Wednesday, February 14, 2007

The future beckons…

Probably this is one of the most beautiful words for an ambitious person. The journey to the future is often much more beautiful than destination itself. And the scariest thing in life could be not having a destination to look forward to. It’s not for nothing that they say it’s lonely at the top. But with silos in the world increasing, and the division of work becoming paramount, there are people who are reaching the ‘top’ way too early in life and the loneliness does breed discontent. Once you don’t have anything to look up to, then the only way to look towards is downwards.

It is at this juncture of life, that the one’s true character emerges. The rats in the rat race are differentiated from real men. It is this when, people with real character find challenges which others cant see, milestones that no one has explored before, destinations that don’t exist. It is this where, your loneliness becomes your strength, your completeness of character, your ability to search for meaning in solitude and yet be common with commoners, regal with loyalty noble with nobility that shall set you apart. A chameleon with many colors who shall not rest with being at top of his work, but wants to go beyond to be a complete human being.

But surprisingly, to achieve all this ambition is not the only thing one requires. One needs humility and strength of character. People often ask me that I often talk about strength of character but what does character really mean to me. To me character is ‘ability to resist temptations’. There are temptations of immediate gratification, becoming rewards, love, lust, money, which we all desire and often take short cuts for. But those who have had the courage to rise above these, say no to them when it meant compromising on one’s own values are often rewarded with all this and much more.

I close with one of my favorite lines from a very respected man:

“Teri Zindagi ek aisa safar ho, manzil pe pahunche to manzil hata diya”

Thursday, February 01, 2007

Politics of Manipulation, and incompetence of (hardly) “revered” politicians

They say a country deserves the politicians it gets. Not too long ago, I agreed that the problem with the country is because we as people of the country don’t shoulder our responsibility enough, and expect our politicians to do so. We are corrupt and act corruptly in our daily lives, but expect the politicians and governing bodies to be above such frailties. We are a praise hungry nation, we would always go an extra mile to be popular, and hence it is not surprising that our politicians also choose to be populists, even if it is detriment to the country’s interest. Not to forget it serves their vested interest just fine.

But last 3-4 years, I have met people in various spheres of life who are not prone to such frailties and have been doing only too well in their chosen field in spite of that. In fact I am tempted to say because of that. Honesty and strength of character are being rewarded duly in this country in all spheres except our polity and governing agencies.

Another thing, which I have never doubted is the competency and abilities of the people of India, their entrepreneurial spirit, their ability to find ways to get things done, their ingenious thinking, ready made fix up solutions et al. But unfortunately, even if we yield to their populist inclination as political compulsion, yet the lack of imagination and competence in design of policies, regulations has been truly disappointing. Lets take a few contentious political issues with populist overtures:

Subsidies – in various forms are given to various sections of the society, some commodity linked, some income linked, some employment linked and unfortunately all of them are misused and money siphoned in the process, which in effect costs the exchequer much more than what it actually should.

Power is subsidized for agricultural usage (even to the extent of being free) and domestic usage. The free power for agriculture has no relation to the needs of the farmer, and can be drawn for any amount, leading to its misuse in a power deficient country, and also costing the exchequer much more than it should. Further, there are diversions, where power meant for agricultural usage is used up for domestic and also commercial purposes.

Domestic power is often diverted for commercial usage without any real control on them. The linemen can often be bribed to get away with that.

To be honest, it is not difficult to do away with such problem, give away direct subsidy coupons to farmers, equivalent to their estimated power requirement, and let them pay up at the normal rate for the power consumed. This alleviates their problem, and caters to the misuse issue as well. Or no needs for the coupon either, just exempt the amount equivalent to the need from the bill. Yes, this shall involve metering requirement for the government, which is the least we can take care of.

Such misuse of power, has led to many SEBs and state government going under serious financial strain and affecting their credit worthiness, further hampering the investment in the sector in the region, making matters worse for the states. The lackadaisical approach towards containing T&D (Theft & dacoity) losses is another case in point.

Reservations – Reservations for all. For Scheduled Castes, for Scheduled tribes, for Other backward castes for handicapped. And reservations everywhere, government jobs, government aided educational institutions, private educational institutions, seats of higher education and if they have their way even private sector jobs. Meritocracy is dead! Long live meritocracy. Mediocre politicians promoting mediocrity is no surprise. There are ways to take affirmative actions, which is more effective, more pragmatic, promotes meritocracy and surprisingly even more populists. However, not surprisingly our politicians being mediocre people with mediocre intelligence, focused on short term goals (read next assembly election) fail to see the right way of doing things.

Whom do we benefit, with reservations in seats of higher education? I recently heard (though I admit is unconfirmed) that our hon’ble ex-president’s daughter is applying into one of these esteemed institutes in reserved category. I must say that their family deserves this chance after the oppression of becoming the president of the country been thrust upon these poor hapless souls. Well I guess, enough of this has already been said everywhere, but what has not been said is the alternative to reservations as affirmative action and its implementation.

How about tracking the enrolment and drop out rates of various communities, gender and religion at primary school level? How about free education or financial incentives to those who drop out of school because of financial problem? How about actually using the education cess levied on the hon’ble taxpayers of the country to provide better infrastructure and providing cheap credit or even interest free credit to deserving students in this category? How about social awareness schemes and fomentation of mentoring programmes for their children? Trust me all this can be done. But this needs a little more imagination and willingness to put heads and hands together. Not something one expects of our mediocre politicians.

Coming back from where we started, I may admit (I am not saying I do admit) that we may be frail in character, weak in disposition, or on the face of adversity, we may be suckers for popularity and personal gains, but can never believe that we as a nation are incompetent. So if a nation deserves the politicians it gets, we atleast deserves much more competent politicians, if not more honest.

I guess long before quota became a controversy, we have had quotas for idiots in the parliament. Irony, thy name is democracy! (Oops! Am extremely sorry Mr. Shakespeare for the last real bad one).