Friday, 16 September 2016

Water Wars - Who is to blame - The Lazy or the Mighty?

Death of twenty is a tragedy. Death of twenty thousand is a statistic – Stalin
This is exactly the situation Karnataka is in, today. Tamil Nadu complaining it is not getting water for these many hectares is on one side and a particular farmer who will not get even a single drop of water if Karnataka releases water to Tamil Nadu is on the another. For him, his farm is more important than a distant Tamil Nadu getting his legal share of water. No individual, in this state, will allow release of water. He can even challenge the verdict with his life. And this single farmer is more potent a political force than whole of Tamil Nadu combined.
The background of the problem is this. Good or bad, there is an agreement between Karnataka and Tamil Nadu over distribution of Kaveri river water. By that, Tamil Nadu is entitled to get some water. Even, Karnataka’s picture is not that rosy. It’s not as if it has surplus and it is holding the water to torment Tamil Nadu. It is also starving for water there. But, Supreme Court has ordered Karnataka to release the water. Karnataka cribbed but it declared it will release water to the tune of 19000 cusecs per day. Bangalore exploded in violence immediately and the image the city had took a severe beating with companies shut down, violent protests and curfew all over. The gravity of the situation can be gauged from the fact that 10 companies of CRPF had to be rushed in to control the riots. Total losses in Bangalore – imputed, projected as well as real are pegged at 25-50000 crores. Tamil property was damaged, Tamilians were threatened and all sorts of noise was made. How much of this is for the forthcoming elections and it’s funding through ransoms, we will never know. Because Karnataka burnt protesting release of water, Tamil Nadu should burn protesting acts against Tamils in Karnataka. Who is to blame for this? Obviously, the one who is ordered to release water and the one who dared the Supreme Court. But, what is being done to enforce the judgement?
Looking at this, there are a few important points we need to ponder over.
1.     What is the water storage capacity of Karnataka and Tamil Nadu? What percentage of it is lost to silting of reservoirs and how much more can be trapped in tanks or whatever? What is the desilting policy?
2.     What is the percentage increase in water holding capacity of both the states post independence? Is it not time we buckle up and do something meaningful?
3.     What are both the states doing to trap flood water? Do they have any spill over or sort of lift irrigation scheme to remove a part of flood water to fill reservoirs in remote areas?
4.     The agreement was made ages before and a revision, unpalatable to both was provided. In this case, a scientific basis for calculation of the share should be established and should be revised every ten years. This should be done not based on the historic share, but based on the current usage – agriculture land, industries and cities, with any additional industries or farmlands in the last five years neglected. This will ensure that the data available will be real time and will iron out the issues even better.
5.     Today’s case is that Karnataka dared the decision to release water to Tamil Nadu. What is the recourse to bend Karnataka? One possible case is a fine of may be one lakh per cusec of water stopped. This will flow from Centre’s coffers directly into the aggrieved’s coffers. 120 crores per day is not a small amount for any state level entity. Either Karnataka releases water or it loses water. The financial pressure can handle the issues or in case it is ready to bite the bullet, Tamil Nadu can use the money to better it’s irrigation system
6.     Government of India’s data shows Tamil Nadu needs 4557 litres of water to produce one kilo of rice. West Bengal, on the contrary, uses 2169 litres per kilo. Even, West Bengal’s number is double that of China or Brazil. This can mean two things – there is too much wastage of water in Tamil Nadu or per hectare output of rice in Tamil Nadu is atrocious. Either case, it’s the fault of the government to let it happen. What did the government, then, do to educate the farmers and guide them in the right direction?

7.     25000 crores is the loss to Bangalore and insurance doesn’t cover property damaged during rioting. Who will compensate the individual who lost his property? Surely, not me, sitting in Chennai or Hyderabad and funding it through the taxes I paid. It’s a fault of Bangalore and people in Bangalore should hold collective responsibility for whatever happened there. There should be a riot levy imposed on the city based on a formula, may be as a surcharge on VAT. The number of days it should be imposed and the extra tax rate should be based on an automated formula but less than a month. Once it starts pinching the pockets of everyone in Bangalore, especially of those innocent or those from the silent majority who saw Bangalore burning without any intervention will then be proactive enough to boot out the ruckus creators.

Tuesday, 13 September 2016

Overspending - Who is at Fault - The Law or the Law Breaker?

I was booked under the charges of overspeeding a few days ago. My license was impounded and I was asked to pay the fine. Being a sincere, docile and law abiding citizen, I paid the fine. Now, the situation is this.
1.    What are the speed limits in Tamil Nadu? What is the speed urban and what’s rural? What’s on bylanes and what’s on highways? Note that I was caught on a highway in a rural area, not urban.
2.    Since no one under the rank of an ASI cannot collect fine, were we presented any credentials before collecting the fine?
3.    The challan was issued in the name of someone else, driving a different vehicle and possessing a different driving license number.
4.    Assuming I am overspeeding, where is the proof that I am overspeeding? Is there a snapshot with the speed gun showing the number plate and vehicle speed? I was not shown any. Is it not mandatory?
The charges were filed under Section 183(2) of Motor Vehicles Act, 1988 which clearly says – Whoever causes any person who is employed by him or is subject to his control in driving to drive a motor vehicle in contravention of the speed limits referred to in section 112 shall be punishable with fine which may extend to three hundred rupees, or, if having been previously convicted of an offence under this sub-section, is again convicted of an offence under this sub-section, with fine which may extend to five hundred rupees.
The law clearly states someone forced/induced me to drive above the prescribed speed limits. The challan is issued on the name of some other person with a different vehicle number and driving license number. That clearly means that a person driving a vehicle with such description induced me to drive above the speed limits and was charged. Where is the proof that he existed? If he existed, why was I forced to pay the fine? Even the argument he escaped and I was asked to pay the fine does not hold good – a person absconded and not caught questioning the competence of the police; if he is not caught and if there is no signed affidavit from my side, how did they get that person’s driving license number? This single act creates a web of suspicion and the person under whose name the license is issued should be apprehended to prove the veracity of the claims of the police.
5.    Rather than having an average speed across a distance, why is speed at a point considered? Who is going to compensate me for the time which I lost because I had to waste 15 minutes on Dollar, Sholinganallur and Infosys signals? In that case, there should be two speed limits actually – one regular and one during peak rush in free stretches. It is ironic that I will be honked and will meet with an accident if I drove at 40 because even at the maximum limit, I will be the slowest on the road; slower than the next slowest by almost 20 kmph.

All of this points to one single thing – callousness. Why shouldn’t the callous be punished? Next is the speed limit. On a road journey of thirty km between office and home in a direction with more than an hour wasted on traffic jams, what justifies an atrociously ridiculous speed limit of 40 kmph, that too on a highway? Is the duty of the police department only to fine wrong people under wrong sections, that too without telling them what the charges are and not providing a better and comfortable environment to drive?

Looking at this in the prism of a recent article, of the total 4224 vehicles on Mumbai-Pune expressway during the timeframe of 21 hours, 4185 broke the speed limit of 80 kmph - more than 99% broke the rule. This clearly states the rule is faulty, not the 99.xx% people of people who broke the rule. It’s high time we look at these things seriously and make rules more rational. Else, people will be forced to revert back to lunas and tractors for travel inside the city since those are the only once which don’t cross 40.

Saturday, 27 August 2016

Zaibatsu Model for India?

Victors write history. Though the Zaibatsu model of Japan was thoroughly discredited because of the Second World War and it was dismantled(it transmorphed into something called Keiretsu), it is worth noticing whether it can fit into the Indian model or not. A Zaibatsu is a self sustaining family business entity with very little or no outside dependencies whatsoever in a supply chain market. This means, for all practical purposes, it maintains a presence in all the parts of a vertically integrated supply chain and with a bank in the centre which funds the business.
The deplction below gives the structure of the Sumitomo Group. The group has a clear presence in all sorts of trade related to metals – mines, forestry, smelting, heavy machinery, electricals and electronics and even cement, glass and chemicals. There is a firm to build it’s factories, a bank to finance it, an insurance group, a warehousing system and a trading front end.

British Petroleum sort of fits into this model, with Bank of England working as it’s bank.

The advantage it gives is an island of stability which can weather all sorts of climates simply because there is no external dependency whatsoever. The disadvantage is, beside cartelization and price-fixing, it is too big and too powerful for a country to take on without seriously hurting itself. After all, there need not be any speculation as to what will happen if British Petroleum is taken down by the British Government.
 A dangerous proposition though, but it is worth exploring if it is applicable to India. Tatas almost fulfil all the aspects of a Zaibatsu, except the central bank. 76% of the group is locked in trusts. They have got mines, smelting plants, sheet steel manufacturing and car manufacturing. It has got it’s own showrooms, it has got it’s own fleet of trucks, it has got it’s own communications, software firm to design software for it, insurance system, hospitality for visitors and even a city to manage. Except for the central bank and a merchant shipping fleet, it has got everything. Though fragmented now, Birla Group, JK Group and Ambanis also fit into the general profile.
By weathering all sorts of economic turmoils, these groups can give us a ray of hope prodding us to work hard in adversities. But, going by the fact that the power held by such groups is too heavy(don’t forget the Nabobs of East India Company) and the way they can misuse it, it is but natural for us to identify what can be done to have this as a successful model.
1.     Market capture should be desisted. No one should have a 100% presence in a market only by Zaibatsus.
2.     Cartelization should be avoided. Anything which can be classified as a Zaibatsu shouldn’t have shareholding in another Zaibatsu.
3.     Funding to political parties by the Zaibatsus should be banned.

4.     A separate governing code should be created for such with respect to management, taxation, approval for expansions and such.