Fuel for Thought
Why No Iranian Oil Import?
Don’t Panic − Be Happy
Looking for Accommodation
Think it Through
Congress Vice-President Rahul Gandhi does want to prove every now and then that he’s, like his late lamented father, technology savvy. He will indeed rocket India into space if we choose to put next year India’s destiny in his hands. He is reported to have said: “If India is computer; its default program is Congress. Congress comes natural to India’s ethos.”
What a profound statement that left me at once bemused and baffled! The whole country is a machine assembled first in the United States of America, the exclusive life-long license to operate which is with the descendants of Jawaharlal Nehru.
A default option is an option that is selected automatically unless an alternative is specified. It is, therefore, up to me as a computer user to accept or reject the default option. It cannot be thrust on me. And the ballot paper carries quite a few options for me to choose from. There’s no default option on offer. And Rahul Baba, this time you’ll be surprised to discover what voters choose.
Fuel for Thought
You don’t have to be a trained economist to know the real cause of our present economic woes referred to by the experts as our widening current account deficit. Remember good, old Mr. Micawber and his oft-quoted recipe for happiness in David Copperfield by Charles Dickens. It is as valid today as it was when originally prescribed:
Annual income twenty pounds, annual expenditure nineteen [pounds] nineteen [shillings] and six [pence], result happiness. Annual income twenty pounds, annual expenditure twenty pounds ought and six, result misery.
This simple truism has, over time, been obfuscated by that clever breed of men who have adopted the discipline of economics for a living. They prescribe you and me a simple formula: if expenditure exceeds income, resort to deficit financing. Their thinking is clear: not you, but the generation to come will have to face the music. You won’t, fortunately be around.
Two of the most significant imports which are largely responsible for building up our trade imbalance are petroleum products and – hold your breath − the accursed yellow metal. Some sort of excuse can be conjured for the first. If you have crores of vehicles on road, we do need import the fuel to run them, especially when our indigenous production is woefully inadequate.
But, what about that most useless of human acquisitions − called gold − that has cast a spell on the Indian mind for ages? As per conservative estimates, about 20,000 tons of gold is stashed away in Indian homes and temples, which at the current gold price it’s worth around $1000 billion. Tirumala Tirupati Devasthanam alone receives 80-100 kg of gold and 100-120 kg of silver as offerings every month. Tirupati is estimated to have a treasure trove of Rs.70,000 crore in the form of gold bars, coins and jewelry.
Can you think of a more stupid people than we who with these hordes lying around continue importing gold to widen the CAD? The only explanation I can think of, is the hidden design of the hoarders to convert their piles of fast-falling currency into a more stable form?
And now to the most short-sighted policy regulating the automobile industry!
Experts predict that by the year 2020, there will be 450 million vehicles plying on Indian roads. At the moment the total number of vehicles in India stands at about a 100 million. And most of the vehicles are owned in the urban areas with a maximum density in the metropolitan cities. The truck market, which is estimated to be around 3 – 4 lakh units annually, is slated to witness a tremendous growth of about 5% per annum until 2020.
Planning this rapid increase, did the policy makers ever spare a thought to the imported petroleum bill, chaotic congestion of our roads and the utterly unacceptable levels of pollution? In any sane society the creators of this mess would be hanged. I’m sure every evening the representatives of world automobile industry must be drinking a toast to the myopic vision of India’s policy makers.
Why No Iranian Oil Import?
The county today is grappling with a current account deficit (CAD) of $80 billion. And this constitutes tremendous pressure on the rupee. Any attempt to control the CAD should obviously start with reducing the crude oil import bill.
Iran, which is stifled by U.S. financial sanctions, is willing to sell oil to India in exchange for payment in rupees. What should we do? Grab the offer without winking your eyelids. The UPA, instead, is buckling under American pressure not to do so. You’ll be shocked to hear that, instead of availing of this God-sent opportunity, the Government has been cutting down on imports from Iran over the past three years. As India fell in line with U.S. sanctions, it reduced its oil imports from Iran from 21.2 million tonnes in 2009-10 to 13.2 million tonnes in 2012-13.
One of the most noteworthy legacies of UPA would be to make India an American vassal state. Are our policies formulated in State Department? One thing the next Government must do is to unhitch itself from the American bandwagon and do what is in our national interests. Stepping up crude imports from Iran is indeed in our interests.
Don’t Panic − Be Happy
“No need to panic”' said the Indian Government when the rupee was close to 60 to the US dollar. “'No need to panic”' tells the Government now, after the rupee has crossed 68 and has threatened to touch 70.
Ideally, any Government which deemed itself accountable to the people, should have apologized for past mistakes and earnestly addressed itself to setting things in order. Instead, it dumped another toxic policy on India − the much-touted food security bill. The bill proposes to provide cheap food grains to roughly 66% of India's population. It comes exactly 66 years after independence and will; ironically, burden the nation with further fiscal pressure that will choke any possibility of recovery to sustainable levels of deficit in the balance of trade.
Pending a firm policy on land acquisition, industry is understandably holding back on any further investment. While it does ensure increase in transparency in land deals, the proposed land acquisition bill introduces additional layers of approval by various authorities, which will slow down the acquisition process, while the compensation mooted (four times the market value of land in rural areas and two times the market value of land in urban areas) may make projects unviable. Available data suggests India experienced jobless growth during the second half of the past decade. More crucially, employment elasticity of manufacturing was negative. A perfect recipe for economic stagnation!
UPA is hell-bent to ensure to leave the economy in a mess worse than it found it in 2004. Ironically, the architect of India's much-lauded economic reforms in 1991, then finance minister Manmohan Singh, now sits tight as prime minister even as the country hurtles towards a crisis. India’s politicians have proved time and again that they have an uncanny ability to kill a perfectly good growth story by their self-centered-policy making and shameless urge to cling on to power.
Looking for Accommodation?
Are you looking for accommodation in New Delhi? Here’s a gratis tip for which you should be grateful to me.
Contact an MP. If you have difficulty in getting hold of one, even an ex-MP will do. And there are a plenty in Delhi consulting astrologers and trying to win friends and influence people. He can help you with accommodation in the prized Lutyens’ Delhi for, to begin with, at least three months. That’s their entitlement in the name of guest accommodation.
Don’t worry about its extension. Be happy, instead. The rule says it can be extended. And just don’t bother the rule-makers kept the question of number of extensions, delightfully vague. You’ll be glad to hear you can stay on, not just for months but for years.
Indian Express – the trouble-making media specimen collected information under the RTI Act. It shows: Of the 51 such houses occupied at present by guests of MPs of both houses, 38 are with former MPs. Of the 106 such allotments made since 2007 on the recommendation of 96 MPs, 14 were allotted without even mentioning the name of the guests.
The ruling Congress party, of course, has a clear upper hand in getting these guest accommodations. It is bound to lead, as it does in any other beat-the-rule activity. The data shows that most guests occupy the houses for several years by managing frequent extensions before the end of the three months.
If you want to have further evidence, here’re some illustrious examples:
Balram Jakhar, a former governor and former Lok Sabha speaker, has been a guest of Lok Sabha MP Gajendra Singh Rajukhedi with a house on South Avenue since October 2009.
Former BJP president Bangaru Lakshman has been allotted a house on North Avenue first as a guest of K B Shanappa from April 22, 2010 to May 22, 2012 and since then as a guest of Purushottam Rupala. This includes the nearly six-month period he was in custody in connection with the fake arms deal case.
Congress treasurer Motilal Vora seems to have been a generous host, who obliged so far a dozen friends. Have you forgotten the old proverb: A friend in need is a friend indeed!
Think it Through
If when hearing that I have been stilled at last, they stand at the door,
Watching the full-starred heavens that winter sees,
Will this thought rise on those who will meet my face no more,
"He was one who had an eye for such mysteries"?
Can there be a more innocuous last wish than what Thomas Hardy expressed? And yet are we sure of even that?
Cartoon by Kushal Bhattacharya