Sunday, June 01, 2014

Agenda for the new PM

With the dust settling on possibly the most keenly watched elections in recent history, normalcy seems to have been restored. The country has a new head and a new party stormed home with an emphatic victory, the magnitude of it was captured by the little known poll expert team in Chanakya and not those big media conglomerates who tom-tom to have the pulse of the Indian public in every possible opportunity to do so. Apparently, their pulse is weak and shows them they are far removed from the stark realities of the country and they are well-advised to conduct only prime time debates(it can also be called shouting your lungs out contest) which in any case are losing popularity among the public.

So, the new PM is in town as is his new set of cabinet colleagues. Its as they call the honey moon period for the new government which normally lasts a year and then the public would start coming up with their assessment. Fact of the matter is, there is no time to be lost. Honey moons aside, the PMO seems to have got on to work, with the PM himself believed to be a man who likes to burn mid-night oil. His office has already given the 10-point agenda to the ministers and has been asked to come-up with 100- day action plan. For those of whom, who think this is something new, it has to be told, the previous government also did come up with action plans and 100-day plan but sadly the devil is in the detail. Its the implementation factor in which they came a cropper.

The point on minimum government and maximum governance, which was the centre of the PM's campaign, is on part fulfilled and the other contradictory. While one of the firsts decisions of the government to give maximum free hand to the bureaucrats, which was completely missing in the previous government, is very commendable, the proposed cabinet expansion in mid June with 25 more ministers, will only take the tally of total ministers to about 70, something same as the previous government, belies the very model of minimum government and maximum governance. Having said that, still a strong PMO which is very much what is it now,  might well crack the whip and get ministries working over-time and get things done on a faster pace. So, the veracity and efficiency of such a model might take time to judge.

Next big structural focus identified was the implementation of the projects, which was grossly lacking in the previous government. The fact is its not prudent to point on the Central government alone in this aspect. States have a major role as that is the ground level where the work happens. Now, the PM might want ot envisage a body which has all the CM's on board and expedite projects and their implementation. Its sure a very good idea and along with frequent monitoring and reward to states that do well, can be proposed to hit the ground running the state level. These are things which cant be done over night and might 2-3 years to fructify. Already we see many CM's queuing to meet the PM, but they must be told in no uncertain terms that they are the boss when it comes to implementation and center would all necessary to facilitate things. And more funds for those states which implement efficiently. This is a delicate point and centre cant be authoritarian but rather a facilitator in these matters. After all, we knew what happened to an authoritarian, wash-your-hands off approach by the previous government.

There are other big points like the Foreign investment, which the party ruling now has never been opposed to it except in retail, and so every effort would naturally be made to attract more foreign money and for that the bureaucratic independence and time-bound implementation of projects, ease of doing business which was talked about in the above are very critical. Ease of doing business, all point to retrospective tax issues which were a major deterrent for doing business and brought out quite badly by the present President of India when he was a the FM in 2009-2012. These tax issues have literally got the foreign investors run away from India. So, these issues will be definitely sorted out by the new regime, after all they seem to be  pro-business.

Then, there are usual suspects like reforms in various sectors, privatization of ailing PSU's, disinvestment, judicial reforms, labor reforms, bringing back black money, but all these are long-term projects, but the new government will do well to atleast start such processes. This will certainly boost confidence and acts like Direct Tax Code, Goods & Services Tax will go a long way in enabling those reforms. Financial inclusion through Aadhar and new bank licenses, linking Aadhar to maybe a large network of Postal offices, by giving them licenses for Private banking would all be tiny steps in the right direction.

So, while the honeymoon period is on for the present government, they would do well to spend it meaningful work and not wait till there is growing discomfort among the public. After all, they would do well to acknowledge the huge expectation and learn the lesson from the previous government, and the way they were thrown out with their performance. With huge expectation, the fall from top will be more steep than the ruling party in the last government, if they don't perform.

Saturday, May 03, 2014

India's watershed year

As the second largest democracy chugs along, no one from the population of 1.2 billion people would be unaware that there is something going on in the country. And yes, precisely that, the Indian elections. Huge posters, public meetings, TV news channels having a bumper bonanza year, talk of forgotten ideologies, political abuses, people queuing up outside poll booths to vote and interestingly politicians queuing outside Superstar's home for his word of acknowledgement. All that and much more makes you feel, we are well and truely in the midst of election fever(or festival, as some might call).

This huge festival goes around different parts of the country at different times within a span of 45 days in nine different phases with a huge expenditure of around Rs. 3500 crores. But, for all its hype and larger coverage, is it all worth it? Many would believe, its a huge waste of money as there is never going to be any change. But, thankfully, majority of the Indian voters are quite concerned and wants determinable development in their lives and only way is to bring about a stable Indian union.  

People seem to want a change and that too a decisive change, curiously similar to the elections in 2009, but the only difference is that this time its towards the opposition. Now, this piece is not getting into the debate of who is better for India in the next five years, but interestingly, the first time, the incumbent and the opposition bring to the table, two different ideological plans, one of development and efficient and stable governance and the other being, grass root change, empowerment of people, need for stronger Citizens charter etc; On the face of it, both seems to be need of the hour and something that Indian public richly deserves. Indian voter has always reacted to change that he needs, for example, a stable government was the need of the hour in 2009 and the present government was voted to power with a bigger mandate. That the government was marred by inaction and utter absence of development and governance is a different matter. That is precisely why the Indian voter seems have welcomed the development and governance plank showcased by the opposition.

Most people feel its high time a stable, growth oriented government should be deployed at the center and that is the reason the opposition sells the best available growth model of their state government to the Indian public at large. People may point out and rightly so that there are many state governments which are doing much better, but the fact is the opposition cannot endorse a  growth model of a different state which is not ruled by them. So, though the model might have flaws, people seems to like the model and hope a even better governance at the center. One of the main demands of the opposition is "You have given 60 years to one party, give us 60 months and see". Though this is getting the opposition huge amount of support, its the biggest gamble that they have taken. Five years down the line, if the opposition now is not able to give a better government,Indian people are wise enough to point out the same model and label it a failed strategy and may even vote them out. This scenario is perfectly possible, because the country is so big that all its varied and politically diverse problems cannot be planned, leave alone solving it in 60 months. So, i guess this a open minded strategy that the opposition has gone into, somehow to get to power, but its a strategy that might well back fire, five years down the line. The opposition hopes, their strong and decisive known PM candidate will steer the strategy cleverly that they would come to power again in 2019. All said and done, a government with a certain amount of decisiveness would be present for the next 60 months. Their success in all their promises seems quite a distant dream,anyway.

Now, to the plight of the present government. People are angry, not entirely because of corruption, non-governance, no development etc;. But they seem to be angry that the present government broke a trust showed by them towards the ruling party in 2009. The first stint of the present government from 2004-2009, was a government which came to power with a lesser mandate, but had done an above average job, coming out with flying colors in its steering of the economy, its resolve in Indo-US nuke deal, Rural employment guarantee scheme etc, which caught the imagination of many people. The government went to polls again in 2009 and showcased the achievements and said if we can do these with lesser mandate, give us a even bigger mandate and we would take India to next level. People trusted the combine and gave a bigger mandate and we all know how bad the performance has been in last 5 years. People are angry due to this breach of trust, where they were showed a rosy picture ahead and were deceived. The present opposition should do well to remember this and not over promise.

Its also good for the party which was in power for 10 years, to spend some time in the opposition. The young leader of the party, talks of grass root change, primaries for candidate selection, empowerment of down trodden and  strengthening the party. These are at the face of it, game changing ideas and there is no reason to believe it wont be done as some of the ideas have already been done by him in the youth wing. Some among the social media, seem to make fun of the well publicized interview of his, but the person was very clever in sticking to the point and spoke of larger picture, because he very well knows, promising high and not delivering will only end up in his downfall. But, his ideas if implemented would change the politics in a larger way.

Finally, Indian voter, seems to be gone all out for the immediate burning issue of governance and development, but, we have to be always aware that the voter will always never forget the larger picture. Governance and development seem to be issue for these next 5 years, as was stable government,  the issue in the previous 5 years. All said and done, whoever is in the opposition and in the government, people will hope the parliament functioning is not stalled as so badly in the previous 5 years and that is completely in the hands of both the opposition and the government.

Sunday, October 13, 2013

An ode to a master

So, this is it.!!! The much-awaited(rather it should have been much dreaded) announcement is done. With 24 years of International cricket behind him, he has gathered all his courage to call it quits. Though, mortals would have advised him and said "Its always better to go, when everyone asks you why now instead of why not now", Sachin is no mere mortal. Nine in ten, would agree, this announcement is been long overdue, but he still instils a range of emotions as no other person can: a sense of sadness, emptiness, a never ending nostalgic feeling,  feeling older than you really are, a feeling that Indian cricket can never be the same, whichever person comes in at number no:4 against South Africa(not even sure if the tour is on, at this point) your mind would immediately deviate towards the person who is no more at that position, rather undeserving to the person who had replaced him.(I meant just the no:4 position)

So, now that the legend has called it quits, just wanted to relive some of the memorable moments, from the time i started watching cricket. These are not the top 10 or top 20 moments, its just a recollection of some of most inspiring moments for me in cricket.

1996: He started playing international cricket at 1989, but at 2 years, I have no idea how his debut was. So, I start from the days and years that I remember. World cup in India 1996 is my first cricket event and distinctly remember India V Kenya where Sachin scored a blitzkrieg 140, where he demolished Kenyan bowlers and made them look like some club cricketers. The joy and inspiration was so much that, few of my friends strolled to the park to play cricket on a hot March afternoon even as he went past 100. That is inspiration for you, a first hand account, when people and cricketers say he has the reason for them to hold a cricket bat, how true is it. No wonder, that generation includes some of the promising young cricketers now, like of Suresh Raina, Virat Kohli, Rohit Sharma to name a few.

1997: Don't remember much any particular innings of his, as his 1996 WC heroics was more than enough to sustain for 2 years.

1998: Sharjah!!! Do I need to say further. Those couple of innings against Australia is well documented all through out the world. But, for people who saw it LIVE, they never stop talking and raving about it. Such was the magnitude of that innings and very few innings around the world can match such aggression in a manner that one man just rode past the entire opposition, not once, but twice consecutively.

1999: Another WC and again against Kenya, but this time in the backdrop of a personal tragedy for Sachin. But, the way he came back from his father's demise and show the way for the team which was in a must win situation was quite memorable.

2000: This time not a big century but a cameo against Australia in ICC Knockout, Nairobi was enough to enthral millions. The match more remembered for Yuvraj Singh's debut, also saw a blistering and aggressive Tendulkar, sending Aussie bowlers all over the park, taking a special liking to Glenn McGrath who was at the peak of his prowess. Innings of just 35-40 runs, but had the substance of a brilliant century.

2001: Third test Chepauk against Australia in that famous Australian series. His sedate yet series clinching 100 came against the best bowling attack in the world at that time, likes of Warne, McGrath, Gillespie and Kasprowicz. Memorable!!!

2002: Headingley, against Emgland where he played a master class to score 193. More known for Dravid wallesque batting, but what followed was a batting treat from Sachin. If Dravid blunted the opposition, Sachin capitalized and pummelled England into a submission paving way for a memorable away test victory.

2003: The WC in South Africa and more particularly, the match against Pakistan. He looked like a man possessed, bordering to as if he had steroids. The way he bulldozed the entire Pakistani bowling, Rawalpindi express derailed in particular was jaw-dropping stuff. India had won the WC even before it went to Finals.

2004: Sydney 241. The innings which prompted Hayden to say, "I have seen god, he plays at No:4 for India in test cricket!!!". Coming amidst the back drop of number of failures due to his dodgy form and bad umpiring, here is the man who refused to play cover drive through out the innings, sensing some weakness there and then going on to get a wonderful double century, against all odds, was simply magnificent.

2005: A dry year by his standards, know more for his solitary 100 which propelled him to go past Gavaskar's 34 centuries to become highest century maker in Test Cricket. Who would have though he would go on to make 17 more centuries after that in Test Cricket alone.

2006: A tragic moment. Memories of him on his knees while getting bowled to an in-swinging delivery from the lanky newcomer Mohammed Asif. There started the initial murmurs of critics asking him to retire. Amazing that he has withstood all those every increasing clamour for retirement for 7 long years.

2007: More known for a shocking world cup in 50-over format and raise of young brigade in first ever T20 format. It is also famous for Sachin missing quite a few hundreds in One day and test cricket. Amazingly, he was out in 90's 7 times in that single year.

2008: Again Chepauk and this time the opposition being England. A masterful 100 in the fourth innings to a square turner, to take India past the finishing line in the final session was incredible, albeit after a wonderful start given by Sehwag. Emotional too, as it came weeks after 26/11 in Sachin's hometown and him dedicating the victory to the victims.

2009: Couldn't remember a particular innings, just like in 1997. It was a year where suddenly people started shouting, "Come on Sachin!!! this is enough!!! you are past your prime and retire gracefully!!!". and critics made sure it reached loudly to his ears.

2010: Back with vengeance, to eek out his fertile year in his entire career. At 37, to score 1500 runs in Test Cricket is no mean achievement and to be the first man in history to score 200 in one day cricket, was the perfect finish to an excellent year.

2011: Dream achieved. His child hood dream of a world cup medal is achieved after being in International cricket for 22 years. Again the highest run scorer and deserving every bit of that WC trophy. He lofting the cup in the back drop of India gate is the collector's dream.

2012: First man to score 100 International hundreds and what an achievement. True champion. Can stick my neck out and say this equivalent to 99.96 of Bradman

2013: 200 tests and bidding adieu from Cricket. True legend!!!!!

Sunday, March 24, 2013

Man who looks out of place in his own home

And there ends the quest for revenge. Australia has been whitewashed 4-0 in our home series. Few outstanding individual performance, an alert captain and one of the worst opposition team line-up to have visited India in recent memory have all contributed to an emphatic win against the Kangaroos. Lots of highlight moments in this series; a blistering double hundred by Dhoni in the first test set the tone for the entire series(could almost be compared to a commanding hundred scored by Ganguly in Brisbane to show his young team the direction), extremely accurate bowling by young Jadeja(though he has to work hell a lot in his batting to find a permanent place in the team) and some signs of Ishant Sharma coming into some kind of form are all great signs for this team moving forward.(this guy, if fit could a handful in South Africa). Also, notable performance by certain players who has taken maximum advantage of a very weak Australian team are few positive bowling spells from Ashwin, calm and composed batting stints by Pujara and positive, but also cautious batting display by M Vijay. Future of Vijay, Pujara and Ashwin may well depend on how they perform in South Africa and that really is the place where the men will be differentiated from the boys. As usual, Kohli looked nimble, hungry and at-ease at all times in the wicket, though he is yet to come out with a big innings in his test career.  Having said these, South Africa will be a huge turning point of this young team and in any case, we are clear underdogs against an extremely strong and inarguably the best team in the world at this moment.

In all these, there is no mention of one man from the team - Sachin Tendulkar. For a whitewash of such magnitude against the most dreaded opposition in recent times, there was not a single notable contribution from the legend(his 81 in Chennai was his highest in the whole series). Australia for long has been his favourite opposition but he has not even been a shadow of himself. His average of 32 is most disappointing and he has struggled even against the likes of people like Lyon and Pattinson. The most painful was the legend who played with a wrecking back and almost won a game against the like of Akram, Waquar and Saqulain on a 5th day wicket was not able to face the likes of Lyon and Maxwell.

He looks out of place and am sure deep down he would be agonised by the fact that his contributions was almost zero in this series against arch rival Australia.  Not only will he be agonised, it would be heart-breaking for those people who had went through phases in cricket where Sachin was that single man army and was the go-to man for the entire team. He would set an example in every facet of the game and was the reason for many watching the game with lots of emotion and passion. Now, he is just a part of a winning team which has come from somebodyelse's contribution.

Is it all for the tag that he would be first man to have played 200 test matches? Has he forgot, that his fans and well-wishers would no longer be able to unabatedly back him in any small debates in the drawing rooms, coffee rooms, restaurants etc? In all accounts, he has surely played atleast 20 test matches past his prime. Surely, nobody will remember him as the only person to have played 200 test matches or 100 centuries in International cricket. Rather, he would always be remembered for this blitzkreig in Sharjah, many duels with McGrath, WC 2003 match against Pakistan and even a single six against Caddick in WC 2003.

His fans who worship him and take pride in saying he is a Sachin fan, are slowly but surely are feeling deep down why is Sachin putting them on a spot with his mediocre play  and his stubbornness to not call it quits.  He would really have to take a hard look at himself and his future before taking that plane to South Africa, because it surely is only Sachin who can stop himself and accept the fact that the time is up and he needs to put an end to the embarrassment his fans are suffering for sometime now.

Sunday, January 20, 2013

Politics of High Command

India as a nation has been ruled for over 55 years out of 65 years of Independence by a single party. Even within those 55 years, almost 40 years has been directly ruled by one family and another 10 years, it is said they have been at the helm indirectly. Critics have been holding one single family responsible for the unrelenting under- developed parts of India. Many believe, the nepotism in the the grand old party has helped and shown the way for Nepotism in many of the other parties.

Though, the party boasts of the best and modern minds who take important positions in the Governement, right from the Prime Minister, to the Finance Minister, it has always been the first family which heads the party and in some cases, indirectly shows the way to the government. This has always been the criticism of many learned minds. Critics say that for a vast country like India, every decision cannot be controlled from New Delhi and by a single family.
But, somehow, we also need to understand that a large group of intelluctuals and party men need to have a single high command where the buck stops. This was proven, if we take a slight look at the opposition party and the disarray it finds itself.

The opposition has in equal measure, if not more people with excellent track record and people with wonderful experience. But, they are not able corner an already beleaguered Government, mainly because of the infighting within the party. Anywhere, whether its a office instituition or a party, you will have clash of the egos within people of equal experience and repute. So, its paramount, that someone with all-encompassing powers, who can get in times of in-fighting and times of decision-making to take a final call.

Its a worrying sign that opposition party is not able to project themselves as an alternative, even after 10 years of central government rule by a single party and that too with the second term dotted with lots of corruption scams and policy paralysis. Leave alone projecting them as an alternative, they have almost become a party which opposes anything that a government does without any conviction or logic. Though, the opposition has its own limitations in terms of their acceptability in the southern states, the main impedement is that they dont have a single high command who can take along all the well learned party leaders in one direction. Former Prime Minister from their party had the charisma and ability to bring everyone under his supervision. But now, even the  primary essence of choosing their party leader, is marred with controversies.

So, i would believe, though a party has to be as well represented as possible, its important that there is one single high command to listen to all views and then take their own decision. Hopefully, the opposition learns it fast and if not, its not in the interest of the nation that there is no oppposition and its always a one way traffic.


Sunday, December 30, 2012

Trial by media - How preposterous can it become?

Anybody who even has just scanned past the TV channels in India in the past 2 weeks, would know there was something wrong that had happened in New Delhi. The incident was a big opportunity for story-starved news channels, especially the elite English new channels to get a surge in the TRP ratings. Now, noone in his best of senses would deny that it was gruesome act of voilence and the assaulters, whoever it is, should get the strictest of the punishements. But, we are not yet a banana republic, where we have run out of laws and our last 'Go To' men are those news anchors, clad in nice suits, shouting to the top of their voice, as if they are only source of justice in India.

And to this 24 hour coverage of one issue and only that issue, albeit, a major and compelling story, only shows that the media wants to lap up anything in their way to get lot of eyes balls and sky rocket the TRP ratings. Otherwise, how can one reason, such endless coverage of one story, completely ignoring all other issues faced by this great nation. Even the coverage of this issue is done so shabbly that panelists, especially people from the governement and officals are not allowed to voice their opinion. Its only the news anchor who calls all the shots and he acts as the judge, jury and prosecutor.

What happens is, with this 24 hour coverage on one single issue is also turning our largely tolerant society to an extremely intolerant and people who doesnt have any faith in the Indian judicial system. Like instant breaking news, people these days want instant punishment without a fair trail.

At a time, when all leading nations in the world have praised the Indian judicial system  for its extremely fair trail to Kasab and giving him every opporunity to defend himself, we are setting a dangerous examples of people being completely intolerant. Our judicial system, is one which believes, whoever is the accused,  must be given a  fair trial and all opporunities to defend himself and it runs on the underlying principle, that  not a single person, who is not guilty should be punished. Though the content of the so called debate is just the same, throughout the day(just shout), different people watch at different time and all this shouting, only makes even ordinary people also become intolerant and want to show their anger by proposing immediate capital pumishment to the accused(not even the trial has begun yet in the court) in their drawing rooms. If only, trials are happening in the news rooms of media houses and drawing rooms of the citizens.

Media and news channels was focussing on the rampage in New Delhi and had blown it out of proportions and we have this new kid on the block, who is in his dream world, where he and his new party is the only saviour of this society and has started the party, with help of bunch of jokers around him. How farcical can it become? First, they wanted the government to take note and heed to their opinion. The Prime Minister, noting the outpouring anger appealed for calm in a televised address to the nation. Still, the media was not satisfied, analysing and even at some instances mocked his speech , accusing it was bit late in the day. For godsake, he is the prime leader of the government and national address cannot be made every other day by him. Accepted, that there is a lot this government has to do, but at some point of time, we need to acknowledge his speech and give time to the governement to do their work.

This unstinted, continuous and sometimes irrtitaing harping around on one issue, only leaves with one question. Where has this media been, when many such similar incidents has taken place before. This is not the first time, such incident has happened and it wont be the last.Need of the hour, is constructive dialogue and strict laws by the government and all parties, which the government already said it would bring stricter laws in the next parliament session in February.

Union laws are not easily done like setting up four chairs aroud a table with cameras beeming on the so called 'Panelists' and each other shouting at the top of their strength. People have to realise(lot of them are beggining to understand) that the news channels also have to play a vital role in the growth of this society and not sensationalise every issue for their own benefit. After all, this is the media, knowingly or unknowingly helped the terrorists during 26/11 with their live coverage of the attack.

How many news channels have debated about media reforms that the government has to look into when it comes to national importance? The channels talk about executive, judicial, economic and electoral reforms in our country. We shouldnt forget, like all of the above, media reforms are also one of the most important issue that government has to look into.

So, at the same time, when we should make sure that such ghastly attacks doesnt happen to women  in the future, its also high time, we will have to make sure, that over-the-top and preconceived, non-stop TV debates, which in a way, are instigating violence should not be encouraged and media houses should be sternly told they must draw a border line for everything. After all, its the fourth pillar of our democracy and the people of this country deserve atleast some amount of responsibilty from the media houses.