African Game Reserves

Many wild species are currently in critically endangered state because of human’s insensitivity and illiteracy. Even though these animals don’t have any of so called medicinal values, people are not ready to believe it; hence the illegal and immoral trade of endangered species is on high growth path.

As per the latest WWF article,

“In 2013 poachers killed 1004 rhinos in South Africa -- 606 in the Kruger National Park alone. This is a sharp increase from 668 lost in 2012 and… risks driving rhinos into serious decline… The horn is smuggled to Asia, primarily Viet Nam, where it is in demand as a status symbol and for use in traditional medicine. South Africa is working with key countries involved in the smuggling and demand including Mozambique (a key transit route), Cambodia, China, Hong Kong, Thailand, and Viet Nam to counter the illegal trade. The aim is to halt the smuggling with increased effort and sentences and reduce demand.”

Point to be noted - “606 rhinos in the Kruger National Park”. What is happening in this South African game reserve? This is not the story of Kruger alone, but that of many other national parks in Africa and Asia. Looks like poachers are always finding a way to circumvent the protection measures.

This trade will reduce if and only if the demand for animal parts from East Asia and South East Asia diminish significantly. As long as the demand is there, poachers will take any amount of risk to fulfill it. Governments of China and ASEAN countries need to walk extra mile with African governments and conservation authorities to stop this grave crime against wildlife.