in deep existential crisis..

A Journal by Sara

Yashwant Sinha – Indian General Elections 2009

Oh! What an interview! One of the best I have read in the last few weeks, check this out!  Yashwant Sinha at his best here.

May 12, 2009 Posted by | Economics, India, Indian General Elections 2009, Infra Structure, Issues | Leave a comment

IT Shows in the Agenda of BJP & Congress

 

In the term of 1999-2004, BJP rewrote the conventional portfolio to include a revamped ministry called ‘Ministry of Communications and IT’. NDA’s IT reforms took the IT & ITES sectors on an upward swing and it started realizing its potential. A refreshing journey was on course at almost the final stages of NDA rule which peaked in the succeeding government after 2004.

As we had a well endowed gentleman as Prime Minister in post-2004 rule, we took a cold shower relaxing that finally the academics has met politics and things would only emerge brighter, leaving all speculations to rest. Unfortunately, it wasn’t to be, as we have witnessed in the last 5 years of despotic rule.

Most of the people I engage with political debate keep undermining my statement saying that how much the Goddess of Knowledge is residing in every UPA minister’s mind, but I beg to differ with the stark contrasting reality of Congress and UPA government.

If UPA is looked upon as a knowledge powerhouse, if it is the most visionary and if it is the one which has invariably best of literates as their advisors, where is a well thought-out election manifesto, a greatest of great vision for its country India? At least a few among the innumerable ideas they have for the prosperity of Indians and to counter the economic recession and to stop the freefall of IT sector. Where are the details of it? Has congress even thought about one? Has Manmohan Singh & Co. even feel the need for it?

By absolute contrast, BJP has a document called IT Vision released by LK Advani which runs to 30 pages and is definitely a set of documented ideas practically feasible in its implementation. On the release of it, LK Advani said “A future NDA Government, if elected to office in the coming parliamentary elections, would give high priority to the realization of this vision, which would help India overcome the current economic crisis; create productive employment opportunities on a large scale; accelerate human development through vastly improved and expanded education and healthcare services; check corruption; and make India’s national security more robust.”

The highlights of the IT Vision document are as follows,

  • Multipurpose National Identity Card (MNIC) with unique Citizen Identification Number (CIN) for every Indian citizen in 3 years; to replace all other identification systems.

§  I could immediately think of the benefits this move would fetch; as one of the foremost issues on national security we face now is the lakhs of illegal immigrants from Bangladesh pouring into India. This would keep a check on it and would help identify most of them. I am also reminded of, a news I read few months back, How a chief-level officer in RAW was dismissed after they found that he is not an Indian but an illegal immigrant from Bangladesh.

§  Next benefit would be the major face lift the government offices would get especially with the first hand information on their desk and also with the disposal of strenuous paper work involved by both bureaucrats and the citizens. Efficient bureaucracy at last seems a little possibility.

§  The benefits are enormous; the cost savings that would make to the Government, the easy handling of Information in terms of Defense and Internal security measures; easy representation of Information for Police and Judiciary; easy handling for the election commission preventing fraud in electoral process, prevention of false interpretation of any information (most of the civil & corporate frauds) and it would be endless.

§  But if all information of yours is integrated, the next ominous question that strikes the mind is the security and efficiency of handling this information. BJP has to come forward with their detailed plan of how they would set to protect the information in this regard and chalk up their tight security plan.

  • 1.2 Crore (12 million) new IT-enabled jobs in rural areas.

§  Though I am unaware how they arrived at this figure, but I firmly say it has the potential, if the government reforms computer-deprived offices of its own and the other subsidies thereby setting up a huge wave of new jobs. As this domestic market is still untapped and is a sleeping giant.

  • 1 crore (10 million) students to get laptop computers at Rs 10,000. Interest-free loan for anyone unable to afford it.

§  This is a strange development unlike the India we know which throws only freebie at people and never cared about the money spent. I would say this is much better opportunity provided where I guess should benefit most of the rural students to a greatest extent.

  • National Digital Highway Development Project to create India’s Internet backbone, and Pradhan Mantri Digital Gram Sadak Yojana for last-mile access even in the remotest of villages.

§  NDA had walked the talk earlier with its famous Golden Quadrilateral project in its last term. The project with its ambition of connecting all the important highways of the country with multi-way lanes, implemented with remarkable success. Hence, it should be a safe bet to reckon that the Internet backbone would get quite a bit realistic.

  • Broadband Internet (2 Mbps) in every town and village, at cable TV prices (less than Rs 200/month).

§  I think it is too ambitious to even think of it, when the internet connection speed of even the major cities has not been ramped up to that level and the prices comparably is still large and not easily affordable.

  • All schools and colleges to have Internet-enabled education.

§  Especially, this needs to be done on a fast lane, when we think of taking our education infrastructure to world class level. It is high time we provide desktops and laptops to the students with internet enabled.

  • 100% financial inclusion through bank accounts, with e-Banking facilities, for all Indian citizens. Direct transfer of welfare funds, preferably to the woman of the house.

§  Even if right actions are initiated towards achieving this goal, if not fully completed, still that would go a long way in restructuring our citizen’s economical identity, and in establishing transparency in bureaucracy. That would see a major shift in strategies of the banks and would be an ideal launch pad for its rural penetration and its customer base.

  • Every BPL family to be given a free smart mobile phone, which can be used by even illiterate users for accessing their bank accounts.

§  This is the continuation of the above point, to provide people with access to the e-Banking through a cheap smart mobile.

  • Number of mobile subscribers to be increased from 40 crore at present to 100 crore in five years. Internet users to equal mobile subscribers. India to equal China in every IT parameter in five years.

§  Telecom is already been proved a huge potential market and it would only improve the connectivity of more people with more and more users laying hand on the device. Internet users in India are usually very small compared to the mobile subscribers and this avenue again provides a great growth opportunity.

  • Video conferencing to be made affordable and universally accessible.

§  Thorough implementation of IT reforms across India and the excellent infrastructure if built for IT & Internet would make all these easily follow suit.

§  You can see the other points below, most of them self explaining.

  • Primary Health Centre in every village to be linked to the National Telemedicine Service Network. Basic health insurance scheme for every citizen, using the IT platform. Cashless hospitalization.
  • India’s ranking in the United Nations’ Human Development Index, which is currently 128, to be improved to 50 in five years, with the long-term objective of bringing India within Top Twenty by 2020.
  • Massive expansion in the use of IT in agriculture, rural development, SMEs, retail trade, and informal and unorganised sectors of the economy.
  • National e-Governance Plan to cover every Government office from the Centre to the Panchayats. The ‘E Gram Vishwa Gram’ scheme, launched by Shri Narendra Modi in Gujarat, to be implemented nationwide.
  • Government spending to be made corruption-free. A former Prime Minister had once said, “If I put Rs. 100 in the pipeline in Delhi, only Rs. 15 reach the end beneficiary.” In contrast to Congress governments’ Leaky Pipeline, the BJP’s IT Pipeline will ensure 100% benefit to people. Those who misappropriate public funds will be punished.
  • All post offices to be converted into IT-enabled Multi-Service Outlets. All telephone booths to be upgraded to Internet kiosks.
  • Citizens will have a simple 1-800 BSNL Toll Free Number, which will be accessible 24x7x 365 days of the year, to contact their Member of Parliament.
  • Unlimited VoIP access to all
  • e-Bhasha: National Mission for Promotion of IT in Indian Languages.
  • Special focus to bring women, SC/STs, OBCs and other weaker sections of society within the ambit of IT-enabled development.
  • Use of IT for the protection of India’s priceless cultural and artistic heritage.
  • Government to standardize on ‘open standard’ and ‘open source’ software.
  • Domestic IT hardware industry to be aggressively promoted to minimize dependence on imports.
  • Domestic hosting industry to be promoted to minimize international bandwidth charges.

Finally an independent body, Digital Security Agency (DSA), to be set up for cyber warfare, cyber counter-terrorism, and cyber security of national digital assets.

April 2, 2009 Posted by | Economics, India, Indian General Elections 2009, Infra Structure, Issues, Policy/Strategies, Politics | Leave a comment

India sleepwalks to Total Surveillance by GoI

 

The IT Act 2000, one of the crucial laws for security actions against cyber crimes, the first in Indian history was passed by the NDA government. NDA government also set the parameter stating as the cyber crime is highly dynamic and often complicated in nature, it would set up the panel to update the law to keep it relevant.

The amendment for the aforementioned bill, called as The IT Amendment Bill 2006, was passed by UPA government. The amendment was passed in a hurry on the December 22 2008 in less than 5 minutes without any debate which is regarded as one of the most controversial laws to have ever been passed in the nation India. Let me put it in simple terms, the amendment allows the government to intercept messages from mobile phones, computers, and other communication devices to investigate any offence, not serious offence of the grade of terrorist attacks, but any silly offence that you might negligently commit.

As one website puts it in more detail of the whole amendment,

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Any email you send, any message you text are now open to the prying eyes of the government. So are the contents of your computer you surfed in the privacy of your home.

Around 45 amendments have been made to the original Act, which now treats both publishers of online pornography and its consumers on equal footing. A law so sweeping in its powers that it allows a police officer in the rank of a sub-inspector to walk in or break in to the privacy of your home and see if you were surfing porn or not. It’s the personal morality of the official that will decide whether the picture/content you were looking at was lascivious or appeals to prurient interest.

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More info here.

March 31, 2009 Posted by | Economics, India, Information Technology, Internet, Issues, Policy/Strategies, Politics | Leave a comment

AIG – to pay bonus to its top executives

 

You might read AIG as ‘American International Group Inc’, as they have stood for, else call ‘All Investments Gone’ as the reality calls for and read the title of this column.

Since few days, AIG has drawn lot of flak and public outrage, after the news poured in that AIG has paid its executives, bonuses amounting to $165 million. Obama has vowed that he would try every possible legal avenue to stop such bonuses being paid out.

AIG has 80% stakes of United States government, after receiving four bailouts totaling to $170 billion. AIG has been questioned on the transactions that were made with the tax payer’s money and finally it has listed the transactions with payee’s consent.

The largest single recipient was Goldman Sachs ($12.9 billion). Other recipients include 20 European banks that received a total of $58.8 billion and Merrill Lynch ($6.8 billion), Bank of America ($5.2 billion), Citigroup ($2.3 billion) and Wachovia ($1.5 billion).

Big foreign banks also received large sums from the rescue, including Société Générale of France and Deutsche Bank of Germany, which each received nearly $12 billion; Barclays of Britain ($8.5 billion); and UBS of Switzerland ($5 billion).

Altogether, the disclosures account for $107.8 billion in A.I.G. bailout money which leaves us wondering about the rest of the money. Another $30 billion was added to the A.I.G. bailout pot this month and must be accounted for as soon as it is spent. That leaves some $32 billion unaccounted for. Where did it go?

If you get a measure of how a certain $165 million spent out of that $32 billion, it sure does sting. A staggering $165 million handed out as bonuses for employees of a company that nearly took down the financial system. And heck, the taxpayers, own nearly 80 percent of A.I.G.

A senator was fuming hearing about the bonus payments,

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“A.I.G. has been trying to play the American people for fools by giving nearly $1 billion in bonuses by the name of retention payments,” Mr. Cummings said on Sunday. “These payments are nothing but a reward for obvious failure, and it is an egregious offense to have the American taxpayers foot the bill.”

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Obama On an interview,

The Fed chairman, Ben S. Bernanke, appearing on “60 Minutes” on CBS on Sunday night, said: “Of all the events and all of the things we’ve done in the last 18 months, the single one that makes me the angriest, that gives me the most angst, is the intervention with A.I.G.”

He went on: “Here was a company that made all kinds of unconscionable bets. Then, when those bets went wrong, they had a — we had a situation where the failure of that company would have brought down the financial system.”

In deciding to rescue A.I.G., the government worried that if it did not bail out the company, its collapse could lead to a cascading chain reaction of losses, jeopardizing the stability of the worldwide financial system.

The list released by A.I.G. on Sunday, detailing payments made between September and December of last year, could bolster that justification by illustrating the breadth of losses that might have occurred had A.I.G. been allowed to fail. Some of the companies, like Goldman Sachs and Société Générale, had exposure mainly through A.I.G.’s derivatives program. Others, though, like Barclays and Citigroup, stood to lose mainly because they were customers of A.I.G.’s securities-lending program, which does not involve derivatives.

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AIG is the source of global financial disorder, as viewed by most experts across the world, for their risky financial practices and short term target achievements. Indeed, as the system, says what is your worth for this financial quarter and as it evaluates you on YoY basis, even the executives have just seen the quarters ahead of the decades. Consequence, he gets a performance bonus for the fiscal quarter whereas the entire world goes bust on YoY basis.

Should not the top executives of the firm apologize in front of the people, pleading guilty for their unpardonable acts rather than filling their pockets with the abuse of the entire world?

May be, is he rewarded for meeting his previous quarter’s target, in fact exceeding by far miles. What could one do if he chose to say that he is only answerable to his firm and not to the world outside the firm? It sure does sting, and leads to the inevitable question of who is accountable to whom?

Suddenly capitalism looks down at its depth !

March 17, 2009 Posted by | Business/Industries, Economics, Entrepreneurs, Finance/Markets, India, Infra Structure, Issues, Policy/Strategies | 1 Comment

Decade at Bernard Madoff!

 

Paul Krugman, while analyzing the American Economics debacle, looks back at the great depression which was eventually followed by World War II, which in turn, set up mass employment, rising incomes and substantial inflation.

Since nothing of such sorts on offer in the current state of affairs, he concludes that the debt people ran up so blithely would take years to be worked off.

Ghewwww! A thought on reverse way!

A good political system is often a necessity to bring in prosperity and wealth to people driving up economic fortunes and stability to the country. The system has swung in all directions so long and so much that it has rested itself in an upside down position, warranting a bad political system and instability among countries to drive up the weaker economics which in turn would lead to prosperity and goodness of citizens.

It’s the kind of self-digging which sometimes force you to think Adam Smith is the forefather of Adolf Hitler.

February 17, 2009 Posted by | Business/Industries, Economics, Finance/Markets, Issues, Policy/Strategies, Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Please bail me out – By America

 

If at all we had moved away from Indian culture in all these post-industrialization decades, we would have been hit by a crisis harder than America! Had we not believed in simple economics and social esteem, we would have been hit harder than Americans!

Really? What saved us from this worst crisis? Indian Culture?  Our belief in old money management technique? This is what Thomas L. Friedman of NYTimes, who on a visit to India, finds out;

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Leave it to a brainy Indian to come up with the cheapest and surest way to stimulate our economy: immigration.

“All you need to do is grant visas to two million Indians, Chinese and Koreans,” said Shekhar Gupta, editor of The Indian Express newspaper. “We will buy up all the subprime homes. We will work 18 hours a day to pay for them. We will immediately improve your savings rate — no Indian bank today has more than 2 percent nonperforming loans because not paying your mortgage is considered shameful here. And we will start new companies to create our own jobs and jobs for more Americans.”

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Shekhar Gupta argues that, no Indian bank today has more than 2 percent nonperforming loans. I think what he says is the output of the past Bank strategies and not reflecting the recent outlook of the banks. This shift in strategy is obviously due to the outrageous growth pattern witnessed in the last few years. Hence, India should now be afraid whether it would move away from its culture as mentioned above and wont hang his head in shame in the future if mortgage could not be paid. This could be attributed partly to the ease with which an Indian gets loan, and mainly to the reason how willing the banks are, to splash out cash bypassing the basic question of repayment capabilities. I believe India is witnessing this new pattern where there is more money on offer and more people forked out of that brimming Indian Culture.

Obama’s administration has stated that institutions that received bailout money would be restricted from hiring high skilled immigrants on H1B visas; this could result in employing the US nationals leading to generation of high skill jobs, but might even hit back offsetting the advantage of globalization. Simple, you don’t risk your long term growth by throwing out the best minds. Then they might find a place where their innovations have respect.

Thomas L. Friedman opines to,

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Bad signal. In an age when attracting the first-round intellectual draft choices from around the world is the most important competitive advantage a knowledge economy can have, why would we add barriers against such brainpower — anywhere? That’s called “Old Europe.” That’s spelled: S-T-U-P-I-D.

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February 16, 2009 Posted by | Economics, Issues, Policy/Strategies, Politics | Leave a comment

Hurry up !! Find out Zimbabwe’s country code !!

Those, who are increasingly been pestered by their wives to take them out for a shopping free, seldom you should be worried about, if you happen to have a relative or two in Zimbabwe. Well, it is a dream place for every money conscious man to shop at …. And while you drop in there, don’t forget to get a glimpse of great Robert Mugabe [Zim’s President]!!

Widescreen HD TVs which could cost lakhs in India would be at your lap if you care to spend 15 Euros, and to add more delight to you…. with a hope you won’t have a second thought to buy a car for 30 Euros, which is otherwise 300 times higher in the rest of the world.

Just for fun, the Zimbabwe’s inflation has shot up to 20, 000%, a record of its sorts.

If you still don’t believe, have a look here.

Link via Prem.

July 18, 2007 Posted by | Economics, Issues, Living | Leave a comment