Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Letter to the Editor

Radia tapes
The transcripts of the conversations between Ms Radia and editors, reporters and politicians, do not per se point to any unethical practice. Flaunting political connections for cultivating and nurturing sources, and fishing for information can be cited as professional prerequisites by the media. But what is worrisome is the involvement of corporate lobbyists in Cabinet formation and portfolio allocation. That a few journalists cross the Lakshman Rekha and allow themselves to be used by politicians and lobbyists for building bridges between political parties is a matter of serious concern. The line between information seeking and influence peddling gets blurred by such acts. The media are already under fire in the paid news controversy. The Radia tapes episode has further eroded their credibility.

G. Gokul Kishore,


Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Mass and inertia

Mass and inertia
The moment of inertia of an object about a given axis describes how difficult it is to change its angular motion about that axis. Therefore, it encompasses not just how much mass the object has overall, but how far each bit of mass is from the axis. The farther out the object's mass is, the more rotational inertia the object has, and the more force is required to change its rotation rate.

Rodeo is a sporting event that consists of events that horses and other livestock designed to test the skill and speed of the human cowboy and cowgirl athletes who participate. Professional rodeos generally comprise the following events: tie-down roping, team roping, steer wrestling, saddle bronc riding, bareback bronc riding, bull riding and barrel racing.

Rodeo provoked opposition from animal rights and animal welfare advocates, who argue that various competitions constitute animal cruelty. The American rodeo industry has made progress in improving the welfare of rodeo animals, with specific requirements for veterinary care and other regulations that protect rodeo animals.


Yes, to those of us who believe in a civilised society comprising of intelligent human beings, the rodeo show that is television with constantly changing slides only evokes revulsion. To make it to the news headlines and establish some form of contact with public opinion, you need certain number – either people have to die in sufficient numbers or the scam has to reach a particular quantum. It is a critical mass without which there is blessed inertia all around. We continue to derive all happiness with the thought of our progress - in terms of number of cellphone users, sensex figures, medical advances, etc.

The spread of microfinance institutions did not attract attention till vast sums of money surrounded it. Even then it was hailed as a saviour of the poor. Servicing rural areas was decried as a money drainer for public banks. Tears were shed over the fact that policy decisions forced banks to sweat it out in places where people had to be educated in banking and pulled out of the clutches of money lenders. Microfinance institutions had innovated enough to make this a profitable sector! WOW!

Only the innovation was old than the system of money lending. Exorbitant interest combined with god-fearing, law-abiding, semi-knowledgeable borrowers. Unlike jet-setting CEOs who could order governments to fill individual coffers with taxpayers’ money, the poor borrowers chose death. Now of course there is some hand wringing and talks of doing something.

One of the participants in a reality show which makes a mockery of the judiciary (of course no one thought of it that way - it was after all entertaining and meant to be non-serious) - died. Everyone had volumes to speak on how bad and how many sleazy, silly shows were being aired. We need not however fear that there will be any stifling of the media. The fourth estate in all its ignominy must be preserved. We need not have any illusions about the deceased participant getting justice. The parties to the show will have all papers in order. Necessary consent and waivers would have been obtained before hand. We have seen marriages being sold (swayamvars), and childcare being mocked (a version of baby borrowers). The right of private individuals to wreck their lives or those of others must be protected.

Adarsh society's problems with environmental clearance came to light only after the spotlight turned on the scam. One wonders how a towering building could come up without anybody checking on it. It is not an isolated case. We have illegal constructions everywhere right upto the Lutyen's Zone in Delhi! Now that people have died in East Delhi in building collapse (on 15th Nov. 2010), perhaps we might wake up to the fact that a building is not about stacking bricks and regularisation. But falling back to slumber is just a few days away – for, the critical mass has not been reached yet in scams, illegal constructions, mockery shows, financial frauds and in everything. - SK

Saturday, November 6, 2010

Obama's India visit

Obama's India visit
The media has its hands full describing, detailing and debating Obama's visit. But as it is with every other news 'story' these days, it is elaborate nothingness. We can expect to be a rehash of every such visit - the mandatory sighting of poor and injured, good photos, great speeches and smiles. After all the American President is quite clear that all he wants is some defence contracts and freer markets to take back to his people. The routing by Republicans has shown that America - its preoccupation with defence as a basic building industry, war and proliferation of arms - is stronger than Obama and his election plank of healthcare, public spending or Iraq.

The decision to ban Let and JeM is as ritualistic and hollow as can be expected. It reminds one of a saying in Tamil which translates as “pinching the baby and rocking the cradle too”. What we have is market economy in full swing. A surge in supply of arms in our backyard (Pakistan) will push India into the lap of American arms industry more.

But even so it appears that Americans have got their math wrong. What they should be pushing for is easy gun-ownership laws like the US. We could build a whole new industry to give more arms, then eleborate mechanisms to regulate and control it, tighter security measures, screenings and so on. And India is not averse to new ideas. We have already started a giant project like the UID which will ensure that every Indian had an identity. Roti, kapada, makaan are old fashioned. Everything has a price. All we need to ensure is the money - micro finance or whatever - reaches the consumer. Goods and services will then flow into his hands.- SK

Friday, October 29, 2010

Kashmir & Arundhati Roy

Letter to Editor - The Hindu 29th Oct. 2010

Freedom of speech is a fundamental right and all citizens, including Ms Roy, are entitled to it. But the right becomes invaluable only by responsible exercise. While nobody can deny police excesses, particularly in conflict zones, the statement by the eminent writer that the people of Kashmir live under one of the “most brutal military occupations in the world” is unacceptable. She has also said that Kashmir has never been an integral part of India. It could not have been, for the present Indian state is an administrative unit created by the British and politically, the Indian landmass was under the rule of countless kings for ages. Calls for azaadi out of frustration, incitement or police excesses should not be mixed up with misrule by successive governments in the State.

G. Gokul Kishore,

New Delhi

Monday, October 25, 2010

Press - Time for restraint

Fourth Estate – Time for restraint
It is very unfortunate that almost all the dailies and electronic media carry snap shot of Mr. and Mrs. Dhoni taking bath in Goa [Dailies dated 25th Oct, 2010]. Publishing a blow up of couple taking bath is a shameless act and it cannot be justified by any reason.

Chasing of celebrities by shutter bugs and snapping all their private affairs have become indispensable for the press today to survive in the neck-break competition. It is nothing but a desperate attempt to satisfy the ‘taste’ of readers, to keep the flock together and to ensure revenues do not dwindle. These antics cannot sustain anybody in the longer run.

If you publish something half-naked, others are ready to pay the celebrity and publish even beyond before your print is even out. There is no end to this rat-race. The race killed Diana and it is fast catching up the Indian idols now. Unless the press imposes some self-restraint, credibility can never be redeemed. You can’t point an accusing finger at celebrities for selling all their private wares – from marriages to honeymoon - they perform anything in public for money. It is the so called Fourth Estate that should introspect and conduct itself more maturely.- GK

Friday, October 8, 2010

Ayodhya – Hey Ram!

“Religion is the opium of the masses” – This Marxian precept is always true as events rush to prove with sickening frequency. Once the addiction rules head and heart, the society gets wobbly and the line between right and wrong gets blurred. The merchants of this opium – from bigots to politicians – can hardly resist investing more and more in this eternally profitable business.

Ayodhya has been a hugely successful venture for these merchants. A fringe party got itself catapulted to the centre stage riding piggyback on this opium-peddling. A generous dose was dished out to masses – and the masses blissfully drank. The merchants basked under windfall gains by capturing power.

A trader should have never-say-die attitude. The latest judgment on the issue brings loads of malt and barrels of intoxicating stuff can be brewed and the brewing has started in right earnest. But this time, aided by neo-liberal brainwashing, materialistic vodka seems to provide more hallucination to the middle class steeped in hypocrisy. The old brew does not command major market share right now and merchants are perplexed.

But the ruling raises several questions. The demolition squad has been rewarded by giving a share of the demolished property thus providing the stamp of approval to the anti-social act. Had the structure been not razed, how the settlement scheme of partition would have proceeded, remains an interesting point. While suit of one of the parties was dismissed on limitation, it has been given a share in the property. One can put hundred questions but the fact remains – the ruling has been a perfect blend of settlement and amnesty with all trappings of extra-judicial solution. For now there is some calm – why worry about the ruling now?- GK

Tuesday, October 5, 2010

Letter to the Editor - Commonwealth Games Opening Ceremony

By parading thousands of artists for several hours, Indian culture will not get encomiums from international audiences. Many of the artists were tired; maybe due to strenuous rehearsals and the timing of the ceremony. Functions must be brief if viewer interest has to be sustained. These “light and sound shows” degenerate into an exercise in illusory self-aggrandisement, serving little purpose.

G. Gokul Kishore,

New Delhi

Wednesday, September 1, 2010

Indian Voices Volume 1 to be released in November, 2010

Subhashree Kishore's Short Story "Batter and Trade" is being published in Indian Voices Volume 1. One of the finest moments to share and cherish. For all our well-wishers - Please get your copy, take some time off to read it and we are waiting to hear from you - all your valuable comments.

Tuesday, July 13, 2010

Letter to the Editor

Pleasant surprise

It was a pleasant surprise to wake up on Monday morning to see The Hindu carrying the greatest sports news on its front page. The commendable agility in bringing the news within hours of culmination of the gala event coupled with a full report and picture of the goal which gave Spaniards the FIFA World Cup, were laudable. To print, fold, load and deliver at the doorstep within three to four hours is an achievement of sorts. We are grateful to The Hindu for taking pains to bring to its readers excellent reports, with precision and speed, time and again.

G. Gokul Kishore,

New Delhi

Sunday, June 27, 2010

Where are the mangoes?

Truth No.
1. A developed country exports industrialised goods.
2. A developing country exports agricultural goods, unprocessed goods
3. For some years now, we get only one variety of mango and those are costly
4. India is a roaring tiger and fav. destination for investment.......

The list goes on like six men and the elephant- all are partly right and yet in the wrong.

The whole economic theory of the past few decades has been a colossal blunder. The tag of 'developed' based on GDP and technological growth was conferred on the West and every other economy blindly ran after the indicators - rapid industrialisation, birth control, health care, growth of service sector, goods of ostentation, etc. What we achieved is food crisis and scarcity of even so-called free goods of nature like water and pure air.

India has now great variety of beauty products and shoes to choose from. But where are the mangoes? Either someone in faraway lands is enjoying it or the mango orchard has become a mall. The consumer has no option but for a mango bar - processed good - which is available for Rs.10 than the real-'organic' mango which is priced Rs.50 a kilo.

Everything has been tainted or painted with money band - contract farming and hailing processed goods - which means potato chips are better than potato curry - is perhaps responsible for this. Who decides where the raw materials flow into? It is money or markets. The wild scramble for market share and whirring the wheels of production non-stop results in shelves of unused packets of goods - food. India can soon rank proudly with the West in food wasted, while millions go hungry. Who pays for the wastage?

Given the reality of food crisis,water crisis, global warming or cooling - what's in a name - we know all is not well. Let's have a relook at our development models, our standards of measurement.- SK

Article in

DTC Discussion Paper - Ill-begun and Half-done

JUNE 23, 2010

By Subhashree Kishore

THE Discussion Paper to revise Direct Tax Code arrived just as we were beginning to tire of Anderson campaign and football. Going by the euphoria over EEE and the air time grabbed by the new DTC one would expect it to be made of sugar and spice and everything nice.

Alas! We never learn.

Teams of experts and reams of paper later, we have a half filled answer sheet. The Paper solicits suggestions based on hazy outlines and a promise to look into ‘other issues' not part of this paper. The few changes we see are because of administrative difficulties and logistical challenges. Of course it is also mentioned that assessees would benefit. The concern to smoothen the path for Foreign Institutional Investors (FIIs) and Non-residents (NR) is quite apparent as the paper unabashedly bats for special tax regime to attract investments and promote depth of capital markets.

The Pill

The individual assessee does have a few things to cheer about. Non-taxing of withdrawals from the Government Provident Fund (GPF), Public Provident Fund (PPF) and Recognised Provident Funds (RPFs), pension scheme of PFRDA and approved life insurance products has been proposed. This author in the article published in TIOL when draft DTC was placed in public domain last year [2nd Sep, 2009] had argued that withdrawal failed to satisfy the definition of income and the money had been saved from tax-paid or taxable income and it was not an additional income. The vociferous demand of salaried class including that of staff unions in this regard has been heard at least partly now.

See full article in

Thursday, June 24, 2010

Tamil Conference

No vegetable is available for less than Rs. 40 to Rs. 50 per kg in Tamil Nadu. Rice in rice producing state is selling at Rs. 40 per kg. Once power-surplus state, Tamil Nadu is on load-shedding spree officially. Farmers have been forced to abandon kuruvai cultivation due to lack of power. Mills and industries in Coimbatore and Tirupur are dying without sufficient support and lakhs have been rendered jobless. Water problem in Chennai has not been solved for the past 50 years. Southern Districts of Tamil Nadu are still stuck in caste wars. One need not have any illusion about condition of roads or public health or safety.

Rs. 400 crore of public money is being spent in organizing Tamil Conference in Coimbatore. The parties which have thrived and successfully managed to hold power using language and caste, are not relenting. The masses just don’t seem to wake up from slumber and realize that harping about language or linguistic mega shows will not end starvation or joblessness or discrimination.

Tamil has lived for the past two thousand years without these parties which have sprouted in the past few decades. And with these parties, Tamil will have the same future as that of Tamils. It cannot be anything different. The whole show is just to divert attention of the suffering millions. And when it comes to political parties, sucess is guaranteed. How else one can explain the rationale behind giving TV sets to all households when crops wilt, children are half-naked and under-fed and labour is out on the streets without jobs? For ages, real issues are deliberately obscured by rulers. Tamil Conference serves this purpose in no small measure.- GK

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

Tharoor's exit

The exit of Minister of State for External Affairs Shashi Tharoor shows that while insensitive remarks of a Minister on sensitive issues can be tolerated, improper conduct cannot be. His credibility would have been enhanced had he batted for more funds or campaigned for more industries in Kerala. Taking a spurious version of cricket to his constituency with all attendant drama has cost him dearly. The Tharoor episode has ripped apart the IPL fa├žade. What one wants is pure sport, not a cocktail of speculation, vulgarity and corrupt practices on and off the field.

G. Gokul Kishore,

New Delhi

Friday, April 16, 2010

IPL Stinks

Just a few days before reservations about IPL were expressed by us. The whole story is now stinking in public with all sorts of drama being played out – of course, of no use to the malnourished or starving millions. This is about paper millions of the avaricious and not about hungry human millions. The glee of media is all too evident. When money, women, conspiracy, politics, bribery et al all combine, no other news is a news.

While news reports point to Lalit Modi having been charged and convicted for drug peddling and kidnapping while he was a student abroad, Shashi Tharoor does not believe in practising what he preaches. He can use his oratorical skills to hoodwink the elite and use his high profile connections to enlist the support of those in power or those who are powerful. But, with so much of stain at his back, he is morally bankrupt to comment on any of our great national leaders. The Mahatma did not think that there can be two different values or ethical framework for public and private lives. But here is an imported Minister who never misses an opportunity to take a dig at the Gandhian values. His official responsibility includes Middle East where his close friend whom he is stated to wed, has business interests. Discussing Cabinet issues in highly irrelevant virtual social networking sites is certainly not the hallmark of a Minister of the Indian Union.

Fans in virtual social network are not the masses for whom and by whom a Minister has been chosen to serve. National leaders of yesteryears did not serve the nation through bits and bytes but by sharing the heat and agony of their suffering brethren. They did not expect encomiums for their erudite speeches. The case of Shashi Tharoor is a classic manifestation of convulsions of our democracy.

The entire episode often reminds us of our mentor Baluji’s skepticism over the educated elite as he says that it is the educated elite who are more corrupt, scientifically.- GK

Saturday, April 3, 2010

IPL – Don’t lose heart

Indian Pathetic League – Indian Prurient League – Indian Plunder League – One can term IPL in so many ways but the undeniable fact is that IPL represents the deadly cocktail of vulgar entertainment, gambling, speculation, alcoholism, etc., to the total exclusion of sport as it is traditionally understood and practised. All things associated with IPL are natural as the whole show is a high voltage corporate marketing glitz. There were some angry voices when price tag was fixed on cricketing demi-gods. But, it was touted as their NAV and not lease money. When the organizers thought that icons alone cannot lure crowds but you need girls in their self-demeaning attire to get the cash boxes ringing, then why not intoxicate the crowd? Vices attract and one is glued to everything else except the game of cricket. Support was also enlisted from new vocabulary – sportainment. Unfortunately neither sport nor entertainment remains – what one gets is casino effect. Branding has reached ridiculous levels and desperation is showing up. Sport is a religion and the rigours of sports are more arduous than penance. When sportsmen party hard, flirt and rock till dawn getting drenched in alcohol, the hands can hardly sustain the craft of reverse sweep or swing in the morning.

Tobacco companies sponsored the game in yesteryears but one could have hardly heard of Benson & Hedges Nights – but IPL nights are here to ‘entertain’ our tired young heroes wielding willows for the nation. IPL corrupts cricket and the masses. Devotees of the pristine game are taken to illusory land of enthralling and explosive show. With night comes darkness and for the dawn, one has to wait. After all, booming IPL is just a business and bust is logical. Let us wait till we can applaud gentle strokes and wonderful strikes in broad day light – no paraphernalia of jerseys, contests, SMSes, branding of anything under the sun. Let us retain optimism - a Benaud will appear and transport us to the pitch rubbing shoulders with those gentlemen.- GK

Friday, March 19, 2010

Voting cash out
By Subhashree Kishore

The 1000 rupee note has enjoyed more media time than starlets or ‘dynamic’ legislators. For the ordinary citizen who is used to seeing it upclose and personal on notice boards to help him identify the genuine ones, it must have been a good treat. The numerals do not matter. It was obviously far above the statutory favourites of 20000 or 50000.

The Income Tax Act provides for disallowance of cash payments in excess of Rs.20000 for any business expenditure on a single day and this provision also aggregates all cash payments during the day. If an account holder makes a single deposit of above 50000 rupees or aggregates of deposits during the day exceed 50000 rupees he is required to furnish PAN number or details under Form 60. All of this point to cheques, crossed cheques or demand drafts or routing money through banks with adequate safeguards. The ordinary man, even the business man has little option to hoard cash. Of course people find ways to override these through bank safe deposit lockers, benami transactions, a host of accounting wizardry and so forth. But the intent of statute is quite clear. Budget 2010 has proposed to tax non-cash gifts as also cash-gifts in excess of (value of) Rs.50000.

Democracy is all about winning elections and reaping electoral gains. Private donations to political parties have been given legal sanction and 100% deduction is allowed to individuals and companies where donation is made directly to the party. Apparently politics is above religion and vote bank politics like health, sports and public service have to be kept in place. So a generous deduction of 100% has been given, something even gods and charitable trusts or Prime Minister‘s Drought Relief Fund cannot boast about. Of course political parties can be hardly expected to pay taxes. Voluntary donations are tax free.

The Indian National emblem of four lions is also present on the 1000 rupee note. The National Flag, anthem and emblem deserve better respect. It cannot be an article of adornment. The National Flag is seen draped around coffins of officers slain in duty. In a recent case children who refused to sing national anthem were punished.

Cash is as liquid as is elusive and untraceable. It would be a good idea to insist on cheque payments or payment through gift cheques issued by banks where the amount exceeds Rs.50000. A garland of cheques could be as picturesque as a garland of notes. This rule could extend to marriages and other functions as well. It would be true democracy where ruler and ruled would have less resources to punch holes in national emblems or string them or taunt the IT department.

Wednesday, January 27, 2010

Budget 2010 - Article in

Dear FM, let Budget 2010 target meeting common man's expectations
JANUARY 27, 2010
By Subhashree Kishore

IT'S again that time of the year
Longing and hope mingle with fear
Yet another briefcase
Prudence and populism jostling for space
Men - moghul and menial try to keep pace
Wondering “ Will I miss or hit an ace?

BUDGETS do not inspire poetry yet people do wish to find a thing of beauty or intelligence in them. There seems to be lesser enthusiasm this time, probably because we had an overdose of budgets and stimulus in 2009-10. Yet there remain problems to be addressed and so long as statisticians, economists and politicians are active the corpus deliciti - the annual budget, well, exists. The plaintiff (common man) always cries for a better deal and the defendants - the ‘men with authority and influence' protest its propriety. No budget is claimed to be a complete success which means it was also a failure for the argument cuts both ways!

The usual plea for lower taxes and more incentives have appeared on the wish lists of the industry and agriculture lobbies. But that apart there seems to be no new direction or novel arguments. This may be due to the haze around the Direct Taxes Code and merger of various indirect taxes. The government has of course stated that it will use resources at its disposal - the glittering PSUs to increase social spending. So, should this budget be more of the same? Not necessary.

Sustaining agriculture

Agriculture, once derided as a less important portfolio is very much in news with over billion mouths to feed, Rs. 7000 crore organized dairy business, booming commodity index and ever increasing prices. Apart from the Third and perhaps the Fifth Five Year Plan there has been little focus on agriculture. We prefer cash cows to milch cows. Impetus to industrialisation and technological advancements and moving to a targeted rather than universal PDS have pushed us into food crisis. Agriculture is not about loan waivers, biofuels, FDI in processed food industry or aiming for higher productivity through GM crops which do not crossbreed and are vulnerable to new pests.

In this budget we could look at increased outlay for agriculture as opposed to the present below 3% levels, to improve productivity and crop diversity - encouraging indigenous varieties. We had the present FM saying that agriculture would do well if there was good rainfall, as late as February 2009. We need to do a better job of water management to avoid the paradox of the flood-hit and the drought hit. This might sound archaic but the sad truth is that over half a century of planning has still not rid agriculture of the old evils.

We could consider a sabbatical on trading in commodities. Food lends itself to speculation while hunger does not. The average Indian investor now executes a quixotic purchase of rice and pulses with profits made on trading in pepper or turmeric! The usual strategy to combat (complaints of) price rise to import or release buffer stocks is not sufficient. Increasing money supply in the hands of people by minimal tax cuts or raising threshold does not help. We may examine the concept of ‘maximum supportive price' - a counterpart to the ‘minimum support price' which protects the producers against loss. Government fixed rates are in vogue in property transactions. We have rent controls, risk assessors and surveyors, registered valuers and government run (fair price) liquor shops. It should not be difficult to fix a price beyond which essential commodities cannot be sold. The argument of value addition in salt/sugar or curd, greens and potatoes which necessitates price increase cuts no ice. We have survived on non-branded, less fancy rock salt or ‘ration' sugar. Units which are not able to hold the price line may get weeded out as dictated by purest of market economics.

Stimulating revenue

There have been pleas for continuing the stimulus (rather stimuli). “It has worked and should continue but it has not worked enough to pay taxes at present rate …”
“Recession has been arrested but industries still need to be pampered…”
“Inflation calls for tightening money supply but industry seeks greater purchasing power to push up demand for its goods…”
The state of economy is about as conclusive as the IPCC report! What is heartening is that in this respect we are on par with the USA. Stimulus has worked and the institutions have prospered enough to repay moneys borrowed but cannot pay tax on banker's bonus…regulatory oversight is acknowledged but that does not call for more regulation!
Saddled as it is with numerous demands on its resources the government cannot afford to extend the stimulus. Of course, it may lead to prices rising again. But if not tax, either currency futures, or oil prices or overheads are bound to push them up. So, no one is worse off for the discontinuance of stimulus.

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