De-Lurking on the Net

July 8, 2014

Making a Viable Afghanistan

Filed under: Democracy,Europe,India,Pak,USA,World — Geekay @ 6:51 am
Tags: , , , , , , , , ,

To make Afghanistan viable, one has to compare it with the situation of Iraq as both have some similarities. In her interview recently, Hilary Clinton alluded to the reasons for Iraq hemorrhaging and falling apart. So, the new govt. of Afghanistan has to ensure from repeating the mistake of Iraq of alienation of its ethnic groups. Next, the task of sustaining Afghanistan will need elimination of dependence in most walks of nation’s life particularly as it is a landlocked country. The sustainability of any state depends on the economic activity and meeting defence needs.  India has already signed on being a security partner. Deal with the US should also happen after new Afghan president comes on board. So India has to ensure both these needs. Relationship of Afghanistan with Pakistan is a frayed one and the dependence on the only land route to sea via Pakistan has left Afghanistan vulnerable. So, just like it needs a formal deal with Pakistan, it needs to cut also a deal with Iran to allow transportation via its Chābahār port. So perhaps some sort of treaty is needed like Indus Water Treaty between India and Pakistan. It demarcated the division of Rivers after the emergence of both India and Pakistan. A fee for the use of their (Pakistan, Iran) resources like road or railway network need to be set up. Once, it gets formalised, the frictions will get minimised and there will be recourse to get to an international body like Indus Water Treaty, if a dispute were to arise.

(Source: Map Of the World )

For the economic activity, a country will need to have resources for agriculture like tools, fertilizers and electricity. For electricity, it will need generation, transmission equipment. For transport it will again need building roads, bridges besides the need of setting factories for auto parts or refineries for fuel. For building infrastructure setting up of steel mills will be required. For defence needs, the country will need not only ordinance factories but also the big equipment so that it can root out the Taliban etc. from making any part of their land as a base for themselves. So, defence will need re-strengthening or building new cantonment areas around the country, now that NATO is leaving those areas behind. There is a need to reassess the overall need of the locations of all the bases. Perhaps, as NATO may not even be covering certain areas. The armed forces as well as general public will also need lots of hospitals. The country need educational institutions. Perhaps, India can play a role in everything but it comes down to meeting the costs by Afghanistan. Virtually most important institutions India has like technical, management, planning, agriculture, hospital staff training or general educational institutes can start their chapters or branches in Afghanistan. Indian govt. can facilitate talks between its various bodies and the relevant parties in Afghanistan but those parties or institutes need to be formed. Some training is needed even for the bureaucracy in Afghanistan. Since in the short run there is bound to be more unemployment due to losses of jobs as NATO and US leave, India has to ensure these people get back into jobs at the earliest. They will not only be better experienced but if they get into the hands of Taliban, it will make the situation deteriorate pretty quickly. So, perhaps these resources should get the training in India to build various institutes or bodies in Afghanistan. They can then return to Afghanistan to start these bodies.

But how to build all this since there is no cash flowing into Afghanistan. In the short run, Afghanistan has to plead and seek commitment with donors like NATO, US and India, China, Russia and Iran. In the longer run, the mining activity has to start but that can only happen if transport deals with both Iran and Pakistan are in place. Afghanistan need capital not only to build factories etc. but also for building and sustaining the armed forces. One can think the private sector will come on board for 60-70% needs of economic activity like building required factories etc. But for building essential economic activity like infrastructure as roads, canals, electricity, hospitals, ordinance factories etc., the 30 to 40 % capital will be needed by the govt. So, the Afghanistan need to decide what it will need on year by year basis e.g. it needs to set up goals like 1 hospital in year 1 plus a refinery and an ordinance factory etc. This way, it can work out the capital required for these activities with the help of donors. Perhaps, Afghanistan can start getting some money if TAPI pipeline gets going. It can also build a target of 2 to 3 years before it start getting the mining revenue. It still has to move quickly on the transport deal with both Pakistan and Iran. Though a deal with Iran perhaps will need rehabilitation of Iran in international community and that is dependent perhaps on its resolution of Nuclear Issue. What is the new road block in that pursuit is not clear. The world needs a viable Afghanistan as much as Afghanistan itself needs it.

April 10, 2014

Is it possible to resist the allure of Space Research?

Today, I was reading how India’s  mission to Mars has reached half-way stage in its journey. I was happy to see the mission succeeding and reaching a milestone . This mission has a limited objective like searching methane in martian environment. It achieved one other objective that missions can be low cost and still succeed but I was wondering why humans are so obsessed with space while there is so much on earth remains  unexplored, unexploited and rather more necessary. 'Red' letter day: India's Mars mission crosses halfway mark

I guess the answer to this lies in number of observations -

1.  The sky above is always so visible and since it remains an unconquered territory so it ‘ll continue to pose a challenge until there is something left. On earth barring deep sea or deep earth, man has gone everywhere so there is nowhere it can go. So, humans can not easily build on the tales of Robert Scott. Edmund Hilary etc.

2. The science bodies have also lobbies within most govts and they(planetary science) get most funds allocated for their pet projects. Since the prestige and visibility of  space research remains foremost, they get most attention from govt who usually after haggling still allocates the biggest fund to space research see this report .

3. The other research projects are fragmented and too numerous and since not having a  big enough voice on one or two prestige projects, so they can not compete with the space research budget.

4. The interlinking of many countries on space projects also mean that certain degree of space spending is guaranteed  but the plethora of other science projects are usually competing with each other rather than cooperating . Of course there are exception on nuclear research ( Nuclear Fusion reactors) and fundamental science projects like “Hadron Collider” in France, Switzerland etc.

But this spending on only one  area of research does not have to be. There are plentiful  impossible challenging missions on planet earth itself e.g. sending a sub or human in a sub into the deep see to mine the expensive minerals. China control the rare earth elements. The world needs more sources for the same than just relying on one country. Can there be minerals picked up from deep sea which can be converted into  rare earth elements. Chinese were given the license for  deep sea mining last year by  International Seabed Authority. The number of licences issued to prospect for minerals now stands at 17 with another seven due to be granted and more are likely to follow. They cover vast areas of the Pacific, Atlantic and Indian Oceans.Similarly there can be plentiful opportunity to invest money in unusual projects like underwater cities or using plantation ( phytoplankton) for health and food, algae that  can be converted into crude oil or  bio-fuel, Ocean thermal power plants or basing  storage power plant at the sea bed  itself. Perhaps, a project can be started  in claiming the land near the coast by shifting sand from desert, boulders from mountains etc. Japan, Dubai etc has already done this but as there are low lying lands across the world are plentiful and  such land has remained unprotected from not only the rising sea water  but also any occasional typhoon, cyclone or Tsunami . It has plentiful sea and not much on land warehousing space built . Perhaps everything from food grain to chemicals can be stored in the sea or even the the marine food (like fishes caught) etc can also be kept in deep sea . Whenever needed they can be lifted etc. Due to less sea temperature, it will be possible to exploit not only temperature but plentiful space in sea. What I wonder however is this – since all countries need employment generation.

No global leader has a clue about employment generation. They do not talk about employment generation through funding of new science projects or new technology or like the projects mentioned above.  Space programs may seem necessary but I guess far more necessary is employment opportunities for billions across the world. India itself need 12 million new jobs every year just to stand still. Somebody discusses it here in his blog. Leaders still do not believe in any exceptional funding on science or new technologies to generate new jobs. Without this, the employment generation can  just grow marginally with each economic cycle from recession to growth . There is tendencies  in countries of stealing the jobs from one other by a new round of protectionism . This parochialism can be most seen at election time. President Obama wanted to stop the jobs outflow from US to other countries in software or manufacturing and was promising to bring  jobs back from the other countries. This is nothing but  protectionism  which is antithesis of globalism and if the world is returning to age gone by when protectionism was rife then it will not be doing itself any favour.

December 8, 2013

Aah, India is saved

The 8th Dec 2013 happens to be the date when the fate favoured India and stopped the rot. The Indian States Election results of 5 state assemblies that took place last week were to be announced. The capital had the biggest suspense in abeyance because of the new entrant party AAP, formed only a year ago. The promise from the party was to change the Indian politics completely. Results came but left AAP as a runner up. It may not be the outcome, the supporter hoped but it is on debut and credit worthy.

Indian democracy had degenerated from sublime to now awful and uncaring. It has allowed asset stripping and a complete plunder by lots of people not always in power but close to power and under their wings of patronage. They were not merely related to politicians but belonged to corporate houses as well. There was no check. The parliamentary term itself of 5 years seems now astronomically long given that public knew precisely in 2010 itself that ruling party needed to go after having voted them to power in 2009. To tolerate this barely performing govt for this long has been a big ordeal for whole of India.

The election results leave the ruling party routed in Delhi State, the capital region where it was ruling for decade and half. AAP should also thank their stars that they did not win the elections outright. AAP, in their manifesto had promised to reduce the power tariff by 50% which was well nigh impossible to achieve even with all good intentions. Putting a figure and also so high like that is recipe for voters not to trust the Party’s promises. AAP also ignored the attack coming from the eventual winning party BJP that AAP has cheated Anna Hazare, the 2011 architect of India’s mass movement against corruption. Perhaps, they could have combatted it vigorously by insisting that BJP has cheated themselves. They promised like the ruling congress party that they will enact law for Jan LokPal (corruption watchdog ). Not just that but they also failed to appoint state Lok Ayukt (corruption watchdog) in the states they ruled. BJP could have been pinned like Congress about promises for freeing the CBI, the investigative agency from Govt shackles. Finally, AAP also suffered from mis-judgements. It erred in not removing the assistant of Shazia Ilmi, one of its main candidate who was clearly suggesting in a sting video how to circumvent the election expenses limit rules framed for candidates by election commission. AAP should have apologised to public after removing such an assistant.

The coming of AAP promises a few new things for India. The funding for this party came from individual donations living either in India or abroad. Since it did not depend on industrial houses for donation, so it did not have to return any favour to them. The Party has promised to take governance to street level bodies by consulting with them on most issues. It withdrew one candidate midway through the election campaign because the candidate had failed to inform the party of court case pending against him. Its candidates were chosen by party members at local level and manifesto also took shape after consulting the public at local level. After looking at all party ‘s manifesto, it has become clear while there is greater merit in making manifesto with public consultation but it lacks vision as public keeps an eye on smaller short term outcomes. The other parties who had not consulted public for their manifesto promised to build a new hospital, a degree college and parking spaces which are in chronic need in capital. This type of promises could have only come as a result of vision of party leaders themselves. So there is a need to have a party vision as well in making manifesto. AAP’s election campaign was also unique. It had lots of volunteers from not just the capital but also from other states and abroad. They went around virtually all households in Delhi rather than conducting rallies.

Now, these election practices will begin to be accepted across the country. The party politics will begin to get cleaned. Though, there will be same temptations to indulge in old corrupt manner as before when to come in power and stay in power the money was used to buy the elected members of the opposition party or investigative agency CBI was used. Until now, the thugs were chosen as candidates by the parties without fear of court as India’s court system is crippled under the weight of pending cases. The parties were bound to a family or a group. It was difficult for anyone else to penetrate this circle of power without connections. Now, this outcome also leaves enough room for AAP to start building branch network across all states. There is so much goodwill for the party across the country. Having been free from governance after these election results, AAP needs to join Anna who is launching yet another fast for bringing the same Jan Lokpal bill as was sought in 2011. Anna need to be supported and brought back to AAP as both movements think alike. AAP needs to build a nationwide team . How such a big team will be communicated, funded etc remains a stupendous task, a task that is needed indeed to salvage India and reclaim.

June 23, 2013

Fixing International Job Creation Problem

Where are the jobs? Can panacea be so far away?

A few days back, there was a news from India that says that million engineers are struggling to get job. Recently, in a BBC discussion on science, I heard about the British immigration oversight in denying the entry of young Scientists to UK. Well, it did not surprise me totally. Often, the politicians across the world are glib talkers about the problems. If their advisers also lack vision and solutions, then country or any state within it will only stay at same economic activity if its economy does not get  eroded. Here is a discussion between two advisors - one to Mr Obama and one to Mr M M Singh, the Indian PM. While the advisor to Mr Obama is overselling the initiatives the US govt is taking in bringing various stake holders together to create jobs, the advisor to the Indian PM leave the impression that he has become by now a wily politician himself. The same person 20 years ago used his vision to transform the Indian telecom sector but now his proximity over a long period of time to top politicians has turned him into defending govt policies rather than talking about the new initiatives the govt has taken or will take soon.

How to create jobs is the biggest problem the world face. The job creation depends most of all on developing and employing new technology means it needs science inputs. The biggest example have been development of fracking (extracting oil) in US just like earlier it was the development of internet itself in which now millions are employed world over. There are tech jobs (knowledge economy) and non tech jobs which can be gradually be turned into tech assisted jobs or moved to a country where none exists.

The job creation does not merely need policy tinkering but also state involvement. In the earlier period of India’s development, India’s socialist PM, Mr Nehru inspired from USSR built industries (steel production, turbines, railway engines, defence items), science institutes, dams etc but since USSR no longer exists. So that inspiration is gone from world over. After Mrs Thatcher came on to the scene in UK transforming its economy, it has left the other inspiration that state should not involve in economic activity as it does not do a good job. So, the drive for privatisation has taken root the world over. India also believes in this philosophy now, so much so that it is gradually reducing the state stakes in the well run state owned companies. But in place of creating new industry from that dis-investment money it is just disbursing that money into poverty elimination programmes etc.

Some of the new jobs, in  the global economies could happen in these undeveloped  or under-developed areas –

gene therapy, epigenetic, stem-cell therapy, repairing DNA damage to treat cancer through modified virus, developing medicines using bacteriophage, manufacturing antibiotics, proteins(recombinant pharmaceutical proteins) & hormones via other animals, bacteria etc, developing synthetic biology, rare metal mining including deep sea exploration, dealing with hazardous waste recycling such as with bacteria including nuclear waste, developing land fertility, seeking control of pesticides or replacing these with alternatives so as to control the spread of cancer, water harvesting(rainfall) by creating new reservoirs, bunds etc and generate drinking water from sea using RO (reverse osmosis) and solar energy and thus removing draught conditions ( building mini regional water grids), deploying equipment for capturing energy loss(heat) at thermal plants, manufacturing artificial blood, normal organs using 3d printing technology and human stem cells, organ transplant industry, nanotechnology, medical diagnostics(scanners, dna analysers), new sensors and signalling equipments, robotics for hazard material handling, lasers in industrial (surgical, cutting etc), building safe (encrypted data transmission – optical fibre network including routers), building new defence industries(robotics), developing IT internet security industry and old tech tasks of converting all the existing written texts into online ones, creating targets for computerisation of govt machinery and legal justice system(it may help cutting down on delayed justice), develop local cloud servers companies, building freight corridor infrastructure (railway) etc – 2. Since the IT activity only helps other activities, so it is important to find those other activities where IT could be deployed. One area is where big databases are now employed such as genomics which is a field progressed from genetics.

It is not that no tech innovation is taking place in India. Here is the news about how the low cost high tech innovation is helping India improve its health. To get the jobs for million of engineers and others, you need a vision which is a mix of Mr Nehru, the socialist and Mrs Thatcher, the capitalist. It means state should start those economic activity where private sector is unable to go – it is often the innovative areas or areas where economic dividends are not going to come to fruition in short span of time or even apparent at the outset.

Schematics of a reverse osmosis system (desalination) using a pressure exchanger. [Photo Credit: Wikipedia]
1: Sea water inflow, 2: Fresh water flow (40%), 3: Concentrate flow (60%), 4: Sea water flow (60%), 5: Concentrate (drain),
A: Pump flow (40%), B: Circulation pump, C: Osmosis unit with membrane, D: Pressure exchanger

Margret Thatcher philosophy is also needed later to free the state from economic activity once that state owned activity is flourishing, it can then be sold into the hands of private sectors and the released capital be deployed into another new activity. New innovations are taking place all the time but as those innovation in science and technology is taking place in west and west does not believe in getting involved in economic activity, so most of the time, the technology waits until someone from private sector is willing to risk their capital. While the rest of the world waits for any such innovation to be established in west. It is therefore imperative in east particularly China and India to innovate so that technology can come to the market faster by active state involvement.

April 14, 2013

India sits precariously in global recession

Filed under: India — Geekay @ 6:56 pm

During April-February 2012-13, India had £182 bilion deficit in foreign trade. India’s trade deficit is likely to widen between $193 billion and $196 billion in the last fiscal year. It sits precariously and sliding towards 1991 when balance of payments situation arose. The trade deficit grew mainly due to the 14.5 percent growth in imports and the 0.1 percent increase in exports; thereby widening the trade deficit by 49.2 percent during the period. India’s oil import bill leaped 40 per cent to a record $140 billion in Year 2011-12 as high oil prices bringing down its GDP growth rate.
India needs to see why it should import any thing other than the items which it definitely needs like copper, petroleum, fertilizer, gas products and edible oil. It of course have to import those items where it adds the value to export them back after finishing like diamonds, gems etc. But, it needs to eliminate or limit gold and coal import for domestic use even if it renews the Gold smuggling. India should not be importing any chemicals but rather building a domestic capacity to export it back. Currently European Union, Japan exports the most and China and Mexico imports most chemicals. There should be thinking of exporting of only finished goods rather than raw materials unless it is too abundant. Coal could be replaced by electricity for which it should use  hydel energy, domestic coal, solar, nuclear energy but alas reactors based on thorium which is abundant in India are never going to be ready in spite of ongoing research for eons and uranium dependence will remain in spite of growth in uranium production where India’s production increased by 73% in 10 years (2011). But China increased its production by 81 % in just one year and now its annual capacity stands 3.5 times of India. This is how the import bill stood -

                              2011-2012                2010-2011

Oil imports            $140 bn                    $73.7 bn

Gold and silver     $62 bn                     $31.2 bn

Coal                      $29 bn                      $8.6 bn

No wonder the rupee value is sliding for last few years. It slid 16 per cent in 2 years in dollar terms.The question to ask is if the exports can not increase due to global recession why should imports continue to gallop. Its current account deficit now stands at highest 6.7% in latest quarter which is an alarming figure.

The British Miners strike In 1984-85 [Photo Credit: Wikipedia]

How the coal import is allowed to be increased close to 4 times of previous year figure, one wonders. Is it due to production shortfall. If that is so then any figure will be justified. In the data both coal and oil imports have gone up. If it was just coal then one could have thought the coal has replaced the oil import but that is not the case. Also, privatising the coal mines has just led to big license scams only so far. The increase in production tonnage perhaps will come later. The coal India Ltd which meets country’s 81% consumption requirement has seen its annual production capacity stuck at same figure of 420-430 million tonnes for last 3 years to 2013. Clearly it is beyond Coal India Ltd to add more production. China’s coal production is 5 times that of India. Clearly, increase in coal production can reduce current account deficit as oil requirement should come down if the coal is used in electricity production and freight is moved onto electric railway lines. So, there is a need to remove quickly, the monopoly stranglehold of Coal India Ltd, the biggest coal miner of the world. Perhaps it should be broken into pieces – based on coal pits. The ones not being cost effective should be closed down. In mining, India has plentiful reserves but Coal India consistently fails to meet targets. The coal import permitted should only be to meet production shortfall and that too should be of higher grade coal from abroad. Also, there is a particular need to attend the rail transport bottleneck experienced by major coal consumers like steel producers or thermal power plants.

Maggie Thatcher ‘s example of selling the equity to general public should be followed. It can make more middle class investors by limiting the equity lots offered for sale thereby increasing number of investors. The preferential treatment should be given to sell the holdings to the workers. With coal strike almost every year in Dhanbad etc (in Jharkhand state), the trade union reforms along similar lines as ushered by Maggie Thatcher should be introduced where she brought a compulsory ballots by members before a strike can be called upon. The election of trade unions has to be more transparent on the lines of national election. The limit of terms should be introduced for the party posts etc-2. The  privatisation of coal India Ltd will also help in removing the subsidy India has to make so that state electricity boards can buy the coal at cheaper prices. That would mean the state electricity boards have to ramp up electricity prices meaning the electricity prices will have to be at realist and sustainable level and close to other parts of the country where they may not have a subsidy. It can also help in removing need for dispute arbitration on quality like the ongoing tussle between NTPC and coal India Ltd, where NTPC says – Why should it pay for the stones that coal India Ltd produces. Divestment or privatisation should not be allowed to be rolled back by trade unions as is the case now. The unions need to be confronted or how else India can confront its current account deficit.

March 6, 2013

Was Partition a blessing in disguise – A travel from Akhand Bharat to Akhandit Hindu Samudaay

Amidst the gathering gloom about imploding Pakistan, I came across a positive news from Pakistan. It said Pakistan carried out drone attacks in Feb: US Officials . Well, isn’t it a surprise when many Pakistan political leaders were deriding US drone attacks for killing innocent civilians along with terrorists and wanted it to be stopped, that establishment in Pakistan realised that with US departure, now Pak army has to do what US was doing all along. Well, other news emerging from that country seem all depressing. A third major attack within last 2 month on Shia community and the news that part of the Pakistan state is now controlled by outside fighters not just in FATA etc but within its biggest city Karachi itself is hugely depressing. The Shia community is new target. Earlier targets for attacks have been other religious minorities like Hindu, Christian. The puzzle now seems who will follow Shias. Will it be Barelvis, Muhajir (Muslim migrants from India who came at Pakistan creation), will it be Punjabi v rest Pukhtuns, Sindhis etc. Baluchi like Shia are already on the anvil getting hammered.

Shia Massacre

Figure 1 After the Shia Bombing in Pakistan

Every time, all these bad news gather pace, the question goes back to the genesis of Pakistan. Was it necessary to placate and encourage a few Muslims by British to create a partition of India. The present affairs of Pakistan seems uncontrollable but who knows if more resources come into Pakistan, it may stabilise. There seems more if statements and wishful thinking about it, though.

Recently, I came across a facebook Hindu group page wanting to besmirch the good memory of Mahatma Gandhi decided to post a picture of Gandhi’s killers. The others were supposed to fall in line and pay respect to the killer because it would have meant rejecting Gandhi’s love for Muslims, Hindus etc. I was not happy for them losing sight of Gandhi’s contribution in India’s freedom as well as inspiring others like Mandela, Martin Luther King Jr. etc for the world peace in general.The group photo had included unfortunately another individual called “Veer Savarkar” who spent considerable years  in jail from (1911 -1924)  for violent struggle against British.  Savarkar was a complex person. In jail, he turned to revive Hinduism and wrote several books.  In 1920, the Indian National Congress and leaders such as Mahatma Gandhi, Vithalbhai Patel and Bal Gangadhar Tilak demanded his unconditional release. Savarkar tactically signed a statement endorsing the trial, verdict and British law, and renouncing violence, a bargain for freedom. But his incarceration continued. After his release, however, in stead of joining India’s non-violent freedom movement with Congress, he went against the Congress and Jinnah’s Muslim League. He, presided over a new organisation till 1943  called Hindu Mahasabha which became a pre-cursor to current BJP (Bhartiya Janta Party). Hindu Mahasabha could not reconcile to partition. Gandhi was considered guilty as he acquiesced to partition. It is hard for anyone to conclude those days in 1948 that Veer Savarkar had nothing to do with Gandhi’s murder,  if he was sitting in that photo along with Gandhi’s eventual killers and met the killer just before the murder mission. So, Savarkar was also arrested for Gandhi’s murder too along with others but he was freed  as the evidence linking him with it lacked independent corroboration. Current BJP brigade keep bringing Veer Savarkar in front because  of their need to highlight his message of Akhand Bharat (undivided India) and also for his so much work on Hinduism.  Savarkar was a patriot to the core and devoted to the cause of India. I believe he should be brought to lime light denied to him so far but BJP should not dismiss Gandhi’s contribution and spoil his memory as  it was not just Savarkar who gave the message of Hindu unity and empowerment but Gandhi too did the same in equal measure, if not more.

Savarkar (above) and Gandhi politely agreed to...

Savarkar (above) and Gandhi politely agreed to disagree on whether Ramayana justified the use of violence in freedom struggle. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

BR Ambedkar, the man responsible for Indian Constitution, talked about Savarkar like this –

“In his scheme a Muslim is to have no advantage which a Hindu does not have. Minority is to be no justification for privilege and majority is to be no ground for penalty. “

Savarkar also expressed joy at the recognition of the claim of Jewish people to establish an independent Jewish state, and likened the event to the glorious day on which Moses led them out of Egyptian bondage.

However, there is a concern in majority Hindus that the current Congress and many other parties in India like SP, BSP, TMC(Trinamul Congress), AIADMK etc  who all want Muslim votes are doing the same thing that led to partition of India. It was  then the active appeasement of Muslim constituency  by British. The appeasement of any section of society lead to disenchantment in others. Already the reservations for even Hindu lower castes(dalits etc) is causing this. This has been extended  to Muslim reservation in number of states but if Muslim reservation for Jobs etc goes nationwide,  it will exacerbate into a deep seated anger against the beneficiaries and divide the communities along religious lines too besides already castes divided Indians. So, while most Indians thinking nostalgically about Pakistan hurts in one way asking question as to why we had to separate or why this dream of Savarkar ‘s  Akhand Bharat could not be kept, I have begun to feel and thank God for partition that India is saved at least from the mayhem (daily bombs) that Pakistan is facing. The Hindu community swelled after migration from Pakistan, perhaps, they must be feeling blessed too that they have become now an Akhandit Hindu Samudaay (undivided Hindu Community). However, it is not just Hindus, but Muslims feel relieved too. Here there is one Shia Muslim expressing his joy on remaining in India .He commented on the Pakistani news paper Dawn’s website like this –

Javed Hussaini

  February 17, 2013 7:13 pm

So much for the two nation theory, Maulana Azad was 100% right, I am glad my parents stayed put in India and not move to Pakistan, on the eve of partition. Being a Shia , and a minority in India, I feel much safer in Haryana, a 90% Hindu area where I live, then I ever will in a Muslim nation. Pakistan needs to learn to respect people and be tolerant, if the Hindus want they can wipe out Muslims from India and the world would probably do nothing , as it is a big economic power on which no military or economic sanctions will work, but that does not happen in India, periodic riots do happen that is as much a fault of Muslims and Hindus or Sikhs, Our MLA is a Muslim, the next constituency the MLA is a Sikh, and again the population of both communities is less then 10%. I hope that this venom from Pakistan does not spread to Muslims in India, already we have seen anti Shia violence in Lucknow.

Well, I hope India remains undivided between castes, groups and religions for long long time irrespective to whatever is happening in Pakistan.It was a blessing in disguise that partition happened. India should survive to give refuge to any one undergoing persecution anywhere.

February 16, 2013

Af-Pak Region after Nato departure

Filed under: China,India,Pak,USA,World — Geekay @ 7:21 pm
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As US is beginning to leave in 2014 after 13 years, many in Pak started to rejoice as its army felt it could now freely flex its muscles back in Afghanistan and subsequently in Kashmir. But it is beginning to dawn on the main political parties and intellectuals that the Pak itself is beginning to slip through their fingers. This editorial and the article “The shadow over Pakistan” gives away the anxiety felt by intelligentsia. It is clear now that they have to somehow talk peace with Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP) without asking for any pre conditions for talks like laying down weapons etc. So, Taliban will emerge from any talks stronger. How things shape up after Pak compromises with Taliban will be anybody’s guess as another major actor in this area is Pak Army who has not abandoned anything of the past. It continues to support Afghan Taliban and help other fundamentalist groups within Pakistan. No body is reporting any more of militant training camps, IED factories running within Pakistan to help Taliban dislodge NATO from Afghanistan but there is no reason to stop such an activity now if these were operating before. Even if the violence escalates within Pakistan, the chances of army and political establishment are far more further and further to compromise with these groups than to wage war on them. Without the US funds in Af-Pak, the drones, the holding off Taliban in Afghanistan by NATO there is simply no chance of averting Taliban dominance very much longer after US departure. Should India rue that other countries like Russia, Iran can not do anything to stop this. Both of these as well as China want a stable Afghanistan and not the one infested with Islamist training camps. But other than China, the others do not have big enough economic muscle. China also has an economic interest there just like India. In fact Indian and Chinese interests in Afghanistan are very much in sync to keep Afghanistan away from Islamic turbulence and stable enough for carrying out the economic activity. Iran can also play a big role in stopping Taliban from becoming unstoppable. Since all these three countries (Iran, Russia, China) have same interests in Afghanistan, they should convene a meeting with Afghanistan as to how to help it after NATO departure. Perhaps, India or any of these countries can take initiative for such a meeting. Although, it is in Pakistan’s interest as well not to help Taliban but Pak Army will not undo what it has been doing since 1979’s at the beginning of 9 years Soviet occupation of Afghanistan. US perhaps should do a speedy deal with Iran on the Nuclear concerns bringing that country out from cold. This can help India and Iran relations. These relations could be crucial for the health of Afghanistan as India or anyone else will be able to use Chābahār port of Iran for Afghanistan trade. Perhaps, a railway line can also be laid to connect Chābahār with Zaranj upto where India built a road but which still remains unconnected with the nearby road across the border in Iran due to Taliban control over that area.

India and Pak history of wars have always brought a stalemate because all those victorious PMs from India have shown magnanimity to sign accords with Pak and return the won territories for the sake of peace. But peace has not arrived because all these accords have strengthened Pak Army and not its civilian democracy. Current Pakistan media has twin worries on reporting any incident within Pak that they will have to face the wrath of Army as well as militant gangs supported by Mullahs. So, when the Pakistan troubles will escalate no body will come to know about them. Pak Army’s big role will continue to haunt this whole Af-Pak region and India at least   .

February 6, 2013

The GDP Growth, Inequality in China and India and trusting any Statistical Data

Sometime back, I was looking at the data on equality. Since, I was mainly interested in the subcontinent plus China etc. So, I compiled this data.

Country                Gini Coefficient (%)                             Year

China                            47.0                                                  2007

India                            33.4                                                   2005

Pakistan                      30.0                                                  2008

Sri Lanka                    40.3                                                  2007

This data is based on World Bank sources as reported in Wikipedia. Here, point to remember is that all the countries aspire for the lower Gini coefficient as that means there are less unequal citizens . Therefore, it is also a measure of the stability of the political system of any country as it  indicates less room for strife (crime, protests etc) by  unequal citizens of a country.

Looking at this data, I noticed that India is better in terms of equality than China but perhaps, it is worse than Pakistan. I tried to reason why. I thought perhaps, Muslim organisations are more charitable (Islamic Zakaat concept) and even if the people are poorer there they are redistributing the wealth in such a way that people are not feeling the poverty as much as they are in India or may be even in China. Pakistan data is even more enigmatic given the worst level of corruption and instability it has in comparison to India and China. But then after coming across this report recently from US govt on China, I felt differently. It says this about the data that comes from China and trusted by all.

NBS surveys continue to provide inadequate samples of important sectors of China’s economy. Small-scale businesses in manufacturing and retail are hard to capture, while sectors like transport logistics are almost completely unaccounted for. Although the NBS measures 94 sectors of the economy on an annual basis, it does so for just 17 sectors on a quarterly basis.

Surveys also fail to capture “opaque spots” in the economy. One of the most egregious is household income. In the United States, tax returns provide a proximate indication of household income. Indeed, personal income tax accounts for about 40 percent of U.S. government tax revenue. But in China, the personal income tax in 2011 makes up just six percent of revenue. A big reason for this is that even the wealthiest Chinese households are taxed directly on their wages, but not on their non-wage income, such as real estate, stocks, bonuses, and personal gifts. Households must actively report such income – but many understate their income in tax returns, or refuse to participate in sample household surveys. In this way, they can evade taxes and also avoid the political implications of having excessive wealth in a nominally socialist state. Chinese economist Wang Xiaolu has determined that national spending on real estate, luxury goods, and travel in China implies much higher income among the top 10 percent of earners than is given in official income data.

In January 2012, the NBS in fact admitted that it does not publish the Gini coefficient –a leading measure of income inequality – because data on high earners is inaccurate. It is also notable that, in an economy with a large state sector, government officials have only recently begun to disclose their own salaries and wealth to the public, and none are under any legal obligation to do so. Opacity extends to other sectors as well. Many state-owned enterprises remain secretive about their income statements, especially if they are not publicly listed. New types of large corporate entities, such as fund management companies and real estate arms of conglomerates, often go unaccounted for in both the direct reporting and enterprise survey systems. In local governments, “off-balance sheet” budgets can also skew fiscal revenue and expenditure.

Opaque Areas of the Economy

The Outdated System of Direct Reporting Enterprise revenue determines which firms are eligible for China’s direct reporting system. As China’s economy grows, so does the number of firms with sizable revenue, which combines to overwhelm the data processing capacity of the NBS. The NBS has tried to reduce the number of firms by continually raising the revenue threshold for direct reporting. When this reform began in 1998, the number of direct reporting firms was decreased from 460,000 to 165,000. However, by 2009, 434,000 firms were again reporting. As of 2011, only firms with annual revenue exceeding RMB 20 million report to the NBS, a measure that has again reduced the number of reporting units.


This data unreliability from China has big similarity to under reporting of data in Indian economic system The Indian economy has a parallel black economy which remains unaccounted for.  I had a chance to meet someone on my last trip to India. He is not only an industrialist but also sells his finished goods from his retail outlet besides distributing it across the country. This person does not use banks most of the times for his business transactions. He uses cash and prefers it over any debit or credit cards. He chose not to have any. It helps him to remain anonymous or untraceable for any tax liabilities. It was incredulous to hear that all his capital (turnover) remains fully invested in the market all the time either in raw material or lent to the buyers who will repay it at different dates all in cash . As his business grows, the extra generated capital also gets absorbed into the same business hands.  When a big spending need arrived for him, he merely clears some lent positions and invests it or spends it on the required need e.g. to buy land or spend on something like children’s expensive (no hold bar) marriage. He also gave me another insight how they have never paid full excise duty. Excise can indicate the produced goods or turnover of the firm. He said, “Usually, they fill just one excise form for the whole day and every time the transport  carries the goods from manufacturing unit, it goes with the same excise form. The form did not register any loading time or departure time of the goods vehicle . So, this way they could report whatever turnover they are comfortable to pay tax on. Since, they never bank the business money and only do it when some customer is making a payment via bank draft or cheque.  The whole of the business community in the capital region of India employs this same method. Of course the problem just does not lie with business community alone. The officials(bureaucrats) who are prepared to accept either bribes, donations for their respective parties or some gifts and favours on various occasions are hand-in-glove. The problem of under reporting by business is considered so much high as to 50 to 60 percent of real data. But this remains a guess in the absence of unreliable official data.

This indicates that India as well as China are growing at far larger rates than they report. They hardly know themselves the correct figures. This national data is from the trading economics Website.

The unreliability of income data makes the estimate of inequality even more difficult to judge. The official Gini
coefficient, the measure of inequality around the world can never be worked out in reliable manner as in corrupt countries (most of the world is) the estimate of income of top earners as well as that of poor can never be done reliably. Just like rich, the poor also does not want to give their real income so as to seek bigger handouts from govt or charities. But, I still relied on Indian data far more because first of all India is reporting far more indices than China does and there is also a possibility of cross checking of its data . Also it has so many NGO and some world bodies like UNESCO, ILO operating in India. Its democratic system and open, free press certainly should cause less data manipulation. I saw my this view-point resonated in this Bloomberg report which wanted to bet on India for investment and growth more than it does on China but no matter how much India may be a better bet in terms of growth, I certainly have been very naive to trust any data quality on equality or the GDP. Let that be  from India, China or elsewhere.

January 8, 2013

Thanks Karl Marx, the world is still changing the right way.

When Karl Marx published Das Kapital in 1867, the world had seen just capitalism and exploitation of masses. It was the time, the capitalism was looked down for its labour exploitation . The exploitation gave way to the thought of equality. The feudalism, capitalism and class culture started melting down across Europe and gradually elsewhere. In some societies, the class distinction was not very visible like in Americas (North and South). In place of feudalism, there the capitalism took roots as  neo rich people wanted to achieve the same social status which was denied to them in their European home countries from where they had emigrated.  The new class system based on wealth now took root in all countries. The wealthy people wanted to see capitalism to flourish and therefore abhorred those who wanted to finish this off.  Marx’s economic theories were changing the thought process . His books had affected the minds of Russians first as Russia was emerging out of profound  serfdom.  The book had got translated in Russian first before in English. Whether  Marx got the inspiration from the French Revolution(1789), melting away of slavery around the world (1833 in UK, 1865 in US)  and serfdom abolition in Russia (1861) to expound that theory  on the use of  capital, one can not be sure.

Somehow, that theory from Marx led  the Russia and the world to try communism . While the neo rich and capitalists in US and other countries carried on fighting to establish whether  capitalism and wealth should be  worshipped or the equality (socialism).The Marx has infected the minds of millions . A new social order has become desirable where those people who work are not looked down upon by wealthy and indolent people and they have more freedom.

When colonialism was giving way to democracies in late 20th centuries, all  the leading lights of the day were embracing socialism like Nehru, Tito, Bhutto, Nasser etc.  But, after the 1989 breakdown  of  communist bloc , the communism  is now considered a failed ideology whose time is gone. The socialism as being associated with communism is therefore a word people want to retreat from even though every body still wants to bring equality to masses.

In recent past, the socialism was just used by many to come into power and then forget about it. The socialist halo was also present in Sukarno, , Indira Gandhi and in military men Gaddafi, Suharto, Nasser & Anwar Sadat. The socialism  led many leaders to nationalise the  production assets, the banks etc. However, the nationalisation was on the retreat after the Margret Thatcher‘s show in UK to claim back the world from that ideology of socialism where the  labour unions had virtually paralyzed the country. So, for operational aspects the world began to see the folly of putting everything under the state control. But this retreat of socialism has also affected the effort in elimination of exploitation by few of the masses.

Arab Spring of 2011 began to claim back the rights of have-nots in Muslim world  and  let people have freedom. The democracy which was thought is not suitable model by some Muslims was now wanted by them. It also inspired other countries too by stressing that however entrenched any govt or system may be, it can be thrown away. The trigger was a single incident of Mohamed Bouazizi self immolation in Tunisia for the start of Arab Spring.

The advent of internet and means of mass communication like mobile phone has allowed people to see that the things can be changed . So, the aspirations of people are changing too. Why would they be willing to put up with the same exploitation and denials of their rights which they had in the past. But there are always those who have the capital, the power . They would not be willing to change and give it away so easily without struggle. So, Syria has simmered on and on.  While some struggles have started in some countries and some will have it some day  but the danger lurks that it may come suddenly to that country causing widespread misery and chaos.

Recently, this struggle manifested in a movement to claim back proper gender equality in India after the death of a woman following a rape but the govt  muzzled the protest. The govt may have had success in controlling the protest by closing lots of metro stations, water cannoning the protesters etc. but any such success of govt and the failure of masses to register protest stores the mass fury for the next time.

Image

In Pakistan, there was a march scheduled to the capital Islamabad calling for the end of feudalism.  The march  organisers have been under tremendous pressure to scrap the march in case it derails the democracy and allow the military to usurp power again. So, whether anti-feudal  struggle remains in abeyance will become clear on Jan 14, the March date to see if it has any effect. China is still waiting for something to happen as it is yet  keeping the individual freedom at bay. If its new leadership of 2012-13 does not take small steps now to let people allow  some protests, there is a danger that it will boil over in big way one day which will then also affect the whole world.

So, some govts will be changing a little and some will remain the same until the mass fury visits that country one day. But it is thanks to Karl Marx and his ushering a thought of socialism, the world after about 150 years of his book looks lot better place to live and breathe in as it is little more equal and allows lot more freedom.

December 12, 2012

Which one is the best government in the world? The winner is Canada !!

I wanted to seek reasons why the democracies are wobbling in reaching maturity. Of course the reasons are not far from comprehension – it is due to inability to develop mature institutions. Any successful democracy needs lots of institutions which are independent and beyond corruption. It needs independent media, independent judiciary, a fully working corruption free legislature who can raise the questions of probity without compromises and legislate the right laws and finally the executive who can oversee the implementation of those laws. Of course, one would also need independent election commission, a strong corruption free military and police for a working and mature democracy . I would like to rank democracies based upon these measures as to how much mature the democracy is. Since, China and other single party state also have to be accommodated in this maturity index. Let us call it govt maturity index rather than democracy maturity index. So, for this I have used stats from ‘Transparency International‘. I have used their stats on the measures like human resource development, judicial independence, press freedom, voice and accountability based on country wide data to discuss governance maturity. I have ignored corruption here as people tend to use this as a single parameter to discuss governance. In my view, there is no single consolidated governance parameter justifying why any country is getting better governance than another and how any country is travelling towards a better governance. But the world definitely need one govt maturity index. There is of course the table printed on which is the best country to live in but it has more to do with issues like standard of living, health, infrastructure etc. Here, I have picked up those countries I was interested in to compare them – the Source is Transparency International

Country Judicial Independence

(score out of Max 7)

Rule of Law Press Freedom

(High means bad)

Voice and Accountability
UK 6.2 1.769596058 2.00 1.312851012
France 4.9 1.524405497 9.50 1.225976029
Japan 5.8 1.31377106 -1.00 1.047643331
Germany 6.3 1.627934067 -3.00 1.345103086
USA 4.9 1.584584729 14.00 1.16180876
Canada 6.3 1.789068657 -5.67 1.379444766
Australia 6.1 1.770200087 4.00 1.428903554
China 3.9 -0.346839923 136.00 -1.649501221
India 4.3 0.057769364 58.00 0.42402758
Pakistan 3.9 -0.785570665 75.00 -0.81606361

Clear winner here is Canada. It has the best measure in all commonwealth countries even better than the mother country UK. The only measure Australia is better than the Canada is on “Voice and Accountability”. Comparing USA with Canada makes you wonder why USA is not as good – is it because the number of people it has in comparison to Canada? If that reason was plausible then it could justify why India is so low down as it has even more people. I consider that it has more to do with the will to change. Comparing India, Pakistan and China makes one wonder about the China’s real achievement. Other than the wealth creation, it virtually falters on everything else. How its citizens must feel one can only empathise. In Europe, it is not the UK who holds the flag of having best govt – but it is Germany. The only measure on which UK leave Germany behind is the “Rule of Law”. And of course, the Asia has also a first world govt in one country at least – it is in Japan.

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