Wednesday, 22 February 2017

The New World Order - What if the Old Resist?

Two of India’s biggest business entities are facing serious top level management turmoil, and with an overwhelming presence in Indian IT, the sort of troubles in question are clearly unwanted. There can be a thousand reasons to justify the break in status quo, but there is one central theme for both these entities - Tata Sons and Infosys, viz. people who legally retured really don’t want to retire. The question is simple. Did both Ratan Tata and Narayana Murthy give absolute operational independence to their designated successors post retirement? There are two major reasons - ego clashes and boredom. After all, they ruled the empires, how can they 
I wouldn’t want to dwell into the details but would want to highlight one of the most irritating point in both the episodes.
Narayana Murthy was not happy at the hefty package Vishal Sikka was getting. Narayana Murthy came from the days when India is literally closed to the world. Any talent, you will have to find it in India and consequently, you will be paying Indian rates. Well, times changed. When you need world quality stuff, you will have to pay world quality. This is something like the difference between a bicycle and a race car. To need a bicycle race, you need not spend much than your competitor. May be, your competitor had a BSA SLR. You will buy an Atlas cycle. It doesn’t cost much to buy a BSA SLR or an Atlas cycle and the difference in cost between the both is not that much. Those were Narayana Murthy’s days. But, these are race car days. You can’t compete a Ferrari with a Tata Nano. If you want the quality of a Ferrari, you can’t justify the expense limit you set as slightly above that of a Tata Nano. You will have to shell money. Either shell the money or wilt away. Unless Narayana Murthy respects the point that quality is associated with cost, there will be strife.
Ratan Tata’s case is even curious. Even though he stepped down as the head of Tata Sons, he is still the head of Tata Trusts, the majority shareholder. Being an ex head of Tata Sons and currently the biggest shareholder, will he allow his successor to diverge from his mode of functioning? There will be cases of Ratan Tata acting as a voluntary freelancer and in some cases, there is unwanted advice. When the freelancing is frowned upon and if there are no takers for the advice, what happens? And, unless Ratan Tata understands that, even Chandrasekharan is going to face the same problem.
Well, we are at cross roads now. It’s upto them to decide - meddle or fade into obscurity.

Monday, 13 February 2017

Valentine's Day Gift for Tamil Nadu - What's in Store?

Valentines Day for the world and D-Day for Tamil Nadu. The Governor is waiting for this day and the whole state is waiting for this. Finally, the judgement is to be released. There are a few possibilities now. If both of them lose the vote, it's a reelection and advantage Stalin. There are a few more scenarios, but below is the simplistic view of what's in store.

Saturday, 11 February 2017

Sasikala versus Paneerselvam - What Next?

I don’t know what’s happening in Tamil Nadu is good or bad, from the time of Jallikattu protests, but, the reality is that, whatever is happening in Tamil Nadu is a very good excercise over Indian Constitution and politics for Indian public in general and Tamil people in particular. Have a look at how this played out.
1. Party appoints Sasikala as the proterm General Secretary
2. Paneerselvam resigns as Chief Minister, Sasikala selected as head of legislature party
3. PH Pandian convenes a press conference castigating Sasikala
4. Paneerselvam rebels against the party and declares that he is forced to resign
5. Both of them stake their claims, Governor says, let’s hold on the selection for a while.

After the rebellion of Paneerselvam at 10 PM, all MLAs and MPs started coming to Poes Garden Residence of Jayalalitha and by the time of a press conference at 2 in the night, she was able to claim the support of almost 130 MLAs out of 135 and all the MPs except one. Tambidurai was very vocal opposing Sasikala. When Paneerselvam rebelled, there was a literal explosion in his support on the roads. Instead of the scheduled 6 minutes, it took him 1 hour for him to reach home. That translated to absolute support online, which resulted in the migration of the majority of the IT wing of AIADMK to migrate to Paneerselvam’s camp.
With the Governor unreachable, Paneerselvam started gaining ground. First to join him was Dr. Maitreyan, a Rajya Sabha MP from the party comes vocal in support. The next bigwig to join him is Madhusoodhanan, the second in command of AIADMK, it’s presidium chairman jumps the ship.
Sasikala, in the meanwhile, flocks all the MLAs together into a single location, decides to takes them to Delhi. In the meanwhile, news comes out that the Governor is coming. With this, the MPs move to Delhi but the MLAs stay put.
Paneerselvam was the one who was firing all the while and Sasikala was in defence. That, may be, a main reason why Sasikala is on the backfoot. Had she been on the offence, may be, things will be different. Look at the gameplay.
1. Paneerselvam sacked as party treasurer. Paneerselvam shoots off a letter to the banks locking the bank accounts.
2. Madhusoodhanan switches camp. He shoots off a letter to Election Commission invalidating Sasikala’s elevation as General Secretary. Sasikala removes him from party. The party constitution itself is an interesting read.
3. Paneerselvam orders a commission over Jaya’s death
4. The bureaucracy changed because of CM shift is restored back
5. Paneerselvam declares that Jayalalitha’s Poes Garden residency will be made a memorial.
6. Chennai Police Head, who is formally the incharge for Marina Beach evictions is shunted out.
7. A twitter blitz is launched, the highlight being Call Your MLA. The MLAs are being flooded with calls. Anyone who opposed this was trolled absolutely - either as a tweet reply or even as a call record clip posted. This raised a debate over right to recall. It’s possible that one of those trolled the most switched sides, unable to bear the torture.
8. The person running this campaign tweeted suddenly, Sasikala’s men are searching for him for initiating the campaign and went offline for six hours. This resulted in an increase in the level of online support to Paneerselvam.
7. The MLA from Srivaikuntham escapes from ‘captivity’ and joins Paneerselvam camp. This is potrayed as kidnap online. Habeas Corpus were filed left right and centre for the missing MLAs.
8. The resort where the MLAs are held is raided by police.

The situation is thus. Sasikala has got the support of the masses. Paneerselvam got the support of the bosses - himself, the only one with CM experience, the head of the party’s legal bench, the senior most party functionary and the most educated in the party - Maitreyan is an oncologist.

Governor invited both, Paneerselvam went first and Sasikala, next. There was a deafening silence from the Governor for a day. Next evening, the news was that Governor put the selection on hold. This is another lesson on the constitution.

Article 164(1) - The chief Minister shall be appointed by the Governor and the other Ministers shall be appointed by the Governor on the advice of the Chief Minister, and the Ministers shall hold office during the pleasure of the Governor
Article 164(4) - A Minister who for any period of six consecutive months is not a member of the Legislature of the State shall at the expiration of that period cease to be a Minister

Since Sasikala got a majority, she should be given a chance as per 164(1). But, because there is a pending judgement, there is a possibility that 164(4) will not be fulfilled. Since the prerogative of the governor is to establish a stable government and since there is a potential of a CM change due to disqualification, it’s recommended to hold the selection till the judgement comes.

But, there is a formal denial.

As the cards are stacked, as time progresses, people are migrating towards Paneerselvam, hurting the chances of Sasikala. She doesn’t have experience, may be some don’t trust her. But, may be, she can be a good adminsitrator if time is given. Who is right is impossible to tell and who will win is also impossible to tell. The only difference, NTR also was inexperienced. But, people voted for him. This movement is going to be a very interesting one because of two major points
1. This is probably the first massive internet based campaign in a political tug of war anywhere is the world and is being carried out with perfection by one party. The other is just forced to defend it.
2. If the interest of people clash with the interest of the legislators whom they elected, what will happen?

Sunday, 29 January 2017

Reemergence of Sanskrit - Is it Needed?

I was browsing through a book by Rajiv Malhotra where he was launching an invective against Sheldon Pollock. I don’t question him or his motive over this. But, there are some serious things to look into, in that regard. Looking all over the shop, it’s very hard to find any books over serious Indian history or culture published by Indians based in India. Nearing three quarters of a century of independence, why are we in such a situation that John Keay or Max Muller are the still the standards? Why is it that Michael Witzel or Sheldon Pollock are the undisputed authorities of Sanskrit? Rajiv Malhotra may be correct in his argument that Pollock’s views are warped. Is it because he is learning about the life of an animal by seeing how it lives in a zoo park? He hasn’t seen Sanskrit in it’s native environment, it’s applicability in day to day life. He is a Christian with a degree in Greek who learnt Sanskrit. What he knows and what his convictions are based on who he is and who taught him. One cannot blame him. If anyone is to blame, it’s us. What is our contribution to Sanskrit studies and generalizing, what is our contribution, one of the top five or ten most powerful entities in the world? Not a single Nobel for research done in India, not a contribution of world renown.
Let’s confine ourselves to Sanskrit and Oriental Studies. We have got sufficient number of entities like Kanchi Kamakoti Peetham or BORI or even the Sanskrit Departments of eminent colleges. Why can’t we leverage their expertise to churn out information?
1. There is an immediate need of Sanskrit primers and dictionaries.
2. One very good idea which I found in the book is, a discussion over the word Atma - 1008 Sanskrit Words which can’t be translated into English. These sort of curios will create interest over the language
3. Authoritative translations plus word to word meaning of traditional literature, not just in Sanskrit, but in other languages as well. One example is the essay 300 Ramayanas. What exactly are the differences between Kamba Ramayana and Valmiki Ramayana? What is the source of these teo versions?
4. Regular seminars and conferences and even annual language Congresses over Indian languages
5. Encouraging research over Indian literature. Let’s take an example as the Kakatiya Kala Toranas. What exactly existed between them? Is it the royal palace? Is it a massive temple? Is it anything else? And what are the sources for this? Literature in Sanskrit, Arabic, Turkish, Marathi, Telugu, Kannada, Tamil and even Chinese and Italian; inscriptions discovered and yet to be discovered, treaties signed. This one single topic touches a hell lot of areas and is impossible for a single person to gloss over. Or, may be, application of Sukraneeti, Brihaspati Sutra or the such in modern management.
6. Bringing Sanskrit and other languages into day-to-day scientific relevance. If people are forced to learn German for ABAP, what’s the problem with Sanskrit?
In simpler words, Sanskrit should become a language of relevance, not a fringe, exotic, historic language for crackpots to study. We made a mistake by ditching Sanskrit in favour of Hindi but are we sure it can't be undone?

Wednesday, 18 January 2017

Jallikattu Ban Protests - The Human Sea at Marina

The question is simple. There are a few articles in the Indian Constitution. With regard to Jallikattu, I will categorize them into two groups, the first group supporting it, the next group opposing it.

Group 1. It says, because Jallikattu is a tradition linked with religion and which had royal mandate in the past, it can’t be deemed illegal.
Article 51A(f) - to value and preserve the rich heritage of our composite culture
Article 29(1) - Any section of the citizens residing in the territory of India or any part thereof having a distinct language, script or culture of its own shall have the right to conserve the same
Article 25 - Freedom of Conscience and Free Profession, Practice and Propagation of Religion
(1) Subject to public order, morality and health and to the other provisions of this Part, all persons are equally entitled to freedom of conscience and the right freely to profess, practise and propagate religion.
 (2) Nothing in this article shall affect the operation of any existing law or prevent the State from making any law—
(a) regulating or restricting any economic, financial, political or other secular activity which may be associated with religious practice;
(b) providing for social welfare and reform or the throwing open of Hindu religious institutions of a public character to all classes and sections of Hindus.
Article 13(3) - In this article, unless the context otherwise requires law includes any Ordinance, order, bye law, rule, regulation, notification, custom or usages having in the territory of India the force of law; laws in force includes laws passed or made by Legislature or other competent authority in the territory of India before the commencement of this Constitution and not previously repealed, notwithstanding that any such law or any part thereof may not be then in operation either at all or in particular areas 

Group 2. This group asks us to show compassion to all living, and making state laws illegal, which contravene central legislations. Note that Jallikattu act was declared as in contravention of Prevention of Cruelty to Animals Act.
Article 51A(g) - to protect and improve the natural environment including forests, lakes, rivers and wild life, and to have compassion for living creatures;
Article 254(1) - (1) If any provision of a law made by the Legislature of a State is repugnant to any provision of a law made by Parliament which Parliament is competent to enact, or to any provision of an existing law with respect to one of the matters enumerated in the Concurrent List, then, subject to the provisions of clause
( 2 ), the law made by Parliament, whether passed before or after the law made by the Legislature of such State, or, as the case may be, the existing law, shall prevail and the law made by the Legislature of the State shall, to the extent of the repugnancy, be void
Article 21 - Protection of life and personal liberty No person shall be deprived of his life or personal liberty except according to procedure established by law

Added to this, there is this Congress mischief of banning bulls in performances. This is what resulted in scrapping of Jallikattu Act under 254(1).

If, two sets of articles in Constitution completely contravene each other, which one will take precedence? Who will decide that?

Now, look at what’s happening in Tamil Nadu today. The whole state is up in protest. This is the first time I have seen people coming out in numbers in the IT corridor. I myself have seen more than a thousand at a single protest site and there are at least 4-5 major protest sites. It’s not that these people are vagabonds trying to hog some limelight. They are college going students and job holders who have got very less time to spare. Estimates are that there are above 60000 people on the Marina beach. Government has declared a holiday for schools and colleges tomorrow.
If the state is up in arms in such a way, it simply means the something went wrong. Why are the people of the opinion that the courts erred?

The argument put forward by PETA is,

Jallikattu exploits bulls’ natural nervousness as prey animals by deliberately placing them in a terrifying situation in which they are forced to run away from those they perceive as predators. As PETA India has documented in Animal Welfare Board of India (AWBI)–authorised inspections, the bulls become so frightened by the mob of men who participate that they slip, fall, run into barriers and traffic – and even jump off cliffs in their desperate attempts to escape – frequently leading to broken bones or death. 
As can be seen in the documentation, jallikattu participants purposely disorient the bulls by forcing them to consume alcohol; twist and bite their tails; stab and jab them with sickles, spears, knives and sticks; cause them intense pain by yanking their nose ropes; and punch them, jump on them and drag them to the ground. 
PETA India has also documented that during races, bulls run because people hurt them. They’re hit with everything from bare hands to nail-studded sticks, and their tailbones are broken at each joint. This is as painful to the bulls as it would be to us if someone were to break our fingers joint by joint. 
In bullfights, the round ends when one of the frightened and injured bulls manages to flee – or is killed. 
Participants and spectators are also at risk. From 2010 to 2014, media outlets reported that there were some 1,100 human injuries and 17 deaths caused by jallikattu-style events, including the death of a child. The actual number is probably higher since many injuries likely weren’t reported in the news.

If this is not true and exaggerated, where are the counter arguments? Were they forceful enough to put forward their view? Or it is just a whimper as a formality? Now the question is this. Jallikattu is a traditional event. If there are some random and unplanned mishaps in it’s execution, do you plan to regulate it? It looks like Tamil Nadu government formulated some rules to regularize it, including health checks for both the contestants and the bulls, number of participants against a bull. PETA argued, people are not following the rules. Let’s say, if people are not following road rules, will you ban the roads? Or will you enforce a regulation? That is where the crux of the argument lies. Based on some random accidents, you cannot ban a sport. You will have to regulate it and make it workable. There are some arguments over selective breeding(only the bulls which stand untamed after the bout are considered for breeding increasing the vitality of the race) and the arguments over milk(casein argument) and the likes.

Greenpeace is charged with denting India’s development in the name of disturbing ecological balance(their success rate in India vis-a-vis the globe is an indication of that). Caesin argument over PETA is also of the same league. Is there any truth in that? If yes, what are we going to do?

The situation, as it stands today, is thus. There is a Supreme Court judgement which people are not happy with. People are not happy with the government’s efforts in this regards. But, fortunately, the anger is against PETA, which people feel, manipulated the court to give such a judgement. Something needs to be done, and done fast to assuage the public anger. The courts and the governments should command respect and authority from the people. They cannot be slighted and that’s for India’s good. It’s upto them to decide what to do.

PS: An interesting discussion over PETA’s arguments.

Tuesday, 10 January 2017

Indira is India and India is Indira - How Good are the Economics?

Discussing about the abolition of Privy Purses, I started looking into the impact of those momentous economic policies of Indira Gandhi during the period 1969-1973. The major ones of them are below -

1. Abolition of Privy Purses
2. Nationalization of Banks
3. Nationalization of Insurance Firms
4. Monopolies & Restrictive Trade Practices Act
5. Foreign Exchange Violations Act

Did they do good or did they do damage, we don’t know.

Let’s talk about just two persons who are impacted because of this - Maharani Gayatri Devi of Jaipur and JRD Tata.
The total expense to Indian government on privy purses was 4 crores in 1970. For whatever reasons, ranging from the royals supporting Swatantra Party to socialist equality, Indira Gandhi forced her way through with scrapping of the recognition of the royals. May be, it’s fine. But, just look at one scenario. Indira Gandhi can call Maharani Gayatri Devi stating, the government is planning to setup a new paper factory; can you use your contacts to get some money? A factory providing jobs to many just vanished because Indira Gandhi ensured that Gayatri Devi will never help her.
The Governement nationalized New India Assurance, which is still, one of the main general insurance firms of India from Tatas in 1973. MRTPA ensured that the Tatas can’t expand or acquire new companies. And FERA ensured that Tatas can’t invest overseas. Any business venture by the Tatas will be at the expense of the government permissions - a classic case of License Raj. After losing his brain child Air India, and after losing out this badly, will JRD Tata support government’s projects with full zeal?
Same goes for the banks. May be, they helped increase rural footprint. But, they were also used as agents to fund unprofitable enterprises, shooting up NPAs like anything.
In one fell swoop, Indira Gandhi has alienated all those with money and power. And not forgetting the fact that income tax in 1973-74 was an exorbitant 97.5%, this forced all the expense to sit on government’s shoulders, for which, again, nationalized banks were used.
To do justice, there were some acquisitions like the oil majors resulting in the creation of BPCL and HPCL which are doing reasonably well, even after all the competition from the world.
Whatever Indira Gandhi’s government did, may be, they ran the show for a while. But, was the show draining on the nation? Looks so because we had to go for a massive deregulation in 1991. And what have these given to us now? Some examples
1. Naxalite movement turned strongest in Bastar and Kanker. By killing the king of Bastar and by alienating that of Kanker, government removed the most prominent voices which those innocent tribals listen to.
2. ICICI bank is the third largest in India, far bigger than the nationalized banks like Andhra Bank
3. Same goes for ICICI Prudential, which is the third largest.
Tatas acquired Corus, Rosneft acquired Essar, Toyota does business in India and no one challenges Microsoft’s monopoly.
The reality is that whatever Indira Gandhi did, most of them are overturned by successive governments. So, what are her economic successes? And what are her mistakes? And, even today, can the mistakes be corrected?

Monday, 9 January 2017

Jallikattu - Worth the talk?

Well, on one side we have those omnipresent animal rights activists who prefer animal rights over everything else, a commendable job, if it doesn’t cross the borders of rationality and on the others, who are directly impacted because of that. Before jumping into the topic, there is this news of some villagers killing dogs in Kerala and it created a huge ruckus. The issue has become some dangerous there that there is no way forward except to sterilize or slaughter. With no resources to sterilize, what other option have the people got? With dogs hunting in packs everywhere and with them attacking the weak and infirm, can anyone even think of morality? What takes a precedene there - animal rights or human comfort? Well, I have a better option - we can catch all these strays and dump them in the areas where these animal rights activists live. Are they OK with that? Or, is it that personal comfort precedes someone else’s discomfort?
Well, then, about Jallikattu. It is a traditional Tamil sport where a person tames a bull. These animal rights activists have approached the Supreme Court and got it banned. And a Court doesn’t have any eyes and ears, it has only facts. Fine with that, going by the fact that you are hurting bulls both physicaly and mentally, you can ban it. PETA said,

Terrifying and injuring bulls is abuse, not sport, and this combined with the injuries and deaths of people common at Jallikattu events puts a bloody stain on India's reputation in the eyes of the world.

But, then, slaughtering them for food, is it fine? Kamal Haasan questioned the same today.

If you want a ban on jallikattu, let’s also ban biryani

That, even, is not my argument. My problem is about what a farmer told.

Jallikattu inspired people to hold onto their bulls. Farmers provided extra care for the animal since the bull represents the pride of their family and community. If the ban continues there will be no incentive to hold on to the bulls

This is where my problem is. No one in the area where Jallikattu is practised uses oxen for farming. Banning Jallikattu will remove the only reason why people are not sending calves to slaughterhouses - they have got a reason to incur this expense with zero returns. Well, if milk is the only reason why the oxen should survive, you can always use artificial insemenation and for that, you don’t need that many oxen. And with that, we will be seeing magnification of genetic faults resulting in new health complications. That is what my problem is, with this decision - ban it in the name of animal rights, fine. But, will you help support the survival of the breed? Or is it my problem to help ensure the breed’s survival?