Sunday, November 8, 2009

Indira was never India, India will never be Indira !

It is 25 years since Ms.Indira Gandhi was assassinated by a Sikh guard. There were several programmes on TV last week to mark this occasion. If I were still a young man in his twenties, I would have believed all the lies the TV channels uttered. But I was already an engineering student when Indira Gandhi became Prime Minister in 1966. And I was in my late twenties when she imposed emergency on the country in 1975. I was in my mid-thirties when she was killed brutally. I watched with sadness the downward slide the country took under Indira Gandhi's leadership. Therefore, I can not agree with the TV channels on their description of Mrs.Indira Gandhi as the best Prime Minister the country has ever had.

Indira Gandhi was one of the most popular Prime Ministers. May be, even the most popular. But that can not blind us from making a fair judgement of her contribution . If this great divide of time namely 25 years does not enable us to look at her period of rule with clear hindsight , what else will? In my opinion, Indira Gandhi set the country back by two decades in terms of economic progress. She was not a natural believer in Socialism or Leftist policies. She used these as a tool to beat her inner-party opponents with. But that brought disaster to the country's economy. She wanted to discredit the old 'Syndicate' politicians of the sixties; so she nationalised the banks. She wanted to win the elections in 1971; so she coined the slogan 'Garibi Hatao'( Drive out the poverty). What is her contribution to removal of poverty other than mouthing such slogans? Did she lay any great policy foundations for the economy to take off? Like all the Socialist Politicians, she called for fair distribution of wealth. But when and where was the wealth created? There was only poverty to be equitably distributed. She supported the loss-making Public Sector companies and made it difficult for Private Sector to do honourable business without greasing the palms of the ruling party politicians. Corruption grew to monumental proportions during those times and that is eating into the vitals of the country till date.

Her dislike for equals or near-equals was legendary. She nipped in the bud career of any Congress politician who showed promise. She was highly insecure and so could tolerate only intellectual pygmies around her. She permitted or rather promoted the growth of a personality cult around her name. The slogan 'India is Indira, Indira is India' coined by one of her stooges Dev Kant Baruah had her tacit approval. She was a dictator by temperament.

Indira was no friend of the working class though she talked of socialism in bated breath. The brutal way she crushed the All India Railway Employee's strike in 1974 was a national shame.

Indira Gandhi wanted her arrogant son Sanjay Gandhi to succeed her as Prime Minister. She was never a true democrat. She was the one who firmly laid the roots for dynastic politics. She let him play the role of an unconstitutional authority . The lad assembled a lot of lumpen elements around him and ran a parallel Government. Imposing Emergency was probably more his idea than hers. But it suited her, so she played along and imprisoned several political leaders including the then-80 year old Morarji Desai. Her admirers even now proudly recollect that trains ran on time during emergency. They do not have any other grounds to defend the draconian emergency.

People in the know say that Indira Gandhi was solely responsible for the rise of Binderenwala which later led to the blood bath in the Golden Temple of Amritsar.

Popularity among the public is no yardstick to measure one's contribution. The Indian villagers have always blamed poverty on their fate and spared the rulers of any role in it. Politicians like Indira Gandhi reaped the benefits of such an innocent world-view of things. Indian people vote with their heart. I wish they voted with their mind or at least their stomach.

Indira Gandhi might have had several good traits as an individual. As a daughter, as a wife and as a mother. Even as a person interested in fine arts, literature and music. I do not know. But Indira Gandhi as Prime Minister was not a good thing that happened to India. People cite victory in Indo-Pak war of 1971 to praise her leadership qualities. Even granting it, a single achievement over a period of 18 years can not cloud all the overwhelming negatives.

Indira Gandhi's period throws up a lot of lessons to the people. Never hero-worship any leader. Never believe empty slogans. Never loosen the guard over democracy. Never vote for a politician because of his or her family background. Never trust a leader who thinks that Prime-ministership is God's gift to his or her family for all times to come.

Saturday, November 7, 2009

A Layman's peek into foreign exchange matters

When I boarded a KLM plane to Amsterdam in 1975, I had less than 20 British Pounds with me as foreign exchange. One Pound used to be equal to Rs.14 at that time. Why only 20 Pounds? Why not more? That was the limit imposed by the Indian Government for travellers from India. Those were the days when the country had very little foreign exchange and every dollar or pound the Govt. had in foreign exchange reserve was precious , mainly used for unavoidable imports. How would I have survived with that little foreign exchange in Europe and for how many days ! But then I was to get an advance payment as soon as I reached Munich , from the company I was going to work for. So, I had to manage on my own and with 20 Pounds only for two days. But, when I reached Amsterdam on a misty Sunday morning and was looking forward to board a connecting flight to Munich, I was told that due to weather conditions, the flight to Munich was cancelled. I should either wait overnight in Amsterdam and take the next morning flight to Munich or go to the Amsterdam Railway station and take a train to Munich. What a shock ! But then I managed ; got a transit visa to get out of the Airport, travelled to the Railway Station by the KLM bus, bought a second class ticket for 150 Dutch Guilder to Munich and slept my way to Munich. This could not have been possible with the 20 Pounds ; but then the intelligent travel agent back in India knew how to circumvent the rules and made sure that when I made that bus trip to Amsterdam Railway Station, my pocket had more foreign currency notes than when I landed at Amsterdam Airport. No need to go into the details ! All is well that ends well.

Nowadays, the Indian Govt. kitty is bulging with foreign exchange. A year ago, the Govt. brought some restrictions on the incoming foreign money so that Indian Rupee did not appreciate too much, inconveniencing Exporters. What a drastic change ! Any tourist can take up to 10000 USD out of the country for his travel expenses. For business purposes, it is 25000 USD.

Of course, restrictions, as the above amounts suggest, still exist. There is only current account convertibility, not capital account convertibility. One can travel abroad more comfortably, get educated in foreign universities, get treatment in hospitals abroad etc. But one can not invest abroad. Moreover, while in India, one can not keep financial assets in foreign currency ( may be, one could keep a very restricted amount). Unless full convertibility happens, this situation will not change. All developed countries have full currency convertibility. That is why Dollar or Euro is accepted everywhere in the world. Rupee is not accepted anywhere in the world except in Nepal and Bhutan. But experts say that India can not afford full convertibility at this stage since such a step is fraught with major risks. The East Asian crisis is still fresh in mind.

In 1975, one U.S.Dollar fetched Rs.8. Today, it is Rs.46.- Why did this happen? One major reason is that the annual inflation in India has, on a long-time average, been around 8% while in the U.S. it has been 2 to 2.5 %. So, over the years the divergence between a dollar's purchasing power in the U.S. and the Rupee's purchasing power in India has grown enormously. While the foreign exchange Pundits would not like to simply the matter so much and would suggest many other reasons for this change in exchange rate, this is the most believable explanation in my eyes.

Since this subject of foreign exchange has always fascinated me, I could share some more observations here.

1.Of all the currencies that have appreciated, nothing has appreciated more than Swiss Frank. In 1975/76, one dollar could buy two Swiss Franks. Today, one dollar just about manages to get exchanged for one Swiss Frank.

2.Deutsche Mark does not exist any more. But projecting its possible exchange rate on the basis of Euro's performance , a DM if it lived today would have been equivalent to 75 U.S.Cents. In 1976, one DM was 50 U.S.Cents.

3.The Canadian Dollar has appreciated considerably. A Canadian Dollar today fetches 92 U.S.Cents, whereas 30 years ago, it trailed far behind.

The 'benevolent' Nigerians !

I keep getting e-mail messages from some strange people who happen to be Nigerians. The contents of the messages do not differ much from each other. They all say that there is a large fortune ( running into several hundred thousands of dollars) left behind by some one who has passed away or has been killed and there are no known inheritors. The senders of the mails who claim to have the said-fortune in their custody want to get it out of their country with my help (or your help if you too have received such mails). In return they are willing to pass on a hefty 30 % of the loot . They ask me for my bank account details. They ask me for my telephone number. Having come into this world several decades ago and having heard of the Nigerian racket many times, I junk such mails into the recycle bin immediately. But if you are a curious person who has never heard of this special brand of Nigerian scam, you will let them know your telephone number. Soon you will get a call and the caller would inform you about a small hitch in his pious plans of rewarding you. He has corrupt officials in his country to bribe off so that they do not play spoilers. So the caller would want you to pay some 4000 to 5000 dollars to him which he promises to return to you along with the 30% share of yours. Now there will be a battle between greed and commonsense before you decide to act. You will either laugh it away and forget all about it. Or, your greed will actually make you end up parting with your hard-earned money in expectation of the promised windfall. While it might appear too silly to think that any one could fall in this kind of deceivers' net, facts speak otherwise. There are several Indians who have fallen for this and ended up losing money. I read one such case every two months in newspapers. The people who get deceived are not uneducated men or innocent home-bound housewives. Many of them are in good jobs or run their own businesses. They do not question themselves what is so special about them that makes some foreigner decide to seek their help even if there really is some such fortune waiting to be claimed in a far-away land. The con men send hundreds of mails betting on the statistical average of the gullible and the greedy in the population. The police keep cautioning the public routinely; but the human greed for unearned wealth is so huge that the Nigerian tricksters will continue to thrive. Many of those Nigerians are students in Indian Universities. What puzzles me is why these Nigerians have such luck with Indians alone. Or. are they trying it successfully elsewhere too? Also, why do only Nigerians specialise in this particular brand of cheating? Why have the Kenyans or Tanzanians or Ugandans left this lucrative field free for the Nigerians? After all, there are a lot of students from these countries as well in the Indian Universities.

Sunday, October 11, 2009

Public Sector Banks score over Private Banks

Bank Nationalisation
There used to be a time, long long ago, say 40 years ago when except for one major bank, all the banks in India were in the hands of private groups. The State Bank of India was the only exception. Thereafter, in 1969, all the major banks, 14 to be exact, were nationalised at one stroke. This more or less wiped out the presence of private ownership in the banking sector. Initially, every one, except the poorest of the poor and the Socialist politicians , criticized bank nationalisation. There were doomsday predictions of politicians distributing loans to their vote banks with abandon, bank staff adopting the Govt. departments' notorious less-work-for-more-pay culture, wildcat strikes patronised by the irresponsible Workers' Unions, inefficient and inadequate service to the depositors etc. etc. Of course, the newly-nationalised banks functioned initially in the way that these pessimistic predictions were proving to be right. But to look at the picture 40 years later i.e. today it is a very different impression one gets.

Public Sector Banks
Today in 2009, the Public Sector Banks present a picture of stability. They have expanded their reach vastly and serve every nook and corner of this huge country. In the days prior to Bank Nationalisation, the Banks operated mostly in the urban areas and some well-connected rural areas. A very large part of the country was left out to be at the mercy of the money-lenders and Chit-fund operators. The initial fears of irresponsible use of the depositors' money by the Public Sector Banks to feed the vote-banks soon vanished. The work culture too is acceptably efficient. The staff of the PSU Banks still goes on strike once in a few years, but that is some thing one can live with. Contrary to earlier fears, there have been no frequent strikes.

Trustworthy and Depositor-friendly
Now , talking about the positive aspects, the Public Sector Banks enjoy the trust of the people. This is the biggest plus point any Bank can be proud of. This trust was more than evident when a year ago the banking system in different parts of the world collapsed and people were afraid to put money in the Private Sector Banks. In fact, the depositors started closing their accounts in and withdrawing money from the biggest Private Bank in India. But, not a paisa was withdrawn by any one from the PSU banks, since there was no fear of the Banks collapsing. The PSU Banks are depositor-friendly in many ways that the Private Banks are not. The minimum balance one has to maintain in a Savings account in HDFC Bank is Rs.10000.- If you do not have this balance , they charge you a hefty penalty ( say Rs.500-Rs.750.- per quarter) . The Standard Chartered Bank is far worse; they want you to maintain a Savings Bank account balance of Rs.25000.- The penalty they levy in case of the balance falling below this huge amount is heftier than what the HDFC Bank levies. Now contrast this with the PSU Banks. The minimum balance one has to maintain in a Savings Bank account is just Rs.1000.- All the PSU Banks give you a Pass Book for Savings Account which can be easily preserved. The Private banks send you a quarterly statement which can easily get lost unless you take care to file all the quarterly statements in a box file. I am convinced that the biggest PSU Bank State Bank of India has been more innovative in introducing new financial products than any of the Private Banks. SBI has more ATMS-s. They have more branches. When you go to a SBI branch to open a Fixed Deposit account, all that you have to do is to fill up a small pay-in slip ( if you have a savings account in the same branch) and within 20 minutes, you could walk out with the computerised Fixed Deposit Receipt in your hands. This is my personal experience. I have not seen such efficiency in any Private Bank. You have to fill in a large form and then they tell you that they will send you the FD receipt by post or through courier.

Private Banks serve only the Elites
Though I have been a long-time admirer of the Private Sector in several fields, I think that in the Banking Sector, the Public Sector scores heavily over their Private counterparts. Though in the recent years many private banks such as HDFC Bank, ICICI Bank etc. have come into being (besides the foreign banks such as Standard Chartered ) , they are being seen as shunning the middle class depositor and preferring only the HNI (high net worth individuals). They price their services , probably deliberately, to scare away the run-of-the-mill depositors. They want only the cream of the society to come to their doors. In the long run, the loss will be that of these private banks, not that of the average Joe.

The Banking Sector in India has demonstrated that the PSU Banks are closer to the common man and they understand his banking needs better than the Private Banks. The Private Sector Banks, willingly or unknowingly, are positioning themselves away from the mainstream, edged out to serve mainly the elitist minority.

Saturday, August 29, 2009

Rat o' nine lives !

Intelligent Rodents
There must be a good reason why rats, of all the animals, are subjected to all kinds of tests in laboratories. Be it discovering a new cure for an old disease, or testing the effectiveness of stem cells for hopeless cases, rats are considered ideal simulation for human beings. This must be because of the similarity of the response of their bodies to any chemical input with that of the human bodies. But even in matters requiring intelligence, rats can not be inferior to the humans. At least, that is what is the conclusion I have come to, after battling with the house rats for weeks.
Nightmare with the Rats
Initially, the rats used to enter the flat through a pipeline from outside which led to the wash basin in the courtyard. Since the discharge tube made of plastic was not tightly fitted into the bigger drainage pipe, the rats bit off the plastic tube easily and entered the courtyard. Since the door leading to the living room was always kept open, entering the living room in the twilit time of the evening was no big deal for the rats. Then the night became theirs and they had a free run in the kitchen after lights were switched off. The first indication of the nocturnal assault was the lid of a used Nestle condensed milk can which was taken out of the pipeline by the plumber who was attending to a routine complaint . Deciding to close the door to our uninvited rat guests, I asked the plumber to replace the frail plastic tube by a thick PVC pipe. Well, the joy of blocking the rats through their usual route was short-lived. After a week, I found the plastic cover for the drainage under the kitchen sink fully damaged and the discharge tube was hanging loose. And the droppings everywhere gave evidence of the return of the rats. I bought an Ultrasonic Rat Repellent and installed it in the kitchen. The manufacturer of this device claims that the high frequency sound waves emitted by the equipment scares the rats away. I believed it initially. Then one morning I found that the tender coconut I had left on the kitchen platform the previous night had now a giant-sized hole instead of the small 1 cm hole I had earlier made on the Coconut shell to empty the contents. There was absolutely no doubt. It was a Rat which must have feasted on the tender coconut during the night. So, the ultrasound device failed and the rat triumphed.
Now what does one do in such cases? To go in for a rat trap? To poison the poor creatures? Neither of these obvious and popular solutions was acceptable to me. I put up with the nuisance of the rats for some more time. But the nuisance was becoming a menace. Earlier, they used to restrict their free run to the kitchen platform and the open shelves underneath. In course of time, they found out that the dining table in the dining half of the living room offered occasional treats like some left-behind snacks. Also, they learnt to probe near the Puja corner and were rewarded with the remnants of oil in the lamps. One morning, I discovered that the cushion of the sofa set had been bitten and torn.
Now was the time to take the battle to the next level. I had the kitchen sink discharge cover closed with a perforated iron plate with stainless steel cups attached underneath. Rats are not known to have overcome iron or stainless steel barriers. The pleasure of having stopped the rats in their tracks lasted for 2 nights. During the third night, I heard some faint sounds and decided to check . I found the soap box and the coconut oil can in the bath room overturned. I took a torch light and started looking under and behind every possible hiding place. It did not take much time to notice the tail of a rat rushing for cover under a Godrej Almirah. The rat had entered the bed room through an open window the height of which posed no challenge to the rat to climb.
Round One goes to me
I had to think fast. What do I do to checkmate this intelligent creature? I decided to cover all the windows with stainless steel screens. Before doing that, I ensured that no rat is left hiding anywhere in the house. Behind the refrigerator, sofa set, TV trolley, Godrej Safes, Washing machine, Computer table etc. Having ensured that the rats had been mainly overnight guests and not permanent residents in the flat, I had the windows covered with the stainless steel mesh. It is now nearly 10 days and I am beginning to feel that the first phase of the war against the rats has been won. But I do not underestimate their intelligence which has been sharpened by their thousands of years of co-existence with the human beings; that is why I consider the present lull as a truce. I know that the truce and with it, the peace could be pierced any time. But let me enjoy the small mercy meanwhile.

Sunday, August 9, 2009

Prices of goods always go up, right? Wrong !

In India, we take for granted that price change is always in one direction . Up. Ever up. Higher and still higher. That is one thing which defies gravity, we joke. But there are exceptions. Electronics. Consumable durables. Have a glimpse of my observations made out of my personal experience of consumption.
*In January 1998, I had bought a Philips colour TV. It was a multimedia model. That meant that you could use it not only as a TV but also as a computer monitor, with some accessories. The price was Rs.22000.- That was a lot of money 11 years ago. Though I could have used it as a second computer monitor too, I used it mainly as a TV. I can not now explain why I paid for a feature which I did not use. Too late. But even the corresponding non-multimedia model of Philips used to cost close to Rs.16000.- Since the 11-year old unit started showing some fatigue in terms of fading colours ( the red became increasingly yellow), I decided to sell it and buy a new colour TV. Recently, I found a professional buyer and sold it for Rs.1500.- I bought a new colour TV of Samsung make. It cost me Rs. 7100.- A slim design ( a superior model of flat TV). Rs.7100.- today means about Rs.3500.- in 1998. So, in real terms, the colour TV price is 25% of what it was 10-12 years ago.
*In 1987, I had bought an Automatic Washing Machine. It cost me Rs.10000.- It had a dedicated chip for the automatic washing and drying cycle including heating ( heating is not a standard feature of the Automatic Washing Machines of today, except in an IFB model). It was one of the two makes available in India at that time. The unit was assembled in Faridabad, out of Japanese kits. Now the equivalent model ( IFB make ) costs Rs.17000.- Rs.17000.- of today must have been about Rs.3000 to Rs. 3200.- in 1987. So, in real terms, a washing machine costs less than one-third of what one paid for a similar machine 22 years ago.
*DVD , if I remember correctly, came to the Indian market in the second half of the nineties. May be late nineties. Till then it was VCP/VCR that dominated the market. I bought a National ( Japanese) VCR in 1989 for Rs.18000.- A VCP might have cost Rs.10000.- at that time. Iam not sure how long I used it; but after the cable TV came into being in early 90-s, one did not feel the need to use VCR or VCP for seeing any movie as the cable offered so many channels and hence enough choice of movies every day. Recently, I decided to buy a DVD. I bought a basic model of LG. I paid Rs.2200.- for it. Rs.2200.- in 2009 is the equivalent of Rs.500 to Rs.550.- of 1989. My conclusion is this. A superior technology in 2009 costs one-twentieth of what the price-tag of its more primitive predecessor in 1989 was.
*You might have other examples to brief me about. Mobile phone......PC.....Laptop.......and....and... the list could be longer than you think.
Now tell me, do prices always rise? Even if they do nominally, do they always rise in real terms? Not always. Thanks to constantly-evolving technology and free-market system. they could and they do come down in several sectors. Oh yes, also because of the Govt. of India's increasingly liberal import policy which has resulted in significant reduction of customs duties on components over the years. Let us give some credit to globalization which compelled the Indian Govt. to be market-savvy and not a tax-and-spend Socialist of the yesteryears.

Sunday, August 2, 2009

Visiting Kerala while it rains.......

My plan was to visit Aleppey when the world-famous boat race took place. That would have been the 2nd Saturday of August. It is really funny that an unintended error one commits changes the entire plan and one ends up doing some thing other than what one originally wished. But all is well that ends well.

Special Fare Air Tickets

In this case, I ended up skipping Aleppey but visiting Kochi and Aluva. I was to take advantage of the special monsoon air fares of Air India and Jet Airways. When I was booking the ticket online, I typed the departure date as 7th July instead of 7th August. It was a small mistake but it changed my entire tour plan . There was no change of date possible since it was a special-fare ticket. Also, one was not allowed to cancel and the entire money for the ticket would have been lost upon cancellation. Well, that was the string in small print attached to the special monsoon fare. There was no sense in losing so much money just because one wanted to see the boat race at Aleppey. So, I decided to visit Kerala on the wrong date but then there was no need to go to Aleppey any more since there would be no boat race in July. And there was nothing else to see in Aleppey . So I deleted Aleppey happily from the plan but kept Kochi and Aluva as planned. In hindsight, not a bad move.

Kochi Airport

The new airport at Kochi is actually not close to Kochi. It is at Kalamassery and is closer to Aluva. It is the first private sector-built/ private sector -managed Airport in India. Plenty of space ( as on date) and very clean ( very Kerala, I should say). The lady at the pre-paid taxi counter was polite enough to explain to me that though the hotel I was to check in was quite close , I had to pay the minimum taxi fare (Rs.235.-) which would have given me several more Kms of travel if only I had the need.

Stay & Food

I preferred to stay at Aluva rather than at Kochi. It is far cheaper. Since Kochi is not very far, one could travel to Kochi during the day and be back to spend the night at the hotel at Aluva. While the room was comfortable and clean, there was one problem. There was no kitchen in the hotel. The room attendant has to go out and fetch your food at some nearby restaurant. It was a disappointment that in spite of trying different restaurants on different dates, food was uniformly bad. I must hasten to add that I am a vegetarian and so the comment on the quality of food should be taken with a pinch of salt. Who knows, non-vegetarian food might be good at these restaurants. But when I went to Ernakulam ( Kochi-Ernakulam are twin-cities), I compensated for the bad dinners I have been having by eating my lunch at an Udipi restaurant and I thoroughly enjoyed the food.


Aluva is a tourist place. There is plenty to see. Well-maintained temples. Elephant farm. Cherai beach. Kaladi Shankaracharya Ashram. It was a pleasant experience to watch all the paintings and read all the Puranic stories on the walls, as one climbed the steps of the Ashram tower.


Kochi is the older of the twin-cities and Ernakulam is the more modern one. Kochi palace was under repairs when I visited. I had to be satisfied with taking a walk in the spacious palace grounds. Since it was raining, the cup of hot tea available from the small shop in the vicinity was very welcome.

The Jewish town was a bit of a let-down. I was expecting a lot of Jews moving around. Instead, I found a lot of Muslims (some looking like Arabs) roaming around. I am told that there are very few Jewish families left in that town. Most of the Jews have migrated to Israel over the decades. The Synagogue is still there.

Kochi Marine Drive is an excellent place to spend an evening. One could take a boat ride. The place is ideal for taking long walks.

The Dutch museum is one of the places a tourist is told to visit. One could learn the complete history of the Kochi monarchy. I still remember the excellent Dutch museum in Colombo which I visited five years ago. If I had not remembered it, I would have been more appreciative of this one at Kochi.


I bought plenty of Banana chips, some of them sweetened. I found them least oily and most tasty. After I boarded the flight back to Chennai, I thought that I should have bought some Jack Fruit chips too. It is OK; there is always a next time. I hope that next time I am more careful in typing the correct departure date in the online Air-ticket booking procedure. Oh oh, I almost forgot. I must mention the give-away too, not just the take-away. I had carried an old umbrella with me to Kerala. While returning, I brought a new umbrella. The old umbrella was stolen by a small-time thief when I had kept it on a table in a restaurant for less than two minutes and gone to the wash room. In Kerala, every one is smart. How could the thieves be otherwise ?

Monday, May 11, 2009

Will the NDA come to power in New Delhi?

If the NDA has to have a chance of coming to power, the following outcome of the elections is a must.
*Win hugely in Gujarat, Karnataka, Bihar, M.P., Chattisgarh, Assam , Jharkhand, Himachal Pradesh and Uttaranchal. Contain losses in Rajasthan , Orissa and Punjab. Improve in Delhi, Haryana and U.P. Maintain at least the same number of seats in Maharashtra.
*AIADMK-led front should do well but not sweep the elections in Tamilnadu. If a clean sweep is the outcome, then Congress will snatch the AIADMK away, tempting it with the promise of pulling down the DMK Govt. in Tamilnadu. Otherwise, the AIADMK will align with the NDA.
*The BSP should do just moderately well in U.P. If it does very well, then it will put impossible conditions such as Prime Ministership for Mayawathi, which the NDA can not fulfill. If the BSP gets just about 35 seats, then it will be in a sober mood to do business with the NDA.
*The TDP should do well , but not very well in Andhra Pradesh. In the latter case, the aspirations of the third front and Chandrababu Naidu in particular will rise enormously , resulting in Naidu rebuffing NDA offer.
*The Trinamul Congress should do well in West Bengal and the Left should do badly there so that the Left has no option other than supporting the Congress Party's claim to power, thereby driving the Trinamul Congress to the lap of NDA.

Elections in India - the given and the puzzles

Since the Election Commission has banned exit polls till the completion of voting in all the five phases, there is absolutely no idea regarding the performance of the various political alliances in the concluded phases of the election. . However, certain things are taken for granted and it will be a huge surprise if the results are not in line with these assumptions. These are as follows.
*The Congress Party will lose heavily in Andhra Pradesh and Assam. It will gain handsomely in Rajasthan and Orissa.
*The BJP and NDA will do badly in Delhi and Orissa, but win spectacularly in Bihar and Gujarat.
*The Left will lose seats both in Kerala and West Bengal.
*The RJD, LJP and DMK will lose considerable number of seats this time.
The uncertainty is the following.
*Will the two national parties i.e. Congress and BJP succeed this time in improving their score in the regional parties- dominated Uttar Pradesh?
*Which of the two alliances will do better in Maharashtra?
*Will it be a sweep for the AIADMK-led front in Tamilnadu or will it be just a win in the majority of seats?
*Will Naveen Patnaik's gamble in ditching its 11-year old alliance partner BJP and going it alone in Orissa pay off? Or, would it prove to be a blunder ?
The answer to the above will determine which of the two alliances will get to rule India in June.

Thursday, February 19, 2009

Indian Economy - confusing scenario

Every one knows that the U.S.economy is accelerating down the hill. That the European economy and the Japanese economy are already in recession is pretty clear. But, it is somewhat unclear whether the Indian economy will come out unscathed or it will go the western way.

*Unlike Europe and Japan, India does not depend much on exports. The contribution of exports to the GDP is less than 15%. So, howmuchever sectors like IT and Textiles are hit on the export front, they can at best slow down the Indian economy; they can not reverse the growth into a negative figure.

*The mess in the western economies owes itself to the gross mismanagement of awe-inspiring financial institutions. Simply put, the highly-paid bankers did not do the work they were hired for and were busy rewarding themselves with fat bonus cheques which they did not deserve one bit. While they were having a party at the expense of the genuine depositors and honest customers, another group too partied along. That group was the borrowers without the slightest eligibility to borrow in the first place. By the time the parties got over and the not-so-gentlemen woke up with a hang-over, the down slide of the financial institutions popularly called ' sub-prime crisis' had already begun in an irrevocable way. The group of ineligible borrowers easily washed their hands off the mortgaged properties and went back to partying. They had nothing to lose except the mortgaged properties; it was not their loss since this group had never repaid the capital borrowed or the interests accumulated. They dumped the properties on the banks and walked free, perhaps with a song on their lips. But the group of overpaid fatty bankers could not go back to partying since the dumped properties snowballed into a big slump in the real estate market. They were left to hold properties which fetched only a fraction of their original value. One thing led to another and since there is a series of banks and other financial institutions involved in holding bits and pieces of these securities irrespective of who lent money to the worthless borrowers to start with, the entire system started collapsing. The fall of the financial system started affecting the real economy and a full-blown recession resulted. If you want to know what happened to the fat bankers mentioned above, they are still fat because their bonuses are still fat. What a rotten system !

*China depends very heavily on the economy of the U.S. When I visited Walmart during my stay in the U.S. in 2007, I could not find a single product made in the U.S. More shocking was the fact that almost 60% of the products have been sourced from China. So, if the U.S. economy collapses, the Chinese economy goes for a nosedive.

*India is an exception. But we are talking too much about recession , loss of jobs etc.; it has the danger of becoming a self-fulfilling prophesy. No doubt, some jobs have been lost. But not on the scale of what has happened in the West. In fact, even in the last 6 months since recession began in the West, our lives have been better than what it was 10 years ago. Some 10 or 15 years ago, there were far less jobs created; so it might have appeared that there were no job losses then. But in the last few years, lakhs of new jobs have been created. So, even if a few thousands of them are lost, the rest is in tact. There is definitely a slow-down. Obviously, we can not grow at the same heady rate of 9% this year if the entire world outside India is suffering. But even 6% growth is good, looking at the minus growth in the West and Japan.

*The real reason for the down slide in the U.S. is the gross greed and arrogant indifference of the Wall Street whiz-kids who forgot or did not care to follow simple rules of management. But in India, the Public Sector banks being at the commanding heights, the managers were in eternal fear of taking their own decisions which would annoy the Govt. ; so they erred on the safer side and never took any decision which could have been termed as even slightly risky at all. This routine, docile behaviour suited the strange times we are in and saved the country's economy. It is a big irony. But true nevertheless.

Thursday, January 15, 2009

Tamil Politicians are narrow-minded fanatics, not the Tamil People

The Tamil Politicians

Take any Tamil Politician and look at his or her statements. You would think that he or she lives and dies for the Tamil language and the Tamil-speaking people. Only a few are exceptions, but they mostly are unelectable and belong to the national political parties who do not have much grass root support in the state of Tamilnadu. Any one capable of winning an election takes an extreme position on the twin-issues of primacy of Tamil language and priority for the Tamil people. The general impression outside the state of Tamilnadu is that the politicians , in doing so, represent the people's aspirations ; in other words, the Tamil people are narrow-minded and intolerant of other linguistic groups in India. Is this impression correct? No, it is totally incorrect.

The Tamil people are liberal by nature

Look at the following facts and infer your conclusions.

*Tamilnadu has had two Chief Ministers in the past, whose mother tongue was not Tamil. They were Omandhur Ramaswamy Reddy and M.G.Ramachandran. The former had Telugu as mother tongue. The latter, a Malayalee, was the most popular Chief Minister the state has ever had.

*The man who is being considered as a future Chief Minister, Vijayakanth speaks Telugu at home. His popular support is growing and worrying the two major Dravidian Parties.

*Vaiko, the firebrand pro-LTTE politician, is from a Telugu-speaking family settled in South Tamilnadu.

*The No. 1 Tamil movie star of the earlier era was MGR, a non-Tamil. Today's No.1 is Rajnikanth, a Maharashtrian by birth.

*90% of the Tamil film directors of the 1950-s and 1960-s were Telugu-speaking men. eg.: P.Pulliah, D.Yoganand, B.N.Reddy, Sridhar, K.S.Gopalakrishnan, Ch.Narayanamoorthy, L.V.Prasad, Madhavan, Y.V.Rao, K.S.Prakash Rao, T.Prakash Rao, Chanakya etc. Among the rest too , a good number was from other linguistic groups. eg. P.Shankar (Malayalam), Dada Mirasi (Marathi), Sundar Rao Nadkarni(Konkani), A.Bhim Singh (Hindi).

*95% of the Tamil Heroines from the 1950-s to till today are from linguistic groups other than Tamil. eg.: Savitri, Kannamba, Jamuna, Anjali Devi, Devika ( all yesteryear and all Telugu). Saroja Devi, Sowkar Janaki ( yesteryear and Kannada), Padmini, Ambika, Radha ( yesteryear and Malayalam), Nayanthara, Asin, Navya, Mira Jasmine (all Today's and Malayalam), Simran (Today's and Punjabi), Shreya Saran (Today's and Hindi). Even the top TV serial Heroine Devyani is non-Tamil ( Konkani).

I could give examples of the topmost Govt. officials who are non-Tamil but I have restricted the examples to Politics and Movies because no one can make it in these two fields without popular support.

I view this situation as unprecedented anywhere in India. While Hindi movies have people from all the states, their market too exists throughout India. But non-Hindi politicians can not make it in any of the Hindi-speaking states. Non-Marathi actors can not make it in Marathi movies. A person whose mother tongue is not Bengali can never aspire to be the Chief Minister of West Bengal.

I conclude that while the people of Tamilnadu are among the most liberal, cosmopolitan and nationalistic linguistic groups in the entire country , the Tamil politicians are an outdated and narrow-minded lot. This gives a wrong impression about the state in the rest of India.