Monday, March 30, 2015

DBT : Opting out

The Prime minister made a request to the people of India that anyone who can afford to buy the LPG gas cylinder without subsidy should opt out of the direct benefit transfer (DBT) scheme. This will reduce the subsidy burden of the government marginally, he said. The austerity has hit the DBT scheme, and what makes it more interesting is, it came out of the PM’s speech, who was recently not-so-austere on his dresses for special occasions. Let’s take a look at this request in reality.

It is true that few thousand citizens opted out of the subsidies and registered themselves to pay in full for their LPG cylinders. This action is definitely out-standing. But I am not sure, if it is an intelligent economic decision both in the eyes of the “out-standing” consumer and the exchequer.

In poor and developing nations, you always see this “save this/that” or “conserver this/that” movements. With water, electricity, trees, environment, forests, etc. There is always a feeling that something is not right like before and we could make a little adjustments here & there, and that would “fix” the problem and it’s all great from there. For years and years, we in India have seen this “save water” advertisements initially in radios, then on televisions and in the print media. It instructs the individuals to save water usage at home. It asks me not to take a bath in two buckets but to wash myself in a single bucket. The problem with this argument is that – not everyone is on board. The extra bucket I didn’t consume is used by the neighbor next door. On top of that – I do not like him to start with. So what is my incentive to consume less for which I know – will only be used or wasted by someone else. There is absolutely no incentive. Moral comfort – It’s just an excuse. In real-time, it just a strategy that doesn’t work. It never works with human nature at play. The whole thing is a mockery. We should also note that, when these advertisements where played again and again, the water usage by the rich and powerful has only increased and the ordinary people have little water now than say a decade before. In the meanwhile there were no new measures that increased the amount of water for the population. In other words, the government wants its citizens to under-consume the water, but it hasn’t tried to solve the problem at its end. How many liters of water reaches your home every day? How much has it fallen over the years? It is not because we used so much water every single day, but the government has not been able to marshal its resources to provide sufficient portable water to its people. Even partial linking of rivers has not been initiated. Successive governments have sat on it and have provided only lip service during elections.
On the other hand, In developed world, you do not hear these empty rhetoric. Things are planned more efficiently and delivered, mostly by a private player with a intention to profit. There is abundant water for households. There are some studies that say, the amount of water flushed out in American restrooms, is more than the amount of water used by few households in India. It is not a arrogant behavior. It is all about doing what is necessary. The system has been set-up and is maintained that works. This has ensured, that people are not starved of their essentials. Moreover doing it in a better way has ensured, there is minimum wastage. It is a common in the street of our country, where drinking water goes out into the road because a water pipe is broken and it would take days and weeks to fix it. Emphasis is the delivery model - the way water is procured and delivered. They have evolved over time to be better and better. What we need to do in our country is to replicate those ideas and allocate resources. We are not the only country in the world - that uses water!

The giving up of LPG subsidy is just like the “save water” hypocrisy. Why should someone forgo, the subsidy they “deserve”? If you give it to the other guy, why can’t you give it to me? If you are not giving me that money, what happens to that money? I am positive it will be squandered on something else. Frankly, for a family of 4-5 people, the number of LPG cylinders needed would be 6 to 8 per year. But the governments maintains it at 12 per year as part of its vote bank politics. Instead of dealing with those issues, the government is trying to create sympathy and is begging the normal guy to pay for it and share the burden. The ultimate “fix” to this problem is to get rid of subsidies. The market will determine the price.
In fact, the government is in the midst of the LPG cylinder business and the whole thing is messed up.


Friday, March 27, 2015

Freedom of Speech is Freedom of Speech

The supreme court of India has struck down the controversial Section 66A of the Information Technology Act as unconstitutional. This is a welcome decision.

This is one such judicial case on top of other millions, that the courts are spending their precious time on. The ruling is an eventual reprieve, but does it really need an explanation/debating. Everyone who has read civics book in school knows, it is a fundamental right of every Indian citizen to "say" whatever he or she wants. This is his right to freedom of speech. There is no distinction between what he is saying in a microphone or if he is saying something online. It just doesn't matter. Freedom of Speech is Freedom of Speech. Both the Congress and the BJP have encouraged section 66A during their times in power - so there is no good guy here.

With the rapid rise of Internet penetration in the country, social networking sites like facebook, twitter, google, news-sites are becoming tools in everyone's hand - in the form of their mobile phones. People convey their opinions in a split second. Opinions / feedbacks / comments are all over the social media. This has changed the way conversations happen in human society. During the age of phones, you have to call a person of your preference to say something or to hear something. Now with the global black-board of social media, the concept of posting comments are viewed by many in the next second. It just too much information that flows really too fast. The few smart people are able to jump on this mania to use it to their advantage. A lot of famous people - feed the media with their tweets and facebook posts. I hardly wonder, if everyone reads everyone's tweets unless its a close following. Wonder how long this culture based on virtual connection with "hundreds of friends" would last. It always conveys your presence, but not your proximity. It has reached a point where people think - It is rude to call by phone. Why can't they text message me!!

Somewhere in this midst, there are also instances where the government of India did not "like" or "agree" - what someone told on-line. Arrests were carried out and of course you can obtain bails quickly (they give bails for any crime in our country). It is not about being punished for a mistake - it is about making you go around a horrible system that is chronically slow. Just think about the Man-hours that go through it. It would be better off, had we did something else that would benefit the society. Provisions in this section 66A, is just to please the "superiors". There are lot of online post that insults/discredits friends. You or me cannot walk into a police station and complain or file FIR about that. You will be thought of to be mentally retarded. At the same time, at the orders of the "Government" - and with the only motive to satisfy "leaders", the police would go and arrest someone for saying something derogatory, online. It can only be used to settle political vendetta or to incite fear on the rest of the people. A law provision like that is practically not implementable. With 1.25 billion people in this country is it even possible to control who says what on social media? Can someone sit there and keep checking what someone says about a particular leader or government. The section itself is a "threatening proposition", rather than good intentions.

A society that has free flow of speech, would side-line controversial people over time. In a country like India, where still the human ethics are above legal ethics, there cannot be few bad apples that mislead masses in a way contrary to truth. People are really smart. They can best differentiate what is right and wrong for them and consume then online intelligently. Government has no role to play here.

The right to freedom of speech is supreme for democracy. It is not complex phenomenon that needs some Ifs and Buts. Freedom to speak whatever you want, to convey your point of view - is a birth right. It doesn't have to be trivialized. The people understand it better.

This is what the country needs : Any citizen can say whatever he wants, online included. If it leads to violence (as the government fears) - the first act of violence is punishable. There is clear difference between speech and action. Speech is not punishable, violence is a crime.

In our country, there are political leaders who get arrested for provocative speech. Why arrest them? Let them talk whatever he/she likes to. If he leads a mass to violence - deal with the violence with iron hand. If the violence is dealt with according to law, the society would be lot better. Peace-full gatherings / groupings with an intention of information propaganda is not bad. Everyone has his right to opinion and can propagate his opinion to one or more people. There should be none - who can stop that. The society is well positioned to separate what is good and bad for itself and the country. A bad leader with a provocative speech can't lead a society in the bad path. The society and the people are lot more mature, than what the parliamentarians think it is.

Right now - the right speech is applied selectively. This is well exploited by the modern politicians. Recently there are lot of instances, where you wouldn't know a particular politician unless he makes a controversial statement. The media jumps on them. The ruling BJP has been embarrassed multiple times by its own MPs, making highly controversial statements without any end-effects. It just runs through the news channel as though that was reflection of the party, government, the PM and everyone in power. There is high pitched voices from the opposition who champion for the victim of the hate speech. Everyone is kept busy for 2-3 days. The debates on televisions appear as though the whole country is in the dark because someone uttered this. The person who created the controversy gets some good media time and face recognition with the masses. Usually he stands by his statement for a couple of days, only to be retracted later or to apologize later. They refuse to do that initially - that is the kick. But somehow find their feet later. This has happened over and over again in the nine month Narendra Modi government. It is just a periodic head-ache for the BJP's top political management team representing the government. Instead of dealing with the problems of the country, they end up wasting time dealing with the abstract news item that is bound to die. How many parliament sittings have been washed out to this play. But in our political scene this just doesn't stop. The media is being fed with "hyper" news that it could live-on for a couple of days. Its all about sensation.

The same drama plays out, when new movies come out. It is just fine to make any movies you want to, on any subject. If there are people who wants to see it, so be it. There should be absolutely no restriction. Movies are just freedom of expression. Creating controversies over movies is just waste of time. Politicians are not good judges to decide what the people have to see or not. The censor board just have to rate it to help viewer choose before he goes out to watch it. 

Clear understanding with awareness is what, is needed about freedom of speech. We are argumentative Indians - why deprive society without that pleasure.

Sunday, March 15, 2015

The hidden cost of lakhs of crores

Recently the spectrum was auctioned for a whopping one lakh crores. The coal block licensing was also sold for two lakh crores. It has been all over the news as a positive story trying to depict how the government has managed to "raise" the money through its auctions, particularly after it failed to get the money leading up to the 2G scam few years before. With the fiscal deficit target fixed at 4.1% for the current financial year, this is a welcome boost to the government treasury.
Just like the famous "Broken window" economic story (Economics in one lesson), the public is being brain-washed to believe how this "new" money was generated that the government can use for people's welfare, also known as the redistribution of wealth. But what is not often said or discussed in public forums has been - who has paid this money and what is his incentive to part his cash. In other words, someone has invested in the auctions and the investor is planning on getting returns on his investment. Ideally more that what he invested.

Lets take a look at the blind spots in these unimaginably high revenue transaction.

In any transaction, there is a buyer and a seller.

The seller economics

The first and the foremost negative of the auction is, there is an assumption that the money raised is going to be put to effective use. What is the government going to do with this much huge sum. Does it have a game plan to make efficient use of this money? Probably not. Usually governments all over the world, and particularly in India collects a lot of money from the haves' and then wastes it in the guise of helping the have-not's. I am pretty sure, this time its going to be no different. Why would the government need this money? Water supply is erratic, roads are horrible and the power supply is not regular - on top of it - the people pay for all these services in the way of water bill, tolls and electric bills. Petrol and diesel - the lifeblood of the economy is heavily taxed. So in-spite of all these earnings that the government benefits from these huge sums are really fat-fat bonuses the government can play with. It would be ideal, if the money is put to efficient use? but if we have to go with past performance, then even this would be perennially wasted on welfare schemes that will not reach the actual beneficiary but will be sucked up by the corrupt bureaucratic system in place. Even if you would want to use this money on capital incentive project like metros in few cities, how would you invest this pan-India money on say developing a particular infrastructure like a metro in few particular cities. What happens to this money is never known unfortunately, except it gets lost overtime. Taking this money to fill a hole somewhere else is a usual way how these are used. Want to pay interest on an already existing loan!

The buyer economics

Now lets talk about the giver The companies that paid for the auctions have to find a way to retrieve this money by doing a business. It so happens, when the cost of doing business goes high (like here) the profits are squeezed. The money is absorbed in through its customer base. If you take mobile spectrum - a huge chunk of people are charged more to retrieve this money from. The companies are left with no option but the charge more for existing services. In the case of spectrum - the customers are charged extra and in the case of coal - the buyers are charged more, who in-turn charge the customers more (with high utility bills). Just imagine - the price is just 10% of what it has been. Then the companies can afford to share that windfall with its customers. It would not be possible for the companies to charge lot more, when they got with less money. The companies are there out there to win more customers with less fees. This money that the company saves - the remaining 90% would be put to use for a different investment that will again benefit its so-called customers. And more importantly - this private money would be invested wisely unlike the government. It will not be wasted. More often these companies have shareholders - who again are common man - who reap the fruits of better investment. In a real free society - businesses do good for the society. In societies that have crony capitalism like in India - the government loots all the money instead of productive companies. What doesn't happen - is the climate of crony capitalistic society being gotten rid off, instead of the government trying to fill in those shoes.

The public get a feel good feeling - where the government "successfully" managed to suck the "extra" money from big corporations and in the process has got ample money to serve its poor but "good" people. The sad part of this transaction is - the public never see the benefits that WOULD HAVE happened had this auction not happened involving such a huge sum.

Inflated prices - of any commodity is bad for society. It merely reflects that the Indian rupee is losing value.

Bottom line the citizens of India LOSE A LOT from these huge deals. The establishment is successful that the blind spots are not highlighted and discussed in civil society. Its all bash the rich and praise the government attitude. The way they are supposed to operate, governments can never do profitable business, they always lose financially. Unfortunately the media and the society in which we operate highlight it in a "non-productive" or "not realistic" approach. Awareness has to spread on who really can make a difference in the way we live our life. Rise in our quality of living is what every citizen wants and there is absolutely no-one who is an exception to it.

Friday, March 13, 2015

The low hanging fruits

The new BJP government at the center and the AAP government in Delhi are voted in for radical change. The so called non-performing Congress government both in the center and the state of Delhi is replaced by these new leaders. We have seen a lot of promises all round but unfortunately not lot of work. This blog would reflect on what needs to be done.

There are lot of talk about what needs to do done. But so far the BJP government has talked the talk but has not walked the talk. Recently I read a business today article whose cover story was  about smart cities in India. There is a ambitious proposal to create 100 smart cities in India in the next 10 years or so. I was introduced to this term my the BJP government's manifesto and hence was curious. I read the cover story by Business Today magazine and surprisingly still didn't understand what it was. There are lot of proposals on what needs to be done but how and when part is completely missing. I am not blaming the article, but the lack of ideas on what it is and even if its feasible is the bigger question. Wonder if its just a talk rather than action. I would like to give more time to the new government and do not want to judge them now. Even though the concept of creating smart cities is good., but the preliminary details of how and when are just as puzzling as what will be done. Wonder if it is a 50 year plan or something. Creating a society that has high-quality of living is what it intends to achieve. I am not sure, if the government can do it as the way its trying to explaining the concept of smart cities.

As soon we talk about smart cities, wind goes through your ears on what about land acquisition for it, what about getting land from poor farmer and handing them over to the developers? Handing over the land to some greedy MNC? These things come to the forefront and its often a boring rhetorical discussion where no one agrees.

Bottom line, the intention of the idea is to build a place that is just livable. Not many parts of India are like that unfortunately. For a decent living, lets come up with a list on what we need at home

1. Home with ample greenery around and within parking for 2 cars at least.
2. 24-hours of unlimited power supply
3. 24-hours of unlimited pumped-in portable water supply
4. Park in the vicinity for healthy exercising / recreation / games for children
5. Hospitals
6. Schools/Colleges
7. Quality roads and access to public transport

That's it.

We just have to create "communities" ALL around the country that has these facilities available and move people from else where to here. As soon the government helps to create this, people would be willing to move in with delight. This can be periphery of cities and villages.

Just say, I have the money to build such a community today and want to house 1000 families. Can the government of India assure me of 24/7 power and portable water? No. That is the problem.

What India needs is a "high-standard" living for MOST of its people. It is possible, smart cities can create this in BULK. But nothing stops us from doing it now in smaller cities TODAY.

Instead of coming with huge ambitious plans that don't get completed by say 10-20 years, the government of today should work on supply side of power, water and roads. That's all the people need. They can figure out the rest. The problem today is without the unlimited power, water and roads - any plan to modernize will fail. Innovation should happen in these fields and government should facilitate that. Not sure how Modi's foreign trips are going to make changes to this. There are people who want to manufacture in India, but that should take care of living standards in India. Just imagine a person is rich. He can afford to buy cars and drive. He can afford a nice garden at his home. He can afford a A/C in the entire house. The problem with the current set-up is - There isn't enough power/water/ road to create this set-up. I recently heard someone say, that India's problem is not corruption but lack of infrastructure. which sounds a nice way of thinking and could well be right.
Once we have proper infrastructure all our routine problems "go away". Believe me - it is lot easier. The entire western world has did it.. why can't we. Just that the private entrepreneur with profit motivation can alone do it. The government can't.

Even the Swach Bharat scheme introduced by the government is the symptom of the same problem - lack of infrastructure. No one wants to throw garbage on the street. But there are no dumpsters - that is the problem. No one wants to urinate on the street, when there are good, decent toilets available. Government has to find ways to facilitate the happening of these new changes.

Talking about the uncleanliness in our society is a good thing. At least the government acknowledges that it is a problem. Good start. But the way to solve it is not by make people cleaning them. No one can do it everyday. There can be awareness to not make the place "dirty". But cleaning using a broom by citizens just doesn't work. But instead what woks - Is create infrastructure where in  - it is not possible to throw garbage on street. Make road pavements in cement with greeneries so that no one take a leak there.

There are lot of low hanging fruits the government can pick up on. They will make a huge difference in every citizens life. Modernizing the railways in one great thing the government is trying to do. This is long overdue.

The following would make a huge difference. I would do it, if I was the government.

1. Multiple water projects to convert sea water to portable water. Abundant drinking water supply.
2. 24 hours of power supply. Ensure ALL cities/towns never have a power cut.
3. Upgrade ALL state road's width. make the 2-ways into 4-ways. Make the 4-ways into 8-ways. Make the 8-ways into 10 ways.
4. Complete sanitation within cities. (the villages would solve it themselves)

The municipality and corporations have been utter failures. Non-performers should be fired out and new management with professional skills at the IAS cadre level should take in-charge.

If the government take huge initiatives, the people would behave. It is all in one together. The state government has to do the bulk of heavy lifting. It is very unfortunate that the leadership is slow on making these changes.

What we need is smart communities (areas within cities). keep expanding them. A lot of things needs to be done and its high time we start acting on them.

Coming up with long term ideas are good, but doesn't make a difference except for newspaper fillings. Big ideas start small. We need to demonstrate what we are trying to achieve in a chosen city and see how it goes. Rectify and apply the formula else where. Modernize the way construction is done. The current way of building houses with cement and sand takes lot of money and time. Lot of things should be pre-fabricated buildings.

In the article, it was mentioned Barcelona is a successful smart city. There is lot of history behind that city. I am pretty sure they re-planned it, rather than re-building it from scratch. We need to do exactly that.


Thursday, October 16, 2014

Statistics - the third lie

It was once famously said, there are three kinds lies in this world.

1. Lies
2. Damn lies
3. Statistics

We see newspapers and news sites dumped with statistics through out. There is virtually nothing that cannot be measured these days. Throw the word "Science" or "Scientific" into the mix. Its just a truth booster to fool the reader. What happens to be a western phenomenon of forcing a public opinion by polls and statistics, is now creeping into the developing world like ours.

It is common in developed countries to publish results of opinion polls which generate curiosity rather than real substance. If you open any newspaper or a news website, I can guarantee you that you see an section for poll. I always wonder if they are held accountable for the results. They usually do not publish how the poll was conducted and how many people were part of it, and how they arrived at the results. They just assume the readers is sucked into the assumption that the poll is originally right and reflects its depiction of the result. He just has to accept that at face value. Most of the time its just a propaganda news item. It is common in western countries to ask a sample size of people, about the job satisfaction level of the President or the Prime Minister. They come up numbers usually in percentages to highlight its accuracy. They make attractive headlines based on the poll, and fill the first page of the newspaper. The initial euphoria would be mostly gone by the end of the day and will fade fully in next couple of days. The sales probably increased. And few days pass by - no one hardly remembers and truly no one cares. In next three months, they repeat the whole damn thing again. What is really the intent of these polls. Who is the beneficiary of the effort. Is it to arm-twist the political class by the media? I have also seen instances where the results are completely off between two news media outlets. One would say the President has a 80% approval ratings and another would say 25% percent. Most likely, both are completely wrong. They are just obeying their respective masters. You could just change the channel based on what results you like. who owns these polls - who acknowledges the findings? It is always self propaganda. It is basically paid news. The media outlets are paid by people who benefit with the publication of such a poll "result". A significant section of the people really think these results as gospels of truth. They are simply being manipulated by the ruling class establishments. A free market would eventually weed out the bad apples - but until then it is frustratingly insulting human intelligence for a by-stander.

A poll would come up with a statement saying the President has 45% job approval rating. An ideal way would be to ask each and every citizen in the country and get a Yes / No answer of this simple question - Is the President doing a good job? You count them out and stick a percentage value to it with respect to the total. This effort needs a lot of people and funds. No media outlet can afford to do that. So they now depend on what is sugar-coated as "scientific" approaches. They come up a sample size - what they think represents the citizens of the country. It is bare minimum that they could afford to spend. Ask them the same questions and project the results over. Isn't that stupid? They sample size selection is so complex and twisted, that as an ordinary man - you just can't understand it. A research fellow would justify why this approach is right highlighting some theories. What is happening is just guessing. It is paid news. The persons who benefit from the polls, fund and orchestrate the process. It is just mind boggling that those things are takes seriously and are accepted at face value. It is never questioned. The establishments take advantage of that and make the people get to think like the way they think. A normal person is sucked in to this design. The build up to the war on Iraq citing weapons of mass destruction is a classic example of manipulating the masses through the media. The opinions of the ruling class was slowly and carefully percolated into the American people. The tactics was done systematically and people were scared so much into the WMD story, that they thought something was imminently bad and the only way out was to bomb Iraq. Whatever happened next is history.

The other recent example of changing the public opinion by controlling the media was the Scottish independence referendum - to see if they can leave the union of the UK. Right towards the day of the vote, pretty much all the local and world media scarred the hell of the scots, with the adverse consequence of voting "Yes". It is a general feeling the No won with a larger lead because of this. There is free and fair elections but its outcome is not. Actual processing of vote is not rigged probably - but the people are being channelized into sections that is not allowed to have a different opinion than its ruling masters. 

The opinions, projections, expectations, consumer confidence numbers - all these are common jargons in business news items. World economy is perceived to run based on these numbers.  It is very common that you hear - the IMF has changed the growth projections of next year from x percentage to y percentage. lets parse this a little bit. First of all It is an admission of the IMF that its earlier projection was wrong. Only because of this, is it forced to revise now. If it is revised now - what is the guarantee that it will not be revised again next time. If Yes, why would we need this projection? At least don't call them "projected" results. These things happen so often in business news, that people don't even realize that they are being fooled to fill up the news columns. If projections keep on changing - why even predict it. We can wait for the actual occurrence to happen and measure them in hind sight. Polls about consumer confidence is just another stat, that is beyond reasoning. How do you measure confidence of people, say of your family members ? Do they really matter. I am sure, the confidence goes up and down every other day or even within a day. How could a consumer confidence number be arrived it? Is it really tangible ? How did you arrive at a consolidated number that represents everyone in a country? The way in which the current modern economies operate - there is place for this nonsense. When this whole bubble economy collapses, the right questions would be asked. It would make us all feel so ashamed we lived through these. It is just surprising. that people just don't question these idiotic numbers and their source. People have to questions these logics.

It should be a habit of the publishers to convey news stories as "they are". Not the way they want it to look like. In the world we live in now - the people are just not smart to differentiate this. It will not be long that they come to senses either.


Tuesday, October 14, 2014

DA Case : Did the system work?

In the past, I have written posts here grumbling about a non-performing judiciary in our country. The recent verdict on a 18-year old corruption case against the AIADMK supremo Jayalalitha and her subsequent arrest is one that needs a response here in my columns. On conviction, she lost her MLA seat and her post as the Chief minister. She became the first sitting chief minister to go to jail under the Prevention of corruption act. She is currently lodged in the Bangalore prison fighting for her bail.

There is a feeling that the system worked and an environment that the rule of law is finally in place. Did the verdict really convince the average man on the street? Not really.

There are many highlights (rather lowlights) in this judicial verdict:

Time Line: Why would a corruption case against a single public servant go on for eighteen years. Did it take that long to find, if a person got richer more than his officially stated income. why can't those be solved lot sooner than that? If the courts do not deliver the verdict in-time, then they should drop the case and move on. Why waste time of the defendant and the prosecution. People barely remember what happened 18 years old in their life. This empty statement of - Justice delayed but not denied might sound comforting to heart for some, the fundamental flaw in the judicial process in our country is right in front of our eyes. Wonder, if it is even possible that someone in the judiciary or the legislation can possibly defend that. It could be argued the defense team was instrumental in the delay. Why was it allowed? There were instances in this case, where documents got translated from one language to other as requested by the defense. The question is why allow that? Why even have that option to choose from, for the defense. It is also a mental agony for the person who goes through the trial process for these many years. It is not fair to someone who is eventually found not guilty. Would the courts compensate for that. One idea is to make a threshold starting date say January 01 2015 - any case that has been filed on or after this threshold date, will be prosecuted to its logical conclusion within a maximum of 6 years. If no verdict has been reached in that time frame, just throw the case out of the courts and make the case "void". No one needs to stay in prison anymore for it. Free up the prosecution and defense, so that they can do something else productively. The crime can be forgotten and the country can just go on.

Special Court:The trial was moved from a court in Tamil Nadu to a court in Karnataka. The reason cited was the defendant is the Chief minister of the state and would not get a fair trial. This itself is a fair admission of the judiciary that the political establishment can easily fix the outcomes of any trial. This is screwed up to its core and a proof that you could get away with murders and looting in our country, if you have the political power. The Judiciary has to reform itself to impinge its authority on the society. Right now, because of its historical under performance, it is not credible in performing its duties. Once it has the confidence and respect of the society - a fair trial can take place in any part of the country for any citizen. Right now, the machinery is so out of control and hence inefficient. A complete revamp is necessary.

Bail Process:Once the verdict was delivered and the Chief Minister was taken into custody, the defense started filling for bail petitions. There were undue delay in the process mainly because of Dussehra holidays. The holidays were running not into days, but weeks. Do the judiciary need these long vacations? Say Someone has a genuine medical emergency and is languishing in Jail and needs a bail immediately - would it be right to make him wait until the courts come back from vacation? With lakhs and lakhs of cases pending in Indian courts - is Dussehra vacation really needed? There is no other institution that has as many holidays on a calendar year as the judiciary. Weekends are also holidays. whatever way its counted - its just too much. The bail petition was rejected by the high court judge who came back from Dussehra vacation (Hope he had a nice vacation!). Now the bail petition is looming in the Supreme Court. It would not be surprising, that it might be postponed for another week, becase the court is out for another week for Diwali. what a horrible employer is the Indian judiciary. No institution can succeed with this set-up.
The judiciary has to be reformed so that it acts better and sensible to the society and gives fair trial to both people outside and those convicted and in custody. On a high level - reduce the number of people who hit the courts for example, as a argument sake - anyone who has been convicted cannot apply for bail for the first 3 months. Some thing like that would make things more predictable. Make the process so simple and straight forward, so that the people can understand it and not just the lawyers. Laws that affect the common people is supposed to be non-complex.

Fine Amount:The defendant in this case has been asked to pay Rs. 100 crores as fine as part of the conviction. How was the Rs. 100 crore arrived at? why not Rs. 99 crores! Everyone knows for a high-profile leader like the AIADMK supremo - the amount is not substantial. It can be managed either through the individual's asset or through the party machinery. Why can't the rules be changed that ALL assets in the defendant's name will be taken over and auctioned out., if found guilty. A public servant found guilty must be disowned of all assets in his name irrespective of whether they were obtained prior to or after the looting. It is one - a good source of income for the courts and two - it could act as a firm deterrent for perpetrators. In general - court fines must be increased a lot, at least 10 times the current amount. They should act as deterrent for people to come to the court. Only valid and genuine "winnable" grievances need to hit the court causing less traffic. Most cases that are pending in Indian courts today are just "false" cases. At the face of it, they can be rejected/verdict delivered. But the horrible truth is, even these cases are put in the queue process, and they drag on for multiple years. A high fee to initiate a court proceeding would act as a deterrent. It could be argued that the poor might not be able to afford it. In reality its not true. Now they end up paying the lawyers for years together as fees. The poor would be happy to pay more and get a verdict than to end up paying the lawyer and go through the pain of the delay for years.

The work of the judicial system in this country is not to deliver verdicts once in a blue moon on high profile cases. With so much high profile cases on, It needs to perform consistently every time and very fast. Most of the elected member of Parliament and State assembly have criminal cases pending against them. Their only hope is the courts would never deliver and they could get away with it for very many years when the suit is "pending". The courts facilitates the existence of a corrupt ruling class by not responding actively to their old complaints. It doesn't matter if its a guilty verdict or not-guilty verdict. The essence is to get to a verdict.

Tuesday, December 31, 2013

Appoint a committee

Whenever new scams surface, there is usually a political rally by opposition for it. Newspapers flash story about it. They come up with huge monitory figures to depict how serious the crime was. They make it so juicy and nice to read for its viewers. The 24 x 7 news channel would be on top of it until they get the next story. It is fun time everywhere. Initially the ruling government denies anything ever went wrong. Usually they all end up in the same way - the government would set up a committee to investigate the issue. (like any other Indian movies that end with the hero marrying the heroine and all moviegoers leave the theatre happy) The people who are accused of, say the investigation is going to bring out the truth. We don't want to discuss this - because its under judiciary now. Basically it says - Lets leave this out for now and lets move on. To make the intention look sincere they sugarcoat by saying that only a retired supreme court judge would handle it. Anyone with a lesser cadre would not be able to track the truth. They make a committee, with the judge's name (at least he gets some publicity) and for now - Its Business as usual for everyone including the accused, government, opposition and the common man who is glued to his television set and the newspaper. How many committees has this country seen. Countless. Over time - the intensity of the matter comes down and the committee itself gets multiple extensions. We usually don't hear about it for a long time., sometimes even decades. We hear quiz questions and even in public service exams about which committee is tracking which scams. Most often people get it wrong because there are just too many of them and it gets really confusing for an ordinary candidate. Pockets of news appear on the newspaper here and there about its existence by saying it conducted an investigation of so and so witnesses. Usually the committee member comes in a ambassador car with a public servant with him - carrying his suitcase/files and trying to make him way to get into the building. After that the accused comes in a fleet of car, with lots of his supporters surrounding him and raising slogans against sometime unrelated opposition party. The person would wave his hands, hug people around, would talk to the waiting cameras. The supporters around him are very agitated and are pushing people around. Its a hectic place to stand within for anyone. It is really a good publicity for the politician. Next day you see pictures flashed in newspaper and very same rhetorical political punch statements. You don't hear about it for a long time after that. Over time - the investigation gets diluted. Nothing comes out of these committees ever. Sometimes when it does see a day of light, they don't make it to main page of any newspaper. Most witness turn hostile. The political climate is far different from the original days. Basically the wrong-doer gets away with it.

The Adarsh report is one such report to have met its deadline. It has blamed four chief ministers of wrong doing with multiple political heavy weights also mentioned in the report. The ruling party has taken a decision to discard it. In fact it is the same establishment that the report finds fault with. To accept that would mean - that the Congress party has to admit its Chief Ministers tried to exploit government funds for personal benefits. The current home minister of the country is also accused to have got the favor. He should resign too. It is just lot of things to admit. The Maharashtra state government has refused to accept the report. This is a new low point in the Indian Democracy. If there are no credible action or punishment - why even constitute a committee. Just think that the committee came out saying that everything was followed as per law and discharges everyone from any guilt. The establishment would praise the committee and would highlight it by saying : I always trusted the Indian Judiciary. Are they not supposed to find what went wrong and bring people to justice? Issues like Adarsh - the politicians consider them harmless vice. They just think - they just capitalized on a apartment building built for fallen soldier's families. They extended the project by building more house on top of that for themselves. If rules are not followed in strict sense, this is what happens to civil society. Every law of the country is diluted one-by-one. It makes us wonder - which laws really are followed tooth and nail. Either all laws are treated equally and followed., nor everything goes out of the window. In India - looks everything goes out of the window. People who commit murders come out on bail within a month. People who are accused of rape are out of prison right away. People who are convicted with jail term - come out by appealing to a higher court. Lallu Yadav did it recently. People who are punished by Supreme Court (after decades) - just come out on parole very often for months. Sanjay Dutt and Manu Sharma are recent examples. Things are so confusing to put a logic below them. It looks you could get away with ANYTHING in our country.

If you just think it over - it all ends up as a thamasha to public. The initial phase keeps media busy. The government counters them with their own statements, press releases. Opposition makes their own statements, dharna, bandh. Finally its all nothing. The status quo remains. No harm caused anywhere. The looting continues.