Friday, January 10, 2014

To get back on track

It has been close to 1111 days since I last blogged. The plan is to get back to regular blogging, just for my own sake. Hence this post. This blog would have lost all its regular readers, if there were any! So I will start blogging again. Don't know when :)

Wednesday, December 08, 2010

Scams in India....It Never Ends

Today's morning news broke the arrival of new scam – food scam in UP and Land allotment irregularities in Tamilnadu. The news reader referred to the UP Food Scam as “Mother of all Scams”. I am not sure whether the news reader recollects that the same term was used for 2G Spectrum allotment irregularities about a week ago in the same news channel.

Two weeks ago, there was 2G, before that Commonwealth and Adarsh. In about 10 secs, I was able to note down the following scams; Satyam Computer Services Fraud; Justice Dinakaran – land grabbing case; Mining Scam – Jharkand; Mining Scam – Bellary; IPL ; Karnataka Land Allotment; Adarsh ; Commonwealth Games; 2G Spectrum Scam; Food Scam in UP; Land Allotment Scam in TN….It Never Ends.

Gone are the days when a person involved in corruption was looked down upon. Instead of social stigma, there is a wide spread social acceptance.

After seeing these scams, I myself realize as to how we are used to ‘palm greasing’ even for basic things – Gas connection, Drivers License, and many more things for which we have the Right to access and demand, still we need to go the extra 'penny' to get things done.

Transparency International, the global civil society organization leading the fight against corruption, ranks India at 87th position in Corruption Perception Index with 3.3 points.

The case of despair becomes even stark when the ex-boss of an anti-graft commission, Pratyush Sinha, threw his hands up in despair, saying his job was thankless and lamenting that increasingly materialistic Indians were becoming “utterly corrupt”.

Global Financial Integrity, an American think-tank, in a report suggested

From 1948 through 2008 India lost a total of $213 billion in illicit financial flows (or illegal capital flight). These illicit financial flows were generally the product of: corruption, bribery and kickbacks, criminal activities, and efforts to shelter wealth from a country's tax authorities.

Two points that need attention in the report are related to growth of economy and income distribution.

In the post-reform period of 1991-2008, deregulation and trade liberalization accelerated the outflow of illicit money from the Indian economy. Opportunities for trade mispricing grew and expansion of the global shadow financial system—particularly island tax havens—accommodated the increased outflow of India's illicit capital flight.

There is a statistical correlation between larger volumes of illicit flows and deteriorating income distribution.

There is a lot of simmering in the public on this raging issue of scams. These scams could plague the nation’s development. There are some NGOs formed to fight for anti-corruption. I for one believe, it is not for an NGO or any group to stop corruption (I am not demeaning the work done by them).
It is for the people to take collective responsibility. Most importantly, offenders should get punishment and this will bring in a sense of social correction. Judiciary and other Government agencies should bite and not merely bark.

Monday, December 06, 2010

“Right to Know” Vs “Right to Privacy”

There is enough written, discussed and debated on the Wikileaks in every possible forum. I am no pundit to comment on the implications no more than what is already been done to death. But the development over the last couple of days on handling the leaks is something that requires attention.

Everyone is gunning for Assange’s head, typical reaction we see from our politicians and bureaucrats, to bring an end to this leak menace. Servers were traced and shunted out, Interpol notices were issued against the Wikileak founder; so in essence, there is a massive hunt for human and physical infrastructure that helped created these leaks. Is shutting down the servers or finding Assange going to solve the problem? What if Assange is murdered tomorrow? Is anything going to change? I have my sincere doubts.

I think it is a classic case of missing woods for the trees.

The fundamental is – Wikileak has shown that technology exist to allow individuals to leak data while maintaining anonymity. With or without Assange, this model can survive. Assange has planted an idea – to enable anonymous leaking and make information public.

Technology made it easier for the Government and their agencies to snoop around the lives of individuals; the reverse is what we are seeing now. Individuals, alone or working together are snooping around the offices of the government. So, going forward government’s functioning should take into account the “secret-keeping” strategy as part of its functioning. From now on, this is going to be the situation that the government has to live-with.

Basic question is – Can such leaks be prevented? Yes. Those with the permission to access the sensitive materials refuse to divulge any information, this can be prevented. But this is highly unlikely. As long as individuals have their own moral and social sense – these leaks and scandals will continue.

To cap such leaks, the Government might lay severe restrictions on the flow of information and restrict few people to the sensitive data and information. This will constrain the information sharing between different governments agencies for the fear of leaks. This can hamper the normal functioning of the government.

There is always going to be a dilemma when "right to know" starts interfering with the “right to privacy”. For instance, medical records or transcripts of individuals are under the ambit of “right to privacy”. What if an individual is having some ailments is also the ‘Head of State’? Should this information get reported? That is where the challenge comes as to how are we going to interpret the data and information.If we have to stop any such leaks, our debate should be centered around things that determine leaks and not on the leaks.

Wednesday, December 19, 2007

Is Google taking on Wikipedia?

Google unveils its new online tool, Google Knol, defining it as "Unit of Knowledge". This tool helps people to share their knowledge. Currently, the tool is under development and only selected few are allowed to use it.

Friday, December 14, 2007

Are Diesel Vehicles facing a Ban in the Capital?

....If one goes goes by the statement made by Delhi Environment secretary J K Dadoo at roundtable of the automotive industry and civil society,
"We will come down with a strong hand and ban registration of diesel
vehicles in Delhi if everything else fails,"

My View:

  • The sale of Diesel vehicles are surging at the rate of 40-50% in Indian market. With many auto makers lined up for India launch, this move could well be a bomb-shell for their future plans.
  • Ofcourse the level of pollution is increasing at an alarming rate, which has to be met with stringent emission norms, but banning the diesel vehicles, even private vehicles is altogether a different proposition.
  • It is a known fact that public transport buses and some heavy vehicles run on polluted or rather suspect quality of diesel and coupled with poor maintenance is one of the main reason for increase in air pollution. Whereas, the private cars are maintained properly and thus using the same yard stick for all the categories of diesel vehicles is a mypoic view of policy making.
  • Nobody can stop a Delhi resident from buying and registering the car outside Delhi and bring it to Delhi

Stringent norms and tougher implementation are the requirement of the day and not a ban.

Counter View:

  • Diesel is one of the most highly subsidised fuel next to LPG, and all those subsidies can be put into better use than using it to polluting the city.
  • Let diesel be only as fuel for tractors and other agriculture machineries/equipments, rather as fuel for high-end private cars

Tuesday, December 11, 2007

BJPs Timing

On the eve of 1st Phase of Gujarat Polls, BJP announced Mr. L.K.Advani as its Prime Ministerial candidate for the forthcoming National Elections.

One cannot but help wonder about the timing of the announcement.

- It could be a signal that BJP wanted to give to the people of Gujarat, considering that it might create any last minute vote-swing in its favor.
- Is it a message to Narendra Modi & Co, that whatever happens in Gujarat Election, his claim in National Politics is still far away!

Otherwise, why was a person with dwindling support from RSS after his remarks on Jinnah was given a chance to claim the throne???

Salute Dada

I was one of them who had also thought that the days of Bengal Tiger in Internation Cricket is over. But after his performance in the last 6 months, he deserves an apology....
I take a bow and Salute Dada, wishing him a great days ahead.

Chinese Premier Breaks all Walls...

"Only an open and inclusive nation can become strong and prosperous, while a nation that shuts its door to the world is bound to fall behind."

"China's opening up policy is a long-term one. Opening up has brought great benefits to more than one billion Chinese. It is the right policy for China and has the support of the people, and it will therefore not change. To deviate from this policy will only impede China's development and we will lose popular support. This is the fundamental reason why China will stay on the track of opening up."

These were part of the speech that Chinese Premier Wen Jiabao expounded on china's open door policy in a speech during a gala dinner held in honor of him by Singapore Chinese Chamber of Commerce & Industry in Singapore.
What was more interesting about this speech was, the Premier admitting the days of bamboo curtain and subsequent regressive years, before a foreign audience!!

Focus Energy

Not less than a week ago, after i had commented on $100 plus Oil Prices and the change in market dynamics, on Dec 7th, US government has amended Corporate Average Fuel Economy (CAFE) regulations, which was first enacted in 1975 to improve the average fuel economy of cars and light trucks.
As i had mentioned, the bill seeks to improve the operational efficiency of the current fuel usage and also has lots of provisions to increase renewable fuels. Other countries should also take a cue and enact similar Energy policies with distinctive national requirements.
Some of the highlights of the Energy Bill are:
- Provisions to accelerate the electrification of transportation
- 40% increase in fuel economy requirement by 2020
- Increase the renewable fuel standard to 36 billion gallons per year by 2022
- elimination of about $13 billion in tax subsidies for big energy companies
Resource: H.R.6: Energy Independence and Security Act of 2007 (Engrossed Amendment as Agreed to by House)
Will have to wait and watch as to how the automobile manufacturer's and green house lobby react to the bill.

Monday, December 10, 2007

Ticket Booking Experience in Hyderabad

Getting bored over the weekends, with nothing do to, decided to watch some movie just to while away...Watched the trailer of Khoya Khoya Chand and felt it would be a decent watch.
Watched Khoya Khoya Chand at Sensations - Insomnia, Hyderabad. The movie was tasteless but what was interesting was the ticket booking experience at Sensations.
While standing at the counter to book tickets, i was asked to bend a little. I was wondering why? Then he flashed a camera and took my photo and the electronically generated tickets had my photograph and a barcode imprinted on it. It took me a few seconds to realise what was happening.
My surprise did not end here...
At the Screen entrance, there was a person sitting with a Computer and a Barcode reader. On flashing our tickets, the tickets were read using barcoding machine, photograph was verified with the person carrying the tickets and then marked Confirmed in the system. Automatically, those seats were marked red in the seating chart on the screen. Phew!!! It was too much...
Even Prasads and PVRs, some of the most popular Cineplexes in Hyderabad do not have such process in place for ticket booking. This was truly amazing.
With such a ticket booking system in place, the Thetre ensures the following:
1) Prevent Black Market tickets
2) Security and Safety for movie goers
3) No need to safegaurd the ticket counterfoils, for you dont know who will come and claim our seats!
4) Thus ensuring the correctness in ticket booking, thus making the movie watching hassle free
Next attraction in these theatres were the cost of tickets. For Rs. 60, we got balcony seats which was quite unusual for a person like me coming from Chennai where we are forced to shell out a minimum of 100 bucks to get a decent seat in the hall. Also the facilities were decent.
Overall, it is a good concept worth emulating across all Cinema Halls in the Country.

Khoya Khoya Chand

Set in the '60s film industry, Khoya Khoya Chand is a story of a leading actress Nikhat (Soha Ali Khan), superstar Prem (Rajat Kappor) and a struggling director Zaffer (Shiney Ahuja). Do i need to elaborate on the story anymore? A perfect traingle plot, that stresses more on castings, costumes, sets and their like than storytelling.

Plot, where friends become foes and foes become friends without a problem. The film potrays the not-so-perfect relationships, not-so-popular bollywood theme. Though at some point, it was become more tough to digest the kind of romance potrayed. I wonder whats so special about selecting the '60s as background for the movie.....when the theme had all the relevance to the current crop of bollywood movies.
If Sudhir Mishra has attempted to engross the audience with an emotional romantic movie set in a Bollywood backgroud, then i must say he has failed miserably.
After leaving the movie hall, you dont want to remember anything about the movie...except the hummable titile song.
After all this, if i had to tell the truth, the movie was unwatchable!!!