‘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.

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.

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.

Valuation of a Company v/s Valuing a Person

A wide range of models exists in the market to value a company. May it be the evergreen Discounted Cash Flow Model (DCF), which considers the future cash flows of the company or more advanced RE and AEG Models. On the other hand, we would value a person based on her Net worth. The underlying assumption for all the models is that the value is dependent on money generated. However, in the real world, neither the value of a firm is assigned based on fundamental analysis nor a person’s worth is based on the amount hidden in her wallet. The Price-Earnings (P/E) Multiple is at all-time high (28x) when the economy is in doldrums and ofcourse Abdul Kalam is valued way higher than Subrata Roy.

Indeed, the value of the company and the person depends on the intangibles they possess. For a company, it is in the form of Intellectual Property, the expertise of employees, the brand perception among the customers etc., never can these intangibles be completely measured. And these factors contribute to the growth of the firm which drives the share price in the market. Similarly, the worth of a person is measured using the value system she is adhered to. Which also reflects the potential of the person thereby leading to her growth. Moreover, the growth of the person or company is dependent on the efficiency through which the investments are utilized.

The worth also depends, both, on the returns the company gauges for itself and also to its shareholders. For a person, the value is derived both from her ability to develop herself and the capability to contribute to others development. Return on Operating Assets (ROOA) reflects the core capabilities of the firm to generate wealth for itself with the assets employed. In the above case, only the operating income is considered which mostly eliminates the external interactions. Likewise, the value of a person is attached to the efficiency through which she could generate higher returns with low resources. The whole Tata Group is worth around $126 Billion and Facebook alone is worth around $350 Billion. The difference in the assets employed by both companies is well known. With minimal resources, Nelson Mandela could eliminate apartheid and with all the available resources Vijay Mallya escaped to London.

The other component which exemplifies the value is the Return on shareholders or well-wishers investment. Return on Common shareholders’ Equity (ROCE) demonstrates the ability of the firm to satisfy its investors. A firm is punished when it could not reach the expectations of its shareholders. Infosys had to forcefully opt for a Buyback as it could not please the investors. Similarly, a person’s social capital is shattered if the return on emotions invested is not satisfactory. Tiger Woods had to face the brunt of his wife for blatantly cheating her and Arvind Kejriwal was contended by people, for he could not reach their expectations.

In the first case, as the Asset turnover and Profit Margins are important for a company so does the discipline and hard work for a person. In the second case, as the Dividends payment and customer relationship are important for a firm, so does the person’s capability to instil trust among her well-wishers.

Nobel Prizes 2017

As it happens every year, this year’s Nobel prize did not disappoint anyone. Breakthrough researches in different fields were recognized and the prizes were awarded accordingly. Each noble laureate would receive a gold medal, a diploma and a sum of money as decided by the foundation.

The Nobel Prize in Physics was awarded to Rainer Weiss, Barry. C. Barish and Kip. S. Thorne for the detection of gravitational waves. Laser Interferometer Gravitational-Wave Observatory (LIGO) was used to detect these waves. The detected gravitational waves were generated when black holes merged with each other creating a space time distortion. This also proves Einstein’s General Theory of Relativity.

Next, the Nobel Prize in Chemistry was awarded to Jacques Dubochet, Joachim Frank and Richard Henderson for developing cryo-electron microscopy. The high resolution microscope is used to determine the structure of bio molecules. It will also facilitate the observation of bio-molecules by freezing them mid-movement. This 3 dimensional view of atomic particles was the result of series of discoveries by these laureates. First a protein was viewed 3 dimensionally, later the electron microscope was used to merge two 2 dimensional objects to generate 3 dimensional view. Finally, water was added to microscope’s vacuum to evaporate and collapse bio molecules making them to freeze.

Later, the Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine was awarded to Jeffery. C. Hall, Michael Rosbash and Michael. W. young. They discovered the “molecular mechanisms controlling the circadian rhythm.” For many years, we knew that our body adopts to the regular rhythm of the day. The nobel laureates identified the gene responsible for biological clock and isolated a specific protein responsible for it. Also, they proved the after effects of not adopting to the cycle. Jet lag, alzheimer’s disease are few such cases.

Nobel Prize in Literature was awarded to Kazuo Ishiguro “who, in novels of great emotional force, has uncovered the abyss beneath our illusory sense of connection with the world.” Being a British writer of Japanese origin he could provide a unique perspective of Japan. His much famed books describe the way in which Japan was devastated during World War 2 and how it was built thereafter. With his words he could evoke emotional appeal among the audience for which he earned the nobel prize.

While North Korea and U.S.A are threatening each other with the usage of nuclear weapons, the Nobel Foundation was rightly decided to award Nobel Peace Prize to the organisation-International Campaign to Abolish Nuclear Weapons (ICAN). It was instrumental in achieving treaty based prohibition of these weapons. The organization also works to highlight the loss and humanitarian destruction caused due to the usage of such weapons.

Lastly, the Nobel Prize in Economics is awarded to Richard. H. Thaler for is work on Behavioural Economics. He proved that factors such as limited rationality, lack of self-control and social preferences affect the consumer behaviour. Essentially he bridged the gap between psychology and economics. Thus, paying way for new field of study.

One important observation about this year Nobel Prize is that there no women in the list. Yet again raises many unanswerable questions!

Myanmar crisis: What changed Indian stand from 1971 to 2017

During the Bangladesh Liberation War in 1971, around 1 crore refugees migrated from Bangladesh to India. The then Indira Gandhi government supported their movement for an Independent nation and waged a war against Pakistan. We won the war and the East Pakistan transformed into today’s Bangladesh. But, what changed India’s stand from 1971 to 2017? India went against the whole world in supporting the Myanmar government to curtail the activities of Rohingyas. India opposed a Bali Declaration which “called upon all the parties to show respect to Rohingyas in the Rakhine state regardless of their faith and ethnicity.” India supported the cause of Bengali Hindus but opposed the aspirations of Rohingya Muslims to form their own nation.

According to Al-Jazeera, Rohingyas are one of the most persecuted minorities in the world. They are concentrated in eastern part of Myanmar and their population is around 10-12 lakhs. There exists a long battle between minority Buddhists in Rakhine state and the Rohingyas. Religious tensions have been recently increased which led to incessant influx migrants into Bangladesh territory. According to UN report, around 3 lakh Rohingyas fled to Bangladesh to escape the atrocities committed by the Myanmar’s government. The irony is that Myanmar is a Buddhist dominated country and led by a Noble Peace laureate, Aung San Suu Kyi. The government is in a constant war with Arankan Rohingya Salvation Army (ARSA) – an armed rebellion group which represents the minority Rohingyas. But, the Myanmar’s government is going beyond their call of duty in restricting the flow of immigrants. According to Amnesty International, the government is implanting landmines across the Bangladesh-Myanmar border to restrict the migration. This is an outright Human Rights Violation.

India is unconditionally supporting the Myanmar’s government. Indeed, the long held Indian stance and strong ties between the governments is compelling the Modi government to support Nay Pyi Taw. India is also aware of the strengthening relationship between China and Myanmar. India can be easily replaced with China in case we do not support the Myanmar’s government. Supporting Rohingyas will also mean that India is in principle open to the concept of forming new nations. This stance would contradict India’s stand on the demand for separate Kashmir and North Eastern states. Also, supporting ARSA would mean that India is encouraging terrorism in the foreign lands. So, India had no other choice but to support Myanmar’s government. But, India could have extended categorical support instead of unconditional. Gandhi used to say that a person has to be separated from her work to maintain cordial relationship. To foster a relationship, unjustified actions ought to be highlighted and criticised.

Though the governments may give umpteen number of reasons, the underlying reason is only political and religious. BJP is predominantly projected as Hindu nationalist party. Supporting a Muslim cause may risk the ire of its supporters. This phenomenon is also evident with the support of Israeli government. Israel is a Jewish dominated country and opposes Muslim organisations mostly due to Palestine issue. So, there is no wonder that the Israel is funding Myanmar’s Junta (army). In 1971, we supported Bengali Hindus but in 2017, we are averse to the subjugation of minority Muslims. India had a great history of supporting world causes bereft of our self-interest. Taking forward this unhindered legacy, we should atleast oppose the blatant subjugation of innocent Rohingyas.