Yes to Telangana – Opening of the Pandora’s Box or another European Union !!

With the formation of 29th state of India – “Telangana” (carved out of 10 districts of earlier Andhra Pradesh, with some decisions pending regarding allocation of 2 more districts and the status of Hyderabad)… the political parties, the intellectuals, the political commentators are making calculated comments. Though there is a sense of pride and victory by some people of Telangana, the general mood of the people of remaining Andhra Pradesh (AP) and people of other parts of India is not happy about the way this particular issue was handled and the states are being created. One simple question always arises time and again – on what basis new states are being created in India – on political ground or, on language or, on religion or, on ethnicity or, on some growth-model or, on some kind of compulsion ?

It is certain that the creation of Telangana is more due to political reasons than that of administrative or governance or people centric ones. With 2014 General Election in mind, the UPA-II government in general, and the Congress in particular, have played a game to win more seats in both Andhra Pradesh and Telangana, to counter the growing popularity of YSR-Congress and/or to take Telangana Rashtra Samithi (TRS) into their coalition. This political will is yet to be ratified by the people in 2014 – time will be the best judge of course !!

Though it is being argued by TRS (in particular) that the creation of Telangana is to handle the (under) development of that region, it is not difficult to understand the political motives of TRS leaders. It is certainly a mix equation of power – hunger of power and abuse of power; hunger of power is more destructive than the the abuse of power though.  This also results in mistrust between common citizens or aamjunta, business men, companies, politicians in various degrees. The mistrust being created with the formation and demand of new states also have long lasting impact on the development of the states in particular and India as a whole nation. This is a very sensitive issue and needs to be handled carefully.

The impact of creation of Telangana is definitely not limited to Andhra Pradesh; its impact is being felt in Odisha in the form of Kosala, in Maharashtra in the form of Vidarbha, in Uttar Pradesh  in the form of Harit Pradesh, in central India in the form of Bundelkhand and in the East/North-East in the form of Gorkha Land… ! It may not stop there; it did not stop with Chhattisgarh, Jharkhand, Uttarakhand, Haryana, Goa before. The Pandora’s Box is opened now with many political compulsions, intentions and possibilities !!!

If we analyse the impact of creation of smaller states, we can certainly find two major points – (i) smaller states boost regional parties, which are definitely not a healthy sign for a democracy like India and (ii) smaller states bring political instability as in Jharkhand and Goa – 8 Chief Minsters in last 10 years (9  governments in last 13 years) in Jharkhand, and 14 governments in 15 years between 1990 and 2005 in Goa !! The instability can be frequently created by regional parties, especially in a coalition type of government.

Other than the above major points, smaller states give rise to intolerance, regionalism and selfish motives, which some times hinder the growth of India as a whole, and complicates the inter-state relations – water, mining, dams, power, etc. This also complicates the internal security as observed in New Delhi with many neighbours. Many fear that the anti-Maoist movement being carried out jointly by Odisha, Andhra Pradesh, Chhattishgarh, etc.  may also get diluted resulting in more and more kidnaps, bomb-blasts, killing and loots in different parts of the country.

Other than the above points, what bothers aamjunta is the possible political instability towards which India is heading with the current developments. It is almost certain that in the next General Election, no single political party will get simple majority at the centre; a coalition government led by Congress or a possible Third-Front government led by smaller parties are definitely not ruled out, and hence the fear of scams, corruptions, horse-trading will definitely rise. Even a possible BJP-led government at the centre will have many compulsions too ! Someone has rightly remarked – this will bring demons with crisis in democracy !!

The way we are creating smaller states with the above motives, an European Union model is not ruled out in India in the future – with one or two major partners (states) and many smaller partners (states) with political and financial instability.

Chanakya’s  (370–283 BC) “akhanda Bharat” (undivided India) is becoming “khanda Bharat” (divided India) !!

Aamjunta needs to awake, arise and take the centre-stage as a voter, implementer, jurist, businessman, student, teacher, social activist and others – for, by and of India.

Uttistha Bharata” (Arise India) !!!

Aamjunta – what do you say and how do you react ?

Jai Hind…

Another article on Regional Politics in India: Regional Political Parties – danger to Democracy and India?

Mid-day (Midday) Meals in India – a Challenging Task !

With all the recent tragedies and controversies associated with the Mid-day (Midday) Meal Scheme in Bihar, Odisha, UP, MP, Chattishgarh and other states, many like me must be wondering whether there is a need to re-look at the effectiveness of the scheme and/or whether this program should be stopped altogether. Some say that these are just isolated incidents that happen at times (random theory) and some like Chief Minister (Bihar) Nitish Kumar say that there is a conspiracy behind these incidents !

The ‘mid-day meal in schools’ programme in India that started in 1960 had the main objectives of protecting children against hunger and increasing school-enrolment and/or attendance. Other than these main objectives, mid-day meal programme had also aimed to achieve equality or social harmony among children of various classes and castes, and to provide employment to the unprivileged women. Though the key objectives are still valid in the changed scenario of today’s world, the promotion of social harmony or equality is still a myth !

It is true that there are many points to be discussed, many issues to be solved and many things to be proved or disproved by the Government, by the Officials, by the Media and by the so-called social Intellectuals and human-rights Activists…

Instead of going to the mode of another commentary, let me narrate my own experiences on the mid-day meal scheme.

I studied in a village school in the early eighties. Those days, government schools were the only mode of schooling in many parts of India (a few private English-medium schools, mostly managed by Christian Missionaries were there in the cities). We had three Teachers only to teach five classes/standards, each class/standard having 50-60 students. Teaching curriculum was definitely exhaustive those days. Other than teaching, duties such as preparing voter-lists, census, checking village sanitation, etc., were day-to-day activities of our Teachers.

Like many other schools, we too had mid-day meal programme, though not regularly. There was only one item – wheat kheer (porridge). We used to bring our own utensils from home and assist our Teachers in cooking the meals, cleaning the utensils and bringing the stocks from the local Block or Panchayat office; never received the full-quota – as these offices reserved their shares !

No external help or cook was appointed for this programme.

Every student was asked to bring some firewood from his/her home for the cooking (now I realize, that in fact, it was a punishable offence). I remember, some of my class-mates used to steal firewood from their neighbour’s backyards to avoid harassment in the school.

Since there was no tube-well in the school premises, we used to walk at least 2 km (to and fro) to bring drinking and cooking water; a very tough job during the hot summer and the rainy season.

I still remember… There were some broken-wheat supplied by the government for the programme; at least half of the stock used to go to the Teachers’ homes directly for their own use – like making sweets or feeding their cows ! Oil and Salt were also supplied; more than half of the oil was used at the feasts and for preparing snacks during the School Sub-Inspector’s visit or Village Committee’s visit to the school.

And the quality of the wheat was sometimes horrible; worms were almost certain and it was an every day affair. To handle the mid-day meals in schools, Village Workers and CDPOs (Child Development Project Officers) were appointed by the government. It is true that these officials used to visit school for inspections followed by a grand feast and a holiday for all of us. But these officials also had their shares in the mid-day meal programme !! We or our parents did not know whom to complain ?!? It was therefore hardly discussed even in casual get-together of our parents or guardians.

Speaking about social harmony and equality – there were high differentiations among the students based on castes (at least religion was not involved in our school) even while preparing food, bringing water and eating those meals. This ill trend reportedly continues in some schools even today !!!!

The mid-day meal program has continued for years… worsening day- by-day. For some, it is a business; for some, it is a mode of earning; and for some, it is just a single meal in the whole day !!

Taxpayers’ money is being regularly spent on such a programme, whose effectiveness is much debatable and it is still not made clear who is accountable for these tragedies; no proper monitoring system is yet in place ! There is definitely a huge lack of administration and accountability in this. Officials or Social-Workers, even when enabled with sufficient power, seem to fall short in carrying out or meting their responsibilities, and taking initiatives to prevent mid-day meal tragedies. There is an indifferent attitude in most of the cases – no one is really bothered. And the blame-game goes on as usual…

But is the government only to be blamed ? We too are responsible in many roles as – parents, teachers, village committee members, Sarpanchs, ward-members, officials, social observers, social activists, etc. We have been sleeping on the mega loopholes for years, even though we knew it was meant for our innocent little buds !!

Aamjunta – what do you think? It is time for you to act too…

Tyre Kharido, Car Free :)

“Tyre Kharido, Car Free” (Buy one Tyre, Car is Free)!

Sounds funny? Might be, but believe me, it is true !!.

Couple of months back I came across with this advertisement in a national daily. Was curious to know the deal, on a close look found an * mark with conditions apply. And you can imagine the “condition”... the usual ones… “On purchase of so many tyres, your chance to win a car doubles up and blah blah…”. Quite usual advertisements in print media or in electronic media. Not unusual these days !

The interesting part is the “conditions apply”  – in almost zero font size :); quite similar to the statutory warnings on Cigarette Packs. Not only that, the price of the selling items are hiked considerably in general, which go un-noticed by the customers as the attention gets diverted to the free tag. One should be very careful while going for these kind of deals and should understand the Conditions carefully. Else…. But unfortunately the conditions are never explained properly in the advertisements.

On a similar note, I came across with another advertisement “Cooler Kharido, Refrigerator Free” (buy a cooler and get a free refrigerator); during the hot summer days of Delhi. Was fascinated by the advertisement at that time. Next morning I went to that shop (spend some 4 hours to locate the shop and Rs 200/- by auto) to get the air cooler and a refrigerator. But, to my surprise the Air Cooler which normally costs Rs 3000/- in the market, was labelled with Rs 6500/- and the free refrigerator was of no use for me as it was very small. Came back home on a sad note 😦 . I should have understood the conditions applied well before spending my time and money.

On a slightly different note, every one of us have experienced the famous “Buy one and Get one Free” deals in malls, in cinema halls or in eating joints like Pizza-Huts, Dominos or McDonalds etc. These tag lines are to lure the customers to and to sell more. Customers buy more and spend more — it does not matter whether the need of the free item as well as the first item is there or not!

The tag line “Buy one and Get one Free” is just another marking concept and a sales promotion method for shops, companies and dealers. Companies/dealers usually adopt this method to clear the stock or to quickly reach the market. One should not get lured by the word FREE, instead should realize Nothing is Free, some thing or other has to be paid to get that which appears to be Free.

Selling something and giving something free is becoming a regular marketing concept; either buy one get one free (of the same or different item) or “buy two get one free” or “buy this get that free”, are free flowing tag lines now a days. Be it “buy one and get one free” or “buy this get that free”, these lines are usually profitable to the company and can be profitable to the customers if they buy the items judiciously. It is profitable for the shop/company in the sense that, shops usually hike the price of the first item to a certain extent (off course not by 100% !!), such that the price of the free item is covered to some extent. They earn profit from the huge amount of sales due to the promotional offer.

The customers too can make the deal profitable, only if there is a need to buy the items both first and the free item. Else, the customer will end up paying more not only for the first item, will waste the second item (happens mostly in food items). Being aware of the cost of the individual items definitely help the customers to decide, whether to go for the deal or not.

Saying that, let me narrate some of my experiences on the free purchases….

Recently, I went for a magazine deal and ended up paying Rs 1500/- for 3 years subscription, which was almost 50% of the regular price. Yes, it was profitable to me in one sense that I saved 50% on the price, not only that I also got a pair of shoes FREE 🙂 . But, when critically analysed, I realized that, it was not at all profitable to me. Because, neither I’m a fan of that magazine and nor I need a pair of shoes at this point of time. Not only that, the same magazine is also available for reading in my Hostel/Office for free.

So, what do you say? Profit or loss for me? But, it is definitely a profitable deal for the publisher. Not only the publisher got some money as investment (by bulk number of 3 years of subscriptions), but also, it got some sure-shot number of readers or customers, which can be priced to the advertising agencies in their future issues as the magazine reaches out for wide circulation.

Same thing applies to free credit cards, where the joining fee is mostly waved (or  pay the fee and get free vouchers), with a substantial 2nd year renewal fee (with or without free shopping vouchers). But, the question is why should we pay and then get a shopping voucher in return? Forcing the customer to buy some thing? and most important is to forcing the customer to visit a shopping mall for that? Interesting 🙂

In another case, one of my friends bought a washing machine for Rs 14000/- using his credit card (as he was short of money at that time). The reason being, he got a free item of Rs 700/- (got a Coffee maker by the scratch card) and a discount of 2%! Yes, by doing that the shop cleared the stock and sold many washing machines in a month’s time; naturally increased its total profit.

But, my poor friend, has a habit of forgetting paying the credit card dues in time — paid a fine of Rs 1500/- (including the interest and late fee) to the bank. Not only that, he never uses his coffee machine (as he does not drink tea/coffee). So for him, the deal was a total loss (which might be a profit for some one else!). He hardly realizes and repeats his mistakes again and again !!

Those are just some of the experiences; which every one of us have experienced in some or other context. So next time when you see “Buy one Get one Free” or “Tyre kharido, Car Free”… do not get fascinated, keep cool, think twice whether you really want to buy this and do you really need that free item or not… Else, you will end up with same stories…

Aamjunta … what do you think?

PS: A shortened version of this article was published in July 2008.

Chit Funds or Cheat Funds – the Recent Saga of India’s Investors

The recent Chit Fund fiasco in West Bengal has not only pushed the panic button for the Indian Investors, but also opened the Pandora’s box of our corrupt system and the state of awareness of the aamjunta. This is a case in which all the three parties are to be blamed equally – the Investors, the System or the Government and the investment Agencies. Though the issue of cheating and fraud came to light because of Saradha fiasco in West Bengal, Odisha is not far behind in any sense. More than 85 companies are operating in Odisha with a turnover of roughly Rs. 20,000 crore, and there are more than 100 Chit Fund companies (mostly Ponzi Schemes) operating in West Bengal alone with a turnover of roughly Rs. 75,000 crore.

With CB-CID investigations, the list and the amount of fraud and cheating is bound to increase in both the states. Interestingly, some of the Schemes /Companies are old, operating in multiple states, run by well known politicians or their relatives, with a huge capital investment. Coming to Investors – most of them are poor rural people, unaware of the Ponzi Schemes, and are lured mostly by the young unemployed Agents. On the contrary and surprisingly, a good percentage of the Investors are also well-educated, well-aware about the recent happenings or uncertainties. They too could not resist the temptation of becoming rich or richer over-night… and lost their money in the process. In many places, there are numerous reports of suicides both by the Agents and the Investors.

The Chit Fund empire is so complex and so big that it has forced the Government to consider scrapping the Chit Fund Act of 1962 in entirety. Though the pressure is mounting on the Government to order a CBI inquiry of the entire process, in my opinion, CBI inquiry may not be useful as the CBI’s reputation is also at stake in the wake of recent developments; some of their own Officers have been accused and sent to CBI custody for allegedly taking a bribe from a businessman regarding settlement of a land dispute case. In fact, one of these Officers was heading the Coalgate scam probe !

Moreover, why do we have the “reactive” mentality to each and every problem ? Can’t we adapt the “proactive” mentality ? Let’s check where exactly the problem is ? Is there any remedy for these in future ?

As pointed out before, there are three broad parties associated in any kind of investment. They are:

1. The Investment Agency

As per the law of the land, the investment Agencies are supposed to be operating under RBI’s guidelines and State /Centre’s special Acts or Amendments. But in most of the cases, the Agencies are not even registered to offer the Schemes, which they simply roll out in the market. Apart from this, most of the Agencies are either owned by a family or a group of relatives or politicians. Sometimes the companies are created to transform the black money into white, without paying any heed to national economy or security. The investment Agencies select their Directors in such a way, that it becomes easy for them to hide the crucial facts to the people; most of the time the Directors of such Agencies are none other than their drivers, cooks, house-maids, and the like, even without their knowledge !

While India is struggling with unemployment, getting Agents at a low salary is not difficult. Hiring Agents is also tricky; first enrol them as Investors and then lure them with perks, AC train-tickets, gifts and sometimes air-tickets for holiday trips to work as Agents set with achieving a certain amount of “target” i.e., number of Investors and Investment.

I remember, some of my friends who were hired by a similar Agency in 2009 were taken to Malaysia and Singapore (with their family) for a free holiday trip. Not just that; some Agents were gifted with Maruti-800 cars by their Chairman !! Tempting ! Seeing them  make good money in a short span of time, other Investors get attracted and deposit their savings with them, without casting any doubt.

In the initial days, the Agents never fail giving back the monthly interest to the Investors; the payments are always in time and sometimes, even in advance. The one in advance is mostly to give an impression (false) to the Investors that their business has been doing extremely well or performing above expectations ! Surprisingly, the interest rates are almost 24 – 36% per annum; whereas the Post Offices, Life Insurance Policies, and other well-known deposit Schemes give interests not more than 8-10% per annum.  The greed of easy money and becoming rich / richer overnight are the prime factors for both the category of Investors.

Other than giving direct interests to the Investors, companies like Hi-tech in Odisha and Rose Valley in West Bengal later started providing lands/plots in the prime localities of Bhubaneshwar, Cuttack, Kolkata, etc., based on small monthly instalments. The Schemes are so attractive and the Agents are so adept in opening heart-to-heart conversations with the Investors, that no one ever has an iota of doubt while investing. And that too, even in obtaining a plot in the capital cities at a cheaper rate. Surprisingly, in the last raid on Hi-tech in December-2012, it was found that in Bhagya Nagar (outskirts in the city of Bhubaneshwar, Odisha) alone, Hi-tech had promised to give plots of 484 hectares while they actually owned only 4 hectares of land. They are not the only ones doing such business in the market !!

Other well-known companies like Rich Mind, Saradha, Artha Tatwa, Seashore, Safex Infra, Ashore, and many others – almost 200+ odd Agencies have been active in the states of West Bengal and Odisha. Their main target is always the border districts of Odisha, West Bengal, Chattisgarh, Assam, Jharkhand and Andhra Pradesh. As it happened in Saradha’s case of quick closure and disappearance, most of the other companies also simply shut down their entire operation over-night and disappear with the entire money, leaving behind many Investors and Agents on the cross-roads to awfully suffer at various personal levels, to bear public wrath, face legal charges, police harassment, etc.

2. The Investors

It is obvious that the high rate of interests in the range of 24-36% per annum offered by the Agencies are tempting to invest in such Schemes. In addition, more than 95% of the Investors deposit their savings on the face value of the Agents working with those Companies, without checking a single document. ‘You know he is like my cousin… he has ensured the amount and promised me by the name of God that his Company is genuine, and they have their local branch here in my town, where my niece is a clerk. Where will they go ? We will get the money without any problem, and everybody is investing… so what is the big thing here to check ?’ – is the usual reaction, if you ask the Investors at the time of making their investments, whether they have checked the credentials of the Company or the Agent !

No one checks the credentials even though all the documents can be apparently verified by a couple of mouse-clicks in this age of Internet. What surprises more is the mode of transaction ! Most of the times, the entire transaction is by cash only, without any proper receipts or deposit certificates. As long as the Investors get their returns, no one bothers (including Media and the Regulator bodies) to check the validity of the Schemes, the mode of incomes, the mode of operations, etc. Rather, Investors bring in more Investors, hoping that the company will flourish and will give more and more returns, gifts, free tours to Singapore or Switzerland, etc.

Only when the problem starts and Investors complain, the Media becomes active with their ‘24/7 breaking news‘, demands of CBI investigation starts with public strikes, dharnas, attempts of suicides, etc. With such an ignorance, greed and attitude, do you think any fool-proof solution can at all be provided to the Investors ? I doubt…

3. The Regulators

India of course has many Rules, Articles, legal Sections, Court rulings in place to handle these kind of problems. However, the implementation of such Rules is the key. As per the Government, Chit Funds are a traditional business, strongly regulated by the State Governments and Central Government, Security and Exchange Board of India (SEBI) and the Reserve Bank of India (RBI). If that is so, then why have so many issues cropped up, whether out of the blue or not ? There are definitely many disorganised, unregulated Companies operating right under the nose of the Regulator bodies. They mostly operate Ponzi Schemes or Chain Investment Schemes, and take deposits promising unrealistic rates of return- double return in 2.5 years, prime land or flat in a posh locality at a cheap rate.

As per an RBI study, Co-operative banks are more suitable and bankable for the poor. If that is so, tailor made Schemes should be implemented in the rural areas under the supervision of RBI, not the Ponzi Schemes. There should be a blanket ban on Schemes promising unrealistic returns. This can be done by the Regulators, and the Investors should inform the Regulators without any delay or fear, when they are approached with Ponzi Schemes or the like.

The other important point RBI, SEBI and other Institutions of the State and Centre should consider is the amount of moveable and immoveable property of the Companies operating in rural areas. If these Companies are merely collecting money and promising lands/plots or flats on the Investment, then they should have enough assets to honour those promises. Government should ensure that this provision is satisfied at all the times. But that does not happen, and most of the claims made by Saradha, Seashore, Ashore, Hi-tech, Artha Tatwa, and many others are simply a sham without any real assets. They just create an illusion, which the finance watch-dogs should have sensed in time. And now, the poor aamjunta (Investors and Agents) is suffering and repenting to the core !

The most surprising post-reaction came from West Bengal on Saradha fiasco when the CM wanted to levy more tax on Cigarettes and distribute the extra money thus raised, among the Saradha Investors. I do not observe any logic in it at all… Instead of curbing the cheat Chit Funds / Ponzi Schemes and forcing all the associated Companies to return the money to the Investors, if the authority takes a short-cut perhaps for sake of retaining or reinforcing vote-banks, then no doubt aamjunta will again suffer eventually. Vote politics does not work all the time. If Investors money is compensated in this way, then in crude terms it just means- someone (a duped Investor) is going to be paid from his own pockets and other’s also who are not involved in any way !!!!

Aamjunta…what do you say ? Planning to invest ? I strongly suggest- say no to Chit Funds unless they are properly regulated through transparent policies. In general, regarding any Scheme, be very careful and keep your eyes and ears open all the time.

Jai Hind.

Short-Term-Memory-Loss !!

“Earlier, the Bofors was a talking point. People forgot about it. Now it is coal. This too will be forgotten. Once hands are washed off coal, they again become clean.”

– Union Home -Minister Sushilkumar Shinde, Pune, 15th September, 2012

Does he really mean that we all Indians have short-term-memory only? Whether he is right or wrong, that will be proved in the due course of time in 2014 and in subsequent elections, but I would like to remind him and many others like him, that we do not forget, may forgive… and here is a small list for their information and aamjunta’s notice.

Black Money

As per the recent statement given by the CBI Director, Indians have an estimated $500 billion of illegal funds in foreign tax havens, more than any other country. Other media reports claim that the total black money exceeding $1.4 trillion are stashed in Switzerland alone. Whose money is this and who are the beneficiaries — politicians, bureaucrats, industrialists, real-estate mafias or gundas? Even with Supreme Court’s intervention the Government neither provides the list and amount, nor ensures transparency in the investigations. They only bring white papers… 😦 Does it not show how weak our system is ? If yes, then we need a drastic change in our administrative policies to check such unaccounted transactions, negating the economic-position of India !

Coalgate

Coalgate or Coal Allocation Scam is a multi-party scam involving PMO directly and indirectly, MPs of multiple parties, bureaucrats, corporate biggies and many more. As per CAG’s estimation and argument, the inefficient and malafide intentions behind the coal block allocation resulted in Rs. 185, 591 crore ($33.59 billion) “windfall gain” to the allocatees. With the highest amount, it became to be known as the mother-of-all-scams ! While the BJP-led opposition is gunning for the government, PMO in particular and the UPA managers led by Kapil Sibbal in general, have been hitting out at the CAG, incumbent and ex- Chief Ministers (CMs) of Chattisgarh, Odisha, Jharkhand, Rajasthan and Madhya Pradesh. While arguing against CAG’s report on policy making, the government should also remember that wrong policies with malafide intentions, inefficient and slow decisions can be more harmful and disastrous for the country. Kapil Sibbal may deny that no one benefited from the coal block allocation, and Congress Party may again bring the zero-loss theory, but it can never prove itself clean. Other parties too are involved; not just Congress is to be blamed. Moreover, if their claim that coal allocation was scam-free, then why the CBI is filing FIRs after FIRs and why is the Inter Ministerial Group (IMG) busy in de-allocating coal blocks ? With Supreme Court of India having taken the coal-allocation issue seriously, it would be no wonder if you see ministers and bureaucrats in jail very soon.

2G Spectrum Allocation

Kapil Sibbal’s Zero Loss theory was again proved wrong by the Supreme Court of India and Dr. Subramanian Swamy… an estimated loss of Rs. 176,645 crore ($31.97 billion) is not at all a small amount for a country struggling with poverty and malnourishment. While the Supreme Court declared allotment of spectrum as “unconstitutional and arbitrary“, and quashed all the 122 licenses issued in 2008 during the tenure of Mr. A. Raja, it further said that A. Raja “wanted to favour some companies at the cost of the public exchequer” and “virtually gifted away important national asset” ! Are Raja and his bureaucrats to be blamed alone ? Definitely no. The then Finance Minister and the PM too are to be blamed equally. In addition, the PM must be answerable for the failure of his office to take appropriate action against the culprits. According to Time Magazine, 2G Spectrum Scam leads the number two position on their  “Top 10 Abuses of Power” list. 

CommonWealth Games

Though it was a matter of prestige to host international sporting events like the CommonWealth Games in India, it became a national shame due to corruption and malafide intentions of our politicians, bureaucrats, industrialists and corporations. The total value of the estimated scam in this is Rs 70,000 crore!! In a country where more than 40 crore people live below the “official poverty line” of Rs 32/- per-day income, can we forget and forgive the culprits? The question arises in such situations – “Who is to be blamed” ? The Government, of course – the then Sports Ministry and the PMO, which is directly or indirectly involved. With concerns at national and international level, how do we say that the the game was a success and India has the power to host games of Olympic standard in future ?

Land and Housing Scams

Grabbing Government land, and House/Flats meant for the poor and needy people is not new in India. It was there before independence by Jamindars or Land Lords, and now by the politicians, gundas and bureaucrats. However, the point what hurts most is grabbing the land used for religious activities, and flats meant for war-heroes or their families and poor people in the name of :

  • Adarsh Housing Society Scam: Though the government land was allocated for the construction of a housing complex for “the welfare of serving and retired personnel of the Defence Services“, over the years top politicians (3 ex-Chief Ministers and many more ministers figure in CBI’s list), bureaucrats (Senior IAS Officers) and military officers (of GOC and Brigadier Rank) bent several rules and committed various acts of omission and commission in order to have the building constructed and then got themselves allotted flats in this premier property at artificially lowered prices in their own name or relatives’ names..

  • Karnataka Wakf Board ScamAlmost 50% of its land has been misappropriated by politicians and board members, in collusion with the real estate mafia for a fraction of its market value; alleged misappropriation amount of Rs 200,000 crore ($36.2 billion).

And the list continues….. Bofors scam, Fodder scam, Karnataka Mining scam, Cash-for-Votes scam, National Health scam and many more !!

Like Sanjay Singhania (Amir Khan) of Ghajini movie…. with short-term-memory-loss,we Indians also keep a note that ensures a long-term-memory. Moreover, the point what aamjunta would like to bring here to the notice of fellow aamjuntas and to the Politicians of this country is very simple :

We are not to be taken for granted for all the misdeeds, corruptions, communal violence and regionalism; when time comes we will show what we can do. We have done it before with many corrupt politicians and national traitors… The power of an ‘aware’ electorate can change the course of a nation’s history. The key to root out all such vices lies in spreading ‘Social Awareness’ among the masses. Then, who knows what is stored in 2014 !!!

Give me 10 Votes, I’ll give you a Bike!

Jai Hind!

While watching the live telecast of our 63rd Republic Day celebration from Delhi, the background music of क़दम क़दम बढ़ाये जा, खुशी के गीत गाये जाये जिंदगी है क़ौम की, तू क़ौम पे लुटाये जा (Qadam Qadam baṛāē jā, khushi kē geet gāē jā… yē zīndagi haiñ qâum kī, tū qâum pē lūtāē jā) made me nostalgic and for some time, brought the mighty feeling of a soldier  of the Indian National Army (INA).  On a personal request from Netaji, Ram Singh Thakur composed this  song for the Indian National Army. Way back in 1942, when Ram Singh Takhur composed this extremely patriotic song, he never would have thought that this will make him eternal.

While marching for a free India, Netaji declared his motto “Give me blood, I will give you freedom“. That attracted many Indians to not simply participate in the freedom struggle but even sacrifice their lives for the honor of their motherland. Gone are those days….. India is a democratic republic celebrating its 63rd Republic Day today.

Over the years, many things have changed, so also our “leaders” and we “the people”. Not that all the changes are negative, there are of course many positive ones that have shaped the country. Still, I believe that many more things could have uplifted our status as a welfare state. Today, what bothers most Indians like me is “Corruption”! With the logjam in Parliament and politics over Lokpal Bill, a “corruption-free India” may not be possible in the near future.

Even if a strong Lokpal Bill is passed, corruption is no way going to die in a single day. This is because it has spread to the root of our system, our existence and our blood.  Except a few people, I would say most of us are corrupt and involved in favoritism in some way or the other. Very often, we do not have an option if we need to get our work done smoothly or quickly. Though it is hard to accept, it is a fact.

Corruption during the election reaches its peak. Political parties, irrespective of their national or regional strength are involved in various forms of corruption. In most of the cases, corruption is also closely linked to crime and underworld activities. The power of MWMW (Money, Wine, Muscle power and Women) takes the centre stage. MWMW is becoming the general norm and eligibility criteria for party candidates.

Black money, country made liquors and drugs are being poured into the game from different sources. Even though the Election Commission is very strict and has put many officials as observers, there are several eye-opening cases that come to light every day. Huge amount of cash has been recovered en route to the poll-bound states. Drugs and country liquors are becoming a strong weapon to woe the voters. Recent raids in Punjab and UP led to the discovery of huge amount of drugs and liquors.

With corruption largely being a moral issue, law enforcement agencies have always found it hard to root it out through either force or preventive surveillance. Moreover, sometimes the observers and the law enforcement agents are also corrupt. But the worst thing happens when the common man, the aamjunta or the voter becomes corrupt. If our votes are sold to these corrupt leaders for a meagre cash or a bottle of wine or drugs, then whom can we blame! Neither the Election Commission, nor the Lokpal Bill can bring any solution for this.

For an example, in the recently conducted Municipal elections in Maharashtra, money took the centre stage to buy votes. Many political parties had bribed the voters a meagre sum of Rs 5,000/- per vote. Irrespective of the rich or poor, literate or illiterate, educated or  uneducated, people across the society were involved in this kind of dishonest activities. House maids, vegetable vendors, daily workers, factory workers, auto walas, school teachers, and many others including polling officials went for holidaying or picnics on election black-money. New bikes without registration were kept in petrol pumps; one could take a bike free-of-cost, just on the condition of arranging 10 votes from his/her family and/or friends. The new motto now being “Give me 10 votes, I will give you a bike” !!!!

The actual election process and the common man’s attitude is very pathetic. As long as we do not cure ourselves of this shameful attitude, no legal process or authority can prevent unethical practices like bribery, intimidation and  misuse of office and power. These huge malpractices combined with casteism, communalism and regionalism are going to ruin the election system and the fundamental structure of Indian democracy. It is going to let India’s face down as a world leader in practising true democracy and being its ambassador.

Jaago aamjunta, jaago… This is time to show our strength, and make the system clean and strong. Let’s cast our precious vote not under the influence of MWMW but based on our own conviction – a conviction that is largely based on morale and right knowledge. We need to do some thing unique, which will make our life rewarding and us worthy aamjunta; not an useless and corrupt aamjunta. Let’s respect our dignity and our country. The choice is definitely ours !!!

Jai Hind!

Business Sense and Culture Shock: Life Stranger than Fiction

“Have you ever been in a life outside the campus?

“Have you ever thought of commuting without your own vehicle or commuting on a shared public/private transport on a daily basis?” I guess, many of us will say YES to this. If your answer is “yes“, why don’t you share your experiences with aamjunta?. After July 2009, I too have accepted this as “the real color of life”, and started using shared transport systems.

Let me take my fellow aamjunta through three different scenes — first from an economic point of view, second from a social point of view and third from a cultural point of view.

The Business Sense of Autowalas of Bhubaneswar

Let me ask a simple question: 9 x 5 = ?. Surprised with this silly question? The answer given by Bhubaneswar autowalas is always more than 60 🙂 You might be wondering how? and why?  Their philosophy behind their answer is very simple. Let me explain.

If you board a shared auto from place A to place B, your autofare is Rs 9/-. The autowala can accommodate 5 people (at max, not 3 as seen in Mumbai!) in his auto. So, at max he gets Rs 45/- for his trip between A to B. Most of the times he hardly gets 5 people, and some time he picks up some fellow commuters and gets some thing in the range of Rs 3-9/-. On an average he earns Rs 40-45/- per trip. However, if you ask an autowala and reserve an auto from A to B, his charge starts from Rs 60/- and some time more. I don’t understand the philosophy behind their charge.  If an auto goes for a reserved trip, not only does he save time, but also he saves fuel, as the halts are not there — a reserved auto would usually move from one point to the other. Hence, charging more than Rs 45/ – Rs 50/- for the reserved trip is not at all justified. But, the autowalas never listen and many times lose fare, fuel as well as time – in waiting, in halts and in sharing. Who can educate them about their business and tourism sense? I tried many times with many autowalas but failed.

Is this a sense of business or greediness? Who is getting benefited? Both, the autowalas and the commuters are at the losing end.

Big-brother – From Mumbai to Bhubaneswar

I had heard of big-brothers in Mumbai, those who collect haftas, charge extortion money, kidnap people at gun point and sometime threaten and kill. Big city, big things, big-brothers 🙂 – a common phenomena. But, what about Bhubaneswar? It is not a big city! Moreover, people here are not that rich to be extorted or kidnapped at gun point. Police is very active here. Even then… “Big-brothers” –  hard core “muscle-men” are not extinct species here. They are very much present and active. However, I found one interesting fact about the big-brothers in Bhubaneswar. In many places, people use them, not that they use people. Let me share my experience with you.

One Sunday morning, I had to go to a friend’s place on a shared auto. Had to take an auto from Rasulgarh to Jayadev Vihar. Approached the autowalas for a shared trip. No one agreed to go, “jada aadmi nahini hai, bhada nahini milega, will not go”, was their simple answer. To that, when I asked for a reserved trip, they asked for Rs 120/- where they get Rs 30/- on a shared trip — four times the normal fare! Got frustrated with their attitude, went ahead and thought of trying for a line auto or some other auto. Tried to stop many autos, but no one stopped. Some even slowed down, but did not stop. Could not understand the reason. Why don’t they stop? Initially, I thought, there might be a traffic police standing nearby. But, that was not the case. A huge – dark – fatty young guy standing nearby, was waving his fingers at the autos which tried to stop. Seeing him there, no one dared to stop. Reason – he was hired by the local autowalas of that particular auto-stand, to protect their fare, such that other autowalas will not pickup any one from that stop 🙂 .   If some one stops by mistake and picks a passenger, he will be brutally punished and fined by the muscle man. Initially I started laughing, not on the muscle man, but on the attitude of the autowalas. Neither they are interested to provide services, nor they allow others. Moreover, they pay these muscle men from their own pockets. Who suffers? The commuters, they theme selves and the aamjunta. After 10 minutes of waiting and frustration, I went to the muscle man, and asked, “what kind of justice are you doing?, neither the autowalas whose fare you are protecting are willing to go, nor they allow others to take.” By that time 4/5 more people joined with me and we started shouting. Initially he started showing his dadagiri to us, but seeing a group and our anger, he left the place, and we managed to get a line auto. In the mean time, I approached the police and informed about the incident.

An Interesting Scene of a Real Drama – Request: “No Repetition Please”!

Last month, I was in my native place for Durga Puja. It was a real vacation for me after a long gap – after some 8/10 years. We had the usual Durga Puja celebrations and in addition we  have a cultural function on the last day of the vacation – on the Purnima (Full Moon) day. Kids, young school/college going girls and guys and even senior people participate in that function. We always arrange in our village  small skits,  competitions, cultural shows, quiz  and many more events to celebrate the evening.  People from many other villages also participate in the function. Like every year, this year also we had that function. The evening and the events were going smoothly.  I was asked to be a part of the organizing team, however I deliberately did not participate in  organizing the event. The reason – “Drink “- every one in the organizing team were drunk, literally not on their feet, drunk so badly that they were not even able to speak coherently. They had beer, whisky, vodka etc… as a part of the “organizational arrangement”. Initially I thought of raising a protest, but whom to say? No one was in a mood to listen, and every body was drinking. Just kept silent and was keeping an eye on the event.

More than 500 people (of which 60% are kids) were attending the event. Suddenly some one from the organizing team entered the dais and started shouting on the microphone. Shouting in-fact is not the appropriate word, he was abusing the anchor with all kinds of vulgar words. To that, the anchor (who was drunk too) started reacting – retaliating with equally vulgar words. In a fraction of a second, the dais became a battleground, the cultural evening became a farce and a travesty of what people name as “culture”. Audience watching the show tried to pacify the matter, but in vain. The other organizers too tried their best (with their so called wisdom words) to pacify this. Nothing happened, no one stopped and we all were watching helplessly. Finally they were taken away forcefully by the guests. Later, the chief guest, who happens to be a retired head master and a seasoned artist rose to the occasion and gave his gandhigiri speech which had the following content: “Like many good and bad scenes of a drama, this (abusing scene) incident is a real scene of a real drama. However, the taste of this scene is bad. And there is a public demand, “no repetition please”.”

Not only that, he took two Rs 50/- notes from his pocket and awarded the two battling organizers for their scene – for their action, their show in the drama.

I still could not understand what kind of cultural function we had? What will the kids learn from this? Drinking and Shouting with vulgar words?. Is this the batton we are passing to our future generation? Chalta haiAamjunta think of it…

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