Random Thoughts

Mulzim Hazir Ho! Matter of Trust

Mulzim Hazir Ho!
Babus Will Ask for More
For Sake of Record
More to It than Meets the Eye
Matter of Trust
Think it Through

Mulzim Hazir Ho!

Whenever things go awry you have to find someone to palm off the blame. The name of the game − that sociologists have assigned it, is scapegoating. And do you know how old it is and who invented it?

There is a mention in the Old Testament of the goat that was designated to be outcast in the desert as part of the ceremonies associated with the Day of Atonement. There is also a mention of Azazel which Biblical scholars interpret as rugged and rough mountain cliff from which the goat was cast down to atone for human sins. The phrase bali ka bakra crept into Indian languages from this practice.

Some authorities believe it is the ancient Greeks who started the practice that whenever there was a natural disaster − a flood or a famine, or a plague or an invasion − a cripple or beggar or criminal was cast out of the community in the belief that it was he who brought this about.

And this practice of selecting someone as scapegoat is known as Scapegoating. Nowadays there are several names for the culprit: whipping boy, fall guy and even patsy. Take your choice.

With the fate of the Rupee in doldrums, Finance minister P. Chidambaram raised eyebrows when he blamed the policies of his predecessor, Pranab Mukherjee (now President of the Republic) for the country’s economic woes.

The economic pundits, I know of, agree that poor Chidambaram inherited an economy which was yet to see the worst consequences of Mukherjee’s decisions. The foxy Bengali Babu knew what was coming and, as some say, managed a safe, impregnable berth for himself, forcing his successor to hold the can.

Chidambaram was asked to explain in Parliament why the rupee had been in a free fall (the Indian currency tumbled from Rs. 61.44 on August 14 to Rs. 68.80 on August 28 against the US dollar), why the current account deficit had been widening (CAD is likely to overshoot the estimated $70 billion this fiscal too), and why markets were sinking (Sensex lost 1,371 points from August 14 to 29). No wonder international rating agency Standard and Poor’s said this week there is a 33% chance that it would downgrade India’s sovereign rating to junk status in the next three years.

“There are not just external factors, there are also domestic factors,” Chidambaram told the Rajya Sabha last week. “One of the domestic factors is that we allowed fiscal deficit to be breached and we allowed current account deficit to swell because of certain decisions that we took during the period 2009 to 2011.”

Chidambaram, who had seen better days as finance minister in 2008, was referring to the three stimulus packages announced by then finance minister Mukherjee between December 2008 and January 2009.

Financial experts say the problem was not just in the manner in which the stimulus was given, but also on the policy front. The result was double digit inflation in the subsequent years and a huge impact on the country’s fiscal deficit.

The country’s fiscal deficit − the difference between total revenue and expenditure − swelled to 6.5% of GDP in 2009-10 compared to 2.5% two years ago in 2007-08, when Chidambaram was the finance minister. In effect, the requirement of restricting the country’s fiscal deficit at 2.5% of the GDP, as stated in the Fiscal Responsibility and Budgetary Management Act, was breached during Mukherjee’s reign (November 2008 to July 2012) as the finance minister.

The fiscal deficit shot to 5.9% of GDP in 2011-12, against Mukherjee’s set target of 4.6%. Growth for the year was down to 6.21% from 9% levels of the previous year. This was the legacy that Chidambaram inherited from his predecessor.

Putting two and two together, Pranab Babu’s tenure as finance minister has been among the worst that India has seen, marred by shaky fiscal situation, revenues and most importantly, retrograde taxation. Chidambaran too shares responsibility for the financial mess we’re in. Don’t forget his trend-setting farm loan waiver scheme in 2004!

So the endless search to pinpoint who really is responsible. The most intriguing part of this financial whodunit is the man who is supposed to have been the boss of both Pranab Mukherjee and P. Chidambaran. Yes, I’m referring to the economist Prime Minister, Manmohan Singh. And what about the real backstage manager of the UPA circus! Everybody seems busy dowsing the fire and has no time to decide who lit it.

Babus Will Ask for More

The Ministry of Personnel takes the cake in thinking of most ingenious methods of contributing to further depletion of country foreign exchange reserves. And of all the people, it is for the benefit of already pampered babus. On its recommendation the Government has eased norms and allowed bureaucrats and their dependent family members to get medical treatment abroad at State’s cost. So, if your sinus is persisting, go to Mayo Clinic in Rochester for a check-up − sorry, not Rochester NY but Rochester, Minnesota, and should your heartbeat be irregular, the place to visit is Cleveland, Ohio.

The good news for Babus is that henceforth, all IAS, IPS, IFS officers and their families can avail treatment for complex surgeries and other ailments. I’m sure next summer half the babus of India will be in the USA.

There was a time – and not long ago − when foreigners came to India for medical treatment because both our expertise and facilities were rated at par with the best abroad and at a much lower cost. But the Americans know how to twist the arm of principal UPA players to change the rules of any game in their favor.

Charles Dickens was wrong. Not Oliver Twist, but our Babus will ask for more, and more.

For Sake of Record

Another claimant of the oversize national cake – or at least a very big slice thereof − is the Election Commission of India. In its profound wisdom it has fixed the upper limit for poll expenses by each candidate contesting the upcoming Assembly elections in Delhi at Rs. 16 lakhs i.e., it has been increased by Rs. 2 lakh from the earlier limit.

Everyone who doesn’t have blinkers on his eyes and still some functional grey cells, knows that the electioneering costs not lakhs − which now is deemed small change in India − but crores.

Why then this absurdly low figure? I believe it is at the express request of the candidates. The low official limit helps them to bargain better terms with the owners of Rent-a-crowd companies who bring in the crowd from neighboring states to attend candidates’ rallies and vote, if possible.

The Delhi Election Commission announced that the expenditure limit would be followed “strictly” and monitored thoroughly. Even a winning candidate would face disqualification if violation of the expenditure limit by the candidate was proved by the EC. Don’t worry. It can never be proved.

When I was a child the mention of a lakh of rupees left one awe-struck. I couldn’t imagine how a person can have such a large sum. For today’s generation, it is passé. Today we talk of crores as if it is a plaything.

Did the founding fathers of mathematics in India know how far things will go? They very wisely provided names for numbers beyond the so-called zillion.

Number Sanskrit
1,000,000,000 Abja, Shatakoti,Maharbuda
10,000,000,000 Kharva
100,000,000,000 Nikharva, Akshita
1,000,000,000,000 Mahaapadma, Antya, Antyam
10,000,000,000,000 Shanku
100,000,000,000,000 Jaladhi
1000,000,000,000,000 Antya
10,000,000000,000,000 Madhya
100,000,000,000,000,000 Paraardha

More to It than Meets the Eye

Remember the ‘good’ old Indian school punishments? Holding the earlobes with arms crossed over your chests, bending the knees and then sit and then stand and so on till the time Masterji shouts: “Will you do it again?” And you said: “No, Sir.”

A dear friend of mine has in an Email explained the scientific basis of this punishment. I’m sharing it with you on the understanding that you won’t tell to those to whom this punishment has yet not been meted out.

The particular posture of the above punishment increases the blood flow in the memory cells in brain and synchronizes the right and left side of the brain to improve function and promote calmness, stimulates neural pathways via acupressure points in the earlobe, sharpens intelligence and also helps those with autism, Asperger’s syndrome, learning difficulties and behavioral problems.

I’m sure you won’t buy it from me but will indeed try it out if an American explains it in a book: How to Improve Your Memory and Increase your Concentration!

My friend tells me the origin of this punishment was in the ancient Gurukuls in India. Remember T. S. Eliot’s Little Gidding

We shall not cease from exploration
And the end of all our exploring
Will be to arrive where we started
And know the place for the first time.

Matter of Trust

I’m utterly and completely devoid of any knowledge regarding finances and banking. My wife manages these things. I’m content with what I get for the month for my daily tot. However, I somehow have developed a liking for Dr. Raghuraj Rajan who has just taken over as the Governor of RBI. I even ventured to read his inaugural statement. Without understanding a thing about monetary policy I liked the concluding part. Allow me to share it with you. Here’s the outpouring of man who seems endowed with both vision and integrity:

“The Governorship of the Central Bank is not meant to win one vote or Facebook ‘likes’. But I hope to do the right thing, no matter what the criticism, even while looking to learn from the criticism – Rudyard Kipling put it better when he mused about the requirements of an ideal central banker in his poem “If”:

If you trust yourself when all men doubt you
But make allowance for their doubting too:”

Think it Through

“I hate the indifferent. I believe that living means taking sides. Those who really live cannot help being a citizen and a partisan. Indifference and apathy are parasitism, perversion, not life. That is why I hate the indifferent.”

Every Indian must ponder over the above perceptive observation of the great Italian sociologist, Antonio Gramsci. The next year will decide where India is heading for: slide into perdition or possibly launch on revival and rejuvenation. Each one of us has a role to play. Is there scope for indifference: stand aside and helplessly watch the drift?


More by :  Sakshi

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