Category: Capitalist

The Dance of Democracy, a decade later

Welcome Back

10 years and 9 days ago, I wrote my very first blog post.  I talked about how I voted for the BJP, and that we ought to value our democracy more. Over the course of the next few weeks, when it became clear that the BJP had lost, I expressed my doubts over what comes next.

But what stumps me is how the country forgets that the Congress hasn’t been providing basics for a lot longer than the BJP…could it be secularism? I don’t know. What I do know is that Congress is actually going to have to perform this time, because the people have had a taste of non-Congress governance, and they don’t completely hate it….

 

 

Sonia Gandhi? Yes or No? At one point, it seemed certain she would be the next (Official) PM of India. So, grudgingly, I accepted it. And then, some history was made.

Swiping power now means that by the time Rahul Gandhi comes of age, people really may be fed up with dynastic rule. This could simply be preparing the way for him to take the reigns when he is ready, by sacrificing herself.Better to rule by proxy now, putting Squeaky-clean Manmohan Singh up as the face, and she rules from behind….

More reasons for her decision should be posted in the comments section…
(and u could also see the BBC)

In the meantime, I think it would be cool to have Manmohan Singh as PM. The Business community would be in ecstasy if he does become PM – time to buy some shares in anticipation…

Political Schizophrenia. Even then, we knew what was happening and why – but we were still full of hope and optimism, that no government could arrest all the good things that were happening to the Indian economy?

So this brings us to the Prime Minister-elect Manmohan Singh. He’s been called a puppet, soft-spoken, Sonia’s pet e.t.c. e.t.c. but he may turn out to be different. After all, power corrupts, and ruling 1 billion people (with the help of some 545 elected representatives of course) is close to absolute power…

Or could it?

 

This voice hopes desperately that somehow, our new leader(s) will display some real leadership, and actually do something good for this country. As an upper-middle class salaried person, life is going to get very tough for me, and for all people like me. Higher taxes are certain. Petrol price rises are certain. Free power is certain (which means more power cuts). Re-nationalisation of private power companies? (tremble) Possible….

This voice expects this country to deteriorate in the next 5 years. It is unlikely that anything will get better. The only thing that may improve is ‘communal harmony’. Though frankly, I doubt it. If that were true, Sikhs would not have been slaughtered under a Congress government, even if they did murder Indira Gandhi. Secularism, my left foot. But the public has a short memory, and it seems so far, it only stretches as far back as Gujarat 2002…..

 

10 years ago, I was wrestling with the idea of The Common Man / Aam Aadmi. Now there is a political party that aims to speak for him. Hmmmm…..

In a country as diverse as India, There is no such thing as the Common Man. There are however, lots of Common Threads.
We are all Indian, regardless of caste, creed, income, whatever.

So let me make a suggestion: Instead of performing services that benefit this ugly, disgusting stereotype of a Common Man, let’s do things in the Name of India, and Indians.

If there are less poor people on our streets, then as Indians we can all feel proud.
If women are treated more equally and with respect in our country, we can all feel proud.
If everyone in our country has access to clean drinking water, we can all feel proud.

 

Just a few observations…

A dead white woman comes into the picture….again…

I had this really long conversation with a friend of mine, we’ll call her the Attractive Afghani. This friend of mine has a connection with Afghanistan, as in a personal one. So anyway, due to her prior life e.t.c., she’s about as poles apart from me as can be, and yet we’re still extremely good friends. (Yea yea, opposites attract, and all that).

Anyway, what surprised me, is the extent to which the stuff Ayn Rand predicted about certain people’s behaviour is so true.

My friend, I love her to death regardless, leans towards the left..well she doesn’t lean so much as do a high-speed shuffle. Lean implies a pivot in the centre. There’s no center here…. I mean this woman is a pure communist in every sense of the word. It came as a shock to her that I don’t ‘believe’ that “Supply & Demand” is totally controlled by the government everywhere.

Now this wouldn’t matter so much, but the thing is, my friend works for the Red Cross, or used to work for them.  Now Ayn Rand predicted that people who do Social Work, usually end up with a low opinion of humanity and end up with a huge chasm of guilt within them. And surprisingly enough, this is what came out of the long tiring debate that I had with my friend. A belief that human beings are just lowly, greedy petty parasites out to feed off each other and the Earth. I tried to explain that those definitions should be reserved only for communists, KEkta Kapoor and Bollywood music producers, but she remained unconvinced. I argued long and hard with her, but to no avail. Example: I am a greedy exploiting pig because I want to buy a Merc, not a Maruti. Why can’t I just be happy with a Maruti, she asked me. She asked why can’t we just be produce enough to meet our basic needs and be happy.

So I asked her, as I have asked lots of people before  – please enumerate the basic needs:

Is a car with power windows extravagant? Air bags? What is enough? She answered it should get you from point A to point B. In that case, most cars are luxuries…

Someone said something about being able to provide basic healthcare for all at some point in my debates. What…is basic healthcare? Immunisation of which diseases? Is the ability to get an aspirin, but not a blood sugar check basic? Or below basic? How does one decide these things? There is this idea that everyone is entitled to a basic level of services, but my question is – who decides what those basic levels should be? There are two choices – either you have a government rich enough to meet all of your medical needs – in which every medical need is basic. This is the ideal solution, and one which every country should work towards. Healthcare (and Education) do need involvement from the government. They should not be left ENTIRELY to the Invisible Hand. BUT NEITHER SHOULD THEY BE ENTIRELY STATE-CONTROLLED. So if you don’t have the money to provide that kind of healthcare, STFU, and let the market help provide what it can, at the prices that it can.

This was just one of many topics. I asked my friend, time and time again, to elaborate, in simple steps, how my purchasing a Mercedes Benz exploits people. She wouldn’t do it. I told her I could explain, in very simple steps how my purchasing a Mercedes Benz employs people, and puts some money in their pockets. But that debate went nowhere. Sigh.

There should be a medal…

For knowing what happens next….

So the first link comes from the Other India, who seems to have hired some kind of newbie who isn’t in the mould as the others. This is a very moderate, tempered article, relative to the usual crud.

And the second link goes EXACTLY according to plan, from our own beloved Hindu. (Link courtesy Recursive Hypocrisy .

What am I going on about? Why THIS, of course!

Caught with yer pants down again eh?

This is what happens when you’re a pompous arse

So let’s see, pompous, armchair critic makes a statement about the One Lakh Car, and then can’t take the criticism. Aww poor baby. Then proceeds to write an article which basically puts down his commenters and tries to put Free Market economics above all of us laypeople. It’s not that you said something stupid, Mr. Dey, it is, us the laypeople who didn’t read our nobel-prize-winning economics textbooks properly. Oh wait, but you don’t blame us for being dumb, it’s just that the authors of those textbooks didn’t dumb their stuff down  enough for us peasants. I mean, you, the supreme being, have the most expert grasp of economics, what with your Ph.D and all, but the CEO of the Tata Group, heck, what the hell does he know. He’s just a money-grubbing capitalist acting out of his own self-interest. The Invisible Hand seems to be jerking off at the moment….I mean, do you really think these CEOs do arithmetic? Surely you jest! They just wander around buying foreign companies because daddy left them with a lot of money.

No no, you know what’s best for the economy, like the countless central planners before you. You and Nehru both.  Could it be, that producing a cheap car might be more for export? Could producing a cheap car automatically lead to some conclusion that it’s impossible and therefore alternative engines might need to be tried out to get a cheap car? In fact, could the whole idea just flop horribly?

Do any of these choices lie outside the realm of Free Market Economics? Free Market Economics, REGARDLESS of the conditions surrounding them, produce the best outcome. ‘Market Forces’ are ALWAYS at play. That’s because ‘Market Forces’ is another name for Human Nature. Don’t get a stable electricity supply? The market provides you with generators. Doordarshan stinks as a TV channel? Some dude starting getting signals from the sky and tossed a wire into your home. Your water supply is full of crap? Coca-Cola will sell you clean drinking water. That is the market. It is always at work. It’s job is to ‘Allocate Scarce Resources’. And it does this well. The price of oil is very high? Well then, let’s try and make cars cheaper. Or let’s use public transport.

Is using public transport, and making cheaper cars mutually exclusive? Could producing a car at a ridiculously low price also lead you to produce a bus at a low price, just like your Tata Ace Truck, so that you give people cheap public transport? Could some other innovation spring from this? Are we God-gifted seers? Could my project fail miserably when people realize that the cheap cars are deathmobiles and turn into tin sheets on being greeted by Buses? Could the fact that most of the buses and trcuks on the roads of India that kill people are made by same company force that company to make safer buses and trucks?

Could, in fact, ‘the Market’ decide whether this idea is good or bad, externalities included or not?

Free Markets do not prevent people from coming up with stupid ideas. But definitely prevents them from implementing them. Mr. Dey, your Ph.D is useless, and it is ironic that you blame others for not having explained Economics clearly enough to the rest of us. You’re doing a really bad job of it yourself.

Not the British – not directly anyways….

Dear Sir,
I am a great fan of yours, so allow me to express shock and disbelief at this opinion. To imply that Delhi’s infrastructure is the best because of the British is complete and utter Nonsense.

For starters, Delhi is _not_ a well planned city. It depends which part of Delhi we are talking about. Old Delhi (whose original name is back in fashion these days – “Shahjahanabad”) is not well planned and is a fire disaster waiting to happen.

“New Delhi” which refers specifically to an area built to the south of Old Delhi, designed by British architects and built by Sikh refugees to the City, is extremely “well planned”, and also completely useless for 21st century city dwellers. Nice and wide roads, 3 lanes one way, trees and huge bungalows are eating up space which could be utilised to build skyscrapers, art galleries, theatres, commercial space and residential space which would bring the ridiculous cost of land within Delhi tumbling down. But, that said, it all does look very Pretty. If I could level all of New Delhi, I would do it in a flash. We don’t need a bloody “Presidential Palace”, we don’t old high-roofed White House look-a-like bungalows which require a staff of 15 servants. In fact, there is no real reason at all WHY Delhi should be the capital of the country, other than the fact that is has always been the capital of something for the past 2000+ years. In my view, level the damn place, make a museum out of Parliament house, and send the bloody Central Government packing to most crime-ridden flea-infested part of Madhya Pradesh/ Bihar, and have them build a new Capital from scratch. A new capital, for a New India. And watch how that becomes a new center of economic activity. THAT would wonders for our GDP and economic growth. Fuck the British, and their so-called love of infrastructure.

Now Outside of 600-year-old Shahjahanabad, and 100-year-old New Delhi, the rest of Delhi is just absolute chaos. But this has nothing to do with lack of Britishness. After partition, wave after wave of refugees made Delhi their home. You try setting up an orderly city in those circumstances. Places like GK-1 & GK-2 built by DLF, when they were considered the edge of Delhi, sometime in the 1960s are literally creaking at the seams, with what used be single houses in big plots being converted to 4 storey-8 apartments blocks with equivalent numbers of cars unable to fit into those alleys.

The power cuts in the city used to be extremely frequent up until about a year ago, by which time Tata Power and BSES Rajdhani/Reliance Energy have finally managed to reduce power theft, upgrade billing, metering and fix a few of the centuries old transformers. If the British were so good, how come they couldn’t plan for future power stations? Do you think their broad avenues, bungalows and Presidential Palace with its still waterways consume less energy than anything produced by Indians? In terms of upkeep, water and power? Good infrastructure my left foot!

There has been no water to be had for years. I could blame this on the British too. Which idiot plans on settling next to the Rajasthani desert and have hot winds blowing in during the middle of June with the temperature at a mild 47 degrees celcius? Vasant Kunj is still a dry desert dependent on rusted, leaking Delhi Jal Board trucks. Water pipes from the new treatment plant at Sonia Vihar were completed only 2 years ago, and we are still begging-dependent on UP & Haryana to release some water to us to keep things going. There may be working water pipes under British-built New Delhi, but they are maintained at the expense and cost of that section of the local population that has no water whatsoever.

And I haven’t even begun to talk about North Delhi, West Delhi or East Delhi yet…

With due respect, the British are NOT responsible for the only city with barely passable infrastructure in – dare-I-say-it South Asia.

Delhi embarked on a clean-up plan when a few things happened in recent times:

  1. Economic Liberalisation in 1991. And this is the capital of the country in which the liberalisation occured, i.e. a Centre of Power. 
  2. There was a software boom (amongst other various booms, which are still very much n progress), and there was lots of empty land outside Delhi that was being developed because there was no land to be had inside the city. Thus we have Gurgaon, and NOIDA (which stands for New Okhla Industrial Development Area, btw – Okhla being an industrial area of Delhi)
  3. The Congress (I HATE the Congress, as do most Delhi-ites, BUT, many of us respect Sheila Dikshit a lot, who is viewed as not being very corrupt – despite all the clout her son carries in Delhi) came to power with a huge majority.
  4. Delhi bid for the Commonwealth Games and won. This means our city will have to be at a certain level before it can even consider hosting such an event – note that this is a precursor to bidding for the Olympics – and all of this is the VISION of some of the current politicians who rule Delhi. Of course, the fact that we are part of the Commonwealth is because of the British, so yes, maybe it all is because of them.
  5. Being a Union Territory, and not subservient to the requirements of any rural state, coupled with The BJP’s push for Statehood allowed Delhi to have an independence in the running of affairs that no other city gets to have in all of India.

There may be other factors, but these are the ones that come to mind. Sheila Dikshit, or whoever advises her has been the only person approaching a leader that I have seen in recent times. She has lived in Delhi, and is part of what one might call the Urban Elite – and therefore knows exactly what is required in a mostly _urban_ environment by urban dwellers. No other Urban area in India has this luxury – why? Because every large urban agglomeration in India also happens to be the State Capital. Bangalore for Karnataka, Hyderabad for Andhra, and of course Bombay for Maharashtra (or as arrogant Bombay people would like to claim – Bombay for all India). This means that you have goondaspoliticians coming in from their agrarian/rural base, and governing from an urban capital. So – loot the urban financial centres to feed the farmers with free rice and electricity. Result: Power cuts in the cities, no roads, and lots of cows. Welcome to modern day India.

In USA – NO Big City is the capital of the state that it is in – New York state is governed from Albany. California is governed from Sacramento, and on and on. This allows the Urban centres to focus on their priorities which are strikingly different from the rural ones.

There are a lot of other factors as well, but I am at work currently so can’t answer you fully.

 But I would like to strenuously deny that the British built city of New Delhi is the cause of what resembles passable infrastructure. All this is recent phenomena caused by the luck of having a semi-decent politician in power, and some of the other factors mentioned above. She privatised the electricity distribution. She’s privatised the Waste Management (garbage) which is now managed by the DWM (Delhi Waste Management). She wanted to privatise water distribution but that was shot down due to ‘concerns’. She wanted to liberalise the liquor policy because she was quoted as saying “I do not feel it is the government’s business to sell alcohol” but was also shot down by public protest. She managed to push through a half-attempt. Large ‘kirana’ stores can stock beer and wine. She attempted to allow shops to remain open for 24 hours, and I think that still holds, but most stores don’t do it, claiming issues with the police.

She wanted to revise farcical privatisation of Blueline buses done in Delhi by the BJP (One bus to one owner!~#$##!#!$) and revise that with a system resembling the telecom industry – allow 3/4 corporates to run bus services in Delhi. Again, this proposal was struck down by her own party members, and various other vested interests.

Now I don’t want to sound like a Sheila Dikshit fan, but which other politician in this whole country has their head screwed on this straight?

Prior to Sheila Dikshit running Delhi, it was exactly what Bombay people still perceive it to be – a sarkari village without a nightlife and where everybody knows someone in the government. (Nowadways everybody knows someone who owns a pub and can get you free entry).

Note – the Delhi Metro is success not because of anything the British did, but because of a man called E Sreedharan, and also because of Sheila Dikshit – who COULD have obstructed its construction, but instead got straight out of the way, and let them acquire the land they wanted to acquire, let them compensate the people freely and fairly, and basically gave them Support. (Having a friendly government at the Centre helped this as well).

To conclude I’d like to say a few things:

  1. The British contributed nothing to improve the infrastructure of Delhi. Wide roads, and a presidential palace with a memorial arch and a canopy which used hold a statue of King George do not make life easier for a city of 14 million people (and growing)
  2. I am NOT a supporter of Congress, and I hate everything they have done to this country. I am not a lover of Sheila Dikshit either, but again, looking at the alternatives, I would vote for her again if she runs or gets a ticket from her party (which she won’t because she actually accomplished something)
  3. This post is messy, disorganised, and doesn’t say all i wanted it to because I am at work and have to go for lunch now. But I would love to debate this further with you.
  4. I know this post sounds like a “Let’s blame it all on the British” diatribe, but that is not my intent. But let’s be clear. India was a colony. A big colony, run initially by a multinational company. They needed to get those resources extracted as efficiently as possible. Thusly, a nationwide railroad, developed ports (Bombay & Calcutta), a decentralised administration (building a local elite)  and all the support services that go along with it. If the British, with their apparent love of infratructure are so good, how come the United Provinces (British ruled) and now known as UP are in such bad shape. Why do you only mention those 3/4 specific cities?
  5. I will concede one thing – Bombay – IS semi-decent because of the British. But then in my view the whole city was built by the British anyway. They reclaimed the land to make it one city, so rightly they should get the credit for that. But sorry, the same does not apply to Delhi.

Sens(eless)ex

Where I do a little pre-emption

The birds are singing, the sun is shining, the Rupee & GDP are rising, and so are Indian stock markets, namely the Bombay Sensex and the NSE-50 (or Nifty, for short).

Along with the unprecedented increase in the stock market, the communist/socialist/”I must stamp out any good news”-ists e.t.c. will now start using the stock market as another club to hit you with some guilt.

All new articles by these characters will start off with mentioning how the Sensex is at an all-time high, make a brief mention of a mass-consumerist culture, and how the reforms have benefitted “the Few at the expense of the Many” somewhere, and terminate with guilt-inducing stories about people in Bombay slum-dwellers/Suicidal farmers or Hindutva crimes.

When they use the stock market to contrast with these other issues, they reveal the entirety of their ignorance.

Stock Markets 101 (Simplistic view)

What is the ‘Sensex’? Well it’s the short form of Bombay Sensitive Index. What is an index? It’s basically a way of measuring a percentage change in a group of somethings.

In this case, it is measuring the change in the prices of publicly-listed companies’ shares. SPECIFICALLY, THE SENSEX MEASURES PRICE CHANGES IN SHARES OF 30 COMPANIES. Nothing more, nothing less. If the Sensex is ‘up’, it means that on average, the share prices of these 30 companies is up. If it is down, then naturally the opposite holds true. That. Is. All. It measures JUST those 30 shares. These 30 shares are considered to be representative of the entire share market, based on a whole bunch of financial indicators (i..e what is the size of the company, does the public hold a large amount of shares in the company, and other factors). So therefore, it should be no surprise that Reliance industries is one of the 30 shares whose price is measured. In fact, a big jump in just Reliance’s share price will cause the Sensex to go up quite a bit. So the ASSUMPTION is that if there are price rises in these 30 shares, then in general, there must be price rises in all shares in the Stock Market. This assumption holds true for most of the time, and if it doesn’t, the company shares used to represent the market are changed.

Why is a rise in the price of shares considered a good thing? Well what are shares, and what is the Stock Exchange?

A Stock Exchange is place where people can buy & sell SECOND-HAND shares, i.e. shares already owned by other people.  

A ‘share’ is a chunk of ownership of a company. If I buy 100 shares of Reliance, I OWN a piece of Reliance. That means that if Reliance makes a profit, it can choose to give me some of it. If it decides not to, and I get pissed off, I can sell my chunk of Reliance to someone else.  If Reliance loses money, I can again sell my chunk of Reliance to someone else. Of course, if everybody thinks Reliance is stinky, I won’t be able to sell my shares for a good price. So the price of a share represents (amongst a WHOLE BUNCH of OTHER THINGS) how “good” a company is (THIS IS A VERY SIMPLISTIC VIEW). So naturally, I get happy if the price of the shares I own rises. Just like owning a house (AGAIN, SIMPLISTIC)

Now the media, being as sensationalist and as misinformed as it can be, attributes a rising share market to the general mood in the Country. It is not hard to see why this is so. If the shares prices of all the companies in the stock market are rising, it means a lot of people are viewing these companies as ‘good’ or ‘performing well’. If these companies are performing well, that means the economy is performing well. And that means all is right with the world. ALSO, if lots of people are buying shares on the market, it means people have money to buy things, which means incomes must be high, which means the economy is performing well, which means all’s right with the world.

Thusly, a rising sensex makes it to the front page headlines. Now it shouldn’t take much to realize why the above extrapolations aren’t always correct – Pakistan’s stock market is the second best performing in Asia. But there you have it.

SO – when one of our guilt-inducing brethren decides to contrast rising stock markets with suicidal farmers, what they want to say is this:

A small, select band of greedy, high-caste capitalists pigs with a sense of entitlement are making money in a way I know nothing about, and celebrating it as though it is good for the country, while farmers are dying in Vidharba.

But what they end up saying is this: 

The share prices of 30 publicly listed companies is on average higher these days than it was a few years ago, but there are farmers comitting suicide in Vidharba.

Yes. It is as stupid as that.

Wanted: Noodle Straps in the Ether

Why don’t private FM stations broadcast live cricket matches?

Does anybody have the answer to this? It’s probably just a stupid government regulation, but can anyone confirm this? The same goes for news broadcasts. Why is private TV news allowed, but not private radio news?

Of course, being the Free Market Fundamentalist that I am, I will say it is because Radio is more accessible than TV. Therefore, it means the government will have less control over the populace if any old fool can broadcast news. Well deplorable as that is, it is still understandable.

But what of Cricket broadcasts? I am sure the BCCI would lurve to sell more rights to competing bidders if it could. It must not be allowed to. What justification is given for not allowing cricket broadcasts? Doesn’t make any sense to me. AIR broadcasts them, so it can’t be because “it may cause public disturbance”. Of course, one could argue that the matches help keep AIR in business, but that also seems unlikely, because the FM radio stations and AIR don’t cater to the same audience, and therefore, would not get the same sponsorship.  The sponsorship for just one match would probably be enough to make any private FM station’s day.

Broadcasting cricket and news on the pvt channels can only be good for radio. Besides, I want to fantasize about noodle straps during my commute….