Tuesday, 5 May 2015

Free our kids - Free India

Democracy needs a literate and educated electorate. Our netas are trying their best to keep us away from true democracy by not banning child labor. 

Support Satyarthi in his mission to free our kids and free India. 


Sunday, 23 November 2014

Six months of Modi: achhe sitare more than achhe din


Saturday, 1 November 2014

Swachh Bharat Campaign and the Larger Picture

PM Modi has highlighted within the first few days in office our seemingly minor problems of cleanliness and sanitation which are actually surface reflections of a much bigger and deeper malaise. While my blog may often seem to center around Indian politics and political leaders, SPEAK UP is more about PEOPLE'S role in shaping our democracy. I will continue to be critical about our role as citizens even though popular media is more about accountability of the government and I support free media for ensuring that. You can’t clean a ditch by swearing at it. You have to put your hand in it. Thus, the Nov 1 editorial piece in the TOI, by Chetan Bhagat was a breath of fresh air because it reinforces my belief that -
  • Governments are mere enablers, WE have to do what we have to do. Government should just get out of the way. 
  • The Political class and the Administration should give back the country to the people which they usurped decades ago from the British. (Lets not live under the illusion that we are a free nation and we elect our own representatives who shall act in the true interest of the people. Most recent example is how the elected representatives of Maharashtra are squabbling for "plump posts" in the cabinet. Power corrupts, but that's the topic of another blog post.) Back to my concept - the people of India must reclaim their country back from the rulers. Sorry, not rulers, claim it back from the Public SERVANTS.
  • With Ownership comes Pride.
  • Poverty, illiteracy, lack of administrative support, etc are no hindrance to a Swachh Bharat.
I invest in my home because I OWN it. I'm PROUD of my kids, not the neighbors'. I don't like it if someone dirties my property. But I don't see the country as MY property. I see it as toppled truck of beer cans which is being looted by my fellow villagers. They are all having a party. And why not? Soon the beer will go to dust. I'd be a fool to not join in the free Oktoberfest till it lasts. This is what has become of the country. Thankfully, there are several exceptions, no doubt.

I believe Mr Modi is addressing this larger problem of National Pride. As Indians we are more proud of our past than our present. Once revived, our Pride in this great Nation, will itself do wonders. For a long time, the imagination of a nation has not been fired by a national figure. Modi is doing a very dangerous thing. If awakened, at least the Gen Next of India will help strengthen the Institution of Democracy and will reduce the absolute power of political parties that they currently enjoy. Great for the nation, bad for the corrupt politician. I did a quick google search for National Pride to check if there was an index, and to my surprise I found a couple but with limitations (National Pride in the Americas http://www.vanderbilt.edu/lapop/insights/IO899en.pdf and another 2009 survey of only 33 nations by the Economist). 

Please don't miss the larger picture of the Swachh Bharat Abhiyaan (Clean India Movement). In the process of keeping my street, my city and my country clean, I will regain my sense of ownership and will fight all other "dirt" that defines my country today. What an idea, Modiji!

I like Chetan Bhagat's article because
  • As usual its in simple language
  • He reminds us that fundamentally Indians are clean, so why a million excuses for dirty public places?
  • It addresses the root cause of the problem - We the people
  • It addresses the larger picture of the Indian mindset
I'm not a Chetan Bhagat fan, but looks like our IITs and IIMs still produce thinkers! I always say - "its all in the mind". Actually, - "Its all in the Intellect". Enjoy the article-

Cleanliness Begins at Home
The Times of India, Nov 1, 2014

He has not referred to the Larger Picture but I'm convinced that if we can Clean India we can Win India. 

Sunday, 21 September 2014

for Dharma in Administration

Dharma got wrongly translated to mean "religion". Dharma more closely relates to morality or ethics. Dharma should be taught in our schools to our kids and to our legislators. Let the textbooks and the teachers be religion-agnostic or even atheist but don't stop teaching. The British took it away from us and ruled us effectively. Bring back our biggest cultural loss to the colonial rule - DHARMA. Bring Dharma to everyday life, to governance, law and order, politics, etc.

Sagarika Ghose brings in clarity on the subject of Secularism in Democracy with new terms like "silly secularism" and "Righteous Administration" in her TOI editorial on Sept 17. In his first ever interview after assuming office, PM Modi has finally broken his silence on Indian Muslims. He says - "If anyone thinks Indian Muslims will dance to Al Qaida's tune, they are delusional. Indian Muslims will live for India. They will die for India. They will not want anything bad for India." That's good sound byte for the minorities. But it is still not clear what Modi's going to do to reign in the fringe elements in and around the party who have hijacked Hinduism. As far as the silly secularists in Congress, SP and other such "secular" parties, I think they are already finished or will be soon. Take a look at this interesting piece.

Rename secularism. Call it ‘dharma’ or righteous administration

Down with Pseudo-Secularism and Hindu Fundamentalism.
Speak up for Religious Neutrality and Dharma (Righteousness) in Governance.

Tuesday, 22 July 2014

Biased media - a threat to democracy

Arnab Goswami has countless fans in the country. However some people differ from the generally accepted view that Arnab Goswami speaks for the people and asks questions on behalf of the nation. I believe that he comes with preconceived verdicts and not only pronounces his target guilty on his Newshour show but also dispenses the punishment right there. Mr Goswami seems to subdue the voice of dissent and does not allow any room for defense. That's not a fair trial. Anyway, a TV anchor on prime time national channel is not supposed to hold a trial regardless of of how popular they are. Just allow both sides to have a fair debate. A good anchor is supposed to be a clever facilitator of a civil debate.

I urge friends to sit through a few of this popular Newshour show on Times Now at 9pm IST every weeknight, if you haven't already and judge for yourself. Unlike Mr Goswami, I would be happy to hear from everyone regardless of their views being different from mine or similar.


Sunday, 6 July 2014

I want strong institutions ...

Even in the run up to the General Elections it was evident to most that its going to be - Abki baar Modi Sarkar. In April I wrote on this blog that even 5 years may not be enough for the Modi Sarkar to deliver the growth that we all crave for. I had cautioned that we should not expect Achche din in days, not even months. But I never expected public patience to be limited so much, fueled by irresponsible comments in the media regarding price rise and rise in passenger fare.

We should be impatient. But for the right things - strong institutions, lean and efficient governance and much-needed reforms however bitter the taste in the beginning.

Three sharp thinkers of our times - Swaminathan S A Aiyar, Swapan Das Gupta and Gurcharan Das - speak their minds in today's Sunday Times of India. If you can't catch the full text (links provided), here are some excerpts.
Swapan Das Gupta: A Lean Govt Machine.....
The Modi government has inherited a treasury that has been accustomed to spending more than what the revenues bring in....For far too long India has been living in a financial bubble that needs to be punctured urgently before the whole thing explodes in our faces... The next eight months must be devoted to shedding the accumulated flab of government.This is politically not as daunting as some may imagine. A lean government does not imply a mean government: it implies a more nimble and fit for purpose government. In Gujarat, Modi injected a new attribute to the functioning of the state: efficiency. Now, it is his responsibility to ensure that legitimate cuts in wasteful government expenditure are coupled with a change in the culture of governance.There are three aspects to this project. First, there has to be a discernible improvement in the quality of the interface between the citizen and the state. The state does not regulate every aspect of our public life. Where it does it must fulfill its obligations with courtesy and without the payment of the obligatory under-the-table ‘service charge’. Secondly, the budget must send out the clear signal that the future of development depends on the explosion of entrepreneurship. This does not cost money. It involves lessening red tape, scrapping over-regulation and injecting stability into the financial system. Finally, Jaitley has to begin the process of unplugging the life-support systems of a terminally ill public sector. The logic of what the Reserve Bank governor has recommended for public sector banks must be extended to all public sector undertakings. They must be encouraged to either perform or become history.In the political cycle, there is only a small window for being bold and establishing political distinctiveness. The first budget of a government blessed with a clear mandate is the obvious starting point. By rising to the occasion, the budget can set the tone for the entire first term of Modi.

Swaminathan S A Aiyer: ...Corporatize the Railways

Modi must declare he will convert the railways, currently a departmental enterprise, into a number of listed corporations within two years. Simultaneously , he should abolish the annual ritual of the railway budget. Back in 1991, a report of the Asian Development Bank estimated that the railways had half a million excess workers, but these were never trimmed.Passenger travel is in no sense an essential good requiring subsidies. Yet successive railway ministers have kept raising freight rates to keep passenger rates artificially cheap. An analysis by Avinash Celestine in The Economic Times reveals that the ratio of freight to passenger rates has risen in India from 2.13 in 1950 to 3.68. In China, it is less than one. That’s why China is a low-cost, highly competitive country, while India is the exact opposite.Ending the politicization of the railways will be impossible without corporatization 

I agree with Swami’s idea of Corporatization of the Railways. But before the NDA govt makes any such move I recommend that they first corporatize the public’s thinking. Strong public perception will have to be first created that corporatization does not necessarily mean higher fares and anti-people. Govt should get out of most business. Set clear and socially responsible guidelines, encourage free competition and let the marketplace take over. May be some shares be offered to Railway employees at discount to boost pride and efficiency. Let these small investors become wealthy by growing their Corporation through dedication and efficiency. This will be a good retirement benefit for them. Singapore did that 40 years ago already with their Bus service (SBS)!! Let ALL our public services except armed forces, judiciary and police be run like accountable corporate entities, not necessarily for-profit, not run by Govt but truly OF the people, BY the people and ofcourse for the people. 

But most importantly, as Gurcharan Das pointed out today, Modi must sensitize and educate his voters about what he really meant by Achche din and when will they come and about his so-called bitter pill. It would do him and us some good to slightly sugar coat it, but bitter pill he must administer. There's no going back.

Gurcharan DasAfter months of talk, its go time for new PM

In one respect Modi should not be silent. He should learn from his predecessor’s mistake and insistently make a compelling political case for economic reform. He must keep educating Indians about the link between reforms, jobs, opportunities and prosperity . He needs to explain that only the competitive market (not giveaways) can deliver a middle-class society and that a rules-based capitalism leads to dignity, not crony capitalism. Modi has spoken about “tough“ decisions that are urgently needed to enforce financial discipline, and they risk losing popular good will. With this warning he has set the stage for a hard-nosed budget on Thursday.He is being advised to be prudent, to make incremental changes and not unsettle the system. But he must not forget that an aspiring nation has elected him precisely because he is an outsider and wants him to shake up the system. So, he must not listen too much to others and follow his own dharma.

So Friends, lets ask for Strong Institutions. Growth will automatically follow. With a weak government, achche din kabhi nahin ayenge!

Would be happy to see a different point of view. Please comment or share with your friends if you agree.