Sunday, 25 February 2018

Is sinless wealth an optic illusion? _ Are all parties clean in collecting donations?

“Democracy is a costly affair to developing nations”- once a former Malaysian PM said. In our country with plethora parties and the voters being bought over by tactical means, you can not vouch for donation free environment. 

What can be ideal for us till we reach at least G3 status? - 

1.A bennovalent dictator who spends 24/7 for the nation operating as CEO of the nation- regional CEOs having similar characteristics for each state- all districts to be headed by top class IAS or professionals who have "nation first" in their mind as district CEOs- the district CEOs to have SWOT (strengths, weakness , opportunities and threats) for each village evolved with people participation- develop each district as a thematic district revolving around the strength of the district-the skill development to start from age 10 with options to kids (those who want to be around the skill of the district or around the skill of the neighbour district or around  overseas country skills)- the academic/ industry/ govt alignment on skill development-

2. The people representative at village level/ district level, state level and national level to operate  only as a jury assessing the performance of these CEOs and serving as the conscience of the nation-

3. Media to be assigned sector specific roles focussing on only sectoral inputs and research avoiding media competition and trial and unwanted TRP  rating wars-

4.All cases to be decided by only one sitting at one level with no appeal and disputes to be resolved in one week-   If such a thing happens and the people efforts are unified towards one mission of reaching G3 status in ten years. ....

5.  Then you can have Rama Rajya.. you can then talk of no political donation and  two party system operating within the government allocated  state election budget for selecting one of two national CEOs-  ---

5.  Till such dream happens election funding will continue to happen. There are many forms- collecting informal donations, kickbacks on favours in overseas markets, collection and whitening of funds in the name of leader birthday celeberations... so many intellectuals lending their brain for conceiving such schemes--

6. All these will continue to happen and no party can claim to work with all sinless wealth- Sineless wealth is an optic illusion!

7. But within the exisiting ones, who is less tainted one seems to be the only factor we are reckoning  I suppose -

Currently we are all trying to visualise a value led society in our life time- is that a mirage or possibility... time alone can answer.

Friday, 23 February 2018

Are we ready for G3 status?

Dear friends,

We criticise either way- for or against our present government. Can we deliberate on these brainstorming ideas and float it as our group suggestions to the concerned ministry? We as a group can present it by fixing appointment with relevant minister as Fb group suggestions. Before that, we deliberate it!

May be you are tired of only criticizing or favouring already appeared articles.  Here are some brain storming virgin ideas for deliberations-

1. Why don’t we take away MGNREGA outlay from government budget by offloading it as regional branding rights to brand advertisers. Say 5 year right for MGNREGA west region can be branded by say TATA  called as “TATA MGNREGA west". Then TATA have to foot that bill. Against this they have branding rights for 5 years. The outlay goes out of government budget. Government only overseas the distribution. The rights can be priced. Currently corporate branding money and CSR budgets go for some private pockets or it can be a new branding opportunity. The government saves the MGNREGA outlay and also gets revenue for selling rights like spectrum auction.

2. Why don’t we auction the branding rights of railway platforms. Today they are called platform 1,2 etc. Collect this fee based income and use this revenue for bettering the service. Even new metro stations to be branded and such rights to get more money for government.

3. Boldly withdraw 50 billion USD from forex reserves, currently above 400 billion USD (economists have inflation arguements against such move. But use them to foot your imports to check inflation) use it for cleaning public sector balance sheets including banks at one stroke and for infrastructure. Also denationalise most of the government undertakings against disinvestment proceeds. The best government is the one that is least governed with its own assets. The government should be a nodal agency.

4. Activate all internal domestic software industry - all property docs to go digital, all libraries to go digital and create domestic mega size digital product companies, create data bases of all sectors. Huge job opportunity will arise domestically. Fund it from withdrawn forex reserves. Only China did in the past.

5. Create village level SWOTs with district collectors and create thematic districts revolving against their strengths. Align skill generation to district SWOT and enable students from  the age of ten to decide in taking up district skill driven or neighbour district driven or oversea skill driven jobs. Make academic -industry and government alignment mandatory.

6. Atleast as a token of rewarding honesty put minimum Rs.15k into the accounts of individual assesses who paid taxes consistently over last five years in the threshold of 3-10 lakhs.

7 . Let banks constantly do stress tests on business models and go by merits of business models than past cooked up payment history or accounting history. Every business model has some shades of grey today. (I refused to sign any balance sheet as soon as I came out of my CA) We need to put them to stress tests periodically and the risk radars of banks to be very active. The horse should drive the cart than the other way round. The business model should drive the businesses than the accounting models. The best brains should refuse to find holes to circumvent rules. Value based champions should be awarded padmashrees etc apart from experts in different field. There are many unsung heros who are great ethical heros living amongst us today. They are to be showcased.

8. 80% of GDP services coming from 20% population, while 20% GDP comes from 80% of population in India. This anomaly has to be changed so that jobs can occupy all sections. Industry to be elevated to contribute 25% of GDP to begin with. Make in India can not become successful unless we make India better investment destination than ASIAN countries. Allow zero tax for ferex cos for five years if they create minimum local  jobs. We have to offer red carpet to those business which have high labor content and high export content.

Much more can come as out of box thoughts based on members interests. Many of these were directly posted in PM’s website. More out of box thoughts may be brought in by you all. Let us build the nation by positivity than by fighting amongst us which only wastes our energy. On nationally important things- practice unity, on social sector specefic issues- have diversity and against all things practice dignity. Let us see our country reaching G3 status in our life time!!

What is G3?
We are now in group of nations GDP wise called G10. We are in sl no. G7. This year end we are likely to reach G5 crossing UK.
-With  GDP 16 trillion plus USA at no.1
-With About 9 trillion China no.2
-With about 3.5/4  trillion Japan G3
-Then Germany G4.
India likely to reach G5 replacing UK and France.
-With GDP growing at 7% pa plus on a continuous basis India can reach G 3 status.
-Crossing China and USA is not expected in my life time. I leave it for now.
-The question is can we sustain growth of 7% pa with reforms, digitalisation etc. That is a question that brings in the political debate.

Wednesday, 21 February 2018

Noises on PNB scam: My take.

Even in year 2005, many approached outside India scouting for bank finance in overseas markets against bank guarantees from India. I used to be surprised even for many projects in India they used to come out seeking overseas loans. They used to argue that risks are evaluated by banks issuing guarantees and overseas banks need not worry about the risks.

This kind of financing is not new. But the question is such Lou's and guarantees clubbed under non funded limits must have escaped proper scrutiny.

Once the blame game starts every one including RBI oversight mechanism is also not out of criticisms. Then can we blame former governor for this?

Please note the thief is an artist while police is only a critic. Newer ways will always be found. Now this way has thrown up. Even so many foreign banks issue such letters and people try out borrowings against such letters.

The risk radars of the banks, their systems and reviews need constant scrutiny and updation. The governance has to be value driven from the top. There are banks like Hdfc bank which has the lowest NPAs against  a big ticket size portfolio of advances.

We start blaming government immediately these days. Because we want instant solution from Narendra Modi for everything. They say Bhaktas will come for rescue. In the recorded history we see many corporate disasters- many due to ethical failures- be it India or USA. How many times government was charged. Even the global disasters were blamed due to the system failures and failure of oversight mechanism. The board of PNB to take the responsibility, publish what went wrong and fraudulent persons to be charged and brought to books. The media trials and half backed analysis without facts should stop. We have to find ways to catch the guys running away after bank default. These running away has been happening for so many years now. I know many NPA's of UAE banks caused by many expatriate businessmen running away. This risk is there bothering the bankers. I know countries issuing passports for an investment of 100k US dollars. If this can not be avoided bankers may go for 100% security for lending. That will be difficult for businessmen.

Thursday, 14 December 2017

Out of box thinking for NPA funding of bankers.

At the outset, it is relevant to mention that this blog avoids statistical details, as the intention is to keep it simple for common man. There is no point in engaging statistical wars by either side of the political parties. In short, we do not want to be bogged down in too many numbers and move away from a statistician’s paradise. 

Background of Legacy:
The high growth rates of GDP of past ten years of UPA government has ended up in a huge legacy of NPA of banks passed on to NDA government. People claim of huge GDP growth rates have to always factor NPA effect on GDP created. Not only the fact that the GDP growth of UPA was cash driven, speculative jobless growth rate, but it also led to mind boggling risks and the consequent NPA menace. It is like selling by a corporate showing a huge growth rate in one year, but all their sales later ended up in bad debts.

Remedial measures:
-People talk about “bail in” and “bail out” strategies. ‘Bail in’ involves hair cut for deposit holders of the bank. ‘Bail in’ is ruled out as hard earned money of depositors cannot be subjected to the mad risks of the policy makers. Under current regulations, only RS one lakh  is the amount depositor gets if any bank fails. 
-“ bail out “ involves deployment of tax payer money for the mad growth ended in bad debt pile up. Even this is a strain on tax payer. For no fault of them they had to bear the problems caused by few defaulters.

Then what is the way forward?
Way forward:
- Typically the regulators ask for dividing these bad debts into
   - those caused by strategic failures
   - those caused by sector failures
   - those caused by system failures
   - those caused by ethical failures
and so on. 
The sector failure units need to be kept in ICU with the carrot of special facilities, while the ethical failure units need to be shown the stick for recovery. 
This is the typical regulator’s copy book recommendation. 

But will it be enough?
- even if the stick is taken against bad units how much recovery is possible? Some hair cuts are imminent. Who will bear that?

Way forward:
- we need a definite one time fund for bail out
- the debt monitoring has to be vigilant in future by all stakeholders (the  monitoring system to be revisited by regulators). Any single default of a unit should trigger a default alarm for the whole group funding and the radars of monitoring should not be lazy in exhibiting the detective signals. Also, the monitoring bodies should pick up the signals quickly and act as an agile watch dog and not as a pet dog wagging tails.
- the banks with low NPAs should be recognized, recorded, and rewarded with best bank award   They should be given special incentives for their branch expansion needs , preferential repo rates and such other incentives while the high NPA banks should be demoted in status. 
- the GDP growth of a period say five years has to be corroborated with NPA of that time horizon and the review  mechanism should change accordingly. No point in showing a huge GDP growth by one government and walk away with laurels, while the new government takes over the legacy of NPAs. The people should ask for a score card on both fronts of GDP growth and NPA score.

Are there any avenues other than tax payer money?

Out of box thoughts
These are brain storming thoughts which are just thrown at. They are subject to debates, deliberations before adoption. They are not copy book ideas of text books. They can be shot at first sight by puritans, but we feel throwing up such ideas is a continuing necessity, given the huge backlog of the bad debts we face through the banks. 

What are they?

The bail out funds can come from the new sources as below-
 - As far as sector failure driven genuine bad debts, the banks may look at conversion of such corporate’s entire debt as a zero coupon bonds of 7/14 years. This will enable the continuation of the debt without interest servicing for the affected units. With zero interest the unit may come into profit zone quickly and such profit can be used for pay back of such zero coupon bonds
The banks may be allowed to get refinance of these bonds from a newly constituted recovery fund institution. The recovery fund institution can be funded by drawl from foreign exchange reserves held by government (say 1 billion dollar out of 400 billion dollars).
The money declared bad today becomes good with sectoral changes over a long 7/14 year span. The long period of such funding can come from forex reserves held by the government. This can be used to fund today’s bad debt, which can turn into good tomorrow for sure. 
- As far as those which are bad for sure, what are the ways to finance other than tax payer’s money? Can we think of some such possibilities? Some of them are tossed up below:
- Allow a new stream of earnings for bankers which will fund such bail out requirements. What is it? If a bail out funds full or part of say “x bank” can given by a brand owner for a consideration against permitting such brand owner to co-brand the deposit schemes. Say the fd scheme of the bank can be called “x bank Reliance fixed deposit” or even a branch branding - “ x bank Tata Anderi branch” 
The co-branding rights say for five years can be a consideration for the bail out funds offered by the brand owner. The mutual valuation of such co-branding rights have to be arrived at by both either on one to one or at an auction. Anyway, the brand owners spend a huge sum for brand building. Or the CSR budgets of healthy corporates can use this opportunity of combining CSR (bail out as a cause) and branding benefits.
- An additional portion of disinvestment of government holdings can be earmarked for one time bail outs. 
- A portion of natural resource sale say spectrum/ coal mine or such other auctions can be reserved for one time bail outs. 
- Think of new fee based income that can accrue from sale of any new naming right/ branding right and use those proceeds for funding one tome options. (this new fee based income can be from any government depts including railways (for example naming a train by a brand etc..) Even the capture of black money sitting in overseas areas can be used. 

To sum up-One time bail out is imminent. Funding them from innovative methods can relieve tax payer’s burden. Further, the tightening up of system to reduce the  recurring NPA menace is also equally vital. 

Sunday, 26 November 2017

GDP or our patience, which is declining? .. more out of box ideas ..

At the outset some loud noises are heard in India these days that there is a lesser growth of GDP (gross domestic product) in the last few quarters.  We still achieve impressive GDP growth rates over other parts of the world. 

We have to understand one thing...
When the floods are moving at a rapid pace to the sea, we can create barriers in the form of dams,  reduce the speed, divert and store water for irrigation for future. 

Do we leave a rapid moving flood to reach the sea without use or do we arrest the speed, create course correction and use it for future irrigation and growth?

Yes we need to arrest the speculative flood pace of our economy, arrest the speed in the form of reforms, in order to have greater sustainable growth of GDP in future. This is what the current government is doing now.

Due to the structural reforms taking place now,  Momentary drops of GDP growth over previous quarter will be inevitable for another few quarters so that a faster sustainable growth can be achieved in future. 

Otherwise we will have only speculative jobless paper growth without real economic growth. 

Out of box ideas-
Instead of crying about falling growth rates which are inevitable during the period of structural reforms , why don’t we think out of box solutions and keep tossing up such suggestions in social media debates?

What is GDP?

The components of GDP are:
Personal Consumption Expenditures plus Business Investment plus Government Spending plus (Exports minus Imports).

We need to increase each of these components more than the previous quarters considerably high to reach higher rates of growth.

But when one goes down, the other has to go up more to compensate so that the GDP growth is sustainable. Due to the reforms, personal consumption may grow at reasonable level  only for some time. Export growth is based on global growth scenario and we cannot quickly grow that beyond certain levels , as it is relatively inelastic. Business investments also during the period of structural reforms will not grow appreciably for some time. 

Then we need to look at government spending to accelerate growth. No wonder, massive roads and infrastructure outlays are planned

Some out of box ideas here- 
One has to note these are brain storming ideas to be debated further and accept with or without amendments. Creativity will have to flow without applying rationality first in a brainstorming, hence the pundits may factor this before shooting down these thoughts. Let us debate, deliberate and move on... 

What are these thoughts tossed up for government?

-offload some government scheme expenditure to pvt sector. For example mgnrega subsidy schemes are a must for uplifting our poor masses. But the government may offload some of mgnrega outlays- how? Why don't we allow pvt sector to take over these subsidy outlays region wise by allowing them to brand itself?

For example we can allow say" Reliance mgnrega west region.." the government can auction these branding rights to pvt sector brands and in return pvt sector has to take over these mgnrega outlays upon themselves against their branding permission. Govt should only monitor mgnrega  scheme's reach and delivery and should stop funding from its budget. Like spectrum auction such branding rights of subsidies offloaded by govt will give them substantial revenue, keep the subsidy outlay out of government budgets. Can't we look at this thought? 

It is a brain storming idea to be pruned further. 

-One more thought for Railways

There are various railway platforms not named in every city.  For example, They call it Chennai central platform 1,2,3 etc. Why don't we allow branding of platforms by pvt sectors say Tata platform, reliance platform etc. Railways can auction these platform branding rights and create a fee based income for Railways. 

-Similar analogies can be extended to unbranded spaces and generate  more revenue.

Auctioning of preferential car number plates, naming of new roads - the possibilities are endless.
These pvt sector spend on CSR initiatives, they can look at funding subsidies by the above schemes. They also spend huge amounts for branding. By allowing them to brand this way the pvt sector will directly pay auctioning revenue to govt that will enable government to spend  better on health care and other priority sectors.

More such out of box ideas should become the focus of discussions than just criticizing the government. 

To sum up- we just do not simply criticize but say what out of box alternatives can be looked at. That will be more productive. Is it not?

Thursday, 16 November 2017

Reform, the only way to perform.

India gearing up towards g3/g4 nation status need to have structural reforms. We cannot become a developed nation without these reforms.

Demonetization documented the money not in circulation. The black money holders are in the radars. Also the digital economy has been given a big push.

Demonetization arrested the jobless growth. The short cycle of black money turning to gold and then to real estate to stocks ended. The speculative dealings got reduced and hence this itself will shave off some GDP points. This is an inevitable transitionary phase.  But it arrests jobless growth and parallel markets.

 GST, real estate reforms and benami act etc will not be brought in by anyone without the firm will of shri. Narendra Modi, today looked upon by the world leaders as a man of action. In my opinion no other person would bring these reforms with a firm will, courage and conviction.

These reforms were taken in quick succession that made black money transaction guys off the market. Now there is calm after all storms of reforms. But the spring will restart with genuine growth. This growth path will necessarily follow post reforms that took place in quick succession.

The mad real estate escalation is not there but some people look at this as no growth. It depends upon what lens we wear when we interpret the happenings around us. I only wear the lens of reaching G3 status quickly, when I look at the happenings around me. Infact it checks speculation driven jobless growth. Inflation is down we need to see that.

Jobs will happen but lot of self employment opportunities arose with SME focussed finance schemes. A number of welfare schemes reached the poor strata of society. The poor, the low middle and those who want an orderly society are all with shri. Narendra Modi. 

No need for panic.

There is now a fear to abide by the law which is important in ensuring discipline in the country. People who never bothered to file income tax return in the past in India, but are always appreciative of the American way of law enforcement are now realising the need to file tax returns in India. This is a great change.

Those criticizing may suggest ways to shore up the economy after these reforms, which in the first place no one wanted to implement. The discussions should focus on how we assist the country in moving towards G3 and not on why reforms or on generating doomsday predictions. Let us be an agent to spread positivity, air of optimism around us. Too much negative noises can only pollute the environment.

In the earlier days,  it was a soft law and weak enforcement in the past.  I have seen air passengers holding the waste choclate paper in their pockets when they cannot access dust bins in Singapore airport. But first thing he does when he reaches Indian airport is  to throw it away on the Indian airport floor with no hesitation. They do not look for waste bins and also do not hesitate to throw away on the floor as soon as landing in India. We need to apply the same legal sense that we follow in those law abiding countries.

Instead of being critics, it is better to strengthen the govenment with positive suggestions.

May god bless our Prime Minister with more will power to face these critics who are always waiting for slippages in the economy. When reforms happen quickly, some slippages will happen. A calm sea never produces a skilful mariner. We cannot discover G3 status if we navigate on shallow waters near the shore fearing for slippages. I want to see G3 status atleast during my life time. I see the winds of change in that direction.

A normal election winning political leader waits for the wave and rides in it. But when the waves turn around, he gets panicky. But a visionary leader like shri Narendra Modi builds the wave and then rides on it. He does not believe in waiting too long for the waves to ride. This kind of wave building may give us some jerks but we are sure to march towards our destination of G3 in the near future.

We think of out of box solutions and suggest ways to government via their interactive websites. The govt made public participate in the governance of the country. Let us look for new ways of building the nation.

Do not ask what the country does for you but ask what we do for our country. Even a baby step taken by us in the march towards G3 can consolidate our nation. We can be a critic but we should also suggest the alternatives to overcome those criticisms generated by us by participating in the public governance platforms created for our suggestions.

We can avoid "I can only do?" theories but support "I can also lend support to government" theory. – Drdd.

Wednesday, 15 November 2017

Gst polls - Is it a new cottage industry?

Many polls are held whether GST is badly executed? Frequent tweaking is happening? Any economic landscape that can be visualised and forecasted clearly can have precise measures/ planning.. While GST is a path breaking change but no radar can capture the post scenario with precision. When confusion is the path towards clarity, the wisdom asks us to be more cautious in every step as each step may pull down suddenly. In this unclear unpredictable post GST regime, Arun Jailtely has to evolve the tax and procedure structures. It is difficult to increase tax rates once we introduce but we can reduce as per the psychology of the citizens. Hence he adopted a safe five slab structure with an intention to tweak it once we move into post GST regime and arrive at the right combination. He will move towards a single structure over few years some items of consumption started with more tax rates as otherwise you cannot increase but you can only reduce as per tax payer psyche. If the overall GST collection is poor the states will start crying and there will be chaos. Therefore adopt a safe approach of having five slabs slightly at elevated levels and start reducing once we are sure of tax volume as we see in live situation.. It is like a corporate adapting to new erp or when we migrate to a new place for the first time. Have a base model and tweak it to perfection.. Anyone would face similar situation if they face such situation. When we move into new landscape with no precise inputs for prediction (as it is the first time and it is path breaking in terms of changes) here confusion is the path towards clarity. Arun Jaitely should not be blamed. This is an evolution which is a scenario any one will face when they introduce.. Arun Jaitely and Narendra Modi' strong will has to be appreciated. They should not break midway.. They have to show the will and determination. They are rightfully showing that.. Hence reforms will take the right shape.. One has to wait and give some more time to see the benefits of these reforms.

Sunday, 15 October 2017

Diwali Crackers - On or Off?

The Supreme Court's ban over sale of firecrackers in New Delhi until November 1 has activated enormous debates. The environmentalists have welcomed the move but some sections of society feel that there is a curb on local cultural traditions
There are two sides of the coin. Let us look at both these sides-

Arguments favouring ban-
  • Delhi's pollution is so bad in winter that it has overtaken Beijing as the worst. Delhi's air quality is very poor and rapidly worsening. True, air pollution levels had dangerously spiked after Diwali last year and SC had imposed a ban on sale of firecrackers last November – the apex court has reinstated that order. 
    -In 2016, the ideal PM (particulate matter) of 10 had reached toxic levels of 999 (more than 10 times higher than what is considered safe to breathe). This steep rise in pollution levels happened suspiciously close to Diwali celebrations. 
  • This not only releases a deadly generation of fumes into air causing extreme air pollution but also causes severe noise pollution.
  • Medical evidence suggests that severe air pollution in Delhi is leading to multiple diseases and other health related issues among the people. The city has seen an increase in respiratory diseases like asthma, lung cancer, bronchitis primarily attributable to the worsening air quality in the National capital.
  • Foreign diplomats complain about the sacrifices their children are making due to their posting in Delhi. Some of them even refuse to get posted in Delhi
    -In passing the ban order, the court may have departed the conventional way of celebrating the festival, but the choice was not a difficult one to make - since it concerned with the lives of the people.
Justifying the ban on sale of firecrackers, the court says that it needs to test, whether banning sale of firecrackers during Diwali will have a positive effect or not on air quality in Delhi.
  • further,  the cracker making is not well regulated  in India and Chinese crackers create number of safety issues
  • When the Diwali celebrations began in the mythology days, no cracker was invented and hence addition of crackers must be a subsequent event and not a  original tradition

Arguments against ban-

  • Are we not denying the joy and celebration (that we enjoyed) to our children?
  • - Are we not tinkering with the tradition?
  • Is it not to be driven by a public debate followed by legislation, which in turn has to be followed by action? Now we take action first, before legislation or public debate. Is that fine?
    -It should be noted that the court has banned the sale of crackers in the National Capital Region, but not their bursting. There is also no ban on buying crackers from outside Delhi and bringing them to the city for use. This specifically affects Delhi's cracker traders and in no way serves the purpose of minimising pollution, since purchases can be made in border areas. 
-With millions of vehicles emitting gases into the atmosphere on a daily basis, would banning a single night of Diwali festivities make that much of a difference? 
   -In fact, the two largest sources of pollution in Delhi are road dust (38%) and vehicles (20%). Plans to tackle these have not proved effective yet. 
-Then there is the annual problem of crop stubble burning in the neighbouring states of Punjab, Haryana and UP. With no economically viable solutions worked out, the burning still continues. Trucks not destined for Delhi continue to transit through the capital due to lack of alternative routes. The need is for evolving holistic solutions that address the root causes of the problem.
Where do we go from here?
  • Do we try a community watching of cracker burning carried out by licensed professional companies like USA? No, we need not have to import our tradition from USA. Needless to add, USA may have their crackers regulated but not their guns. Let us not try to xerox copy their culture and fit into our tradition. 
  • We cannot question the tradition- Whether something like this cracker burning added in the later stage etc. This cannot be argued as the celebration and joy have been expressed in some way over the years and questioning such tradition is a touchy subject.
  • Then we need to respect the tradition but still find solutions for pollution.         
What do we do?  
We have to find pollution free crackers. It is a new opportunity for start ups. Perhaps during the interim period, we may have to allow limited hours for cracker burning. We have to engage the community and evolve the acceptable way of burning crackers. 

Happy Diwali. 
God bless all. 

Sunday, 20 August 2017

Indian History in text books: Rewrite or Retain?

India has the longest unbroken civilization that dates back to more than 10,000 years. But still there is an unceasing end to the debates and controversies on several aspects of its documented history especially as described in the text books. Distortions as we see are of three kinds – 
1.       More coverage for some while others are overshadowed
2.       Painting a very black or white pictures of characters while they have a combination of both.
3.       Absolving some characters of their barbaric crimes Illustrations on blackouts and distortions.

More coverage for some while others are overshadowed.

Maurya, Ashoka and Mughal era have been given more prominence in text books but the Vijayanagara Empire which ruled almost entire South India and lasted for 300 years as against Mughal Empire of 170 years has hardly any mention. This kingdom was formed by two brothers who got reconverted from Islam to Hinduism and formed this kingdom to take on Muslim invaders. How many of you know this?

Maratha Empire which ruled from Western Shores to Cuttack in the east founded by ChharapatiShivaji nearly brought the end of Mughal rule. The Peshwas and Queen of Jhansi resisted the East India Company. Barely few paragraphs were allotted for them in text book history.

The Sikh empire (18th Century) and their great MaharajhaRanjit Singh and his great general Hari Singh or Ahom empire of Assam which ruled Assam region for nearly 600 years and who defeated Mughals at the banks of Bramaputraare not given any importance. The Chola dynasty (950-1150AD) which conquered Indonesia, Burma, Thailand, is confined to only Tamil Nadu textbooks. Kalinga Empire ( KingKaravela who destroyed Pataliputra and regained Kalinga kingdom) ,Chalukya,Gangas,Pandyas, Cheras and Dogras were not given coverage in the pan India text books.Only some local states covered them.

Even some of the local heroes who deserve national coverage such as VeluNachiyar (who defeated Hyder Ali and took on British army, PritolataWaddedar, the female tiger of Bengal who bravely fought the British, Begum Hazrat Maulali, the unsung heroine of first war of Indian independence were completely overshadowed by text book history. Have you even heard of these names?

Painting a very black or white pictures.

I can give several examples here- I was given to understand from my school text books that Rajputs were either defeated by Afgans or Mughals or they assisted Mughals in their wars and showed their bravery. But between Gazni and Ghori there were 150 years during which invaders could not get an inch of territory in India due to the brave Rajput warrior SuhalDevPasi Who decisively defeated Gazni's nephew General Masudh in 1033 AD. Many Rajput victories if highlighted will portray their winning nature.

MarthandaVerma of Malabhar region decimated the Dutch navy in the Battle of Kolachal in 1776. Had he not done that India would be speaking Dutch language today as the Dutch were the world’s greatest naval force at that time. Instead, MarthandhaVerma has been presented as a king of a small place who encountered a routine small battle.

Following World War II, the returning sailors of Indian navy took control of Bombay city. The British tried to engage gorkha’s to control them which they refused. Following this issue a British officer submitted a report that colonial rule in India is not sustainable any more. These navy officers were not given the recognition of the freedom fighters.

Even if we look at Aryan theory planted on us, Aryans from central Asia invaded and destroyed Harappans, the natives were shifted to Ganges from Indus river belt. As per this theory the JNU geniuses call the demons described in religious scriptures as natives who were driven away by those referred as gods who were invaders! In fact no great war of that time could be establishedwith clear evidences.

Absolving some characters of their barbarian crimes.

KingAshoka was said to convert to Buddhism after seeing the devastation of Kalinga war. But the fact is that he was a Buddhist much before Kalinga war. He continued his massacre even after Kalinga war. He declared he will give one gold coin for every person killed from Jain religion. During younger days he killed all the male clan of Maurya dynasty barring one of his brothers. His cruel deeds were too many, some of them can be inferred from his own inscriptions. Still we paint only the good side of him in the history text books.

During Mughal era, King Hemu was portrayed as a villain who tried to bully 13 year old Akbar. Babar was portrayed as a great king but actual accounts suggest otherwise, given the cruel atrocities committed by him on citizens belonging to other faiths. Why such distortions happen? Well, any conqueror presents a picture and claims that before conquest the region lacked civilization and only the invader brought the civilization.

The biased historians add their shades of grey. For example Greek historians claim that Alexander the great won King Porus. Some Indian historians claim that King Porus won the war and Alexander's wife Roxana tied Rakhi to King Porus and tactically averted the war as a Rakhee brother should not kill his sister's brother. These are biased versions.

When I interacted with some well educated people of Pakistan, they told me that they were taught in their history books that Pakistan won the Bangladesh war of 1971!! Bias of the greatest order!! In India the texts were written with a psuedo-secularist mind set. The Hindu cultural sentimentalism was under played due to this.

Where do we go from here?

Don't give judgments and make it biased with any 'isms'. Only when evidences are crystal clear, we should present one version. Otherwise we have to present all alternative thoughts and versions. Give complete facts and picture. Even if alternate picture exists present them, let the students decide. If particular ideology is shoved down the throat of the kids, they tend to believe it to be true throughout their lives without checking other beliefs.Do not edit out great heroes or present a tainted version of characters.

In short the Indian text book history has to be rewritten to factor the above thoughts. This is a serious issue and I request each one of you to think objectively and not paint a rightist or leftist tag on me. My view is the view of a common man who found a huge gap between what was taught in his school and what he came to learn several years after his school.

In the internet age, information is available online. It would be better that this gap is bridged and textbooks are more representative of actual history.

Friday, 11 August 2017

The best tweets for National Book Lovers Day

Twitter on Wednesday morning was ablaze with people sharing their favorite quotes about books, reading and writing, so much so that #BookLoversDay became the top trending hashtag.

Friday, 28 July 2017

Aadhar IN… Privacy OUT.. Is Privacy a Fundamental Right?


Ever since the GOI tried to link Aadhar with Pan Card and Bank Accounts, debates on privacy have become a norm at various forums.

-          Can the government condition the receipt of public benefit on waiver of Fundamental rightand do we waive the right of privacy for a greater benefit?
-          Is the right to privacy absolute and can a government, which cannot give right to privacy uphold the principles of democracy
-          Is Privacy just a human right or aFundamental right guaranteed by the Constitution of India?
-          Do the scan and fingerprints of Aadhar violate citizen’s privacy?
-          Is the right to privacy absolute or can the Government  even snoop into my bathroom?

The techies (from data protection angle), the activists (human rights angle), lawyers (fundamental right angle), the politicians (based on their party position), the economists (empowerment & governance angle) – each one of them debate from their angle. A nine-judge bench is revisiting the question of privacy 55 years after the Supreme Court decided that it was not a basic fundamental right for citizens. Amidst all these active debates, let us explore the concept of privacy in finer details.

What is Privacy?

 The essence of privacy is reflected in ancient Hindu culture. Aspects of privacy of thought, respect to bodily integrity, physical space/property, information and communication and identity did find a place in Hindu scriptures such as Manusmriti, Yanawalkya Samhita &Chanakya’sArthashastra. Further, the references to privacy exist in the Bible, Hebrew, Greek and ancient Chinnese cultures. These perceptions focused on right to solitude.

In the modern context, privacyis seen as a way of drawing the line as to how far society can intrude into a person’s affairs – aspects of personal body, information, communication and territory. Privacy is a Human right recognized in the U.N. Declaration of Human rights.

Various definitions arose in the modern context regarding privacy –
-          “Privacy is a right to be left alone”
-          “Privacy is a value which underpins human dignity, freedom of association and speech”
-          “Privacy is a three-part product – Secrecy, Anonymity and Solitude”

Right to Privacy:

“Even the crown cannot enter the poorest man’s cottage, inspite of its being ruined by storm, wind or rain” (Parliamentarian William Pitt, U.K)

Any personal information has to be obtained fairly and lawfully, used only for the original specified purpose, adequate and not excessive, tothe purpose, accurate and up to date.

Many countries have recognized the UN Declaration but in many other countries like the USA, Ireland and India, the courts have found that right as a derivative from other fundamental rights.

Right to privacy is not explicitly stated in the Americanconstitution, but right to privacy is protected by specific statutory laws and also by several amendments assigning a“Derivative Fundamental Right” status to privacy.

The Constitution of India also does not specifically guarantee “Right to Privacy”; but various judgments over the years have given limited rights to privacy through Aritcle 21 - The Right to Life and Liberty. Reasonable restrictions can be imposed on the right to privacy by the State subject to Article 19(2) of the Constitution of India.

Threats to Privacy To-day:

Globalization, Convergence of data, and Multimedia have dismantled the barriers. Technology has thrown up identity systems, and surveillance of communications, andwork place which were adopted by Smart cities, Smart airports and Smart offices, contributing significantly toinvasion of privacy.
In India, many opted for Aadhar voluntarily, but amendments to Finance Bill, 2017 expand the scope of Aadhar beyond welfare services to PAN, Bank accounts etc., making it almost mandatory.

Arguments for and against:

For Aadhar:

-    It is a governance cum empowerment cum surveillance tool, not just an effective welfare administration tool.
-          It enables a clean responsible behavior of citizens, as all information is wired. (The precise reason why USA is able to reach its citizens effectively)
-          Black money prevention, eliminates multiple PAN used by same individuals, better tax collection and better KYC for all stakeholders are all facilitated by Aadhar backed identity.
-            Making it voluntary will create exclusions from the Aadhar Data base. Even a small gap can be used by Tax evaders who may start re-energizing cash economy again. The cash outside the system can get strengthened which is turn will circulate into cash based assets building.A jobless paper growth will emerge as in the past. Hence Aadhar backed transactions makes the whole eco-system cleaner.
-          Aadhar enabled economy facilitates cleaner governance and therefore it is a pre-requisite, as we march towards a developed nation status.

Against Aadhar:

-          Aadhar being mandatory, different data bases are getting linked by common ID, exposing personal information to hackers and government surveillance. (Mitigation strategy: Better Data protection & Security system & Law)
-          The lack of privacy and pervasive surveillance environment has a negative impact as the society (These people who argue this way have unhesitatingly grown all their private data for USA visa. Why not for our own country? Also consensus on protective measures can evolve. Debates should focuson ‘How to protect data, once we give them? than ‘Do we get into Aadhar systems?’
-          There is no provision to opt out of Aadhar. (The system of exclusions permits leakages in the overall system, hence no exclusions)
-          The lack of proper informed consent for allowing Aadhar data with law enforcement bodies. (Aadhar act can bring safety measures for protection, once it evolves)
-          The capability of government’s bureaucracy to handle the huge Aadhar database is a question mark. (India gives IT experts to outside world and therefore has the  ability to develop this strong IT architecture)
-          Aadhar act was passed through money bill in the Lok Sabha avoiding Rajya Sabha voting thereby no open debate took place before adoption (This is a matter of political majority. The same can also be debated and passed in Rajya Sabha once the ruling party has the required majority in Rajya Sabha as well later. That will delay the benefits of Aadhar outlined earlier)
-          India’s Aadharcannot be compared to the American social security number.  US security number does not call for bio-metrics, is not an identification number, it does not link data bases, it has adequate privacy safeguards, and its use is getting restricted as against the expanding use of Aadhar (Social security number enables credit rating and the private sector uses this security number extensively in USA. We cannot replicate the American system in India.   American citizens are taxed on global income unlike their Indian counterparts.  There are enough tracking mechanisms in USA – Communication tracking, Drill down of data of US citizens from commercial data bases, limited cash economy enabling adequate financial transaction tracking, finger prints of people with FBI, Department of Homeland Security and Department of State consular services (VISAS) monitormore than 75% of the USA population, - all these give enough tracking options for USA government. India, with an intent to march towards a developed nation status needs to have these tracking done, hence expanding use of Aadhar is justified)

Where do we go from here?

There was a time when regular and honest tax paying Indian citizen had to accept the uneven wealth growth in the hands of unscrupulous tax evaders and bribe seekers, and we reconciled to the fact that sinless wealth is an optical illusion. Bottom line growth only was considered as business ethics. We started accepting being cutthroat as smartness. In this environment, comes a ray of hope,and a march towards clean governance.Today I register my take on Aadhar card in this public domain;
-          As a honest tax paying and patriotic citizen of India,
-          As an ardent fan of dharmic governance where the two horses viz, the capitalism driven wealth generation and the socialism driven wealth distribution are monitored by the reins of dharmic accountability and control,
-          As a follower of compassionate capitalism, the sustainable wealth generation happens with fairness to all stakeholders,
 would like to unhesitatingly declare that I would rathersacrifice my privacy instead of sacrificing the goal of fast tracking India to a developed nation status.
Judiciaries may debate, activists may raise human rights issues, but I call for waiving the right of privacy for agreater national cause and a greater vision.
If flying in aeroplane is risky, we cannot banaeroplanes. This century comes with certain risks. We need to build ample safeguards for data protection and privacy and not call for abandonment or dilution of Aadhar.
The ultimate resolution of this present controversy has to recognize.
-          the need for Aadhar to provide efficient and honest governance to its citizens and
-          the stringent safeguards to protect the data and preserve the privacy.

In short, “privacy”has to open the door when “public interest” knocks the door.
Are you hearing……?