India, Rest of the World

Indian political System Simplified - 2014

Here is my take on the current political system of India. Here are the characters of this story.

  • India (is a car) - Was being driven by a useless driver. Faced lot of issues with mileage, maintenance, speed. One look and you will know 
  • Indians (Sponsors and own the car) - are looking for the right person to drive. Have a lot of dreams and aspirations and are looking to find a driver who can keep them alive in the national level championship. They don’t expect to win the championship, but want to survive longer and stay in the race.
  • Narendra Modi (state level race car champion) - social media has reports of him having won many state level championships. Is entering inter state championship and planning to race in the national level championship.
  • Rahul Gandhi (wants to drive) - is the son of the previous driver of the car, has a lot of people around him who have driven the car. Wants to become a race car driver, but doesn’t have a clue how to do it. Has big private sponsors and was selected in the national championship without any selection criteria.
  • Arvind Kerjiwal (the mechanic) - is building a car service center and a new race car driver evaluation mechanism. The sponsors have never heard about the concept of driver who is going to service a car. Sponsors think a driver’s job is to only drive. They have never seen a driver who want to get his hands dirty servicing the car.

The dilemma of the Sponsors.

The sponsors are now evaluating what to do with their car. They are being pulled in different directions by different people.

Some people want to stick to the status quo and hire Rahul Gandhi as the driver. But, many people have pointed out that his predecessors have not maintained the car properly. The car is barely running now and give less than 2km/liter mileage. The car was supposed to give 25kms/liter mileage. The top speed of the car has fallen down to a mere 30km/hr. This is not enough even for the qualifying round of the world championship. Rahul Gandhi says, he will get the women of India to push the car during the world championship race. Even if the car stops, he says - “Indian women are very strong and can help him finish the race”.

Others say that Narendra Modi will add a Nitrous Oxide Engine to the car. Then, he says - “the car will give speeds of more than 200km/hr”. He claims to be the best driver in India and he will personally guarantee a win in the world championship race. He says he knows a great industrialist who will build the Nitrous Oxide Engine, but, will charge a lot of money. Narendra Modi has an impressive track record as a driver. But, there are allegations that he once hit his own crew member at a state level championship. 

Arvind Kejriwal seems to be on a completely different line. People are not sure, whether, he even knows driving. But, Arvind has been hiring a lot of people who know how a car works, and can do an end-to-end servicing free of cost. He plans to fix the engine, change the tyres, get new seats, remodel the whole car and do a complete overhaul of the car. He says that once we fix the engine, and are able to ensure it works flawlessly, then, we have a good chance of competing in the World Championship. The confused sponsors keep asking him whether he knows driving. They are still trying to understand the concept of a driver who is going to service the car. To pacify the sponsors, Arvind Kejriwal is trying to learn driving himself, he  came second in the Delhi 100 meter car race Championship. But, people are saying it was too short a race.

The sponsors will have to choose within the next few months.

What I feel?

We need Arvind to fix our country and remind politicians that they are answerable to the public. I do not want to lose an opportunity where a moment has started in India and we failed to make the best out of it. We need to trust him, only once (I will vote for a second time only if he has proven good governance). We might see development under Modi, we might see empowerment under Rahul. But we will lose out on Accountability if we do not choose Arvind.

The Build-Operate-Transfer model

The Indian government declared the bifurcation of Andhra Pradesh to Seemandhra and Telangana. But, how exactly will it benefit the country?

Considering the history of Andhra Pradesh, the real development in Hyderabad in colonial era started only after Chandra Babu Naidu, the 13th Chief Minister of Andhra Pradesh transformed the state into what it is today; from a rural backwater place into India’s new Information Technology hub.  Besides sharing water resources from Krishna and Godavari, Andhra Pradesh invested a great deal of human capital to develop Hyderabad. Instead of developing the remaining cities such as Vishakhapatnam, Vijayawada, Tirupati and Rayalaseema the investments were secured to develop Hyderabad ever since.

Then, comes KCR, the power hungry politician dictating terms for the self respect of Telangana. Raising concerns of disrespect and exploitation of Telangana dialect and people, KCR demanded a separate state for Telangana and started a fast until death campaign. Fearing not to re-do Potti Sriramulu incident, Sonia Gandhi announced  Congress willingness for a separate state to Telangana in 2009. To secure power in Andhra Pradesh in 2014 elections and not to lose to KCR in the Telangana region, Sonia Gandhi decides to divide and rule the State. If Telangana is formed before 2014, Congress would secure close to twenty MP’s from the newly formed state. However, the Samaikyandhra agitation throughout Seemandhra was unexpected at the magnitude today.

Now, the most important question is; “How does the rest of India react to the bifurcation?”

Firstly, this is a go ahead for the bifurcation of many other state divisions:  Bodoland, Vidharbha, Coorg,  Tulu Nadu, Saurashtra, , Mithilanchal, Bundel Khand, Gorkha land, Purvanchal, Harit Pradesh, Dimasa,  and more. India might have fifty states if all demands are met.

Secondly, the bifurcation would impact the market forces and the overall trade in both the regions.

Thirdly, how are the resources to be shared in the newly formed states? How will the profits be shared in the states? Now that people from both regions have migrated for work, how would you differentiate people against their states?

And most importantly, congress is exploiting regionalism for its own vested benefits, in a way mocking the Indian democracy.

Clearly, Congress has proven us that it can merge and break any two regions of the country according to their whims.

(Source: sarvanikondeti.wordpress.com)

Iran - The Next Potboiler

Iran is becoming the next potboiler and has shown all signs of becoming a blockbuster hit on International news channels.

The main bone of contention here is the alleged Nuclear Proliferation of Iran. Nuclear Programs give jitters to the International Community like no other. Few other issues that get the International Community on its toes are Oil and Terrorism. And, Iran has a role to play in all these issues.

Iran has been accused of supporting terrorism. Any increase in nuclear capability of Iran is considered an International threat. The International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), has said that Iran is not disclosing all its nuclear assets and it cannot verify Iran’s claims, that all nuclear programs are meant for peaceful purposes like generating electricity and medical treatments. Currently, Iran is building centrifuges in Natanz to enrich uranium for use in nuclear plant and a Heavy Water Nuclear Reactor in Arak.

Iran is a key exporter of Oil contributing to nearly 80% of Iran’s exports. Being highly dependent on exports, Iran has been severely affected by UN and US sanctions. 

Let’s discuss what the International Community is doing about the current scenario in Iran.

Israel

Has a history of playing victim in the Middle East and has a lot of insecurity. Israel has accused Iran for supporting terrorism and implemented a wave of covert operations to curb its nuclear and military assets.

Israel has previously attacked Nuclear Plants in Iraq and Syria before they went operational. Israel is once again contemplating an attack on Iran’s Nuclear Reactor at Arak before it goes operational. It claims that once operational, the plant can generate weapons grade plutonium as a by-product.

United States

The US has the most important role to play in the global scenario. It is no less a role in Iran. Iran has primarily seen US as a threat. A threat that can easily annihilate Iran if it so chooses to. This perceived threat has led Iran to pursue the course of Nuclear Armament. In response, the US has imposed economic sanctions to cripple Iran’s plans to build nuclear facilities and stifle growth. Iran has tried to use non-dollar transactions and barter system with trading partners to overcome this situation.

Economic Sanctions by the US and UN have caused a decrease in oil exports, increased inflation and crippled manufacturing in Iran. But, Iran is still not ready to give in to the pressure.

Russia/China.

Russia has been Iran’s main source of nuclear fuel. Russia provided technology and fuel for developing Iran’s nuclear reactor and has supported America’s demand to stop enrichment activities in Iran. This way, Russia can ensure nuclear fuel is used only for production of electricity.

Russia and China have complied with UN sanctions and stopped transferring weapons and nuclear technology to Iran.

India

India has long standing cordial ties with Iran. Iran is the second largest crude oil source for India. Though India has supported Iran, there is not much India can do to fix the situation. India is currently looking for alternative routes to continue trade with Iran and circumvent the sanctions imposed on Iran. Also, India is looking for other sources of Crude Oil.

 

References -

http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2013/08/17/iran-centrifuges_n_3773744.html

http://www.reuters.com/article/2013/06/02/us-iran-nuclear-israel-idUSBRE95103920130602

http://online.wsj.com/article/SB10001424127887323997004578644140963633244.html

http://www.highbeam.com/doc/1P2-1035214.html

http://www.upi.com/Top_News/World-News/2010/09/22/Russia-pulls-plug-on-Iran-arms-deal/UPI-49941285186093/

Image Source - http://latuff2.deviantart.com/

 

Gold - India say “My Precious”

India is one of the largest importer of Gold along with China. India has a fascination with this Precious Metal like no other. Let me analyze what and how this fascination affects India.

Gold as Personal Asset

Gold provides the best value proposition for individual investors. Firstly, it is very easy to understand and transact in Gold. Anyone and everyone can make an investment in Gold without getting into numbers and financial calculations. Next, it is a physical asset that perceived to be completely risk free. You buy some Gold and keep it locked in your house or wear it around with you. Thirdly, it ensures your investment doesn’t lose value due to inflation. Gold has been an asset class that has always moved along with inflation. Lastly, it is "Shiny". Indians love to showoff this shiny metal. It is something that has been ingrained into the culture.

This makes it a very lucrative and simple investment decision for people.

Prices of Gold

Demand for Gold has been steadily increasing and also the prices of gold. Gold prices are determined by international markets. With the recent turmoils in International Economic scenario, most countries are buying Gold to hedge their risks.

Investors across the globe still trust the dollar, but have also understood that they need to diversify to different asset classes. This has put pressure on International Gold prices and consequently the price of Gold in India.

Supply of Gold

The supply of Gold from within India is paltry. It is less than .1% of the total global production of Gold. It is close to nothing, compared to its own demand of nearly 1000 tonnes annually. This invariably forces India to rely on imports to meet demand.

Affect of Gold In Financial Health

Gold is an asset class that does not generate more assets. You buy Gold and keep it locked. It does not help in generating more wealth. This affects the Financial health of the country in a negative way. With so much wealth being locked up, new investments in Industry and other revenue generating assets are low. Thus limiting the growth potential of the country.

Also, being highly dependent on imports. Gold has a negative affect on the Balance of Payments. This strains the economy and decreasing the value of Rupee.

In conclusion, India is giving away its money to foreign countries and investing in an asset class that does not help it grow.

Current Scenario

The RBI is facing a tough challenge of controlling the Balance of Payments. The RBI is restricting the import of Gold into India. Thus controlling the spending being done on stagnant assets.

The banks are providing Gold loans to convert these assets to liquid cash, which may be used to invest in growth in some form or the other.

In the near future, the prices of Gold are bound to rise. The RBI may to some extent tackle the Balance of Payment issue.

References - 

http://rbidocs.rbi.org.in/rdocs/PublicationReport/Pdfs/RWGS02012013.pdf

Women in Politics - India Case Study

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Sonia Gandhi 

Political Background - Wife of Former Prime Minister Rajiv Gandhi.

Current Designation - President of the Leading political party - Congress Party

Sonia Gandhi personifies complete political power. She is the head of the Single Largest Party in India. She has been very strategic and astute in forming new alliances to keep UPA government in power. 

Mamata Banerjee (aka Didi) -  

Political Background - Member of Congress who later moved out and formed the Trinamool Congress Party. No other political backing

Current Designation - Chief Minister of West Bengal

Listed as the top 100 powerful politicians by TIME magazine. She is considered a strong street fighter. She has great political skills. She has implemented many populist measures and programs that some sections consider to hurt the economy. 

Sheila Dikshit (aka Aunty) -

Political Background - Daughter-in-law of Union Cabinet Minister and Governor of West Bengal Late Mr. Uma Shankar Dikshit

Current Designation - Chief Minister of Delhi

She has transformed Delhi for the better by investing in infrastructure and development. By introducing CNG for vehicles, developing the metro line and building roads has helped her to stay in power at the political pot boiler state of Delhi.

Jayalalitha (aka Amma)- 

Political Background - Friends with former Chief Minister of Tamil Nadu Mr M. G. Ramachandran (aka MGR)

Current Designation - Chief Minister of Tamil Nadu

Making a name in the Film Industry helped her ease into Tamil Nadu politics. She has built strong following among many people in Tamil Nadu. Her welfare schemes have raised some eyebrows where she distributed free TVs, Fans, Laptops etc to various people. She has also been attributed for solving the water woes of Tamil Nadu by introducing water harvesting and other projects.

Mayawathi (aka Behenji)-

Political Background - Follower and Political Heir of Founder of Bahujan Samajwadi Party Mr. Kanshi Ram

Current Designation - Former Chief Minister of Uttar Pradesh

The leader of the lower castes has been in the news a lot. Her stint as Chief Minister of Uttar Pradesh had seen unnecessary spending on building monuments of herself, Kanshi Ram and many elephants (her party symbol). 

Sushma Swaraj-

Political Background - Daughter of prominent RSS member. Mostly self made politician

Current Designation - Leader of opposition in Lok Sabha

Her role in Lok Sabha can be defined as heading the weak opposition to weak ruling party”. She has been also considered as the new leader of the Bharatiya Janata Party.

Conclusion

Women in Indian Politics, are perceived to owe their political stature to family ties to former (or present) male counterparts. But this is not specific to any particular gender. Their are enough cases of family ties helping male politicians grow. As seen above, other than Sonia Gandhi all other women politicians had to face tough competition to be recognized and rise in their own parties. Now they are leaders of their respective political parties. They have proven that, they can stay in power and get reelected.

Top 5 Dilemmas of the Middle Class

The middle class of India has retreated into a shell. A shell it uses to protect itself from everyone else. The Middle Class has become numb to the issues, not just about the country, but even the issues faced by itself. The Middle Class just doesn’t care anymore.

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Education is one thing that has moved away from Government control. Due to its privatization, the middle class is able to get quality education ( even though at an exorbitant price).

 

 

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Housing is mostly controlled by land mafias and politicians. No one dares to cross any person of influence while dealing with land. The law just wont help you. So the middle class only plays the small time game. No one makes big bets. This ensures that they go unnoticed by the big guys.

 

 

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Inflation is what hurts the middle class the most. But even here, they silently bear the cost and move on. Be it rise in Petrol or Food no one protests. The middle class tightens its pants and survives.

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Security is a distant dream in case of actual distress. The only real security comes by staying out of all things big. Stay as quiet as possible and ensure you are not easily spotted. Never raise or protest against anyone.

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Taxes paid by the middle class are the highest in the country. Since most of the people in the middle class are salaried people, they pay the most amount of tax. This is not something people complain a lot about, because they don’t know the fact that they are paying more taxes than their bosses.

In such a scenario, all the middle class can do is form its own cocoon to protect itself and try to bear the harsh conditions. For the middle class to come out of this cocoon, it requires a new leader. A leader who can gain their trust and lead them to form a better India. (*Hint - Aam Aadmi Party)

India and its love for Congress

The Congress Party 

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Congress is the most important party in the history of India. It has ruled India for more than 50 years of the 66 years of Independence.

Post Independence, Congress has been responsible for unifying India. The boldest steps were taken by Sardar Patel in bringing all princely states together. He was the single most important reason for unifying India Post Independence. But we fail to appreciate what happened after the first step. How did India stay unified in the good and bad times after Independence?

It was the brand name of “Gandhi”, which was used very effectively by the Congress party to give people a reason to stay united. History (stories and legends) was tinkered to showcase Gandhi more prominently compared to his counterparts creating an idea for people to look up to and have a sense of country and unity. Else, India would have just been a nation of opportunistic people trying to divide the country for personal gains.

Winston Churchill said this on about India -

"Power will go to the hands of rascals, rogues, freebooters; all Indian leaders will be of low caliber & men of straw. They will have sweet tongues & silly hearts. They will fight amongst themselves for power & India will be lost in political squabbles. A day would come when even air & water… would be taxed in India"

This predication would have been more true if not for the Congress Party. New born India owes its survival to Congress. It gave India the necessary time to mature and find its feet and become a fledgling democracy of modern times.

Modern Day Congress

Today, Congress has lost its charm. It no longer stands on the high pedestal of moral righteousness. It is considered a party with rampant corruption and nepotism. India no longer needs Congress in its current form. We need a leader who unifies the country with a more idealistic approach both in speech and practice. 

The Congress has failed to put forth such a leader. The reason Manmohan Singh stood against so much hatred against Congress was his clean personal image. His mild mannerism helped him survive a not so strong opposition.

What lies in the future of Congress and its King In the Making “Rahul Gandhi” .. only time will tell.

Is Hinduism A Religion or A Culture?

The oxford dictionary defines religion as follows - “The belief in and worship of a superhuman controlling power, esp. a personal God or gods.”


After living in India for the last 28 years and trying to understand its culture and traditions, I have come to ask this question. Is "Hinduism a Religion?" 

In its true form, it does not seem so. It is almost a broad generalization of India and its different cultures. It is the mistake people unfamiliar with India do, when they treat it as a single big entity and forget to understand its diversity. I feel the term Hinduism was an origin of this generalization.

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Honestly, I think, instead of calling Hinduism a religion, the different castes of India can be treated as religions. 

People in India identify themselves more with their caste compared to their religion. People of the same caste are more likely to identify themselves as a single entity and act as a cohesive group. Caste also dictates their customs and practices. The idea of marrying inside the same caste reinforces caste as a more stronger identifier compared to religion.

Hinduism is an aggregation of these castes. Hinduism is more a cultural grouping rather than a religion. Hinduism owes its survival in the modern age to this fact. It has inherently been able to encapsulate so many divergent groups without breaking up into smaller groups. This is truly the sign of a modern religion which can survive any test of time. 

In modern day India, you can clearly see the cultural influences of Hinduism on other religions. Hinduism does not enforce conversion. It just becomes a part of your life. I have myself played Holi - “The festival of Colors”, Diwali - “The festival of Lights” with people from all religions. No one cares about another persons religion as long as you are part of the same Culture.

Sources - 

(via sanki-in)