31 Jan 2008

Dear old Passfield !!!

Waking in central London,
Within the Tavistock dungeon,
Stands one not-so prominent
Endsleigh Extension.

Hidden yet awake,
Passfielders work in their mansion
Accommodating every dimension,
Sweeping all tension.

There I reside,
In its confines,
Wishing to subside,
In its indomitable ravines.

Visualization there being enormous,
I fathom fully conscious,
Discussing full throttle,
In essence the non-obvious.

Then the Passfield Bar
And the fooseball gang-war;
All of it adds to the passion
To live here mere yaar.

Dedicated to my fellow Passfielders ...

25 Jan 2008

India week at LSE and my poem

Well, this I was originally written by me for publication in The Beaver, the official signpost of LSE Student Union but it figures out there were some glitches and so it could not get through. So I thought it would be much better to just have a go at it on my blog.

Perhaps the title of the poem explains its all; ...

India at 60: Crossroads

Self-pride and nationalism,
Marred by bureaucracy and corruption,
Religious idiosyncrasies and bigoted fanaticism,
Still a land of growth, full of optimism.

A hot mix of culture and prejudices,
Bundles of contradictions within,
But a place of opportunities,
And self-realization forthcoming.

Carrying a indomitable past,
Feeding more than a billion mouths,
Up surging on a development path,

sails with a glorious mast.

Huge work force and working hard,
Economic prosperity rising fast,
Makes me wonder,
When was
India younger last?

Be it economic reforms or WTO,
Making its presence felt all through,
Preparing itself for a worldly ride,
India, my land, is flying high.

22 Jan 2008

India ranked 115 in the Index of Economic Freedom !!!

Covering “162 countries across 10 specific freedoms such as trade freedom, business freedom, investment freedom, and property rights”, the Index of Economic Freedom from the Heritage Foundation ranks India at 115 on a list of the 162 countries surveyed. [click here for the full list] But then, does India really deserve to be this low? I can understand the argument that developed countries would surely be ranked above India but then when a whole lot of countries from amongst LDCs, Africa and Latin America are all ranked above India, which generates only an abysmal score of 54.2% in a list which is topped by Hong Kong with 90.3%, I really wonder that either there is a serious error in the calculation of these figures or that there is something really wrong with the way we act.

The ratings have been explained in the 422-page book titled similarly i.e. ‘2008 Index of Economic Freedom’ [click here to go to the downloading page for the full book] which seeks to not only illustrate the basis or rankings [for more, read the methodology adopted for the rankings] but also looks forward towards defining the future. Built in five plus one chapters namely; (1) Economic Fluidity: A Crucial Dimension of Economic Freedom; (2) Narrowing the Economic Gap in the 21st Century; (3) Globalization Is Making the World a Better Place; (4) Methodology: Measuring the 10 Economic Freedoms; (5) Economic Freedom in Five Regions; and (1) The Countries; the report in its last seeks to illustrate the views of its compilers in formulating the report and in the last accompanying chapter given an individually focused account of the reported countries. It is this last chapter that we are most interested in and particularly the view adopted in India, which has led to such a poor rating of 115.

In fact what struck me in sharp contrast to the optimism we breed in the country was the comment in the second paragraph itself was “India has no notably strong economic institutions, and the few areas that score better than the world average are limited government size, labor freedom, and property rights. Government expenditure is relatively low.

The report summarizes the position of relative freedoms in India as under;

[click on the image to enlarge]

While the ‘freedom from corruption’ is understandably low, the low depth to which ‘financial freedom’ has been rated is really something which I really look with skepticism for the reason that has been assigned for the same is that “banks must lend to priority borrowers” and that “foreign ownership of banks and insurance companies is restricted”. Instead of being major influencers of financial freedom, I find the two reasons assigned as more of a western looking-down upon the way in which India has out-performed the major developed economies of the world given the fact (sic) that we have very restricted financial freedom. This really makes me wonder whether these reports are issued to encourage the countries to outperform each other by bringing positive changes in their system or to throw mud at ill-received countries. Just like saying on the face of it that we are ‘non-racists’ and ‘proud multicultural societies’ but then from inside really despising those not of the same colour or kind.

But digressions apart, I serious doubt the credibility of the rating especially in the light of more factors, few of them being our property rights, business freedom and trade freedom being assigned lower percentage points than labour freedom. Further, unlike the comment on the other countries, there is not a word of praise or appreciation of the country’s performance and all that is written is either negative or portrayed as being worst off in the world.

Nonetheless, as they say ‘when the sky falls, we shall catch lark’, similar is the rating which I would assign to this report. It is an exercise in retrospect and except for the other chapters of the book (some of which really look forward and relate the present to the future), I do not find any worthwhile use of the report either for potential investors or otherwise.

12 Jan 2008

Some perspectives from Indian newspapers

Just the other day Dad scanned some news pieces (ya you can make out from the curved angles). Some of them looked really good so thought would put them on the blog. So here goes ...

10 Jan 2008

Time for some gardening

Well, colourful scenes are always a delight for a wavering mind; atleast I find a trip to the garden a refreshing experience. There is so much to capture from what mother nature has to offer us. So am putting a few shots which I have taken over quiet a long period; soothing and refreshing.

A bunch of cute flowers.

This time red ones

Sober yet beautiful.

Bright and illuminating.

Well, this is neither UK nor maple leaves. This comes from India, from grape leaves.

Cheerfully bright.

And now time for some fruits, grapes.

Pomegranates and guava here.

8 Jan 2008

High time for BCCI to be nationalized

Perhaps the Zee Television tussle with BCCI did not raise enough furore for the latter to be considered an instrumentality of the State, but the recent tour of Australia by the Indian cricket team, I believe is reason sufficient enough to nationalize BCCI.

The present controversy in Australia as regards the level of fair-play being tendered to the Indian players on and off the field and giving them all reasons not to concentrate on their cricket is reason sufficient enough to hurt the self-respect of every Indian who takes pride in his country and follows cricket. But then the way BCCI has handled it, first suspending the tour and then calling on a decision allowing the tour to progress clearly shows how far financial interests dictate its decisions rather than national pride of the country of more than one billion. Had it been a nationally handled affair, I am of no doubt that the Indian team would have already landed back in India, cutting short of the Australians sledging attempt against them, for which I really admire to have perfected the art which they are rightly deserving, capable and worthy holders, as far as cricketing ties are concerned and no test playing nations can vouchsafe against the fact.

Day in and out we have articles and posts from all corners of India and at all random forums as possible, telling how far they have been hurt and taken aback by the way things are happening and the way the are being handled but then the Chief Executive (another Australian) lands a dictate that its not a win for India but of cricket that Harbhajan has been allowed to play pending the decision of his appeal. Forget the appeal I say, what happens to the lost test match. Is there any decision of replay? Why did the test match where Pakistan walked out of against England awarded to England at the decision of Hair (another Australian) and even when later Hair was found to be wrong, no attempt made to either consider the test canceled or look for a replay later on? Well, is it cricketing spirit we are talking of (which they say proudly is a Gentleman's game) or just in direct terms of the race of the players involved. Why does an Australian get away with calling a South African player a terrorist and he is not a racist and whereas if you fight back against the racist abuses coming to you, you are violating the spirit of the game?

Why does it start from one way and always end that way itself, why not equality. When every nationalist's pride is hurt and BCCI calls to suspend the tour because of reasons of their self-respect, why does another Australian have to say that BCCI is showing its financial might? Why does Ponting has to be jumping around Harbhajan when he gets out cheaply to him and instead Harbhajan scores more runs than him? I think the answer is obvious. They simply cant win the game fair and even. They tasted the Indian might on the last tour itself. But when it came to win, they adopted these unfair (in fact the usual) tactics of hitting all the ungentlemanly pitches.

But in the end, if we allow the tour to go, its like telling the world that we can take action but we don't because we play by the rules even when the other team hasn't even heard what rules mean. This is a serious lapse and blunder we will commit. Enough is enough. The matter is highly a matter of national pride and unless it is dealt by a national agency, I simply will lose faith in the integrity with which the team would play.The matters at this such a high international standing, and that too in a game which even the Supreme Court acknowledges is public interest in India, that its high time that BCCI is nationalized and tough decisions taken rather than matter looked only from a financial perspective. I hope the ears at the top are listening and take a time off to analyze the situation.

6 Jan 2008

London Random in Camera

The proud hallmark of London, Big Ben.

The guardian of the times.

Adjoining the Victoria Memorial

On way to the Parliament. I really like the later part of the inscription.

Victoria Memorial

Buckingham Palace itself

At the Buckingham Palace

A view of Green Park

On way to Greenwich

Central London, Holborn

5 Jan 2008

Pakistan: The world's most dangerous place ???

Pakistan: The world's most dangerous place? I was simply shocked to find this as the cover article of a reputed international magazine. I simply do not understand when will the International media refrain from politicizing issues and act unbiased in news reporting and spreading information. I have had arguments with many journalist already in the issue, who seem to be unfazed with the implications their reports carry and are simply blinded off by the political agenda they carry and then the might of 'rating systems'.

And now the Economist has done nothing but added fire to the already burning Pakistan. [click here to read the full article] Reporting that "
it is not only that the country's lawless frontier lands provide a refuge for al-Qaeda and Osama bin Laden, and that its jihad academies train suicide-bombers with global reach", this international magazine has done nothing more but given another reason to the international community to interfere in the running of the country and who knows, make another Iraq.

Already the world is grappling with fact of various Central Asian countries moving away towards instability and then democracy being unsuccessfully imposed upon them, with the failed examples of Iraq and Afghanistan putting huge question marks on the credibility of the exercise being undertaken at the UN headquarters. After all what do the people on the hot seat thing they can achieve by removing the people governing their people and imposing a puppet government on the masses? Nothing can be achieved by making the people feel that they are not competent enough to manage themselves and make them realize through external supervision of their activities. The colonial era, the revolutions and their aftermath are only indicators of this potent problem, which the leaders of today failing to recognize the implications involved will again poke their noses in these intricate issues.

Why has Britain not remained not so politically important centre today than it was once? Because it embarked too much on external affairs management than giving priority to making its own place a better place to live on. Why is US more concerned about WMD than its own economy? Why is China exporting almost of the production that it achieves? All because external returns are more lucrative and more glory for the leaders who chase those futile dreams. But the fact remains that more you poke your nose in another man's affairs, the more are the chances of having a sore face. History is replete with illustrations to it and I don't want to do the honour of pointing it out to those ill-understood folks.

And then the final nail is cast in the coffin with the press gets involved. Though its objective should be public-opinion-generating, it is more inclined now to public-opinion-swaying. Filling the news pieces with not just sensitive information, which they should actually do, but instead superimposing their their own political ideologies and agenda and portraying the end of the world if some action is not taken. No wonder all these magazines and journals are viewed as being right or left winged and their content taken care of accordingly.

I would have loved the press coming out with the solutions they think would be wise for a politically instable nations as Pakistan is now and keep the general public informed about the options open to them, both in the country as well as internationally, such as positive action could be taken upon them. But what do we see, infinite conjunctures and surmises over the future of a doomed nation, as the news piece portrays it.

A big day for capitalism

If what is reported is true, then it is really a big day for capitalism. [Click here for the full report] It may be that he doesn't represent the stature which Marx occupied, but Joyti Basu is a big name in India. So when he says that Socialism has failed to bring in the benefits and has to give way to capitalism, it really carries a lot of weight.

The longest serving CM ever, Mr. Basu had
retained and leveraged his position as a politician only by carrying forward the socialist pattern which now only find place in two states in India; West Bengal and Kerala. To quote the news piece;

"We want capital, both foreign and domestic. After all we are working in a capitalist system. Socialism is not possible now," he told reporters after a meeting of the party's state secretariat.

"We had spoken about building up a classless society, but that was a long time ago," he said.

Basu supported Bhattacharjee’s contention that industrialisaton in the state has to follow the capitalist course and wondered why this was being objected to by Left Front allies.

"Socialism is our political agenda and was mentioned in our party document, but capitalism will continue to be the compulsion for the future," said Basu.

This indeed has huge implications for the polity of the country as the Left has been an important heavy-weight in the Indian political diaspora with its influence at the centre growing with times. Mr. Basu is a respected Left leader and if he comes out in public in favour of captialism, which implies denunciation of socialist principles, then this Left faces a huge political and in-principle make-shift.

In any case, I agree with Mr. Basu's views. This state has been working on a pattern totally on reverse lines with the national economy's movement. At one time Kolkata (when it was Calcutta) was one of the major economic centres of India. But then the changing times and affluence of other areas have seen this city crumpling down in its share and positioning in the Indian markets and similarly the pattern has spread across the entire state.

The artificially maintained low cost of living and prices of goods has had the state to be cut off from the other parts of the country, which makes it unable to share the growth and success story of a rising nation. I am aware of the cultural and political thought prevailing in that part of India which makes such situation inevitable but then when this was the case with the other parts of India, the economy only grew with what is called as the Hindu growth rate of about 2-3%. But when the rest of India dispensed with its native and traditional practices in the economic segment, we have seen a massive rise and growth. This gives another reason for this socialist-front-dominated-state to adopt the change with the changing times. And when this cannot happen with socialism, it is required to be done away with.

I do not want to pick the incidents but then it seems irresistible to cite them in order to show the glaring lack of conformity in the professional cultures of this part of India with the rest. The lack of compassion for the entrepreneurs, the frequent lock outs and bandhs, the constant use of strike for all and sundry purposes, the state has seen it all and has suffered itself now. But then it is never too late to change and I believe things will change soon enough before more disadvantage is meted out to the inhabitants of this part.

4 Jan 2008

I shall stay the way I am

A very nice piece of thought that I came across. This poem by Dorothy Parker really says a lot in not so many words. Way to go.

If I don't drive around the park,
I'm pretty sure to make my mark.
If I'm in bed each night by ten.
I may get back my looks again.
If I abstain from fun and such.
I'll probably amount to much;
But I shall stay the way I am.
Because I do not give a damn.

- Dorothy Parker

2 Jan 2008

A bit of advice for the road walkers

Came across this really nice piece on walking habits and the road-walking mannerism, published in a local daily in Agra. Thought would share this with all. So here goes.