Friday, 29 August 2008

Energy rationing is fair

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Fuel scarcity and power cuts have become a part of our lives. It affects our day to day schedule. We have to give up on many of the mindless luxuries that we indulged hitherto. We can no longer take a ride to the nearest chemist for buying obesity tablets. It is easy to argue that the Government should ensure adequate supply of fuel and power. Infact an actor turned politician in Tamil Nadu has told that you don’t require a power minister to tell that there is inadequate power supply. I know this person must have been playing to the gallery but then it is essential to remind ourselves of the famous Kennedy statement “Don’t ask what the country has done for you; ask what you have done for the country”.

Petrol companies are listed companies on the stock exchange and answerable to their shareholders. They can’t go on piling up losses in the face of high crude oil prices and not invoke the ire of investors. Similarly most of the electricity boards across the country have been restructured with loans from World Bank, etc. A commitment was made that energy subsidies would be eliminated but we have gone back on the same. Ensuring uninterrupted supply of power would mean buying from private parties at market rates and selling at subsidized rates. Finances of the most state energy boards are fragile, where will they go for funds?

Going back to the famous Kennedy statement, are we ready to do the following for the energy/fuel situation of the country:
Pay at market rates for these precious resources.
If we are unable to pay, accept gladly that rationing is a fair deal.
Try to look at alternatives wherever affordable i.e. those of us who can afford should go in for solar geysers/solar home lighting; walk distances less than 2 kilometers; use more public transport; try to implement the idea of car pooling wherever feasible.

The typical Indian mindset seems to suggest that Government is distinct from the citizens. Government derives it powers and limitations from its citizens especially when it comes to financial matters. We cannot infinitely be looking to the Government to dole out free lunches. Barrack Obama while accepting the Democratic nomination for Presidency spoke of “Individual Responsibility” and “Mutual Responsibility”. Terms which are totally inapplicable for India, it seems, given that we have a legion of petty minded leaders.

Thursday, 28 August 2008

Pathetic state of a prominent road in Bangalore, India

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This video clipping is taken at JC Road, Bangalore opposite Fun World. This video was taken on 28/08/2008 at around 9:15 am after the overnight showers. This video clipping was taken from a moving bus through a mobile by an amateur. Hence, kindly apologise the poor video quality. Coming to the video clipping the following points may be noted:-

a. JC Road is en-route to the Bangalore International Airport and any traffic obstruction here can affect the movement of traffic to BIA.

b. JC Road is not a low lying area and has a lot scope for the drainage to be improved. It is just that drainage has never been maintained properly.

The state of other roads in Bangalore may not be better given the apathy and indifference towards infrastructure by the authority assigned this responsibility viz., Bruhat Bangalore Mahanagara Palike. This is the picture across prominent cities in the country because there is no accountability for these civic bodies. We have to pay our taxes and suffer from bad roads, non-draining storm water drains and encroached footpaths. Wonders, when our cities will become a decent place to live. Kennedy made the famous statement “Don’t ask what the country has done; Ask what you have done for your country?” He meant that in a country where the rulers have accountability but ours is a country where the Citizen has not got his Fundamental Rights and the Government does not believe in discharging its duties, expecting accountability is a far fetched dream, I suppose.

Tuesday, 26 August 2008

Achieving "Swifter, Higher and Stronger" glory at London 2012 Olympics

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India’s performance in the recently concluded Olympics has made the entire country proud. More than the system, it is the individual grit and determination which has brought us this glory. The rhetoric minded would say that a country of “One billion plus people” deserve more medals. Olympics are not about proportionate allotment of medals it is about victory which is based on passion, hard-work, blood, tears, sacrifice and ultimately the podium. We should not cry for a medal but desperately want and work for one.

We are a country of achievers. We cannot and should not be satisfied with 1 gold and 2 bronze medal. We should pursue the Olympic motto of “Swifter, Higher and Stronger” in the right earnest. Sporting glory can prove the ideal platform to wean away the youth from drugs, crime, terrorism and such other vices. Sporting glory is a great unifier and in a seemingly fragmented country like India we require a heavy dose of it to keep the good spirit going. In this regard everybody has to contribute- the middle class; the Government; the Corporate and most importantly labyrinth sports administrators.

The popular discussion across the country for a few days (atleast among the middle class) will be how India deserves more medals. Honestly, let us touch our hearts and answer this question “If your kid has to choose between a B-school seat and selection to a national athletics meet, which will you encourage him/her to go for?”. 90-95% would pressurize their wards to go for the B-school seat, then why do we crib when Indians come a cropper in Olympics. The middle and upper middle class have to be ready to put their aspirations on the chopper and encourage their kids if they wish to pursue a sporting career. That is how we could get an Abhinav Bindra or now-out-of-favor Sania Mirza. Desperation for more Olympic medals has to be backed by action.

The Government would do well to constitute a committee of only professional sportsmen to identify the core areas where India has a scope to garner medals at London 2012. As a layman I would feel Shooting, Boxing, Wrestling, Badminton, Table Tennis, Lawn Tennis and Athletics would be the core areas. Hockey is our national game and focus should be to ensure that we have a podium finish at London 2012. Once the core areas are identified, the Government should identify funds for each sport and if required coerce corporate into adopting certain sports. Professional coaches should be employed at the senior and junior levels. The regional sports bodies should be professionalized with paid executives at the helm. National Games have to be held every alternate year (without fail). States which fail in this target should be banned for 25 years from hosting National Games. The qualifying norms for the National Games should be Bronze Medal (a very liberal norm given the complex regional situation in our country) in the recently concluded Asian Games. The field will be drastically reduced but it is better to have a worthy handful rather than an army of also-rans. The winners in these games should be adopted by the Government till the next Olympics and trained in the best international facilities. Their only focus should be how to improve their results. This is possible if their economic needs during the contract period are met. Have a grading system like in Cricket and pay the athletes accordingly. Middle Class values it children being educated. The Government should have separate sports schools and develop syllabus which will facilitate a child to pursue his sporting career with full vigor and also on the sidelines get a graduation which may stand in good stead in case his sporting career does not take off.

Indian athletes require international training, better nutrition and world class competition. All this requires money. Unlike in the 80s or 90s there is no shortage of money, you require ingenuity to tap the bounty. In whichever sport possible, the sport bodies have to come up with a marketing version; one which can be seen and enjoyed even by the person who has no knowledge at all about the sport. Just see, what 20-20 has done to Cricket. The purist must comprise to have a watered-down enjoyable version of the sport to make it worthy of television viewing. There is no sport which can sustain its popularity today without television. Make the game television friendly. Eg: In tennis, you can win a point in the opponents serve but can’t do the same in Badminton. I just find it difficult to understand this logic except that it lengthens the game.

Any entertainment activity or sporting event which earns more than 25 to 30% return on its investment should be made to part 5% of its profits towards “Olympic Sports Fund”. Lets assume that a film is made at the cost of Rs.50 crores and earns Rs.100 crores, the production company must be made to part with 5% of the profit i.e. Rs.2.5 crores. A Corporate which contribute towards this fund should be given 100% tax exemptions and also coverage in the sporting event. Being radical there could be no harm in renaming the Indian Hockey Federation as Indian- XXX Company Hockey Federation for a period of 5 years, if they are willing to run the sports. Expenditure from the funds should be posted on a website item wise. Overheads should be limited to 25%. The annual report and accounts have to be discussed and debated on the national network. In sports which are identified as the core areas, to begin with there should be atleast One International meet every year which could be increased to 2 or 3 per year when the funds swell. In a couple of years, the Commonwealth Games will be held in New Delhi. Huge facilities are going to be created and they should be utilized optimally even after the games. In Bangalore, the Kanteerava Indoor Stadium is more used for conducting trade fairs and less for indoor games. What a colossal waste!

The plague affecting our sports bodies is that they are being unprofessionally. I am not asking for elimination of the Politician being at the helm of the affairs. A politician at the head of a sports body does makes it easy to access government funds, sponsorships, etc. However, some of the politicians have been heads of sports bodies for ages without doing anything worthwhile. Such of them have to be weeded. Politicians should be kept away from sporting matters which should be handled only by former players of international repute. The sports administrators have to assume the role of a business manager. They should be looking for every opportunity to market the sport and garner more money rather than clinging on to their seats. Fiasco administration like the one which donned the management colors of our National Game should be eliminated at the earliest.

More importantly, we should have realistic goals. Some sections of the ever hyping press is already talking about overtaking China in 2012, which is humanly impossible. It will take us more than a couple of Olympics and a lot of sincere efforts to reach that point and meanwhile other countries are also equally going to upgrade themselves. Ideally, we should aim for a top 20 finish in the next Olympics.

How about Andhra Sea and TN Bay

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Monday, 25 August 2008

A stock tip

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It was late 2003, when Indian stock markets were about to boom. Anybody with a limited knowledge of how stocks operate could easily pick a stock which can give you 25-30% return in a very short term. I was fairly proficient in picking stocks and had a lot of “FrIeNdS” who used to call me up frequently for stock tips. One of them was an esteemed colleague of mine who wanted a stock tip every day. I had enough of this guy and wanted to get rid of me. I decided to give him a dose of my dry humor and was waiting for his call.

It was a Monday morning, when this guy called me up and started with his usual “plastic pleasantries” and came to his point “Any good picks?, Balu”.

Me “Yeah, sure, sure, there is a great pick and it is a multinational”
He “What is the name of the company and what line of business they are in”
Me “Sort of they create needs for new infrastructure and security equipments in countries wherever they go. Their model of business also creates lot of business for the health industry”
He “How many countries they are in?”
Me “No exact idea but they are fast expanding but everybody is after them”
He “FIIs”
Me “No even the internal agencies errr.. I mean investors”
He “How is the business model?”
Me “Very good ya, wherever they implement their plans, they create a huge impact, the first major one was in 2001 in US” (I hope everyone has guessed what I am talking about). The name of the company is TTC”
He “What TTC?”
Me: (laughing out) Taliban Trading Corporation, invest karega kya?.

Very sheepishly he kept the phone down and till date has not called me back for more than 3 years. He also avoids my path when we come across in the corridor. Now that is what I call is a Good Riddance to Bad Rubbish.

Look who is talking Constitution

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Nightlife in Bangalore is banned after 11:30 pm and so also are discotheques. The Police Commissioner contends that his reduced the crime rate in night times. The same is debatable but this blog is to focus on profusion of Constitution by a regional outfit in a discussion on this subject conducted recently by a popular English news channel. This regional outfit has done its share of good work to the state, the recent one being raiding a rave party on the outskirts of the city. They compelled the police to apprehend the concerned and kudos to the work done by this regional outfit. They have the own share of glitches with the law mostly done to drive home their point of regional supremacy. This is what the spokesperson of this regional outfit spoke on the channel:-
There is a need to respect the Constitution by one and all.
We should be law abiding citizens
Our assertion of rights should not hurt others.
We should have civic sense.
A women appearing/dancing in half naked dress is wrong (Wonder why they don’t haul up the local filmmakers who do a much worse depiction of woman in their films).

This is not about only this regional outfit but the entire range of them across the country. We all know what is the record of regional outfits on the above points? Most of their agenda border on secession.

An elderly gentleman on the show asked this question but the spokesperson just nodded his head. The moderator also for reasons best known to her did not quiz the spokesman on this point. Hopefully, the nod is an assurance that in future they will practice what they preach for others.

Sunday, 24 August 2008

It is a peril being a pedestrian in Bangalore

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Recently a villager was killed by a speeding vehicle which was en-route to Bangalore International Airport (BIA). Admittedly the villager may have jay-walked across the road and got hit. If you were a pedestrian in Bangalore, you would admit that jay-walking on Bangalore roads is the only option left for pedestrians. This may be true of other cities also.
I have been on the BIA road quite a few times and don’t find very many places for the pedestrian to cross across the road. Today it can be argued that most of it is an empty landscape and hardly a few people cross the road but what happens a few months down the line, when the entire road will be buzzing with mega construction activity. First of all, I am not comfortable with the logic that traffic on this road should move unhindered. Even accepting that logic, why was not this stretch of road planned with more pedestrian underpasses, skywalks, etc? If we decide to go in for underpasses tomorrow, are we going to dig up the well laid roads? What a mockery of commonsense would that be but when has commonsense been the forte of city planners in Bangalore? Here I would like to point about Old Madras Road on Bangalore, which hardly has any safe avenue for pedestrians to cross the road. A zebra crossing is present only at four or five places starting from RMZ Infinity (near Ulsoor Lake) leading upto KR Puram Railway Station and even those are not respected by speeding motorists. This stretch of road is almost 10 kms.

It is more difficult to be a pedestrian in Bangalore than a vehicle owner. A pedestrian’s life and limbs are always in peril in Bangalore, thanks to the insensitive motorists combined with the apathy of the law enforcing agencies. Somehow it is assumed that pedestrian is not a part of traffic when the truth is one can escape from being a vehicle owner but not being a pedestrian. Two wheelers plying on footpath and the traffic cops remaining a silent spectator is not uncommon in Bangalore. In most traffic signals in Bangalore, vehicles wait for the green signal on the zebra crossing and the traffic cops hardly mind it leave alone fining such mindless motorists. It is normal for motorists to ply even when the traffic signal is for the pedestrian to cross and the traffic cops don’t even blink an eyelid.
Footpath as defined in the dictionary is “a narrow path for walkers only or a raised space alongside a road, for pedestrians”. In Bangalore it is a space exclusively reserved for the shopkeepers, garage owners, gas agencies to transact their business. Many of the corporation authorities don’t even know it is an offence and those who know it is one make a quick buck from the shameless small businessman. The traffic police who promptly book any vehicle for being parked in a no-parking zone do not mind when the footpath is fully obstructed. The pedestrians are left with no option but to walk on the road. Once in a while, one of them will get by a vehicle and people will burn a few vehicles but that does inspire neither the corporation nor the traffic police from cracking hard on the offenders. After all allowing such transgressions is so beneficial for both the parties.
From past few months, I have been trying to clear the encroachments on footpath in the locality where I stay. I have sent half a dozen complaints to various authorities in Bangalore Mahanagara Palike (Bangalore City Corporation) but no action has been taken. Last Friday on August 22, 2008, I called up the Joint Commissioner (East) office to check up status of the complaint. His P.A. attended the complaint and after first denying my complaint has been received, he told that the same has been forwarded to the concerned engineer. The answer which he gave next defined the peril of being a pedestrian in Bangalore “Sir, if we try to clear the encroachments on the footpath, Shopkeepers will shout at us”. Need I say more?

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Banglaore, Karnataka, India