Tuesday, October 31, 2006

Supreme Court clears hotel sell-off

The Indian Supreme Court has cleared the sale of Agra Ashoka hotel by the previous NDA Government as part of its dis-investment plans. The Govt had declared as part of its dis-investment policy that non-core holdings should be sold to strategic bidders to raise revenue. In addition, it was a policy decision that the Govt had no business to be in such sectors such as hotels, the running of which is best left to the private sector.

This was a welcome move. With the policy allowing sale to a strategic investor being cleared by the cabinet, the Govt earned large sums of money from the premium that the bidder was willing to pay and these companies were also able to recognize their true potential under private ownership. The Govt would also not be required anymore to sink public funds into these financial black holes to keep them up and working.

It was also a recognition of the fact that the Government is woefully inept in running businesses. There is too much of nepotism, waste and policies of patronage when the Govt gets into the running of businesses. The Govt had been steadily running the hotels into the ground with acute losses. Appointing a Govt official to run an industry for which he has no knowledge is seldom a wise policy. In addition, there are numerous other examples of why the Govt should not be in the nature of running non-core areas. Indian Airlines and Air India have been propped up in the past numerous times with massive loans. BSNL and MTNL were big uncaring monsters with extremely shoddy service levels until competition forced them to behave better. Who among us has not faced the uncaring face of some babu in some Govt office or some PSU. Why would you think that a person like this would do anything to make the PSU much better ?
But now this entire disinvestment policy has hit a dead end. On the one hand, a lot of politicians do not want further privatization since they fear that their ability to provide patronage to their own people will reduce, and then we have the fossil birds of the left parties continuing to drum beat their discredited policies, uncaring about the effects of their opposition. Their policies hit the worker class the most, the ones about whom they profess to care the most. With companies typically doing better in private hands, workers will also stand to do better in private companies, with better skills, and the ability to earn more if the company does well. In states where they actually have to face the people, they realize the benefits of privatization, and hence the West Bengal chief minister is a good example of a practical man doing what is good for his state, as opposed to the central communist leadership worshipping their false ideals.

The Govt is typically well-suited to act as a facilitator and a regulator, with active ownership in some core areas such as national security, law and order, social services, etc. But not in areas that can be done much better by the private sector, with the maximum benefit reaching the consumers.

posted by Ashish Agarwal @ 9:33 PM    

Monday, October 30, 2006

Priyadarshini killer gets death sentence

Finality in the Priyadarshini Mattoo case (well, almost - there will be an appeal to the Supreme Court plus appeal to the President for mercy). Read about it here. This case, after having gone through numerous twists and turns, finally resulted in a sentence being passed on the convict, Santosh Kumar Singh.

There is a lot of controversy on the death penalty, with people on both sides of the argument. However, this is one of the cases that pushes the envelope. Here is a person relenlessly stalking a girl, secure in the knowledge that because his father is a senior police official, nothing will happen to him. She files a police complaint, but even that does not do anything. And then in the final ending, he brutally assaults her, breaks 3 ribs, rapes and then kills her. What does one do with a person like that ? The Indian penal code and the judicial system provides for the extreme punishment in a case such as this. And this is the punishment that he has been sentenced to.

posted by Ashish Agarwal @ 9:48 AM    

Sunday, October 29, 2006

The Natwar story continues

The unthinkable happened. Natwar Singh has finally come out and blamed Sonia Gandhi for all his problems. This is actually directly opposite to what he said some time ago when he blamed Manmohan Singh for all his problems and refused to say a word against Sonia Gandhi. At that time he probably realized the essential truth - you can say what you like against any Congress functionary, but not against the dynasty. That seemed like the sensible thing to do if he wanted to fulimnate and put pressure, but at the same thing avoid burning his bridges with the Congress.
However, it has always been there on the table that his actions, when he is reported to have used his status as a Congress functionary to introduce relatives / acquaintances to the Iraqis and allowed them to use these connections to make money from the practise of lifting oil and making money on the margins has been embarrasing to the Congress. In the middle of all this, he has always claimed that he is close to the Congress dynasty. This is something that I don't think that Sonia Gandhi will tolerate.
The net has been tightening on Natwar Singh. The Congress refuses to touch him with a barge pole, the Enforcement Directorate has been pushing further on him and his relatives, and he must be losing the friends that he has. From all the reports, it seems that he has been guilty of what he has been charged, but the basic query remains about the role of the Congress party. Is it guilty of also making money from all this ? Was the support of the Congress party for the Saddam regime based on money from the old scam ? These are all questions that we need to get answered to get more honesty into our system, but with the current situation, I don't think that these questions will ever get answered.

posted by Ashish Agarwal @ 7:33 AM    

Saturday, October 28, 2006

Domestic Violence Act

Was reading an article about the implementation of the Domestic Violence Act. That's right, not about the act becoming law, but an actual use of the act. This is a welcome move (as long as it is an actual case), and will hopefully mark the beginning of women coming out and refusing to stay silent about such actrocities.

We have been reading too long about the subjugation of women in this country. Now, this may be a worldwide problem and a lot of people may defend this as a cultural problem, but there can be no defence for committing violence (whether physical or mental) on women just because they are part of your family. There needs to be a way to ensure that women have a legal defence against such acts of violence. No familial tie authorises anybody to traumatize women. Reading about a few cases itself is sickening, one can only imagine the true scale of this problem.

There is an apprehension that in a few cases, some women may misuse this act when they are already in a strained relationship, but such cases should be quickly investigated. It should not happen that such queries make this act a non-starter. It is an absolute requirement. The sooner that this law becomes more widely known, and starts to get quoted in TV serials and movies, the faster will be the effect, and hopefully the incidence of violence against women will reduce.

posted by Ashish Agarwal @ 9:14 AM    

Wednesday, October 25, 2006

Great Indian Highway Project - stalled

I was reading an article about the progress of the various highways projects. These projects are of vital importance to the nation. They will serve to connect the country together, allow various Tier 2 cities and rural areas to get more connected and hence benefit economically, and save a tremendous amount of actual money due to lower fuel consumption, lesser wear and tear and great saving of time. If there was one thing that any Government should be concentrating on at a very high degree, this is one of them. The multiplier effort to the national economy and especially to the non-urban areas will be incredible. On a personal level, how many of us who have travelled on older highways vs. the newer highways would not have noticed the difference?

Instead what does one find ? The Govt is slacking off on this area, not focusing attention on resolving the issues that are bound to creep up. Ever since the Govt has come to power, these projects are not getting the required attention. Stories like these keep on occurring at frequent intervals, and cause frustation. It is patently obvious that this needs dedicated attention and is of a high level of importance that a dedicated team be allotted to this.

It is all the more frustating as one recalls what happened during the NDA regime. When such projects were announced, there was a lot of cynicism at the scope of such projects, but the projects proceeded at a fast enough pace. The best thing happened to this project, it got very high level attention and had an ex-army major monitoring this project (being the minister for roads). By the time that the NDA Govt demitted office, the effects of these projects had already started emerging. There were write-ups in the media about how rural areas got more connected and got greater scope to increase their economic activities. In fact, I recall reading a study that estimated that fuel consumption had not increased at the same pace as the economy, and credited this to more efficient fuel usage in the transport sector, part of it due to better roads.

I hope that the PM will be sufficiently concerned about such an important project and will strive to give it the level of monitoring that it deserves.

posted by Ashish Agarwal @ 12:23 PM    

Tuesday, October 24, 2006

Sachar Committee report - State of Indian Muslims

Was reading one of the center page articles in the Express Online today - Trapped in a blind alley. There are no easy solutions to the problems described in the article.

As a modern Indian, I would seriously like to wish for a society where there is no discrimination against a person because of his religion. I know that if I deal with somebody at a professional or personal level, it would not make a difference what religion the person belonged to. But reading the newspapers and magazines, one is not so sure how true or realistic this is. In talking to people casually, one is sure to find a person who would differentiate between people based on their religion.

Onto the area of Muslim empowerment in the field of education, business, sports, politics, and so on..

Most surveys show the Muslim community in India to be under-represented in terms of jobs, education, and so on. These 2 areas are the primary areas that allow people to advance and progress in life, and being under-represented in these areas is a depictment of how far behind the community is. But a good solution to this is not so easy to find. If you ask a politician, he will suggest the vote-bank catching method of providing reservations. However, reservation on the basis of religion is a bad idea. In our society, there is a great deal of turmoil already on the reservation area, and adding to this would be a bad move. The founding fathers of the Constitution had advocated reservations to the long depressed communities that were down-trodden. What they felt was that these reservations over a period of time will bring the community ahead inspite of the biases against them.

However, there is no inherent and inbuilt bias against the Muslim community. It is a question of numbers - if there are more Muslims in the education basket (school and college), then there will be more fairly represented in the job area. The major challenge behind the muslim community is to ensure that their children attend schools that provide them the necessary education to advance in the world. They have to be able to see the advantage of proper education for their male and female children.The controversial idea in this is that this education will lead to them challenging some of the ideas advocated by their clergy (a trend that you already see in Christianity and Hinduism), and this is something that can be fairly unsettling. An educated mind typically asks questions until it is satisfied, and the clergy typically believe in ensuring that their word is seen a direct interpretation of the religion and hence a direction from the god. This will typically clash.

If you look at some of the other areas, Bollywood has a good share of Muslims who have good standing, they are pretty prominent in Cricket (which is about the only sport in Indian that matters).

posted by Ashish Agarwal @ 2:39 AM    

Sunday, October 22, 2006

Bombay blast cases - Flip flop

I was reading the following news article that talks about a statement by the National Security Advisor casting doubts on whether Pakistan was involved in the Bombay blasts. I am sure that the learned Mr. M.K.Narayanan has more info on whether Pakistan was involved.
What I do know is that such flip-flops and going back and forth by people in high positions weakens India's case and makes it more difficult for such accusations to be taken seriously in the future. First we had the Bombay Police Comissioner declaring that the Bombay police have evidence that Pakistan was behind it, and then we have the NSA waffling over whether we have correct hard evidence or not. This at a time when we keep on hearing that this case will be the first test of the monitoring arrangement that our honorable PM and Pakistan's President had signed.
How many will be willing to bet that this statement will be seized upon by Pakistan's PR department to launch a defence (ironically based on a statement by India's NSA). We already had the PM declare earlier that Pakistan is not a culprit, but a victim. This turn of events warrants caution. Maybe the PM and his circle of advisors are getting bad advice. They do know how such things are seen in terms of public opinion, so not sure what caused them to go off in this direction. And there is no point in trying to make the point again about Pakistan trying to forment trouble and terrorism in India; this is a point that has been made and proved many times.

posted by Ashish Agarwal @ 10:39 AM    

Tuesday, October 17, 2006

Priyadarshini Mattoo case - Finale

Incredible news. The Delhi High Court convicted Santosh Singh of the murder of Priyadarshini Mattoo. Read the article here.

This is great news. The case has been an eyesore on the justice system since 1999 when a trial judge declared the accused as non-guilty, along with the shocking statement that he knew the accused was guilty, but in the absence of evidence, he had no other choice. Santosh Singh had power behind him, his dad was a senior IPS officer, and it would not be unreasonable for the police to weaken the case in the trial court under pressure.

What has happened is a welcome judgement. Along with hope in the Jessica Lal case, this judgement will bring about some hope in the eyes of citizens that laws in this country are applicable to everyone, no matter how late. This however comes with a caveat; this result is primarily due to the pressure mounted by the moral outrage of citizens and of the media. In the victory of Priyadarshini's family in this case, we all share the victory.

We should learn lessons from these 2 cases. Moral outrage of citizens along with public pressure, when accompanied by judicial scrutiny is mostly enough to force the authorities (police, prosecutors, govt) to behave fairly and under law.

posted by Ashish Agarwal @ 11:49 AM    

Saturday, October 14, 2006

Farooq Abdullah on Afzal

Just browsing through some news sites and saw this story. A quote from a Chief Minister no less in support of a convicted mass murdering conspirator. Mr. Farooq Abdullah is advising that Kashmir and in fact the whole of India will go up in flames if Afzal (the convicted conspirator of the Parliament attack case) is hanged. This is something that seems totally out of the ordinary and unlikelt to happen. Most likely it is an attempt on the part of a sidelined politician to bring himself into the limelight again.
Really boggles the mind. This is a convicted conspirator who connived in the attack on the Indian Parliament. If the forces in Parliament had not stopped them at that point, who knows what could have happened had these terrorists managed to enter Parliament. Who knows the amount of shame and bowing the Indian state would have to undergo. The killing of the security persons and the others was in fact a sacrifice that prevented further major heinous happenings. As regards the sentencing, media outlets have highlighted that there is no remorse on the part of Afzal. In addition, he has gone through the entire judicial process that the Indian state promises to any accused and he has been convicted. With the recent court judgement on the scope of the President/Governor to pardon, any such pardon would be very quickly challenged and would be most likely overturned by the court.

posted by Ashish Agarwal @ 10:48 AM    

Thursday, October 12, 2006

What is the left upto ?

What is the Indian left (primarily the CPM) upto? Do they think that Indian citizens are stupid ? When one reasonably expects Indian political parties to atleast support Indian policies, the left somehow does things that make it seem as if it is a trojan horse in Indian politics.

If it was not for the chief minister of Bengal, it seems like the entire left has smoked dope and is having policies that seem totally devoid of logic. It is only when they are in a position of having to do something for people that they get realistic.

The left never tires of promoting Chinese interests in India; when security agencies are a bit leery of Chinese investments (especially because the bigger Chinese companies are not independent but have strong links with the Govt) in some sectors, the CMP sees red and fulimnates against these concerns. When Indian goes nuclear, the red protests and screams, but when Iran and North Korea show nuclear interests, it is well within their rights, and of course, it is all America's fault. When our Finance Minister points out some of the strong investor friendly policies of China and implores them to learn from their cousins, the left has the argument that it is permissible in China because it is a worker's paradise and hence anything can be done there.

If the left were not a major crutch for the Govt, everybody would ignore it. However, the left really cannot do anything much to rock the boat since the only alternative is the BJP, which is something the left will really not want.

posted by Ashish Agarwal @ 10:54 AM    

Tuesday, October 10, 2006

Jessica Lal case - Hope ?

For some time now I have been following the Jessica Lal case through the newspapers, its twists and turns. This case is a very important case (maybe not recognized now, but surely as time goes on). One feels deeply for the loss of a promising life, but it was the manner in which this happened that was truly shocking. A guy, refused a drink, shoots the bartender in the head (who happened to be Jessica Lal). Such is the arrogance of the rich and connected who either feel that they have the right to get what they want, or even more dangerously, have the right to do what they want with the conviction that nothing will ever happen to them.
This is indeed a test of the Indian system, and will set plenty of precedents. This is a case that was supposed to be an open and shut case, and yet where the investigating authorities botched up the case (the court is investigating whether such is indeed the case), where the well connected and incredibly rich father did what he could to subvert the system, buying witnesses to get them to turn hostile. A public outcry forced the re-opening of the case, but if this also does not get a conviction, then there is little hope when anybody wants to go against somebody who is rich and powerful. We might as well behave like little cowards and lower our eyes the next time we pass somebody who is rich and powerful.
The other area in which this case should cause a precedent is in the way witnesses are treated in our system. Because our cases take so much time to solve, it gives the powerful enough time to tamper with witnesses and we have the painful spectacle of witnesses turning hostile. Do people really think that judges do not believe that the accused is guilty ? But because our judicial system is rightly geared to protect the innocent, we have to get a conviction based on evidence (including witnesses), and when witnesses turn hostile, the case loses it power.
I was reading an article about a case (not sure whether the same one) where the judge has called for prosecution for witnesses who turn hostile. This is an important part of the judicial system that is fast and efficient (as in the US), and should be codified in law as fast as possible (if not already present in law).
Why did I talk about hope in the begining ? Because a public outcry has forced the case to re-open, because the high and mighty have been felled from their Govt position due to moral outrage, and because the court is prompting the police to clean their stables, reveal previous deliberate and accidental short-comings and do a good investigation this time. Hopefully, my hope will be proved right.

Article at Times of India
Take a look at this link, look at the photo in the link, look at the life in the photo that was so cruelly snuffed out. Think about how this could be your neighbour or a person living in your colony. We need to regain the need to get shocked by such things when they happen. That is the best test for whether we have a strong sense of morality and whether we can fully develop into a society that is bound by rules. Do not forget !!
What does this mean in a practical sense - care for things happening around you; write in your blog about things that outrage you; write letters to newspapers about these; if you have the ability to write columns in the media, please do so; take some time out if you see silent and peaceful demonstrations happening (these are composed of people like you and have the ability to shake the powers-that-be). If this case can be resolved, it gives more hope for other cases such as the Priyadarshini Mattoo case, the Nitish Katara case, and numerable other such cases.

This poem (linked below) affected me deeply since it cuts right to the feeling of detachment that we have, unless we speak up for others, why should we expect others to speak up for us when our turn comes..
Link to poem

posted by Ashish Agarwal @ 11:24 AM    

Friday, October 06, 2006

Jessica Lal Case - An update

This is good, it may not have too much of an impact on the status of the current case proceedings where the court is starting to actually do an investigation of how the police + Govt had gone about prosecuting the previous case (maybe this will help pull out some of the people who had connived to weaken the case previously).
Let me state the update that I was talking about. The main news of the day for the case is the following news entry: http://www.expressindia.com/fullstory.php?newsid=75062
Manu Sharma's father has resigned! from the Haryana Cabinet. Of course the way it would have actually developed is that there would have been enough pressure on the Congress leadership about how his continuing in power could be bad for the party. And all this could be in this case directly credited to the sting operation that was undertaken by Tehelka. So there are some advantages of all the sting operations that get carried out :-)
Let us talk about the Congress now. There has been no change in the situation in the last 1 day where Mr. Vendor Sharma suddenly felt guilty and decided to resign. And there would have been no sudden conscience attack in the Congress that it realized that he should not be in Govt when he has been accused of subverting witnesses. The most likely reason is that there is increasing public and media outrage over his being in such an important position and it is this outrage that forced the Congress to head to damage control mode. Well, anyhow he went, it is good.
What we need is an independent police force that will not feel influenced by politicians and will also be able to give witnesses protection and the conviction that nobody can mess around with them. In addition, there needs to be an effort to enforce perjury laws so that no witness can easily turn hostile. The good part is that in a recent case (I forget which one), there has been a call to prosecute those witnesses who resiled from their testimony. This of course needs to be reinforced with provisions so that witnesses do not feel compelled to change their testimony based on threats. One example worth emulating is the American FBI and other federal services that take threats to witnesses very seriously.

posted by Ashish Agarwal @ 9:29 AM    

Thursday, October 05, 2006

Parliament blast case ?

One never thought that such a day would be seen. After a thorough judicial review, the death sentence on Jaish-e-Mohammed terrorist Afzal has been confirmed and suddenly all sorts of people are emerging from the woodwork to give numerous justifications about why this sentencing should not be carried out.
Some demonstrations in the valley can be understandable, after all, the Kashmir valley does have a fair amount of Jaish supporters and it would be perfectly understandable if they protest his death sentence. Further, human rights organizations that are against the death penalty will continue to protest, and this is part of their ideology. However, what strains the credibility is when the Congress Chief Minister of the state repeats the same refrain. Has the man truly taken leave of his senses ?
As a result of this, the Congress is now in a dither. They must have been advised that it is a hot issue for Muslims and they would fear that not doing so would cause a loss of vote bank. Do these 'responsible' people really understand what they are saying. In one brush, they are trying to confirm an erroneous belief that muslims would get worked up over this issue. Do they not realize that the vast majority of muslims are as patriotic as anybody else and might not get worked up over the impending execution of a terrorist who was the accomplice in the killing of so many people ? And of course, the left, with no ideology of its own, has also jumped into the save 'Afzal' campaign.
Where has the Congress lost its thinkers who used to take it down the right track. Now it seems to have bankrupt advisors. It will be a sad day for the country if the Ministry of Home / President issue an order for mercy / commutation of the sentence.

posted by Ashish Agarwal @ 12:13 PM    

Wednesday, October 04, 2006

Dengue scare continued

The dengue scare is really growing. I was watching news today, and there was a large amount of time (around 15 minutes) spent on the dengue cases. Even by normal media standards, this is a fairly large amount of time. And to make it more catchy, they have started calling them killer mosquitos. This got even more spicy with the unfortunate news that 2 of Dr. Manmohan Snigh's relatives are also down with dengue. And of course, people in AIIMS are down with it, and so are people in other cities.
It is so easy to blame killer mosquitos. This is actually a misnomer. The insects are just doing what they are genetically programmed to do, they certainly do not know that they are going to infect people and kill them. If we have to call anybody killer, then we should target the people who let such conditions occur that these mosquitos can breed and be near people. There are so many ways that they can breed; water left in coolers, stagnant water, unclean conditions in the neighborhood. A lot of these are things that can be easily done, but how many people are there actually who bother to check up their cooler when they see an advertisement giving details of what needs to be done ? And let us not even talk about keeping a clean neighborhood, it is certainly not our responsibility.
It only becomes our responsibility when somebody in my family gets affected !! If we were to get into the blame game, there is a large amount to spread around; for starters the municipal authorities whose responsibility it is to keep the city clean, the Union Health Ministry who is supposed to have advance warning of such things as they are developing so that they can prevent things from escalating out of control, and so on. Otherwise, we will have the usual case where the health minister claims that people are not dying due to the disease but due to the side effects. A fat lot of good this does to the people who are getting affected and their families.
But at a level, it is also our responsibility. If we can be more aware of our sorroundings, and try to keep things clean, it will make things much better. It really does not take too much, if the neighborhood has unclean parts, then some amount of group initiative including getting responsible people to work towards making things better will work wonders. And of course, it would be a very important bit of advice to not contribute to making sorroundings even worse.

posted by Ashish Agarwal @ 9:47 AM    

Tuesday, October 03, 2006

Dengue epidemic in Delhi

Visualize this: There is a outbreak of dengue in your neighborhood, and after some study, it is found that your 2 coolers and an open tub on your roof is the breeding center. What do you think will happen ? Keep in mind all the radio ads that talk about fines if your place is found to have a potential dengue breeding place such as an open cooler. I would think that you will be subject to fines, some rough questioning and maybe a friendly visit to your neighborhood visitor friendly police station.
Now think about what will happen if this happens in a Govt run establishment. Nothing will happen, that's right, nothing will happen. And this is not some hypothetical case, it is actually happening. Dengue has invaded AIIMS (that's All India Institute of Medical Sciences), India's premier hospital and medical teaching center with people falling sick all over the campus. And what happens ? There is a lot of stuff in the newspapers, but the most interesting part is that an 'emergency' meeting is called to happen 10 days later. That's right, an emergency meeting for 10 days later. Almost seems like an oxymoron.
Makes you wonder as to what is going on ? AIIMS has been through this before, but it does not seem to have learned. There is talk about an open drain next to the hostels being the breeding ground, and no one, neither the hospital nor the students really seem to have cared about fixing such things. The health ministry is busy fighting its battle with the AIIMS director, and it would not be surprising if the next meeting just decides that there is a lot of blame that be laid at the doorsteps of the hospital. In the middle of all this, one also wonders as to what the municipal commission is doing ? It is supposed to be ensuring that breeding conditions for dengue do not happen. As always, it seems to be sleeping at its job.

posted by Ashish Agarwal @ 12:27 PM    

Monday, October 02, 2006

The SEZ situation

SEZ - Special Economic Zone for those unfamiliar with this particular Three Letter Acronym. Broadly, these are specially demarcated zones where industris can be set up with tax concessions amd a host of other benefits. The commerce ministry has been pushing for these with the intention of trying to emulate China where the brightest and most growing citiies / zones have benefited immensly from the SEZ concept.
However, not everything is a plus. These SEZ have to be setup in large tracts of land, and the only land available at such scales is agricultural land. The other main problem is from the finance ministry which has to arrange for all the revenue needed by the Govt for its grandiose spending plans. With SEZ's coming up, the Finance Ministry sees loss of tax revenue at a large scale and hence is very vocal about the problems it sees. In addition, there is a lot of buzz that a lot of these SEZ proposals are nothing but industuries going to re-locate their current setup to these new zones to save tax, this implying that new capacity setup is more of a myth. The RBI also tends to feel that a lot of this rush into SEZ's is essentially a real estate play and is insisting that banks be very careful in lending to this sector.
If all these are true, then indeed SEZ's are bad and should be banned lock stock and barrel or maybe allowed under special considerations only. The problem with this argument is that a lot of this opposition is essentially self-serving or for special interests.
Land is a precious commodity, and like all precious commodities, should be properly evaluated. If land has multiple uses, then the best and most highly valued use should be favoured. It would be nobody's argument that the land is more valuable if it is being used for industrial value addition rather than for farming. As long as the farmer is getting a valid marked linked price for his land, there should be no objection. However, politicians being what they are, if an issue can give them publicity, why not jump on it.
With regard to the tax implications, if the SEZ policies can bring in fresh capital (needs some monitoring), then it will have a multiplier effect on the economy of the whole region. It will result in higher wages, greater employment, establishment of allied/ancillary units and eventually higher taxes. There is no reason why we cannot emulate the Chinese model in a democractic way.
RBI has suddenly turned very conservative (we can actually see almost open confrontation between the Finance Minister and the RBI Governor on a wide variety of issues). RBI I think is of the belief that everything is portending towards an asset bubble and it is the only institution that can prevent that from happening. RBI should continue monitoring, but it needs to be more objective.
However, these issues need to be cleared fast, else the opposition on these false premises will continue to grow. We already had a case of Mrs. Sonia non-PM Gandhi raising a word against such policies. The only good thing about all this discussion is that state Chief Minister's have suddenly started believing that these SEZ's can bring a lot of benefits to their states and have turned into full fledged converts.

posted by Ashish Agarwal @ 12:00 PM    

Sunday, October 01, 2006

Infrastructure of Delhi ???

This evening has been a fairly interesting evening !! I had to go to a neighbour's wedding in the night. I live in East Delhi, and the wedding was in Gurgaon, so could not be further. But one has to do what one has to do, so got the family in the car and left at 8 PM. I would never have though that this was Sunday night. At around 10 PM (after 2 hours of bumper to bumper driving), I had reached next to Qutab Minar (so one can say that we were at the starting point of MG Road). My legs were aching due to constant switching of clutch, gear and brake. At this point, we did a quick consultation, and realized that there was no way we would reach the wedding before 11:30 if this kind of traffic continued. So, quick decision, we did a U-turn and headed home.
Picked up something to eat in CP (a nice restaurant called Banana Leaf) and reached home. Wonders of wonders, the electricity was at such low voltage that only CFL's could work, tube lights refused to work, and so did most of the appliances. After around 30 minutes of this, the low power went off totally and am now posting this due to the inverter helping out. And the power situation in Delhi remains bad as ever.
So set me to wondering, the Govt seems to have priority over whether to reserve, whether to seal, whether to allow export of iron ore, whether to set up SEZ's, etc. Where is the basic question of infrastructure ? Some time back the Govt was asked by the High Court to explain the power situation, and the Delhi Govt essentially told the court that people have to grin and bear it. They apparently did not estimate that power need will go up so much. I wonder how more defective the Govt can be, when it is not able to estimate basic necessities and provide for these. It will allow free power to farmers so that they can wreck the water table, but will not allow state electricity boards to become solvent and clear up their accounts. And it will certainly not care that you (industry, farmers, consumers) have enough power for your needs.

posted by Ashish Agarwal @ 12:01 PM