India, My India.

This article in the Guardian, is a balanced as well as nuanced one, and for me the key paragraphs in it are these two, almost at the bottom.

“However, beyond the Bangalore IT hubs, the manicured lawns of the ministerial bungalows in South Delhi and the Mumbai stock exchange is another India, featuring neither in the ministers’ breathless itinerary nor in their equally breathless praise for India’s accomplishments. A new UN poverty index shows there are more poor people in eight states of India than in the 26 countries of sub-Saharan Africa. Child mortality rates remain among the highest in the world and two-thirds of the country do not have access to a toilet. In many places, there is simply no rule of law.

“There is a lot to counter the gung-ho optimism,” said Arvind Sivaramakrishnan, senior deputy editor of the Hindu newspaper. “The institutions of the state increasingly serve the very powerful and wealthy. In many states it is getting worse and that is frightening.”

Strangely enough, last week, I have been having an email debate on what needs to be done, arising out of a book that I had just finished reading, a review of which can be had here.

The key paragraph in that review which is the core around which our debate was built is this one:

“Easterly, therefore, argues that good institutions are the basis for economic growth by creating the right market-based and market-guided incentives. And these institutions are: rule of law, competitive markets, low taxation, noninflationary monetary policies, and free trade. These institutions then foster other cultural patterns of conduct, hard work, savings and industriousness, honesty and trustworthiness, creativity, and self-responsibility. These are the bases of the wealth of nations.”

My friend (MF) asked this pertinent question – “Could you clarify what’s referred to by the term ‘wealth’ used below? If it means material affluence, then I have considerable reservations. I’ll need time to articulate these.”

My response was – “I would include ‘human’ to ‘material’ in the term wealth.”

MF responded with – ” Human material wealth meaning HR resources for corporate consumption? Or character, wit, and stuff like that which thrives best outside organisations?”

My reply which will continue to generate more thoughts is as follows:

“Expand the horizon. Go macro and with Indian Human Resources treated as such, rather than as liabilities, healthy and wealthy, can take on the world Karl. To do that, we need to enable them. The brief paragraph gives a route map to achieve that.

Just use your imagination. Supposing all Indian farmers, irrespective of how big their land owning is, are allowed proper records of their titles, are free to use that assets as they see fit, including easy access to mortgage for working capital, or to expand, within an environment that offers them legal protection, the might of the law, with easy access to markets to source their inputs and to market their output, with labour available in plenty to hire and fire, what Indian agriculture/rural sector can achieve.

Similarly, the millions of Indian small businessmen, the road side vendors, the small tea shops, bicycle/motorcycle/other automobile repair shops, the retailers, the push cart vendors and so on, can achieve if they are provided with the same.

I can go on and on.

Indian entrepreneurship is what has been keeping us afloat. Not some great governmental interventions. The last has happened only in the last twenty years, prior to that the ordinary Indian is the guy kept us from becoming another Mayanmar. If that Indian can be given the benefit of all that the paragraph suggests, we can be world beaters. We have done that despite the claustrophobic atmosphere of the politico/bureaucratic set up.

All that is lacking is political will, added to the apathy of the Indian middle class which is busy feathering its own nest. If this class decides en bloc to bring about change in the body politic and the bureaucratic environment, it can. I wonder if it will.

Mr. Pranab Mukherjee’s Advise To CEOs.

I hope that Mr. Pranab Mukherjee gets to read this open letter addressed to him via my blog.

This morning’s Indian Express has an article that informs its readers that “Finance Minister Pranab Mukherjee is likely to call a meeting of a dozen top industrialists soon to underline to them that an “ostentatious lifestyle” by CEOs does not reflect well especially when 37.2 per cent of the Indian population is still below the poverty line.”

I read this article only after my post ‘Foreign Aid To India’ went live. Otherwise, what I am about to write would certainly have been included in that. I have therefore taken the unusual step of posting this second post on the same day.

Mr. Mukherjee, you are one of the few Indian politicians that I respect and admire.

The IMF has recently revised its growth projection for India from 8.8% to 9.4%. India’s Index of Industrial Production for the eighth successive month has shown double digit growth. Who is responsible for this sir?

Mr. Mukherjee, as an ordinary Indian, I am not at all bothered with the lavish and ostentatious lifestyles of our CEOs. They fully deserve it. Since they have been unleashed as it were, from the controls of India’s politicians and bureaucrats, they have created wealth for this country, created employment, and most importantly, made India’s presence felt in the world, by acquisitions and mergers and providing value for foreign investors. Share holders and employees of the companies that these CEOs run are extremely happy and wish that the CEOs be rewarded for making it possible for them to prosper too. The ordinary Indian is also happy that these companies contribute to the national exchequer in the form of all kinds of taxes and duties. Many of them also export and enable us to build a healthy foreign exchange reserve and make it possible for India to lend to the World Bank rather than borrow from it. Why would any right thinking Indian deny them a well deserved life style, if that is what they want? They are spending their hard earned money Mr. Mukherjee, not the tax payer’s.

Mr. Mukherjee, you may wish to turn your attention to India’s politicians and bureaucrats who live perhaps more lavish and ostentatious life styles. Have you ever seen a cavalcade of a VIP go past and observe the reaction of the ordinary man on the street? I recommend that you do. Have you heard the cry of ordinary Indians to provide them with security when the answer given is that there are not enough policemen to do that, when we see all sorts of belted security being provided for our politicians? What comparable facilities do the CEOs enjoy at the expense of tax payer’s funds?

Which CEO has accommodation comparable to that of one of India’s ministers in Delhi? Which Indian CEO’s cavalcade causes traffic to be stopped for hours causing problems of movement to ordinary people, sometimes even resulting in tragic consequences like being unable to reach a hospital on time to save a life? Which CEO causes the delaying of trains and planes due to late coming?

“Worthy of the respect of the people are those content with a calm and frugal life.” – Lao Tsu.

Ask yourself sir, if Indian politicians have earned the respect of the people? Please ask your fellow Ministers and the bureaucrats who too have lost the respect of the people to change. May be sometime in the future, both will become worthy of the respect of the people. May be one day, the word Netaji will again become as respectable as it was for your fellow Bengali Netaji Subhash Chandra Bose.

Foreign Aid To India.

Jean in her blog ‘Cheerful Monk’ quoted a very true statement – “Foreign aid: When the poor people of one country give money to the rich people of another country.”

Here is final realisation in Britain that aid to India ends up in the wrong pockets.

David Cameron, I take my topi off to you. There are a lot of people like me in India who will too.

Our erstwhile Prime Minister, Rajiv Gandhi, before he lost his innocence, and full of idealism, wanted to tackle corruption in India and said that only about 15% of any money slated for a social welfare projects actually got spent on it; the rest got siphoned off in various directions. The figure of 15% was later revised downwards by commentators to 5%. Despite much water having flowed down our rivers, the situation has not changed much since then. There are however signs that in some parts of the country, it is changing and one hopes that the rate of change will get speeded up by the various initiatives announced recently.

Many right thinking Indians have been stating that India is not a poor country but is a rich country with many poor people who get exploited by an unwieldy bureaucratic system which is allowed to flourish in collusion with grass root level politicians. There is exercise of power without taking responsibility for the alleviation of poverty to the most deserving.

“Worthy of the respect of the people are those content with a calm and frugal life.” – Lao Tsu.

Our political and bureaucratic establishment flaunts power and wealth in a most vulgar way. Frugality is what is most lacking in the Indian political dynasties and bureaucratic colluders, that divide up power and tax payers money. India’s new class of the super-rich politico-bureaucratic establishment exploits millions of poor Indians. These poor people are deprived of basic amenities, schools and basic medical care, as well as of human dignity. Not because the funds for improving their lot is not available. They are. The allocated funds just disappear in the pipeline before they reach the poor.

It is an insult to India to offer it “Aid”. Some Indians may swallow such an insult for personal benefit, but I for one, am not among those. I hope that all the other countries, which continue to offer “Aid to India”, also follow David Cameron’s example.

Corporate Attitude In India.

I recently read a book called The India Way which made me regret that I am no longer part of the very exciting Indian business scene. Many things that Professional Managers of my generation longed for could not materialize due the stifling anti business Socialism atmosphere that existed then. A lot of water has flown down the Ganges since then and this book makes all Indians proud and particularly so, people like me.

There is a chapter that addresses how Indian businessmen are actually addressing what is important for them and I quote from the linked website – “Looking beyond stockholders’ interests to public mission and national purpose.”

This post is inspired by an article that appeared in a leading Indian Economics and Business news paper, the Economic Times, which talks about what one of our first generation entrepreneurs, Sunil Mittal is doing in the field of rural education. What vision and what commitment!

Similarly, Shiv Nadar another first generation entrepreneur has done something breathtaking. Once again focusing on rural education in India. This article in the Economic Times does not do justice to the man for what his company is doing for its employees. That is part of the book The India Way.

This article led me to reminisce about some other Indian business barons who show the same commitment to “Looking beyond stockholders’ interests to public mission and national purpose.” I have already written about Ratan Tata and the Tata group’s attitude.

I would like to introduce my readers to another low key tycoon who is spearheading multi level social work in many parts of the country, notable one of which is again in the field of education. That is Azim Premji.

There are many other such stories about Indian business persons and their contribution to the gigantic task of taking prosperity to the underprivileged in India and, as and when I come across some notable ones, I shall post about them. It is the least that I can do for people that I admire for doing what they do.

Similarly, fellow blogger Conrad’s, post “I toast the un-holiday for mundane heroes.” had a great impact on me. That post has given me an idea for some other posts on mundane heroes, some of whom have already featured in my posts. I hope that Conrad will inspire me further with similar posts. I urge my readers to read Conrad’s post.

BP Rig Problem In Perceptive With Infographics.

In my doomsday post of yesterday, I had given some idea of what the magnitude of the problem was.

An interested reader ellybabes, has sent me a very interesting link to some information in graphic form, to illustrate the magnitude of the depth involved and the problem now assumes greater significance.

Thank you Ellybabes. I am sure that my readers would appreciate the link.

Indians Buy Bullion.

Today is Akshaya Tritiya. The most auspicious of all days in the Hindu calendar. It is believed that any activity started, or any thing bought today will result is success and prosperity. It is the day that Indian jewelery makers and bullion sellers see maximum sales. Other consumer goods and automobile dealers also see peak purchases on this day.

Today, despite being a Sunday, all jewelery shops will be open and the crowds will be a sight to see for those interested in seeing such things. The crowds will be something like the Black Friday crowds of shoppers but not at big shopping centers. The crowds will be at select shops, like in this photograph.

India incidentally is the country where most of the world’s production of gold ends up. Even the poorest of the poor will have some gold ornaments stashed away for the proverbial rainy day. We are simply obsessed with gold!

I personally wear a fairly heavy 22 carat gold chain with a Rudraksha pendant. The chain is one part of a double given to my mother by her mother as part of her trousseau. The other part is worn by my brother Arvind. I also wear a ring with a black onyx stone which was given to me as a wedding ring by Urmeela’s family. The ring that I had given her has ended up as part of some gold jewelery that we gave to our daughter in law.

This year gold prices have shot through the roof and many people who would have bought gold have decided to buy silver instead pushing silver prices also up.

After this post went live, Grannymar sent me a link to a very interesting article related to possible new ways of buying gold in the future in India. I wish to thank Grannymar for this wonderful link.

Funny people Indians! All that gold all over the place and they allow themselves to be perceived as a poor country. What do you think?