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March 13, 2017

(title pirated from ‘Economic Times’ 😀 )

PM Narendra Modi’s BJP just witnessed a spectacular victory in the Assembly elections of two crucial northern Indian states of Uttar Pradesh and Uttar Khand. Satisfactory show in Punjab considering what was expected to be an AAP sweep that did not materialize. Goa, a bit disappointing but not dismal. Manipur.

What is the reason for Modi wave in the congress heartland? Widespread discontent for Congress & SP, BSP rule that took the state nowhere in more than half a century, in spite of Amethi being the constituency of not one but three Indian prime ministers. The change of scene in Varanasi, modest may be, still is a stark reminder of what could have been.

Being born in India and knowing India I know, nothing is possible in the short run in the country. With India, you need patience. Enormous patience. Changes will happen but at their own pace.

So something like Demonetization that struck like a lightening flash nowhere out of the blue had mixed reaction in our midst.

When I visited India this Dec/January, I could feel the effects of demonetization first hand. The middle-classes complained about long queues and inconveniences but were amazingly convinced, this was absolutely necessary. The lower middle-class supposed to be worst hit as portrayed by our media, especially islamic-terrorist friendly local newspaper ‘the Hindu’ published from my hometown Chennai – was least affected, because this class hardly saw the 1000 or 500 rupee notes generally. My house maid sees the notes only when I pay her her monthly wages. The free Jandhan accounts (with permissible zero account balance) pushed by Shri Narendra Modi have been effectively capitalized by the lower middle-classes (since long before demonetization was announced) – to the extent that I can say there is NOT to be a citizen without bank account or Aadhar card at least as far as Chennai is concerned, being the capital of anti-BJP Tamil Nadu. So that being the case, imagine the pro-BJP states and those where BJP forms state governments.

The lower middle classes I found, were sadistically (?!) happy, by the note ban. The notebandhi had in someway ‘punished’ the better-off in their opinion. Even if a black money hoarder had stashed away 2 crores of rupees say for instance, through back channels he/she couldn’t have converted/realised to white over 50% of his/her unaccounted wealth. I understood almost all businesses – small or big, and professional practitioners like medicos, legal counsels, film stars, civil contractors etc., evaded taxes. Bribery (corruption) is part and parcel of Indian bureaucracy but that has taken a big hit with demonetization. The professionals have dodged taxes but have henceforth decided to come clean. ‘It is not worth it’ that’s what was the word. At the end of the day, the psyche of the society at large stands influenced.

Builders were biggest losers and obviously found no sympathy with the public, for they always rise swiftest in life to the envy of a struggling middle class. Real estate prices have dropped and almost touched the rock bottom. As far as Tamil Nadu is concerned, housing has registered nearly non-existent growth rate since demonetization. No land deals either. The real estate industry has come to a complete standstill, FROZEN. The black market has been snuffed out in the sector and realistic prices are expected to soon prevail. Bank deposit rates have gone down which is a worry for pensioners but bank interests on housing loans etc have been slashed, which is a good and welcome outcome. With cheaper loans, any misgivings about demonetization have evaporated.

Media portrayed Modi as a vicious man with grand designs to protect India’s high flying business tycoons, but that can hardly be helped. Government, on the contrary, seemed to look the other way in my observation, with the back-channel conversion of black into white by money launderers who were small scale industrialists or business entrepreneurs because small businesses that are the backbone of Indian economy have to survive. Modi would have to fly in Adani aircraft to Australia if he wants to win the next Lok sabha elections slated for 2019. Corporate lobbying is not new or limited to India. It is the way democracy works whether it is America or United Kingdom or elsewhere. And Modi has not done anything that the Congress walas have left undone in over 60+ years in independent India. Ambanis and Adanis and Tatas and Birlas switch loyalties depending on who runs the government and calls the shots at the center. Businesses have to go on.

After talking to local people, I had an idea that the populace willingly and grudgingly bore with the demonetization hassles only for the nation’s sake. Everyone was aware, it was a temporary phase, something they had to oblige with, comply with, for the sake of India. The morale of the business people is changed forever.

One of the noticeable changes I witnessed was about such a mundane thing as LPG supply which is still a big issue in India where fuel is like lifeline. Middle classes complained because the cylinder refill now cost almost double but again the lower middle classes were content because the supply was regulated better than ever before and the subsidy was directly credited to their Aadhar-linked bank accounts with middle-men eliminated. The entire black market in LPG supply line has been wiped out whereas earlier businesses like restauranteers and hoteliers were eating into government subsidies meant chiefly for BPL families. Supply chain used to be highly irregular.

Aadhar cards got linked to our Ration (PDS) cards which are now to be re-issued as smart cards. The duplicates have thus been successfully eliminated in a single stroke.

I come from Tamil Nadu, a popular welfare state. In a poor country like India, my state dishes out 20 kg rice free every month and 5 kg of Atta (wheat) at very subsidized rates along with pulses. Bottled water and medicine are sold at very nominal prices. Midday meals free for corporation/municipal schools, bicycles and laptops free – it is so easy to live a simple or minimal life in my place without earning a single rupee.

The result: Vocations like carpentry, masonry, plumbing, electrical works etc., are dying in Tamil Nadu today. Farmers are not going to field work because government pays them for 90 days an year without work, under minimum employment guarantee scheme. If you are pregnant, government pays you 10,000 rupees to eat well, if you are from BPL (Below Poverty Line) families, you can have access to state-of-art super specialty hospitals for cardiac bypass or knee replacement without paying a penny – at government expense. Actually, being poor is a blessing in Tamil Nadu.

All this have plunged the state into deep misery and disrepair. Our men spend more time at TASMAC, govt run liquor shop than at work. Skills have been forgotten, population has become lazy and dull. Who wants anything free.

But our neighbouring states like Telengana, Seemandhra and Karnataka are doing extremely well as also Rajasthan and even Bihar under the auspices of BJP/centre.

Nobody is blind in India and everyone is aware, how center-friendly states receive maximum investments and boost to economy with employment soaring. I am not blaming BJP or Modi for disinterest in Tamil Nadu. We don’t want to give them a single vote but we want them to favour Tamil Nadu in every way. How and why should it happen?

Uttar Pradesh has voted overwhelmingly in favour of BJP – after seeing the likes of Mayawati and Akhilesh Yadav who assumed powers on previous occasions ONLY on playing the communal cards. It is deducible that the Uttar Pradesh muslims have voted largely in favour of the supposed Hindutva party BJP and its infamous Gujarat leader Narendra Modi, because they have come to believe that actions speak louder than words. UP women cloaked in black purdah head to foot have overwhelmingly voted for Modi for one good reason: to repeal the Triple Talaq (Muslim Personal Law). India has indeed come a long way as a mature democracy. If Modi is a serious issue, Gujarat muslims must have fled Gujarat that they haven’t. Instead they reelected Modi as chief minister in successive assembly elections reiterating their faith in him. Progress and development scores over empty promises. Pragmatism over Idealism.

Heard Shashi Tharoor on tv: not a single BJP candidate was muslim. All the 325 seats won by the party have Hindus as elected representatives. Question to Tharoor: why did not the muslim candidates fielded by BSP and SP win even in muslim stronghold? Why should UP muslims vote for Hindu candidates.

Goa equation: Set back in Goa attributable to crack down on foreign funds from NGOs of America/Europe/Vatican for conversion purposes. Another is the crackdown on pot (drugs) and liquor that Goa has always been synonymous with. BJP government has successfully eradicated to a significant measure both vices earning the wrath of Goan christians (who would rather not be reminded of Goan inquisition at the hands of invading Portuguese) and local bootleggers and small time crooks. In essential, these factors played a vital role in Goan economy and livelihood, a raw nerve that the state BJP faction touched.

Also Goans seem to want Manohar Parrikar back. The one thing the Hindu has been honest about. He is sorely missed. So it could be BJP still forming government in Goa with Parrikar as CM!

Manipur is a real treat.

Wherever BJP is, the states are prospering. The people of UP woke up to reality.

Once a huge Modi fan, I fell out with him (!) after the demise of Jayalalitha Jayaram, the Tamil Nadu CM, as the party tried to make a back door entry into Tamil Nadu state politics cashing in on the tragedy. Stung by the ‘merchant of death’ comment by Modi himself, I was aghast by the way the center seemed desperate to gain a foothold in Tamil Nadu, the Dravidian forte. But  where have the Dravidian parties taken the state since 1968? Road to nowhere.

The dravidian parties DMK and ADMK are atheist by ideology (somewhat similar to Marxism) but have been generous and blind when it should come to mindless conversions to Christianity happening in the state (sponsored by foreign missionaries with the help of local evangelists) and the slow Islamization taking place in Coimbatore, Vellore districts. One of the noteworthy actions by prime minster Modi is to crack the whip on the US and UK (and Vatican?) and Middle-east based NGOS/Charities that had sprung up indiscriminately in the country in the Congress regime. Zakir Naik is a case in point.

Can India be blamed for growing nationalism? How can anyone blame India, when even America has produced a Trump. Self-interest is the best help you can do to yourselves.

With Modi and BJP comes the strong sense of belonging, a sense of security that we Indians never felt in a long, long time. It is unthinkable that the US cancelled the F16 contracts to Pakistan and cut down on their aid without a word from Modi. If Pakistan finds itself more isolated from rest of the world today, Modi is the reason. The surgical strike on Pakistan Occupied Kashmir after unprovoked Uri terrorist attack scored well with entire India. India is not a soft state and the message has to be conveyed not only to Pakistan but also to China. The stability and security of Indian nation matters over anything else.

Coming to security matters, OROP or One Rank One Pay was enforced for retirees of Armed Forces after Modi took over. I concede, whether Aadhar or OROP, the ideas were originally mooted in Congress period. But Modi did not choose to play vendetta politics by discarding productive projects. Instead he went ahead with their implementation, retaining the same RBI chief (Raghuram Rajan), Nandan Nilakeni (for Aadhar).  This is a rare political maturity that not many national or regional leaders nurture.

In the industrial and trade sector, impressive investments are being made so inferences cannot be drawn at this stage. There are reasons to believe, India is investing in long term energy interests.

MakeinIndia : No comments. Wait and watch. Manufacturing has to match the Chinese/Japanese/Koreans and India is no way near any of them. Competent technical education is the main criteria. Time to score out the outdated syllabus and give an overhaul to technical education. My son says his BE (bachelor in engineering) degree earned in India (Anna University) is a big ZERO in US. It is like learning engineering all over again for him, right from the scratch. Without sprucing up our academic institutions I do not believe MakeinIndia will work out. Quality of manpower leaves a lot to be desired in India.

One field that lags behind is Agriculture although this year’s budget promises to look into the field (pun not intended). Irrigation and agriculture are most neglected by Modi government if you ask me.

Swachch Bharat is paying off. India is the dirtiest country I know on earth but the extra cess we the citizens grudgingly dole out is paying dividends. Chennai streets are a little better. Littering is coming down. Follow up is a must.

Yoga has had a big boost – and suddenly health is in focus. May be this will not be calculable in a Profit and Loss statement, but the holistic benefits that we as a society derive from fitness is immeasurable – akin to ‘goodwill’ of a business enterprise.

There is a monumental change in India since Modi took over in 2014, something is happening. We have to give him atleast 15 years to see visible changes.

I would recommend more push into Infrastructures. Our highways aren’t good yet. Even very poor nations than India have a good and decent network of highways.

What more I want from Modi: DESALINATION PLANTS THROUGH OUT INDIA AND SEWAGE TREATMENT PLANTS THAT CAN HELP US OVERCOME WATER PROBLEM OVERNIGHT. That will be a massive, ambitious project but whether our PM will accord it priority is a question mark. Make treated water available for agriculture through length and breadth of India. You won’t even need fertilizers for crops in that case. Rainwater Harvest to be made mandatory.

Middle east nations that record  zero annual rainfall are surviving on desalinated and treated sewer water only. A lesson Modi can draw from Gulf. Arab nations are cultivating food crops and practising agriculture with treated waste water. In Scandinavian countries, treated water even passes for potable water. A monsoon dependent country like India can follow suit.

Modi will forever solve India’s water crisis if we are to have full fledged sewage treatment and desalination plants working round the clock de-silting sea water and treating waste water. We have already sewage treatment plants (what we call pumping stations) but the treated waste is not channelized back for productive purposes and is let into the sea. Moreover the treatment plants are outdated working far over their capacity limits, stretched to maximum. (I have done a title on that I guess which link I shall post here later).

Center has pushed in a big way for clean energy solar power and India has come around and signed the Paris Climate agreement about which I have no complaints. Tough target to meet for third world countries for whom energy bill is prohibitive, but striving for renewable or green energy will be beneficial in the long run cutting down on pollution, reducing carbon foot print.

From Solar energy to Hyperloop, India can choose what she wants to maximum advantage with lowest cost structure.

Finally ZERO PERSONAL INCOME TAX FOR SALARIED CLASS WITH INCOME UPTO 10 LAC RUPEES PER ANNUM PLEASE. I expected major exemption for middle classes from income taxes but was disappointed with the annual budget. The raising of income tax slabs is insufficient and serves no purpose. Income tax sops are a must if the effects of demonetization are to hold good.

I am still cross with my PM. Cannot forgive him for his interaction with Sasikala Natarajan in JJ’s death. Will probably never. Or it will take Modi a lot, lot more to accomplish, for me to change my mind someday in future, let us see.




From → Dilli Durbar

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