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Date: Friday, 11 Apr 2014 17:34
AAP came up like no party had earlier! And is now on its way down as fast. But, has AAP lost its entire support base? Not at all! The poorer sections of the society, who are relatively less on education and understanding, are still firmly with them. AAP's non-stop claim about being an honest party has caught the fancy of these sections. And rightly so. This is a claim that is almost true. There are stray cases where people with a criminal background have gotten tickets; but by and large, I still believe AAP's intent is to remain non-corrupt. Compared to all others, they are the true "pavitra ganga jal" in this department. The lesser educated classes don't understand governance, vision, development, growth, stability and negatives of fascism; but they do understand honesty. It's a simple non-complicated term.

These classes are seeing social workers, who have been tirelessly working for them, getting tickets; people from their own fraternity getting tickets; and minus a few cases of people like Kumar Vishwas – who have been seen wearing designer shoes, jackets and gold chains – most AAP members look one of them, including Arvind Kejriwal with his muffler and regular bouts of coughing. So these sections do believe AAP is honest. And thus, when you go to a "Som bazaar" (a Monday market that is put up every Monday by roaming traders), you see all of them out there wearing AAP caps. The name Aam Aadmi has worked with this segment. This most awful and visionless symbol has worked with these classes, and the cap has worked too. Yes, this is largely Delhi based, but if AAP tomorrow gets resources and starts getting seen more often in other cities, it will work there too; but amongst the city poor only, at least as of now.

But is that good enough to win elections? Well, perhaps not. My gut analysis is that the wave is always created by the so-called middle class. They are the teachers, journalists, employers of maids and drivers. The city poor work at their homes and hear them on radio and see them on TV and get influenced by their choices. During the previous assembly election in Delhi, this class was supporting AAP. Being fed up by corruption, they got swayed by Kejriwal's promises and the residue of the Anna effect. Thus, they went out en masse and voted for AAP, and the result was for all to see. All areas with middle class majority are where AAP won. All outer Delhi seats with poorer sections were not won by AAP. Poor votes were divided; middle class votes were united.

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Author: "Arindam Chaudhuri (noreply@blogger.com)" Tags: "AAP, Arindam Chaudhuri, Arvind Kejriwal,..."
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Date: Thursday, 03 Apr 2014 16:32
Many people have been moved by Jaswant Singh’s genuine tears of pain, L.K Advani’s hurt pride and Murli Manohar Joshi’s sadness at the BJP Central Committee not blindly agreeing to give them the seats they wanted. Personally and emotionally speaking, I too have been moved by the same. Truly, compared to these BJP stalwarts, how many leaders in the Congress can you point out and say that you respect them? From the younger lot, there are some who are better than the average, but are yet to earn any respect. From the older lot, almost all are people who are impossible to respect. You look at most and feel that you are looking at seasoned scamsters.

Compare that to the older BJP generation – from Vajpayee to Advani to Murli Manohar Joshi to Jaswant Singh and even to Yashwant Sinha. They are all people for whom a deep sense of respect comes almost automatically. Not one of them can I look at and think of as a thief. They may not have been revolutionary politicians and may not have given India any revolutionary growth, but they are clean statesmen who have not brought a bad name to politicians and have done their bit in the way they could have best done. They are dignified party workers and have never tried to make the party their private limited company. Ergo, they must be respected. They must be treated with dignity and must always be kept at a higher pedestal. After all, with thieves, scamsters and criminals all around in politics, these are the people we need to highlight as role models. Thus, when they feel pained, I feel pained. I feel for them. BJP has indeed failed to maintain good communication to explain to them the situation, and to keep their respect intact. While Advani and Murli Manohar Joshi swallowed their pride, Jaswant Singh couldn’t, and quit. They surely deserved more respect! BJP could have communicated very positive media statements directly from Modi and Rajnath explaining that the respect of and for these legendary politicians was intact and that it was only because of circumstances and calculations that such changes to seat allocations had become necessary.

And yet, I agree with Arun Jaitley when he says that party members must take party decisions with a smile. Why? The reason is that the old must give way to the new. For years, no one questioned the leaders who had become pillars of the party. And these leaders almost always got what they wanted. With change in leadership, new thoughts come in and there are changes. Change is always painful, but very often necessary. Yes, the change-maker must make it smooth; and BJP has failed to do that. But look at it from a very ruthless perspective, and you start understanding the situation. Respect apart, is it correct to allow a man to become the PM of a country despite his suffering from Parkinson’s or Alzheimer’s, or keep an 80 year old man as the PM of India for 10 years despite his voice being almost inaudible, despite him not being able to give even one proper speech anymore, and despite him being one who has lost his sense of comprehension? All just because he was once a great leader? I accept that politics is about sacrifice, about passion and there should be no age of retirement. But still, I wouldn’t accept compromises like the ones mentioned above.

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Author: "Arindam Chaudhuri (noreply@blogger.com)" Tags: "Arindam Chaudhuri, Arun Jaitley, Atal Bi..."
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Date: Saturday, 22 Mar 2014 20:38
Do not worry, I am a student of economics and I do not buy Modi’s highly publicized theories of development. Nor am I being paid by him, as the gaumless AAP supporters bombing my Facebook page doltishly claim, as the popularity of AAP plummets to new lows with each new immature statement and puerile act from Kejriwal (the latest being that he will jail all those media people who write against him)! But it’s very clear to me that the nation has been fooled for far too long by incapable leaders and it’s definitely time for us for once to give a chance for the first time ever in our history to a real leader. Before I speak further, let me clarify a few things. Gujarat is a high growth state but that doesn’t mean that this is due to a Modi miracle alone. Gujarat has always been a high growth state and the same pace has been retained by Modi, more or less. In fact, in the last one decade, in terms of growth, Maharashtra has been better off; in terms of human development, Kerala has been far ahead; and in terms of poverty reduction, Tamil Nadu has been far better. Yet, it’s Modi who has somehow been able to market it down our throats that there is something called Modinomics! This, despite the fact that BJP is a party that lacks any credible economist at the top. So why do I still want “Ab ki baar Modi sarkar”?

My previous editorial on 12 reasons to reject Kejriwal (http://www.thesundayindian.com/en/story/12-reasons-why-you-should-not-vote-for-arvind-kejriwal/48908/) was highly appreciated, as well as criticised. So this time, here are my 12 reasons for Modi; what could even make him the best Prime Minister that India has ever seen.

#1. I haven’t seen leader-material better than Modi in Indian politics since my childhood; and elders do say that post Shyama Prasad Mukherjee, India has not witnessed a leader who can speak as assertively and as clearly as Modi does! Personally, I am tired of spineless leaders representing the country and would love to see a leader who can stand up to world leaders and make them take note of India.

#2. Modi’s vision of growth is what India needs. Gujarat may not be the role model, but Modi is growth focussed, and such economic growth – rather than populist doles like free water and electricity – can take care of all our ills, and can equip people to make them independent.

#3. Modi may have seen an unfortunate riot happening during the initial part of his reign, and the Supreme Court may have correctly or incorrectly given him a clean chit, but the fact as they say is that the best apology is in never repeating a mistake. And while before and after 2002, we have seen hundreds of riots taking place all around in India, we haven’t seen another one in Gujarat! If that’s what Modi believes in and commits himself to, then we have a real man who believes in amending his mistakes instead of forwarding pretentious apologies.

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Author: "Arindam Chaudhuri (noreply@blogger.com)" Tags: "AAP, Arindam Chaudhuri, Arvind Kejriwal,..."
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Date: Saturday, 15 Mar 2014 18:12
I voted for him during the Delhi elections, but I had also mentioned then that for the general elections, one must vote for Modi. At that point of time, I had believed that Arvind Kejriwal was not (yet) mature enough to be considered for central leadership. Now, I am convinced he is not even mature enough for the next Delhi assembly elections. Here are a dozen reasons why you should not vote for Arvind Kejriwal:

Reason #1:Anna Hazare says in his latest interview to TSI that “obsession to become Prime Minister has gone into Arvind Kejriwal’s head”. That’s exactly why we should not vote for Arvind Kejriwal. Having the aim to become the PM is nothing wrong. But the change agent, who the country is looking out for right now, should think of doing only the right things without compromising on issues. Not an infatuated man who is risibly obsessed with becoming the Prime Minister. Arvind could not even stay away from his esurient greed to become the CM of Delhi and took aquisitive support from the same Congress party, against which his entire election campaign had been mobilised. Similarly, and shockingly, he has voiced his intemperate support for Khap panchayats and is making all those venal compromises that every politician, who he speaks of against, makes.

Reason #2:We do not want a leader who does nothing himself, but spuriously doles away the precious and little savings of the previous government in ridiculously thoughtless, populist and vote-bank oriented subsidies to the middle class and rich, who can in any case afford to pay their bills, including those of water and electricity.

Reason #3:We do not want Gandhi-topi wearing vandal MLAs implementing a midnight vigilante justice mechanism to replace our already poor policing system. Imagine a PM who grandiosely claims, “I am an anarchist, so let my MLAs and MPs do such acts too”. We want the dignity of the Gandhi cap to remain sacrosanct. In fact, every Congress member and BJP member must also wear the same cap and roam around until AAP members stop using it to spread group fear.

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Author: "Arindam Chaudhuri (noreply@blogger.com)" Tags: "AAP, Anna Hazare, Arindam Chaudhuri, Arv..."
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Date: Friday, 07 Mar 2014 20:12
I have written about this earlier too, and have taken the liberty to reproduce some statements from my earlier editorials on this topic. I do not believe that Subrata Roy is wrong. However, that bit later. What amazes me is the way media has declared him a cheat and is almost celebrating his arrest without any mention of his arguments that are compellingly logical. To me, headings like “Subrata Roy brought to justice” are such shameful give a ways of media’s hidden jealousy against a self-made one-generation success story, something that the media just cannot handle. His group is said to be India’s biggest private sector employer and second biggest overall. He has shown absolute commitment to support sports – an area where success is always associated with a nation’s pride internationally. His open assertions of being a patriot have their weight in the various behemoth social initiatives undertaken by his group – with no apologies to the slanted English media in India which, I feel, hypocritically slanders anyone who represents the ‘other’ India (lest you should forget, it was this very media that shamelessly reported gossip a few years ago about him being ‘critically ill’ and on his deathbed; no surprises then that the same English media during his hay days never wrote a good piece on his amazing story of unbelievable hard work). His management philosophies are noble and he is a good human being.

However, he has never compromised with the establishment and has always taken it head on, whenever harassed, with full page advertisements, explaining his reasoning quite logically and clearly. Even his harshest critics accept that the man is a visionary – his mammoth investments in media, housing, hotel, sports and other industries being compelling evidence. He may not be as polished as the Tatas and the Birlas and may have certain quirks in his living style or office culture, which can be an eyesore to some. But that cannot be the reason to celebrate his agony. And yes, having known him personally over many a long discussion, I can guarantee that the man religiously knows his numbers and has a financial acumen that is better than the combined intellect of all Indian regulators in the industries where he operates.

However, India is a strange place of a handful of ruling clique who try to influence thoughts of all others. That Subrata Roy Sahara titles himself as the Managing Worker of his group only adds to the ire of India’s very caustic bourgeoisie, which, hand in hand with the English media, would be loath to have such an unabashed community representative of workers amongst their well ‘oiled’ and ‘greased’ group. So every time Subrata Roy Sahara and his likes attempt to tread the path of diligent and astute effort – assuming the same equated to returns – they’re pulled down acerbically and vindictively by the group representing the old, feudal India. You see, this group believes that only they know how India should be run and by whom. Look around and you’ll see many examples strewn across India of how honest upstarts have been trampled upon by the powers that be before they could gain ground – wherever there has been anyone attempting to improve the condition of India, they’ve had a horde of regulatory, tax, police and judicial bodies running up their door to initiate the so-called enquiries and ‘search’. The same group has billionaires aplenty thanks to the existing crony capitalism, in cahoots with a similar group of corrupt bureaucrats (regulators included) and politicians, and they fight tooth and nail, criminally and illegally, to ensure that there is no new honest and ethical claimant to their industry space, especially if such an entrepreneur were from the proletariat. And that is the sad game which has unfortunately victimised Subrata Roy.

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Author: "Arindam Chaudhuri (noreply@blogger.com)" Tags: "Arindam Chaudhuri, English media, IIPM, ..."
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Date: Saturday, 01 Mar 2014 11:13
The Modi juggernaut is on a roll! Every opinion poll now by the day is predicting higher and higher seats for Modi! And yet, the English media is not going all out in support of him and his achievements. There are still detractors trying their best to project him as a mass murderer and as an anti-Muslim. First things first. That’s not a fact. What happened in Gujarat was a tragedy of the highest proportion; but most unfortunately, such riots are a frequent occurrence in Indian politics since Independence. And Modi happened to be there in Gujarat as a new Chief Minister in the middle of a very unfortunate event in Indian history. Yes, Rajnath Singh has offered to apologise for any mistakes that his party may have committed against Muslims. However the irony of that tragedy also is that while Gujarat has roughly 10% of Muslim population and 90% Hindus, the number of Hindus and Muslims killed in the riots were approximately the same. That means that the fraction of the population of rioters amongst the Hindus was one tenth that of the Muslims. So while all killings were very tragic, it wasn’t really about Hindus killing Muslims as has been falsely propagated by the English media over the years. Keeping all this aside, one should also note that Gujarat has amongst the best ratios of Muslims per capita population in the police and in government jobs. It is a state where Muslims are living in peace and dignity and are getting far better access to education and employment opportunities than in any other state. Truly, Gujarati Muslims are actually not anti-Modi.

I think it’s quite pertinent here to repeat a few lines I wrote some months ago in one of my editorials. I feel that the Modi versus the rest is a battle between “India” and “Bharat”. Modi personifies Bharat while the English media symbolizes India. The English media is now a jousting voice of the old feudal India which gloriously claims to know what is best for India. Modi represents the other India that I talk of – Bharat – which is embittered by the illicit monopoly that the English media and its suppositious ‘secular’ warriors hold over information.

What is India? If one were to go by the English media, India should never have happened – it is a geography, an ungovernable one for that matter, where concepts like religion, caste and ethnic identity are ranked higher than humanity. And then of course there is the almost 70-year-old Nehruvian Network to fall back upon for the India-brawlers. The Nehruvian network has been gnawing away and embedding its position in India since before 1947. It’s led by a philosophy that believes that the British systems, processes and procedures were the best. In my past editorials, I’ve referred to people aligning with this network as the ultimate “Desi Sahebs”, convinced that Indians needed to be more civilised. The sarcastic snigger is ever present when some politician like Uma Bharti, Mayawati or, in this case, Modi rises up from nowhere without worrying about the lack of English communication skills, and yet manages to impress voters. For the Nehruvian network, it would have been so wonderful had only the progenies of impeccable English speaking bureaucrats and politicians been there to dictate the direction of the State.

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Author: "Arindam Chaudhuri (noreply@blogger.com)" Tags: "anti-Modi, Arindam Chaudhuri, English me..."
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Date: Saturday, 22 Feb 2014 11:08
While Arvind Kejriwal’s stubborn defence of Somnath Bharti’s illegal and racist attempts at vigilante justice against African women and Kumar Vishwas’ racist comment on nurses of Kerala got written about, Arvind’s support for Khap panchayats (labelled as the Taliban of India by women’s right activists) got sidelined. Yes, people are writing about how in his politics, women’s issues have been sidelined. But it is his support for Khap’s dictats – which are shocking and shameful and range from banning women from wearing Western clothes and using mobile phones to ordering killing of young couples – that has hit women’s groups (especially those who want Khap panchayats dismantled) the most.

In India, politics has forever been about the vote bank. That means, politics has always been aimed at helping those who are having some problem with the normal course of law and procedures. Politicians, by giving promises to help such people, by circumventing the law and bringing new laws/policies, have gained the votes of these groups. Be it plans to set free the killers of a former PM, be it Khap votes, be it minority votes or be it the votes of those who do not want to pay electricity bills – no one ever really bothered about the civil society, which actually has no onerous problems with the law and does not want any special favours. The civil society primarily comprises the middle class and upper middle class, and all they want is clean governance. For the first time, thanks to AAP, this civil society felt disencumbered, that they had a party of their own; and in Kejriwal’s noise about corruption, his electricity vote bank politics got hidden and no one took any particular note of it. The name of Kejriwal’s party might be Aam Aadmi, but his Delhi success was thanks to the above mentioned middle class and upper middle class, those who form the civil society. They are the ones who went en masse and voted for him. Every seat that had a concentration of lower income votes was more or less lost by AAP.

But let’s analyse what message did Kejriwal’s antics of turning governance into a circus send to the civil society and the youth. His reckless mannerisms of resorting to dharnas, calling himself an anarchist, and non-stop loose talk only made people wonder if he was appointed Chief Minister to show governance or show gimmickry.

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Author: "Arindam Chaudhuri (noreply@blogger.com)" Tags: "Aam Aadmi Party, AAP, Arindam Chaudhuri,..."
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Date: Friday, 14 Feb 2014 19:21
There is no doubt that BJP is the party to go for in the upcoming elections. No party has such a variety of support from intellectuals as the BJP has. No intellectual worth his mettle is supporting Congress, and barring a few slogan-mongers, no one is interested in AAP either. Definitely, not a single mainstream intellectual has any feelings for AAP. And truthfully, why not? While Congress has a few, very well spoken people (in English, I should add), BJP has the pick of the intellectuals, and to go with it, well spoken leaders too. Yes, many of them may be far better orators in Hindi, but that is the language that matters in this country!

My articles are very often the result of some recent book I may have read. Likewise, today’s editorial is influenced by Nitin Gadkari’s India Aspires – written by Tuhin A Sinha. While Modi is the lion of the party on the roll and nothing much needs to be said on him, it is Gadkari who has never failed to impress me with his social vision, combined with his eagerness to walk the talk. And yet, so less is written on him.

Let me recall a recent meeting with Gadkari. While I had gone to discuss what the BJP should be doing to counter fake allegations (like the one that the party is anti-Muslim), he was most excitedly showing me a new oven prototype that his company had created that could actually save India’s huge expenses on natural gas, decrease our imports, and subsequently make our exchange rate stronger. The oven runs on pellets made of agro waste and even municipality waste. Thus, the farmers who were never getting anything for their agro waste could earn more. Thousands, if not lakhs, of new jobs could be generated, and an environment friendly practice could be created additionally. Gadkari was so excited about the oven that he forced his people to light it up within his office room – though his people were too scared that the smoke would discolour the ceiling. But he was too confident, not without reason, that the oven was virtually smokeless – and no doubt it was!

Whenever we have met to discuss politics, he has been more interested in talking about how to make fuel efficient and about environment friendly rural employment generation techniques. His focus is simple – we must have investments in those technologies that have a highly favourable capital output ratio and those that can create rural employment, so that India’s biggest crime, that of lack of dignity of existence for millions due to unemployment, is booted out. His advantage is that as a student of economics, he has calculations and figures on his fingertips!

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Author: "Arindam Chaudhuri (noreply@blogger.com)" Tags: "AAP, Arindam Chaudhuri, BJP, Congress, I..."
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Date: Saturday, 08 Feb 2014 15:46
Raghuram Rajan is potentially great news for the Indian economy. Anyone who talks about “Saving capitalism from the capitalists” has to be good news, for humanity per se. The IIT, IIM educated man is an intellectual of a relatively high calibre. Not that all his arguments are correct – mainly because of his lack of understanding of the positives of a planned economic system – but his heart is in the right place. Having spent most of his life in USA, his panacea for all ills, as expected, is capitalism. Where he scores however is his better understanding of capitalism’s ills and where capitalism’s ‘fault lines’ are. He has rightly championed the cause against monopolies and oligarchists – and that’s the key reason why he is the man India needs.

Rajan’s analysis about India very correctly observes that the big Indian billionaires (the guys I call “Blood billionaires”) are in those sectors where there is high government interference, and where licensing and price controls are highly prevalent. This is because this is where businessmen manipulate the government machinery and make their moneys. Thus, wealth gets concentrated in the hands of a very few and they keep becoming richer with the help of the government mechanism – the typical case of crony capitalism. Although ex-IMF people aren’t very easy to trust, the fact that from all his writings, one gets absolutely no feelings for crony capitalists, is what makes his presence far more exciting than the presence of most others before him. Perhaps before finishing his completely useless and disastrous tenure, Manmohan Singh without realizing has done India a great favour.

Before I explain further why Raghuram Rajan can do a lot of good, specially with his latest move, let me also comment a little on areas where he hasn’t been flawless. Amongst Raghuram Rajan’s bigger achievements is not just his ability to forecast the 2008 crisis, but also his competence of being sharper than others in understanding its causes and giving a better prescription to come out of it. Unlike another economist, Krugman – who happens to be one of my favourites and whose prescription is traditional Keynesian, a combination of fiscal stimulus of spending and investing more along with monetary stimulus – Raghuram argued that the flaw was on the supply side, that developed economies needed to free themselves from the bottlenecks of protectionism of firms and workers, and that they also needed to focus on retraining these very workers, making them more competitive and at the same time giving a bigger thrust to entrepreneurship at a smaller scale.

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Author: "Arindam Chaudhuri (noreply@blogger.com)" Tags: "Arindam Chaudhuri, Blood Billionaires, I..."
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Date: Saturday, 08 Feb 2014 15:45
This editorial of mine is on behalf of my African and North Eastern brothers and sisters in India to every shameful racist in India, and to every parent and teacher who unknowingly are creating future racists at their homes and schools… to all those who practice racism in any form towards not just Africans and North Easterners, but towards any human being… to all those who promote products that fuel racism and those who endorse such products and to all those uneducated leaders who do so less to change it all.

I feel ashamed that in this land of peace and tolerance, the land of Tagore – who found solace in the North East and wrote some of his most beautiful pieces there (including Shesher Kabita, Raktakarabi and Shillonger Chithi), and whose landmark poem Africa is perhaps the world’s most touching as well as one of the most revolutionary poems on racism – there are people who still practice racism, are unashamed about it and give pathetic excuses to justify their acts. The racist incidents in New Delhi, specially of the recent past, only make me believe that those who still practice racism in this day and age are not worth being called Indians, or humans for that matter. They live in this country but are blots on this land’s culture and heritage. They may have popular support or might even be quite religious, but they are purely uneducated and uncivilized, irrespective of whatever degrees they hold and however cultured they pretend to be.

However, I also feel it’s a problem with our whole education system. When you have an education system that doesn’t focus on making good human beings but focuses on forcing students to get higher marks, this is the society we create. When, as a nation, we do not tell our children to read more and better books, but get private tutors to suck up all their free time to force them to mug up chemistry formulas for a few marks more, this is what our children grow up and do. When we have top stars in this country goading you to get fairer skin, and parents – like utter illiterates – not teaching their children that human beings must be respected on the basis of the content of their character and readings that they do, and not on the colour of their skin or the superficial marks on their marksheets, this is what we have. We teach our children to follow the Great American Dream, but we forget to teach them and sensitize them to the Great American Sin. Racism!

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Author: "Arindam Chaudhuri (noreply@blogger.com)" Tags: "Africans, Arindam Chaudhuri, Great Ameri..."
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Date: Monday, 27 Jan 2014 17:03
A lot has been said about Steve Jobs. Indeed, he was a fighter and his success story is most inspiring. His biography ‘The journey is the reward’, written years ago, inspired me personally to try and achieve more. And since Steve Jobs was the creative wild and hippie underdog during the same era as Gates, perhaps he overshadowed Gates largely during our times. Yet, I have always maintained that Bill Gates is the man who is the real visionary. Far beyond any businessman the world has seen in our times. For who is a greater business icon? The man who makes billions and keeps them as reserves or the man who makes billions and then uses that money to change the world into a better place to live in?

Yes, that’s what differentiates Bill Gates from all his contemporaries. Greatly inspired by the Rockefeller family, Bill Gates, in the year 2000, by combining three of his and his wife’s charities, decided to do what no one could ever imagine. He decided to give away 95% of his wealth to charity. As of today, he has given away more than 28 billion dollars in charity. In 2010, he along with Warren Buffett, inspired even Mark Zuckerberg to pledge away half of his wealth over his lifetime by making him sign the “Gates-Buffett Giving Pledge”. Yet, what really differentiates Bill Gates’ charitable initiatives from others is his clear-cut focus on the real and biggest problem that the world faces. Yes, the problem of poverty. The problem that 85 top, rich people own wealth that’s more than the total wealth of the poorest 3.5 billion. The problem that while the rich are rich like never before and while science has advanced humongously and soon humans may even dream of living forever, there are millions dying of curable diseases in Africa and other parts of the world. There is nothing fashionable in the work of Bill Gates. He doesn’t believe in having fashionable fights and dinners for animal rights etcetera while human beings live like street dogs and die like them. His is a clear cut and sharp focus on humanity. To be more precise, a focuse on the genuinely poorest of poor and unhealthiest of unhealthy (thus, obviously, a large part of his work happens in Africa).

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Author: "Arindam Chaudhuri (noreply@blogger.com)" Tags: "Arindam Chaudhuri, Bill Gates, IIPM, Pla..."
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Date: Monday, 20 Jan 2014 11:27
On the 13th of January, 2014, our current Prime Minister, Manmohan Singh laid the foundation stone for one of India’s largest nuclear power plants in Haryana amidst protests from various groups. Had logic and public opinion been something that our Prime Minister or his government respected, then AAP perhaps would not have been there in the first place. But these have not been his forte; as is well known, he neither uses his mouth (the absolute lack of communication from him), nor his ears (the disregard for public opinion). Or perhaps he has sold his soul so massively to Western interests that his skin has become far too thick for anything to affect him, including the imminent end of his official tenure.

I have been a diehard anti-nuclear energy man from day one, and wouldn’t spend too many words delving into the scary possibilities of a Japan-like natural disaster and its possible effects. But the fact is, nuclear plants can be most fragile and such incidents can have disastrous consequences. Any case of a nuclear meltdown would cause leakage of radiation, which not only can lead to an unimaginably high death toll and permanent physical and mental disorders, but in the long run can also make the vicinity uninhabitable for tens of decades. And India, which is blindly following a dream of going the nuclear way, is largely ignoring the threats that these reactors bring with themselves! I might also remind the readers that it is not that this is something new for India – in August 2010, the Journal of Contemporary Asia reported that between 1993 and 1995, more than 120 hazardous nuclear accidents took place in India. It is amazing how our shameless government seems to have forgotten the biggest disaster of all times in Indian history – the Bhopal gas tragedy! And mind you, there was nothing nuclear in that disaster! Forget everything else, if nuclear leakages can happen in developed nations like Japan, which have a focus on zero defects, then given India’s level of work ethics in general – with short cuts, corruption, fraudulent practices being more of a rule than exception – take it as good an assurance from me that in India, a nuclear disaster will happen for certain. Globally, post the Japanese disaster, Germany has suspended contracts and agreements that would have otherwise ensured an extension of their nuclear facilities, while Switzerland has, for the time being, kept aside all files meant for approval of nuclear plants.

In India, it all started with the signing of the 1-2-3 deal with the US in 2008. This deal opened up a $250 billion nuclear reactor market for India; and today we find various companies (mostly American and European) waiting to sign their contracts with India. The biggest contract that we have signed in this area is with Areva for a 9,000-MW plant at Jaitapur in the Konkan region in Maharashtra. As it is said that the devil is in the details, interestingly the Konkan coast is located in the seismic belt of the nation and is categorised as a high damage risk zone. For the record, in the last two decades, this zone has experienced a whopping number of 92 earthquakes, of which three were major, with the highest being measured at 6.3 on the Richter scale in 1993. And on top of this, we are using a very controversial and unapproved nuclear reactor for this plant. As of now, we have more than 20 nuclear reactors dotted along the coastal areas of the nation, and these may be either exposed to quakes or tsunamis.

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Author: "Arindam Chaudhuri (noreply@blogger.com)" Tags: "AAP, Arindam Chaudhuri, IIPM, Manmohan S..."
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Date: Saturday, 11 Jan 2014 12:01
I have written about these earlier too and I think the time is ripe to repeat the same. These are India’s biggest economic issues, yet, despite some voices here and there, nothing is being done about them on a red alert scale. Yes, I am talking about black money and corruption and how our politicians, hand in hand with bureaucrats and businessmen, have placed us at a shameful position with respect to these. If BJP really needs a unique differentiator to convince the electorate, then rather than just focusing on the economic development agenda, they should necessarily spearhead the fight against black money and corruption and not be just another voice speaking against these issues.

I collate out here various statistics that I’ve mentioned in some of previous editorials too, and you’ll see how pathetic India’s situation has become with respect to black money. As per various reports, the amount of black money stashed abroad by Indians is approximately $1450 billion, the largest in the world. If one wishes to compare, this is more than our entire national income. As per the same reports, while India is at number one in terms of the total black money stashed abroad, Russia comes in at the second place (at one third of the black money compared to the Indian figure), UK is at the third position, with Ukraine and China trailing it in the fourth and fifth position. As per media reports, in 1967-68, the black money in India was around Rs 3,034 crores (9% of GDP); this went up to Rs 46,867 crores by 1979 (49% of GDP). You can only imagine how the figures would have grown since then! The oft-quoted and much respected Global Financial Integrity (GFI) in its recent report said that India was the third largest exporter of black money in 2011, with $84.93 billion being exported in 2011. From 2002-2011, $343 billion of black money has gone out from India, as per their report.

Similar is the situation with respect to corruption and scams. While in the 1980s, India saw only eight scams of a significant nature, the 1990s had 26 such scams. The figure now has reached a whopping 150 plus! From animal fodder, coffins for soldiers, or real estate meant for martyrs, to telecom and even sports events like the CWG, wherever there has been a scam, there has been a collusion of the devious political class with bureaucrats and businessmen. In 2010, the late and most respected management guru C. K. Prahalad had said that corruption was costing India Rs. 25,000 crores every year, as per the FICCI-E&Y report ‘Bribery and corruption: Ground reality in India’, corruption cost India Rs. 36,500 crores in the period October 2011 to September 2012. A 2011 study by the research agency India forensic is more shocking, as it puts the cost of corruption to India at Rs.1,555,000 crores in the last decade. Another study I read revealed that 50 million poor households have to annually pay around Rs 9000 crores as bribe to various authorities for getting their work done.

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Author: "Arindam Chaudhuri (noreply@blogger.com)" Tags: "Arindam Chaudhuri, BJP, black money, CWG..."
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Date: Saturday, 28 Dec 2013 10:27
The newspapers and TV channels have left no stones unturned to remind people of how Arvind Kejriwal swore on his children that he will not come to power taking support from any party (“I swear on my children [that] there can be no tie-up between us. We are fighting the election against these scam-ridden parties,” he had said just a few days earlier). And it’s not any party, but the same allegedly hugely corrupt Congress against which his entire election campaign was targeted, with whose support Arvind now plans to come to power! It’s anybody’s guess now with such a support, how genuine his investigations into Congress’ so called scams would be! Welcome to the world of politics!

What is worse is that this entire game is now being seen by many as his having joined hands with Congress to sabotage Modi’s chances of coming to power in 2014. And for a new party which swore on being honest and having no truck with other parties, this suspicion can be a huge blot. People would have excused his joining hands/taking support from BJP, but not his accepting “outside support” from the Congress, for his entire campaign was based on the aam aadmi’s angst against the Congress. In that scenario, people would have happily gone for another round of elections than see the hopes and promises of an honest new party being crushed in the party’s rush to seek power by giving away the keys to its stability to the key party against which it campaigned and garnered votes!

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Author: "Arindam Chaudhuri (noreply@blogger.com)" Tags: "Aam Aadmi Party, Arindam Chaudhuri, Arvi..."
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Date: Friday, 20 Dec 2013 18:03
Truly said, every coin has two sides. But when it comes to policies and politics, a random toss can be really catastrophic. The same can be said for globalisation. Of course, globalisation came with its own set of advantages and disadvantages. On the one hand where it made the world a melting pot, then on the other it also became the reason for the cracks on that very pot – making it fragile and susceptible.

With the advent of globalisation, the concept of nation-state – or rather, shall I say nationalism – gradually started diminishing! The world-order started getting governed more by knowledge and communication technologies. Along with knowledge and technology, the ease of mobility acted as catalyst to make the world smaller, more congested and heterogeneous. So when migration and cross-culture relationships were augmenting each other, in some other part of the world national identities were getting lost. That said, nationalism has the ability to enhance solidarity, but if not channelized under controlled conditions, then it can backfire as hostility and increase xenophobia. December 18 was International Migrants Day, a day when the United Nation’s officially exhorted people and governments to end xenophobia and to support migrant communities. But that’s easier said than done.

Recently, a nation famous for its stringent civilian rules and regulations and subsequently also for its benchmark target of zero crime, saw globalisation and xenophobia at loggerheads in the most unexpected manner, especially given the social history of that nation. A few days ago, hundreds of foreign residents in Singapore resorted to violence, vandalism and even attacked the police in one of the worst riots in the last four decades of Singaporean history, after a bus (evidently accidentally) killed an Indian migrant worker near Little India, a region that typifies India and is populated significantly by Indian migrants. The riots occurred despite the fact that Singapore has one of the most stringent laws for rioters. Without an iota of doubt, accidents are uncommon in Singapore where laws are followed religiously, literally and verbatim. But then, this one incident acted as a trigger to the suppressed animosity that foreign workers were carrying in their minds and hearts since long, due to their perception of being xenophobically (if one could call it that) targeted since long by the Singaporean nationals. This riot seemed more of a frustration emitting exercise by local Asians residing in Little India who are still not treated as par with permanent residents of the island nation.

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Author: "Arindam Chaudhuri (noreply@blogger.com)" Tags: "Arindam Chaudhuri, Globalisation, IIPM, ..."
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Date: Monday, 16 Dec 2013 10:06
Aam Aadmi Party was counted off as nothing more than an apostate rebel group – as had been done many times before in the past – that could achieve nothing more than being a minor irritant to the national parties. This perception has undoubtedly been proved wrong in the recently held Delhi state elections. But hold on! AAP is still not there yet. True, they won in Delhi significantly, but there are many more factors. The national capital accounts for nothing more than six Lok Sabha seats and voting in Delhi doesn’t at all represent the prevalent national mood. The fact that the average Delhiite is more politically conscious than voters in other cities (with the exception of Kolkata) and the vast hinterland and rural belt that characterize the real Bharat, tells us the future will be a tougher climb for AAP. Each state has its own issues, their own unique problems that their people are concerned about; and these problems are not necessarily related to the issue of corruption – the most important stand of AAP’s existence – more so given the fact that in India, the corruption plank has mostly not been associated with significantly influencing electoral performance.

Therefore, the preponderance of euphoria and excitement of the urban middle classes behind the success of AAP is fantastic but may not yet be enough. However, based on the perceived image of political parties, AAP stands at the top of the list in terms of its veritably clean image and the role Anna Hazare played as a mentor of the party. The question remains though, is all this enough to win a national election? Typically, AAP has an emotional connect with the urban middle classes; unfortunately, it is only these classes that our media represents. So the euphoria in the media and in the drawing rooms need not necessarily get reflected in the national elections. Realistically speaking, AAP still has to traverse some distance to be recognized as a vital force in the caustic Indian political landscape.

On the other hand, an intellectual mind has every reason to back Kejriwal, indicating the country needs an outfit like AAP. So, how can the void be filled? Instead of dreaming of panacea, a prudent and realistic plan must be chalked out with a targeted timeline. The fact that AAP has won in Delhi has its advantages. Delhi represents, in some way, the culture of Hindi heartland, the key regional segment for any party to win national elections. The fact that the overwhelming majority of Delhi’s population consists of immigrants from the Hindi heartland (including Punjab and Haryana) with many of their relatives residing in these states, is a factor that can be capitalized upon by AAP. The winning of AAP in Delhi is likely to be seen as an exemplar for the North Indian states to follow. However, all this is easier said than done, and AAP would have to work hard and arrange necessary resources to secure their favourable perception in the coming days. At the same time, there is an implicit danger in attempting that. The moment AAP (or any party for that matter) tries to penetrate the rural heartland of India, they would invariably fall into the trap of being compelled to sit on top of corruption and ‘manage’ goons.

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Author: "Arindam Chaudhuri (noreply@blogger.com)" Tags: "Aam Aadmi Party, Anna Hazare, Arindam Ch..."
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Date: Saturday, 07 Dec 2013 10:46
The era of colonialism is over. However, exploitative trade practices by First World countries against poor nations are still alive and kicking. Overly biased import policies by richer nations, who weave a complex web of tariffs and duties, set the tone of discrimination against Third World countries.

For instance, Bangladesh-made garments entering the US market are slapped with duties and taxes/tariffs that are in general 20 times higher than those that UK-made garments have to face. Similarly, imported Indian garments have to face import tariffs of around 19%, as compared to the 0-1% charge applicable on European and Japanese garment imports. Such discrimination debilitates the value additions made by producers belonging to poor countries. According to internal estimations of Brazil, its agricultural exports’ earning has reduced by more than $10 billion because of trade barriers in the West. For Mozambique, exports to EU are lower by $100 million a year because of restrictions that are almost equal to the total amount of financial aid it receives.

‘Free trade’, as advocated by WTO, is nothing but a myth. Richer nations, led by United States, spend a billion dollars a day in extending subsidies to their farmers. The figure is six times the amount of aid they provide to the poorer nations. These domestic subsidies extended by rich nations to their farmers work in two ways against poor nations. First, these subsidies act as export barriers for poor countries – as their generally low priced produce becomes relatively costlier in the export market. And second, the surplus produced in the rich nations, because of the protection and supportive subsidies, is dumped easily at lower prices in developing countries, thus putting the local producers in these poor nations out of business.

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Author: "Arindam Chaudhuri (noreply@blogger.com)" Tags: "Arindam Chaudhuri, IIPM, Planman, The Su..."
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Date: Friday, 29 Nov 2013 17:34
Each discovery and innovation comes at a cost. The gift that Tim Berners-Lee gave the world in 1990 is no exception. While, the World Wide Web has revolutionised the very ways the global economy, various national governments and ordinary individuals function, the price tag it bears is significant. What are the focal points of dispute that I’m referring to here? Two questions. Are acts of espionage over the Internet healthy? Is surveillance over the web a necessary component of some greater good for a society, one that claims to be democratic? As per a 2013 report published in Web Index (the annual journal of the World Wide Web Consortium), the surge of online censorship and surveillance is a potential threat to the very “future of democracy”.

That incidences related to spying and surveillance (on the web) are causing tides that the Internet was not originally expected to influence is no surprise. The Internet threw open an age of information, where flow of information was expected to occur without bottlenecks or barricades – between individuals, groups, societies, nations, et cetera – the very prerequisite for democracy. It is not difficult to understand that this freedom of thought-and-information sharing is the quickest way to empowering commoners and allowing them to choose what’s best for their own future. But as I said before, no innovation is unconditional. The leakage of classified documents in the first half of this year by a former CIA employee and US National Security Agency contractor (Edward Snowden) shocked the world. It proved the existence of the National Security Agency’s (NSA) surveillance programs and how the US agency and its counterparts like the British GCHQ, Israel’s ISNU and Norway’s NIS – in their efforts to keep a close eye on all forms of communication between and within foreign terrorist groups – were accessing vast amounts of public user data from American and non-American Internet companies (including Google, Facebook, Yahoo!, Microsoft, Skype, etc.), without the knowledge of the users. Invasion of privacy is what these surveillance programs sans court warrants – like PRISM, XKeyscore, Tempora and many others – would be termed. And think of the count of such invasions – here a fact to get you imagining – as per a certain British media outfit, in March 2013 alone, NSA collected 97 billion pieces of information from web networks around the world, of which 3 billion came from American networks. If we were to talk about each Internet-using Earthling being treated at-par, that would amount to 39 pieces of information (including voice communication and chats over the web) being recorded per person during the month of March 2013 alone – for the months of 2013, 429 facts about “YOU”. [Just wondering – is there a chance that your banking password could be one in that bunch?]

The question arises – has the Internet become a medium where freedom, privacy and democracy are just words you can type-in and not really experience? “We hack everyone, everywhere… The NSA has built an infrastructure that allows it to intercept almost everything. With this capability, the vast majority of human communications are automatically ingested without targeting. If I wanted to see your emails or your wife’s phone, all I have to do is use intercepts. I can get your emails, passwords, phone records, credit cards… I do not want to live in a world where everything I do and say is recorded. That is not something I am willing to support or live under,” whistle-blower Snowden told a British media outfit in Hong Kong in recent months. Think he was lying or unsure? How much more truthful can a person get, one who is determined to wage war against the biggest superpower in the world (and one who knows that “Nothing good” will happen to him once the American and British and other governments get after him)? Again the question is – how much privacy can you disrespect in the name of national security?

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Author: "Arindam Chaudhuri (noreply@blogger.com)" Tags: "Arindam Chaudhuri, CIA, Democracy, Faceb..."
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Date: Friday, 22 Nov 2013 14:55
Back in 2003, George Washington University started the GWU India Project, a project that gave dramatic insights into how the 'business' of lobbying works to a nation's detriment. Private companies and associations were found to be the funding entities for R&D and consulting; and in turn, these entities got public policy and judicial decisions fabricated and influenced to their benefit with respect to Intellectual Property (IP). Many views on critical agendas were deliberately made one-sided, in favour of these so called funding entities. Various US lobbyists were part of these efforts and tried to manipulate decisions and views of many Indian lawmakers and thought leaders.

Foreign Pharma has always kept a close eye on Indian pharmaceutical manufacturers and related drug legislations, especially as most of our manufacturers are infamous for producing low cost generic unbranded drugs, whose branded versions are being sold at prices that are phenomenally high and out of reach of those millions of Indians who are waiting for lifesaving drugs and struggling with treatable diseases. And this generic drugs clearly work to the detriment of foreign pharma companies.

Consequently, US pharma giants have been continually lobbying politically with their government to pressurise the Indian government to insert a cap on permits that are issued to domestic companies for making low-cost copies of patented drugs. Even companies like Pfizer and Merck met the Department of Industrial Policy & Promotion (DIPP) to lobby against compulsory licenses being issued by India. For the uninitiated, a compulsory licence is a permission issued to any local manufacturer allowing him to produce the so-called ‘copied versions’ of patented medicines without any prior permission of the original patent owner. For instance, Novartis’ anti-leukemia drug Glivec costs an unaffordable Rs. 1.2 lakh per month, while its generic formulation, made by domestic manufacturers, costs nothing more than Rs. 8,000. In another similar case, in March 2012, India’s Patent Controller issued a compulsory license to an Indian generic manufacturer to produce Sorafenib Tosylate, which was being sold by Bayer for $4500 per person per month in India as kidney and liver cancer medicine.

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Author: "Arindam Chaudhuri (noreply@blogger.com)" Tags: "Arindam Chaudhuri, Foreign Pharma, Georg..."
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Date: Friday, 15 Nov 2013 15:25
While I was contemplating what to write in this week's editorial, James Packer was publicly announcing his plans to invest $400 million for a casino resort in Sri Lanka. In a speech at the Commonwealth Business Forum in Colombo, he said that his casinos would act as ‘‘a leading tourist mecca for the rising middle class of India, China and the rest of Asia.’’ Without a doubt, Packer has got his figures worked out pretty well. Despite a domestic ban on gambling, Indians do illegally indulge in various forms of gambling and betting every year. Some reports suggest that the size of the domestic gambling and betting 'industry' could be beyond $60 billion a year; and this is not counting the amount Indians spend abroad in casinos and betting centres. However, most of these instances are not in public view and are virtually impossible to track. Here is where the government needs to make smart plans to exploit the benefits of both the worlds. Going by the way India wishes to increase tourism, and perhaps even minimise the number of Indian tourists going abroad (to save foreign exchange), the authorities need to seriously consider setting up domestic gambling centres as these could give quite a significant impetus to tourism revenues, given the lessons that are there to be learnt from Vegas, Macau and Singapore. Can ‘Incredible India’ and mini-Vegas, for the sake of argument, exist at one place? I am not advocating that India adopts gambling blindly – given the negative connotation the word exudes – nor am negating the social malaises that gambling might bring, but am simply pointing out that the government should at least review the undeniable global correlation that exists between GDP growth and setting up legalised gambling and betting centres within the country.

If the worry is that legalising gambling in India could increase social exploitation, one could explore setting up of such centres in stand-alone territories like Andaman and Lakshadweep islands, test out the initial waters and economic benefits, and depending upon the experiences and lessons learnt, open up more centres in other states. Opening highly regulated casinos in such stand alone territories may actually give a huge boost to employment and lifestyle in these regions.

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Author: "Arindam Chaudhuri (noreply@blogger.com)" Tags: "Andaman, Arindam Chaudhuri, Casino Regul..."
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