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Wednesday, December 29, 2010

Irony of Contradictions

The other day, i was looking at one of my friend's honeymoon album (outdoor only) on FB. It was indeed beautiful, the location, the photography and his wife of course(with due regard)!.Other than all this beauty,i made one more observation. It was my friend's wife's attire. She was wearing shorts and a sleeveless tee shirt. This was a good combination which was getting along with her personality well. But,one thing that caught my eye was her hand which was covered with bangles from wrist to elbow. Although this was not the first time i had seen this attire, i have never been able to digest it. I sometimes consider it to be the effect of a mixed economy on our lives. I consider shorts and tee shirt to be symbols of liberation and physical comfort while bangles in the hand reflect the bounds of being a wife.We happen to mix everything and live in total contradiction.Ironically,or luckily, not even recognizing the contradiction!

Somewhat similar confusion exists in our business world as well. I very well remember the time when i used to prepare stories in order to save myself from a gang bang by bosses for having been unable to force in favorable specifications in the tender document issued by the customer. All stories used to be of no use because,mostly,it is only the best of the story tellers who rise up the ranks in sales management and have all the logic for negating your stories,the best story teller being your CEO. In professional words, as put in by my CEO, "a successful sales professional fights for his company in front of the customer and fights for his customer in front of his company". In practical terms, he has to be an adept story teller on both the fronts! Other than storytelling, our companies also expect us to possess unyielding integrity. Here,my logic fails me. How can one be an adept story teller(storyteller here is a person who covers his lies by telling interesting stories) and a man of integrity at the same time? Here also people fail to recognize the contradictions!

Let me put forth a case.All sales professionals(respectful address to salesmen), especially those who have handled government business, will easily recall the following statement of their bosses which comes soon after a tender which does not carry favorable specifications is advertised(only advertised not decided,all professionals will agree that deals are won and lost long before the tender is advertised). Tera account pe kya hold hai(as if customers were reporting to me)? This statement clearly asks the salesman to tell about the lobby that he has in that specific government department. Going by these words, every company expects its sales professionals to have a lobby in the government. As every company has a sales team for handling government accounts, we can imagine the level of lobbying that exists in the government.

If we agree with the above logic, we will have to appreciate the salesman(woman) ship of Niira Radia! Her lobby was so strong that she could lobby for the portfolios of ministers in the union government(choosing dumbest among the dumb so that she could get her work done). This is what a company expects out of its sales force. And, salesmen with such strong lobbying skills and powerful contacts are designated as CEO's and business partners of companies. 

Now comes the million dollar question. How is lobbying done? How can a salesman lobby? From the company's perspective,It is expected for a salesman to be a resourceful person for the customer.Resourceful such that he is a consultant for the customer and works towards mutual growth and benefit of the company as well as the customer. This is a statement which most of us would have read in the "vision" and "mission" statements of most organizations. But mostly, the level of resourcefulness lies in the ability of story telling. In any case, objective of all these"vision" and "mission" statements is dependent on the intent of the organization or the person who is representing the organization in front of the customer. Thus, Resourceful is a dangerous adjective. It has many meanings and when the prime intent of the organization as well as the person representing the organization is profit, being resourceful becomes even more dangerous.

Anyways, I would like to leave it for the reader to define" a resourceful salesman" considering their own experiences with salesmen and keeping in view the fact that the prime objective of this resource is to earn money. What i want to convey here is that we all are a part of this system. We get into an offensive mode when something like a Niira radia tape comes out. But, ironically,we aspire to become the same(minus controversy). We continue to live in the extreme contradiction like the woman wearing shorts and bangles, not even realising the contradictions of the situation. One factor, i can attribute for these contradictions could be compromises me make due compulsions. Compulsions of meeting our aspirations,aspirations which we develop looking at the world around! I would leave it open for readers to look for other factors. I hope we will someday come out of these compulsions and contradictions.If not come out,we will at least start recognizing them soon!

Sunday, December 19, 2010

Story of an Alcoholic

He wakes up on the morning of 15th August cursing himself for having drunk the remaining half of the bottle which he should have actually saved for today. On 14th, he purchased a full bottle instead of his regular quota of half a bottle as 15th August is a dry day. This is not the first time that he has done so. It has been a regular feature of his life. Next, he starts looking for Disprins. He quickly gobbles up two tablets and swears in the name of god that he will never repeat such a blunder again! God is expected to understand his problem and cannot be rude to him! He gets out of the bed after another two hours of sleep. By now, the hangover has reduced. He goes to the market and has a cup of tea followed by two glasses of fruit Juice. He gets his lunch packed from a hotel and comes back home. Now, starts the toughest part of his Holiday! How should he pass the next 5 to 6 hours of the day? None of his good friends are in town, all the remaining are useless. They would suggest plans like going for a movie or roaming around in a mall which he considers as a sheer waste of time and money. His next worry is that, as he had finished the whole bottle yesterday, he will have to get his day’s quota by “Jugad”. He will not get his brand!
Above mentioned are sequence of events that “only an alcoholic” or a person who has lived with an alcoholic can relate to. Everybody cannot be called an alcoholic, to join this elite club one has to have some of these qualities:-
1)      All monetary calculations are in the multiples of the prices of quarters, halves and full bottles of Daru. For e.g. - Cost of a movie followed by food is equal to the price of a half and a quarter of Blenders Pride Whiskey (snacks and soda/cold drink excluded) and Cost of a 3BHK flat in NOIDA would be equal to the money that will be spent by this person on daru in the next 30 years (This is the best way known to him to invest money, after all its all about living in the present).
2)      There is no party without Daru. People who do not drink do not know how to enjoy!
3)      Vendors at all the nearby wine shops greet him whenever he goes to their shop, the nearby snack and soda vendors also greet him and know his menu.
4)      Best daru is that which comes free of cost, next is a party on pay for yourself basis and the final option is to drink alone at home. The first option is observed more in people who have taken a sabbatical from work to pursue further (not necessarily higher) studies. Remaining two are the most favoured options of decently earning, financially responsible alcoholics!
5)      The best way to spend on others, in case one has to, is to sit and drink with them. The best possible gift on earth is also a Bottle of Daru!
6)      Finishing half a bottle should not take him more than 5 pegs!
7)      He is never impartial in making pegs! His peg size is the standard, maximum also, others have the choice of making smaller pegs.
8)      He believes that it is better to have extra Daru than to fall short of it at the end of the party. But, on most occasions, he falls short of it because he, that day, enjoyed drinking more than any other day.
9)      He knows his limit (he can drink any amount). And, he becomes extra cautious once he is behind the steering wheel, although he might not remember the sequence events the following day!
10)   He has no idea of other available options to pass his time “constructively”, especially between 7 to 10 in the evening.
11)   Visiting a doctor is useless because he does not understand the problem, instead, advises to quit drinking. He might also threaten him with a LFT (Liver Function Test). Thus, wisdom is in avoiding doctors.

These are the qualities a person has to possess in order to join the elite club. There can be many other qualities as well. This elite club also has some outstanding members; these people have set benchmarks of achievement for club members. They have performed feats like:-
1)      They have bought Daru on credit from a wine shop. And,
2)      They have never said no to Daru in their life! Be it any challenge: early morning offer, office time offer, party after party offer etc, they have always honoured the offer without caring of the consequences.
Now, I believe, you are in a position to understand the amount of time, effort and investment that is required to join the elite club of alcoholics. But, most people do not understand this. They undermine the achievement of an alcoholic. These people do not understand that it is only because of this alcoholic that the state is able to execute development plans. He contributes the maximum amount to the state in the form of tax on liquor, only other tax revenue above this is revenue from petroleum. He contributes to that also because he daily drives a few miles extra to reach the wine shop! Leave aside the amount the government earns from taxes on his snacks and soda! Look at Kerala, the state with 100% literacy has started earning the maximum amount of tax revenue from liquor, tax collection from liquor this financial has exceeded tax collected from petroleum. That is why it is called “The god’s own country”!

Description of an alcoholic seems very funny! We see many alcoholics performing antics around us, this makes us believe that people around them must also be enjoying. But, for the near and dear ones of an alcoholic, it is always not that funny. All these qualities might have a different meaning for them and might remind them of traumatic experiences they have had with their alcoholic family member. Comparing the cost of liquor with a movie might be acceptable, not always though, but, its comparison with the schooling expenses of his child is never acceptable. One can only imagine the trauma of the family members who have to deal with such problems on a regular basis. Alcohol leads the household of an alcoholic to a complete mess. Thus, Alcoholism, since a long time, has been regarded as one of the worst and widely spread social evils of our society (The only challenge it faces today must be from terrorism). A lot has been written about it and it is accepted beyond doubt that people should abstain from alcohol. But, I am not writing this to criticize an alcoholic. I am here to present his side of the story.
If we look at the ‘qualities’, as described above, of an alcoholic we can make out that, at any particular point of time, irrespective of the alcoholic consuming alcohol or not his brain is always thinking about it! His brain is now programmed in such a way that his logic has a very strong element of ‘alcoholism’ in it. He cannot think out of the realm of alcohol. Another major issue is that his expression of joy as well as sorrow is associated with alcohol. To understand his plight, let us imagine of the one thing that we love to do when we are happy. Now, try to think of a life without that activity. Life will look like a void. Such is the idea about life of an alcoholic without alcohol. Thus, he never thinks about leaving alcohol.

Someone once rightly compared alcoholics with TB patients. He said, as TB cannot be cured without treatment, neither can one get rid of alcoholism without treatment(although exceptions exist). Thus, next time you ask an alcoholic to quit alcohol, think for yourself once, how can you leave something that you associate with happiness with life. Thus, we can reduce the problems in the life of an alcoholic(if we are not able to help him in treatment) by avoiding to give him regular "gyan"  to quit alcohol ! Also, an alcoholic, despite being a major contributor to the state exchequer, is the most neglected person of the society.

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Violence by State-Lessons to be Learnt

Comments by Arundathi Roy have always annoyed the Indian government,her latest one on Kashmir is only an addition to it! I have listened to her and Gautam Navlakha on the issue of "Violence by State". I appreciated their views which strongly opposed the use of violence by the government in many parts of the country and criticised the apathy shown by government towards a large section of its people over the years. But, i start sensing cynicism in their words when they get extreme with their criticism of the Indian government. I start suspecting their belief in democracy. Its ironical, these people speak against the only system which gives them freedom to speak! How can a person speak of peace and secession at a time and still be considered logical?

I ,personally, also do not support the use of violence by state against its own people. But unfortunately, also, find no other way out in situations like Maoist violence, North East India and Kashmir insurgency.The government was left with no choice other than to use force. Use of force leads to mistrust among the people in the government agencies which makes the condition prone to speculation. Speculation and Mistrust lead to misery and loss of human life. This can be brought under control by strong political will and government action. This is a proven fact, we have examples like Punjab, Andhra Pradesh and many parts of North East India. Thus, there are ways out of such situations.

My point is a little different. I feel, we should look at these issues from the point of view of the lessons that they teach to India as a nation. If we look at Naxalism,Maoism,NE insurgency we can see that the root cause of these problems is negligence by the government on the economic front. Our development plans were not comprehensively covering the country and were focused on some parts of the country. We have realised the problem and, hence, find development as a default agenda in the manifesto of all political parties. Although, implementation of the plans is debatable,but,that then becomes a political matter and encourages us to participate in the political process to set our system in order. In any case, the learning is very good. We as a nation have learnt that we cannot develop by focusing on some sections/regions of the society/country. We need to take all the people along with us. I hope,we soon see the implementation also!

Now,let us consider the Kashmir case. The only reason,i find for insurgency in Kashmir is religious. We,as a nation,believe in the concept of secularism(at least by the constitution). If India agrees to secession of Kashmir from the union, what lesson does it teach to our coming generations? I feel that they would be:-

1) India respects the views and aspirations of various communities.

2)Muslims do not consider themselves to be Indians. As and when Muslims get majority status in any state, they will break India.

I will be happy with the first lesson,but,will never like India to learn the second lesson. We have seen it once during Partition in 1947 and are trying to forget it as a nightmare. But, problems like Kashmir forcibly remind us of that time.

These are my personal views and would appreciate your comments on it!

Saturday, October 2, 2010

The Third World War

It is a common practice in most of the Middle Class Indian house holds to employ maids and servants to help them in their regular house hold chores. Some people who come in the upper middle class and rich class bracket also employ drivers and assistants to help in day to day activities other than daily house hold chores. Rich people all over the world are known for their lavish life styles and the number of servants and assistants employed by a person can be considered as parameter for judging a person's richness! It is not possible for the middle class in the most of the rich nations to employ maids and servants,because the middle class there cannot afford them.

Similar is the case with industries, here labourers work to produce goods and services. Such huge is the supply of unskilled labour in India that they cannot demand a price for their services. Thus, the government had to fix a minimum wage rate. This does not happen in case of highly skilled labour which has demand in the market and can demand wage on their own terms. These skilled labour have been beneficiaries of the growth and development in the country and now, have themselves become employers. These people form the majority of the "Middle Class".

If we closely look at the above scenario we can see that, in a way, it is the poor who subsidise the luxury of the rich and being poor or rich are purely relative concepts. Had there not been poor people in India, the middle class would not have had the luxury of employing people for their daily chores. This can also be observed from the world history, rich have always exploited the poor for their luxuries. How did Europe become rich? They exploited their colonies to the extreme. US also does it in a limited way, as is observed in its Middle East policy. In India, at present, the exploitation is within the country. Slowly, as Indians start getting richer, India might have to explore options outside in order to meet its internal demand for resources(both human and energy). Thus, India will invest outside and that would be an economic decision.

Let us look at this from one more perspective. Human thought has also developed with all this economic growth. In India, at least as per the law, employing someone to clean Human Excreta is prohibited. Thus, we can see at least some kind of Human Development. This kind of development is supported by "Technology". Technology, in many cases, has been very useful in substituting the use of poor people as servants to rich people. This can be observed from our day to day life activities. We no more exploit animals and humans to travel, instead we use machine driven vehicles. Our dependence on servants at our homes has also reduced by machines like vacuum cleaners, washing machines etc or by the availability of ready to cook food.Thus, i believe that technology is a big factor in trying to ensure equality to people.

Thus, from the above explanation we see only two means for development. Exploit the poor or develop technology! There is no other way to ensure a person's luxury. Also, we can observe that poverty is relative. In India, factor for determining the poverty of a person is his nutrition intake whereas in a rich nation could be nutrition along with basic amenities of life. Thus, i believe that the standard of poor will improve with time,but, they will still remain poor compared to the rich and will always aspire to achieve what the rich have. Many of these poor will also be against the lifestyle of the rich and of the means employed by the rich to accumulate wealth. Because, as discussed earlier about food and air security, issues of conflict might be different then. I personally believe that all this will be centered around use of natural resources. In any case, these relatively poor people will be subsidising the luxury of the rich what ever may be the technological development.

Also, there will remain some poor as well as rich countries. Only, the definition for rich and poor would change. Next generation conflicts, as discussed in the previous blog, could be for water and air rights! In any case, conflicts between the rich and poor will remain.Let us consider the other possible option which most people would discard by calling it as "Utopian".Here all people become rich.Such becomes the world that there are no rich or poor, almost all people come in a specific "bandwidth of richness" and their luxuries are supported by technology. We have robots instead of humans serving people. This might seem to be a very happy state and we might see no reason for conflict in such a scenario.But, technology requires energy and natural resources.Do we have the resources to support such technological luxury? We might find alternatives for energy,but do we have even have a faint idea about the source of getting extra land, water and air. Hence, we will fight for them. Thus, even in this "Utopian" case there exists a scope for conflict.

Thus, if we are able to appreciate the above analogy, we can understand that we might grow but we might not be able to solve our conflicts. Conflicts for known reasons and because of a known system. I do not say that we will have a conflict free world tomorrow if we solve these conflicts,but, i expect that at least the conflicts will reduce and we will develop an attitude to address conflicts instead of the current attitude of taking extreme stances.

Now that we have understood that conflict will exist, let us look at another aspect, the ferocity of the conflict.  As we have discussed earlier that poverty is a relative concept, the poor of the would be technologically and financially far better off that what they are today. They will even be better equipped in terms of weaponry. Even today, we find America raising hue and cry over the possession of "weapons of mass destruction" by many countries. In the present scenario, imagine of a deadly nuclear attack on America and its effects on global politics!

Thus, if we are so worried about the state of affairs today when the weaker section of the society is not very well equipped and the resource crunch is not as much as is expected to be in the near future. Imagine when it becomes a matter of survival and the person who's existence is at stake is very well equipped to cause substantial damage to the world. How long will we be able to rely on the conscience of the rebel (we see this when Maoist rebels kidnap our policemen) when we ,the main stream people, are killing our conscience every day today?

Thus, if we go on like this, a "third world war" is inevitable! The division for it,this time, would be along economic lines. It will be between the rich and the poor. But, by that time, the poor will be so well equipped that mass destruction would be inevitable.  If today we are not able to manage land disputes,imagine how will we be able to manage water and air disputes? And, all this is set to happen in our life time!

All this will be because of the system that we are following. Mad Capitalism! Although, i personally believe that "Democracy and Capitalism" is the best combination among the systems that we have got in the present times.We also need to look at the extreme negative side of this growth and take necessary corrective action.  Radical changes might not be possible at the moment,but, at least a step towards improvement is necessary! Also, I personally do not have any concrete solutions for this problem.But,am sure, recognising the issue is first step towards resolving it!

Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Food Water and Air Economics

In the past few days we have heard a lot about Food rotting at FCI godowns, the subsequent direction of the SC to distribute the food amongst the poor and finally the debate about the possible means to distribute the food. Despite the PM saying that distributing food free of cost might be a disincentive for farmers, many ways were suggested by various political parties to distribute food to the poor. For Eg. extra grains can be allocated to the PDS of the poorest districts of the country free of cost, poor people can be distributed food coupons which can be redeemed against grain etc.

All these methods, although being practical could not be effectively applied because they did not have proper checks & balances in place. One could not stop these grains from going into the black market. It is almost impossible to build a system where the giver is not benefited without giving a benefit back to the receiver. Thus, the receiver must pay in some or the other way to receive that something, this something is food here. This raises doubts about the effectiveness of the Food Security Bill that the government is proposing.

All these deliberations make me question our development as a society. Food is something that nature gives us free of cost! So, in all these years of development have we actually simplified the way we live or we have actually made our lives complex(like we first develop complex financial systems and later use software to simplify them,learning those softwares is also a big problem in itself,we call this development). I do not understand where this kind of development will lead us to.

We might not accept the blame for making food as a salable commodity because we cannot conceive of a modern system where food could be free. We would attribute free food to be a concept of nomadic prehistoric life where man would eat whatever he got. Free food in the present day would only be considered Charity! I also do not have any chronology of facts to show how food got commoditised. But, i see a ongoing change which is comparable to commoditisation of food. We can also extrapolate this to the possible future.

Commoditisation of Water and Future Commoditisation of Air:-

One interesting fact i observed is that we can survive without food for weeks, without water for days and without air for only a few minutes. Their commoditisation is also happening in the same order. It is not far away when we will face problems similar to distribution of food with distribution of water. People will find it illogical ,"economically", to distribute water free of cost, because, then water will be a salable commodity,freely available water will not be consumable by anyone,many of us even today cannot drink non-bottled water!People might be dying of thirst and the PM would say that "it is against the basic tenets of economics to give water free of cost"! If we further extrapolate it to commoditisation of Air. I can easily assume that people can be held at ransom for supply of Air. Also, biggest charity could be distributing Air "Free of Cost"!

We might not be in a position to fix the responsibility for commditisation of food,but, we can fix the responsibility for commoditisation of water and future commoditisation of air. This can surely be attributed to incessant industrialisation and madness for growth which leads to pollution. I feel that these would have been the reasons for food commoditisation as well,but, would prefer refraining from being judgemental.

Looking at the current scenario,we can say,faster the rate of  growth,faster will be the commoditisation. Also, in the same lines,"if the rebellion in the period of food insecurity can be so fierce,imagine its ferocity when a man gets devoid of water and air".Also, if time for commoditisation of water is comparable to the rate of growth then,imagine how fast will we commoditise water and air. Thus, we can judge how far are we from trouble! Is this what we mean by growth and development? I would like to end with a famous north american saying:-

“Only when the last tree has been felled, the last river poisoned and the last fish caught, man will know, that he cannot eat money”.

Note:- I am not a growth and development cynic. But, i find these issues genuine enough to be thought about.

Monday, September 27, 2010

A few Questions...

Confusion was created for a few days after a heated discussion with a friend(Patro) who outrightly rejected my idea of "Economic Terrorism". I thought it would be better for me to ask some basic questions. It so happens that with all this education and upbringing we start believeing in somethings as if they were axioms of life. When such things prove to be false,they drastically change our thought process. Let us ask ourselves a few questions:
Who owns the land in and around a specific region?

Is it of the government or of the community, or do we believe that the government is actually the reflection of the community ?

If so,how can the government subidise land for creation of a SEZ with the local community not getting any short term benefit?

If this has happened,why is there disparity in our country?

Why is a Pilot paid more than a bus driver(a very old question)?

As they are not paid equally,did the person who became a driver get an equal opportunity to be trained as a pilot compared to the person who became a Pilot?

If not, how is different pay justified?

Is it not ironical that government sends a poorly paid soldier to fight all rebels(of all forms) to protect the interest and money of the rich?

How does the money belong only to the rich as the land using which the wealth has been generated equally belongs to a poor man?

Let us consider this case. I, with my parents, visit a nearby Udupi restaurant for breakfast almost on all week ends. There is an unorganised parking place place in front of the restaurant. Whenever we go there, the security guard  there(who has only been given permission to be there and is not employed) takes care of our car. While leaving the parking my father gives him a five rupee coin as tip. This is the way he earns,this is his demand.On the other hand,any organised parking in the city has a minimum charge of Rs 10.

Thus, my question is.Can we apply the supply demand economics at the above mentioned security gaurd's level(we show economic system problems while distributing free food to poor as advised by SC)?
Has he got the opportunity to create his demand?
Will such people have to suffer till the time we completely organise our economy(it may take generations)?
Even in a completely organised economy,does availability of equal opportunity exist?
Do we have a system to give opportunity to our people or its just that a lucky person gets an opportunity to develop himself?
If such is the case,what is the "Importance of India/nation/system" for a man deprived of opportunity?

At last, if we do not provide him equal opportunity,what moral right do we have to ask such man to abide by the law of the land?

Friday, September 24, 2010

The interesting aspect-Ayodhya Verdict

Very briefly, i would like to bring out some points from the Ayodhya Verdict. The judges of the bench are:-

1) Justice DV Sharma
2) Justice SU Khan
3) Justice Sudhir Aggarwal

The decision will be in the favour of the party which is favoured by at least two judges. Thus, the combinations could be 3-0,2-1,1-2 and 0-3 for winning or losing the case.
The government is very cautious and vigilant at this point of time because it feels, resentment due to losing the case could fuel violence. I do not think so.

I feel,the major reason for violence, in case it breaks out, will not be resentment caused because of losing the case. Instead, violence could erupt because of humiliation which might be faced by the losers of the case as they see the winners in jubilation.

Although,all parties have also urged its members not to show any form of jubilation on winning the case. I find it inevitable to avoid rejoicing. Rejoicing might not be organised, but, i feel even individual rejoicing even in the form of sentiment is enough to fuel violence. Government should seriously look at this aspect.

The Interesting Aspect !

The most interesting aspect of the verdict would be if the judgement comes in favour of the Hindus. And, the winning combination is such that both the Hindu judges give judgement in favour of the Hindus and the Muslim judge decides in favour of the Muslims.

It will be interesting to look at the reactions. It would indeed be a test of our belief on our Judiciary.

Lets,Wait and Watch!!

Monday, September 13, 2010

"Muscle Vs Intellect","Economic Terrorism and Economic Fundamentalism"

A few months back, Madhya Pradesh government raided stores of FMCG companies where they had stored sugar for production purposes. The industry criticised this move and said that these companies store sugar for production and cannot be categorised as hoarders. Government later asked these companies to limit their stocks of sugar only for 15 days of production. This was again criticised by the industry. It argued that market forces should be allowed to act and government should not interfere in this supply, demand and speculation cycle. I completely agreed with their argument that we should not get back to the "License Raj" era!

Let us keep the above story aside for a while and look at another case. One thing that has always surprised me is the remuneration of film actors. Is their skill worth the amount they earn? I started looking for my answers and finally concluded on two points that, I believe, must be responsible for the high remuneration:-

1) Huge market base: - Almost everyone watches movies in our country and now movies have also found foreign markets to add to their earnings. Further, life of this product (movie) is only 2-3 hours and reuse requires repayment. This results in huge earnings.

2) Risk involved in becoming an actor- There is huge competition in this field. Many people try for it, but, fail to become an actor. Also, even after entering the industry, people are unable to sustain.

Thus, I felt the above two factors fairly justify the earning of an actor. But, later I observed that most of the present day successful actors come from families already in the film business. They did not have to struggle too much and got multiple chances. Thus, my second point was proven wrong. Now, I was left with only one argument that a huge market base could be the reason the huge earning. But, I strongly felt that I was going wrong somewhere! Thus, later, I asked another question to myself. Is the amount earned by a film, as a product, justified? Then I decided to look at the whole process of film business.

In simple terms, a film is made, sold to distributors in various regions, these distributors sell it to movie theatres and theatres sell it to the viewers. This follows purely a demand supply mechanism. More the demand of the actor or film maker more is the price demanded by the seller. Further, a film faces competition from other films and the final verdict is given by the viewer who is also the end consumer. Looks like a fine market structure. But, there exists a discrepancy. People cannot record movies in theatre and circulate CD's of the movie without the prior permission of the movie producer. This is because the movie is IPR protected. This protection is given by the government.

Now, let us compare this with our earlier story. If government raids companies for storing sugar and decides a limit for storage, government is interfering in the market process. But, the government's protection to a film producer is not interference in the market process. I am surprised!

People might contest this logic by saying that the cost of production of a movie is very high but the cost of reproduction is negligible. This means that, producing a movie might cost Rs50 crores and 6 months. But, reproducing it costs a Rs 10 CD and 10 minutes of copying time. Thus, if the movie is not IPR protected then the producers might not be able to meet their costs. And, if the business is not profitable, good films will not be made. I do not agree with this and will also substantiate my disagreement with logical reasoning.

We feel that diluting the concept of IPR will kill the industry; this is because we have not been able to conceive of a business model without IPR. In the case of film business, dependence on IPR can either be reduced by a well developed distribution network having great penetration supported by a good film viewing experience in a theatre or by finding other sources of revenue for a movie other than that earned by selling tickets. Such doubts about the bright and profitable future of the film industry were also cast when cable television came to India. People thought that TV will kill cinema. But, this did not happen as the experience of watching a movie in a theatre improved. Film Industry had to struggle, but, innovation and increased people participation gave a new dimension to the film industry. Today, we have a flourishing chain of multiplexes. Further, I do not believe that creativity or innovation is a slave of IPR and money. Innovation is purely because of the inherent zeal of human to grow and develop and not money. Money is purely incidental. Considering all this, the only reason an IPR would be required is that the producers of a movie do not want to share their profits with others. We misinterpret this as wealth creation. Instead, this should be seen as inappropriate distribution of wealth!

Same is the case with other industries. How can the price of MS office be Rs15000? How can an IPR help a person to become the richest man in the world? How can a company price a life saving injection so high that it is out of the reach of even a single person who needs it? What is the perceived price of life? Is this not “Economic Terrorism” by a few privileged people on others who are not so privileged? And, the moment a person raises such questions, he is branded a communist! Is this not "Economic Fundamentalism"?

Thus, the most important question that needs to be answered is about the level and kind of government involvement in economic activity. We should also be clear that fundamentals of economic activity are laid down by contemporary government regulations and are not based on “Laws of Nature”. This is evident by the fact that a strong person cannot snatch money from a weaker person. Thus, we need to device a mechanism which creates a balance such that government regulations are not favourable to a specific section of the society. Whatever the classification might be!

This question is very relevant to Indians in the present time. This is because the disparity that exists in the world is less than that in India. We have some of the richest as well as the poorest people in our country. We also have the most diverse demography in the world. Thus, if we solve our National Issues, the world will automatically get its answers on the questions about prevailing violence.

In the Indian context, how can a person earning a substantial amount (may be 10 Lakhs or above) oppose heavy tax when a person in the same country is not able to afford a square meal? Heavy taxation cannot be considered as force acting against the free market forces. This would not be against wealth creation also, instead it would lead to better wealth distribution. This is because the money taken by government as taxes is actually redistributed in the market by some or the other means. Intellectuals misinterpret this for short term personal gains and forget that some other intellectual will use this exploitation as an opportunity to organise the neglected people and create muscle power which is enough to hold the society at ransom. This is what we observe in many parts of our country.
We need to address this issue. The government/system cannot expect one section of the society to enjoy all the luxuries of life and expect the other sections to work hard so that their children can enjoy. This cannot be acceptable because, after years of struggle one might be able to achieve the amenities/luxuries that exist today. But, in this time, the world would have moved much farther and his struggle would be unending. Thus, growth is not the only thing required, we also need to bridge the gap that exists between various sections of the society. We will have to bring people in the “Bandwidth of Equality” by understanding and abolishing “Economic Terrorism” and “Economic Fundamentalism”.

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

India,Independence and Kashmir: My Introduction to Fundamentalism

India,Independence and Kashmir: My Introduction to Fundamentalism: "To tell you about my introduction to Fundamentalism, I will have to start the story right from the days of my schooling. I was born and brou..."

Sunday, August 22, 2010

Is this not casteism??

I was reading through a news column carrying the judgement of  the Supreme Court of India in which it over ruled a prior judgement of Bombay High Court. This judgement was on the KG basin gas dispute between the Ambani brothers. The court also commented that " Gas was not a personal asset, it belonged to the people and only the government had the right to fix the price". I really feel surprised by the fact that two billionaires were fighting over something that they do not own!How can two billionaires fight over the price of gas which belongs to the people? If they are able to do so in the capacity of being heads of two big corporations, how do we justify their capability of heading the two corporations? After all, they inherited it from their father!!

Another day,I was listening to the speech given by Mr Rahul Gandhi at Aligarh Muslim University in December 2009. He was speaking about the participation of Muslims in mainstream politics. It was good and encouraging,but, i did not find anything so new that i personally could not have thought of! I do not contest the fact of Mr Rahul Gandhi being a bright and good person. But, are only these two qualities enough for a person to possess the level of power that Mr Rahul Gandhi possesses. There are many bright and good people in the country struggling to make their ends meet. In India,I have accepted a system which, in principle, says that every person should be given equal opportunity. The term 'eqaual' is acceptable with a band width,which means everybody cannot be exactly the same but, how can one define equal opportunity between me(a middle class man) and the "Gandhis" and the "Ambanis".

I protest against this unjust law and tradition. Also, please note, i am not speaking like a fanatic communist, i am speaking on the principles of democracy. I am speaking withing the existing framework. I do not want everybody to be forcibly made equal, instead, i want the opportunity provided to everyone be almost equal. Also, i do not want people to inherit political and money power because this gives them the opportunity to affect my personal life. I can also backward integrate this fact to people who might be "out of the bandwidth" of equality compared to me. I feel really sad when i see and elderly man pulling a rickshaw or a child selling something at a traffic signal. I often think about the ways to help them and many times end up only giving them money.But, this is not the solution, there has to be a systematic change which brings the opportunity part in the "band width of equality". I also feel bad when i hear of the excesses done on rural people in various parts of the country.I hope readers are able to appreciate my point.
In the context of political power, which is already a debated topic,we can stop its inheritance only by educating people and by creating a platform for common man to enter politics.There cannot be a legal barrier in place. The platform should reduce the risks involved in entering politics. Although, the risk of criminal intimidation to an upcoming politician has reduced in many areas, the element of financial risk remains.Once this risk is mitigated or reduced, we will find inheritance of Political Legacy difficult.

In the context of money power,about which we generally do not discuss,  inheritance can be legally stopped.I am not talking about people inheriting a few crores, i am talking about people inheriting hundreds and thousands of crores. This might sound bizarre, but, you think by your self with the help of this example. How much can two billionaires brothers influence the petroleum policy of the country in their collective favour? Petroleum policy has a direct effect on us. Are those two brothers far more capable than any one of us?? Then why this difference?? Is it only because they were born to particular parents!! There are many such examples available. We talk about the rich influencing government in policy making, but, we have not been able to think about a systematic way to stop this. We only depend on the moral standing of a person which is not a systematic approach.

I have a solution for this, "Inheritance of property above Rs 100 crore should be legally prohibited". I believe Rs 100 crore is more than enough for a person to lead an ultra luxurious life. Even with this amount, a person would enjoy fair amount of influence in the system. But, this is something, i consider, within the "Band Width of Equality".

Readers might consider this to be an unjust way. Because, this is our conventional way of thinking, son deserves to inherit his father's wealth and a father has the right to give his wealth to whomsoever he wants!This is the same way people used to think when the idea of  breaking the caste barriers was proposed long ago.Don't you consider inheritance of Political and Money power as comparable to casteism where a Brahmin's child was a Brahman. Although in similar comparison, in the present system a Sudra's child can progress and become a Brahman, but, the Brahmin's child still enjoys the advantage of birth. What i have suggested is that you put this Brahmin's Child in the Kshatriya's & Vaishya segment and then if he is competent, he will graduate to become a Brahman. He should directly not be given the powers of a Brahman which entitles him to influence policy decisions of a state!

I am a strong believer in systemic approach to problem solving. Thus, I believe that this form of Modern Capitalist Casteism should come to an end!! Right to inheritance of property and power to delegate property rights above a specific limit should be scrapped.