MSD- The Destiny

“Dhoniiiiiiii….finishes off in style….a magnificent strike in to the crowd…India lift the Worldcup after 28 years…the party starts in the dressing room…and its the Indian captain who has been absolutely magnificent in the night of the final”.

No Indian can forget these words which echoed throughout the country on 2nd April 2011 and continue to do so whenever we think of that day.“The history of the world,” wrote Thomas Carlyle, “is but the biography of great men.” Carlyle held that history is determined by the actions of a handful of heroes. And if his ideas have been discredited since, in sport, at least, they’ve still some truth to them. Mahendra Singh Dhoni was and is such Hero to 125 crore Indians and their  Religion, that is Cricket. He may not be the next Sachin Tendulkar , but he surely was the only one who came close.

In a nation that is obsessed with being centre-stage, I am not sure he ever sought it. Remember the long-haired new captain who had just won India the first World T20? He had given away his match shirt to someone in the crowd and was walking away quietly. The more mature captain who had won India the World Cup of 2011? Spot him in any of the pictures? He let it be Sachin Tendulkar’s moment. He let it be about Indian cricket. It wasn’t about him and he didn’t force himself into every frame. It was, actually, his evening but he looked at it from afar.
I thought it was cool. The sign of a confident man. He made a statement by not being there. I don’t know if that is cool today but he rose in my eyes.

Dhoni was not only a calm captain himself, he was the cause for calmness in others.

He smiled, he showed displeasure, he chatted to bowlers, but while his immediate message was clear, no one could bet on what his thinking was.

Dhoni read the one-day game better than he did Test cricket, and was India’s finest captain in the shorter formats.

He could experiment, even gamble, trusting his finely honed sense of time and place to bring him success. What people also forget is about MSD’s wicketkeeping skills, they are as good as Ronaldo’s flicks and Messi’s tricks.He perhaps is one of the finest we have seen if not THE best of all time when it comes to being behind the wickets.

He led India to victory in three tournaments – World Twenty20 (2007), World Cup (2011) and Champions Trophy (2013) – so the record matched his reputation

When he handed the ball to rookie Joginder Sharma in the final of the inaugural World T20 a decade ago, there might have been a collective gasp around the country.

Yet Sharma claimed the last Pakistan wicket, and as an unintended consequence, the face of cricket was changed forever. The IPL was born, as India, Twenty20 deniers became Twenty20 obsessed.

Dhoni’s place in history is assured, and not just as a player and captain.He was leader of a talented group of players which emerged from non-traditional areas.Dhoni’s arrival was a testimony to the reach of televised cricket.

The legacy Dhoni bestowed upon Virat Kohli is a team secure in its skin, certain it can win from any position. There was no better captain in the game’s shorter forms than Dhoni during his time. He is the only skipper to have won all three major trophies — the World Cup, the World Twenty20 and the Champions Trophy. Michael Clarke and Brendon McCullum had greater attacking verve. They were certainly superior Test captains. But in the art of managing a finite innings, reading a contest’s rhythm and its tactics, Dhoni had no equal. He had an intuitive feel for what could happen and the ability to get the best out of his resources, however bare( I always felt he can achieve great things if he enters Politics). His greatest strength was his nerve. Where others tried to finish things quickly to pre-empt panicking, he took games deep. He raised the stakes, knowing he would not blink before his opponent. Remarkably, he managed to transmit this sense of composure to his team. He asked his bowlers to relax and stick to the plan; the responsibility of the result was his to bear. Few cricketers have stayed in the present as successfully as he has. Fortunately for Indian cricket, his successor is every bit as impressive. Kohli, moreover, will have access, should he choose, to all of Dhoni’s considerable powers.

What Dhoni achieved though, goes way beyond the numbers he produced. He told young Indians in small towns that they could conquer the world. To them he was the beacon, he was the dream that maybe they could achieve too. He showed the way. It is a substantial, and wonderful, thing in life to do.

“I don’t think anyone knew Mahendra Singh Dhoni. I don’t think anyone was meant to.”-Harsha Bhogle

 

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Cash is the new Trash

In a new tryst with destiny, once again at the stroke of the midnight hour on November 8-9, Mr.Modi effectively demonetised large denomination notes in India. Of the Rs.16 lakh crore-plus in circulation, Rs.500 and Rs.1,000 notes account for about Rs.14 lakh crore and more than 85 per cent by value of all rupee bills in circulation, as per Reserve Bank of India data.

At the heart of it is the simple proposition that large currency notes are used more to conceal than to purchase. Mr. Modi has converted this one sentence into an economic boom in his true fight against black money and corruption, which is laudable.The U.S. stopped issuing $500 notes in 1969, the European Central Bank halted 500-euro notes early this year, and Singapore killed its $10,000 note and Canada its $1,000 note in 2000. India has one of the highest cash to GDP ratios at 12 per cent (excluding the parallel economy) and despite a well-publicised amnesty scheme, the fear of god had not sunk in. Now it will, with Mr. Modi’s big-bang step.

Indeed, there will be some contraction in money supply and thus a slight deflationary impact, which will cause some inconvenience in the very short term to the average citizen, which the Prime Minister has acknowledged repeatedly in his speech, but this will be compensated by significant benefits in the long term for all law-abiding citizens.

The deflationary impact could be felt in sectors where cash is the main instrument of transaction and perhaps in some asset prices as well, such as in real estate. In the longer term, it will lead to a greater proportion of the economy shifting from black to white. Those who hold large amounts of cash may, if they deposit it in banks and perhaps pay taxes on it, be forced to join the white economy. It may also raise permanently the cost of holding cash by adding a risk premium. This may encourage people to take the certainty of paying taxes in lieu of the uncertainty of holding black cash.The next big hit should be on purchase of benami property which is a national avocation, for that’s perhaps the other big outlet and repository of black money. When the Goods and Services Tax comes into force, the government should do away with stamp duty on land at any stage of the sale; moreover, the tax rates on purchase of property should be dramatically slashed. This apart, election funding reforms and online voting are all big steps in the continuum of reforms, of which this was just the first big step.

The incentives for honesty have been improved, dramatically, with this reform measure, much needed after it was last done in 1978. This will seriously affect the stock of black money but the effect on future flows is unpredictable. However, the flows will perhaps be reduced because of the increased risk perception in cash transactions. Further, the government should take steps to increase mobile penetration, pre-bundled with cash apps, which will make it easier for those who wish to go digital.

Cash is the new trash and the Prime Minister has acted decisively, ending reams of debates, declamations and declarations. Changing human behaviour is the hardest thing to do in the world — Mr. Modi is doing just that in one of the most difficult ecosystems in the world. As a small aside, he has also dealt a body blow to ‘terror money’, and electoral politics in India will never be the same again.

The new colour of Money

“Black money is so much a part of our white economy, a tumour in the centre of the brain – try to remove it and you kill the patient.”

Black money and white money are simplistic concepts; there is a grey area in between. In a country such as India, given the lack of financial inclusion, the financial and legal illiteracy, the history of tax laws and foreign exchange regulations, monetary and financial culture, nature of political funding, availability and use of insider information in the economic and political spheres, and so on, there is a need to handle matters in a sensitive manner. There is, of course, a need to do something about all the black money, even if parts of it are “grey”. The policy of demonetisation of high denomination currency notes may be viewed as a step in the direction of adopting a policy of coordination so that the Indian economy shifts from what economists call a bad equilibrium to a good equilibrium.

Benefits:

1) It shows government’s seriousness to tackle black money. This signaling effect alone is a huge benefit to the nation where many evade taxes.
2) It will ensure a significant part of the black money gets back to the government. It’s not true that nobody gains from the money burnt/thrown away.
3) The old money not swapped in banks is effectively the government’s Profit. Say 100 lakh crs of total money existed in old notes, and only 60 lakh crores comes back. For remaining 40 lakh crores, the government can print new notes, and keep it themselves. Hence, the government does stand to make a lot of money in this (which can be then used for people)
4) It’s nice to see a PM who works, has innovative ideas and wants to make a change. We have had leaders who sat quietly and did little. It is good to see a man of action.

At the same time, like any policy, there are some issues.

Issues:
1) Execution of such an exercise in India is no joke. We just aren’t technically ready to do this in a smooth manner. (That is why we are facing some execution issues.)
2) There are some tricks still people can use to swap black money into new money. It will reduce the amount of black money recovered.
3) There is a huge cash economy in India. It isn’t ‘black’. It’s just cash. To suck up so much liquidity will lead to a slowdown and losses for a lot of people, for no fault of their own. The slowdown in economic activity will cause lower profits, and in turn lower taxes for the government.
4) A potential crash in real estate prices. While some want property prices to fall, a huge drop can cause an economic shock, reduction in bank collateral values etc., again leading to a recession.
5) The exercise by definition involves everyone swapping their money after showing their credentials. In effect, everyone has to prove they are innocent and have clean money. This is somewhat invasive to citizens, and while there is no other way, it remains an issue.
6) The exercise would be expensive, and that cost needs to be taken into account.
7) It’s a jolt to our stable monetary system. Doing it again and again will cause people to lose confidence in our currency. It’s really a one-off, and even that destabilizes things.
8) The tax department may use it as an excuse to harass people later, with endless questioning about the extra bank entries.

Net Effect:
Overall, demonetization is a good move. Given the extent of black money in the country, and the tiny taxpayer base, something had to be done. It had to be drastic. It has been done now. We should now do what it takes to make it succeed.

THE EXECUTION:
As important as an idea is it’s execution. There clearly have been execution issues, causing pain to a lot of Indians who have wasted a lot of productive time in queues. While doing things for the nation is good, one need not have to suffer because of bad planning or someone not thinking things through. The good and bad of the execution are:

Good:
1. It’s happening, and still the country is chugging along. Banks across the country are slow, but doing their bit. There is no mass hunger, or calamity so far.
2. Government is taking steps to ease the pain. The change in limits helps. The banks are also devising ways to manage the crowds.
3. People in India are on the whole, taking it well.

Bad:
1. Someone didn’t plan the logistics well – it is one thing to make an excel spreadsheet of number of bank branches and the people involved. It is quite another to when you deal with India’s reality on the ground. There are bottlenecks galore in this exercise – whether printing of notes, uncaliberated ATMs, or limits to the number of cash vans. One can say whatever about the secrecy required, but it seems that while finance professionals sat and spoke up in the meetings, industrial engineers and operations research experts probably did not to the extent required. We are seeing the fallout now.
2. Citizens do not have to take so much pain. Inconvenience is one thing, suffering quite another. To say bear it in the name of patriotism is not listening to the issue – the execution is not efficient. It is the same as how people say – “Oh, the temple is dirty, bear it in the name of God.” Sorry, God had nothing to do with it. The temple management didn’t keep the temple clean. Same ways, patriotism has nothing to do with the fact that someone didn’t plan the ATMs better or didn’t make the new 500-Rs note available early.

In his speech the Prime Minister had invoked the metaphor of a purification of the economy by rooting out black money. But another form of purification can be espied in the action. In the prototype Rs.2,000 note to come, displayed on television, we can see the denomination written in the Devanagari numeral. It is a first. India’s founding fathers had avoided privileging any one language. This principle, so vital to the prospects of this great country, is set to be breached. The demonetisation has also proved to be a cultural opportunity.

FINAL CONCLUSION AND IDEAS FOR SMOOTH EXECUTION:

 

If you have a considerable amount of cash to be deposited, or know someone who does, or are generally looking for comprehensive information and customized advice relating to the demonetization scheme, hire a Chartered Accountant to help you with the process, instead of looking to twitter and social media to clear your doubts. Seriously.

In final analysis, we should support demonetization, but keep reminding the government to iron out the execution issues. Some ideas:

1. Online appointment booking for banks.
2. Easy forms, which can be pre-filled. Faster check-outs at banks.
3. Hiring interns at banks for short term, supervised by existing employees.
4. Opening banks 24 X 7 after new hires come in.
5. Supplying enough notes to banks as fast as possible.
6. Fixing the ATMs
7. Declaring one or two holidays (not for banks!) for people to get their finances in order
8. Removing withdrawal limits as fast as possible.
9. Having empathy for people in lines, from the highest levels of government.
10. Giving an incentive to people to come to the bank. A meal coupon would go a long way too.

“Power tends to corrupt; absolute power corrupts absolutely.”

Lost in the Woods: India’s Biodiversity

“Biodiversity can’t be maintained by protecting a few species in a zoo, or by preserving green belts or national parks. To function properly, nature needs more room than that. It can maintain itself, however, without human expense, without zoo keepers, park rangers, foresters or gene banks. All it needs is to be left alone.” » Donella Meadows

Biological Diversity Act 2002, calls for protection and management of biodiversity through the setting up of Biodiversity Management Committees(BMC) for managing biodiversity and managing People’s biodiversity registers(PBR) to document biodiversity in each district.The Act provides for both centralised as well as decentralised institutional mechanisms for conservation and sustainable use of biodiversity. It has National Biodiversity Authority at the apex level and BMC’s at the local level, with an intermediate state biodiversity board.

The problem is acute at the level of BMC’s. The BMC have been given diverse responsibilities which includes conservation, promoting sustainable use and chronicling of knowledge related to biodiversity.BMC are mandated to prepare PBR’s which are comprehensive records of biodiversity that occur under the jurisdiction of BMC.The issue acquires importance as India is facing massive biodiversity loss: 333 acres of forest which is under provisions of Forest Conservation Act 1980 is illegally diverted every year.This does not include forests illegally felled or enchroched.Supreme court has called for ‘Species best interest standard’, But one Rhino was killed every two weeks in Kaziranga National Park. About 30 or less genetically pure Wild Buffaloes exist in central India.The number of Great Indian bustards stand at the precarious 150 birds.Construction plan for Amravati, the new capital of Andra Pradesh includes 13000 hectares or 130 sq.km of forest.The himalayas are today the world’s mountain ranges with most dams.

India is in the midst of a unacknowledgebale biodiversity crisis.Therefore it is ironic that the act is the most neglected of India’s environment laws and one of the least implemented.there is very limited judicial pronouncement and interpretation, action by civil society is virtually absent.This despite the fact that the at has immense potential to safeguard India’s threatened biodiversity.Constantly seen fraudulent,Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) is a process of evaluating the likely environmental impacts of a proposed project or development, taking into account inter-related socio-economic, cultural and human-health impacts, both beneficial and adverse.It undermines the ecological value of the areas that are proposed to be damned, mined or diverted.Examples-Monpa community of Tawang district of Arunachal Pradesh had to struggle for 3 years to National Green Tribunal(NGT) that had riverine area proposed for construction of dam is one of the two wintering sites of the Blacked-necked Crane, it is a protected specie held sacred by the Buddhist.The tribals in Kinnaur, Himachal Pradesh are struggling to protect the last remaining Chilgoza(pine nut) trees from being lost to a series of hydro-power projects.Forest deparatments reports do not mention the significant role of trees in providing livelihood security to people.The Lakhwar-Vyasi hydro-electric project in Uttarakhand is almost the size of Tehri project which means that an EIA should be conducted, but it has been exempted because of ingenious and questionable interpretation of law which states that project was proposed in 1987 before EIA act of 2006.Therefore most-hydel projects are 24.99 Megawatts giving the limit set by EIA at 25 Megawatts! The same holds true for mining and other projects

PBR could be an effective tool to counter false and misleading statements given in forest diversion proposals and EIA reports.They could help a community present the facts before the decision maker in order to highlight the real value of the ecological entity proposed to be sacrificed.They could save area from being value based on rapid assessment done by institutions of questionable integrity or methodology whose goals are only to take the projects through.India’s famed ‘Green Judge’, Justice Kuldip Singh had observed in ICELA vs Union of India(1996) case that “enacting of a law but tolerating its infringement is worse than not enacting a law at all”

In face of an unimplemented act and general apathy, India’s biodiversity is too precious to be lost. Contrary to the general viewpoint, we should not protect our biodiversity for present and future generations.This is an Anthropocentric approach.We should protect biodiversity purely because we have no moral,legal and ethical right to destroy something not created by us.

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At 70:Expanding the Idea of India

The Independence that we celebrate today was won by the Indian people through a prolonged and hard struggle of epic dimensions, a larger than life battle in which ordinary men and women performed heroic roles.It was a cumulation of revolutionary movement which forced the rulers of an empire on which the ‘sun never set’ to surrender power to their ‘subjects’ whom they had exploited for two centuries.India became the first colony to throw off the imperial yoke, and its example inspired other countries in Asia and Africa and by 1960s, most countries had became independent.

Throwing light upon duties seems to be the most apt headline this independence amidst all the noises of rights and protection.The framers of the Constitution did not deem it appropriate to incorporate Fundamental Duties in the text of the Constitution, however the post-Constitution civic life, for around a quarter of a century did not portray a rosy picture and therefore it was thought fit to have a framework of duties within Constitution itself which ironically came into life at the time of suspension of rights during emergency.Apart from the 11 Fundamental duties, there is need for addition of several duties as the country has grown 70 yrs but is still very young.

Duty to Vote: One method through which this may be achieved is through developing a system of incentives for voters and conversely disadvantages for those who remain abstain from performing their duty to vote.A very large section of people can be motivated to vote this way

Duty to pay taxes: It will shift the onus onto tax payer to pay taxes rather than tax department to collect them

Duty to help accident victims:Every 60 minutes, 16 people die in India in traffic accidents.With the increase in the number of accidents, it has become pertinent for India to recognise this duty as one owed by its citizens towards each other

Duty to keep premises clean, Duty to raise voice against injustice, Duty to protect whistle-blowers are some more which can be incorporated. For the people of country who are so knowledgable about their rights , surely these duties would be welcomed and understood equally well

What could be some of the defining images of India at 70? The growing visibility of gestures of Dalit resistance and attempts to regain dignity, how to define nationalism, what should be the protection for and right of minorities, the correct balance of power between institutions, or the cow vigilantism in many parts of the country which says  that it is right to disrespect human life in the name of the cow. These are desperate images but with a common theme: They speak of freedom’s work half done, or undone, while promising that fight for greater freedom is still on.Having said all this ,India’s image globally was never so powerful in the past 70 years whose bold example is when  Mr Prime Minister from the podium of Red Fort gave life to NSA’s words”that offense is the new defence” by taking into account Balochistan and telling our bitter neighbour that India has the answer to Kashmir and now it is not in the mood to sit back. Strong leader and growing powerful allies in the east as well as west are a welcome signal for an emerging economic power who is growing day by day.

Sixty nine years after Independence, we Indians are more free than when the British left, but less free than what the framers of our Constitution hoped us to be.For now, lets celebrate the growing visibility of Dalit resistance and fight for dignity,refusal to dispose of human waste and remove carcasses of dead animals anymore Let’s welcome Candidate Irom Sharmila in Manipur, when she takes the electoral plunge and an election issue called AFSPA.Let’s look forward to the latest bout between judiciary and government yielding hopefully in a finer balance of institutions.To quote Nehru on 15th August 1947,”It is a tryst with Destiny” and hope the coming generations continue with the same feeling and pride

 

“IS” this the warning to India?

India cannot afford to adopt ‘Ostrich like’ stance and must acknowledge that India along with Bangladesh is a vital target for the Islamic state in the expanded state of Khorassan, Kashmir,Gujarat,NorthWest India and Greater Bengal figure prominently

The real threat posed by IS is not so much its capacity to engage in violence but in its persuasive appeal to muslim youth.The IS is able to attract an ever-increasing number of recruits and several come from highly educated and elite backgrounds.Social dynamics and manipulations of social media have also brought about certain sociological consequences.This together with online propaganda and media projection is producing an entirely different type of youth radicalized. The holy Grail remains the caliphate which has ignited the imaginations of muslim youth.

The IS has its own version of Islamic state of Khorassan.It however tends to see the battle in not geopolitical terms but one of winning and securing the minds and hearts of muslim youth. Hence countries with large educated muslim populations like Bangladesh and India are at risk

Increased sectarian tensions and violence due to misplaced IS propaganda will almost certainly disturb the equilibrium that cannot exist among muslim communities here. India thus has every reason to feel concerned at the rise of IS