General Elections 2014: a Game Theoretic Analysis

With less than 20 days left for the first phase of elections, each party has almost finalized the list of candidates; giving a final touch (Congress has already declared) to their manifestos, busy in bridging the gaps between like (?) minded parties for opportunistic alliances, and making advertisements in the print and electronic media. Campaigning is becoming crucial for all political parties.

One strong trend which is emerging clear from the campaigning- candidate selections and the alliance formations – winning the election by hook or by crook –  that’s the ‘Game‘;  a zero-sum or/and a non-zero-sum game but mostly with opportunistic coalitions. The outcome of this game is the real face of our democratic form of government, in which some times the major national party sits in the opposition and a the leader of a small party with 20 odd members can become the Prime Minister of this country. (Please do watch the above video link to see a beautiful illustration of Indian democracy by (Late) Shri Pramod Mahajan.)

And the saying “every thing is fair in love and war” is becoming a reality for this election game-war. It is a game in which political Parties, Media, Election Commission, Police and the Voters are the major players with many strategies for a goal – ‘Rule’ – with and without coalition in which Nash-Equilibrium may not be guaranteed !!

Like every other game, here too, the strategies are very important not only to form a government but also to form a stable and sensible government at the centre and in the states. Strategies are mostly formed by the active players – Political Parties, many in number and extremely divergent in characteristics; propagated by the passive players – Media; judged by the unique players of the world’s largest democracy – the Voters.

Lets analyse few of the common strategies –

Candidate Selection: It is indisputable to say that candidate selection depends majorly on the polarization factor – caste, religion, outsider vs. insider, etc. More than qualities like honesty, capability, loyalty and integrity, importance is being given whether the candidate is from Urban or Rural area, a Hindu or a Muslim, a Brahmin or a Yadav or a Kurmi or a Dalit, a Lingayat or a Vokkaliga or a Kurba, a Jat or a Thakur, an Iyer or a Mudaliyar, son/daughter of some “big” man or an aamjunta, and many more. Change of parties to earn a party ticket are common; for many candidates getting a ticket is more important than the ideology of the party. If the political parties are to be blamed for this kind of polarization and division of the society, then the media is also equally responsible for generating their masala-news and live analysis.

So far as the voters are concerned – we too are biased for our caste and religion sentiments. Remember- neither making a holy dip in Varanasi will make some one a Hindu-sympathizer nor wearing a skull-cap will make some one close to the hearts of Muslims.

Are we going forward to bridge the gap or going back to the era of un-touchability ? The choice is ours !!

Hate/Love Speeches: Making a hate speech is very easy these days. Reason – the conviction rate is very low and the convictions are not exemplary ! Hate speeches targeting religion, caste, community, migrants, etc. are threatening the peace and sovereignty of the country. The words or phrases used by the politicians are sometimes derogatory and flaring. Moreover, these days personalized comments are pathetic and in utterly bad tastes, mostly used to polarize voters and to stop some one from even doing good at any cost. What surprises me more is the negative publicity – parties are busy in finding out others’ faults, not in publicizing their own good governance. Criticizing others for their failures is not bad but laying the foundation of good future is more important. This is not only happening in party manifestos but also in reality. We fail to observe any party or leader sincerely or humbly accepting their mistakes and offering to find remedies for it; rather it appears from their statements that doing wrong things are their deliberate actions and their birth-rights.

If hate speeches are bad, then what about love speeches ? Saying “I love to be in the midst of tribal people” and doing nothing for them; or saying “I will go from home to home and sleep in villages” who had once mocked other leaders for eating and sleeping in Dalit homes. All for the benefit of TV cameras – these are merely romanticizing the election bids !

Freebies: We all love freebies and indisputably this becomes a major strategy during elections. The ‘one-kilogram per rupee’ Rice concept, re-adjustments in the number of of Cooking-gas cylinders, free Ration, Laptops, TVs, Cycles, Washing Machines, even free Electricity, free Water, loan-Waivers and many similar things are common these days. Irrespective of the class and affordability of the people, the freebies are very popular these days. Its as if these are all literally raining from the heavens. Political rallies, party manifestos and advertisements are saturated with freebies – “If you vote for me, I will give you this” ! … Are you really giving from your pocket ? NO !! Then who allowed you to do so ? … Let us understand that freebies are making us nikarma (indolent) and are being distributed from the tax-payers’ money which was meant for the development of the country. If any political party wants to give any substantial gifts to the society by making election-oriented promises, then let them promise us good governance – not generate or do nothing about tackling policy paralysis and corruption; let them create for us a system of quality education,  quality jobs, sustained opportunities to earn our livelihood at our native places (no migrant-labour), good roads, green environment, continuous supply of clean water, electricity, necessary and regulated material resources at reasonable prices, transparent accounting system, ample safety and security for all its citizens, and so on and so forth. Not freebies… Freebies will not eradicate poverty; rather it will keep re-orienting using foolish methods and then reinforce the downward-spiralling of poverty.

A true leader must have the vision to empower its nation by building on every available resource and not callously aim at the gaddi (seat of power) !!!

Alliance: Both pre-poll and post-poll alliances are becoming crucial these days. The pre-poll alliances we see these days are actually not based on a common agenda; rather these are based on political compulsions for a post-poll government formation. Moreover, no one (political parties as well as their leaders) is untouchable. On a critical analysis, we can see that most of the pre-poll alliances are actually converting a zero-sum game to a non-zero-sum game. Here are a few instances – LJP-BJP in Bihar, Shiv Shena-BJP-MNS (?) in Maharashtra, BJD-JMM in Odisha, RJD-Congress in Bihar, TDP-BJP in some parts of Andhra Pradesh, flip-flops of TRS-Congress in Telangana, DMDK-PMK-MDMK-BJP in Tamil Nadu, AIDMK-Congress, DMK-Congress in Tamil Nadu, BJP-BJD in Odisha.

Parties with a strong vote base sometimes do not form pre-poll alliances, so that they can get maximum window while forming the post-poll alliances. Examples – BJD in Odisha, AIDMK in Tamil Nadu, TMC in West Bengal, etc.

Alliances are good if they are formed to truly serve the nation or the state. But bad if these are formed to stop a party or a group to form the government, may be in the name of secularism, corruption /anti-corruption, language, regionalism, etc.

Contrary to pre-poll alliances, post-poll alliances are formed mostly with a compulsion (with political excuses) and with invisible agendas – which are selfish in nature. The compulsions of post-poll alliances will rise with the increase in small and regional parties, and the undesired effect (w.r.t. voters) will be echoed as in 1989, 1990, 1996, 1998, 2004, 2009,… and the recent post-poll alliance of Congress and AAP in Delhi which only lasted for 49 days !!

For an ideal case, alliances should not be dictated for egoistic and selfish reasons but should be committed only and only for the benefit of the people !!

Reservations based on Caste and Religion: This is another big strategy the political parties play, both before and after the elections. To gain vote shares, parties promise reservation for particular castes and religions which needs to condemned right away. Though the concept of reservations was decided and rightly offered for creating a short-term balance in the society, now it has become a major political sword for winning elections after elections, without actually balancing the caste and religion differences in a society particularly like India.

Division of States or Special Status Category: Recently, the bifurcation of Andhra Pradesh, and the demands for ‘special status category’ to Bihar and Odisha have fuelled this strategy of forming a coalition (pre or post) and winning sympathy-votes based on “step-motherly” treatment by the Centre. If such divisions and categorizations are not justifiably carried out by the Centre (but only for coalition parties to gain sympathy-votes), then we will soon see further territorial divisions and non-beneficial alignments.

Bribing: Bribing voters and candidates are not new. Wine, Women and Wealth play important roles in bribing the voters and political rallies. Critics and analysts say that any thing in the range of Rs. 700/- to Rs. 10,000/- is being spent per vote by many of the candidates. On an average, some of the candidates are reportedly spending more than Rs. 30 to Rs. 50 crores per constituency. I still remember the punch line “Give me 10 votes and take a new bike” – very commonly seen and heard during the Local Bodies Elections-2012 in Maharashtra.

As mentioned before, the political parties are playing the election Game with their positive and negative strategies, and the media (paid or fair) is a party to it in propagating the political agendas in various forms. Both positive journalism as well as negative journalism are part and parcel of the game.

But the outcome of the Game depends on our ultimate decision- whether to fall for the cheap and divisive politics or rise and stand-up for a self-reliant, stronger India which can give corruption-free governance and sustained employment ! If our votes are sold to these corrupt leaders for a selfish and baseless favour or meagre cash or a bottle of wine or freebies,  or a reservation based on caste /community /religion, or a loan-waiver… then whom should we blame but ourselves ? And therefore, it also lies in our hands – what ways we pave for our children – the future of our society !! In this regard, we must appreciate the efforts of countries like Japan and China which have been utterly careful and diligent to correct wrong practices and sustain good ones.

This is the right time or opportunity to show our strength, to redress defects in the system and make it clean and strong. Its our time to play our own Game; let’s cast our precious vote not under the influence of “MCR” – Money, Caste and Religion but on our own conviction – a conviction that is largely based on morals and right knowledge. We need to do something substantial, which will make our life rewarding and us worthy aamjunta; not an useless and corrupt aamjunta. Let us prevent corruption, bring in good governance and create sustained jobs for a better life. Let’s respect our dignity, our state and our country. The choice is definitely ours !!! It is not that far… just couple of weeks more!!

Aamjunta – what do you say?

Jai Hind!

Welcoming Telangana and Seemandhra – what lies next ?

With green signal given by the Lok Sabha to the Telangana Bill, creation of the 29th state of India becomes a reality. Now, Andhra Pradesh is divided into two smaller states – Telangana and Seemandhra (the one which opposed the division of Andhra Pradesh). Though there is a sense of pride and victory by some people of Telangana, the general mood of the people of the region, particularly of Seemandhra, and other parts of India is not happy regarding the way this specific bifurcation was handled and new states are being created.

Most surprisingly, the recent developments which came into light are undemocratic and pathetic !

First, six Honourable MPs (Congress) of Seemandhra issued a no-confidence motion against their own party and the government. They were later expelled. But their grievance was never discussed in the parliament. Neither the parties in power nor the parties in opposition bothered to listen to their dissent.

Second, Pepper Spray was used by Mr. L. Rajagopal on 13th February, 2014 which shamed the Indian democracy and Parliamentary system. His act was merely condemned by the political parties and later, he was suspended. However, he had managed to defend his act on live-TV shows and became an over-night hero in his constituency, Vijayawada (Seemandhra).  Many critics of Seemandhra MPs view their opposition to the bifurcation of Andhra Pradesh only as a means to safeguard their business investments in parts of Telangana, particularly Hyderabad (its supposed capital) and an election tactics. It is widely alleged that the LANCO business unit in Hyderabad of Mr. Rajagopal was bailed-out by a political pact with the UPA government.

Third, and the most surprising thing is the complete blackout of the debates in the Lok Sabha. It was never seen since the live telecast of Parliament proceedings began in 1996. Hon’ble Speaker says  – it was a technical glitch; BJP says – first, we were unaware of it, then admits it was a “technical glitch”, and then blames it was a “tactical glitch”; Congress – as usual does not say any thing (even the Union Home Minister refused to comment on the blackout) and the rest call it as the “murder” of democracy or stage walkouts. What surprises the aamjunta is the way the Bill was presented and passed; there was no proper debate, no discussion, no clear plan of action for Seemandhra or Telangana, and above all no consideration on the fall-out of this Bill !! Whom should we blame, only the party in power – UPA (Congress in particular)  or the opposition (BJP in particular) or both ? Don’t we see that both of them have tried to use this sensitive and controversial Bill to earn more seats in the next general elections ? It is just “hunger and abuse of power” – both so destructive in nature, especially in the context of a multi-cultural and multi-lingual country like India !

This actually frustrates the common man of this country. Unfortunately, we probably have no option but to elect one of them (Congress or BJP or coalitions led by them) in the future, as the alternatives including Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) and Third-Front can prove to be more disastrous for this country !!

What would follow are perhaps – Bandhs (strikes) in Seemandhra and other parts of India, fights between various groups of  Andhra Pradesh and Delhi, debates on television and in newspaper columns, and increase in demands for creation of new states in other parts of the country – Koshala in Odisha, Vidarbha in Maharashtra, Harit Pradesh in Uttar Pradesh, Bundelkhand in central India, and Gorkha Land in the east /north-east ! This does not stop there; as it did not stop with the creation of Chhattisgarh, Jharkhand, Uttarakhand, Haryana and Goa.

The Pandora’s Box is opened now with many political compulsions, strikes, acts of hate, and various other possibilities including elections and re-elections !

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 further intolerance, regionalism and selfish motives, which sometimes hinder the growth of India as a whole, and complicate the inter-state relations and distribution of resources – water, mining, dams, power, etc. Likewise, administration and delegation of executive tasks may take a back seat. In this light, one should take thorough note of the detailed analysis in the arduous Srikrishna Committee Report.

Further, such divisions of states in cacophony can also highly complicate the internal security with many neighbours as observed from New Delhi and NCR. Many fear that the anti-Maoist steps being carried out jointly by Odisha, Andhra Pradesh, Chhattishgarh, etc. may also get diluted.

As I have mentioned in one of my previous article, the way we are creating smaller states with the above motives and intentions, 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.

Aamjunta needs to awake, arise and take the centre-stage as a voter, implementer, jurist, lawyer, businessman, student, teacher, social activist and others – for, by and of India. We need to go beyond the selfish intention of small states and think of an united India only, without which our existence will be at stake.

It is now obvious that the selfish political parties will instigate us on the differences in languages, religions and region-specific development. But the choice is ours; whether or not to fall in their line !

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

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

Jai Hind…

Other articles on Regional Politics in India:

1. Regional Political Parties – danger to Democracy and India?

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

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.

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!

Humanity at the Cost of Safety and Life?

In the hot summer if some one comes to your door step and asks for some drinking water, then what will you do?

You will give water and serve! Right!, “Atithi Devo Bhaba“, That is the usual manab dharm or to say humanity.

Hold on…

Let me narrate some of the incidents first, then you can answer for yourself.

Recently, a young couple, very well-dressed, were selling papad and some house-hold things in various parts of Bhubaneswar. They visited door to door, went to some one’s house at about 12.30 pm on a working day of an early summer. They went to some one’s house and pressed the calling bell. On hearing the bell, the lady of the house came to her door to check who is there and inquired from the couple what is the matter. Like many people, she also did not show any interest in buying those products. She was a newly married lady, well dressed with a nice saree and gold ornaments. She was about to close her door, the saleswoman requested her to give some drinking water. And as a matter of humanity or manab dharm, the house-owner lady called the sales-lady to her verandah and went home for water. She did not know what eventuality was following her. The sales couple followed her, bolted the front gate without anyone’s knowledge. They simply went to the kitchen and put the lady of the house on gun-point. It was too late for the lady of the house to understand what was happening. She could not do any thing; just gave them all her ornaments, cash and other valuables. In no time her house was looted by a couple who posed as marketing agents or sells person and that too exploit the hot summer. Bringing drinking water for them on a hot summer become a nightmare for her.

This is not one isolated incident, rather one of many such frauds, loots and cheating happening in various parts of our country. There are reports, that couples book train tickets (AC/Non-AC) and travel all along from Mumbai to Bhubaneswar or from Delhi to Puri or from Delhi to Patna or from Delhi to Howrah…; on long distance trains. They just gel with their co-passengers and make sure that no one doubts their behaviour at any point of time. They talk, eat, discuss and even share many things of their life, family and various other issues. They not only exchange their residence addresses (false address) they even share their bogus telephone numbers. They pose as responsible individuals and become friendly with their co-passengers in no time.  But friendship with them becomes a costly affair for many people in that carriage. They use some chemicals or medicines and make sure that their co-passengers get deep sleep on the 2nd night (long distance trains such as Konark Express, Purusottam Express, Howrah Mail etc., usually takes 36+ hours). This helps them to loot their new-friends. They simply vanish from the train after taking some valuables, bags and belongings of their co-passengers in  the night.  No one will have even any doubt, even if one sees them alighting from the train with bags and baggage. They ensure that they get down one or two station before their last stop and choose their prey with maximum care.

Sometime it is also observed that these couples aim very high, do not loot their prey on the train. Rather, they get down decently in their chosen stop. But afterwards, they start communicating with their new friends/co-passengers. These criminals invite them for vacation parties, and visit them frequently at their homes. In a month or two through them, they create a new bond with many other families. And on one fine day, they fool everyone by winning their trust, loot them as the 1st couple did on the hot summer or in  different innovative methods.

So…

Aamjunta, now tell me…  what is your answer,  give water or not?

After going through some recent reports on News Papers and TV, one will seriously think whether to give water or not. One should seriously think his/her safety first and then manab dharm or humanity…”Atithi Devo Bhava” . Many such incidents are happening in an alarming rate in the city. Unless, we the aamjunta keep an eye on such kind of couples and activities, we ourselves will be in problem. Who knows, who is their next pray. Be very careful aamjunta. Though it is right that “all our friends were strangers“, we need to be very careful wile dealing with strangers, be it in train or market. But, that does not mean that we will misbehave them or show our arrogance. Treat them with care, but at the same time keep an eye on their activities.

Note: I personally still believe that we should follow manab dharm, but with care. Belief should be with reason and facts, not blind. And I still want to practice “Atithi Devo Bhaba“, but with due care.

Satyameva Jayate

 

Booms, Myths and Catastrophes of Software Jobs – A Bird’s Eye View From Berth No. 72

The title of this post is inspired by an interesting article of Prof. V. P. Sinha (IIT Kanpur, IIT Bombay, DAIICT Gandhinagar). And the post is dedicated to you “aamjunta“, the present, future and the past.

Please visit “The Gutsy Gibbon” for the post. Thanks to my friend and fellow blogger for hosting this article in his blog. Keep writing interesting articles and keep encouraging others.

Credit Card Fraud and an Unusual New Year Gift

Accidentally I called the customer care of my new credit card issuer (Citi Bank) to know the amount that I had to pay, even though the due date was some 20 days ahead. I usually keep a track of all my transactions through Internet banking, but was unable to do this time as the card was new; I was waiting for the Internet transaction facilities. After going through the usual process of verification with the customer care, when I asked the executive about the outstanding amount, I was shocked to hear her answer. I could not believe what she was telling me. I asked her again and requested her to verify the amount. But, alas, the figure did not change. It was Rs 96, 541/-. I could not believe what I was listening to and cut the call. Sat for some time near the telephone booth and thought of asking the agent again. Dialled the customer care once again and asked the new executive the same question, “could you please give me the outstanding amount of my card?” Same answer…

After getting the same answer for the third time from a different customer care executive, I asked her to give me the details of the transactions. To add salt to my wound, the customer care lady gave me the details; the latest was Rs 77,135/- and the the rest were some Rs 12,206/- . To my further queries, she told me that the latest transaction was made in Euros and looks like some one purchased an Apple iMac using my credit card on-line! The transaction was made some 3 days back. She did not give me any more details on that transaction. When I told her about my credit limit and argued with her how come the bank allowed that transaction to succeed?, she told me that, since the transaction had crossed my credit limit, which was set to Rs 25,000/-, bank had charged some Rs 7,200/- as extra charge. It was like a bomb shell! The worst part was that she asked me to pay the entire amount immediately, otherwise the bank will charge heavy interest on the transactions.

Politely with a heavy voice, I told her “I do not have any idea about the Apple iMac transaction, I have done transaction only for Rs 12,206/- , out of which some through direct purchase using my card and some using on-line transaction for some fee payment for a friend of mine“. I told her that, “listen, the card is with me and I’m responsible for the transaction of Rs 12,206/- only, the other transaction is a fraud one and I’ll not pay a single pie for that“. Further, I asked her a basic question, that “how come the bank did not inform me when my credit limit crossed and when passed the transaction”?. I told her, look, even the bank did not send me an SMS for the huge transaction, which is a normal procedure with other banks. I argued that, if the bank charges extra money for crossing the limit, then the bank should also inform the customer while crossing the limit. That did not happen in my case. Bank simply did not act on it. Before cutting the call, I asked her to stop further transaction on my card with immediate effect.

After talking to the customer care, I called my friend, for whom I did on-line transactions to know his idea and knowledge, if any, on the huge amount. He was shocked, beyond my expectations. The worst part was his parents came to know from our conversations about this. They became very serious and asked me in detail about it. I told them that these kind of fraud transactions happen in real life, neither their son nor me are responsible. Though they some how believed my assurance, yet they had sleep less nights.

All these things happened in a span of 2 hours in the late afternoon of 29th Dec, 2005. In the evening, I called again the customer care and asked her about the methodologies for a complain. She took some 10 minutes to give me the detail and asked me to send a fax on some number stating disputed transaction. I did the same within no time and kept the fax detail for my reference. Came back to my room, wrote a letter to the bank with the details of my transactions and the disputed transaction. Could not sleep properly, searched the Internet on how to deal with such kind of cases for hours, wrote couple of mails to people for their help and suggestion. Tried all my resources that night, but no success.

Next morning, I went to the post office, sent the letter along with the copy of the fax which I had sent in the previous night through registered (ad) post. In the mean time, I got 2/3 calls from various people of the bank asking me to pay the amount immediately. I told them firmly, that, I had already disputed the transaction and will not pay a single amount other than my own transaction“. In the evening, I went to the ATM center of Citi Bank at Hiranandani Gardens with my friend and dropped a cheque for the payment of my transactions. Called the customer care again in the late evening to get the status.; was feeling restless and nervous.

On 31st Dec, 2005 I called the bank two times to know the status of my complain. Got the stereotypic answer, “it is under investigation, will get back to you soon“. I too got couple of calls from the bank and some recovery agents to pay the amount. In the night the world was celebrating the new year other than me (and my friend of course). In the morning, I met my guide in lab and wished him new year wishes. After a brief chat, he asked me whether everything is ok or not. I could not control my self and told him about the incident. He was shocked. Immediately he asked me to go to the police station and to file an FIR. What he told from some of his recent experiences was shocking. Looks like some other bank had even sent recovery agents (gundas) to collect the fraud transaction amount some time back from one of our faculty members. After thinking a bit he asked me to write/talk to an IPS officer, who happens to be a PhD student of my batch in IIT Bombay. He knew his name, though did not have the details of the gentle man. Immediately I sat down and searched in the Internet. I was lucky, got his email id and his home page.

With hope I wrote a mail to him explaining my case. In that mail, I requested him either to call me back or to give me his number, such that I can speak and explain my case. I did not know, that I was the luckiest at that moment. Within no time, I got a call from some unknown number. I was bit reluctant to pick up the phone as I was getting calls from various people on payment. But, this time the call was from the IPS officer. He asked me to explain my case in detail over phone and to email him my complaint letter and other details such that he can take up that case personally. He assured me and asked me to relax. On the back drop, he instructed me to file a complain with the local police station. Immediately, I sent him all my details and the scan copy of my complaint, which he forwarded to the Mumbai Head of Citi Bank with a personal note. He called me again and updated me about the case and gave his mobile number, to talk to him in-case I face any problem further. He repeated again to file the complaint with police.

At about 2.15 pm, I along with my friend went to the local police station (Powai) to file the complain. That was the first police station visit of my life. It was a big mess, no one was there to listen to us. They simply denied to accept any complaint. Initially we thought that there might be a communication gap. We tried to explain then, but in return, we were sent from one table to other for more than one hour. They even were not ready to listen that some senior police officer of IG rank had instructed us to file the complain. Arre woh.. bade log hai.. unko kucch pata nahini hota hai, was their answer. Then they called some one over phone and discussed and asked us to go to Andheri to file our complaint as it is an on-line transaction problem.

Then, some one among them told us since the bank’s head office is at Chennai, we should file our complaint in Chennai. Simple harassment! We were frustrated, called up our rescuer again. We updated him about our position, and asked him about our next step. He advised us to go and talk to the police men again and to ask them to take our complain. This time he told us to divulge his name to the local police. But, nothing happened. All our requests and explanations were in vein. We got so much frustrated that we decided to come back to our hostel. As a matter of courtesy, I sent an SMS to our rescuer and explained him about our situation. To our surprise, he called us immediately and directed us to wait near the police station till his further update. After some 10 minutes we got an SMS from him asking us to meet the police men again. In that SMS he also gave the contact details of the ACP of the local district (Powai) and asked us to speak to him in case of problem.

After getting the SMS we went to the police station, could not believe the sea change in the behaviour of local police. “are saab ke liye chai lao.. aap yaahan baithie, laiye, hum aapke complain receive karte hain.. VIP Treatment! For some time, I could not believe, whether that was a dream or reality. But that was the reality and we could manage this time; filed our complaint, got it stamped and assurance for further help. We thanked the God and the rescuer. It took 3.5 hours to file a complaint though.

Came back to lab and thanked my guide for the help. His morning advice was the best new year gift for me. The case got solved in another 30 days without much problem. Our rescuer made it sure that I get no threat and no calls from the bank. Finally I got a letter from the bank on the reversal of the transaction and the fine.

A fraud transaction had happened on my card, happened with one of my friend recently (even though he happens to be a manager in the issuing bank) and can happen with you aamjunta at any time. Be careful and tactful while dealing with the bank, recovery agents and the police. Keep a track of all your transactions and make sure to get an SMS for every transaction you made.

Wish you a Happy and Fraud Free New Year 2009.

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