Why I am a Fan of IPL… from Yday.

The Girls predicament and Why I am a fan of IPL…. from yesterday.

Happened to get a couple of complementaries to an innocuous IPL match – DD vs RCB. Went with a ex-cricketer and friend of mine. Going into a stadium for the first time since 1986 to watch a live match. Some ironies and some obeservations.

1 When the Toss is done you see just the 2 captains and Ravi Shastri (RS) on your screen + may be someone else. But in the middle there were almost a hundred people. Both teams in full practising and markers, groundsmen, cameramen, etc. It more looked like Churchgate railway station at 7 am.

2 Players scoring hardly registers. I thought Kohli would be about 10-11 and when i looked at the score card he was into his 30s and when his innings ended i thought he would have made 30 but it was 58. S Iyer, i thought would have made 10-11 but the next day papers showed 34. Only Gayles registered full and proper. He swings like a golf drive and most of his shots were saved on the boundary by well positioned fielders and hence it sort of registered but Kohli swatted his sixers like swatting flies and hence perhaps did not leave an imprint. Mind does seem to have a metrics system of its own. Does not add up arithmatcially but goes by impressions, it seems.

3 Almost after each over 1-2 boys run in with liquid refreshments and towel; i am sure old timers – players or spectators would be loathful and envious of such transgressions on the sanctity on the Cricket religion and its rituals. The Dinner spread was heavy and lavish; wonder how the players would be able to keep awake and play after such a meal.

4 Zaheer Khan seems an involved captain. He was changing the field almost after every ball. He was for almost all the time in mid off or mid on constantly discussing and instructing the bowler. I would perhaps have handed him the ball back and told him ‘you only bowl’.

5 The Attendant ‘Girls’ hosts

In the Box there is a ante room where snacks and drinks were being served and the door opened into a box of 20 seats. The ante room had 2 girl hosts and 2 from caterers. The one we saw when we went in looked serious and slightly harrassed. It was hot and humid outside and for portions we were watching the match from the ante room. I asked the girl if she followed Cricket.

‘No Sir’

‘How come then here?’

I’ have come back on vacation from Philipines and trying to earn some money’

‘Are you from Philipines’

‘No sir. Here from Delhi – Rohini’. (with so much make up and slight north eastern looks I could not figure out).

So what are you doing in Manila?

My MBBS.

Why Manila.

My dad decided that I should shift abroad and we searched and found the best offer from there.

How is the education quality and life there?

Good sir. Life is safe there (i have heard so many stories about the unsafety of Philipines from several others); good education.

On the TV screens most of the girls look well dressed and chick with well fitted cloths. But from a foot afar, the dress looked almost funny. They must be having some standard sizes and these attendants fit into it by lots of pins and needles i guess. I could not help a smirk or smug at the looks of it all.

I thought it would be improper on my part to drag the conversation endlessly. But then she was standing by and looked relaxed for the first time and seemed curious for further conversation.

How did you land up with this opportunity?

‘I know the head of this agency who is recruiting and I asked her and she put me on this’

How much will you earn, if i am not inquisitive?

Rs 900 per match. Today is the last match and i have done 7 matches in all.

So when do you report for duty.

‘we have to report at 3 pm’ (for a match starting at 8 pm!).

She opened up a bit.

‘But then it is not fair sir. The other girls are getting Rs 1800 and only i am paid Rs 900. I asked the head girl who put me on this. She just shrugged and said ‘once its negotiated and agreed it is done; no scope for changing it’ ( when crores are spent what was the need for cringing on the Rs 900 or was it some intermediary running away with the Rs 900 – shd be).

(while the discussions were on, a caterer boy came and asked us if we wanted a can of sprite. We said no.

‘Sir can i take one sir’ with an enquiring tone.

We said go ahead feeling a little sympathetic. He took it and soon one after the other water bottles and beer and other cans started disappearing. Just about anyone in caterer uniform walked in and helped himself. By three- quarters of the match all the shelfs were empty. Worse was when we saw some security staff stuffing cone ice creams kept for desserts into his pant pocket – in just one go 5-6 of them. Could only pity him!. There seems to be tiny politician and kleptomaniac inside each Indian – why blame the politicians alone.

We continued with the girl who still seemed interested and relaxed now.

‘So what how you learnt in this stint. To control the crowd better, how to keep them in check. (the hostesses are supposed to be serving food and drinks but ensuring that they are not taken out of the door into the seats, control use of equipment, unruly behaviour or fights, etc.).

‘No not much’. How has the crowd been – any rough and rowdy elements?

‘Only one day there was a rough man. But otherwise ok. But thats not the problem. The main issue is carrying water bottles and drink cans into the stadium when there are clear instruction on the wall not to do it.

‘And the annoying habit of taking selfies with us. ‘they ask us first. We refuse. But then they will pretend as if they are shooting something else but we could easily make out that they turning the camera slyly to get us into the frame. Very annoying. (her tone summarised it better).

‘And most people use foul language (again expressly prohibited in the ticket itself, plastered on the walls and the seating area). Very annoying.

Me: Who do you complain to in such cases?

My Friend intervened: Who can they complain to? And what action will be taken?

We thought taking more time with her would be improper and said ‘bye then. have a great time’.

6 Why I am fan of IPL from y’day.

When we went in, there was some security gate (4-5 of them) with frisking. There must have been about 15-20 guards. And then within another 25 yards one more gate and light frisking. Another 10-odd guards there. Then the ticket checking and exchanging for the wrist band (6 of them) and then you enter the iron gate (5-6 security staff) and then before the building. Gate and scanning another 4-5 entrances with 3-4 guards each.

I would have counted at least 50-60 guards in my approach.

This is just for Gate 1 alone. And there were 18 gates in all. Imagine the total security including inside the stadium, players area, in the traffic control, etc. There must have been at least 700-800 of them overall.

Then the ground staff (100s of them), the TV crew, cheer leaders, caterers (must have been at least 300-400 of them), coaches to the teams, umpires, attandants, … there is an endless list i reckon would be in excess of 4-5,000 of them. Plus the equipment suppliers, contractors for fans, coolers, recruitment agencies, …plus the conveyance of spectators, etc.

There is at least 100 players who would be making Re 1 cr per year thru this. Fees and endorsements, many from interior areas capable of being role models for their area. Umpires would have never seen this kind of money. Extended careers for the ex-cricketers thru commentary stints…

That day’s play would have employed at least 5000 people apart from the 22 on the ground.

Thats a huge employment creation.

The biggest failure of Indian reforms is the lack of jobs. Its jobless, senseless and heartless… much like a female model going extremely anorexic or male body builders going to extremes without a sense of balance in life. Jobs which is the prime delivery mechanism of individual benefit from growth is absent in the equation.

I would vote with both my hands for anything that creates such scale of employment… even if not permanent. But i am aware an army of people are at it thru the year.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Singapores Economic Woes

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Singapore’s Economic Recession

Singapore has been a powerhouse of economic growth and icon of modernity and innovation in the East.  As recounted by everyone I met, it has been in recession for the last two years. One of the foremost and lead sectors of services is the oil drilling and exploration, oil rigs, and transportation of cargo.  These have been sluggish of late and seem to have affected Singapore also significantly. The sector has seen staff shedding of significant numbers as a result. As a result other service providers to them like legal services, audit services, banking, etc have shrunk a bit – may be quite a bit and have had to down size some staff themselves.

A significant amount of investments by outsiders into Singapore was in real estate. This has caused the real estate prices to climb up steadily. In the recent years native Singaporeans have complained of unaffordable real estate prices and living costs. The minimum house price for a middle class is about SG$ 1 million. They have contended that it is not possible to support such a capital cost/debt on a salary of SG$ 6,000 – 8,000 average salaries and started migrating out of Singapore to Australia and elsewhere.  To tame it down or reverse this, the Govt has put a 15% stamp duty – to discourage runaway property prices due to purchase  by outsiders. This in order to help the ‘locals’. Due to this extreme measure (this must now be the highest stamp duty anywhere in the world), the outsiders have virtually stopped brining in investments.  And construction industry ahs seen a steep slow down and large layoffs.

Added to this, Singapore has signed off on Fatca and other money laundering agreements spearheaded by US. As a result of tight monitoring and policing and KYC requirement, the funds that were managed for private wealth clients out of a liberal and efficient Singapore have seen a steep decline. And this has led to layoffs in this sector of high salaries curbing further their spends.

‘Singa’pore is a highly dynamic and innovative society. You can’t keep it caged for far too long. I understand that the DyPM who was handling economic affairs so far has handed over to someone else (i forget the name) to put back the economy on rails. And his mentor is Dr Y V Reddy who commands a high respect there – RBI for the way it has handled several world- wide crisis 1997 East Asia, 2002 internet bubble and 2008 by their conservative approach is respected the highest by Singapore Monetary authorities I was told by at least 3.

It will be interesting to see how they bounce back. I am sure there will be some lessons for all the rest.

It stands to reason the first thing to be hit in a recession will be the discretionary expenditure. Usually when i walk from my usual Hotel Park Royal to Komala Vilas, MTR, Ananda Bhavan etc – all within 100-300 meters for my dinner, i will hear the blaring music belching out of many Music clubs and Dance bars – Hollywood songs, bollywood songs, Tamil, Hindi, etc. But this time there was just a solitary one. I am sure one day the magazineEconomist will develop a Karaoke index to measure the level of economic activity a la the Big Mac index.   Or use the level of vouyeuristic activities to measure the Economy. 

 

Roads alone dont mean Development

Roads and Connectvity alone may not deliver rural development.

Got 2 days to drive around in Rayagada district in Southern Orissa, amongst the poorest 3-4 districts in India. One could not but admire the great strides Roads have made in the region. Govt also seems to have made a lot of progress thru residential school for tribal children which seem well maintained (I saw 3 of them within 20 km stretch). A few takes and lessons.

1 Our first stop was a plantation nearby under the aegis of co-operative group. while the increase in tree growth was visible due to better farm practices, what was not visible was the government funding agencies which recoil at the first sign of trouble.  If risk aversion is the primary motive, development initiaves in such societies at the brink of economic existence will all fail. The Government has to take a more sanguine view – the farmers are never going to take advantage of legal loopholes a la a kingfisher nor dodge a bank manager, if he is solvent. if he has the money he will pay. counter party moral hazard is likely to be the lowest.

2 I met the farmers (slide 11) but it was a difficult conversation. My Hindi was not good currency; the accompanying colleagues’ local oriya was only a passable currency. Thank god we have one language across India. I asked the farmer in saffron T-shirt upto which class he has studied. He prevaricated but signalled something to the locals which was translated to Sixth Standard. (But barely convincing). The man in green T shirt seemed to own 2 plots. With some difficulty we could figure out it must have totalled 3 acres. I asked him what class he has been upto. He signalled to the first one and said something to the effect – to the same extent. (I couldn’t believe him either).

3 Visited the training centre of local SHG which had trained itself in book binding hoping to get some contract jobs in the local banks, factories and shops. (see the videos and the group conversation). We are not just short in financial inclusion alone. Of the sample of 20 i saw, none had been inside a train, only one had been upto class 10, 19 out of 20 did not know 3rd table, only one had gas. Surprisingly none of them had worked in NREGA.  2 claimed to own cell phones (but they all knew what i was talking about) and 2 others cycles. All had electricity and claimed that they toilets.

But i was deeply touched by their guilelessness and genuine warmth. The meeting had been arranged with just 15 minutes notice. They gave a locally made flower bouquet and coca cola (to everyone).

4 Many villages seem to be independent land locked republics within India. I could only with difficulty hold myself from asking if they knew that they belonged to a country called India or that it was once ruled by Moghuls or british and that it has got its freedom. (I did not know if it is lawful or will be deemed instigative; hence i stopped). But as you can see from the video they had very little to do with India or its development. The only ‘Indian’ they seemed to know was Naveen Patnaik.

Villagers (see slide 5) in this tiny hamlet had erected a bamboo toll gate and refused entry or exit unless we paid their toll. Toll collectors were 2 young girls of may be 9-10 yrs. There were chawls on the side each having rows of houses sharing walls with others on both sides. each such house would have been around 10ft by 10. I could see 3 or 4 ladies sitting inside and 1-2 hanging outside besides the children baking themselves in the sun. I could see a solitary hand pump, the cemented platform around which served as a open bathing spot for a village adult in full view of all those who cared to see.

5 We wanted to visit the solar pumpset which was to be inaugurated to supply water from below 200 ft to some 26 acre of land. we reached the spot at around 5 pm but found a group of people (nearly the population of the entire village) walking towards a spot very near the solar system, with 2-3 of them carrying what looked like spears. Later i learnt/saw that it was for the pre-marital prayer to thier chief temple/diety (see slide 3). After their modest prayers were over they perhaps ascertained from our guide the purpose of our visit. (Our guide knew the villagers since we had sponsored the project). There was quick confabulation amongst the villagers. They took some time off their routine to give me a ululating welcome (local custom) and performed an impromptu folk dance for me. (see video). Meaning i was told ‘bahooth dhoor se aaye hai our guest; lets welcome him’. Nice of them.

6 On the way we stopped by a hostel schooling tribal children. (see slide 4). I started asking the most grown up looking amongst them (the one to my right and the one in yellow T-shirt). But they were hardly able to speak but were stoic. the care taker intervened to say that it was their first day in the school and where they have come from and circumstances; I had difficulty preserving my tears within the countours of my eyes.

Some lessons:

1 The region is poor and crop mainly cotton, hurhur, millets and in some places Rice. Recently they have added tree plantation to their kitty. Area is rain fed which imposes its own limitations.

2 False pride is good: Although efforts from several CSR activities, govt initiatives, etc seem to be on the area is largely illeterate. You can get a sense of what they mean by literacy in the video of SHG group. The men in slide 11 claimed they had done upto class 6 or 7 before dropping out. I doubted both. But on reflection found that kind of ‘false pride’ a welcome sign. It only indicated that thay have accepted that education is a desirable end state and they are craving for a better end state than they currently were in; this desire and higher aspiration is a prime requirement for any development initiative to succeed.

3 Thank God for Hindi: The areas were hardly 12-30 kms from the district headquarters. Imagine that we had not integrated India with one language formula – with every district and sub district speaking different dialect or variations and so much time and effort lost in translation -it would have been a massive waste of national energy. (Thank God we have saved ourselves this much at least due to proper actions on independence). Our politicians have done somethings right.

4 Can Roads and Connectivity alone achieve progress: I have been visiting nearby places for the last decade. The roads have come up very well. Most village roads are concretised. The times on most roads, district, sub district and state highways have become 1/3rd and it is much more certain and lot less damage on your spine and vehicle parts. Communication connectivity has also improved greatly. Most villages have someone or the other with cell phones. The progress in literacy and living standards seem nowhere commensurate with the progress in govt infrastructure. (guess not even 15-20%). We seem to be miscalculating the linkages between the 2. (I am not saying these are not important; but how much they are able to use them at this stage is questionable. Looks like a 25 terminal airport for 2 flight landings a day). Roads in most parts seem ready for the next 25 years. (see the photos).

Government may need to work on assessing the skill levels of each village and work on each village to boost their income. The focus has to be on increasing their ‘marketable surplus’. (elaborated later).

TV in each home (still a pipedream in many villages) and programmes for social change, advisories on agriculture, personal health and hygiene will all serve great purposes.

Gas seems economically misplaced. The payment for Gas goes out of the village system whereas the fire wood they were using was ‘manufactured inside’ the village boundaries. (this needs to be studied and validated)

5 There is great potential in increase in crop yields. Our scientst told me that soil should be so prepared that the loosened soil should just about envelope the aura of the root system. It will enable the root system in absorbing the nutrients and fertilisers without running off. Tight soil wastes them on top and loose ones enable run off. There is different requirements for different plant species but most places in India resort to uniform ploughing. Soil nutrients are different from place to place – may be even within the same village. Fertiliser and nutrients have to be adjusted accordingly. He claimed that such care alone can improve the crop yields (physical or financial) by about 60% in India.

The villagers also require better linkages to the markets (for many of them the universe ends at the village boundaries and their Government is the Village headman). Such increased linkages with partner end user corporates will bring them better technology, softer credit, better information, opportunity to add more value (like sorting and grading, washing and preparing them for markets and these can sometimes be significant 30-40% of mandi values) at village level itself. Government need not relax land ownership rights at all; just more facilitative of contract kind of farming will do.

6 Corruption to me seems a secondary issue in these places. For most of their transaction with the ‘outside’ world they need transactional interpretors who can (and do) take them for a ride in every possible way – be it in religious conversion, NREGA money distribution, freebees from government, etc. It is this that they have to be liberated from first even before corruption.

7 Trapping more income inside is essential at this stage: One of the  villages had an electrical repair shop repairing fans, TVs, motors and pumpsets, and lighting earning Rs 4-5k per month. In most other villages this amount is paid to external people. Govt has to analyse such possibilities of retention of income within village as well enhance values of what they sell outside and prepare them for newer activities like vegetable growing, fishing, water harvesting, solar panels, sanitary pads making (may be for a few villages in the nearby areas), poultry and milch cow raising. This requires external help and may be investments. Government can rope in retired civil servants, local students, corporate and wealthy individuals as Village development sponsors and draw up a village level development plans and guide these villages along the path of development. India has just 6,00,000 villages.

8 Compared to what the individuals, NGOs, judiciary and media and voluntary systems have achieved, the work of the government in these areas is so far starkly ahead, at least in the last 10 yrs. The remedy of our constant carp may be redesigning the election systems so that it becomes lot less expensive and faster administration of punishment for political misadvantures. What can u achieve from a justive system which passes judgement on disproportionate wealth accumulation after 20 years and after the person has died). If these 2 can be addressed and we give the politicians some space, perhaps we can make faster progress.

If judiciary and Lawyers can together ensure that delivery is not derailed and delivered within 2-3 months for cirmes, crimes and thefts etc might even vanish. Even Politics will become a lot cleaner. Will our Lawyers accept the challenge. In fact the media should also concentrate on exposing lawyers who delay justice infinitely by misuing their priveleges.

9 India should perhaps have gone for European type co-operative model of corporate existance than English and American type Limited liability company types. We are high social animals and more susceptible to social policing and peer pressures than top down relatively more impersonal legal governance, audit and rules based systems, court trial and punishment systems. social pressures would have achieved the end result at a far reduced cost. (may be, I am foolish, but when no one can prove it otherwise let me take some liberties in being expansive).

(Sorry no videos in this piece)

Demonetisation Lessons from Brazil

An edited version of this article appeared in Financial Express today. Link: http://www.financialexpress.com/opinion/note-ban-lesson-from-brazil-best-way-to-demonetise-is-not-to-have-one/472432/

Public policies are best when a lot of reason goes into their formulation and passion into their implementation.Those looking for an effective recipe for formulation could learn a lot from Brazil. It has demonetised its currency 8 times since 1942 and thrice simply knocked off the last 3 digits of its currency overnight i.e. like a 10,000 Cruzeiro (then Brazilian currency) will be 10 Cruzeiro from next day morning.

Lessons from 1830s to 1942.

Even before from 1830s it has been compelled to experiment with its currency due to evolving politics. The early experiments are to do with metallic convertible bases like silver and gold, metallic copper coins, birth of parallel paper money,  etc.

In early 1830s in order to stabilise the external value of Mil-Reis (then currency), the centre starved supply of currencies reducing the circulation of copper coins in the provinces. The provinces responded by issuing their own notes to neutralise demonetisation. Promissory Notes issued by Commercial banks valid for 15 days by law began to be accepted far beyond their due dates. (Source: Page 39-43,  Monetary Statecraft in Brazil: 1808–2014, Kurt Mettenheim)

Some other time commercial banks were allowed to issue bank notes (like in Hong Kong where currencies were issued by Standard Chartered and HSBC till accession). This led to loss of control of central authority and dilution of monetary policies.

Brazil through its history has clearly proved that no one can ‘starve’ the people of currency for far too long.

1942-1994

This period was mostly about high government expenditure, unbridled fiscal gaps and high inflation. Brazil demonetised 8 times before the last one in 1994.

It has had to change its currency, the ultimate form of demonetization for every conceivable reason – to tackle black money (Indian objective), to tackle hyper inflation, tackle daily cumulating interest rates of 3% (which is nearly 50,000% p.a.), base erosion, commodity price volatilities especially in Copper or just to avoid confusion (if Brazil had retained its currency same as in 1942, it would be 1 US $ =  2750 followed by 18 zeros, a nightmare for the accountants). They have been far deeper than t he Indian type demonetisation – the entire spectrum was replaced and the currency itself renamed.

The last in 1994.

The most recent in 1994 seemed Quixotic. It was aimed more at breaking the psychology of inflation. With 100% inflation consistently for 14 preceding  years (in 4 years over 1000%), shops had to revise prices 3 times everyday. That is when the government decided to use two currencies simultaneously – one virtual for counting the real value of currency and another for payments and settlement – and every shop having to display its prices in both and revise it 3 times a day.

But unexpectedly, people started anchoring their values against the real value (which was set near 1 Real Value unit = 1 US$).  Within a quarter or so, it was clear people were not rushing any longer to shops to avoid their currency buying less than when they started from home. Inflation abated and the real value became the Real the official unit. It was perhaps one of its most successful experiments that has lasted till date.

Lessons from Brazil

People will seek ways to settle transactions in the most cost and effort efficient ways. For many transactions in much of India, using currencies across the counter is still the most efficient option. In 1970s and 80s, when there was a coin shortage of sorts,  Chintamani co-operative superstore in Coimbatore used to issue their own tokens. These slowly gained acceptance with public so much so that even government owned busses and offices used them.

The parallel systems will start issuing notes and IOUs which will be strictly ‘enforced’ amongst its members through extra legal authorities.

One thing Brazil has always got right (between 1942-1994) is to have the 1,2,5,10,20,50,100 note sequence – considered the most friendly from transaction settlement point of view.

Currencies are as much about psychology and convenience as values for accounting and transaction, as the 1994 experiment so decisively proved.

The best way to demonetise is not to have one – avoid inflation, avoid unjustifiable or un-implementable tax systems, and not to issue too much of it anyway. Brazil has about 3% as currency/GDP whereas India’s is11-12%. Government should have incentivised and reduced it by 1% every year rather than force it in one lump.

A parade of demonetisations has not exactly curbed either parallel economy or corruption in Brazil. Corruption and black money is so rampant, their President was recently impeached for corruption, their biggest real estate tycoon is behind bars and may have to spend the rest of life there if not politically rescued.

Why black money or parallel economy, there is a near parallel administration being run by the mafia through drugs, extortion, violent thefts (one murder every 10 minutes i.e 140 a day, down of course from 600 a day not so long ago), etc. none of which will be happening through tax paid cheque money transfers.

Conclusion

In summary Brazil offers 3 ground rules (perhaps not with successful examples as much as negative narratives):

  • the way to tame inflation is not periodic demonetisations but curb state populism,
  • the way to curb black money and illegal economy is not starving people of cash but well thought out tax policies and effective punishments, and
  • the way to protect free trade from causing domestic unemployment problems is to maintain the external value of the currency which in turn is achieved by restricting external capital inflows to just what is required for financing current account deficits. (Donald V Coes, Macro Economic Policies and Growth in Brazil, 1964-90)

One would definitely give credit to both the government and RBI for curbing state populism within FRBMs. But given the levels of corruption in tax collection systems itself, black money curbing through demonetisation seems an ill fitting solution. Unemployment is rampant and growing due perhaps to highly overvalued Rupee and extra terrestrial real interest rates.

The daily dose of RBI circulars does indicate that someone is extremely alert at the wheel but whether he knows the destination and if it will deliver enough gains for the pains people are experiencing, time alone will tell.

The writer is CFO and author of ‘Making Growth Happen in India’ (Sage Publications)

Cashless Crawford Market

Cashless Crawford Market

In between meetings got 40-45 minutes in Crawford Market (CM) (near VT station, =ent of Kotwal Chavdi and Moore Market of yore and Chawdi Bazaar of delhi).

I have not seen CM as deserted and lean crowded in peace time; the last I saw it like this must be 1992 and 1993 during times of frequent riots or shut downs when only the locals would dare to go there. The car park attendant was half way into the road trying to virtually garner cars into parking lots (see empty lots) – in normal times he won’t even look at you.

The first few – panwala, vermilion and turmeric vendor and dry fruit shop all mirrored what one has been hearing – yes it is difficult, acchaa kadam, and we are willing to bear the pain for the sake of nation, once sufficient new currency is out business will be back to normal.  Except the dry fruiter who has been using POS credit card instrument said that the usual transaction size is Rs 150 – 750 and try as he might he has not been to push the card based sales beyond 50%. Our customers collect cash from theirs and don’t want to deposit it in bank and draw against them – all involving waste of time. He would rather dispose it on us. The interest rate in their market is about 3% per month.

Then I bumped into Quereshi, the genius and his partner (he is the 1st one after about 25-30 people I have talked to who seemed to mirror my views on this subject… so he can afford to live with the insult of being called a genius. He switched over to decent and fluent English once he assessed my scholarship with Hindi).

He doubted if this would deliver anything concrete and was critical of ill prepared implementation. The fruit vendor gets his supplies mainly from Kashmir and Shimla and distributes locally with transaction size of 200-400 – 2-3 crates at a time. They must have put more 500 notes on the market (and even later Rs 500 and 1000 not 2000). Many of them give me Rs 2000 now and i don’t know how to conclude the sales… we don’t have change to give. Sales have gone done from about 60-70K per day to 12-13K per day now.

But the bigger problems are the banks. They are not clear – lot of indiscriminate questions which serve no purpose. We did not have a bank account here in the market only near home in the suburbs. But we opened one after the announcement to make sure that from our end upwards dealings are in cheque – we have no hope our customers will be able to give cards. We are trying to deposit 12-13 k per day each last 5-6 days and everyday they ask same and different questions and we are spending 2 hours in queues and questions. Not an encouraging welcome to the world of banking and credit.

I asked him why his customers can’t give cards and pay thru Paytm etc. We don’t want to take credit risks on our customers – tomorrow he will cancel payments claiming fruits were rotten, etc. (think they were confused with cheques) and we also hear that Paytm and Cards take 3-4% charges and pay after some 15-20 days. Kaai Ko Junjut? (it was my turn to look confused perhaps ignorant for i have no knowledge of how the merchant reimbursements from Paytm and Cards take place).

I asked him about the benefits of wiping out black money … desh ke bare mea koyi nahi sochtaa … modi yaa Rahul. The last genuine politician was Vajpayee. He was doing something… building roads. Creating jobs and there was progress. Now there is nothing happening … no jobs.

About terror funding … aap kya sochthey… inke pass 1-2 lac crores hai that we want to immobilise. Kya bakwas? Excuse. They must hardly be having 6 to7,000 crores, at best. Isko nikaalne ke liye itna natak? So many people having to run around for so many days wasting precious time? Most of the funds are there with politicians and a few rich people.

But one benefit … the rich were getting richer fast. This will stop it getting worse. But at the same time he opined that more and more rules and controls that the Government is putting is to facilitate the rich; why disturb routine of the poor? (seemingly contradictory).

These apples used to cost 2-3 at the farm gate 15-20 years back and cost another 1-2 rs to get it here. Nowadays it costs rs 10 at the farm gate but costs Rs 15 to get it here and foreign apples are continuously getting cheaper, so we are earning less and less. Imports should be banned outright and we should get it from Shimla for far less here. (Trump would readily agree with his trade theories).

But he was also dismissive that the cash will have any adverse long term effect on their business. 6-7 weeks. Maximum by 1st Jan, things will be back to normal. Not a big bother.

The following from the Fund Manager of the 2nd largest private sector mutual fund.

  • Workers in Maurvi which supplies much of the ceramics for the construction industry have started in droves to go back to their home town in Bihar, Orissa and J’Khand …lost hopes about construction industry’s immediate revival prospects … cash now and GST later in an industry where nearly all transactions are in cash.
  • We have no data for analysing the long term consequences … if it will last 2-3 qtrs or 2-3 years and permanently pull down growth rates by 2-3 %.
  • More than half of our GDP comes from unorganised sector. They give 70% jobs. They all dodge tax in varying degrees. If you impose 18% GST on them, they will all become uncompetitive and a majority will have to shut down. This will leave lots of people at the lower most level jobless. This can create a huge social issue.

 

If the exercise ends up trapping at least 3-4 lac crores, it could be deemed a success. If it ends up mopping up 1 lac cr or less, Modi might end up looking a modern day Quixote and Jaitley his able assistant  Sancho Panza.

 

 

New Zealand : Some Random Impressions

New Zealand: Some Random Impressions

While we were taxiing towards our bay in Auckland, the City of Sails, i saw 2 Airbus 380s and i was in the 3rd. I was wondering whats a small country to do with so much traffic. 2 NZ ladies in the flight with me from Delhi had told me that Christchurch (CC) or Dunedin would have been better choices, if I loved waters and sea. Lucky I wasn’t headed for CC. When they had a sniffer dog smell me in a evasive sort of way, my doubts doubled.

1 It appears that everything they want to talk about their land they want it in superlatives at some level – world, country, county, or city. When the guides said that NZ has the highest per capita Golf courses, fastest sail boats – believable. Then it comes to tallest city tower in the southern hemisphere. But then it stretched to Kane Williamson was their best bet to break all SRT’s records, the Rotarau’s geyser as the highest, endless list of Volcanic craters (most of them 50-100 sq yards big and height of 2 storied building: most Delhi’s waste heap would be taller), some cricket stadium of their’s being the best in the  World, Hamiltons park being the largest manicured garden, and a stranger answering me for directions said I will find the ANZ banks’ around the corner which does anything that one desires. It looked like eager parents’ verbal make up for their wards substandard performance. I don’t know if its fuelled by the Aussie’s big brother attitude from next door. I have only seen people with short supply of self esteem do it – excessive use of superlatives about themselves.

2 You can see people walk on Red if there is no vehicular threat, cars dodge signals if there are no others on sight, Cars nudge or even bully you into yielding ways… pedestrians dont always manage the priority, … but then people are largely sensitive to others. All of them are helpful. Highly secure streets and little signs of crime. On the streets great feeling of security. It is a great compromise of convenience over rules and conditions. I didn’t see a single policeman through the trip. The sniffer dog seems to be an aberration.

3 One doesn’t see many BMWs, Audis and Mercedes on the road – in fact not many luxury cars not anywhere on the scale one sees in Delhi. I gathered that NZ imports a lot of used cars from Japan, uses them and crushes when they are done and re-exports the steel back to Japan. Very sensible approach.  Its geography almost looks like Japan but demography – 4.5 million population against 125 million for almost similar area but far more cosmopolitan.

4 Patriotism at Peril: Most taxi is with Indians – Punjabis and so are the trucks i am told. I must have spoken to may be 25  South Asians – students, professionals who have arrived recently, professionals, etc. on how often they visit their home country. Just three said they have gone back after coming here or are regular visitors. Most of them hemmed and hawed and said that they will be visiting this season or the next. The Srilankan businessman driver has not gone back in 15 yrs, a lone Bangladeshi claimed he does not make enough money but visits once in two years, a Jalandhar driver said that he goes back on an average 4-5 years for wedding, there is not much point going because after 28 years there is no place where I can stay. The fellow is stuck with more than 40,000 Modi Indian notes and does not know what to do with them.

I thought people will miss their home country and patriotic feelings will make them want to go back often. Either NZ is too much of a magnet or Patriotism is even more shallow than ‘out of site out of mind’. If the emigrant does reasonably well or settles down, I guess patriotism goes out of the window.   So any excessive reliance on emigrants for fostering economic development at home is highly misplaced, it appears.

5 I have not seen a more cosmopolitan, ethnically diverse, mutli-racial, multi-cultural place than Auckland. The native Maoris (the same race found in Hawaii , Samoa and New Zealand) are the original Polynesian inhabitants. They claim numerical superiority, followed by the English. The highest for immigrants is South Africans.  In Auckland’s 15 lacs, 1.3 lacs is Chinese, 0.9 is India’s, Koreans in between, and Japanese come with 15K. Almost every country seems to have representation here. AND THEY  HAVE ALL MINGLED VERY WELL.

6 NZ is not as English as Australia where the white immigrants still dominate. Its more like independent but still under the Crown  The Maoris (natives) constitute 30-40% of population, and their language is the first language. They have not been subjugated like the Aborigines in Australia. Most street names in Cities and Town and Village names are in the native language. The most famous Maoris are Stephen Fleming and Mr Daniel Vettori. (Both tenacious cricketers one must admit). One can get away with either language and a Indian tourist like me can feel completely at home with Bangra dance, Punjabi food, Kebabs and Indians to guide anywhere, since they make a lot of sales counter staff.

7 Conclusion: When I was taxiing out I was still wondering about the 380s and the reasons. NZ is not as scenic as  Swiss or many other western countries, does not have heritage like India, Egypt, or Cambodia (its Rotarau, its main and earliest tourist attraction, and surroundings could be packed within just south Delhi Qutab area, it has no art like Paris or its clones Saigon, modernity or business like Shanghai or Singapore but yet so much traffic. It ceased to be a F1 destination 2 decades back, its cricket is to a restricted world.

I had asked the NZ ladies what they liked about India during their tour to Rajasthan. “People. They are so patient. Such a chaotic traffic, yet people are patient, not frustrated and quarrel at all. What extraordinary people!’. Something I keep criticising daily – is a source of positive wonder and admiration for visitors. So… one never knows.

NZ offers plenty to water sports people and is a leader in Dairy Industry (which their people are now beginning to believe leads to too much of environmental problems especially the soil run off and they feel they should switch over to industrial hemps instead). It has 3 weathers for every hour which I liked as an introductory offer, but I don’t know if its a long term positive or negative. May be as the Ladies said Christchurch and Dunedin have far better stuff to offer like skying, mountain sports, rafting and sailing.

But I must admit that Auckland breaths down my neck the least of all cities I have visited. I felt very much at home; its homeliness had grown on me with just my first morning walk. People are nice in an endearing sort of way, not the cultured artificial way that Swiss comes off at times. Its not a place with an imposing discipline; it is not a place where everything is so well manicured that you feel diffident in enjoying them. Its humane in its little little imperfections everywhere.

India can certainly take a lot of hope to promote tourism. May be the soft infra  – better sense of cleanliness, security, avoidance of leering lewd looks, and reception to visitors – have a lot more significance than we care to recognise. India has perhaps most hard infrastructure. If it works it can significantly boost tourist arrivals.

India’s Culture Boast tries to hide serious shortcomings

 

This is rather bashful and may sound offensive to some of you; so please exercise discretion to read or reject. But pl feel free to be copious in criticism , in case you read it:  I will know if my line of thought is directionally correct or i need to relook.  Thanks.

From time to time there are whatsapp waves or internet deluges claiming or implying India’s Culture is the Best and that it can teach so much to the West but India has itself nothing much to learn from the rest. (if You don’t agree? – you can trawl internet. Or give up reading further). Sure any ancient civilization like India’s must be having something great to give others. The things cited in favour are the family values, mohella culture, way we come to others’ rescue during crises, our everlasting marriages, and of course West’s flippant marriages and divorce rates of 43%, 67%, 97% whichever way the tongue twists[1] and as soon as this trump card is dealt … if you are sensible you are supposed to concede defeat and shut up.

Without perfecting the art of Match making, to expect marriage that last a life time seems rather naive to me. This threat to quit I think is essential for both sides … for the men folks to defend excessive hen pecking and domineering and for the women folk against abuse and philandering by their men. Otherwise it will become like a football match where the referee has no powers of yellow or Red cards. I am within striking distance of kissing death with my first marriage intact … so i can say this without guilt of justification.

First the West, then the East

A few years back, I was escorting the CEO of the 2nd largest paper company in Europe after a day long discussions in our office. The first thing he  told me on entering the lift was that he had a 21 year daughter and that his concerns regarding her were she does not take to wrong husband or go lesbo since that seemed to be the  fashion. “i am sure she is not into drugs or other addiction”. I naively asked him if she was his daughter. “why you ask? This is my only marriage and only daughter”.

At another time the chief of Business Development of the largest European player, while on a drive to their plant, started lamenting that his daughter of 19 was not coming with them for vacations, participating in family get togethers etc. ‘We have even told her to take her separate room and otherwise offered incentives … but then you know we are clueless’. I have had a middle aged German PhD telling me once over phone on a holiday (i dialled without knowing it) that he was busy cutting trees in his father in laws farm since his FIL was too old to handle it and that he would dial once done.

I have not often come across those who are into 2nd and 3rd marriage.  I don’t go about doing a survey and hence it will be foolish of me to be conclusive. So I would rather reserve my judgement. The images I carried till i started interacting with them closely and frequently is vastly at variance with I have heard from others.

When the Vietnam Cabinet had come to India, since we were pursuing some project there we were asked to see them. We were seated and the person from their delegation who was to be seated opposite me came in and even while pulling the chair and trying to sit, shot straight as an arrow …”how many children you have”. My neighbour who was more in tune with their culture whispered ‘its normal for them’.  He enquired what my daughter was doing and i said engineering. He shared his sons plans and said ‘he is Ok, I have discussed and let him have his choice but my daughter i am confused and i will suggest engineering  to her after your daughter’.  All these even without shaking hands or introduction. I later came to know he was their Industries Minister.

So howsoever high may you be, concern for the family and sons and daughters run deep even in permissive societies.

So much for my boast about high profile meetings…now some show off about my rub with other cultures.

Whether it is our cultural shortcoming  or otherwise, we have a lot to learn where it concerns treatment of women, children and the old and underprivileged … in public and in private, collectively and individually. Without substantive correctives on this, we would continue to be a Banana republic reporting and reading daily doses of gruesome acts of murders, rapes, ragging deaths, bullying, eve teasing, lewd looks and violative abuses.

The kind of eve teasing or unsavoury remarks (even if the target of comments is out of earshot) i see on the Indian roads is aweful. A feudal mindset …as if God has created their targets for the exclusive comfort of the commentator. The same thing is the base for rampant ragging on campuses (you accept my/our superiority and we will take you under our wings). Lewd looks and cheapness of comments is something unique to India – at least the market share it enjoys in this is far disproportionate to its population. As a society and more as Individuals we show the least sensitivity to others rights, conveniences, and dignity.

Our Hindi movies peddle eve teasing and molestations as Romance. The more bizarre the Gender abuse, the better the justification for concocted heroism and chances of coffers hitting high numbers. Tell me the last time we evaluated any cinema by the social changes that they helped bring  about? But minute to minute updates on the amount grossed by each cinema are available on the internet. They have a decisive negative influence on our next generation and are my prime suspects for the increasing crimes against women.The worst of photo journalism in recent years is the wordrobe malfunction.

Give up wants and expectations and embrace Happiness

I don’t subscribe to the Western notions of women’s rights and gender equality. The fight for right itself recognises someone else’ superiority. True equality will be achieved only when people don’t even have to think about it. That I would say has been achieved in some East Asian Buddhist societies. In Vietnam, Bhutan and Myanmar there is such a high degree of respect for each other that its almost like there is only one sex where both recognise that they are designed to perform different biological functions and there is nothing more to it. I haven’t read or heard of any rapes or molestations in their societies, don’t see people teasing girls or women. During formal or informal dinners and sit ins, I see them cut even crasser jokes (enough to make me blush profusely) but its both ways. They get very explicit (like a girl about 27 years who i had known hardly for 90 secs till then once informed me that although she has a secure job and wealth she didn’t have assets in the right place and hence not able to get married). But its never with any sense of deriving cheap feudal satisfaction at being able to impose abuse and or inflict insult on the unfortunate recipients – present on the scene or otherwise: can’t be called ridicule by any stretch of imagination.

If I have to be born a woman, my top choice will be one of the Buddhist countries except perhaps Thailand if I should heed the advice of a friend who has lived there.

“Give up wants and expectations and embrace Happiness” seems to be the signature line of Buddhism. It settles a lot of modern distress including inter-gender friction, inter-age friction, and breeds responsible child care and public behaviour.

Our Epics

Probably our cultural fault lines as far as shoddy treatment of women is reflected in our great epics. One leading Epic (MB) starts with shaming a women. What is even more demeaning is that the very group we worship today put her as the bait for their bets. The other (R) is about a hijacked women. Again after all the trauma his wife goes through, the man finds it necessary to defend personal honour above her travails – honour before responsibility of providing life along expected lines. I refrain from further elaboration due to fear of hurting religious sentiments. I am aware that these Epics have a great lot of lessons to teach. I am aware that the Epics may not be actual (but there are too many evidences at various places in India to indicate otherwise) but a mere metaphor. Even if it is, the authors could have chosen a more sensitive story line.  Sure even Greek Epics have Helen and Eurydice as the lead characters in their storyline. But as much as I have read it there is nothing crass or abusive about them.

The bogies about the Middle east

Much against prevailing wisdom, I would say that the next lesson in respectful treatment of women, children or underprivileged should be from the middle east Islamic countries. I know its not popular going by the image or false illusions that have been created by the media.

Four 4 marriages is the prime reason or target of attack as if that is where abuse starts and ends. Triple Talaks are the next reason, as if the Divorces these days take any longer in the West – just the decision on % share of spoils takes time in Courts but the physicality is as immediate as the time it takes to say Talaks in the Middle East. So who are we fooling? When the ratio of women to men develops as 4 : 1 due to internecine war between various nomadic societies or as in Vietnam when men were reduced to 65% of women due to the American War, social changes and marriage customs are bound to shape suitably. “1: 1 and let the rest go to hell” cannot be a responsible social answer. But whether such a ratio should be hard coded into religion or left to evolve with times may be a matter of debate.

Oman which has been rated as the Paradise on Earth by the Spice Jet in house travel magazine is exactly that. Although there is a slant of protection towards women there -be it in workplace or streets or I would reckon at home. But who is complaining? There is also a lot more sensitivity to treating their poor almost on socialistic lines than reliance on Fate or Karma have allowed our society. The serene face of women does not reveal any fault lines between gender or age.

Looking at some Syrian women and men and their serene faces can be an exercise in meditation by itself. Such serenity could only come out of inner beauty and happiness and peace with the World around, stability of relations, feeling of security around life. That this is my observation from my only trip there which was when the country was deeply in ‘Civil’ war should speak volumes. ( as I had cheekily written in one of my earlier posts, I would any day prefer Syrian type ‘Civil’ War to the ‘Uncivil’ violations against women in Delhi streets everyday and the mindless manner in which the Press tries to milk it).

The stories that my friends tell  about the courtesies at home (much of the hosting of business courtesy lunches and Dinners take place at home, I am told) about Iran and Iraq makes me believe that women are treated like Queens within; only they have to wear their Hijabs outside their house. The patience of Indonesia is awesome.

Whether these countries alone are representative of muslim world may be questionable. But why do we have to bother with their religion? If there is something to learn, why not?

I wouldn’t want to mix up with the debates in India/South Asia.

Repeating myself I don’t subscribe to the Western notions of women’s rights and gender equality. The fight for right itself recognises someone else’ superiority. But if we were given that scale of Income and social realities where both spouses work, stability of jobs is not a reality and there is need for frequent job switches across cities or even countries, I am sure basic instincts will overpower our values and Culture and make us behave much the same way. With our lack of respect for rules and regulations and irreverent mindset, we might even evolve rather crudely. Future alone can tell.

I don’t think our Culture and Values alone will overcome human instincts.

Lets both teach and learn

It is not just biological differences, but several things else – race, colour, income, caste, etc … we let them become permanent handicaps right through one’s life term from birth rather than be accidental co-ordinates at birth after which one is free to develop on equal terms.

I know there are a zillion other things that make upthe Culture than just the way we treat Children, a great lot of society (not all) look at women, spit on the road, defecate, jump queues even ahead of elders, break road rules, jump signals, ask for bribes and accept them, confer favours on the undeserving or have no qualms in seeking them. I am sure India can be great on all those other things … but on these things we smell foul and are way below qualifying marks.

I reckon India should market its Yoga, Ayurveda, Epics, or other aspects of its culture more aggressively for its own benefit.

In substance and summary, the boasts about our culture seems a surrogate swagger or justification for our inability to progress, a failing attempt to hide our shortcomings. (I think so). People who are at the top and truly belong there don’t go about proclaiming that they are the best. (unlike Tyson or Md Ali). If we have something great to offer others will sure learn it from us given the ways of internet. If we find nothing great about the West, we don’t have to learn from them but there are others out there who can offer lessons. But even if we consider we are 80% perfect, lets learn the balance from the rest.

(PS: God has been kind to provide lots of travel opportunities to me but also appears to have imposed the responsibility to find out more about many who are not in any way connected the underlying business purpose. Pl pardon the offshoot boasts).

[1][1] As per official reports Netherlands and Czech republic (or is it just Amsterdam and Prague) have the highest divorce rate of 52%; the highest for the balance is 1/3rd. That is in 2012 or 13. May be we have made perverse progress by leaps and bounds since then.