‘Throwback’ of 71 years

As in every year, while I get ready to celebrate the Independence Day, the most pertinent question resurfaces in my mind. Have we, as a nation, done justice to the struggle of our freedom fighters? Have we, as a nation, stood on the promise that we made to each other? A promise to build a sovereign, socialistic, secular and democratic nation. Or are we just enjoying the powerful weapons loaded in our constitution – Justice, Liberty, Equality and Fraternity?

While Nehru gave his famous speech “Tryst with Destiny”, he would have never expected our thirst with traditions. At the time of partition, lakhs of people were brutally butchered in the name of religion. Communalism was at its peaks causing an irreparable damage to our diverse heritage. Moreover, social evils such as untouchability, sati, caste discrimination, child marriage, female infanticide were deeply rooted in the society. The economic status was also dire. The literacy rate in India was just around 18% during Independence. Income of an average Indian was approximately Rs.1500 per year and average lifespan used to be 41 years. Nevertheless, India has achieved tremendous progress in most of the metrics.

While drafting the constitution, Ambedkar made sure that no one is left behind in our progress. Sardar Vallabhai Patel’s effort led to the unity of the entire country. Nehru was successful in blending modern education and technology with Indian culture. Vinoba Bhave was successful in redistributing thousands of acres of land to minimize inequality. With the solid seeds sown, the national building has begun.

Socially, we have come along a long way. Evil practices such as Untouchability and Sati are extinct. Female foeticide and infant mortality have been improved. Women empowerment is on the cards. Stringent laws preventing male hegemony, ruthless crimes and gender discrimination are in place. Article 29 of the constitution, guarantees protection and promotion of our rich and diverse culture. However, the caste discrimination and dowry system still prevail. Strong resistance ought to be offered to prevent the same.

Politically, we can be undoubtedly pound of ourselves. Right from the first day, we gave ourselves universal adult suffrage. Women in the USA and UK enjoyed voting rights only in the 1920s, many decades after their independence. Till date, we have conducted 16 massive LokSabha elections. Compared to our neighbours, we are far superior in maintaining democratic principles. One neighbouring government needs the military to stay in power and in another, the government is used by the military to stay in power. We also withstood Emergency in 1975-77 which tested the very essence of democracy. Of course, only by 1993 we were able to add another level to our governance i.e., Local self-governance which began through 72nd and 73rd Constitutional Amendment Act. Though women are still under-represented in Parliament that is not the case with Panchayat level. 33% reservation for the women has already shown a great result. As of now, there are around 10 lakh women representatives in India at different levels of Panchayat.

There was a time when floods, contaminated diseases and droughts engulfed innocent lives. Once, in the 1960s, Indira Gandhi had to desperately accept USA conditions for shipment of food grains. Since then, we have become one of the largest producer and exporter of food grains. Green revolution and white revolution led by people such as M.S. Swaminathan and Verghese Kurein have saved millions of lives. Even the revolutions conceptualized by Karl Marx or Stalin could have never saved so many people in the entire history.

Not to forget the 4th Industrial Revolution we are presently living in. From a country which had to depend on the International Monetary Fund (IMF) to come out of Balance of Payment crisis (1991), we have become Net loan provider to IMF and also were instrumental in beginning BRICS ecosystem. It took Gandhi one whole year to commute across the length and breadth of the country. Now, every middle-class person is aiming to travel by flight. Thanks to the sacrifice of Airline industry.

We as a nation also withstood brazen attacks from our neighbours. Though we lost to China in 1962, we were successful in defeating Pakistan in 1965. We also liberated Bangladesh from the shackles of Pakistan in 1971. Courageously countered the infringement at the Kargil in 1991. Throughout the history, we were forced into war but never proactive attacked any country. Indian soldiers work all across the world to maintain world peace. Be it be for England in World War I or let it be in Africa for UN Peacekeeping missions.

For a moment, if we stop wondering why SEC data was not released or on why Rahul Gandhi hugged Narendra Modi and forget about the entrenched corruption, social discrimination, gender inequalitiy, etc etc., India is a mere delight to live in. Just-

– To experience the diverse climates – from chilling cold in J&K to arid desert of Rajasthan

– To taste diverse varieties- from Andhra Tirupati laddu to Gujarat dhokla

– To enjoy the captivating dance performances – from Kathakali of Kerala to Bharata Natyam of Tamil Nadu

– To witness the rich tribal heritage of North East

-To cherish the rock-cut caves in Elora of Maharashtra and the Mughal paintings of North.

-To meet people believing in diverse philosophies and speaking in various languages.

-Or to just sit back and watch “Friends”

If taking a human form is a bliss, taking birth in this generation is a luck. Living in India is a celebration. One can never be bored of people or places.

Amidst all this enjoyment, did we forget about the promise made at the beginning?

Happy Independence Day.

Jai Hind.

~Shankar.

Spain poilitical crisis – Lessons for India

For the past one month, Nifty 50 was on a roller coaster ride. For someone arduously following the market, the reason is evident – the political crisis in Europe. Uncertainty in the politics of Spain and Italy is creeping into the nerves of the investors across the world. A decade after the world witnessed Eurozone crisis, the present scenario in Europe exemplifies its inability to return to a normal situation. The present political scenario is a fallout of decade-long unsustainable growth across Europe.

Madrid just ousted their Prime Minister, Mariano Rajoy, who suppressed the Catalonian separatists with an iron-fist. The newly formed government also lifted the direct rule on Catalonia. The policy of new Prime Minister, Mr. Pedro Sanchez, towards the separatists, is awaited. However, he is unlikely to budge for their demands. The reasons for all the political drama lies in the heart of Europe’s fledgling economy. According to Eurostat, after Eurozone crisis, the northern states have substantially recovered compared to their southern parts. The unemployment and poverty are pulling the economy backward making them non-competitive with respect to Germany or France.

Mr. Rajoy was partly successful in sustaining the growth at 3% for the past three years. He was also successful in maintaining the fiscal prudence given the huge government debt. However, he could not control the simmering anger in his country due to illegal migration and widespread unemployment. The impending reason for his ouster was the proven corruption charges on his political party. Mr. Rajoy himself testified against few of his party members which indirectly led to his ouster.

The BJP government in India has a lot to learn from above political situation. Indian GDP growth stood at 7.7% this quarter, surpassing all expectations. So, does the Spanish growth of 3%. Even the fiscal prudence was perfectly maintained by Indian government just as in Spain. However, both Spanish and Indian government failed to understand the impact of their policies on people. Spanish government took more prudent measures to contain their fiscal deficit. Indian government implemented GST and demonetisation without providing some cooling off period.

Also, BJP flexed its muscle way more than what is required in trying to form the government in Karnataka. So did Spanish government in dismissing the Catalonian government. After the recent by-poll election, BJP should understand that not all is in their favour and people sentiments are fast changing. BJP legislators are also lackadaisical in propagating the benefits of GST and other policies they have been implementing. Their approach in pacifying the minorities has also caused widespread resentment among their major vote bank. It’s time the government respects and understand people sentiment and rework on their policies. Otherwise, they will face the fate of recently ousted Spanish government.

-Shankar

Will Zimbabwe turn into another Egypt?

Annihilating around 300 Egyptians, the recent attack at Al-Rawda mosque in Sinai Peninsula has been one of the worst destruction in Egyptian history. Though no one claimed responsibility, the government suspects that Islamic State (IS) affiliate – Sinai Province group is behind the insurgency. Causalities are followers of Sufism, which is perceived as anti-Islam by few Sunni organisations. The reasons for the attack are both religious, political and strategic. The incident will remain as a black mark in the books of Egyptian history.

The attack was carried out by IS, which is a Sunni organisation, on the followers of Sufism. Egyptian society is mostly populated by Muslim Brotherhood which is also an affiliate of Sunni tradition. So, the Sunnis, who are intolerant to Sufism are mostly responsible for the attack. The reason for Muslim Brotherhood’s (Sunnis) angst against Egyptian Armed Forces is lack of their representation. For the first time in history, Muslim Brotherhood got representation in the form of Mohammad Morsi, President of Egypt from 2011 to 2013. But, in a military coup followed by elections, present President Abdel Fatah el-Sisi replaced Mohammad Morsi. Autocratic rule of el-Sisi led to resurgence of IS in Sinai Peninsula.

Sinai Peninsula is strategically located between Egypt and Israel. The organisation controlling this peninsula gains privilege to control Suez Canal, one of the trade hotspots of the world. Suez Canal connect Red sea with Mediterranean Sea reducing the efforts of the ships to travel across Africa. So, Adbul Fatah el-Sisi after assuming office in 2014, launched numerous attacks on militants in northern Sinai Peninsula. Insurgents also retaliated strongly in all the occasions. Recent attack on the mosque is one among them. The insurgents brutally attacked the ambulances which were present to rescue the victims, exemplifying their cold blooded nature and the crisis in northern peninsula. Egyptian government should crackdown the militant operations and also simultaneously provide representation to Muslim Brotherhood in the top leadership.

Further South to Egypt, another African nation is presently in crisis. Zimbabwe’s Vice President, Emmerson Mnangagwa, overthrew President Robert Mugabe with the help of military and assumed office. Tough, Mr. Mnangagwa has huge public support, a large minority of the population still supports Mr. Mugabe. If the present government fails to embrace all the sections of the society, the story of Egypt may repeat. For the disenchantment always turned into disastrous revolutions. From French Revolution in 1789 to Zimbabwe crisis in 2017, history is the silent

Zimbabwe Crisis

The hunger for power never wither away with time, but will simmer to take its worst form. At the age of 93 and after ruling Zimbabwe for 37 years, Robert Mugabe is in no mood to quit his Presidency. Hailed as an anti-colonist ruler by Zimbabweans, he is hated by the West for his economic policies. Recently, he fired his Vice President, Emmerson Mnangagwa, who was direct competition to his wife for succeeding him. Now, ascertaining the disenchantment of the countrymen, military commanders have occupied the entire Presidential palace and seized the city of Harare. However, they denied making any coup in the palace explaining that the present act was just to clean the political system.

After assuming the power in 1980, when Zimbabwe attained freedom, Robert Mugabe left no stone unturned to stay in power. There were accusations of murder, massacre and purge directly on him. He leveraged the ethnic conflicts between Shona and Ndebele to hold on to his power. Being a Shona, Mr.Mugabe was also accused of being involved in Gukurahundi massacre wherein hundreds of Ndebeles were killed. He completely purged all his rivals out of the political party. Even Hitler followed a similar policy when he took over Germany in late 1920s. It created economic turmoil back then in Germany and right now, in Zimbabwe due to the hegemony of these individuals.

During his Presidency, Zimbabwe was also subjected to a worst economic crisis in the late 2000s. Involvement in Second Congo war, underreporting of spending on military and untoward corruption resulted in hyperinflation. The currency was unscrupulously printed and circulated in the economy. By 2015, Zimbabwe adopted US dollars as its official currency as the situation was out of its hand. Thus, Mugabe rendered its economy uncompetitive in the global world. He could neither maintain the social harmony nor economic stability of his country. Till certain point, Zimbabweans believed in his nationalistic rhetoric, but now someone had to control him and his wife.

After getting hitched to Mrs. Grace Mugabe in 1996, his atrocities became more discernable. She is known for her shopping spree and extravagant spending. There were also allegations of assault on her. She could easily escape the punishment given her ability to abuse power. Now that the term of Mr. Mugabe is coming to an end, the competition to replace him is intensifying. Vice President, Emmerson Mnangagwa, is the next power center who could wield equivalent power in the country as that of Mr. Mugabe. Underestimating his power, Mr. Mugabe fired him from the post expecting to clear the way for his wife. But, the game has turned against him and the repercussions are yet to be seen.

Growth of Middle Eastern Economies: What’s the next growth driver?

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It is the wonderland of the world, where oil is literally the growth engine of most of the countries. The region is beautiful with vast stretch of glaring brown deserts and sand dunes with a puddle of oasis amidst them. This article would provide a brief overview of how MENA (Middle East and North Africa) or the MEA (Middle East Asia) would be an excellent spot in the years to come.

Analyzing numerically, the data from reputed sources such as World Bank and IMF suggests that the GDP of all Middle Eastern countries have grown in a healthy manner. Apart from that, the per capita of most of the countries are quite high. To complement that, Qatar has one of the highest per capita GDP close to 60,000 USD in 2016 (World Bank). This is on par with the developed countries of the world such as US and Singapore. The UAE (United Arab Emirates) has seen a substantial change in the aura of the scenario making it a dream for many people in the world.

The tangential growth of expats and the ever-growing Airlines such as the Emirates and Etihad has contributed extensively to travel industry and investments. The duty free zones of Dubai have made it lucrative for the entire world and is one of the largest Airport retailers. On the other hand, Saudi has also grown equally with the help of Aramco which is one of the largest energy companies in the world. The countries such as Syria, Iraq and Iran are yet to recover from the internal conflicts. But these countries have the potential to be the hubs for trade in the future.

Israel is also constantly growing tackling some of the domestic issues. Bahrain and Kuwait are growing steadily (Based on Last analyzed Growth Data i.e., in 2015, nearly 2% for Kuwait and almost 3% for Bahrain). Egypt has the potential to be an amazing tourism center for the entire planet and the forecast of WTTC (World Travel and Tourism Council) are positive on most of the indicators. Oman has also seen a huge jump in numbers during the 1990s due to the rise in exports of oil and other commodities. It also possess a controlled rate of inflation nearing 1%. All other countries in the region are in the track for growth in the long term, with a need for efforts from business and government equally.

So, what is the next growth factor for MEA apart from oil? The recent news suggest a lot of positive changes emanating from Middle East. The appointment of Minister of Happiness in Dubai, shows the positive mindset accumulating in the UAE. The presence of service industries and hospitality industries is a testimony of a growing economy in Dubai as the number of tourists are increasing and Dubai is becoming one of the most favorite places on Earth. Apart from the modern Dubai, Abu Dhabi is also garnering popularity among the foreigners as one of the places in their bucket list.

Elsewhere, Saudi has started its efforts in planning investments of trillions of dollars into infrastructure development and connectivity. This is a huge improvement along with the news of freedom for women to drive cars. The countries have realized that oil is not a lone sustainable business for the world to thrive in the future, due to the extensive use of alternative sources of energy. Germany is one of the countries who might meet almost 50% of their requirement with renewable sources.

The recent news of Saudi Arabia willing to grant citizenship to Robot suggests that the importance of AI, latest technologies and robotics is vital for them. The world has seen a paradigm shift in terms of usage of new technologies and energy. Apart from these, companies like Emirates, Qatar Airways and Etihad are investing abroad, thus diversifying the portfolios, which would help the growth of Middle East in terms of global presence.

One such example, is the sponsoring of events and sport clubs such as Real Madrid or Arsenal or Barcelona. The future would likely see the countries improving on connectivity amidst them, sorting out temporary tensions in the region. The diverse culture among the neighbors can be one to savor. The region can act as channel/logistic centers for transporting the goods which would earn them a fortune. The demography is an advantage for MEA as almost 30-35% of the population is young, which indicates that the drive for growth is immaculate and could be prospective in the future. Thus, MEA can be an exciting part of the world in the future and a lot depends on the policies as well.

If you have any ideas/opinions, kindly comment. Let’s discuss!!

DakshinaChitra – More than a Museum

Just beside exciting MGM Dizzee Wolrd on the ECR Road, there lies even more enthralling DakshinaChitra museum. It is a heritage site which preserves and protects South Indian culture. Both the Visual arts and performing arts are vividly exhibited in the 10 Acre sprawling area. The uniqueness of this museum lies in the way arts and artefacts are being exhibited. The culture of Tamil Nadu, Andhra Pradesh, Kerala and Karnataka are depicted in the houses built by the organization. Each house was bought from a specific district which was the epicentre of a particular culture. They were then dismantled and then rebuilt at the museum.

The museum was conceptualized by Madras Craft Foundation, an NGO working to protect and preserve Indian culture. Later, with the grace of different organizations, the museum is still lively. Not only it depicts a wide range of arts, the museum also acts as a platform for many villagers to showcase their talent and sell their arts/artefacts. It gives the opportunity for the customers to buy genuine products directly from the artists. The performances such as traditional puppet show and dance shows from various states entertain the viewers. Also, a small glimpse of traditional games such as spin tops, break pots and board games evoke the nostalgia of childhood memories.

A major portion of the museum is allotted to the home state i.e., Tamil Nadu. The culture is highlighted in various houses. An Agraharam Brahmin house, the Ambur Art Gallery, weaver’s house from Kanchipuram Dist., and an agriculturist’s house from Thanjavur Dist are perfectly replicated. The Kalamkari art is also exhibited along with the process of weaving the Kalamkari saris. All the arts highlight the diversity of the rich heritage around us. For Kerala, the museum replicated Hindu and Syrian Christian houses. The way in which the people of Kerala adopts to the hot and humid climate can be understood through the houses built in the museum. Karnataka’s culture is exhibited through traders and weavers house from Chikmagalur and Bagalkot’s Districts respectively. For Andhra Pradesh, a typical Reddy’s house is portrayed.

DakshinChitra is around 36kms from Koyambedu Bus stand and can be easily reached by car or bus as it is on East Coast Road (ECR). Few kinds of traditional foods are available inside the museum and it also has got a family restaurant. It would atleast take half a day to cover the whole place. The museum is a must watch place for people interested in culture. It also provides a chance to create awareness on the forgotten culture to the younger generation.

New Age Business Models

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The new age mode for most of the businesses is the asset-light format and the marketplace model. This is an astonishing change that one observes around. Let’s consider a big brand, say, Uber. Uber has Intellectual Property and acts as an aggregator model for the world of travel. “Uberization” has become a new word among the current generation. This has been the impact of asset-light models around the world. If we look critically, many companies are yet to breakeven, even when their businesses are flourishing.

The old model of own, acquire and produce has taken a paradigm shift. Globalization has been the major vitriol for this. The opening of economies, FDIs, FIIs, lowering of interest rate and “a partially convergent cultural change” has contributed positively towards the companies outsourcing the so called “core product”. The tie-ups between the countries, trade treaties and an ardent potential in emerging economies have propelled the new business models. Franchising still persists, but the asset-light model has become a fad. The likes of Amazon, Flipkart, Ola, Urban Clap and many other service industries have become aware of the advantages of asset-light models. The advantages are multi-fold. The company can clearly focus on the core value proposition of delivering the service rather than wondering what is to be done on all fronts. This would also reduce costs, as an established veteran player well ahead in the learning curve would embrace the opportunity to tie up with the company.

Apart from the above, the chances of service failure would drop substantially. The Build Operate and Transfer (BOT) model is also a positive transformation of mindset in the Indian subcontinent. The positive footprint of the same is observed in a host of highways across the country. The major question one needs to ponder is whether the Indian Railways needs to go for a BOT, BOOT or a BOO model? There is a huge scope for improvement in the same and that would help a great deal to the country.

Another astounding move has been made by the Indian government on the procurement of supplies. The Government has embarked on creating a portal for itself called “Government e-marketplace” (GeM). This system would help the Indians to wean out corruption from the system to a great extent. There are more than 2 lakh products available on the website and it will be an end to end online process. There are thousands of buyer and seller organizations participating in the GeM process. The prices are available in the portal and thus, guzzling of money is reduced enormously. The buyers are the ministries and the offices at the state and federal (central) level.

As the business opportunities are expanding, there is a sense of consolidation in some markets where the same players have managed to gain huge market share. Apart from all these, the world is changing at a rapid pace. The competitive prices from the export-oriented countries are unmatchable. Thus, expertise is being given prominence and this is altering the landscape to the maximum. Diversification on one side (for the big companies) and asset-light model on the other, has proven to be a stunning bazooka to conquer the world of business! Albeit every rule has an exception, the growing trend suggests that the gap between a product business and a service business is reducing enormously.

Landslide Victory of Shinzo Abe – What’s In Store For India !

1400 years of irrevocable relationship has been strengthened with the re-election of Shinzo Abe as Japanese Prime Minister. His election not only strengthens Japanese economy but also significantly contributes to global political and economic stability. His assertion against North Korea acts and his concern towards aging people of Japan has provided a landslide victory to Abe. Also, with China reasserting itself as the power centre in Asia, Abe’s victory will soothe Japanese concerns due to his unconditional support to security issues.

While all the global economies are preparing to absorb the anticipated Fed’s interest rates hike, Abe’s election pacifies their anxiety. Abe promised to continue to retain the lower interest rates to boost the economy. This would imbibe lower capital into the global markets while the money may move towards U.S.A after Fed’s interest rate hike. India would be a major beneficiary as many projects in India are funded by Japanese. For example, India received capital for its bullet train project in Gujarat from Japan for a minimal interest rate. Nevertheless, it should not be forgotten that the interest rates in Japan are negative which makes it a win-win situation for both the countries.

In terms of security, Japan understood the importance of strengthening its defence capabilities after the North Korea’s blatant acts. Korean missiles flew over Japanese airspace sending shivers to its citizens. Abe staunchly opposed the acts of Korea and resolved to retaliate accordingly. After the Hiroshima and Nagasaki incident, Japan was in the protection of U.S.A and never tried to build defence capabilities. It was a strong propagator of peace highlighting the dismantling of nuclear weapons. But now, with Trump focussing more on its own economy, Japan cannot rely on U.S.A for its security. It needs to develop its own army, navy and air force. Also, Japan may extend support to India’s nuclear policy, which is a bone of contention between two countries since our independence.

With U.S.A reaching out to South Asian countries with its renewed foreign policy, it’s time for India to strengthen ties with Japan. Trump’s withdrawal from Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) has generated discontentment in Japan. India, along with Japan, could put pressure on U.S.A to reconsider its stand on Paris agreement and TPP. Also, Trump’s recent speech at IMF and World Bank stating that U.S.A has pumped in more money than expected into these institutions is a cause of concern for India. So, we could take help of Japan in making the USA reconsider its decision.

Catalonia in Spain and Gorkhaland in India

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When a region is not respected, revolution is the repercussion. Catalonia in Spain and Gorkhaland in India have intensified their assertion for a greater autonomy. The underlying issue behind these protests is the discontentment generated due to the subjugation of their regional aspirations by the corresponding governments. Though the displeasure in both the regions was simmering through many decades, the immediate cause was the negligence of their language by their governments. Mamata Banerjee in West Bengal imposed Bengali as the compulsory language in the Gorkhaland. Similarly, Spain never respected the Catalan language. So, the protests were imminent and led to political unrest in the region. As of now, peace is established in Gorkhaland but the war is just about to begin in Catalonia.

The present-day Catalonia is on the border of Spain and France. Through ages, it has its own culture and identity. By 1715, Spain was able to subjugate Catalonian provinces and brought the entire islands under its control. Till 1938, Catalonia was granted greater autonomy and it was able to protect its traditions. However, in that particular year, General Francisco Franco destroyed Catalonian nationalism with a deadly war which consumed 3,500 lives. Since then, Catalonian people tried to gain more independence through various protests. But, the drastic step taken by Catalan leader this September, led to present crises. Carles Puigdemont brought in a resolution in Catalonia urging for its complete independence. 90% of the participants voted for independence but only 43% of voters participated in the elections conducted.

This was not in line with the agreement between Spain and Catalonia. So, Spain had to take a drastic measure of imposing Article 155 of Spanish constitution which brings Catalonia’s governance under Spain’s control. In response to which Catalonia lawmakers passed a resolution demanding complete independence. Now that the Catalonia has taken the extreme step, Spain is left with no other choice but to impose direct rule. Further action by both the governments is yet to be seen. Political parties such as Catalan European Democratic Party are adamant are not accepting anything short of complete independence. Spain on the other hand, cannot lose Barcelona, present in Catalonia, which contributes to 20% of its GDP. The situation is nowhere near peace and it will just add the fuel to the already burning European crisis in the form of Brexit.

In India, Gorkha Janmukti Morcha is demanding for the creation of Gorkhaland. They needed a separate identity for themselves. They also feel that Bengal is slowly intriguing into the affairs of its administration. Gorkhaland, similar to Catalonia has got autonomous powers to create their own rules in the form of Gorkhaland Territorial Administration (GTA). However, both the Catalonian administration and Gorkhaland administration has to abide by their nation’s constitution. Few fringe elements in Gorkhaland used artillery to demand their independence which cannot be tolerated by India. Similarly, Catalonia went ahead and passed the resolution which is contravening with Spain’s constitution. So, it has to ready to face the backlash from the Spain’s government. If India were to take a stand, we would definitely support Spain, as we have Kashmir sitting right above our head.