Tuesday, May 25, 2010

Stop counting...

In the dark underbelly of Dubai, millions of Indian workers go to seek their fortunes (along with other folks from the subcontinent). Last year alone, 971 Indian nationals died in Dubai, as registered by the Indian consulate. This is a shocking statistic because people travel outside their home countries for economic betterment, not to die. Of course, most of these deaths are caused by either poor working and living conditions; either directly or by the indirect means of suicide. You'd imagine that the Indian government would ensure that people are not tricked into these jobs of such dubious nature by the false promises handed out by unscrupulous touts and middlemen. A relatively simple thing, you'd imagine, yeah? So, how does the Indian Consulate in Dubai react? They stopped counting.
Money makes the world go around. (Sung to the tunes of a song by the same name which is sometimes used as the backing music for the spectacular musical water fountain outside the Wynn Casino in Macao).

Thursday, April 8, 2010

Who are the brain police?

Read this yesterday. And you would not let me contest. Shame on the Indian election system.

Monday, March 15, 2010

Traffic Ramaswamy

I wish I have the time, dedication and courage to follow in the footsteps of Traffic Ramaswamy. Kudos, Mr. Ramaswamy.

For those of you who have not heard of him, there are a couple of stub articles about him, here and here.

Justice on the cheap

A brilliant observation from Pratap Bhanu Mehta's op-ed in the Indian Express.

Quotas are our justice on the cheap; as happened with SCs, once we gave them, we absolved ourselves of larger and more difficult ethical questions about discrimination and so forth. Formal representational equality makes it politically harder, not easier, to articulate the case for substantive equality.
Quite right. We've had a SC president, an SC Chief Justice. But at grassroots level, SCs are still discriminated againt. This is the fallout of our attempt at social engineering.

Wednesday, March 10, 2010

It's official! I need boobs (and a vagina)

No, I am not talking about fulfilling my sexual desires. Or any kinky tranny fantasies.

I considered (note past tense already) contesting the soon to be held BBMP Elections in Bangalore. I wanted to do some research on my home council and my chances of winning (given that I speak very little Kannada and that my target voters are English understanding, educated middle-class). I trawled the State Election Commission website to get details about where my ward/council is located. It is 195 - Konnankunte.

This is located in South Bangalore. Some initial analysis gave me some promising numbers. 31 parts, a total of 38608 registered voters (20381 male, 18227 female). Assuming that turnout is about 65% and of that if 40% votes are needed for victory, one would need about 10,000 votes to win. Not impossible, considering that there are 2-3 large apartment complexes in the ward which would be my target voter base. I chalked out a strategy as well. Print 15,000 flyers promoting myself. A couple of YouTube videos, which would hopefully go viral. A television / print interview if I am very lucky. I started having the right ideas.

But wait! Can I actually contest? So, I checked the rules list. There lay the sucker punch.

1. Every person whose name is in the list of voters for any of the wards of the municipal area shall, unless disqualified under this Act or any other law for the time being in force, be qualified to be elected at the election for that ward or any other ward of the minicipal area and every person whose name is not in such list shall not be qualified to be elected, at the election for any ward of the minicipal area:
Provided that a person shall not be qualified to be elected-
(a) To a seat reserved for Scheduled Castes or Scheduled Tribes unless he is amemeber of any of those castes or tribes;
(aa) to a seat reserved for Backward Classes, unless he is a member of such classes.
(b) to a seat reserved for women unless such person is a woman.
Umm...quick check. Is my seat reserved for SC/ST/BC/Woman? Let's have a quick look.Oh, wait, I cannot read Kannada (sorta dashes my hopes to win anyway). Scroll to 195...that's it...General...yes..but wait..what's that? General (Women). Ah fark.

So, by virtue of affirmative action policy, today I am unable to contest in council elections. I've also been denied the chance to study medicine. Or even think about pursuing a career in the civil services. For all practical purposes, I am among the millions who face reverse discrimination everyday in India. Thank you, India.

If only I had boobs.

Tuesday, March 9, 2010

A Preamble

The Preamble of the Constitution of India reads:

WE, THE PEOPLE OF INDIA, having solemnly resolved to constitute India into a [SOVEREIGN SOCIALIST SECULAR DEMOCRATIC REPUBLIC] and to secure to all its citizens:

JUSTICE, social, economic and political;

LIBERTY of thought, expression, belief, faith and worship;

EQUALITY of status and of opportunity;

and to promote among them all

FRATERNITY assuring the dignity of the individual and the [unity and integrity of the Nation];


Few read the disclaimer.

Nothing in this article shall prevent the State from making any special provision for women and children.

Nothing in this article or in clause (2) of article 29 shall prevent the State from making any special provision for the advancement of any socially and educationally backward classes of citizens or for the Scheduled Castes and the Scheduled Tribes.

Hurrah. We're all equal as Indian citizens. Unless of course you're a Scheduled Caste, Scheduled Tribe, 'Other Backward Caste' (as opposed to?), or pretty soon; a woman. In that case, you're more equal than others. About 50% more equal, actually.

According to our government, an economically deprived Brahmin is of course more 'socially advanced' than his 'I'm-not-really-qualified-to-be-here-except-for-being-a-lower-caste' counterpart who's is on the third generation of the reservation dole.

Do you keep wondering, Dr. Singh, why we leave India and enrich the USA and others? I'll take my chances in a free society, thank you very much.

What a farce.

Monday, March 8, 2010

A list of things to make India better - Part 1

Now, I am not a professor of economics nor a person of the masses. But, I am a working citizen and a taxpayer. This is a list of ideas that I think should be implemented to make India better.

1) Removal of farm subsidies on fertilizer and electricity: This pushes the farming sector to ensure better better farming practices and become more energy efficient. It will aslo mean that lesser number of people will be involved in farming as only those with enough farm lands will survive the game. Political suicide, yes; supremely practical, yes. When people are removed from farming, they switch to other industries, which could do with skilled workers. Ideally, not more than 10% of our people should be farming. Imagine what we could do with those extra skilled workers.

2) Make high-speed broadband a reality and a fundamental right: The information age is the one which has propelled India into a high-growth economy. Yet, internet access at a non-commercial level has low prevelance, is expensive and absurdly slow. We need to make internet access a fundamental right and increase penetration. Government policy should allow for low cost, high speed broadband a reality for all Indians. If Australia, a country with two and a half times the landmass as India can do it, why can't we? India has only about 11% of the population using the internet, compared to about 48% for China. While mobile telephony rates are very low, internet access rates at extremely high. South Korea has the world's cheapest broadband internet. After adjusting for USD purchasing power parity, it comes to US85 cents a month per megabit. A simple calculation for USD PPP in India tells us that the purchasing power of 1 USD in India is about 17 rupees. (Nominal India GDP = USD 1,206,684, PPP adjusted GDP = 3,288,345, 1 USD ~= 45 INR). By comparison, an 8Mbps broadband connection in India  costs INR 2999 per month (navigate to link here), which means, the advertised monthly per Mbps is ~INR 375, or a whopping 19 times more expensive than in S.Korea.

3) Improve the postal system: India has an extensive and well developed postal system. It is also fairly efficient and cheap. But sadly, our postal system has fallen behind the curve and in the information age is not competitive. Proof lies in the mushrooming of numerous private courier services. Post offices are far and few between, unfriendly and time-consuming. It is time we used a model like that of Australia Post. It is fantastically efficient and highly competitive. Few simple things to make India Post better are:
  • Increase the number of post offices. There need not be full service offices, but should include essential services like ordinary, registered and speed post. Ideally, there should be a post office outlet within every 1 km radius at an urban center.
  • Bring technology to the post system. We must have the ability to buy and print postage online.
  • Make post office outlets multi-functional. They should sell stationery, packaging material, etc. How often is it that you've wanted to send a parcel and have fumbled for packaging? CDs, batteries, bestseller books; all stuff that one should be able to browse and buy at a post-office.
  • Tie-ups with corporates are essential. Most of the postal revenue is from non-personal mail. The post office should tie up with corporates and other offices to provide pickup services at the door. If I am say, a phone company, and need to send out 1 million phone bills, I'd happily use India Post if it can agree to provide me the option to pick up stuff at my office, instead of me having to go to the post office. This can scale from small to large volumes, guaranteed by the fact that businesses always have mail to send.
  • Rework the postal code. The postal codes are no longer as efficient. We need to have the ability to pinpoint to a single street in entire India using the postcode alone. A system similar to the UK, using alphanumeric postcodes or as in the US, using 'extension codes' are a good way to go.
Improving the postal system and providing increased broadband coverage would go a long way in improving online retail. If both are a reality, then online shopping can become real in India like it is in the US.

4) Roads and traffic: My pet subject. Make driving license tests stricter. Increase traffic fines. There is no sense if the speeding fine is only INR 300 when it costs about INR 150 for a single day in fuel costs. Ensure a 'points' system like the UK is followed. Automatic award of points for any and all traffice offences. Strict suspension or revocation if one gets too many points. Revenue sharing of fines between state government and police force, down to the last traffic cop. More on this in a separate post.

5) De-urbanization: Sounds contradictory to (1), doesn't it? But it actually means reducing the urban congestion at developed centers and developing alternate urban facilities. Tax-breaks, tax-holidays, deferred taxation are incentives that government can provide to promote business in lesser developed areas. Add road/rail/air connectivity, provide basic urban infrastructure of electricity, water and roads, provide tax-discounts to citizens moving there and you've done a lot to spreading the wealth and reducing your infrastructure issues.