Tuesday, March 20, 2018

Is Shekhar Gupta above personal animosity and biases? Is ThePrint credible?

I got a serious bad taste when I read "An Apology of a Party: AAP, which set out to save India, is struggling to save itself now" and it is not because I sympathise with AAP, but because it is a write up with a sense of vendetta without real analysis by the editor, who is none other than the omni present old wisdom, Mr. Shekhar Gupta.

This is what I wrote in the comments section. I am not sure if they will publish the same. So I am sharing it on my platform.

This article disappointed me. Coming from the editor and he being Shekhar Gupta disappointed me further. First is the use of the feature image. It is typical to the core of shamelessness to bask in the fame of sensationalism. Why should an upright journalist use an abused photographic identity to uphold a manufactured perception of a Chief Minister? A positive or a neutral feature image was expected out of Shekhar Gupta.
A good wise Shekhar Gupta would have used this kind of imagery.

Secondly, the editor knows, and the sentiment is echoed by the Wire team as well, that Indian judicial system is a big deterrent for honest men willing to target big powers. The big powers use the judiciary to scare the activists and the supposed trouble makers. So he could have, in his analysis, mentioned about that aspect. That this could probably free Arvind Kejriwal to concentrate on AAP.

Thirdly, the editor has dismissed all the positive achievements of AAP in Delhi specially its focus on education and health. In his dismissal of the party, he could have spared a line about their achievements. It seemed to me that the editor is on his ego trip over some squabbles he may have had with Arvind Kejriwal and now he is taking a personal revenge for a good night sleep.

Fourthly, Shekhar Gupta with his experiences in the corridors of power and politics would know that India has dynastic politics and Godman politics. He knew Jayalalitha, MGR, Mamta Banerjee etc to name a few, and it is mostly about one leader or one family that carries any party. It was Prafulla Mahanta for AGP in 1985, and he too had a fair share of allegation of autocratic behaviour. So pinpointing Arvind Kejriwal and comparing him to Modi is an injustice to both Kejriwal and Modi. An autocrat in a party is not necessarily bad for the nation or the state.

Also, the current politics in India is between BJP and the Others. The Others as we speak is getting formed. Parties like AAP or AGP will lose significance temporarily in that power tussle. Today, India is practically bipolar and even a diehard AGP or an AAPtard will vote for Congress or the ante-BJP party in his or her constituency.

Fifthly, any political party with whatever ideology is formed by the society. If the society has 50% dishonest citizens, then any party formed in that society will have a percentage of dishonest citizens. For an anti-corruption party like AAP, the percentage will be lesser, say, 30% dishonest citizens. That is reality and it somehow misses the intellectual faculty of Mr. Shekhar Gupta when he blames a whole anti corruption movement by the youth of the country of utter failure.

Like a clever politician himself (read editor), he writes in his penultimate line, "You can never say never in politics. We may still see the return of AAP.." That is so childish after crafting a sub headline that goes "The foundation on which AAP was built has all but crumbled. And its promise of changing the system and saving India is now a fading memory"

Sad.

Saturday, December 17, 2016

Demonetisation - Thought Myopia, Pompous Ignorance and Scary Governance

Who Would Disagree

Demonetisation was indeed a bold move. It definitely shocked the corrupt. Hoarded money became useless in a day for the bureaucrats, Govt. servants, businessmen and the terrorists.

I am not sure about the constitutional validity of the secrecy and the sudden-ness of the decision, however, I don't think anybody would disagree with the fact that it was required to be a surprise.

Yet, I would stick out my neck and say that #Demonetisation is an example of thought myopia, pompous ignorance and a gigantic failure of the Govt. machinery. Such inefficiencies in the Govt machinery of 70 years is scary and unpardonable.

What are the problems with Demonetisation?

Cash Economy

India is primarily a cash economy where black money is not perceived to be a moral issue.

Giving a bribe is considered as an essential expense for personal and business favours. The marriage potential of a boy increases when he gets a Govt job with an opportunity to make 'outside money'.

Trading business thrives on black money because of inefficient / corrupt indirect tax departments and complex rules leading to ignorance and procrastination. It is impossible to purchase 100% of the products with gate permits and tax invoices for trading business. This creates hard-earned unaccounted cash with businessmen for future business and purchase. This un-accounted cash is very different from the black money generated from bribery and political corruption.

The unaccounted money in the businesses stays in the growth of the businesses and therefore powers the GDP of the economy, whereas the black money generated from bribery is hoarded in the shape of properties, gold, offshore deposits etc., and some part of it powers the consumption in the economy. Consumption is important but not as important as the building of the GDP of the nation.

Demonetisation has simply ignored the overwhelming cash economy and the various kinds of black money available in the country that is serving different purposes in the running of the economy of the country. It didn't understand the social and psychological meaning of corruption that has evolved in the Indian societies since Independence, before deciding on demonetisation.


Lack of Research

I wonder if the Government tried to understand the meaning of demonetising 85% of the currency in circulation.

When we understand the reality of the existence of the cash economy, it becomes clear that documented data with RBI and other Govt. departments would be insufficient for any conclusive understanding about the negative effect of demonetisation. So, it was absolutely necessary for the Government to have undertaken primary research at the 'mandis' and other business centres to assess the importance of cash, perhaps black transactions in the life of an ordinary citizen, and the quantum of societal impact of a sudden disappearance of cash. If that reality was taken into account, the Govt agencies would have found better ways to do demonetisation and remonetisation.


Lack of a Roadmap

BJP and its supporters are saying that demonetisation is part of a bigger roadmap and in the long run when everything else falls in place, the country will benefit. That may be true, but clearly demonetisation exercise per se didn't have a roadmap for itself.

Any project, however small requires a roadmap to successfully implement itself. It has a starting point and an end point. Demonetisation didn't have a starting point. It was announced without any preparation in the name of maintaining secrecy. For instance, the Govt could have printed new notes for Rs. 50, Rs. 100 and Rs. 500 from the start of the year citing any nationalistic reason without revealing the secrecy behind demonetisation. The Govt could have waived off the installation charges for POS machines, reduced the inter-change income for VISA / MasterCard, installed payment gateways and POS machines for all Government departments. All these steps could have never revealed the actual intention of demonetisation by the end of the year.

The way it was implemented reeks of a knee jerk decision following an emotional high of discovering a great strategy, thereby forgetting all restraints that a Govt process should have followed. It is clear that it was not decision by a regulatory system, but a decision from a group of people who are neither part of the bureaucracy, nor have the experience of the processes it follows.


No Consumer Understanding

Every society evolves in a certain way. India has evolved in a particular way too. Demonetisation simply ignored consumer behaviour and the need to understand the citizens of India. It didn't expect the creativity that can stem out of immoral minds of the corrupt value-less society of India. The power of money and the large population of Indians that had the weakness for it have wrecked havoc against the intentions of demonetisation to make black money invalid in one stroke.

Large sums of black money were shown as working capital, large sums of black money were deposited using idle accounts of dead citizens, Jan Dhan accounts etc, large sums of black money were paid for services in advance and large sums of money were shown as income of the current financial year paying the normal tax slabs. Some have used Demand Drafts to exchange old currencies. There would be thousand other ways utilised to convert black money into white money. It is no surprise that over 13 lakhs of 15.4 lakhs have already come into the banking fold as I write this on 17th December 2016.

Even the logic of introducing Rs. 2000 to quickly fill in the currency vacuum backfired, when immoral Indians found ways to siphon out new notes from the very banking system.  


Lack of technical knowledge

The fact that the size and design of the new currency note didn't consider the capabilities of the largest dispenser of cash - the omnipresent ATMs, is unpardonable. The blunder that lead to wide scale public inconveniences and to unnecessary costs to the banks' P&L in recalibrating the ATMs could have been easily avoided.

Thought Myopia, Pompous Ignorance

The execution of demonetisation was even more myopic that its announcement. It gave out the pompous ignorance of the Government and its agencies. It has made it clear that this Government has made the governance system of over 70 years weaker and useless. The manner in which rules were being changed that were at best reactionary, reduced the credibility of even the autonomous RBI and its Governor.

The honest and the poor Indians have now lost faith in the RBI, in the banking system and in the very currency. Still the pompous ignorants is living in a dream of hope that Mr. Modi  can do no wrong.

Scary Governance

Indian Governance, its bureaucracy has evolved, and is evolving from 1947 when we became Independent. It was structured around rules and protocols so that democracy is preserved, equality, secularism and justice is preserved. The processes of parliament and many other committees of checks and balances were thought to ensure that correct decisions are taken by the Government and the bureaucracy.

Demonetisation has brought to light a very scary scenario. A scenario where a single man, or at best, a group of men can overthrow the bureaucratic checks and balances to introduce to the public what they think is right for the public.


A scenario where sycophancy and fear of political power has reached dizzying proportion to make the whole bureaucracy look like fools. It was never so even in the heights of corruption during the Congress regime.

Conclusion

There would be a few good outcomes of demonetisation. Bank deposits would increase, and RBI may get at least a lakh crore of additional tender for the Government to spend on welfare schemes (hopefully). However, it is clear that not a single rich guy with the probability of having black money died of heartache. It is clear that counterfeits machines have started in double the speed. It is clear that the source of black money is not impacted, or perhaps not as impacted as it was intended.

It is clear that the poor had to ultimately bear the brunt of the ego of the powerful.

The scariest discovery of demonetisation is this new possibility of working around the established systems to introduce schemes that have such wide scale impact on public good and welfare.  Hope our intellectuals and our seniors would understand this dangerous phenomena and take appropriate steps to invalidate such drastic sudden steps powered by whims and fancies.

Tuesday, July 12, 2016

Burhan Wani

Isn't it amazing that a mere 22 year old boy, Burhan Muzaffar Wani is touted by the media, as the most dreaded terrorist for the large Indian state..

Isn't it alarming how his killing has affected the masses to come out onto the streets of Kashmir to throw stones at the Indian State? 30 innocent Indian citizens are dead. Over 150 have suffered bullet injuries. Over 50 will lose their eye sight forever. 7/8 police personnel too have lost their lives.

I have read in the media that he was the poster boy of new-age militancy, that he was intelligent and belonged to a well-off family of teachers, that he was proficient in using social media and managed to attract local youth into the separatist program in Kashmir. http://a.msn.com/01/en-in/BBu6YmO?ocid=st

What is responsible for making this young guy a terrorist? The story goes like this: One evening, Burhan had gone for a motorcycle ride with his brother Khalid and a friend when they were beaten up by personnel from the Special Operations Group (SOG) of J&K police. That was supposedly the tipping point. Burhan was 15 and a student of class X, when he left home to become a militant (in the eyes of the state), a separatist (in the eyes of a common Kashmiri).

In April 2015, his brother Khalid who was doing his PG in Economics was killed by the Army in an alleged fake encounter that left no bullet marks on his body, but smashed teeth and a broken skull. His only crime was that of being born as the brother of a Separatist militant.

Would these killings stop the separatist tendencies in Kashmir, in Assam, in Nagaland, in Manipur? Can we please sit and understand why do we have such separatist tendencies?

Most importantly, can we not consider him a Muslim Jehadi? Is it not that, his being a Muslim is just incidental. Before him, many educated Hindu separatists and innocents have died in Assam, many educated Christian Separatists and innocents have died in Nagaland, many Buddhist and tribal Separatists and innocents have died in Manipur.

One police officer in South Kashmir said, "What Burhan started won’t end with his death, it may get a fresh life with his death’’.

The Indian State will have a tough time if we don't understand the basic spirit of liberty and identity that guides humanity.

AUCTION OF OIL FIELDS - CORRUPTION, ILLEGALITY AND ASSAM

Assam is witnessing mass protests and effigy burning of the month old Chief Minister Mr. Sonowal over his toothless stand on the privatisation of the 12 oil fields in Assam. Ironically, he once fought with the people of Assam for 'Tez Dim Tel Nidiu' (will give blood, not oil).

oil fields auction assam sarbananda sonowal bjp
The supporters of Privatisation say that the protestors are ignorant and have no concrete reasons to protest. They are just wasting time and hampering development and creation of jobs.

I am however grateful that Assam has taken a stand on behalf of the whole country and has stood strong as an example to protect the country and its natural wealth from corruption and selfish capitalism.

Right from Govt. forcing ONGC to take the 450 billion dollar loan from World Bank in 1991 with the condition that oil fields have to be opened up to global private capital (when they could have easily raised capital instead); the controversial Panna-Mukta oilfields in Bombay High given to the Reliance-Enron consortium for a paltry 12 crores; false declaration of its actual potential, after ONGC had spent 7000 crores in getting that geological data etc (even Petroleum Minister Satish Sharma allegedly took 4 crores, ONGC top boss was involved); ONGC CMD S L Khosla joining Reliance after allegedly disclosing all 'work programme' through the then Director Mr. Ravi Bastia (who too joined Reliance) about ONGC's data about Krishna-Godavari basin. (Read the book - Gas Wars); allegations that one OIL CMD was directly involved in the giving out of Kharshang oil field to private ENI Group / Jubilant Group; to the disqualification of the auctioning of 214 coal blocks from 1993 to 2009 by the top judiciary in 2014 saying that "the entire exercise of allocation through screening committee route thus appears to suffer from the vice of arbitrariness and not following any objective criteria in determining as to who is to be selected or who is not to be selected."; it makes it evidently clear that the natural resources of India is in DANGER from selfish capitalist and corrupt officials/public servants/politicians (perhaps to fund elections). 

The supposedly learned are saying that OIL and ONGC have said that they can't operate these oil fields because of lack of technical expertise and that the fields are too small for big players. The Petroleum Minister said, “Many of the big oil sector companies do not have the technology or managerial skills to exploit small oilfields and so we are allowing firms that have the technology and skill to bid for them”. 

There is no truth in such statements. Can he produce the document certifying the first right of refusal by OIL and ONGC? One must read the editorial by an OIL employee today in Pratidin dated 11th July 2016. He says, 'there is an attempt to belittle the navratna OIL and maharatna ONGC with these false allegations'. He says, 'there is not a single instance that he knows when work has stopped due to lack of funds or technical expertise or infrastructure'. He further adds, 'when OIL has invested in exploration, excavation and even transportation of OIL/Gas from Sorojoni, baruahnagar, Dipling, Merem, Duwarmora and Jeraipathar, there is no question that OIL will now not be willing to do the only remaining work of taking out OIL/Gas' (and leave that to the private companies).

Guwahati-based political commentator and economic analyst Adip Kumar Phukan says, “That argument is wrong. OIL couldn’t work in the Jeraipathar field because of local resistance. The government failed to assure people about the safety of the Rohmoria embankment near the field. However, OIL is still extracting oil from Sorojoni”. 

Also, who says that companies eager to bid are small companies? The second biggest group of Korea, ENI Group etc are not small companies in any parameter. 

IS IT EVEN LEGAL?

With the various acts like the Coal Mines Nationalisation Act of 1973, Oil Field (Regulation and Development) Act of 1948, Petroleum and Natural Gas Rules of 1959, Petroleum and Minerals Pipeline Act of 1962, the citizens of India had given the authority to the central Government to become 'trustee' of the resources so that the resources are not used for commercial purposes, so that the resources are only used for the common welfare of the society without commercial baggages. The Govt. cannot become the AUCTIONEER of the property. They do not have the right to sell or lease the property of the people to a private entity. 

In his petition to the Court regarding the Coal allocation, advocate Sanjay Parikh had referred to the 39th article of the constitution which says the Govt of the people is only responsible for the natural resources and therefore cannot be the auctioneer of the same.

The Supreme Court in its judgement relating to Coal Allocation has pointed out that 'The Coal Mine Nationalisation Act and further amendments in 1976 do not allow PSUs to mine coal for commercial use. The auctioning processes has therefore blatantly defeated the legislative policy in the Act'., and hence giving it to private companies may be termed as illegal.

This worry and the other concerns are evident in the emotions of the wide scale protests in the streets of Assam. Unless there is transparency, white papers being circulated in the public, we the citizens have to protest against such Govt. actions that may be detrimental to the welfare of the common people at large.

Protests are specially required when our minister Mr. Pradhan blatantly brags about Rs. 4000 crores coming to Assam's economy and not explaining how. It is specially required when there is public knowledge of corruption getting into the system of privatisation. It is specially required when there is no concrete reason the state cannot do the same work that a private company can.

When we have made acts that natural resources should not exploited for commercial reasons, the State can therefore exploit the natural resources by undertaking losses if needed be, for the common good of the people in providing electricity and employment. The funny question is why would there be losses, when private companies are so eager about these fields.

Lastly, Assam wont be left behind if these Oil fields are not privatized and in fact India will learn a lesson or two from Assam being a forefront leader in terms of opposing corruption and anti-national exploitation of natural resources. There are hundred other industries where private capital can bring in a change in Assam, namely Food Processing, Fisheries and Muga/Edi Silk.. 

Why are Governments so anti-national?