29-Nov-2011

Why Did They Search for Tata's Successor?

Shyam Menon wants to know.  A perfectly natural question.


Thus, even as the media gets busy telling us who and what Cyrus Mistry is, the totality of this succession can be gauged only when his top management team is also in place. 
Right now in the public eye, Mr Mistry is a child of equity holding. He has to prove himself within the larger Tata context (that is, Tata in the world as opposed to the world of Tata) or risk being seen as there thanks to shareholding. That is a clean slate to start off. It is also what typically happens during succession in family businesses. Things change and yet they don't. 
Which is why what puzzles me still is — why did they go searching? May be at heart, all businesses are simple and expectations otherwise are the stuff of public imagination and gullibility?

Incredible India


The district administration on Monday lifted the ban imposed on the controversial ‘made snana’ ritual, which involves devotees rolling over the food left over by Brahmins - in the belief that it would rid them of various ailments - at the Kukke Subramanya temple as part of the three-day Champashashti Jatrotsava.
Hope Markandeya Katju doesn't read this.  It may trigger an attack.  

"Why are women's health outcomes in India so poor?"

Why are women's health outcomes in India so poor?

Those graphs tell a story.  Sri Lanka is much much better than India on most women's health parameters and on health-care spending.

27-Nov-2011

Bombing Them Into Submission?


US faces Pak fury after Nato kills 28 troops

US asks Pak to shun Iran pipeline, open up to India

And relatedly, Iran was on the regime-change list just ten days after 9/11: Wes Clark and the neocon dream.

This is one out-of-control regime indeed.

OMG The Sensex Will Crash by 500 Points!


So hurry and allow FDI in retail!  Yes, this is how decisions are taken in the largest democracy.

Several of the anti-FDI ministers took serious objection to clearing the issue in a hurry, demanding that more discussion was needed in the cabinet on controversial provisions. Some were opposed to clearance given to the FDI before the Uttar Pradesh elections. To this, a senior minister shot back saying that all newspapers have written that the proposal would be cleared. If it is not done, sensex will drop by 500 points. “Are we prepared for that?”, he is learnt to have asked.
Whatever the spin doctors come out with to sell the policy,  as they will - Govt launches campaign to sell FDI in multi-brand retail, one thing is clear.  This is nothing to do with any of those reasons.  It is for big-business.  I remember how opening up retail to Reliance etc was supposed to remove the middle man and make things better for the consumers and farmers.  The price rise never stopped since then.  Even if it didn't cause the price rise, it for sure didn't keep/bring down prices.

"DMRCL Favours Govt Agency for Metro Phase II"

DMRCL Favours Govt Agency for Metro Phase II.

It's all a bit mysterious indeed.

24-Nov-2011

"Ignorance Is Bliss When It Comes to Challenging Social Issues"

The less people know about important complex issues such as the economy, energy consumption and the environment, the more they want to avoid becoming well-informed, according to new research published by the American Psychological Association. 
And the more urgent the issue, the more people want to remain unaware, according to a paper published online in APA's Journal of Personality and Social Psychology.  
"Beyond just downplaying the catastrophic, doomsday aspects to their messages, educators may want to consider explaining issues in ways that make them easily digestible and understandable, with a clear emphasis on local, individual-level causes," the authors said.
The voice of despair cries: Dumb it down for us will you?

The steady march of human progress continues.  

BDA Tries Again To Grab Beggars' Colony Land


It seems the Bangalore Development Authority (BDA) cannot wait to get its hands on the prized piece of land at Karnataka Rehabilitation Centre, commonly known as Beggars’ Colony. 
In a clear violation of the High Court orders, BDA engineers along with contractors entered the Colony situated on Magadi Road on Tuesday and tried to put up a board displaying their ownership on the property.
The question is: Why?  It is not as if the land will become the personal property of the BDA officials who are doing this.  Then why the attempts to grab it, like monkeys trying to grab bananas from temple-goers?  Promises to keep or deals to make with under-the-table payments?

23-Nov-2011

Builders Selling Foreign Fantasies


What helps fortify the fantasy, and for the sceptic a sense of disbelief, is the usage of language itself. Developers of residential complexes eating up rich farmlands for lifestyle homes have begun reinventing English. 
One can still find residential complexes with indigenous names such as “Samarth Nagar” but the globalisation bug has bitten deep; developers cannot resist adding the suffix, “Heights” or “Residency”. But the more adventurous ones invent in a way that would have made Shakespeare, no mean coiner of new words, wince. 
Hoardings beckon you to “Capriccio”, “Apostrophe”, “Mont Vert”. The developers of “Wisteriaa” are taking no chances with the name of a flower. The extra letter of the alphabet could change fortunes. The creator of “Euthania” stops short of mercy killing. If that phonetic resemblance rattles the sensitive home-buyer, “Invicta” should compensate. 
At a surface level, this play with the English language appears crude and the work of demented builders. But it expresses the way globalisation transforms itself into a new creature of post-modernity that at first sight seems obviously syncretic.
Those are some surreal names.  May not be as bad in Bengaluru, though it may be that I'm not paying enough attention.  Some I can think of, with a little help from Google : more than three flavors of apartments named 'Gardenia'.  Venezia, Parkridge, Passiflora.  The following, while not torturing English, nonetheless are a bit on the fantasy side.  For instance, we have our own choice of Elysium's and one 'Manhattans' (yes, it is the plural.  Buy one get some free!) and our own Riviera.  We have transplanted Knightsbridge, Notting Hill, Kensington Gardens, Wellington Park here.  We have an apartment named 'perfumed toilet water' ('Canopy Cologne'),  one named after peafowl ('Confident Pavo').  And much before all that we got our own historical 'Acropolis'.  

For a country reputed to have that has 30 crore gods and goddesses and more than a few languages, we are running short of names for our apartments!  Then again, selling dreams requires that we go beyond the familiar.  Familiarity, contempt...

Anna: Flog The Losers

Hazare wants drinkers flogged.  And they've apparently done it in his village - tied  people to electric poles and administered 'light' beatings.  He mentions it in the NDTV interview (click here).

One is not sure what his definition of drinkers is, but one starts to fear for some loved ones in the near and extended family.  Then the sheepish and slightly blameless face of our cleaning lady's husband comes to mind, in particular.  Not safe times these.  One pictures streets with houses spilling forth the afflicted in ones and twos, there to be flogged in public tied to the nearby electric poles.

Anna should have stayed in Ralegan Siddhi.

22-Nov-2011

Competition Dumbing Down Media Content


The competition for readers, listeners and viewers in order to grab advertising has led to a dumbing down of content with sensationalism, trivialisation, titillation and, sometimes, local or national chauvinism crowding out more serious and worthwhile content. Trial by the press and publication of unverified allegations against people, communities and institutions has become commonplace. Publish and be dammed, it is, with little regard to privacy, the right of reply or correction. 
It certainly hasn't improved media content. 

Yaara Metro: When We Said Free WiFi...


We meant the customers are free to get their own WiFi!

There was much hype in the media that it would steal a march over Delhi Metro in providing free WiFi connectivity in the trains. 
But a month and a day after its launch, all that stands belied. Passengers, who were trying to connect to the internet on their smart phones and laptops, were a disappointed lot. 
... When BMRCL spokesperson, B S Chavan, was asked what exactly had happened to the much-hyped WiFi, he said: “People are using it in the trains. Many bring their laptops and connect to the Internet.” 
“Anyone can carry their Airtel or Docomo modem, plug it into their laptop and go online,” he added.
Ouch!  

21-Nov-2011

The Vampire Squid Chronicles


Even before the upheaval in Italy, there was no sign of Goldman Sachs living down its nickname as "the Vampire Squid", and now that its tentacles reach to the top of the eurozone, sceptical voices are raising questions over its influence. The political decisions taken in the coming weeks will determine if the eurozone can and will pay its debts – and Goldman's interests are intricately tied up with the answer to that question.  

Safe Nuclear Power?

A former defense missile scientist takes on some myths: Nuclear power: Myths about low cost, safety and emission.  

Yaara Metro Losing Rs 2.5 Lakh Per Day

That is, it is losing Rs 2.5 lakh per day on the currently running Reach-1, on top of the Rs 65 lakh per day due to delays.
The first train chugged at 4 pm on October 20, and the first day witnessed around 60,000 passengers. However, the joy ride season faded gradually and one month after the start of operations, the commuter figure stands at an average of 25,000 per day.  
The drop in revenue earned from tickets and smart cards was also inevitable as the season of joy rides gave way to the not-so-exciting weekday commuting. The BMRCL earned Rs 13 lakh on an average for the first few days after the inauguration.  
But currently, it reaches a daily figure of Rs 3.5 lakh with much difficulty. If this situation continues in the coming months, Metro will run on a loss of Rs 2.5 lakh everyday. 
At least if this wasn't an eyesore stinging the eyes every time one ventured out, it would've mattered a bit less.

Oh Those Crazy Brutal Dictators - 2



And some reading to go along with that.

19-Nov-2011

Low-cost The Way To Go?


Consider the figures: The two low-cost airlines IndiGo and SpiceJet reported profits of Rs 550 crore and Rs 61 crore in 2009-10. On the other hand, Kingfisher Airlines reported a loss of Rs 1,647 crore and Jet Airways reported a loss of Rs 420 crore. Again, in 2010-11, while Jet and Kingfisher posted losses, SpiceJet and IndiGo remained profitable.
Read the article to see why. 

Orwell vs Huxley

Orwell vs Huxley: 1984 vs Brave New World.  
But then, as a comment there points out, we could as well go the whole hog and head to this 1984 speech by Neil Postman: Amusing ourselves to death.

18-Nov-2011

"Privatization Nightmare: 5 Public Services That Should Never Be Handed Over to Greedy Corporations"

Link.

To read, soon.

Oh Those Crazy Brutal Dictators

Treating their own citizens like this:

Shame on 'em.

Advice for Indian Politicians

Who want to make quick money:  Get with the times.  Change your methods.  Learn.  There is an easier way to make easy money.  No taint of the 'C' word attached too!  Link.
As many as a dozen members of Congress and their aides took part in insider trading based on foreknowledge of market moving information on Capitol Hill, disgraced Washington lobbyist Jack Abramoff told CNBC in an interview. 
Abramoff, who was once one of the wealthiest and most powerful lobbyists in Washington before a corruption scandal sent him to federal prison for more than three years, said that many of those members of Congress bragged to him about their stock trading prowess while dining at the exclusive restaurant he owned on Pennsylvania Avenue.
60 Minutes on the same issue:


Hey, if the elected reps of the US are doing it, it must be fine!

PS: Top Favorite Stock Holdings of Congress

American Hypocrisy


As I was reading this 
Arab leaders have given Syrian President Bashar al-Assad three days to halt his ''bloody repression'' of protests or risk sanctions, but activists said security forces shot dead a nine-year-old girl on Thursday.
and thinking how the killing of the 9-year-old will cement the Syrian government's status as the most horrible government that has to be overthrown immediately, this came to my mind: The killing of Awlaki’s 16-year-old son:
Two weeks after the U.S. killed American citizen Anwar Awlaki with a drone strike in Yemen — far from any battlefield and with no due process — it did the same to his 16-year-old son, Abdulrahman al-Awlaki, ending the teenager’s life on Friday along with his 17-year-old cousin and seven other people. News reports, based on government sources, originally claimed that Awlaki’s son was 21 years old and an Al Qaeda fighter (needless to say, as Terrorist often means: “anyone killed by the U.S.”), but a birth certificate published by The Washington Post proved that he was born only 16 years ago in Denver. 
 ... Every now and then it’s worth pausing to reflect on how often we talk about the killing of people by the U.S. Literally, the U.S. government is just continuously killing people in multiple countries around the world. Who else does that? Nobody — certainly nowhere near on this scale. The U.S. President expressly claims the power to target anyone he wants, anywhere in the world, for death, including his own citizens; he does it in total secrecy and with no oversight; and this power is not just asserted but routinely exercised. The U.S., over and over, eradicates people’s lives by the dozens from the sky, with bombs, with checkpoint shootings, with night raids — in far more places and far more frequently than any other nation or group on the planet. Those are just facts.
 That is one hypocritical government.

Yaara Metro Update


Revenue dips
On Reach-1, BMRCL claims that there is an increase in number of regular users of the services, even as the initial euphoria has died down. The revenue on the line has come down drastically compared to the first few days.  
On November 8, 29,233 people travelled in the Metro generating Rs 4.5 lakh while the same was 24,983 and Rs 3.78 lakh, respectively on November 9 and 24,289 and Rs 3.81 lakh on November 10. 
On November 11, 24,874 people travelled generating a revenue of Rs 3.63 lakh but on November 12 (Saturday) it went up to 43,000 and Rs 6.35 lakh.
We need one more inauguration to get the tourists back on the Metro.

'CIC orders RBI to expose 100 top loan defaulters'


In a move to usher in transparency in the functioning of banks, the Central Information Commission (CIC) has directed the RBI to reveal the names and divulge other details of the top 100 businessmen and industrialists defaulting on repaying loans taken from public sector banks. 
The CIC has also directed the country’s Central bank to post the complete information of all such defaulting businessmen and industrialists on its web site as part of a suo motu disclosure mandated under Section 4 of the transparency law, before December 31. The RBI has been directed to update this list every year. 
“There can be no doubt that the information on defaulters received from banks are held by the Reserve Bank in a fiduciary capacity and are confidential in nature,” an RBI official had said while deciding on Kapoor’s RTI application. 
Although Information Commissioner Shailesh Gandhi agreed with the RBI’s argument that such information was fiduciary in nature, he said that exemption could not be allowed when there was larger public interest in the disclosure. 
Gandhi’s argument was that “this (disclosure) could lead to safeguarding the economic and moral interests of the nation. The commission is conv­inced that the benefits accruing to the economic and moral fibre of the country, far outweigh any damage to the fiduciary relationship of bankers and their customers if the details of the top defaulters are disclosed.” 
Absolutely.  Let the names out.  Let us see where the money is going to.  We know that SBI has an exposure of Rs 1,400 crore to Kindfisher Airlines.  Who else has taken PSU bank money?  

In fact, why restrict it to the top 100?  Put it all out there.  Maybe the said businessmen and industrialists will be more careful taking out loans in the first place.  Each public sector bank could put out its own list too.  They are already doing it for the aam defaulters : India's banking lobby asks lenders not to use tough bad loan recovery measures
The Indian Banks Association -- a lobby group for banks -- has asked lenders in the country not to use very harsh measures to recover outstanding loan amounts from their customers, after India's public sector lenders including Corporation Bank and the State Bank of India adopted 'name and shame' tactic to recover bad loans. 
The banks displayed names, photographs and other details of willful loan defaulters on the notice board of its branches from where loan amount has been sanctioned, with a view that through such exercise, the fear of social ostracisation would drive the borrowers to repay dues owed to the bank.

Auditing As Performance Art


Jagathi Publications, whose promoter is Jagan Mohan Reddy of YSR Congress, was valued at Rs 196 crore by a Chennai-based auditing firm Jagadeesan and Co, despite an accumulated loss of Rs 319 crore staring in one's face. 
Not happy with this valuation, Jagathi Publications sought the services of the formidable Ivy League accounting firm Deloitte Touche Tohmatsu India (P) Ltd, which first put a value of Rs 2,500 crore on the business, based on its self-generated business plans for the next five years, and later on inflated it further to a staggering Rs 3,500 crore. 
Nice job folks.

Prediction Time

TCA Srinivasa Raghavan of Business Line does the predicting:

If the Congress manages to form a government in UP, or even manages to win enough number of seats, Rahul Gandhi would have “proved” that he is a mass leader in his own right, one to be reckoned with. 
The path will be then cleared for him to become Prime Minister and to force an early election in the first half of 2013 on the perfectly legitimate grounds that he needs his own team. 
The BJP under Advani will find it hard to come up with a fitting riposte. It needs Narendra Modi but will acknowledge it only after another resounding defeat. 
If Rahul fails in UP, it will be business-as-usual. Manmohan Singh will continue as Prime Minister till 2014; Rahul will become Congress President and the 2014 general election will be a nightmare for the Congress.
Let's see.

The Slow Death Of BSNL


Bharat Sanchar Nigam Ltd has scrapped plans to buy GSM equipment through a 3G-like reverse auction process . The company has instead floated a revised tender with the old system wherein vendors quoting the lowest amount will be selected. 
Though the bids will be made online, the telecom major has done a U-turn on its earlier plan to allow equipment vendors to revise its offer through a reverse auction mechanism.
... BSNL insiders suspect that the change may have happened at the request of some of the equipment vendors which feared that a reverse auction could lead to aggressive price cuts by the Chinese players. “In a reverse auction, the vendor with deep pockets and good financing back up, stand to gain as they would be able to cut down on price. While this is good for BSNL in terms of getting the best price it may edge out some of the bigger European vendors out of the play,” said a market watcher.
...BSNL workers' union, meanwhile, has shot off a letter to the Communications and IT Minister, Mr Kapil Sibal, on the issue. 
“The present tender for procurement of 14.37 million GSM lines through e-tendering could not reach anywhere for the last more than a year, due to sheer incompetence and extremely poor decision-making capabilities. In the meantime, it decided to float new tender, scrapping auction mechanism. This is simply atrocious, fully exposing professional integrity, very poor understanding on part of management and to top it all its total lack of concern as far as revival of BSNL is concerned,” said Mr G.L. Jogi, General Secretary, Sanchar Nigam Executives Association, in a letter sent to the Minister in October.
Why would the government let this kind of thing continue unless they want to kill off BSNL?  Pathetic morons.  Nice work by the European vendors too.  Nice to watch Capitalism at work.

Bt Vt And All That


Since 2002, the country's output has gone up two-and-half times to over 35 million bales this year, which has been brought about by higher acreages (from under 8 million to nearly 12 million hectares) and also a jump in yields (from an average 300 kg of lint to about 500 kg per hectare). 
... the last three or four years have seen yields stagnate, if not fall from the peak 550 kg reached in 2007. Cotton farmers are now grappling with new pests such as pink bollworm and jassids. The leaf curl virus, imported from Pakistan, has reportedly developed into a new form that scientists fear could pose more problems in the years to come.
So Bt was the answer to what question exactly?  But, whatever, they have the solution to the newest pests, though the Indian farmers will have to wait only ten years for it:  
Bollgard III, the advanced version of genetically modified cotton from the US agri-science major Monsanto, is likely to be commercially released in the global market in 2016-17. For India, it could take some more time and could be introduced around 2020, according to a Monsanto official. 
“Bollgard III will have resistance to bollworm, army worm and pink bollworm. It will also be herbicide tolerant,” said Dr Roy Cantrell, Global Cotton Breeding Lead of Monsanto.
As to the problems with Bollgard I, no worries there either:

Asked about reports of poor performance of Bollgard I currently in India, he said it was one of the reasons why farmers were shifting to Bollgard II.

Ah, good old Microsoft business model.  Lock in the customers so that they can't leave, ever.  The question must have been:  How can Monsanto make profits?


For a country that was languishing in cotton production, Brazil has come a long way to become the fifth largest producer in the world. Since 1994, its production has quadrupled, while exports have touched 800,000 tonnes from zero. 
“We have shifted cotton cultivation from the south and south-western parts of our country to the central and western parts,” [Mr Haroldo Cunha, Executive President of the Brazilian Cotton Institute] said. 
This helped because the climate and soil in the central and western parts were conducive to grow cotton in the Cerrados that is like the Savannahs. “More than these, only small farmers had been planting cotton in south and south-western parts of the country, while large growers took to cotton once it was taken up in central and western parts,” said Mr Cunha. 
A cotton producers association was formed to take up various issues of growers with the Government. The association also created a foundation for research that would work in tandem with growers. The growers' body tells the research association of its needs and the latter works accordingly. The Government, too, on its part supports research. Growers contribute $30 a hectare for research. 
“It helped to increase productivity from 770 kg lint (processed cotton) a hectare to 1,450 kg now,” said Mr Cunha. 
Interestingly, the growth in cotton production has not been boosted by genetically modified cotton varieties.
No, really?  No genetically modified cotton varieties?  How can that be?  Why can't we do it in desh? 

'Blind Faith In Private Health'

So what lies behind the Republican obsession with privatization and voucherization? Ideology, of course. It’s literally a fundamental article of faith in the G.O.P. that the private sector is always better than the government, and no amount of evidence can shake that credo. 
The same ideology thrives here too.

14-Nov-2011

Weekend Conversations: Itzhak Perlman


Meritocracy in the USA

America’s meritocratic, watchdog news media.  Baby Bush's daughter joins an NBC show, Bill Clinton's daughter joins NBC's as a full-time special correspondent and John McCain's daughter joins MSNBC.  As Greenwald puts it:
I really don’t understand what those angry, lazy losers in the Occupy movement are so upset about. America is a meritocracy; if you work hard and prove your skills, you get ahead. The winners deserve what they have because they have earned it. And when all else fails, we have a media filled with insurgent outsiders who will be relentless watchdogs over those in power because that’s what our media outlets are: true outsiders there to check the most powerful factions.

OWS Full of Lazy Unemployed People?

Airline Woes

The ATF prices are very high in India because states levy sales tax or VAT on ATF between 23 to 35 per cent. Being a state subject for tax, the Centre cannot control ATF prices or make them uniform. Airlines complain that ATF prices in India are almost double than that of global rates and account for 40 to 45 per cent of operational expenses compared to 18 to 20 per cent abroad. In fact, compared to a country like Singapore, ATF prices in some states in India is almost 70 per cent higher, they say. Another factor that drives costs up is high salaries for pilots and crew members. Though, after the recession in 2009, salaries did not move up rapidly, wage cost for airlines is still very high.
How about salaries?  Do these airlines pay as much as airlines in other countries?  I think not.  And what about all those sweet loans from obliging PSU banks?  SBI for instance has the highest exposure to Kingfisher - about Rs 1,400 crores (SBI asks Kingfisher to raise fresh equity before debt recast).

Or maybe the problem is elsewhere?
Yet another reason cited for the losses is the overcapacity in the sky. In the last one year or so, airlines leased more aircraft, added many more seats, opened new routes and increased frequency in the metro routes. The net result was that with more seats on offer and dynamic online pricing system, yield per seat nosedived. Points out SpiceJet spokesperson: “The pricing environment continued to be weak, resulting in a decline in the average passenger yields in the September quarter by 5 per cent to Rs 3,317.” He says that with increased capacities getting inducted, load factor during the quarter was also down to 67 per cent from 74 per cent during the same period last year. With the creation of large capacity, airlines are finding it difficult to reach a breakeven load factor which itself has moved up because of higher fuel cost.

Too crowded
It is also true that the herd mentality of Indian business has made many to join the fashionable high flying club without much planning. As everyone thought that by driving volume one can make money, they kept on adding new planes. Though all airlines are flying more flights with the low cost carriers (LCCs) configuration to cut costs, it did not help much as the fixed costs for fuel, interest payments, depreciation and maintenance and so on, constitute 90 per cent of the total cost.
More from Business Line: The rise and fall of a castle in the air.  Glamour.  Huh.

11-Nov-2011

After Trade Unions, NGOs

From the corporate paper: NGOs vs India Inc: How are companies gearing up for the face off?.  Some nuggets:

"With trade union leaders, one could at least talk," says Gulabchand. "They stood for the interest of the workers and their cause was always clear. Medha Patkar, on the other hand, refuses to sit down at the table and talk. She wants to destroy Lavasa and every other such project. She's an anarchist." 
That is the CMD of Hindustan Construction Company saying that.  The job of trade union leaders is to talk with management.  Otherwise how could they solve problems?  But  why would Medha Patkar sit down at the table to talk with him if she is taking up the issue of violation of environmental laws? Or is it something else he is implying?  
"The corporate sector needs to press for more transparency in the NGO sector. They should publish their accounts and state their sources of funding. Secondly, Indian NGOs need to have more focus. Right now they are rent-a-cause activists, with no deep knowledge or experience in any one issue." 
Well, well, well.  Shoot the messengers.  Next up, it is Monsanto's turn:
"From NGOs, our interactions have widened to universities, academia, media and end-user industry, like poultry feed, starch industry and ginning mills. Relationships are built on creating awareness and we realise that Vandana Shiva was successful because she had an ignorant audience. We are building an ecosystem of knowledge to counter the next tirade, if any," says Bhatnagar. 
Italics mine.  In other words, she was just exploiting ignorant people for her own nefarious reasons and Monsanto whose very existence depends on selling GM seeds is doing the righteous thing.  Then, this story whose point escapes me from Vedanta:

When Felix Padel, English anthropologist-activist and great grandson of Charles Darwin touched down to espouse the cause of East Indian tribals in 2003, Jitu Jakasika, then all of 15, joined the chorus. A Dongria-Kondh tribal from Lanjigarh in the Kalahandi district of Orissa, Jakasika was entranced by Padel's vision of a denuded community if Vedanta were to be given a free run to mine bauxite from the nearby Niyamgiri Hills. The only school-goer from his village, Jakasika became a conduit convincing his villagers and community about the pitfalls of bauxite mining and even set out to gather support across the political spectrum. Gradually, global non-profits such as Amnesty International and Survival International made a beeline to him, as did Action Aid and the local NGOs.  
But innocence also has its intransigent heroes. All along, Jakasika had a burning desire to be a civil servant. He had friends from his community serving Vedanta and in 2006-07, and on their request, he went to the nearby NALCO bauxite mines, for a demo. He subsequently took his villagers to the NALCO mines and got so convinced about the 'misguided path' he had taken, that he met up with Sanjay Kumar Pattnaik, a senior vice-president in Vedanta. When he asked Jakasika what he wanted to do for his people, the reply was: "I want education so that I can work for my people; so that there will be 100 people in the community like me." Vedanta executives immediately took Jakasika to Bhubaneshwar, where he's now pursuing a Bachelors' in Business Administration sponsored by the same company he once loathed. 
 Corporates should learn that they can't do as they please rather than blame the NGOs.

On The Trail Of Black Money

Yella OK, Airline Yaake?

As a consequence of Thursday’s flight cancellations, including 40 from Bangalore, hundreds of passengers were left in the lurch. There was chaos in several airports all over the country as Kingfisher passengers were told of their flights’ cancellation on reaching the airport. With their fares not refunded, the passengers had to book tickets with other airlines at exhorbitant rates to reach their destinations. 
He had to take out Deccan too.  All for this?
There were also reports that the airline, which has been struggling to stay afloat for long, had defaulted in payments to international aircraft lessors and some of them have sought to impound the planes. However, the airline has denied such a move. 
Kingfisher has suffered a loss of Rs 1,027 crore in 2010-11 and has a debt of around Rs 7,050 crore. 
His pilots are having fun. Those that left at least.  Training pilots with a planeload of people:
On September 18, a KFA flight from Delhi made a rough landing in Bangalore giving a jolt to the passengers late evening.  
And its (Airbus 8321) Captain, Salaluddin had announced: “Sorry for the harsh landing ladies and gentlemen, I was training my under-officer (Gaurav), he will get the hang of it soon.”
I hope for the sake of the passengers that he does.  

Gender Inequality Lower In Pakistan

Compared to India.  Link.
What is most surprising is that as regards the gender inequality index — which is a composite measure reflecting inequality in achievements between men and women in three dimensions, namely reproductive health, empowerment and labour markets — India turns out to be the worst with an index of 0.617 (higher the ratio, higher is the inequality). This compares unfavourably with Pakistan (0.573), Bangladesh (0.550), Nepal (0.558) Sri Lanka (0.419) and China (0.209).
But the BJP supporters some people keep pointing out how women are ill-treated by ...er..hrrmph....

Deloitte Does A PwC On Jagan's Media Empire

That is the correct headline for this story: Deloitte does a Satyam with Jagan's media empire.  
Deloitte manipulated the valuation of Jagati Publications up to Rs 3,500 crore instead of an actual valuation of Rs 2,500 crore and even predated the valuation to enable Jagan’s company sell equity stakes at high premiums of over Rs 350 per scrip. P N Sudarshan, senior director of Deloitte Touche Tohmatsu India Private Limited, on Wednesday made a startling confession to the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) that Jagan’s clout and political pressure drove the company to compromise on credibility and concede to their demands.
"Startling confession" indeed.

Creating Vast Net Wealth

India continues its rise as an economic superpower, creating vast net wealth along the way. After analyzing data from a wide range of government and banking sources, alongside conducting detailed explorations of proprietary research and media reports, Wealth-X estimated the presence of at least 8,200 individuals or families in India worth more than US$30 million. The collective net worth of India’s ultra high net worth category is at least US$945 billion when accounting for shares in public and private companies, residential and investment properties, art collections, planes, cash and other invertible assets.

10-Nov-2011

Party With A Difference

What has startled CBI officials is a corpus of details on Reddy’s political manoeuvrings and other tactics he adopted when Yeddyurappa was faced with a mini revolt within the BJP earlier this year. The laptop also contains details on how money was handled and election arrangements made during the Bellary bye-poll contested by senior BJP leader Sushma Swaraj. There are files in the laptop which indicate that large sums of money was given to senior leaders in the central BJP for fighting the 2009 Lok Sabha elections.
The gateway to the South is crawling with all kinds of worms.

Licence to Fleece?

Link
Today, nobody can buy grain or vegetables directly from farmers without having an APMC licence. That, in turn, is difficult to obtain, even if one were prepared to pay the applicable market fee on the produce procured from the designated area falling under the particular APMC's jurisdiction. State Governments can, of course, be gratuitous in granting APMC licences to enable a Walmart or Tesco to operate. But that does not still address the basic issue of laws protecting entrenched trade cartels while restricting the universe of buyers for farmers.
Why the man-in-the-middle?  Isn't he the one fleecing the farmers on one side and the consumers on the other?

09-Nov-2011

Thousands march in student protest over university fees: BBC

Link.
Some 4,000 officers are on duty, as demonstrators march peacefully in a protest against higher tuition fees and "privatisation" in universities.
...
The student protest, organised by the National Campaign Against Fees and Cuts, is against the government's plans for a market-driven higher education system and the rising tuition fees. 
"We are being told by a cabinet of millionaires that we will have to pay triple tuition fees," said campaign leader Michael Chessum.
...
Protesters carried placards which read "Scrap Tuition Fees" and "Free Education" and chanted "No ifs, no buts, no education cuts" and slogans criticising the police over rubber bullets.
..
Paul Clark, director of policy at Universities UK, which represents higher education institutions, says universities will not be damaged by increased competition. 
"I think that the level of private involvement in higher education at the moment is relatively small and is likely to remain that way for the forseeable future although we know there are plans to, to change this," he said.
So, where do we go with privatisation in India? 

US against local content requirements in renewables

US against local content requirements in renewables
The company's President, Mr James Brown, said that the solar industry was “in a bit of a turmoil”. In an obvious reference to the Chinese, he said that some players, “desperate to find a market for their products”, were bringing down prices aggressively.
Other players, equally desperate to find a market, bring Daddy along with them for help. to arm-twist the client. 

07-Nov-2011

Greg Chappell Has A Nigerian Investment Opportunity

Just for you if you think that only Pakistani players are involved in fixing.  Link.

And what's up with this: Goa skipper sacked for calling draw?  I mean, why not just play out 12 overs?  

Et Tu Tarun Tejpal?

An open letter to Tarun Tejpal: Hartman de Souza.

As a lapsed Tehelka subscriber, I'm not too surprised.

And it keeps on giving: A crusader turns collector.

Why Not A Blue-eyed 7 Billion'th Kid?

One wonders why, on October 31st – Halloween, to be precise – the UN did not name a blue-eyed baby boy from Washington, Bonn, Sydney or Toronto as our uncertain world’s symbolic seven billionth?
Why indeed?

Where Did It Go?

One more investment firm in trouble, another hole in 'customer accounts'.   Link.

Putting Growth In Its Place

Link.  Amartya Sen &  Jean Dreze take on the growth vs human development argument.

03-Nov-2011

Soaring Student Loans in the USA

As the calls for for-profit private education institutions get louder, here is one data point to take heed of: A 511% rise in student loans 1999 in the USA.
Obviously the number of students didn't grow by 511%. So why are education loans growing so rapidly? One reason could be availability. The government's backing lets credit to students flow very freely. And as the article from yesterday noted, universities are raising tuition aggressively since students are willing to pay more through those loans.
And the state of for-profit colleges over there is uncovered here: For-Profit Colleges: Undercover Testing Finds Colleges Encouraged Fraud and Engaged in Deceptive and Questionable Marketing Practices.

"What's going on here, unfortunately, is murder"

US drones in Pakistan.

The UN Predicts The World's Population

Visualized.

02-Nov-2011

Why Not A Mostly Underground Metro?

Since the 'increase in cost' argument seems to be not quite correct?
The cost of construction came down to Rs 153 crore (Rs 1.53 billion) per km in phase-II, as compared to Rs 162 crore (Rs 1.62 billion) in phase-I, despite an increase in the share of the underground component from 20 per cent in the first phase to 27 per cent in the second.
Also, why are the per km estimates higher for Phase III? Shouldn't they factor in the fact that the cost has actually come down?

Rs 250 crore per year, or 45% of annual income of the Delhi Metro, go towards loan repayment to JICA. Good for the Japanese. They're getting more than they will in Japan.

Global Wealth Distribution

Very interesting.

01-Nov-2011

‘Media is diverting attention & dividing people’

Former Supreme Court judge and now chairman of the Press Council of India (via churumuri):
Indian media is very often playing an anti-people role. One, it diverts the attention of the people from the real problems, which are basically economic. 80% people are living in horrible poverty, unemployment, facing price rise, healthcare. You divert attention from those problems and instead you parade parade film stars, fashion parades, cricketers, as if they are the problems.

Two, very often the media (deliberately) divides the people (on religious lines). This is a country of great diversity because it is a country broadly of immigrants. We must respect each other and remain united. After every bomb blast, almost every channel report that Indian Mujahidin or Jaish-e-Mohammed or Harkatul-jihad-e-islam have sent e-mails or SMS claiming responsibility. Now an e-mail can be sent by any mischievous person, but by showing this on TV channels and next day in the newspapers the tendency is to demonise all Muslims in the country as terrorists and bomb throwers.

Third, the media must promote scientific ideas to help the country move forward, like the European media did. Here the media promotes superstition, astrology. You know, 90% of the people in the country are mentally very backward, steeped in casteism, communalism, superstition and so on. Should the media help uplift them and bring them up to a higher mental level and make them part of enlightened India, or should it go down to their level and perpetuate their backwardness? Many channels show astrology, which is pure humbug, total superstition.
B..but the competition, invisible hand, free markets?

PS: The full interview here: http://ibnlive.in.com/shows/Devil%27s+Advocate/197593.html. Lots of good ones like 'Cricket is the opium of the masses'.

On Founding the Indian School of Business

Kumar had introduced him to Rajat Gupta. The two of them wanted to start an Indian School of Business in Hyderabad. “I gave them [the school] a million dollars. I later found out they never contributed any of their money, and are listed as the school’s founders. And I’m not even a fucking Indian.”

Airplane Boarding Woes

It now takes 30 to 40 minutes to board about 140 passengers on a domestic flight, up from around 15 minutes in the 1970s.
The invisible hand! Competition! Progress!