Thursday, August 13, 2015

Vote for change... All the time

The current political logjam in the monsoon session of the Indian parliament has resulted in a delay to pass the GST. There was a petition raised in that urged the politicians to debate instead of just raising slogans. At the time of my signing the petition, 15K+  people had signed it.  The last I checked 25K+ people had signed it. That is .002% of India's population. Statistically that is insignificant and doesn't trigger  our politicians to care.  Now imagine a situation where say 30% or 20% or even 10% of the population had voted. Would the parliament have ignored the verdict ? 

Probably not. Our politicians have gotten used to getting performance reviews only once every 5 years. What if their performance was constantly being monitored and more importantly we as citizens are more actively engaged. They probably wouldn't be as lackadaisical in their approach or use the "holier than thou" argument.

To me, a government is like a business venture and citizens are its customers. A government often ends up developing a broken product ( think of shabby governance) only to end up spending all it can on "marketing" to sell to the citizens ( customers). Anyone recall the 250+ Crore that the AAP government has budgeted for marketing ? What are they trying to sell when they have hardly been governing Delhi for a few months now ?

An incapable government often believes that selling to the public is important to shape their opinion and survive elections.  This works only when the citizens are not well informed and remain in the dark on issues of national interest.  
As citizens we have to constantly let the government know that we are watching and judging them. And that "we do not forget bad decisions". The petition started by India Inc was touted as a first of its kind. This made me wonder as to what is stopping us to voice our opinions on a regular basis. Petitions such as the one raised by India Inc need to be raised on a more regular basis and citizens need to be actively engaged in voicing their opinions. And this time we don't even have to worry our names missing from the election rolls. 

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

India Against Corruption

The atmosphere is electric. It has to be. After all this is our war cry against corruption, the first Satyagraha movement since Independence. We owe this to Anna Hazare, the man who has made us believe that change is possible. Or atleast is worth fighting for. “Why does he have to go through this at the age of 70? Why doesn’t he just sit at home ?” is what the cynics said. We say “When he can go through all the pain at that age, shouldn’t we atleast support him ?”. This fight against corruption is certainly going to be a long drawn battle and we understand it. We are not asking for immediate action. All we are asking for is freedom to voice our opinion and fight this battle through peaceful means. That Anna Hazare was pulled out of his house even before he started his fast and was sent to the same prison where the 2G scam accused are housed shows that anyone voicing for the Jan Lokpal will be crushed by the government and branded anti-government or anti-parliment.

This brings me to the next point. The government is framing this as a battle between the civil society and the constitution. This is pure mischief. The Jan Lokpal team has only voiced its opinion against corruption inflicted upon the government machinery and the constitution by corrupt officials and politicians. Not once have they brought disrepute to the constitution framed by our founding fathers or broken the rules of peaceful protest or disrupted public life. Neither did Baba Ramdev. The government succeeded in branding his protest as illegal and convinced the people of Delhi that his protest would disrupt public life. This time around the tactic has backfired on the government, after all we realize that this is a once in a lifetime opportunity to fight against corruption. This is not a media sponsored debate against corruption where 3 of the 4 honourable guests themselves lack credibility to speak on the subject.

This brings me to my final point about the Indian media. Sections of the Indian media (NDTV and CNN-IBN) are calling Anna’s movement a blackmail. I am not surprised one bit. After all, if the government is drunk with power so is the media. These media moguls considered themselves the torchbearers of modern India; the Harvard, Oxford graduates who would report fearlessly and bring about change. But power corrupts the minds of those who posses it. They eventually became power brokers. When election results were announced, they called on their preferred party spokespersons to the same show and helped them find a common ground. They are running a parallel government. Now that they see a crusader, an honest man capturing the soul of the nation, they are alarmed. Their only option is to discredit Anna and his movement. It is also disgusting that in the midst of this crisis, they report about Rahul Gandhi being the reason for Anna Hazare’s release. It seems as if the media has taken it upon itself to report about him favourably and strengthen his position as the PM in waiting. I would have been happy if Rahul himself made a statement about the crisis to the nation. After all, politics is not just about garnering votes but about being an able administrator.

This is a landmark movement for India. I am not sure what this would led to. I hope this leads to a corruption free India and a bright future for my countrymen. Hope as Andy Duffresne says,"is a good thing probably the best of things. And no go thing ever dies".

Monday, May 17, 2010

The Idea Of Small States

This is one of my recent posts for "Youth Ki Awaaz". It is available here

Over the last few months we have seen the demand for new states to be carved out of existing states. Telengana , Vidharba and Bodoland are a few examples. Carving out new states requires the creation of a new state machinery . This is a cumbersome task, one that can however be overcome over a period of time. What is however a matter of concern is the stability of governments that are instilled in these states. The state of Jharkhand perfectly demonstrates this issue. Because smaller states carry a fewer number of seats in the legislative assembly, even political parties that win very few seats have a say in government formation.

Large political parties have some sort of an inter party democracy that becomes important while electing good and capable leaders. However smaller parties are akin to independents. Corrupt leaders thrive as independents or in small political parties. Only regional parties such the DMK are capable of having the tainted A.Raja and Madhu Koda could never survive in any political parties. Since any of the new states that would be created are more likely to have such smaller parties in the government, I see that they are more likely to be exploited by leaders who know that they have a small shelf life.

National parties such as the BJP and the Congress need to act more responsibly in this regard. The behavior of the BJP in the current Jhakhand crisis is shameful. What makes matter more complicated is the lobbying by members of the state unit to choose a particular leader. Jharkhand, one of the most backward states in terms of literacy rate and healthcare standards has not had a CM for 20 days. The people who have voted for the BJP deserve better. Similarly, a few years ago the Congress with the help of a couple of independent MLAs was involved in bringing down the BJP government in Goa. Such incidents do not bode well for the idea of small, well administered states.

The committees that are created for carving out new states need to keep in mind the lessons learnt from the crises that have erupted in Jharkhand and Goa. Strict rules need to be imposed to ensure stability for elected governments. Parties/independents that pull out of the government need to provide a valid, justifiable reason for their decision. A trivial reason such as “not voting with the ally in the Lok Sabha” is not acceptable. This would ensure political stability for the newly formed state and the society that fought for this change would have their faith reposed in the Indian democracy. Certainly, a student who is fighting for Telengana would not be pleased to see 4 chief ministers in 4 years.

Sunday, May 2, 2010

My Posts for "Youth Ki Awaaz"

I’ve recently started writing for an online news platform “Youth Ki Awaaz”. That is probably one of the reasons for fewer updates in my blog. In this post I am pasting the links to two of my posts that have been featured at “Youth Ki Awaaz”

The First Post is about my opinion on the second bidding of IPL franchises.

The second post is about my opinion on awarding the Bharat Ratna to extraordinary sportspersons.

One of the reasons I started writing for “Youth Ki Awaaz” is that it provided a great platform to reach out to a much larger audience. However, I will continue writing my personal blog as well.

Monday, April 5, 2010

Political Untouchability

At a time when the Indian society is slowly overcoming the problem of social untouchability, a new form of untouchability - political untouchability is emerging. Yes. You read it right. Amitabh Bachchan, India’s biggest movie star was recently snubbed by the Maharashtra government during the inauguration of the Mumbai-Worli sea link. This treatment was meted out to him because Mr Bachchan recently became Gujarat’s brand ambassador. Everyone knows that Gujarat’s chief minister Mr Modi has been considered a political untouchable by the Congress party. Post Godhra, they would not associate themselves with him at any event. And since Mr Bachchan promotes Gujarat tourism, the Congress party believes that he is associated with Brand Modi and hence deserves the same treatment. Congress spokesperson Abhishek Manu Singhvi says that since Mr Bachchan has associated himself with the Gujarat government, the congress party has every right to not invite him at a government function/event. It is after all the discretion of the state government to choose their invitees. I would like to remind Mr Singhvi that the people of Gujarat have a similar discretion to stay away from the Congress party. That does not augur well for his party and for our democracy.

Mr Bachchan’s role
The Congress party says that since Mr Bachchan is the brand ambassador of Gujarat, he must clarify his position on Mr Modi’s role in the Godhra riots. I didn’t know that a brand ambassador of a state had to have clear cut political views and state them when asked. As a brand ambassador, Mr Bachchan does not charge any money for his work in promoting Gujarat. Isn’t that in itself an excellent gesture ? I am sure he could have used that time to make movies and earn money but he instead chose to use his brand to promote Indian tourism. If Gujarat tourism improves, the ultimate beneficiaries would be the people of the state.

Is the Congress’ reasoning flawed ?
According to the Congress’ logic, Mr Bachchan should be condemned if he endorses Mr Modi. In that case what about the people of Gujarat who have elected Mr Modi as their chief minister ? If we apply the Congress’ logic, they must also be condemned/dammed/sidelined ? This is not a valid reasoning and in fact makes a mockery of the people who go out to vote and choose their representatives.

What about others who are investing their time/resources in Gujarat ?
Several activists believe that industrialists such as Mukesh Ambani , Ratan Tata etc who are investing in Gujarat need to take a clear stand on Mr Modi’s role in the Godhra riots. They believe that such eminent personalities need to voice their opinion because of the influence they have on the young minds of this country. This argument is flawed. I believe that Industrialists who prefer to not be dragged into the petty politics of this country should be left alone. They are doing their job of creating jobs for the people of this country and of contributing to our exchequer. Similarly it would be great if our activists do not base their arguments on false ideologies.

Where are the thinkers ?

Isn’t it possible for a person to praise Mr Modi for his brilliant economic politics and at the same time criticize him for poor governance during the riots ? Or should he be criticized all the time without any reason or logic ? Wouldn’t it be wonderful if the congress party praised Mr Modi for his economic policies and infact replicated them in congress ruling states but continued to pressurize the Gujarat government on the probe. Similarly wouldn’t it be great if the BJP praised the UPA for the nuclear bill while criticized them for inflation. The women’s reservation bill was a landmark bill because our two national parties came togther on the issue. It would be great if they could find more common ground. To conclude, I think our country would be much stronger if we agree to disagree on issues and maintain our ethics/decorum while standing firm on our beliefs. I am sure Mr Bachchan would have received better treatment if we followed this.

Saturday, March 27, 2010

Microfinance and RangDe

This post is about “Microfinance” and my association with, a non-profit microfinance organization in India. I am a volunteer with the organization. The views presented in this article are entirely mine and do not represent the views of the organization or of its members.

What is Microfinance ?
Microfinance is the practice of providing loans to microentrepreneurs(owners of small time business) to help them setup/run their business. These entrepreneurs typically find it difficult to obtain the same loans from big financial institutions such as banks. This is because banks typically require a collateral or surety on which the loan is provided. This becomes a bottleneck for the microentrepreneurs who then go to the local money lenders(who charge exorbitant rates) to borrow loans. Another factor to be considered here is that since these are very small loan amounts banks find the overhead very high for a very small transaction. This is where microfinance helps provide low cost loans to entrepreneurs who need not shell out a major portion of their earnings as interest for the loans. I believe the average loan amount in India ranges between 5000 and 7000. You can read more about microfinance at .

Are all microfinance institutions non-profit institutions ?
No.I volunteer for , a non-profit institution. The whole objective of microfinance is to provide low cost loans to borrowers. An organization that doesn’t seek to gain profit from the venture can provide loans to borrowers at a much lesser rate.

About RangDe
Loan collection and Disbursal
As I mentioned previously, RangDe is a non-profit organization. It is an online platform to connect investors (you and me) with borrowers. Investors have an option of choosing the borrower at the time of investment. Typically more than one investor loans to a borrower. Say, I see that a milk businessman wants Rs 5000 to buy a cow, I would loan say Rs300 and another investor would loan some more and so on till the entire amount is collected. The total loan is then provided to field partners (NGOs) who provide the loans to borrowers. Borrowers use the money to establish/grow their business. It is important to remember that this would be unsecured loan.

Borrowers repay the loan in parts over a period of time. The exact details are available at . So eventually the investor receives the entire loan amount with 2% interest.

Operating Principle
RangDe provides ensures that loans are provided to groups of borrowers. The advantage of this approach is that this ensures collective responsibility. Even if one member of the group defaults on the repayment , the others in the group would pitch in to ensure that the credibility of the group is not lost. This approach also fosters a spirit of competition among borrowers who would with all sincerity use their business acumen to grow their business.

Microfinance has the power to transfer rural India and would ensure the much talked about inclusive growth. People who can run a good business in villages and towns would no longer have to travel to cities for a livelihood. This in turn would help reduce the overcrowding in cities.

Another important factor to note is that microfinance has greatly helped women lead better lives. Most microfinance institutions would admit that women dominate their borrower base and women are also less likely to default in their repayment. While a man might spend his money in a village liquor store, a woman would save money to send her child to the village school.

You can learn more about RangDe by visiting the Official RangDe blog at

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

Controversy surrounding the BSP rally.

Most of us are aware of the controversy surrounding BSP leader Mayawati’s public display of wealth during the recent BSP rally in Uttar Pradesh. For those of you who don’t know, the BSP members recently celebrated the 25 year anniversary of the founding of their party and the birthday of founder Kanshi Ram. Roughly 200 Crore was spent for the event. During the event , UP chief minister and BSP’s tallest leader Mayawati was presented with a garland of 1000 Rupee notes. The value of the garland is estimated at 21 Lakhs. The question on everyone’s mind is – “Was this required and was it appropriate at a time when the Stage government citing paucity of funds even refused to compensate the families of those who died in a recent stampede”

Most political parties have condemned the incident and some have even gone to the extent of seeking a CBI enquiry to investigate the source of funding for the garland and for the event. All these parties have placed themselves on a moral high ground and members seem to indicate that they have a clean slate. I don’t buy the argument that only people who display their wealth have looted the country and the others haven’t. Everyone(well almost) is corrupt. Mayawati’s supporters were quick to retort that at least their leader does not hide her wealth unlike others who rob the country after dusk.

My argument is that at a time when the participation of the people in our democracy is at an all time low and when people have begun to give up on politicians because of the amount of corruption, Mayawati’s brazen display of wealth further strengthens their belief that Indian polity cannot improve. We need people to believe that our political system can improve. Such incidents undo any progress made by citizen groups to get people to vote. We must remember that corrupt politicians are elected by good citizens who choose not to vote. If we want our system to improve, we must make sure that participation in the electoral process improves. An argument that such a display of wealth by Mayawati inspires members of her community is flawed and mocks the intelligence of our people.

The irony is that Mayawati has done a fabulous job of improving the law and order situation in Uttar Pradesh. She has an amazing political acumen and as woman belonging to a community that has been oppressed for ages, has fought against all odds to reach her current position. She must not squander it all away. Uttar Pradesh is certainly the most important state for political parties in India. The state has given us the maximum number of prime ministers and it is very likely that UP’s current political leaders would in the near future play a greater role in Delhi. If Mayawati plans to play an important role at the center, she cannot afford to indulge in petty politics such as asking the police force to see if the beehive at the rally was part of a political conspiracy against her party!
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