Wednesday, 29 April 2009

My incoherent thinking on recent happenings

  1. Australian Tennis team refuses to play in Devis Cup matches in India.
  2. According to some papers Taleban has entered in Kashmir.
  3. G20 summit many countries including China pledges to pump more money to IMF.
  4. Few senior Indian diplomats visiting SriLanka to discuss the LTTE situation.
  5. SriLanka refuses Visa to the Swedish Foreign Minister.

To me they all appear connected and show our in-ability as a nation to take hard decisions or think big.

Australian team can refuse to play in India citing shifting of IPL to SA. They have a reason that if IPL has been moved out from India it was for some logic. Their cricket team has been refusing to tour Pak for quite sometime. Kudos to South Africa which can hold IPL even though they too are going through their own General Elections. Remember sometime back our Foreign Minister going to Australia. Some of the reports suggested this visit was after Aussies refused to supply India some of the minerals which could be supposedly used for Nukes.

Taleban enters Kashmir and our Army chief says that Pakistan is still providing helping hand to Terrorists. Recollect what was our response to 26/11? A big set of papers and hue cry in front of media that we have stopped all the dialogues with Pak (which we did indeed) till they stop aiding terrorists. So how is that they come again?

All the developed countries are pumping money into IMF & Worldbank type of organizations so that these institutions can put more money for loans to developing world and others. China is not in the list of countries who will receive loan but is in the list of donors who pledged more money to these institutions. So who will receive it, many countries including Pakistan, and who else, India ofcourse the world’s fifth largest economy.

For much of 60s-70s- 80s we were always clubbed with Pakistan with many can hardly distinguish any difference between an Indian and Pakistani (very often the same ‘derogatory’ term will be for both the citizens) in 90s with some real politic and hard nosed economic decisions we started pulling away from the likes of Pakistan and started imagining ourselves in the league of China.

Yet China was always acknowledged as a power and is a permanent member of security council. India briefly flirted with and tried to make a strong case for a permanent membership but it has died down in the changed world after 9/11.

So where are we now. Back to blaming Pakistan and almost like school goers ‘if you do not give me my pencil I will not talk to you’ and when few more enter into Kashmir ‘I will still not talk to you if you take my rubber also’.

Now Srilanka is decisively winning a war which it is fighting for more than 2 decades. To dodge our internal political bickering which has become spicier due to the elections we send some of our top notch diplomats to Srilanka. But what is their brief? Is it to stop the war? Or is it to allow trapped civilians to get to a safer place? Or do they have a solution which could be favourable to the Srilankan Govt?

Does India has any leverage on Srilanka? It was in 80s when we can send our army to support them but since then our neglect has made them drift towards Pakistan and China and today they source most of their arms from these two countries and hardly depend on India for anything. (even the quick-ness with which Srilanka responded in sending their cricket team to Pak after India refused to send Indian team that to after 26/11 shows how govt in Srilanka could be thinking).

When was the last time our PM/President or some very senior govt official visited Srilanka. When was the last time we invited Srilankan President/PM to india and accorded them state guests status? Why would we expect Srilanka to listen to us? Our refusal to identify a very good friend has give a big foothold to China in Indian Ocean. Practically also it is very hard for India to back or even seen to be backing LTTE as most of their funding remain dubious. Also LTTE has never claimed any friendship with us and is directly accused in killing our former PM. A practical decision would have allowed us to back Srilankan war against LTTE and get back some of warmth in the relationship. Also it does not help that on the same 'Ram' who is questioned in India, Srilanka is trying to identify places attached to 'Ram' and develop them as a tourist attraction.

And think of it Srilanka not allowing visa to a very prominent minister. Remember the stream of visitors we had after 26/11 and everyone urged us to remain calm but no one said for how long?

Wednesday, 22 April 2009

Someone is not telling the whole story!!

RG says, Quoted from India-today Article

Launching a scathing attack on the BJP's prime ministerial candidate L.K. Advani, Gandhi said: "Why did Advani not remember to bring back the alleged black money for even once during the five years of the BJP-led NDA rule and why was he raising this during (the) elections."

This statement is contrary to some of the details that everyone else is talking about. Is it that he has not kept pace with changes or he has not seen the latest reports?

It seems Government of Germany had succeeded in obtaining names of persons who had stashed money in the LGT Bank in Lichtenstein sometime last year which actually started this.

Quoting from a Business world article

To appreciate the implications of this[G20 communiqué], it is important to know the background. Swiss banks are obliged by law to extend a very high degree of bank-client confidentiality to all their clients, both Swiss and foreign. Any banker who reveals details of his clients’ affairs to unauthorized third parties is committing a criminal offense in Switzerland.

But this bank-client confidentiality has never been 100% absolute, and Swiss legislation makes absolutely clear what it protects and what it does not protect. It poses, for example, no obstacle whatsoever to a criminal investigation.

One characteristic of Swiss law is that it distinguishes between tax evasion and tax fraud. Submitting an incomplete tax return, for example, would be tax evasion and is handled through administrative measures, including severe fines if necessary.

So, despite some foreign media reports, tax evasion is not legal in Switzerland; it merely is not a criminal offense. Anyone found to be illegally evading his tax obligations in Switzerland faces severe financial penalties.

The international implication is that Switzerland has traditionally offered international assistance in criminal tax cases that have elements of fraud, but not of evasion. By agreeing to adopt the standard on the exchange of information set out in Article 26 of the OECD’s Model Tax Convention, Switzerland will now extend administrative assistance to cover all tax offenses, including tax evasion.

Also this is a recent change and more so due to recession that rest of the world has started putting pressure on Tax havens for information.

Swiss banking giant UBS agreed last month to pay $780 million and turn over once-secret records to settle a case brought by the U.S. Justice Department. (By Alessandro Della Bella -- Associated Press)

As recent as couple of weeks back G20 Summit has taken up to cause to and have mentioned the tax havens in their communiqué. Even MMS was past of that summit and Cong says that G20 was not the right forum to raise this issue.

In an article in The New Indian Express Arun Shourie has thrown up some more details on this. Click on the link to read this further

Friday, 17 April 2009

Why is our PM not contesting elections!!

First the disclaimer: Just by asking this question does not mean that I am on the ‘right-side’ and hence you can go ahead and give me another big one on how violent they are .. how they make hate speeches and how other side is lesser evil and thus needs to be supported. Sorry I fear the folks putting ‘lesser evil argument’ equally. I am just trying to provide you with twisted arguments & collection of articles with my affinity of asking wrong questions.

PM just had a surgery at the start of the year and have not fully recovered any election will be a big toll on his health

Quoting from the same link.

"I just had a bypass heart surgery and recovery will take some time," he told mediapesons in reply to a question if he felt confident to contest the Lok Sabha elections in the context of his being projected as the Prime Ministerial candidate of the Party.

"I don't think I am in a position right now to jump in the election fray," Dr Singh recalled numerous instances when the Rajya Sabha members had continued as Prime Minister.

"Indira Gandhi started her Prime Ministerial career from the Rajya Sabha and so was Mr H D Deve Gowda and Mr I K Gujral. The Constitution is clear on the issue. So long as it remains unaltered, Mr Advani should not make such remarks," the PM said.

But then PM has gone ahead and started the poll campaign in Kerala and Maharashra

PM was also scheduled to do an election rally in Assam which was cancelled finally due to bad weather.

How here is the thing – the same PM who is not fit enough to contest for his own election is fit enough to travel around the country and take part in election rallies.

Surely he could have opted for a seat in Delhi which could have allowed him to be in Delhi and contest an election as well.

Deve Gowda and Mr I K Gujral did not stay long enough on their posts but I think Indira Gandhi contasted and won elections soon after becoming PM. I think even PVNR was not a member of the house when he become PM but he soon fought the elections to become one.

I am pretty sure there was ‘a logic’ when Indira Gandhi opted to resign from Rajya Sabha and decided to fight elections. But we do not have the same logic applied here.

Rajya Sabha by definition is representatives of states who are not directly elected by Indian public and a Govt can survive even if does not have a majority in Rajya Sabha.

But the same Govt can not survive if it does not have a simple majority in Lok Sabha as that was thought as the representative of ‘common public’.

So going by that logic probably it was appropriate for PM to be a member of Lok Sabha.

Our PM had good chance to fight an election this time. This could also have dis-allowed the opposition to beat him with such ‘trivial things’.

But then still he is not contesting: Could it be fear of not winning his own seat? Cong could have found a safe heaven for him. He could have contested from Amethi which is always known as a very safe seat for Cong even when Satish Sharma was contesting.

But then still he is not contesting:
Now here is my speculation “could it be as we all suspect that this time MMS will not be around for all the five years and could ‘relinquish’ his post for a much younger leader”.

As he has openly stated that ‘the’ young leader has all the qualities to be the PM

Also again from my twisted mind a PM MMS as a member of lok sabha ‘relinquishing’ his post would be harder to explain that a PM MMS as a member of Rajya Sabha.

Also his term in Rajya Sabha would come for renewal in next couple of years which could be a good time to hand over the baton.

As that would fit well with other un-stated views that it would take 2-3 years to have an effective organization in key states of UP & Bihar and then the ‘young leader’s’ work would be visible on ground. Listen to the clamor of voices saying how he would be a good PM and is already ready to be the PM and then back tracking them. I would think this is a well thought plan to keep MMS well within the limits.

Third one: With so many fragmentations into this election and with so many PM candidates there could be an assessment that this might turn out to be a repeat of 1996 elections. So its ideal keep MMS in the loop but from Rajya Sabha only while prepare the ground for the ‘chosen one’. Remember the delays we had in Cong naming its PM candidate. Could it be due to the fact that they were still carrying out some of these assessments and reached to a conclusion that this time its too crowded to pitch for ‘younger lot’ so they decided to continue the status quo. Certainly few of this time’s PM candidates would not be pitching again in next elections whenever that happens.

Edited to add: Just listening to a debate on TV where one of the debaters says that PM decided to be combetive and start responding to comments made against him after he was declared as a PM candidate. What beats me is that why it took so long to declare something which should have been there from the first day itself as he is a sitting PM and his party says that he has performed so well, so why was this delay in stating what i thought was the 'obvious'.

Friday, 3 April 2009

NGO Money!!

My experience of working with NGOs was absolutely great but a recent article by IIM Prof R Vaidyanathan in DNA on the funding of NGO is an interesting read. You can find the original link here.

Some of the details from the article

“We also find that in the last three years, the amount received has shown a phenomenal increase and it was 56% more in 2006-2007 than in the previous year.”

Another interesting fact according to the article ‘relatively’ well of states receive more money than relatively poorer states. Is it due to the better awareness in ‘relatively’ well-off states like
“Tamil Nadu (Rs 2,244 crore), followed by Delhi (Rs 2,187 crore), Andhra Pradesh (Rs 1,211 crore) and Maharashtra (Rs 1,195 crore).”

Further quotes on their nature of spending

“The interesting information is regarding the purpose of the donations (see Table-2). Establishment expenses top the list, followed by relief and rehabilitation, rural development, child welfare and construction and maintenance of schools and colleges."

"Establishment expenses consist of buying land, buildings, jeeps, setting up fancy offices, mobiles, laptops, expensive cameras, salaries, consultancy fees, honorarium, and importantly, foreign travel etc, which make up 35-70% of the expenses. This goes against the grain of service motto where the ultimate recipient is supposed to get the maximum.

By definition, NGO activity is voluntary and hence one expects that the overheads of the organisations are lean. In financial parlance, the fixed cost is expected to be relatively small.”

A case of large sum of money ‘opaquely’ going un-accounted in the name of establishment cost?

Thursday, 2 April 2009

Indian Languages ..

Economist has done a report on languages (click on the link to see the original report),

To quote from that report "out of the 6,700 of the world's identified languages, nearly 2,500 are deemed at risk according to UNESCO, the UN's cultural body"

The chart here shows that close to 180 languages in India are either 'unsafe', 'endangered' or 'highly endangered' ..

[This chart shown here is taken from the same Economist article]

Doesn't come as a surprise as most of us hardly converse in the language/dialect our parents/previous generation use to speak. Some of us even ridicule people speaking those languages/dialect. Remember the last time when you rolled your eyes when you heard some one in Banarsi 'ka ho bhaiya paan khaiho ka' or someone from Kanpur yelling at you ‘bahuuuu mauj aarahi hai’

something different!!!

One of the most funny pieces I have read recently … great creativity .. check this link out ..

Residents violently protest against plans to erect Goundamani statue in Beverly Hills.

Quoting the part which i liked most
“Hey, I know that guy! He's the one who always kicks the other guy and calls him names! He's okay – I don't see a problem with a statue of him! It'll be fun!” said Governor Arnold Schwarzzzzzzzzenegger, surprising everyone by actually recognizing Goundamani. “Hahahaha – what's that thing he says? Wait . . I got it . . . Dai Kaattu Panni! Hahahaha!”, he signed off, marking possibly the first time that those words were uttered by someone with a thick east-european accent.