All posts in the Lokpal category

Do We Really Want Change – 3: The Hard Reality

Published October 28, 2014 by vishalvkale

This is the 3rd part of the articles : 

In the first part, we looked at our gullibility, and our tendency fawning & hero-worship of personalities, juxtaposed against our real problems. In the second part, we took a look at our history of tolerance and diversity, compared to our modern day habit of rising intolerance & impatience. In the 3rd and concluding part of this mini-series, I shall attempt to put it all together and get a glimpse of the direction we are in

In order that we do the above, it is critical that we remind ourselves of the problems India is currently facing : 

  1. we need lesser corruption at the lower & higher levels; 
  2. we need good growth, ease of doing business; 
  3. we need equal growth for all sections of our society;
  4. we need a functioning and decent state and central government and their related organisations; 
  5. we need a free Lokpal, CBI, Police, Judiciary
  6. we need a strong defence framework, without the current problems that it is beset with
The points above cover nearly all aspects, from security to law enforcement; from education to economics; from health to corruption and from growth to equality for all. It is also deliberately circumspect; leaving out one critical aspect – tolerance, which I have alluded to elsewhere, in considerable detail. It is best if that point is left out of this debate due to its contentious and subjective nature.

Let us start from a simple contemporary example : the recent Swachh Bharat campaign. I am on record praising it for its plus points, as it targets the pusillanimous habits of us Indians – which  I had noted as early as in January 2012 : Our Attitude Regarding Civic Responsibilities. I quote : “On any given day, we can see innumerable examples of Indians putting their country to shame – spitting on the road, breaking red light, parking in no parking zone, not helping people in need in accidents, peeing in public, ignoring corruption incidents, ignoring broken public water taps”

How many of us took the trouble to note that there has been little systemic change in the overall garbage collection pattern? As I will document with Photographs in a subsequent mail, there has been little or no change, with garbage heaps in the middle of the colonies or in towns still being a regular feature as on date 27th October 2014.  I intend to give this campaign a fair chance : let some time pass. Let us see the results; if they are beyond my expectations – My India will benefit! However, as on date, I  can still see mounds of dirt piled everywhere. And there is precious little pressure on the Government to introduce systemic change, which I allude to here : Swachh Bhaarat Campaign

Similar scenes of neglect can be spotted across the length and breadth of India. Clean India requires an efficient and functioning garbage collection and disposal system. It requires a network of public facilities like dustbins, urinals etc. It requires a functioning and diligent municipal and governmental machinery in each and every state, district, tehsil, taluka and pargana of the nation. Do we have that? Far too obviously, we dont. 

Simply cleaning up the streets once is not the answer. What happens to the waste after that? Is there a cohesive action plan to deal with this waste on a regular basis? Is there an action plan to ensure that the people who are responsible for this do their duties? That they dont collect the trash and create a stinking heap somewhere in public? That the  garbage vehicle come regularly, and dumps the trash not in the street, but in a landfill?

As can be seen from the example above, this is no small task; it is a gargantuan enterprise spanning a multitude of Government-People interfaces, straddling a multitude of functional areas. This is a task that requires robust administrative systems, thorough follow-up, execution excellence and ground-up reform. And the sad part is, the hard reality is that among the people at large, there is precisely zero interest or awareness regarding these points. 

Our attitude is – Narendra Modi will do it. The BJP central government will do it. But on precisely how he will do it, no one is interested, putting blind faith in him. I dont contest his skills –  he stands as one of the finest leaders to lead India – that is not the point of the article. The point is our lackadaisical attitude towards the crying need for strong performing institutions and government bodies in our nation, and the abdication of our responsibilities in making this  happen by the self-abrogation of our duties, passing them  to one persona, to one individual – whosoever may that person be. 

We are fine with grandiose words and flamboyant statements; that is to be expected, given that we are an emotional people. But in doing so, an educated and aware people should be equally aggressive in demanding strong performing institutions of a democratic set-up : our total silence on this, and other matters {some of which I refer to below} prove beyond any shade of doubt that we as a people have abdicated our duties and are content & satisfied to pass these on to some other person, without the attendant checks and balances to ensure performance. That is the vital point – the hard reality that the vote alone is not the only check there is on a Government in a democratic set-up. That is what cuts to the core of the issue – the hard reality, which exposes us as a people; the fact that we as a people do not realise the extent of the power we wield in our hands by virtue of us being in a democracy. 

This same attitudinal issue can be readily seen in any number of other matters vital to the nation : The problems besetting the Defence Establishment, Education, Health, Police Reforms, Agriculture, CBI, Infrastructure etc. The problems of the Education sector, to take another live example – are known to the majority of the people : Lack of standardisation with the proliferation of boards, poor teacher attendance in the interiors, outdated curricula, rampant fees monopoly in top schools, disinterested teachers, etc. Similar can be said of any number of problems facing the nation : lack of proper defence equipment, genetic crops and their problems vis-a-vis their benefits. 

Look at any major issue that is plaguing the country : the one overarching factor that leaps out at you is the lack of a concerted debate in the Media and Social Media space, beyond the average article that crops up sporadically. These may appear sporadically, but they are very, very far from being a concerted campaign. These articles are fundamentally different from being a debate; they are simply eye-candy to push sales and revenues, as they do not incite positive action from the readership, who read, forget and move on. Further, due to the manifest lack of emotive connect with the readership or audience, these tend to be isolated, and not huge outcries which can lead to serious pressure on the Government to clean up its act.  Critically, the readership / audience reads or listens repeatedly, time and time again, without doing anything about it. 

A debate involves active and/or passive participation from both sides of the story : The Media as well as the readership or Audience. Good, positive stories from the Media should ideally or optimally lead to positive and constructive action from the people : which can take any form : social media pressure, communication with the Government or the MP/MLA, Bureaucrats etc. This manifest lack of constructive communication with the Government and its representatives and officers is what has lead to the political class ignoring the genuine needs of the electorate. By contrast, more emotive  but lesser vital issues become headlines with regular follow-ups and Media outcries, and further lead to protests and other activism that is neither constructive nor positive.

We are a people that can take to the streets in protest for any number of frivolous or relatively unimportant issues; but decry any effort at registering our dissatisfaction on the serious issues. Over a period of time, this has lead to the political class driving us on those emotive but lesser important issues; such that now, engaging the representatives and officers of the government in two-way discussions or seeking help from them is considered impossible. This has actually created a chasm between the leadership and the people. The people, on their part, have apparently come to accept that this is the way things will continue to run and cannot change.

The hard reality is  that, basis the arguments presented above, it is quite apparent that we as a people, do not care enough about the real issues that need to be tackled. Sure, we care about them – but we dont connect with them on the same emotional plane as the other issues. Had that been the case, lack of police reforms, educational reforms , lack of defence preparedness, black money etc would have generated the same level of outrage as some of the other pointless rages that have enveloped the nation time and time again.  

The hard reality is that we are in a comfort zone; we have adjusted to this level of activity, and the current levels of involvement. We do not really want change – or, at least – we do not want to be the change agents. We want to enjoy the benefits of change; but do not want to take the trouble to actively do anything positive and constructive to bring about that change. That is why, when a charismatic leader comes along – we idolise him or her, depending on him or her to make some changes, but shy away from engaging with  the new leadership in a  constructive fashion. A few engagements do not matter in a nation of 1.27 Billion; and the rest of us are not interested or are a part of the bystander brigade. 

In the next mini-series, I shall attempt to chronicle my thoughts and analyse this seemingly illogical behaviour of this Bystander Brigade, as well as what avenues they can have in a democracy to put the heat on the Government in a peaceful and democratically acceptable fashion. Stay connected with my blog for the next series : India’s Bystander Brigade

Reality Series – 3 : Do We Really Want Change {Part 1}?

Published October 4, 2014 by vishalvkale

Do we, as a nation and as a people, do we really want positive change? Do we Indians really want to tackle the ills that plague our society, our polity; thereby creating an even more vibrant and forward looking society than we currently have? And do we Indians really care enough to walk the extra mile that is required for us to change? Most critically, do we Indians have the intelligence, awareness, the knowledge and the guts required to face upto our problems and our weaknesses?

Why are we so gullible, for starters? I admit that we Indians are a highly emotional culture, and thus adulation is a fact of life for us. Furthermore, given the hierarchical nature of our culture, some amount of hero-worship is both a given as well as good for national health. But cant we draw the line between following and blindly following? How can we allow emotional appeals to cloud our views 100% of the time? More critically, why cant we accept that even the most charismatic leader can make mistakes, or require inputs? Why arent we geared towards taking that in our stride, instead of over-reacting to any criticism? Why the growing intolerance, which is just another sign of our gullibility? 

Let me take the example of our venerable Prime Minister, Shri Narendra Modi. First, let me clarify : in my opinion, he stands tall as one of the best Prime Ministers India has had, at least based on current performance. Further, this article is not about Shri Narendra Modi – but about you, the citizen of India. This is about us, the people of India.

Why is it that we cant take criticism of any kind of our Prime Minister, even when it is given in constructive and/or analytical terms? Why is it that such people get verbal abuse, and deeply offensive remarks and leg-pulling? Dont we have a Democracy? In a democracy, doesnt a citizen have the right to analyse the Government, and hold divergent views? Then why the innuendo and the abuse?

Further, the kind of jokes, WhatsApp messages, and social media updates that are in vogue – like the Hanuman Chalisa Parody of Shri Modiji – isnt this a bit too much, a bit over the top? Or the constant derogatory and bad-taste jokes on other parties and politicians? Fine, we dont like their performance as political leaders – but does that mean we can insult them? Is that what our culture, our values teach us – to be so cheap, so insulting in tone? How can something so insulting, so downright ugly in taste and tone, be termed as fun? What values are we propagating? Is this fun? Further, since when has at least my Indian culture been so intolerant, so brusque towards other thoughts and POVs? 

Why cant we as a people, as a nation, analyse the policies, the statements and the performance of our leaders {at least we the educated classes}, instead of just building them up in sheer hype, which may or may not be based on substantiable facts? Isnt that what education is all about – being able to analyse and understand for ourselves? 

This is evident in any number of examples from contemporary life in India; the example above is just one current trend that is in vogue and is easy to relate to, which is why I have used it. Let me quote another example : MODI  = Master Of Developing India. Now, on what basis, may I ask? The moment you pop this question, you get a series of short-term numbers – given that not one of the fundamentals of the Economy is as yet anywhere near what may be called optimal {let alone ideal},  or facts that do not hold up to critical analysis in the cold light of logic, inasmuch as it is too early to state, or due to the presence of other attenuating factors. 

The incessant repetition of such statements has its impact, and gives it rub on the person being hyped up, or rather, to be specific – it rubs off on the way this person is perceived by the people at large. And we do this incessantly, without any conscious thought into the fundamentals of the situation. What is more, we belittle anyone who challenges the trend, and shout him down as a collective, dampening the other person’s enthusiasm. And we do this without thinking that other person’s viewpoint through, or trying to combat that person’s POV with a proper come back. 

This has everything to do with change; it is the single most important parameter for change. The people must be open to the direction of the change; they must be willing to move in the direction of the change. Without this, change cannot happen. Without this, we stand the risk of a half-baked solution to the problems we face. 

India is a Democracy; and our culture is one of open thought, contemplation and analysis, where alien concepts, radically divergent views can co-exist in relative peace and harmony. This is a concept I will examine in detail in my next post; for this post, the learning is : Now that we have a good solid Prime Minister, the need of the hour is not Hero Worship. The need of the hour is letting him know we want change; letting him know clearly and in no uncertain terms that corruption, slow growth, scams are no longer going to be forgiven. 

He is already the PM; now there is absolutely no need of adulation. Blunt : he has been tasked by us to make India a better place. He has a job to  do, just like you and me. Whether or not you and I voted for him – he is now our Prime Minister. He is not  the PM of only those who voted for him – he is our leader. Set tall goals for him to achieve; ask for the systemic change we want. 

Remember that he is at the top of a long chain; and merely chanting the ridiculous “Jay Narendra Gyaan Gun…” or “Master Of Developing India” wont solve our problems. The entire chain in the Government needs to know that India wants change: 
  1. we want lesser corruption at both the lower and higher levels; 
  2. we want good growth, ease of doing business; 
  3. we want equal growth for all sections of our society – not just for the creamy layer; 
  4. we want a functioning and decent state and central government and their related organisations; 
  5. we want a free Lokpal, CBI, Police, Judiciary that can ensure zero scams 

We, the people are his power; if we go to sleep, he will find the process that same process of change a very hard and uphill task – and that is a simple fact. Why are we ignoring these realities?

The Biq Question that comes to my mind is, given that we as a people have stopped asking for these basics, that no one is even mentioning all these points, and are  focusing on idolising one man, and running after him in a show of blind unthinking faith : DO WE REALLY WANT CHANGE? Or do we want a reversion to our status quo, our respective comfort zones, where we can live without the encumbrance of personal risk to our businesses and jobs? 

Do we really want change? This is what I shall look at in the third part of this mini-series

Elections 2014 – Hope, Euphoria, and Ignorance

Published May 16, 2014 by vishalvkale

Now we have a majority in the lower house; one that is not a dynastic ruled majority. That is a reason to celebrate. And we have a Government which will decidedly perform better than the current incumbent. Having said that, sad part is, there is no focus on the real issues; the people were blown away in an,emotional tide without indepth thought. My problem is not the result, but the method adopted to,get the result. I welcome the result, not the method which was frankly deplorable. In our 67th year of independence, we are still being taken for a royal ride by the political class. We still wont have a free police, anti-corruption laws, administrative reform etc. We will still be lorded over by babu class, We will still not have proper education reform. The money spent will continue to reach the pockets of corrupt babus and political leaders.

Sure, we will be better off under NDA than under UPA. But serious, serious fissures remain. Nothing is being done on Sachar Committee report. Polarisation of society continues. This is clearly evident in,voting pattern, at least what has been reported so far. Implementation remains a bug bear. Will NaMo with his focus on big business forget the plight of the downtrodden? If he does, then democracy has lost today, yet again. More than 300 million Indians still live in dire straights. More than 600 million Indians still don’t have access to proper education and health facilities. India still partners sub Saharan countries on,HDI parameters.NaMo and NDA focus is on big business: I just pray to God that he doesn’t forget the others, the 80% Indians outside the purview of this class.

If he does,Democracy will have lost -again – for the third time in a row… 

Don’t get me wrong : I reiterate that NDA is a far better option than UPA. No comparison. But we, the people of India, deserve better. Please don’t tom-tom democratic success a-la western news; let us move on from that clichéd utterance. Indian democracy is not in doubt anymore; time for us to raise the bar to real inclusive democracy and growth, and to real performing institutions! Our institutions, Armed Forces apart, have failed the Indian people and The Indian nation. That is a manifest truth. And that real change will not come about till we the people demand the highest possible standards of governance, public probity and performance from our political classes in place of populism and grandstanding. We are creating a powerful superstructure, that I admit. We have destroyed, or are on the verge of destroying dynastic rule, in itself a victory for democracy, that is also granted.

But we are building this strong superstructure on a weak foundation. There is a historical precedent for this : in 1953, Panditji was warned of the errors of higher education without a solid primary education platform. No one listened. We are still paying the price for that folly. That is the real danger confronting us : the democratic institutions of our nation are inarguably weak, corrupt, rusted and decrepit, with rampant corruption and nepotism. We ignore this at our own peril.

Read the above again. Do you deny that the administrative machinery, police etc,entire people interface of the Government is ridden with inefficiencies, corruption and nepotism? Do you deny that 80% projects are stuck in corruption? Do you deny that NDA 1 did not undertake administrative reforms? These are documented facts. Sad that we are fine with this sorry state of affairs. 

Do you deny that we are among the worst in HDI parameters? Do you deny that we are as bad as Saharan nations in health and education? Do you deny that schools in rural India go unattended by teachers? Do you deny that malnutrition is a serious concern? Do you deny that farmer suicides are rising at an alarming rate? Do you deny that small and marginal farmers are losing 800 rupees per crop per hectare? Do you deny corruption has beset the entire government machinery across departments and sectors and levels? Do you deny the increasing polarisation of our society, and the increasing intolerance? Do you deny that only 10paise reaches the people out of every rupee spent? 

The changes everyone is talking about  are superficial; they will only provide much-needed immediate relief; they will do precisely nothing to fundamentally alter the economic scenario we are currently in the grip of. What are the real problems in front of us? Police Reforms, Administrative Reforms, Corruption, Land Reforms, Labour Reforms, CBI Autonomy, Armed Forces Reforms, GST, NIA & NCTC, Oil and Fertilizer Subsidies, Structural Fiscal Excesses and Freebies. And there is no intention of doing anything on this. CMIE data shows 80% projects are stuck in one of the above problems; and further, these are at state level, where the center has little leverage due to the state list – central list problem

How will these come unstuck?

Dont we want a performing, free police force that is free from interference? Dont we want the IAS lobby and the Babus to be held accountable? Corruption is the single biggest drain on the economy… shouldnt we want to lessen it? Dont we need to both ease land acquisition while also providing for the land-owners? Dont we need an Armed Forces free from the babus who know nothing of the Army? Dont we want to be safer, which a properly functioning police and NIA-NCTC will make us? We also need to understand where things are stuck. Everything comes unstuck in project implementation, which lies solidly in areas governed by the state list as per our constitution. In a coalition government, getting consensus and moving on such matters is highly fructuous and virtually impossible. We can also not change the list or introduce constitutional amendments. Center lacks sufficient leverage to make things move on the states list. This is why NCTC still lies a work in progress, for example. This is why land acquisition deals get stymied.

And few people are asking these questions… which is why I state Ignorance of the Electorate…

It is fine to state one man can start the process of change. The key question here is how? No one in the entire discussion in the national doscourse is willing to tackle the nitty gritty of the issues involved: the precise methods and steps that can be taken. Let us get practical here, and look at the ground realities.How will NaMo do it? How will he ensure 8-10% GDP growth without tackling the fundamentals? Let alone the above, what about the Fertilizer and Oil subsidy? 48% of our budget is eatern away by subsidies and interest payouts. National debt is ballooning. All economic fundamentals are awry – and you already have Subramanyam Swamy advocating a removal of Raghuram Rajan – this is even before they have come to power, to say nothing of the other, shall we say, interesting statements made by some geniuses!

What will be the impact of Dr Rajan’s removal? What is interest rates are lowered in this scenario? What will be the impact on the people? We are already being hammered by 10-12% inflation on CPI basis on our home consumption basket – the 8.62% is total CPI inflation. That means, interest rates are being lowered to achieve a short term impact on the economy, forgetting the other more deleterious impacts. Are they advocating interest rates reduction to benefit big business? This is even before taking power!

In conclusion, I can only state that the Jury is still out on the verdict. Time will tell whether Democracy won, or it lost for the third time in a row. The deplorable election debate, with shocking name calling, aspersions on patriotism, hindutva undercurrent, dictatorial utterances regarding non-supporters leaving India, complete avoidance of real issues plaguing the societal, political and economic sectors of the nation, the tidal wave of emotional euphoria that has tended to distort perspective, the worryingly high proportion of NOTA, the blindingly bright prognosis for a vibrant India which has no basis in the fundamentals or the indicators on both societal as well as economic parameters; and most of all the shocking and stunning ignorance of the electorate leave a worry in the mind and a bitter taste in the mouth. A bitter taste of an opportunity lost once again, for the third time in a row; and of the people being taken for a royal ride by the political class.

That is why I don’t celebrate election results regardless of whoever wins. I weep for my nation, and for the ignorance of its people… Forgive me for spoiling the party, folks… I cant see anything to celebrate. Yet again, we have been taken for a ride…  

The Great Inclusion Vs Growth Debate

Published August 21, 2013 by vishalvkale

Some people state that India requires inclusive growth, that we require to support the people through interventionist and populist policies, that we need to shepherd the people with a supporting and guiding hand. Others state with equal vehemence that we require easier competition, that we require to unlock the industry, that we require to give market forces an opportunity… and so the debate goes on; and so the great Indian circus of development efforts continues; and so the great and misdirected Governmental efforts to direct – or misdirect, in reality – India continues. And the fun (or sadness, depending on your point of view) continues, unabated and unstoppable, regardless of who is in power…

A cursory perusal of the newspapers will readily bring out the above as simple fact. It is there in just about every daily; in just about every magazine that you would care to pick up and read. Some articles glibly suggest an even more diabolical and dangerous viewpoint, that the correct method lies in a blend of the above – namely, market-friendly policies and reforms with a human face of support and intervention for the poorest of the poor. These are views that, regardless of which side of this debate you are on, sound good to the ears; and yet, are totally off the mark as they don’t address the core issue that is currently facing India, that is threatening to engulf all of us; perhaps it already has swallowed all of us, for all we know!

The reality of Capital Flight is now there for all to see, as businessman after businessman invests abroad; as international investors give India a bypass; as our Current Account Deficit balloons; as inflation reaches stratospheric levels and as the exchange rate enters new territory almost every trading session! These are factors and realities that can no longer be ignored, or wished away. And neither are they unconnected; the glib reason aft stated for the slide of the Rupee – QE-related problems and developed market concerns, cannot explain away the sustained run on the Rupee, neither can they explain away the steady fall against all currencies; neither can they explain the steady decline for the past 2-3 years; and neither can they explain inflation, or investment decline or anything else. 

Similar is the case with any other solution proffered – for example, that now-famous grand strategy statement named market reforms, a statement that can have the distinction of making a great statement while meaning nothing in real terms, a feel good statement that sounds good to everyone, as they can then sidestep the real issues that are confronting India, one that no one wants to confront, as it shows  a mirror to us… and as in that mirror, we can see our own ugly, distorted faces. 

Even the most cursory eye over the various sectors of the economy will throw up one inescapable reality: that nearly every sector from core to consumer goods, from services to manufacturing has been buffeted by scams, scandals and corruption. In the entire great debate being conducted in newspapers between eminent thinkers, editors, politicians, businessmen and economists – you will be hard put to find even a passing mention to this problem. You will, at best, find oblique references in the form of beautiful statements like “it is difficult to do business in India” – statements that mean nothing, while seeming to sound informed and full of meaning. Statements that seem to address the issue head-on, while neatly sidestepping the real issues very adroitly. 

I would like to understand how can we possibly unlock our potential by mere market reforms / How can we solve the problems of the poor by interventionist policies – when 90% of the inputs don’t reach the intended targets, be it investments or subsidies. It is like throwing good money away. You might as well collect the entire cash and throw it in the Indian Ocean, for all the real effect that occurs on the ground situation. This is also supported by hard-core data, as I have previously espoused on my blog on many an occasion.

No amount of policies and changes in them can make an impact, unless implementation on the field is looked at with equal, and perhaps greater emphasis. This is what the entire picture shows – when analysed from a 360-degree approach. Each round of “reforms” is accompanied by grandiose announcements of investments into the country; how many of those get translated into reality – and most critically, and in what time frame do they actually materialise? Furthermore, how many get cancelled due to various and sundry issues? How many get stuck in the red tape?

Corruption is a massive drag on the economy; it is also a brake that is stopping all development. In land issues relating to investments, in subsidies, in regulatory approvals – this is an ever-present brake that is acting on every economic activity. Projects get stuck as people don’t get their dues, leading to protests. Projects get stuck due to laxity, acting as a further impediment. And the nation pays the price of the negligence of our so-called intelligentsia, who have so far not shown the guts, the courage, the audacity and the gall to take on this scourge.  

Let alone corruption, these so-called great men and women in politics, universities and society have so far not shown any inclination to seriously link the other great scourge that is acting as a disk-brake that is threatening to bring the economy to a dead stop, and as a reverse gear that threatens to pull it back. And by that, I mean the total lack of accountability in our so-called public service, for which a pretty strong case can be made out for a renaming to Civil Disservice. The total lack of accountability on Government Servants, and the intertwined corruption is like a spreading cancer that has now engulfed the entire body of Mother India. The lack of accountability means that Primary Health Centers go unattended and unstocked; that medicines get diverted; that schools go unattended, that no genuine teaching occurs, that free books get sold, that projects get stuck and delayed for sheer lack of proper implementation… and so on and so forth. 

And that is the real issue; we require someone with the bloody guts to link the two; sure we need market reforms. We sure as hell need to support the poorer section of our society. But we most of all need a strong implementation culture in our country, a work ethic and a corruption free atmosphere to do business in. 

And judging from The Great Debate that has been on in the Media among Government Servants, Politicians, Economists, Thinkers, Strategists, this is light-years away from the minds of the people who matter. The article that talks of problems facing the economy will usually totally omit the real problems of implementation, while the anti-corruption brigade totally ignores this other side. There is no one that is linking the two; for they are connected and intertwined into one indivisible whole. 

No one has shown the courage to take the real steps to tackle corruption and implementation – tame the Civil Service, include a work-ethic and culture, free the police from political control, improve overall policy implementation. Sadly, there is no debate on the national level on this problem either. All you hear is a deafening, all-engulfing silence, with intelligent people spouting grand strategies that translate into rubbish on the ground.  Only Arvind Kejriwal has come close to this, with his Lokpal campaign… only he has shown the guts… I very much fear that even he has not gone far enough!

And I very much fear that if this is not done post-haste, India faces greater tension in the day to come…

Jaago, Sonewaalon!

The Silence of the Media, leading from the silence of the people…

Published March 24, 2013 by vishalvkale

This little tit-bit of news is tellingly absent from any other news website as at 6:38 pm today. It can be seen only on Hindustan Times… link above. 
For the rest, I had to do a  search…

More importantly, India has moved on…
Corruption? Chaltaa hai. 
Bribe? Ok. No problem
This precise same attitude can be seen in each and every case that has happened in living memory… AMRI file case. Remember that? What happened afterwards? Were the guilty punished? What steps have been implemented by various state governments and the central government to ensure mandatory fire-safety equipment and procedures in buildings? There has been at least 1 major incidence of fire after this that I can recall… but no.  How many of us have checked whether our offices and flats have the mandatory clearances and procedures / equipments in place? Our Media is silent; and our people are uncaring…
Remember the Nirbhay case? Silence… absolute silence. Just about everybody and his uncle was voicing an opinion on social media and mainstream media just 3 months ago. And today? She lies forgotten; steps taken by Delhi to improve its roadways and auto-drivers largely ignored by everyone. And as regards the juvenile, his punishment is now a thing of forgotten memory. There is no pressure from any side on this matter. Perhaps a small Media comment somewhere, and no reaction from the public. Once again, our Media is silent, our people uncaring…
We have moved on… 
Jo raah chuni toone, ussi raah pe raahi chalte jaanaa re…. 
(Please dont sing the second line of this song; it doesnt fit our society…)
Well done, India. Our freedom fighters must be so proud at the state of the nation… well done, indeed…
How many more Nirbhays’ how many more Kejriwals and how many more AMRI-like fires do we require to wake up? Astounding! Astonishing! I for one, am speechless… despite the above rant! 
Jaago, Sonewaalon!

Book Review: Swaraj by Arvind Kejriwal (Part – 1)

Published February 26, 2013 by vishalvkale

So it is clear that neither than the MPs and MLAs help solve our daily problems, nor can they help in getting good laws passed. This is the dichotomy of the situation. We elect them, but they act according to the wishes of the party they belong to. And if they dont toe the party line, they are punished and may even have to lose the membership of the house or assembly. So, even if you elect a good and honest person as a MP or MLA from your area, it will neither solve the issues of your area, nor will he or she be able to help pass a good law. Isnt it a queer democracy, where neither the public is heard, nor its representatives?
The above lines should touch a chord in every Indian hearts. It is difficult to argue with such powerful logic. And that is the central thrust of this book: that the people of India are effectively powerless, and have been emasculated by the current system. This is a feeling that all of us can empathise with, having dealt with it all of our adult lives. Arvind Kejriwal is a man who has worked in the system, and is aware of its many pluses and innumerable minuses. This comes out very well in the book, which makes it worth a read for that alone.
The key issue here is both the diagnosis of the problem, as well as the cure – if any. First, the problem. Mr Kejriwal makes a powerful case for the emasculation of the people and their utter helplessness to do anything about the current situation. This comes out most powerfully in the frank self-appraisal of the Jan Lokpal agitation, wherein the author agrees that it is difficult to imagine a situation in which any political par
ty can bring about a strong Lokpal. The bugbear of corruption is presented as one of the 2 or 3 central problems related to governance in India. The other problem is the total lack of accountability of the public servants in the state, central governments as well as the state and central bureaucracy. The way in which these people tend to serve their master rather than the people is brought out with stunning clarity. It helps you grasp the depth of the problem as well as the basic hindrances in the path of setting things right. 
The second problem is related to the first; lack of effective utilisation of government funds, improper allocation and ineffective controls on the way these funds are spent – leading to the third problem, corruption. This is where Arvind Kejriwal is at his practical best. The focus of the book is on the centralised plannng model, which leads to fund allocation to the states and the districts. Schemes are run – and dictats are issued that this has to be done and this way. The concentration of power in one hand – or a few hands – combined with the lack of proper accountability leads to corruption as funds are misappropriated. The difficulty in seeking information (with regard to legal as well as real-world problems – like threats being issued) regarding funds and implementation completes the circle. 
The net result of all this is the oft-repeated leakages in the system, where very little of the money actually spent reaches the people whom it is meant for. These people have no say whatsoever, and no recourse to rectify this issue. The current avenues are so tedious, so cumbersome, and have so little tangible results to show that people have lost faith in them. As anyone of you can see, this is a hard reality. That is the real power of this book – it goes into the root causes of corruption, lack of proper implementation, various problems ailing India like Land acquisition protests, Naxalism, MNREGA, concentration of power and the attendant lack of responsiveness of the system.  
The utter helpless of the people to do anything has been brought out in an extremely lucid fashion; you will find yourself nodding your head in agreement. The diagnosis of the problems is spot on; not only that – there are no grandiose claims like demographic dividend, GDP growth etc. This is a book about the people of India, written by a common man for the people of India. The beauty of the book is that the solutions – with a few changes (in my opinion, of course) will lead to the realisation of those very same grandiose goals – Gini coefficient, GDP, Per capita income etc! Furthermore, the language and terminology used is very simple. Almost anyone can understand – there is no jargon in any of the 151 pages that comprise the book. It is a fast, fact-filled and fun read that has an excellent presentation and simple language. It is available in both Hindi and English. 
The book also delves into solutions in some detail; this being too complex and too important a topic, I will deal with the solutions part in a separate review – the Part-2 of this book review. Suffice it to say that this is a book that attends to the real problems facing India – Health, Education, Life Expectancy – the core factors that determine how able a population is in taking advantage of the opportunities offered by a growing economy. This is a refreshing approach, and one that merits serious contemplation and study. Yes, there are lacunae, scope forimprovement as well as some criticisms. In a couple of areas, I felt that additional clarifications are needed; one area of the solution threw up questions in my mind as to the downside. But overall, I have to say that it is a much superior approach to the current one. With some details, practical methods and modifications, this could indeed be worth a try… What are the solutions presented? For that, read the Part-2 of this review. Watch this space!

Silence on the Lokpal Front…

Published August 13, 2012 by vishalvkale

A simple perusal of the movements of the past 3-4 days throw up a very interesting scenario. Anna Hazare and team have, for all practical purposes, accepted that pushing a workable as well as effective Lokpal through the current set of polticians is going to be next to impossible. They have gone to plan-B – namely, trying to provide a political alternative; thereby effectively vacating the plank (at least for now) of the Lokpal. Simultaneously, Baba Ramdev organises a “dharna” 

And, unfortunately, the locus of the demand – and the media and public pressure – shift from the Lokpal to bringing back black money. Nothing wrong with that in principle; with one significant caveat. While the Lokpal focuses on solving the root of the problem and affixing accountability, the “bring back black money” movement very neatly shifts the focus from the core of the problem to its effects. It is like treating the fever, not the illness… 

What is even more interesting is the political support for Baba Ramdev – at least for the bring back black money movement. It provides the opposition the opportunity to target the incumbent government without the attendant commitments or dangers of the Lokpal. And immediately, you have the opposition targeting the UPA-2. Excellent! It also provides the regional parties with the chance to hitch themselves onto the seemingly lucrative anti-corruption platform without doing any concrete about it. What a classic strategy – and transparently obvious as well. 

The Bring Back Black Money brigade has the media attention; public attention – after all, a rather large some of money is involved; it offers immediate (!!!!!!!) fruits – or the promise of immediate fruits; it is good advertisement of intentions; and gives the semblance of doing everything in your power against corruption while in reality you are doing nothing. What could be better and more convenient – at least for some people?

Meanwhile, the Lokpal has been forgotten yet again… apart from the sporadic statements from UPA-2 to get it passed in this session. The political class has as yet failed to act on a Supreme Court order to free the Indian Police from political control; in the light of that, I sincerely doubt whether an effective Lokpal will be passed. In fact, I sincerely doubt whether even an eye-wash Lokpal will see the light of day. While the Lokpal is specific & provides concrete measures against corruption; “Bring Back Black Money” is very unspecific; has no commitments, no dates, no accountability and certainly no affixed responsibility attached to it…

And it captures the imagination of the political class, the media, and I daresay the People.

While the people who fought for the Lokpal without any discernible interest for themselves lie forgotten… please remember that had the bill been passed last year, this entire “enter politics” imbroglio would not have happened. As things stand, not only do we not have a Lokpal, we do not have any pressure on the political class for a Lokpal… excellent strategy by some people, might I add! And Lokpal? Whats that???????