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All posts for the month March, 2015

Open Manhole!

Published March 27, 2015 by vishalvkale

LOCATION : INDORE

3 Days Ago, {24th March, 2015} Old RTO Road, in front of RTO : {I noticed it lay open for at least 2 days prior to this} 

TODAY, 27th March 2015, same place..


An open Manhole, lying open for days in a public place, in front of a Mandir… 

What makes things worse is that this stretch goes isolated at night. And right in the middle, an open manhole. Wow, what governance! Cant the Municipal people at least put a cover on it? Isnt it a potential risk? Worse still : No one cares! Why should they? It isnt their lives, isnt it? 

Update: Informed the authorities, nice and encouraging response. That is interesting, and raises questions on us the people. For the response was equally blunt : “aapne dhyaan rakkhhaa yeh kyaa kam hai“? Intend to send letter of thanks to the official once it is done… 

Corporate India : The Self-Perpetuating Vicious Conditioned Response

Published March 20, 2015 by vishalvkale

A LinkedIn Question on Managers, and their attitudes towards employee’s mental health triggered a thought process; Do managers really care about employee’s mental health?
No, they dont. I dont think this can be an argued, with; neither is this open to question. There are several documented surveys in existence that bear the proof : that disease of every kind is rising, and fast. Question is, does anyone care? No. Also true. Next question : can anything be done? Answer : No. Concluding Question : Why? Answer : The stupid idiot who tries to do something gets sacked, regardless of level. Statement of simple fact. 

It doesnt take a genius to figure out that you run everyone under incredibly high stress combined long with 14-hour days – there are going to be cases of burnout, breakdown, mental disorders, heart attacks, diabetes, Asthma, etc. That is basic 10th standard Biology. Everyone should and does know this. Still they dont care. If they did, things wouldnt be as they were. That is also an unfortunate truism. People at the top – some of them, at any rate – are also well aware of the range of issues, but shy away from doing anything about it. Why should this be so? And why is bucking the system so damned tough for even a top manager? 

But first, the proof. As proof, in May 2013, The ET carried a damning indictment of Corporate India and its work culture. { Analysed on my blog here : Corporate India, work stress and employee dissatisfaction. } It holds an interesting divergence, and a hint of the key. While the Employer view was that employees value Career, the Employee view was the e.x.a.c.t opposite : they value job security. Another sector specific survey identifies rising mental illness in Corporate India. A third has clearly delineated abnormal and rising rates of sickness – especially lifestyle diseases. Just reading these surveys makes clear the TOTAL disconnect between Top Management and Middle-Lower-Frontline Staff. 


At core of the issue lies a bunch of cowardly middle managers, who are too scared to speak; brow-beaten frontline and firstline managers who know that if they speak, khatam, finish. And at the core of that lies a disturbed authority-responsibility matrix that gives power to people who dont deserve it, or dont train people for the higher responsibilities. And it is this self-perpetuating matrix that is in effect a vicious circle, breaking out of which is virtually impossible. 

This vicious circle is actually indicative of a deeper systemic malaise: the internal systems and processes are not coping up with the changed business reality that is confronting the corporate scenario. And that, to my mind, is the core reason for what we have seen above. HR systems, fist of all, need to be strengthened to cope with the new reality. This has to go hand-in-hand with a more humane treatment to employees, with a receptive ear to their manifest and genuine concerns. 

And the proof of that {malaise} is simple; all you have to do is look, ask the right questions – for example, in the sales function,  just trace sales, cost of sales, distributor and team instability, cheque bouncing, customer complaints, vendor issues etc : all are directly proportional, whereas logic and experience both dictate they should ideally be inversely proportional. This is basis practical experience of tracing numbers. The problem : The PMS does not measure anything except the first parameter, which means that there is no reason to do anything about the rest. Result? Also simple to trace. Trace the brand failures, their number and rising incidence. {To those, esp HR people, who lay claim that the modern PMS does measure other parameters – my rejoinder; no, it doesn’t, but that is another story, for a different blog post. Stay connected}

At one level, people are just plain dumb, and too scared of chucking their jobs; that is admittedly a part of the problem. To that, I can only say  : come on, everyone! You are educated, a post-graduate {at least a graduate}, qualified, intelligent… dont you have confidence in yourself? Just because someone threatens you, you back down and do something against your nature, or the law, or plain common sense, or something that causes a loss to your team or the organisation or both? What that means is that you are good for nothing except what you currently do; that outside that comfort zone, you are a total failure.  

The second level is the rampant and completely one-sided belief that people who stay and compromise are resilient; nothing could be farther from the truth. Resilience does not mean compromising on the virtues and good values that differentiate a human from an animal. True resilience is standing up for your beliefs, and fighting it out. Staying and admitting defeat or compromising is admitting that you are incompetent, that the system has changed you! And, as we shall see later, this is the compromise that actually deepens the problem; it is this compromise that creates a vicious cycle.

What you see is a conditioned response; a response conditioned by organisational policies that are as harmful to the organisation as to the employee, policies that, acting in concert, create a vicious cycle, strengthening one message, and one message only. These policies, acting in concert, selectively build unhealthy competencies, simultaneously undermining the organisation’s internal strengths and capabilities. This is a matter that lies at the door of the CEO, HR heads, OD Teams, Line Functions VP’s and above, requiring deep-rooted policy level action and lots of time to correct. 
The policies in question the entire breadth of the organisation, and together coordinate to co-create what we see, what is evident in the various surveys, suicides, murders, pink slips, anger, heart attacks and lifestyle diseases cropping up. For example, the moment you promote based on end-result alone, without looking at the underlying factors, you are sending a strong message that reinforces the learning that anything goes. 

Even during hiring, the same message : with the focus being on your achievements, not how you did them; background checks also just check the veracity of the written documents, when they should in reality be talking to all concerned to get at the gist of the real performance of the person : has this person left behind a sea of problems, dissatisfied customers / team members etc? The proof is the ease with which people who are sacked for rampant financial irregularity get hired.

The same reinforcement goes into the people during meetings, with the focus being on achievements, with no serious questions being asked as to how these were done. Fact of the matter is that all of us know that there is no hanky-panky / short-cut that cannot be revealed in a set of targeted questions at the so-called high-achiever. Any fool with experience can expose the reality; it doesn’t require either intelligence or extraordinary levels of skill to pull that off.
This message is further reinforced when someone who has not performed is pulled up, usually in public, with no attempt to analyse the reason for the non-performance. This is actually a serious business risk- as a lack of competitive ability in the organization and its products first shows up in the non-performers’ numbers; the so-called performers, skilled as they are at getting numbers any which way, hide the erosion in competitive ability of the offering in the market. Result? Organisation after organization is taken by surprise as the entire edifice crumbles… when all you really had to do is put some time and energy understanding the non-performing areas in terms of strategic offering, not a purely tactical view. 

But this isn’t done – sending, yet again, an exceptionally powerful message. A conditioned response is created. The same thing happens as leaders try to inculcate a uniformity in companies, leading to a team that thinks along a defined line, lacking the perceptive and functional in-depth skills that are built up by diversity. Yet again, the same message. This is further deepened when people compromise, and say “this is the way it happens”…

The exact same thing happens when people hire for stability, or for deep skills in one skill area; you are building a team that can and does crack open under pressure; these so-called stable, or skilled people, in reality have never seen adversity, or have no exposure to other areas, knowledge sets and experiences; this is a vital and needed parameter that builds a vital and strong organisation. In each and every case, a strong message is going : to succeed, this is what you have to do…

Each  and every policy and step taken, rather than engender a positive attitude and out-of-the-box thinking, further deepens the problem in a self-perpetuating cycle.
I have said it before; I say it again… 

In 16 years and counting, in a full 100% cases of failed products and launches, the frontline teams have predicted the outcome with 100% accuracy. Organisations regard them as not having knowledge; my experience at front, first and second line tells me they know more about the business realities than anyone else in the company; this is across functions as well, with faulty policies being rightly called as such in 100% cases by the people who are not listened to. You ignore them at your organisation’s peril. No one speaks for the simple reason that speaking up is not encouraged; I have been told on occasion : teraa aadmi bahut boltaa hai, chup karao yaa nikaalo! Yet again, you are gving a message… a reinforcement…

This requires deep-seated change, and can only happen when people at the bottom start saying no, and give a push-back; which can only happen in a crisis period for the industry, when the bloodbath begins… Examples abound. Sad part is, in the bloodbath, many innocent careers are sacrificed. Hansa chugegaa daanaa…. etc etc… how to change this in any other way? I have no idea… if you do, drop a comment, and educate me! Cant be more honest than that.  

Make In India – A Critique

Published March 17, 2015 by vishalvkale

Make in India is the flavour of the season, almost – with Media going overboard on its prospects, and waxing eloquent on the benefits it holds for India. Lost in all this panjandrum are the voices – some small, like mine, and others highly influential, who have been raising questions {not objections} on this entire affair. Let us look at some hard facts, conclusive facts that can drill a hole through this initiative, or at least raise some serious questions. 
1) India is a primarily agricultural economy with employment in agriculture being at around 57% 
2) The total number of dependants on agriculture can easily be around 500-700 Million people, perhaps more 
3) Data supports the above : let us look at just one data point – number of land holding in agriculture. There are 121 Million individual land holdings in India. If you assume one family per holding, you are straightaway staring at a figure of around 500 Million. Add landless labour and support services, and you have a humongous number. 
4) Another proof can be had by taking a look at Census Data; more than 75% of the population stays in Rural India. The population of the top 200 Urban agglomerations do not exceed 20%. It was 15.4% as pre census 2011, and 14.4% if you take out the agglomerations and list only the cities. That is the reality. 
5) The Indian Economic structure is not a large-company structure; Corporate India – towards whom this plan is pointed – contributes less than 20% {I think it is less than 19% even} of national income. Ditto on any other parameter you may care to check up on. 
6) Another proof is the data on employment, which also shows a skewness towards unincorporated and unregistered employments, as also data on Rural-Urban split of employment 
7) Consumption data is another interesting data point, with the consumption of the bottom layers of economy having grown by around 1% since 1978, and by 3% in the top layers of the economy, thereby proving that increased economic activity does not lead to riches for all. We do not have consumption trends of consumables, unfortunately – so we have no way of knowing the relative speads of this increased consumption 
India isnt just about Corporate India, which is a rather insignificant contributor to any economic number you may care to anaylse; and there is a strong possibility that Make In India might not directly benefit the people who need change the most – the rural population, whose needs and challenges are not the same as those of Urban India; the same can be said of the economically deprived segments of our society.
In order that the potential of the bottom 80% of the population is unlocked, and the impact of growth is felt across all sectors and income-levels in a more equitable distribution, some basic steps are vital. In fact, it may even be possible that the absence of these steps might actually stall the entire MII initiative, and ground it fully and finally. I havent seen any indication from the GoI that it intends to do these; if it is in the works, excellent. If not, we are still hurtling form one crisis to the next. 
1) Agriculture ; Data again clearly show that nearly 93 Million of the 121 Million holdings are losing money on every crop {NSS – 2005; am not aware of any survey conducted after this}. This indicates that earning for the farming community have to improve; which means that the entire ecosystem needs looking at : viz subsidy structure and outlay, inputs, market access, price controls, APMC, price realisation at farm level, education of farmers in latest techniques, spread of knowledge from ICAR and other research places to farmers, etc. Not one point from these is being talked about. 
2) Unless the farmers and those dependent on agriculture earn real money, there is zero chance that they will educate their children beyond the basics – and even that is doubtful. Literacy does not mean education – and economic growth requires education, not literacy 
3) Rampant Health Problems in rural India; economic growth means health is a prerequisite. And we as an economy spend among lowest on health worldwide. Fact. 
4) Education{1} – IITs and IIMs are not required, where the focus currently lies – and quite a few of these people run away from India, and that leaves out scores of colleges that require upgradation. Why should we focus on building capabilities that enable those who dont want to call India their home encash and leave, forgetting their mother? Not all leave, I admit – but then again, we do not require more IITs and IIMs for internal candidates – it is far better to upgrade existing infrastructure that will benefit not the select few but the large majority! That is the need of the hour!
5) Education{2} – For the mid and lower level colleges to perform better – another input is the quality of incoming students; improving their education levels requires investment in primary and secondary education. This isnt happening – GoI is not spending on these 
6) Education{3} – Participative growth requires education that enables people to take advantage of the opportunities. This will not happen under the current MII plan, that is a foregone conclusion 
7) Education{4} – Education is a state subject, or a subject in the concurrent list, What initiatives are being taken by the states? What pressure is there on them to improve, to ensure proper education and implementation? 
Ditto Agriculture – with focus being on freebies and irrelevant matters like GM Crops which will have no impact whatsoever. Ditto health. It is one thing to give them money – which is excellent; quite another to ensure its proper utilisation. RBI report on states budgetary health 2013-14 categorically lists the improvements as well as shortcomings of the states of India, as I stated in an earlier article. Please google and read.
It is indeed a laudable objective that GoI has undertaken – MII; but the question remains, is the timing right? Can it be postponed will we have the right infrastructure and mechanisms in place? Of course it can; these years can be far better utilised in building strength and capabilities across the board rather than undertake a high-risk venture like MII. 
An initiative like MII requires a few basics to be in place for it to be successful and implemented smoothly without which, delays are inevitable, as also massive cost overruns as businesses find a lack of requisite resources playing spoilsport. Some, like a digital backbone, can be implemented side-by-side {see data at the end}; others cannot. These others are matters related to people parameters like health and education. 
1) Factories require workers, Where will you get them? If you get them only from Urban or Semi Urban India, the time taken for the percolation to reach rural India will ignite resistance as the perceived gap between Rural and Urban India increases. The objective is to make all India a wealthy nation – not just Urban India. Does rural India have the ability as of now? I do not think so. As I stated above, there is a massive difference between literacy and education. We need education, not literacy.
2) They require Land. Where will you get land? Create draconian laws that ignore the interests of farmers? You do that – and you are guaranteed failure. We are a democracy, and have an excellent judicial system. The only result of ignoring the land-owners interests will be court proceedings, resulting in stalling of the entire MII initiative fully and finally. Irrefutable historical evidence exists of this. There is no option but what the UPA did- approval of 70% {pecentage negotiable as per me; point is community interests need taking care of} of the community who stand to lose. 
Urban India has no conceptualisation of Rural India; MII only stands to benefit the Urban population, not the interiors. And the result of a skewed growth will be another crisis as Urban India will not find the resources to fuel their growth as they go into hinterland, leading to a massive crisis of gargantuan proportions, given Corporate India’s idiotic penchant of investing without proper analysis and on half-hearted reports created by people living in secluded AC environs of Metros, from excel sheets and data inputs which are highly suspect for their content and accuracy. 
That leads me to the most vital set of reforms – proper data collection, and statistical analyses; and digitisation of everything – which includes digitisation of land records, economic activity, data collection authentication and analysis, everything. Please remember that Millions of our enterprises are unregistered, and Millions more do not reveal the full story. For a proper reasoned analysis – data is vital; and unless captured properly and completely, surprises will arise that will cause hiccups, delays and wrong turns.
There will be tax and legal repercussions that will need to be thought through – which is relatively simple; It will also require taking various vested interests on board, which is exceptionally hard, and the only real challenge; vested interests who will see no benefit in lieu of losses in various ways – not without the concurrent reforms in the comments above. The result? More delays. 
On the dream of digital India etc, please take a look at the reality in a national perspective. Coverage alone will suffice, we need not go into the aspect of quality of coverage, which is a subject unto itself. Data Points in the coverage do not support the contention of most people that India is a digital nation. And data is sufficiently important a factor for it to merit an independent analysis, given that we are in the information age. The reality is starkly exposed by data :
Average Data Usage Per Customer Per Month on GSM : 62.16 MB; CDMA : 192.99; Avg Tot : 70.10
Broadband : 68 Million; Narrowband : 190 Million subscribers approximately

Data Arpu, while it is growing, is still in the doldrums; the average Indian consumer consumes less than 500MB as per this news article – a figure that is corroborated by the TRAI report.
The figures above are again borne out in this report : http://www.trai.gov.in/WriteReadData/WhatsNew/Documents/PR-TSD-80-05122014.pdf, which clearly states on page 12 that the number of user in India on 31st October accessing speeds of greater than 512kbps is 75.73 Million, including 60.61 Million from mobile devices.
We are a nation of 1.27 Billion! Penetration is abysmal; can we afford to wait till penetration rises? Will it rise in the absence of other reforms – or will it hit a glass ceiling? The data clearly states that only a small insignificant segment of our population stands to benefit from the data revolution as of now; things are changing fast – but this is where it stands today. This goes hand-in-hand with income – for the people in the bottom income levels to gain, they should be educated, and earning enough to have access to the services. 
We do not, as per me, have the proper ecosystem to sustain such an initiative; at least not one that can ensure fast devolution of benefits to the lower income segments. We run the risk of increasing the income differential. Furthermore, MII requires an ecosystem conducive to it, not rhetoric.Is it rhetoric? Or is it real? We dont have enough data to make a definitive conclusion of that as yet. But the indicators are worrisome. Let us see.

Sick Mentality, Moral Depravity Or Just Plain Fear?

Published March 14, 2015 by vishalvkale

Sick Mentality, Moral Depravity Or Just Plain Fear?

Yet another accident… yet another victim… and yet again, our lack of decency, humanity, empathy and caring lie exposed. Yet again, we lie exposed for what we have become as a people – uncaring, depraved and self-centered people who care nothing for anyone not related to us, who feel no empathy and no pity for any person not directly emotionally connected with us. My head hangs in shame… what have we become as a people? How did we become so heartless, so cruel?

“”
She lay bleeding on the road in front of St John’s Church at AJC Bose Road-Ripon Street crossing for about 25 minutes in rush hour. What makes it even more shocking is, people went about normally all around her. One flank of AJC Road was then packed with vehicles bringing students to two of Kolkata’s most reputable schools. On the other flank, buses carrying passengers to Sealdah and the IT hub of Salt Lake jostled for space.
Yet, no one stopped to help an injured woman.

If anyone thinks this is an isolated incident, think again… remember Nirbhay, and how no one came to help her? Or you can also do a simple google search – or go and read at least one more article on my blog itself. This is the fourth case I have documented of such brutal and heartless behavior of Indians towards their fellow citizens, fellow humans in dire need. This is what we have become – morally defunct, without any sense of humanity, decency, honesty…


I would like to ask all India – what would you feel like if someone you know and love {God Forbid} goes through a similar experience – and you chance upon him or her lying on the road, bleeding – and in need of help? What would you do? Take a snap, or just look, and walk away? No? If not, why not? And what would you feel like if you ran to people for help – and they just looked away, walked away? Shame on you, shame – all of you who walked away, or looked away in all such cases. If you are reading this, let me tell you – you are a disgusting and brutal excuse for a human. Even an animal tries and helps its own species in distress!

The mere thought of it makes my blood run cold… my mind freeze in shock at the sheer uncaring, inhuman and cold-blooded brutality displayed by everyone.  Are we so depraved, bled dry of all that our resplendent culture has taught us, devoid of all humanity and morality that we will let people die? This despite there being a series of commendable decisions by the courts supporting the helpers? How can such people go in front of their families, and face them? How do they manage to look their loved ones in the eyes? And what do they think that God is not watching? I am shocked… just plained stunned at this shocking display of selfish brutality by the average Indian! Chhi! Shame! Shame on us, all of us!

WHAT LIES AT THE CORE OF THIS BEHAVIOUR
What lies at the core of this inexplicable display of moral turpitude, this display of depraved or wicked behaviour or character? Is it that the average Indian’s character has gone bad? Have we become the demons of our age, the Raavan or the Duryodhan of the modern age? The evidence would certainly support such an indictment; there can be no doubt of that. Walking away from a wounded and dying man certainly qualifies for a wicked character. That is certain. Except for one thing : Both the above were very learned and able men. We certainly aren’t either; we are worse, if anything – judging from the above.

The only other explanation – fear. Fear of hurt or loss to self due to a lack of trust in the systems that govern us. As I observed – this fear persists in the face of repeated court interventions and decisions telling people, exhorting people to help victims without fear. Yet, such horrifying displays of crass inhumanity persist, pointing to a large and yawning gap between the people and the system.

The need of the hour then becomes planning and executing steps that can be taken to bridge this gap; to lessen the fear in the minds of the people. This would involve educating and reforming the interface between the people and the system – the front-facing Government staff like the police and civil servants, and ensure that they are more receptive to the genuine needs of humanity.

However, having said that, these representatives also come from within our society. And if these people are still harassing the helpers {I don’t know that, to be honest- that is why the qualification “if”} it calls for deep seated reform within the system. But more pertinently, this also goes to prove that there is an additional factor beyond “fear”; that fear cannot explain everything. Had fear been the sole causative factor, then at least the interface would have been more friendly, and more caring.

And if they aren’t harassing the helpers, which is a distinct possibility given the many decisions, and the absence of media hue and cry on this – such cases goes to show that we as a people are unthinking and self-centered, and morally defunct and depraved. We just don’t care. Not even when there are such blood-curling cases happening. That is a simple conclusion that can be drawn. We all of us need a deep relook at our priorities, our morality and our lives.

If we assume that there is some fear factor that lies at the core, along with other problems, then the solution could be canvassing door-to-door or otherwise reaching out to the people – not impersonally through media  – but with the personal touch and assuring people that they wont be harassed in case they have to help. This requires deep and systemic reform within the police system and other administrative reforms, which will enable the police to be a bit freer to execute such tasks; but it is doable, and very practical. This will also go a long way in building trust within communities and rebuilding some character in the people.

But how can that happen, when we the people are ourselves  not wanting such reforms? Even the courts want them, the police themselves want these reforms, but no. Not we the people. We all go excited over nonsense and / or relatively unimportant aspects, but are not concerned about this very vital set of reforms that can redefine the way we live. We are too self centered in our ways, too idiotic in our approach to see how we are harming ourselves by such activities…

Defence : Budget Brings No Cheers {Business Standard}

Published March 13, 2015 by vishalvkale

I normally carry my own articles and analysis; for the first time, please read an article on Business Standard on the Defence Forces {Business Standard}, which is self-explanatory, and is a factual analysis. This is a small attempt from my side in educating the people, at least those who may not be aware. The genuine needs of our Defence Forces cannot be put off; having said that, it is equally true that we are a developing country, and funds are always going to be extremely scarce. 

But does that mean we spend historical lows on defence in percentage terms? I am sure the Government can find space in the budget for a better allocation to the genuine needs of the security forces. I understand the difficulties faced by the government, and am not stating the Government doesn’t want to; they have to make some difficult choices in the governance of the nation, and are a democratic government. They have to meet the needs of a diverse set of requirements, all of which are genuine. 

That is why I appeal to the people – can we please allow and ask our government that we the people can make some sacrifices, and that please ensure proper allocation to the defence of the nation? I do not know what those sacrifices will be myself; but I am certain of one thing – if we empower our government, and build democratic pressure on them, they can easily find half-a-percentage point of GDP more to allocate to defence, or at the very least, a decided, definable, emphatic and firm increase in the allocations as well as other steps that may be needed to modernise and make our defence better than it already is. All it requires that we the people empower our Government, which is clearly one of the best we have had, with our support and voice for such a step enabling them to take the hard decision that will perforce be required. In true democratic fashion. Please keep in mind the challenges we as a nation face on the security of the nation, India!

The articles lists in detail the genuine requirements of the Armed Forces of India; I request all to read the article. The link to the original article is provided above. And please remember that no one can state with certainty that we will have to fight a war; then again, it is also true that no one can say for certain that we wont. It is better to be prepared; furthermore, we the people of India owe it to our protectors, The Armed Forces, to do something for them. They deserve our support, and more. 
THE ARTICLE:

For the armed forces, Budget brings no cheer : Ajai Shukla, March 9, 2015, Business Standard



The Budget presented on February 28 has disappointed the armed forces. With acquisitions in the pipeline worth almost Rs 20 lakh crore, military planners protest that the allocation of Rs 94,588 crore, not a rupee more than what was allocated in last year’s budget, is far less than what is required.


Over a period of 15 years, Rs 31 lakh crore worth of acquisitions are needed, say sources in the that carries out long-term planning of acquisitions for the three services.

Adding to the military’s disquiet is the repeated inability of the ministry of defence to spend the capital budget on new equipment. Year after year, chunks of the capital budget are surrendered unspent, or diverted to the revenue budget for funding running expenses like military salaries, and maintenance of equipment. (TIGHT PURSE STRINGS)

Walking a tightrope

A Business Standard analysis of equipment requirements over the next 15 years and the likely funds available finds a precarious balance between needs and means.

In the near term, there is precious little money to meet the three services’ requirement of Rs 20 lakh crore worth of equipment. However, as the years go by, especially in the next decade, an expected real increase of 10 per cent per annum will allocate Rs 22.5 lakh crore by the end of 2027-28 towards the military’s capital budget.

This includes a cumulative total of Rs 5 lakh crore for the army, Rs 5.65 lakh crore for the navy, and Rs 7.72 lakh crore for the air force. Another Rs 4.17 lakh crore will provide capital funding for Defence R&D Organisation (DRDO), Ordnance Factory Board, joint staff, railroads and military land and buildings.

Given the army’s requirements of Rs 5.29 lakh crore, that leaves a shortfall of Rs 30,000 crore. Thewill be short of Rs 1.75 lakh crore. The alone might have the money it requires.

These projections assume that the distribution of funds between the three services remains static. In fact, the share of the navy has steadily grown over the years, rising from barely 5 per cent of the overall defence budget to 16 per cent today. The military implications of a “Look East, Act East” policy might result in further increases for the navy, with some analysts predicting that the navy’s allocations might inch up to 20-23 per cent of total military spending.

Future budgetary projections are always uncertain, and Lieutenant General Anil Chait, who coordinated tri-service budgetary and acquisition planning until he retired as chief of the Integrated Defence Staff last May, points out that with 60 per cent of the military’s equipment requirements being sourced from abroad, any significant rupee devaluation would indeed buy less.

Battling for modernisation

While the army remains the service most in need of modernisation, land systems in general are significantly less expensive than aircraft and naval equipment. A large chunk of the army’s modernisation budget will go towards procuring, or indigenously building, modern howitzers, rocket launchers and various missile systems. There will be large expenditure on modernising the army’s mechanised forces, including the indigenous development and production of a main battle tank and infantry combat vehicle.

Also being developed indigenously is the digital backbone for a “networked force”, which will include communications and data networks like the tactical communications system, as well as soldier-specific networks like the battlefield management system which was kick-started last week.

Trouble at the seas

The navy’s maritime capability perspective plan envisages a 160-ship force that is centred on 90 capital warships like aircraft carriers, destroyers, frigates and corvettes. While there are currently more than 140 vessels, the navy has barely half the destroyers and frigates it needs. About five ships need to be inducted each year just to replace warships that are decommissioned after completing their 30-40 years’ service. Much of the navy’s modernisation budget, therefore, would go towards constructing new warships and submarines.

Submarines will form a thrust area. These include twelve conventional submarines, of which six Scorpenes would start rolling out of Mazagon Dock next year. Another six will be built in India along with a foreign shipyard. will build another two nuclear missile-carrying submarines of the Arihant class and develop and build six nuclear-powered attack submarines.

A hefty chunk of the expenditure will go towards developing a brand new naval base on the Andhra Pradesh coast at Rambilli, which will be the key operational base for the Eastern Naval Command. Money will also be spent on the Western Naval Command’s premier new base at Karwar, and on naval facilities in the Andaman & Nicobar Islands.

Air strike capabilities

With just 35 fighter squadrons against the authorised strength of 42 squadrons, and with another 11 squadrons likely to be decommissioned before 2022-23, the air force’s focus is on acquiring fighter aircraft. Besides the Rafale medium multi-role combat aircraft, it will buy six squadrons of Tejas light fighters, 80 more Sukhoi-30MKI fighters under an existing contract, and upgrade its fleet of 50 Mirage 2000 and 125 Jaguar fighters. There is under way an Indo-Russian programme for 144 fifth-generation fighter aircraft as well as another DRDO project for at least 150 advanced medium combat aircraft.

These procurements do not include a host of high-tech development projects that are planned for developing the battlefield capabilities of the future: space surveillance, launch-on-demand satellites, hypersonic vehicles, electronic warfare systems, cyber warfare capability, unmanned combat aerial vehicles and a range of drones that have precision strike capabilities. DRDO has programmes under way to develop high altitude long endurance and medium altitude long endurance drones, long range cruise missiles and an anti-ballistic missile shield to shoot down incoming nuclear-tipped ballistic missiles.

None of these have been budgeted for, except through the DRDO’s budget. However, in a 15-year perspective, some of these projects might reach fruition, but their introduction into service would require additional funds.

Book Review : The Rise Of The Grey Prince

Published March 10, 2015 by vishalvkale

THE SAGA OF AGNI

THE RISE OF THE GREY PRINCE

By Arka Chakrabarti : You can read more about the author on this link :  Interview


If you have read the first part :  4 stars. If you have not read it, 2.5 stars. That should tell the reader of this review all he or she needs to know.

Image result for the rise of the grey princeThe first time I picked it up I just could not make any sense out of it. It was all Greek and Latin to me; nothing made sense, and nothing connected to anything. The land portrayed was alien, the people were completely alien, the narrative connected to events of which I had no knowledge. I found myself constantly leaving through pages, going back and forth to make some sense out of it. And then, I almost gave up. And then, I re-read the most critical page – The Story So Far. 

It was a slow and tedious build-up, as the names and characters were totally unfamiliar; and the layout alien. But the concept- that was the puller; that was the attraction. The concept of a fantasy novel always has attraction – and if it is one that is well executed, and real and practically written – then it is a very attractive package…


THE PLOT
Had I read the first part, I could have enjoyed it fully. There is a link back in the book, with a short précis on what happened in the first part; but it does not suffice. It is badly penned and presented; there should have been attention to this vital aspect of the book. “The Story So Far” is the most critical section of the book, and needs urgent and immediate refurbishment. It only connected up slowly as I read the book; only then did things make sense. The learning is : have patience; this is a good book. It will connect up. 

The book is about a fictional land called Gaya, divided into two continents – The Land Of The Rising Sun, and The Land Of The Setting Sun. It focusses on the main protagonist : Prince Agni, his guru Sidak and his friend Vrish; alongside Prince Yani, in whose father’s care Agni grew up. 

The story revolves around The Abode Of Seven, a sort of oligopolistic dictatorship over The Land Of The Setting Sun. A seer has prophesied that a prince will take this down, which is what leads to all Princes being targeted. Agni’s father takes on  The Seven, and smuggles him out; Agni grows up in The Rising Sun, unaware of the reality. 

This is the backdrop of the story of the current book. This 2nd part focusses on Agni, Yani, Sidak and Vrish, as their lives intertwine as a result of the past, and through them the author tells the story of Agni returning to the Land of the Setting Sun, the place where it all began,, where Agni returns – to hunt for his mother; and to hunt for answers to the many questions in his mind. 

THE ANALYSIS
First, the “The Story So Far” section needs to be properly organised. Second, the start of the book should ideally give a list of characters and the basics of those characters, which is vital given the length of the story, and its complexity and number of characters. This is what some other authors have done; this helps in furthering the absorption of the material.

Charectarisation is not upto the mark; the characters have not been properly filled out in this book at least. This could of course be due to the fact that the character development happened in a previous book; in which case a small short but effective summary of each character on re-introduction becomes vital. As things stand, as the characters are not fleshed out and are in addition completely alien as well as in an alien or fantasy setting, they just do not register or impress. You do not make a connect with any character. 

The story is fast-paced, develops rapidly, and is enthralling once you get into the story, and begin to make a connect with it. This part has been properly handled, and this is what tells me that the story is worth reading. The key is getting clarity as to what happened in the book, as I clarified above. 

All in all, this is a very promising concept, and could be a top-notch fantasy thriller, if the points highlighted above are taken care of. The narrative is fast and interesting, the story has been handled well, and the concept is fascinating. All it requires is attention to detail, proper presentation, and properly fleshing out the story so that late comers can also connect; this will work in two ways. 

First, it will heighten enjoyment for readers of the entire series, as they will like as not have forgotten the contents of the previous book/s – and will thus serve as a reminder to them. Second, for newcomers, it will ensure that they understand the concept properly and will cut down negative reviews of the book. The current presentation does not meet the mark; that apart – all else is great. Should you buy into the series? If you are into fiction, then no reason why you shouldn’t; the concept is fascinating. 

Casteism – A Fresh and Objective Analysis

Published March 9, 2015 by vishalvkale

This is an analysis of casteism that seeks to challenge both narratives in vogue – one, that it is centuries old, and the other that it is recent. The reality, in my opinion, has to be different; what follows is my opinion based on my extensive reading on a variety of topics. Further, at no point is it my contention that the current system of casteism is defensible – it isn’t; it is an insult to humanity. And at no point is it my intention that people did not suffer; they did…

 THE BEGINNING

The ancient system was the Varnic system, which is completely different from casteism; varnas where the result of deeds, not vice-versa. Then came the commercial and political structures stated below, which existed for 1500 years minimum, leading to internal marriages, and the evolution of distinct identities due to a common gene pool caused by intermarriage. 

At this point and for some time afterwards, there was no hint of casteism. The slow degeneration started in only the 2nd millennium, with the rapid socio-political changes that shook India. This was added to by inbreeding, hereditary vocations, and increasing difficulty in moving outside your vocation. The literary record bears proof that earlier, it was possible for a shift; the same record also faithfully records increasing hardline tendencies over time, over a period of millennia. 

The caste system is, in some ways, also misunderstood and mixed up with the commercial and vocational guilds that were common across ancient India. This was a linked network of commercial interests based on cultural contacts, wherein it made sense to be culturally tied due to economic sense. A study of everything from commerce to financing of wars by merchants brings that out in detail, irrefutably. 

The landless labour did not exist before the British; that is a known fact. Commercial, busines guilds, work environment of the 16th, 17th and 18th centuries have been extensively documented that bear mute testimony to the truth. The caste system hardened into its current shape in the 19th century. EIC school records of the Indian system of education clearly show a caste-neutral participation among students, with all castes being equally represented.


AN ECONOMIC CRITIQUE

A rudimentary mental math is enough to take raise some serious questions on the casteism myth, and that large populations were oppressed, at least in economic terms :  

Fact 1 : 121 Million Agricultural Land Holdings, NSS 2005 survey. 

Fact 2 : Between 65-75% of India is Backward + OBC + SC etc castes as per various current surveys. 

Fact 3 : Creation of Landless Labour – Dadabhai Naoroji, RC Dutt 1906, Durant 1930, Habib 2012 and others, tracing fall in productivity {earlier among the highest on the planet} indigo, non-payment of dues; rise in taxes to 50-80% of produce; destruction of primary secondary and tertiary markets; Institutionalisation and hardening of Ryotwari and Zamindary from its old form to the British form 

Fact 4 : Creation of jobless class, through closure of industrial units {we had every known manufacture in India, Fact}, leading to vast swathes of jobless skilled labourers 1800 – 1840 Habib et al 

Fact 5 : existence of commercial guilds and hereditary vocations spanning thousands of years, Romila Thapar 2005 {approx} et al; {Habib 2012}


Fact 6 : Destruction of sea trade routes through piracy by the English; loss of land trade routes due to political forces 1600-1700, leading to Merchant shipping, trade and commernce losses, losses to weavers and rural traders {Tope 2012 and others} 

121 Million, family size assumed 4 = nearly 500 Million agriculture-focussed population. Add the transient landless labour. {you can access MNREGA records for this} {Reality check current employment in agriculture @ 55-60% basis various economic data.} Now compare with data of backward castes in India; that makes around 45%. Backward : 41%, SC : approx 20%, others : 8% in one survey, which I regard as conservative. 


Put the two together. Reality stares at you. Most of the backward classes have to be in Agriculture currently {If 70% of the population is SC-ST-OBC, and 60% of population is in agriculture, the inference is straightforward}, although they are now spread across the land of India. The historical data clearly shows vitality of artisans, traders and agricultural classes, and their earnings. While it is true that by the turn of 14th-18thcenturies, they would not have found it easy to move away from agriculture; they were earning and were better off than the current situation. 

The data, when you look at it from an economic critique, doesnt add up and support the hypotheses of centuries of oppression of the vast  majority of the population. It shows a people who were well-off, and not oppressed. Extensive economic and industrial data is available. The people were well off, both relatively speaking as well as on an absolute scale. True – it was exceptionally hard to break into an occupation from outside, and it worked both ways, but that does not mean they were hand-to-mouth. Further, it was increasingly also exceptionally hard to change vocations as socio-political changes rocked India in its long history – which was the biggest problem.

You cant have a fire without there being combustible material; same applies here. The Raj exploited existing faultlines and resulted in their becoming deeply entrenched. Genetic evidence states that inbreeding among castes is not a recent phenomenon, and has a founder event going back centuries – which is the most oft-quoted argument against my presentation above. 

The earlier casteism was softer, and did not acquire its present shape then. It was entrenched in a system of hereditary vocations, with relevant skills for each vocation being passed from generation to generation. This built deep intra-caste relationships and inter-caste dependencies, based not on oppression but on a workable and eminently but brutally efficient methodology, that rivals and beats any and every modern system with a modicum of ease. 

Sadly, over time, it meant that the system became unfair to the lowermost sections of society, who would have found it hard to grow beyond their vocations. It also meant that you had to toe the lines set by societal norms. Did this stifle innovation and entrench roodhivaad or rote? That is a tantalizing thought – it tallies perfectly with our fall in scientific knowledge from the second half of the second millennium. It also gives us a more precise timeline for the problem…

This is what ensured India’s dominance for close on 9000 years – it built a system that was extraordinarily hard for anyone to break into. The proof of this is the presence of guilds that existed for centuries {Thapar, 2004/05 – will need to check precise year of her book}. Another proof comes in the writings of Sujan Rai from 1689 or 1696, who has described a flawless system of cash transfers that puts our modern IT hot-shots and western / eastern management geniuses to shame. {Habib, 2012} \


Blunt, Frank and Straight : The West or The Modern East has yet to design any system or theory or strategy that can rival this in terms of cost efficiency, effectiveness & perfection. It was exceptional, and impossible for an outsider to crack into. Evidence of this can still be seen in Modern India – with each vocation being dominated by a specific set of people.

It was this system that created the conditions for disaster, but that is not fully relevant here. What is relevant is that there was differentiation that was systemically entrenched, while not strictly oppressive. Adding slow fuel to the fire was the increasing gap between the wealthy and the others. The financing of 1857 was bankrolled by Merchants across India {Tope 2012}. This gives us a hint to both the power structure, as well as the gap in earnings. While this was between 1845-1854 {yes, the war was planned for years}, the existence of such a set of dependencies tell us that this was not a recent phenomenon. 

While people were well off {extrapolated from Habib 2012}, it is a foregone conclusion that this earnings gap would have led to a rising feeling of discontent with the existing order. The proof of this is the simple fact that what was looted from India was massive… it would not be an exaggeration to state today that every single brick in the USA and the UK has been funded by India, especially if you calculate NPV of the proceeds of the loot. I did in a rudimentary fashion… at 8% it calculates to 473 Trillion Dollars just from available numbers of a few years. {Numbers sourced from Mukherjee-2011, RC Dutt-1906, Durant-1930} 

{This calculation cannot be definitive, of course – available inflationary trends fluctuate wildly from 2-17% for the period; and it is in addition hard to calculate over such a long period – but we cannot forget that the looted money was used to build the same facilities and amenities that people now enjoy in The West, esp USA – UK.} 


What is relevant is that this tells us the difference between the everyday person and the leaders. That is one. Two, the increasingly entrenched specialisation was good for every layer of society- but the menial labour at the bottom, while not oppressed, would have found it hard to get into specialised vocations, agriculture apart. {In percentage terms, it stands to reason that they cant have been 70% of population; but again – that is no defence. 1 or 1million, differential treatment is differential treatment} 


Agriculture also slowly, over time, developed into a super-specialised vocation, creating its own ecosystem of interdependencies. This created a system that was exceptionally resilient, and hard – with each layer hopelessly intertwined with the others, creating a system of interdependencies that was virtually unassailable – while also having the potential to collapse with the right crack. 

The collapse of the prevalent socio-economic structure {Habib, Dutt, Naoroji, Tope, Mukherjee, Verma, Misra, Mishra} caused the entire system to come apart…  That is why I presented the modern scenario in agriculture to drive home the point that the current hyper-one-sided narrative of centuries of oppression that is so prevalent in The West is nonsense. Add to this the Raj tactics, which led to people trying to curry favour for benefits, leading to a stampede into social disaster – as, for the first time, it was a political intervention that was strengthening the already present fault-lines, and deepening them.  

The proof is again provided by Tope-2012, in endnotes and annotations – school enrollment was caste neutral, meaning there was no rigidity in attending school or inequality in the sense of the late 19th century. These numbers were from the 18th century, and provide an irrefutable rebuttal to the centuries of oppression theory.

To summarise, there were internal issues and faultlines in our societal structure, which did not change fast enough. In the altered political atmosphere of The Raj, these were brought to the fore very quickly, and became entrenched. 

I have tried to present a rational and objective critique based on solid evidence spanning economic, social as well as psychological factors; hope this makes sense. I may of course be wrong; that I readily admit. But this is the point at which my study is as of now. References provided in brackets, but not limited to these; there are other books as well, like Maria Misra’s work, or Pavan Verma or others which also gave me clues…  This is a continuing study for me, for frankly, no modern theory makes sense or explains all questions. Not to my mind. 

India – Bridging The Gap, and Facing Our Mistakes

Published March 6, 2015 by vishalvkale

It has taken a long time coming, but at long last some central government is at least talking about the right things – Defence, Education and Health. It is a separate matter that they aren’t doing anything about it, hemmed in as they are with issues, expectations and pressures from all sides, and with the attendant demands and needs of a myriad set of sub-groups and institutions that are present in a diverse and multicultural democracy such as India, especially given its income distribution and economic structure.
One of the reasons for this inactivity, or rather inadequate acrivity, is admittedly the lack of funds and the difficulty in generating excess funds, or allocating enough funds, or generating resources internally for the same. There are other issues – I shall deal with these in another article, as they are equally vexatious, dealing with implementation problems and tackling vested interests.
What amazes me is that people in India seriously believe that several hundred highly qualified and intelligent people {As are present in the Government} cant get together, rise above their vested interests and create some fiscal space for Defence, Health and Education expenses, the current demands and pressures notwithstanding. All it requires is a will, a determination, a clear directive, hard decision, and some sacrifice somewhere; in other words, setting the priorities and the direction
The directions of the Government, while speaking rightly, and passionately, in favour of these basics, are clearly towards an urban tilt, with infrastructure thrown in. Is it the contention of the Media, the people as well as the Government that the lot of the balance 80% – the people in the bottom 80% income profile – especially the bottom 40%, will improve by smart cities, IITs, IIMs, Infrastructure investments {which wont get implemented as too many structural hurdles are present. I can myself name 2 or 3 with detailed proof} and Corporate India – focus? 
Fine, Job generation may happen. How will people who are malnourished, and lack a decent education, partake in that job growth? That is a manifest impossibility. How will MNREGA and other social sector expenditure {which is essential, but how much is the question} ensure that the disenfranchised will be able to partake in that growth? That just ensures survival! Don’t these people – Indians like us – have the to grow and have a decent life? Or are we to condemn them to a slow and painful growth? How can they grow, if they do not possess the tools, the education for it, or are not healthy enough?  The result will be richer cities, richer Middle and Above classes – meaning you and me – and next to nothing for the rest of India,  as India continues to give low focus on Defence, Health and Education, and Agriculture
These classes – those who stand to benefit, people like you and me – make up less than 10% of India, and even that is a huge exaggeration. And as regards Corporate India, anyone here who thinks Corporate India drives the Indian Economy is advised to study the Indian Economy in detail. The contribution of the unorganized sector far outweighs the corporate sector. The contribution of Corporate India to any economic number is nothing to write home about., be it NDP, Savings, Employment – anything. Corporate India is not in the biggest contributors. 
What we are in effect saying is, the Poor can survive on doles from the Rich, and they have no right to self-development at the same rate as the rest of India. In order that people get greater income, they require better education, easier access to health, and solution to the main problems impacting their lives, not one of which is benefited too much by your IITs and Smart Cities, keeping in mind that a large majority of the people live in rural India, and are employed in agriculture. We are effectively throwing money after the Rich, who dont need it and can afford higher expenses
Next, Defence. What happens {God Forbid}, if we are pushed into a face-off? No less than 2 army chiefs have openly criticized the delays. Please read the works of General VP Malik, who stands as one of the most respected Army Chiefs in Indian History. Look up the leaked letter of yet another highly regarded chief, General VK Singh. A General has even openly stated that “we will fight with what we have”. 
Respect, Sir! To the entire Indian Armed Forces. None to the people of India, who are by and large too self-centred to even think of this matter. Respect even to the Government, who are trying to do a near-impossible task, given the scale of challenges, pressures and demands – most genuine and some ingenuine,  they face in other fields – and are yet spending 246000 Crores on the Armed forces, although it requires more. 
Why should the Government do more – when the people themselves dont care to tell them, we can take some more hardship, please focus on the Armed Forces first? The Government takes a hard call; it is not an easy decision to put off these expenses, Pressure distorts perspective, and the pressure is on them from all sides for economic growth jobs etc; and none for the upliftment of the Armed Forces, We are after all a democracy; the government is a mere reflection of the desires of the society.
Question is, can anything be done to find a way out? No easy answers – but yes, a lot can be done. Even a relative layman like myself can find ways, although none are easy. You have given 8% more to the states – you can take it out of that. How the states fund their budgets – perhaps they can look to being more fiscally responsible – like some states in South and East India have already done? Or reduce expenses. Or do any number of other tactics. Alternative, dont do anything. 
And then go on an emergency purchasing binge when a problem occurs, which means you lose your negotiating power, and close deals in a rush at the other party’s choice. 
A small example : you are giving crores in support to the Railways or PSUs as a budgetary support. Why? Why not increase rates? You can allocate that expense to the Defense, or to Education {hopefully defense}. Even 67 years after independence, PSUs, Railways {at times even banks} are dependent on the Central Government for support. Far better to tell them no, fund yourselves! Improve internal efficiencies, cut flab, get competitive strength. Tell them generate your own expenses through your own operations; Cut The Umbilical Chord! It is far better to throw them aside, and force them to compete and improve themselves, teaching them to fend for themselves.
Done properly, in a phased manner, with proper planning and thought, this is doable. These are unpopluar measures, but doable. Or reduce the size of your bloated Government- that is pure revenue wastage, given the levels of productivity. I could go on and on for a fairly long period of time.  All such measures are doable, but hard. And this is a majority government. They can pull it off. Let us see if they do… there can be only one reason for their reticence – the lack of numbers in the Rajya Sabha… I know I am clutching at straws, but at least this Government is saying the right words!
The problems related to agriculture are varied, serious and huge, and cannot be taken up as a sub-point; I shall look at these subsequently, as I shall have to look at Agricultural Inputs, Market Access and Legal points etc. Even in that, our current Government does have the right ideas, only the speed of execution is a matter of concern.

Is This Government On The Wrong Path?

Published March 3, 2015 by vishalvkale

I closed my previous article with these words  : 
What we are in effect saying is, Corporate India, Middle Classes can reap immediate benefit, while making no efforts to tackle the real problems beings faced by Rural India, like reducing middlemen, education, etc. This is a majority government, they can easily take hard decisions. And yet they are not doing so – as I had foretold much earlier. And that is what makes this budget completely unimpressive, and very UPA 3-ish. “
Given below are the problems that I consider to be the real problems that impact us as a nation, encapsulated in very short : 
A) DEFENCE : Dramatic increase in budgetary allocation to defence. The plain and sad fact is that The Indian Armed Forces are in dire need of funds infusion; we need Fighter Aircraft : Medium Role Combat Aircraft in particular; we need Artillery Guns to replace the ageing bofors; we need munitions; We need urgent infusion of Naval Craft in several categories and so on and so forth. We further need to the Eastern Army corps that is being planned as a defence against China. The status of the Armed Forces has been extensively documented in the books by Gen Malik, in Gen VK Singh’s leaked letter, and in numerous articles in newspapers and magazines 
B) EDUCATION : Major focus on Primary and Secondary Education, not higher education. India does not need any further higher educations institutions as yet; what it needs are the refurbishment of existing facilities, and major fund infusion in Rural India especially. In terms of budgetary allocation, we are among the lowest – which is sad for a developing country. 
C) HEALTH : A clear definable plan to counter malnutrition, and fund infusion in the Rural Health Sector, encompassing PHCs, Taluka, Tehsil and District HQ hospitals in terms of staff, medicines as well as facilities. We need an increase in budgetary allocation to bankroll this 
D) RURAL INDIA / AGRICULTURE : A clear shift in focus from Urban to Rural India in terms of infrastructure : easier access to nearest agricultural mandis, markets, rural facilities like digitisation of land and revenue records, connectivity of the village with the local district and state capitals, making it feasible for the farmer to sell his produce directly ensuring better price to him, amending APMC etc related acts and so on and so forth. What is required is a clear focus on forgetting Urban India for now, and focussing on Rural India; with the benefits from the above, Urban India stands to gain automatically given the productivity enhancements. This requires budgetary allocation of funds, and a workable plan for the same – and a clear implementation focus.
E) SUBSIDIES : Tackle wasteful subsidies. On Agriculture, streamline subisidy; remove undue focus on Nitrogen, and develop a more equitable and more logical subsidy plan. I do not recommend cutting back on Subsidies in this sector; farmers cannot afford it. That is a fact. What is needed is a rebalancing. This is a structural component, and cannot be so easily altered. Reduce subsidy even further on petroleum products for all IT payers; they can afford higher cost of petrol. The farms cannot. Alternatively, remove petroleum subsidy altogether; develop cash reimbursement through Aadhar for the poor and the rural sector. 
F) RAILWAYS : Increase fares across the board, period. Invest proceeds on modernisation and increased security. Stop cross-subsidisation of passenger with freight; be logical, consistent and transparent. 
G) EXPENDITURE : Curtail wasteful expenditure, and all non-productive expenditure; period. No explanation required, no justification need be given. It is our money you are spending. This does not include expenditure on social imperatives, and support causes, without which we may have a human tragedy, Those expenses are a priority; here I refer to Governmental expenses, making the states accountable, cutting back on wasteful non-productive freebies etc. 
This, in the order of priority, is what the nation requires. What I am a-b-s-o-l-u-t-e-l-y shocked is that few people thought of defence. Boss, they defend our lives, and their problems are serious! It is a shocker that no one – not one person here thought of the needs of the defence of India! And their needs have been documented by several authentic people, and in detail. Shame on you, India. Shame!
Now look at education. You first shout to all and then some – education is the focus, we need a school every so-and-so Kms… And then dont budget for it. And on top of it all, in a classic mark of crass stupidity, increase allocation to states – without ensuring a mechanism for extracting value of this excess fund flow to the states, quite a few of whom are known for fiscal profligacy of the worst kind. And then, you expect the states to implement what is in essence a centrally thought plan. While the plan to devolve to states is laudable, there is a dire need to pull up recalcitrant state governments. Interested people can go through this report : State Finances – RBI Report
What has been done to ensure buy-in by stakeholders at the state level? What has been done to improve efficiency of monetary utilization in the states, and ensure that the excess funds dont get spent in idiotic schemes, for which quite a few of our states are famous? If the states were so efficient, they would have already improved on-ground governance, which they havent. One look at state budgets is enough. What mechanism has been implemented – or is being planned to be implemented – to ensure that the states’ budgetary health improves, and that real value for money spent is obtained? This is what I expect a good PM to do, a good central government to do! 
The budget document is also a strategy document, it reveals your real priorities. If you are not putting your money where your mouth is, it clearly raises the suspicion that you are insincere in your words, or you have no idea what you are doing – or you have compromised. And dont have the guts to say so openly. And that is precisely what this Government’s actions in totality are stating to me as a worried and concerned citizen. I am already on record accepting that this is the best Government we have had in a long time – and if this is the best we can do, we had better get seriously worried!
Why the hell do we need more Engineering Colleges? That too IITs? And more management colleges? So that they can run away from India, rather than help solve the problems? And that too in a scenario where  thousands of Engineering graduates, management graduates and other graduates are running around from pillar to post jobless? That is being smart? The definition of smart has certainly changed, if that is the case. Why not upgrade existing colleges from D and C category? 
You know why not? Because it is hard to do. Because you will have to roll up your sleeves and really work! Because you will have to challenge vote banks; vested interests; etc. I feel jilted! I had high hopes from the BJP. I feel jilted! They are doing exactly what the Congress did – NOTHING!
Next, defence. “Already, more than 90 per cent of the defence capital allocation is pre-committed towards instalments for purchases made during previous years. While the exact figures would become clear only after March 31, it is already evident that no more than Rs 8,000-9,000 crore of the Rs 94,588 crore capital Budget for 2015-16 would be available for new purchases. A few percentage points of army revenue overspend (it overspent 5.5 per cent this year) would whittle that down to zero.” 
This is a brutal shocker – the nation’s armed forces are in dire need to refurbishment, and the best you can do is this? Add to that the zero action on health and education : the conclusion is inescapable : the priorities are wrong. The Government is wrong on this, demonstrably so.
The needs of Agriculture which have gone unattended for many years, have again been postponed. Agriculture needs subsidy rebalancing – not done. Ideal ratio – 4-2-1. Indian ratio – 6.5-2-1. QED. Largely due to the Subsidy imbalance. Why wasnt this attended to?
Next, APMC act. How do you intend to ensure that the farmer gets the right price- the government states it want to do this – without dismantling the credit scenario-mandi power and giving free market access etc? {This is not just a budget issue, but also a governance one} Why hasnt this been done? This isnt a good government, sorry. I feel jilted. And I can do a similar analysis for Health, Education etc. I feel jilted.
And we, the middle classes, we are all jumping for joy as rates were not increased in Rail budget. We travel with family once or twice a year, and earn Several Hundred Thousand every annum. Total additional expense to us taking 2 trips for 4, and a {huge} 15% rise : 2000 Rs.
Wow man, WE middle class can go bankrupt if we have to shell out 2000 Rupees extra. F-A-N-T-A-S-T-I-C! Keep it up!
What is required is a sense of balance : while the needs of growth and business are real, and vital – they will, after all,  generate the profits and the employment to solve our poverty problem – the needs of the people are also equally important, so that they are in a position to partake in the economic development in the form of an educated and healthy people of India. I am worried since this is a good government we have; but whose direction is as wrong as the previous ones!
India isn’t about the Middle and above classes alone; it is equally about the other 80-plus percent. What we are currently doing tantamount to giving them freebies, and alms, and not developing them so that they can stand on their feet. What they need is the ability of stand on their feet, and assistance in the form of support programs till the time they do. That is a fact – and the sooner India realizes this, the better for all of us.

The Union Budget 2015-2016 : Glaring Holes

Published March 1, 2015 by vishalvkale

For all the article my key resource is the complete text of the speech of the Finance Minister, available here : Full text of Budget 2015-16 speech, which I have perused in full before and during answering this question. 

Please click on the link and keep it open on another page, I have extensively referred to this document throughout the article

I am frankly surprised at the high-decibel coverage at this non-event, given that it does nothing that was not expected, as also it does nothing of import in most fields… I am more than a little disturbed to see a continuance of the status quo that we have been used to… and I am shocked that few commentators, a select few apart, have not noted the fine print of this budget. 

Before I rip into this budget {My focus is on the negatives} – let me place on record that the current Government is the best we have had in a long time… but democracy gives me the right to criticize what is wrong and disturbing. More than disturbing – it is stunning to say the least. And at no point do I deny the more than a few good points of the budget. Other people have covered them; the negative is however very disturbing. Let me also place on record that points nos 16{i-x111}, 18, 19, 20, 21 and 22 of the Budget document has done a great analysis of the problems being faced by the nation. 


DEFENCE
The defence budget is at 1.75%, continuing a steady decline. Furthermore, this now the lowest it has been since 1962, when it was around 1.5%. And this when we are surrounded by enemies and real threats on all sides.


The Indian Armed forces need major induction of Weapon Systems as well as ammunition on nearly all fronts. This has been a part of the public record for some time now. Further, the threat from Pakistan, China and the ISIS is growing every day. In this backdrop, this continuing reduction in percentage allocation to defence is deeply disturbing. Not only that, 10 months into this Government, there is again zero movement on procurement and allocation of weapon systems that are critically needed – like the MMRCA – beyond mere words that mean nothing. 

It is a given that compromises have to be made in a developing economy that is strapped for resources.  But the continuing bloated Government expenses, subsidy bills and lack of real action on Black Money places this in rather a different backdrop. How long can we put off the needed re-capitalisation of the Armed Forces? We ignore security needs at our own risk. It is sad to see few people pointing this out. Praise the good points – there are many – but dont overlook that massive errors!

This Government has passed over major decisions, while tom-tomming news like this : Narendra Modi govt clears defence projects worth Rs 80,000cr – The Times of India. The more vital projects are pending, and we can see no speed in implementing the re-arming of the nation’s protectors. Rather than compromise defence, the focus should have been on reducing expenses on some other aspects less vital so as to fund the Defence needs. And there are many that can be identified. 

The clincher : “Among the three services, the air force has been allocated the lion’s share of the capital Budget – Rs 31,481 crore, compared to the navy’s Rs 23,910 crore and the army’s Rs 21,574 crore. Even so, the air force allocation remains stagnant, indicating the government has not budgeted for buying the Rafale medium fighter, which would have required about Rs 15,000 crore as the signing amount.” 


What the hell is going on here????? This is deeply worrying! 


AGRICULTURE
Everything seems in place here, with one caveat : there is no plan to address the third critical problem : imbalanced fertilizer utilization, and the imbalance in the subsidy of the same. This is a much-needed and long-overdue reform that has been put off yet again. 

In another example, in point 33, the FM makes a clear reference to the prices commanded by the farmers, but neither in this document, or in any action of the Government, anyone has thought of the APMC Act, or scrapping it. The Base Panel had recommended scrapping or altering it way back in 2011 {Review APMC Act to check cartelisation: Basu panel}, and correctly identified it as a needed step to check cartelisation. Unless you free the farmer, how will he command prices? As on date, we are still discussing and passing the buck from State to Centre and back again, without doing anything practical. {CII panel to study impact of APMC Act in six states}


These are another big-bang change/s, that requires the Government to take on the vested interests and vote banks. Words are nice – how will you do it? It cant be done without taking apart your own vote-bank, and amending or scrapping APMC, Fertilizer Subsidies alteration, Re-visiting Urea Policy etc. Point 29, 30, 31, 32, 33 are only words, without a clear implementation roadmap. Perhaps, one may emerge : let us see. 


FUNDING THE UNFUNDED, JAN DHAN TO JAN SURAKSHA

The piece de resistance of the budget, respect sir – respect for the entire points nos 34, 35, 36, 37 and 38; as well as the next section – points 39, 40, 41, 42, 43, 44 and 45

Bankruptcy Laws, TReDS and MUDRA bank are much needed, given that the Indian Economy is driven largely by the Unorganised sector, contributing 57.3% of net domestic product, 34% in manufacturing NDP at factor cost, as well as nearly 40% of national savings . {Interested People can follow my blog, where I shall review India, Uninc by Prof Vaidyanathan on this sector of the economy}. 

Having said that, the statement in point 42 regarding unclaimed PPF deposits to be utilised will need clarity as well as a defined framework, let us see if this comes…


EDUCATION AND SKILL INDIA
This refers to point nos 75-89 of the budget document. 

Jaitley proposed to set aside Rs.69,074.76 crore for education in 2015-16, as against Rs.70,505 crore in the revised estimate in 2014-15. The revised budget for 2014-15 has reduced the education allocation to Rs.70,505 crore from Rs.82,777 crore as was pegged in the budget estimate. Of the total outlay for 2015-16, Rs.42,219.5 crore was pegged for the schools sector and Rs.26,855.26 crore for higher education. Allocations to the school sector was cut by around 10% in its planned outlay from Rs.43,517.9 crore in the last budget to Rs.39,038.5 crore in the year that begins on 1 April. In comparison, higher education has been given a plan allocation of Rs.15,8555.26 crore in 2015-16, as against Rs.13,000 crore pegged in the revised budget for 2014-15. In other words, the higher education sector saw an increase of nearly 22%.



What the hell is going on? I quote from the Budget document : 16-iii mentions employment for every house, 16-iv reduction of poverty, and 16-vii specifically mentions a school “. To ensure that there is a senior secondary school within 5 km reach of each child, we need to upgrade over 80,000 secondary schools and add or upgrade 75,000 junior/middle, to the senior secondary level“. And then, you CUT  the allocation to schools!!!!!!!

What the hell is going on????????


TAX PROPOSALS
Again, no mention of the best news to come to India for a long time in just about any Media : please refer to points I{1-8}, II{1-14}, III{1-4} in Customs section of the annexure; I{1,2,5,6 and 8} in Excise section of the annexure. 

This is a long standing demand for a correction that has now begun; the reversion of the inverted duty structure. The full import of this section will only be known after some time, as more analysis and experts go into the nitty gritty of the budget. But, as it seems now, a much-needed correction has begun. Respect, sir!

Point 109 : GAAR postponed, yet again. Recall Pranab Mukherjee? The General Anti-Avoidance Rules (GAAR), aimed at companies and investors routing money through tax havens such as Mauritius, had been scheduled to be implemented from April 2014. They will now come into effect from April 1, 2016. “The indication from the government seems to suggest attracting capital flows is imperative for the economy and to fund the current account deficit,” . {Controversial GAAR norms deferred to April 2016}. It is being claimed that all recommendations are now being critically appraised. What was happening for the past months and years? Were the people sleeping? 

Wow. What can I say? Will these ever see the light of day? Your guess is as good as mine!



CONCLUSION


This budget has been justifiably praised on any number of points; sadly, it has got no praise for the two biggest points in its favour : The focus on the unincorporated sector, and the change in the duty structures. But most critically, there has been little critical appraisal of its faults, which are numerous. 

This is a budget for Corporate India, and the top 20% of society. As I noted in my previous article on this budget {Vishal Kale’s answer to What are your expectations from the Union Budget of India (2015-16)?}, Defence, Education, Health and Rural India are the priority sectors for us.

If poverty is reduced, in addition to a growing economy, we also require an educated and healthy population, which means an effectively functioning primary and secondary school set up, increase in facilities and so on. We already have an excellent higher education set up. If on the one hand you are pitching yourself as pro-poor, and on the other, you are increasing focus on high education and cutting on schooling spends in terms of a percentage, this does beget the question : are the priorities correct? 

What we are in effect saying is, Corporate India, Middle Classes can reap immediate benefit, while making no efforts to tackle the real problems beings faced by Rural India, like reducing middlemen, education, etc. This is a majority government, they can easily take hard decisions. And yet they are not doing so – as I had foretold much earlier. And that is what makes this budget completely unimpressive, and very UPA 3-ish. 

My rating : 2 stars. As I expected….

Asia’s third-largest economy spends about 1 percent of its gross domestic product (GDP) on public health, compared with 3 percent in China and 8.3 percent in the United States. Indian states manage their health budgets separately. From : India keeps tight rein on public health spending in 2015-16 budget

We still dont have our priorities in place… and that is the most disturbing!


Jaago, Sonewaalon!