Friday, 8 August 2008

An infrastructure mess in cox town, bangalroe

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One of the best examples of infrastructure mess in India should be the Cox Town (Bangalore) over bridge. The only demand of the residents over there was a small over bridge over the railway gate which would ensure that traffic does not come to stand still when a train passes. As fate would have it our system does not like to do anything simple and sleek. Instead they went into for nearly a KM long flyover and the construction of the same is going on for years and possibly for a few more.
Reasons for delay is one part of the woe but the main woe is did Cox Town require such a swanky flyover? Why is that in our system any infrastructure solution is big? Why can’t we think small and effective? Does it pay for the powers to be of our system, if a project is big?
Ask anybody who has been to Cox town during the pre-flyover construction days, they will tell you that such a big bridge was a total waste. Cox town was a locality developed by the Britishers and Wheeler Road (where the bridge is being built) had wide roads to rival any locality in Bangalore even from the 80’s. The road was easily divided and there was no problem in the flow of the traffic. All that was required was a small flyover or underpass, at the railway interjections to avoid clustering of traffic. Subsequent to the construction of the mega-flyover, all the small businesses in the main road will get badly affected. The bridge is getting completed perennially. All that citizens can do is to take out frequent protest rallies
Cox town flyover is one of the many infrastructure messes of this country. We build mega flyovers and bridges where it is not required. The projects never get completed on time further inconvincing people. Can we never think small and sleek when it comes to infrastructure project? Why invest on projects which have no need in the first instance? It maybe glamorous to go in for big projects, but let these people remember two things, the project is being executed at the cost of the tax payer’s money and second the money can be used elsewhere more profitability even for building a flyover elsewhere.

Thursday, 7 August 2008

The All mighty Internet

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Internet has changed the way we live beyond recognition. Internet is a great boon for families with friends and relatives staying far away or abroad. No longer have you to depend on snail-mail or phones for enquiring welfare, there are the friendly to use emails and chat messengers. Family functions videos can be uploaded in sites which have such facilities. Transfer of money from abroad takes place at the snap of a finger.

Email has touched even the most obdurate Government Departments. I was surprised to find that I could get a response from the Indian Railways on a complaint about corruption in their Department. In the recently concluded Karnataka Assembly elections, I could get precise information about my name in the voter list. It is more reliable to scan and send a signed letter through email, than by fax or post. Many of the institutions conduct their exams online to avoid paper leaks and to give quick results. Exam results are available online to avoid anxiety for students and parents alike. Filling of tax returns online should be mandatory to avoid wastage of paper.

Access to information has become very easy with internet. I still remember the struggle I had to undertake for collecting information for a school/college assignment/essay/debate. Today all that you require to know is how to use a search engine. Students can download model question papers for exams. Tourist information, recipes, pictures, economic data, sporting statistics, movie gossips, etc is available at the click of a mouse. Booking an airline ticket, hotel rooms, movie ticket, paying utility bills can be done without moving an inch.

Trading of shares online is a great boon for the small investors. Gone are the days when you had to linger behind the sub-brokers for buying a share and waiting months for its transfer. E-shopping is yet to catch up in India mainly because of lack of trust on the customer’s part about the quality and also lack of variety in the products offered. E-shopping will never be safe because the hackers will be always ahead of the system. If we refrain from e-shopping on this account, we should also refrain from using our debit and credit cards. It was recently reported that in the US, hackers stole customer data from major shops through their laptops. Their modus operandi was simple, sit in a car with a laptop and trap all credit/debit card transactions and download vital data. They have used this data to defraud many innocent shoppers.

The best contribution of Internet is getting the world together. You can communicate your opinions to a wider number of people. You can post a video in Youtube on deforestation in your place and get global attention for it. Recently, I could clear an encroachment of public property because I told the concerned authorities that if they don’t clear the same, the images of the same will be posted in the internet with their names. Blogs are such a boon for professional and amateur writers alike. Articles/Poems without the required finesse can be shared, appreciated, criticized and understood thanks to the internet. I could associate with a NGO viz., Leadcap thanks to Orkut.

Internet is being misused like any other invention. Internet per se is not bad. Internet in future could give us alerts if our dear and near ones are in trouble. Internet should be enabled to prevent corruption and bring governance to our doorsteps. Internet should be able to educate the literate on civic sense and penalize them when they err. Shopping in internet should be made secure through genetic signatures. There are many a dreams for internet but it will find its own way. After all nobody guessed it to dominate our lives the way it did. The next generation Hotmail, Google or Blogspot may be germinating in some mind or system in the World Wide Web. Like the almighty, it is omni potent and omni present.

Wednesday, 6 August 2008

Avoid the lure of easy money

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There is a proverb “The lamb always believes the butcher”. The same logic seems to apply to middle class wanting to earn that extra buck. They always end up with guys who swindle their money. Be it the chit funds, the MLM’s or the “stock market” investment schemes which promise 200 to 300% returns, these swindlers have a field day and most of them never get caught.

The unjustified and irrational greed of people who go and invest in such schemes is to be blamed. It is virtually impossible for the law enforcing agencies to keep a watch on every such scheme in a vast country like ours. The RBI frequently comes out with advertisements in various media warning people against such schemes. The police in some cases have traced the culprits and tried to recover the amount but given the long and winding process of law suits in our court, it takes ages and generations for one to recover the money.

People have to be intelligent enough to understand that when the best bank in the country itself cannot give more than X% of percent, how can an individual give X+10% or 20% returns? Either he is defrauding the people or he is investing in too very risky business, in which the chances of a failure are more than success.

MLM are one more form of defrauding money. I do agree that some of the MLMs are very good and help people to earn that extra amount of money. However, this is applicable only to MLMs which have a varied product base. Most of the MLMs just operate on the basis of you join and also join two on your left and two on your right (when we pull the shutters, you get a kick on the middle from all those you joined in our scheme). There is no product sold and money made. How do people expect such schemes to earn them money? I was part of an MLM. There was no problem with the MLM but there was an affiliated training program which sucked my interest out of carrying on the business. This training program required buying lots of cassettes, book and attending countless meetings. More than selling the product, emphasis was laid on getting newer people to the meetings and selling cassettes. The cassettes were priced at ridiculously high rates. Books were priced at higher rates than what you can get the original version for in reputed book shops. Unnecessary hype was created about those who addressed the audience in the meeting like “My children go to the same school as xxx cricketer in Australia”, etc, etc. Those who would want to do a MLM business would do well to avoid such shady training schemes.

Most investment analysts say that a return of 30-40% in the share markets is very good and if it is in the range of 70-80% in a year, such investments are considered multi-baggers. You can make 200-300% returns in the market if you stay invested over a period of 4 to 5 years but not in a matter of 5 or 6 months. Anybody who promises such returns needs to be reported to SEBI and investigated upon. Our people will instead handover the life savings to such cronies and later scream that the market is full of scams.

People have to get realistic. The lure of easy money is tempting for one and all but there is no such thing called easy money. Earn extra money the intelligent way not the greedy way. Have a check whether the returns promised are feasible. Find the credentials of the person who is promising the returns? A swanky rented office means nothing when they call it quits.

Monday, 4 August 2008

Most pathetic use of internet

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Internet is a free place. I think after the invention of wheel, this is the most revolutionary invention of mankind. You can use it anyway you like. You can use it to communicate with friend, conduct business, voice your opinions, spread your faith, etc. The most disgusting use of internet should be using it to spread superstition.

Time and again I have come across wonderfully worded emails ending with if you don’t forward it to so many people within this much of time, you will be cursed with bad luck for this many years. One more email such and such a god will bring you bad luck if you don’t forward this email so many people. In addition it contains vivid details of what good happened to those who forwarded these mails and disasters that occurred to those who did not.

My theist friends may please excuse, God is unable to instantly punish those who commit physical crimes, how can he do that to those who commit cyber lapses? He is the almighty and known to tolerate the transgressions of his devotees several times. So by practice he is compelled not to punish anybody instantaneously. How can he punish anybody with bad luck for several years for not forwarding an email? It is fun for most and ignored. There many a weak minds who panic on reading such emails and act haphazardly.

Using Internet to spread superstition is its most pathetic use. Earlier households used to get chain letters on such subjects. It seems the pathetic minds have an equally obdurate second generation which is bent upon creating a fear in the minds of people. There are good possibilities such guys are spammers and have inserted a worm alongwith the mail to get access to various email ids. I don’t believe in such stuff and give the kitchen sink (covered in velvet) to those who dare to forward me such mails and at times I have found out the source and given him/her a piece of mind. God and customs are a matter of personal choice. There is no harm in anybody forwarding a God picture even to an atheist like me but don’t put out such coercive messages which ultimately demeans the God you are supposed to be glorifying. Most importantly don’t use cyber space to foster your irrational thoughts.

Is formal dressing a corporate fuss

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I support formal dressing because it promotes certain amount of discipline and uniformity to the work place. Every office should have a dress code. I am from the Government service and at time feel disgusted with the way some of my colleagues dressing sense. Either some of them are in the perennial party mood (especially ladies) or some of them come in a clumsy way.

Having cleared my stand on formal dressing, I am equally disgusted with the parameters for formal dressing some of the companies have prescribed for their employees. Irrespective of the air conditioning inside the office, a three piece suit looks out of place in Indian weather conditions. I think a plain shirt (in acceptable colors) worn with a formal pant and black shoes does look as formal as a three piece suit worn with all the grandeur. I am yet to understand the practical reasons for wearing a tie. Somebody please educate me on the uses and need for a tie to be worn. Just imagine the plight of an employee with spondylitis required to wear a tie.

It looks as if formal dressing means aping the westerners. Yes, I do understand that we do business with them and have to look presentable in their eyes but that does not mean that we have to ape them. It is pitiable and disgusting to note that certain companies prescribe what constitutes a formal dress. It maybe argued that the employee has an option to quit a job which he is not comfortable but I am writing this blog in a free society and feel that an employee has a choice of dressing. Let the company define what does not constitute formal dress. I am not for attending a board meeting wearing a dhoti but at the same time don’t want offices to resemble schools. There is no dress code for me but I do ensure that I go to office in a dress which complements the organisation I represent and nature of job I do.

Sunday, 3 August 2008

Rediscover the team spirit of our freedom struggle

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The importance of team spirit has always been there and its need is more exemplified in a global village. Gone are the days team work meant developing cordial relationships with people whom you could see and feel; people who were from similar cultural backgrounds; people who could come over to your home; people who filled up in your seat during your absence; people who you could gossip about their personal lives, these are the days when you have to interact on critical matters with people whom you never see, hardly hear and mostly email. The notion of colleagues, bosses and subordinates has undergone a change beyond recognition. This is a version of what I have understood of team spirit. I don’t claim any originality for the content because being a self-centered person over the past few years; I have become tolerable in a team because of constant reading and practice.

Team spirit is not just vital but essential for success of any great venture be it in business, government, NGO or even in a family function. A great team never happens because of highly skilled yet selfish experts but by a combination of adequately skilled but accommodating individuals. The best example I can think of is the Prudential Cup victory we had in 1983. Except Kapil Dev and Gavaskar there was no other legends in the team, yet they could vanquish the mighty. Team is never made by a single individual; however he is crucial to the team’s chances. This fact is explained by the plight of Indian cricket team in the 90’s which was always dependant on Sachin Tendulkar to deliver the goods.

Team Spirit is putting team above personal success but that does not mean sacrificing one’s own goals, it is just that we should not work with goals which are directly opposite to a team’s goal. Let’s take a simple example, if we assume the traffic we move in as a team where all of us have a single goal is to reach respective destinations. To enable smooth movement of traffic, it does not mean we have to stay away from the roads but we can have lesser traffic jams by moving in an orderly manner or by travelling in a public transport.

Our country has the best examples in team spirit. If we turn back the pages of mythology, we can see examples of exemplary team spirit in our epics. The valiant Shivaji who fought the Mughals tooth and nail had an army with exemplary team spirit. There can be no better example of team spirit in contemporary history than the Freedom Struggle of our country. Our freedom struggle unlike other countries was not a violent one. We did not get freedom in a decade or two, it took us ages. That is the reason why our freedom struggle is the best study in team spirit. Thousands hanged, lakhs killed and countless jailed, yet, people did not stop the struggle for freedom. Methods adopted by Bapuji and Subash Chandra Bose might have been different but the goal was the same. That is what team spirit is all about people can have difference of opinion/ideas but the commitment to the goal should be steadfast and the best idea should win. In case of our freedom struggle, it was ultimately the path chosen by Bapuji which won.

The biggest of the business enterprise have become a success due to team work as much as for their line of business, product ideas and production values. Just ask yourself, Why does not every IT company become a Microsoft or an Infosys? Why does not every family business achieve the heights and reputation that the Tata’s have attained? Why does not every NGO become a “Narmda Bachao Andaloon”? It is not as if these organization did not have dissenting opinions on vital issues. Only chairs, tables, pens and papers wont dissent but not the people who sit and write on them. Differences of opinion and debate are essential to build team spirit. That is when the best of ideas come out and new leaders get discovered. Possibly the greatest dictators of this world met the end they deserved because they never encouraged dissent.

One good way to promote team spirit is to find friendship in your team. You can find areas of common interest amongst your colleagues and try to build a relationship based on these interests. This is a vital method of building bonds with your offshore colleagues. Ofcourse parties, dinners, lunches, combined workouts, car pooling can be great tools of building team spirit. Never gossip about your team members to others and most importantly with other members. This is like a termite, slowly and surely eats up the bond and creates groupisms. There are more aspects to building a team spirit, I have just penned down what I could think off and I am welcome to value additions. If India has to become a truly developed country by 2020, the need for rediscovering the team spirit of our independence struggle cannot be overlooked.

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Banglaore, Karnataka, India