Agriculture is most profitable and lucrative profession


For the first time in many years, the Indian agriculture received its share of space in mainstream mass media. It’s not that there have been some sea change or transformation but it has suddenly become lucrative and attractive profession (to highlight agricultural distress, farmer’s suicide and off-course Padyatras of Young Emerging Political Scion).

Suddenly all the punditry become expert in agriculture and started to offer their opinions and expert advices on how to improve agriculture and how (illiterate & ignorant) farmers should do the farming.

But if we take critical view and take benefit of hindsight, we can see that agriculture has always been most lucrative profession, after all we are known an ‘Krishi Pradhan Desh’ and it become a instant social media hit when someone put his/her photo in lush green mustard farm. It’s also miracle that most of photos have mustard in background while it’s grown in very small areas and oil-seed are one of agricultural product which India imports.

After a bit of sarcasm, now let’s takes hard look at harsh, brutal and dark realities of agriculture in India:

  1. India’s planner never wanted to promote agriculture. They have same disdain for agriculture as Urban Indian has for people coming from rural areas (normally addressed as ‘Dehati’). This is sole reason that we have always set targets for agricultural growth much lower than manufacturing, services and overall economy. Take example of 12th Five Year plan – The growth target for agriculture is set at 4% while target for overall economic growth is set at 8%. It’s another matter that even these lower targets are rarely met.
  2. This deliberate, planned and sustained efforts to (de)promote agriculture has resulted in reducing share of agriculture in economy from ~50% at time of independence to less than 15% in 2015. Since it has happened by deliberate neglect, we didn’t care to create employment opportunity for populations depended on agriculture which continues to remain almost same (more than half of total population) as at time of independence.
  3. But in democracy, its majority which rules. Why such a large population lost its clout and repeatedly ignored? The reason lies in fragmentation and division among them by identity of region, language, religion and caste.
  4. While we routinely blame the skewed subsidies in form of power, fertilizer and MSP to farmers but don’t see the invisible subsidy provided to urban dwellers in form of assured electricity, piped water supply and transportation facilities. We don’t see and question lakhs of Crore subsidy to Metro rail as subsidy (here urban commuters need not pay full fare. Its infrastructure creation not subsidy!) But power provided to farmers needs to charged at market rate. We blame farmers lobby for all the ills of state distribution boards, power sector and economic woes while ready to elect a government in National capital (having largest per capita income in country) which promise them free water and subsidized power.
  5. Well, these are not double standard! It’s their legitimate right, because urban dweller pay taxes so they must have claim over the resources. Why the hell on earth, we should care for Nange Fakirs living in hinterland. What do they provide for us? Oh yes, we can express solidarity with them when one of them commits suicide. Suicide would make interesting story , especially if it happens in full public view, and we can always find motley crowd of activist who care for global food security & campaign for rights of poor and marginal farmers without even having any iota of understanding about how it feel to remain a hungry even for a day.
  6. Now take a look at some aspects of agricultural economics. We complain about food inflation. Governments have been toppled on this very serious issue. Why the dumb, non-responsive government is doing when onion is sold at Rs 30/kg in urban area? The political class & bureaucratic, mainly coming from this crowd itself, take steps to reduce price. But we ever see the government moving into action when potato are sold at Rs 2/kg by farmers. Where the government did goes? Oh I forgot, the Price stabilization funds are meant only to subsidize urban consumer, not to compensate farmers for their distressed sell.  Stupid they are, as they have produced bumper crop.
  7. Oh, now come to main point of farming being a very lucrative profession. One simple way to measure profitability of any profession is ratio of output/input prices. In farm sector, this is measured by Terms of trade. Here are some sample statistics to see for yourself :  harsish
  8. Very newspaper editorial and economic expert have blamed high MSP for runway food inflation in past year. But have you ever care to read how MSP are calculated? I would just provide some of novel assumptions followed in calculation of MSP
    1. Only the number of hours that bullocks work on farm is used for calculation, as if the animals don’t need to fed on other days of year.
    2. Interest on working capital is calculated for half the cropping season, presuming that farmers would repay the loan when the crop is half grown.
    3. Post harvest expenses are not accounted for
    4. .All members of a family engaged in farming are valued just as non-skilled laborer. No concept of managerial remuneration leaves apart the profit, oh after all what they contribute?  Industry requires manager, not farming.
    5. Cost of factors of production is one essential component. But it is presumed that farmers own hereditary land, so they are not entitled to seek market rent for their land.
  1. Ok well, this is story behind the much celebrated MSP number. Now come to much broader issues of farmer’s subsidy. You must have heard that more than 1 lakh subsidy per year is provided to farmers. Its pure misnomer and deception. When world cotton prices are at Rs 8000/ per tonne, the farmers are paid Rs 4000/tonne. Shetkari Sanghathan has done some background calculation to show that government is extracting lakhs of rupees from farmers and distributing it among affluent urban consumer directly (by suppressing prices of cereals, pulses, vegetables) and indirectly (by ensuring cheaper industrial raw material e.g. cotton for textile industry). By governments own admission (as per submission to WTO), the farm subsidies to wheat are in negative.
  2. It’s not a new story. Farmers are always there to sacrifice for the national development. They should readily provide land for affordable housing and social infrastructure without their consent. They should produce pulses and oilseed, even if they are not remunerative, to meet national demand. Their property rights do not matter. If we adopt non-discriminatory attitude, we should build affordable housing in Lutyens Delhi rather than by acquiring land in NCR periphery.
  3. Come to Economic reform. We demand reform, choice and liberalization in all sector but farming. Farmers are not capable of making independent and informed choice. They needs hand holding. This is reason that they can’t sell outside designated area (due to APMC restrictions) , they can’t sell directly to customers & then can’t share global price rise due to export restriction but need to share losses due to fall in global prices.
  4. Need more proofs on why farming is most profitable and lucrative profession and business? You need to ask this question to our political farmers who have fortunes out of farm land. They can earn crores; yes you heard it right, in between their election cycle from their farming land.
  5. But previous government has not much to alleviate the status of farmers. Oh yes, MNREGA did wonder for farmers as per studies of social scientist and activists. It is responsible for rising farm wages. Oh, then its good na! that a labourer is benefiting from higher wages. But their impact wiped out for laborer by high inflation.
    1. If 100 days of labour has been reserved for 250 days of lean season, it would have doubled the employment generated, without more investment.
  6. Oh if not MNREGA, then Farm Loan waiver was definitely good for farmer. The sad reality is that it helped only those farmers who have defaulted on institutional credit (not the regular payer or nor the non-institutional debtor).
  7. Unfortunately the sad and hard truth is that no one cares for so called Ann Data (grain producer). There is no organized body to represent their interest, they are given short-shrift by political class and bureaucrats are simple unable to comprehend the complex problems due to their elitist background. The same failed policies which haven’t changed anything are advocated by media punditry and social activist.

All these problems ultimately comes to the Niyat’ or Intention of policy makers and other stakeholders. If there is sincere intention, nothing is impossible as being shown by excellent performance of Agriculture in Madhaya Pradesh, Chattisgarh and Gujrat who have delivered more than 7% agricultural growth for more than decade from 2001-02 to 2011-12.

India’s farmers would be better served if they are left to themselves. Yes, there is scope for extending irrigation, providing high yielding seeds. removing restriction on trade of agricultural commodities and creating a national market for them,  extending credit facilities in simple & convenient ways and creating a viable income insurance and weather insurance to reduce unpredictability. But above all , what is require are honest and genuine intention. Political dramabazzi or scoring political points to secure their vote are most fatal for farmers.

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Security Strategy to tackle the Insurgency in India


The past week has been dominated by insurgent of ISIS in Iraq. I came across one interesting articles (http://www.vox.com/2014/6/13/5803712/11-things-iraq-crisis-isis) providing the background information about the Group and how it operates. Immediately I was struck by similarities in operation of this group and various insurgent groups operating in India especially Maoist groups which has now spread to about 200 districts (the infamous red-corridor).   

Based on facts provided in articles I propose a short security strategy which could be employed to solve the insurgency and prevent them from further expansion. The basic of this strategy is to understand their modus operandi and then cut the roots of their bases. The correct diagnosis is first step towards the solution of any problem.

  1. The articles mention that “ISIS raises money like a government”. The same applies to Maoist operating in most intensive areas of Red corridor. (Same goes for insurgents operating in north east region of country). So how do we tackle this?

 As articles state

“This money goes a long way: it pays better salaries than moderate Syrian rebels or the Syrian and Iraqi professional militaries, both of which have suffered mass desertions.”

 Sustained revenue source allows insurgents like Maoist to pay better salaries (in relatively underdeveloped areas where employment opportunities are few, insurgent recruitment become a lucrative professions/vocation in absence of alternatives), provide rudimentary public services to people in local areas (off course lack of government apparatus is fertile ground and provides the base for start of their activities) and procure modern weapons and machinery besides spending a chunk on spreading the propaganda and logistics.

 So basic and starting point need to be cutting the financial nerve. Without sustained finance no one would be able to operate such a huge operation against the state.

Chock the funding and constant revenue stream and they will die natural death. While it need the analysis (probably various govt agencies already have information about different revenue streams) of source and then their modus operandi to cut the linkage. One of starting point can be cutting the extortion racket these rebels run with help (or helplessness) of corporate operating in these areas (Hafta Vasuli from businesses operating in mining areas and other industries). Beside it they operate various kind of illegal activates ranging from selling the forest timbers, illegal mining operation and taking share of vast amount of development expenditure in region ends up in pockets of rebels.

 One way to secure that no development money end up in Maoist hand is giving the Military and Paramilitary Forces (Organisations like BRO, Military Engineers Corps.) the power to execute the Infrastructure work. This would end the practice of involving (almost compulsorily) local contractor who are no on but their sympathisers or local cadres themselves. Can we, say for 5-yr, not involves any private contractor in developing local infrastructure work in these areas. Recent Govt of Chhattisgarh’s decision to hire the services of Technical Personals with central support for this cause is step in right direction.

 2. Article also states that

“it’s also hugely important as a safe zone. When fighting Syrian troops, ISIS can safely retreat to Iraq; when fighting Iraqis it can go to Syria. Statistical evidence says these safe “rear areas” help insurgents win: one of the best predictors of insurgent success that we have to date is the presence of a rear area,”

 The same factor is one of main reason for continued existence of Maoist rebels in border areas or in proximity to interstate borders. This is where the Effective Inter State Coordination could play a crucial role. So far centre has been reluctant player in whole security strategy. Central government has limited its roles to providing the financial and manpower support with not much focus on hand-on approach which involve ensure effective inter-state coordination (i.e. national Strategy). The Central Forces operating in these areas need to be provided the mandate to operate in inter-state region without any procedural hindrance in pursuance of their goal. Also there is need for better coordination among the various ‘special Anti-Naxal Squads’ to work across the border and make their operational collaboration effective.

Failure of lack of coordinated approach was most visible when ‘effective action in AP leads to shift of their base in other bordering areas’.  Today Andhra based cadre is providing the main central leadership to Maoist movement.

 A coherent integrated national strategy to tackle the issue of inter-state coordination at conceptual & operational is urgently required.  

 3. Article further states that

“Yet Iraqi troops ran because they simply didn’t want to fight and die for this government.

The morale of forces plays a very important role in any combat operation.The psychological war fare is big part of actual warfare whether it is conventional or sub-conventional /guerrilla warfare. The forces need to provide comfortable living conditions along with financial and logistic support. Since these serve in high risk zone and difficult terrain, extra remuneration needs to be provided for those serving in hard territories. It is a open fact that forces need to fight battle simultaneously on two fronts- one fighting the local conditions (lack of logistics , basic health services, danger of diseases like malaria) and other with the rebels operating in familiar terrain. We need to avoid this double combat by provide better logistics, finance , equipment , technology to make their life comfortable and a assurance that people of country are with them if something happens to them. They need to be assured to financial security.

Providing basic facilities to security forces along with extra remuneration would help to raise the morale of forces, which play a crucial role in their performance.  

 I have restricted myself to providing some of points of possible security strategy which need urgent attention to tackle the previous Prime Minister has descried as ‘Biggest threat to National Security’. It is not a exhaustic and nor it includes the developmental strategy which need to be at core to address the issue of underdevelopment (which hopefully present government would focus on if manifesto and campaign is yardstick to measure) 

Use of Social Media in Governance


Social media have become new craze in Delhi Durbar.  Seems, someone has realized that it is going to be one of most influential medium in coming times. To stay in tune with public opinion, to build a competitive advantage (Considering the new youth generation is tech-savvy and constitute majority of peoples & voters), the new government has issued dictate to all the ministers to become active on social media. They informal guidelines have also instructed them to use social media widely in policy formulation.

Some of issues which need deeper analysis in this context are: Are these new norms going to fundamentally alter the way government function? How is it going to influence the efficiency and efficacy of government? Will it allow having greater say of ‘Mango Man’ in public policy formulation? What are positives and negatives of such a strategy? Can it be substitute for real discussion, deliberation and debate which were till now used in governments to handle the various issues by previous governments ? Can we reconcile old way of working with this new ‘Ginny’?

First let’s guess what are possible negative impacts expected. What are the negative externalities on government and nation? Some of possible pitfalls/Shortcomings are:

  1. It would most probably create another set of elites (Urban, Higher Educated, and Middle class & English speaking) who have predominated influence in policy making. Policy makers may take interest of this section of as real interest of people of India, which may not be entirely true. The social media users are not representative of microsm of India though it is much broader & closer to India’s microsm than traditional elites on whose opinion the policy makers have depended so far.  

 

Ok, wait a second, with new guidelines for use of Hindi in Social Media in Hindi by Ministry of Home Affairs to all the ministries and departments of GoI that could alter significantly. This has potential not only to reach a much wider audience but may also force companies (from social Media sites to phone makers to app builders) to alter their strategy by focusing more on vernacular languages rather than just being limited to English.

  1. Exclusive reliance (or over reliance) is just like putting all your eggs in a bucket which is not a good strategy.
  2. Social media is ‘Double edges sword’. The reputation can be fast damaged by unknown person hiding behind the veil of anonymity in cyber world. The focused groups with ulterior intentions (including the hostile countries & non-state actors) can influence (or distort) the opinion in social media.   
  3. Instant reaction, condemnation and criticism may have chilling impact on governance. Long term goals may be traded with instant glorification.  Such short term tactics may prove counter-productive to long term strategy and goals of nation. Nature of immediate response makes it harder to focus on tasks/decision which may have bitter reaction in short term.
  4. There is always temptation to play to gallery.
  5. Too much reliance on social media reduces the attention span. The governance focus may shift to short term goals and making immediately followers happy rather than focusing on long term strategies which in short term may be bitter in taste.
  6. Probabilities for backlash are even greater. The even a minor mistakes or goof-up got hyper-exaggerated response.
  7. Off course, it is too much time consuming. If ministers devout such a valuable time in formulating policies to tackle the diverse problems facing the country, it would be more wise and prudent use of time.
  8. It doesn’t need highlighting that social media is one of non-productive use of new technology. It doesn’t add to output, production or people’s in earning bucks to make their life comfortable. On other hand, people waste (Am I not doing the same by writing this blog!!!) a great deal of time in social network which could be put to more productive use to improve the standard of living. It is fast becoming a type of new addiction with negative externalities for both individual and society.
  9. Many Ministers may not be fully acquainted with this new technology. Even if they are aware of how to use, they may not be fully aware of how to make best use it. They may not be able to differentiate between official and personal matters in absence of clear set of guidelines.

After highlighting the possible negative impacts of use of social media in governance, let’s also appreciate the fact that it has potential to change the rules of games. It can make governance more accessible, approachable, transparent and participative. It could be transformative in establishing new norms of governance where ministers are accountable to people not just in every five year but every second. They are even responding to a query or grievance from ‘Mango man’ (two political parties have already claimed and in some extent maligned the Hindi word ‘Aam Aadmi’ so it’s better to stick to Mango Man). If properly utilized it could become potent tool to engage directly with citizenry and reduce the influence of traditional inter mediatory/brokers like TV Journalists.

Most of Ministers in new Cabinet are technology savvy with substantial active engagement in social media. So far they have shown openness to ideas and suggestion and some even providing proper medium for such ideas (HRD minister has created the specific email Id for suggestion and disseminated the same on social Media).

The guidelines on use of social media can be effectively used & their impact be enhanced if they are coupled with real intention to engage the Citizenry in governance by online as well as offline institutional mechanism.

It makes much more sense when social media is used as one of many mediums at disposal to government to make conversations with citizens. It would be productive when suggestions on social media are utilized to improve the working of system. The Happy Synergy between Offline and Online Engagement can make a long lasting marriage with both partners enjoying the benefits of married life. It adds values to both the partners (Government and Citizens).

What it requires for long lasting two ways relationship is, not adhoc initiative, but a institutional set-up.  One possible way of institutionalizing the integrated online and offline engagement is arrangement where in Open Forum is organized by Ministers regularly in close association with Bureaucrats with specific pre-defined agenda on regular interval. This forum may have meeting open to public or to selected person who have previously shown interest in particular agenda/issue. This could serve as forum for interaction between diverse stakeholders like Common citizens, advocacy groups/think tanks, political parties and government can interact to discuss, deliberate and dialogues on various issues. This would help to better implantation of policies.

Tough I have not advocating completely disregarding the opinion of older stakeholders (like News papers columnist, few Civil Societ organizations, University professors of selected universities) but you can’t solve the problems with mindsets which created it. This age-old coterie was responsible for much of mess so you need to widen the base and involve the more and more youth. Dual strategy of online connect with offline conversation and dialogues can sustain the motivation on both sides and serve the beneficially to both sides. 

Scope for New Advocacy Groups in Public Policy


The new government is probably going to be most transparent and open government India has ever seen. As reflected in presidential address to parliament, they are keen to leverage the potential of technology including social media to make governance more participative.Increased participation could be seen in terms of

1. Soliciting the ideas about plans, policies & programmes to tackle the various socio-economic problems facing the country

2. Taking views & feedback on draft policies

3. Feedback on existing policies to improve their implementation, remove lacuna

4. Direct involvement of Youth in governance (Public Policy Design & implementation) through short term internship, fellowship and other type of association.

5. Communicating directly with citizens to inform about the various policy stances and reasons for such moves to remove any distortion of message, which is usually the case when lot of intermediaries are involved especially the Mass Media (i.e TV) which thrive on sensationalism, breaking news and opaque ‘sources’ for their reliability.

Present government seems very keen to leverage the technology including social media for variety of reasons ranging from reducing reliance on middle-man/broker, reducing the echoing and filtering in communication and feedback & their inherent comfort with new communication technologies.

The new regime at center is open to idea and it is now coming without any presuppositions and dispositions. They are open to genuine ideas from every quarter which can help in Nation Building. They are not only looking for fresh idea but also talents who can help them implement the ideas into practice. They are looking for talent who can help improve the delivery mechanism by giving a bit of their time in improving service delivery.

They are new to Delhi Durbar so their mind is still open. They don’t have any legacy to preserve, but eager to build one, along with making India a better place to live for future generation. They do want to leave their imprint behind. They are looking for long term- at least a decade- so they may not be tempted for short term electoral prospect.

This opportunity should be utilized by people interested in public policy. Those who were eager to contribute but there was no one in system that can hear their voice and implement their ideas. Someone who is interested in real development of nation, their constituencies, who want to share their novel thoughts, suggestion and ideas in their areas of interest – in area of their interest, expertise – whether based on their intellectual and academic experience or gained by common sense exposure by their life experience.

In this context, there is huge scope for a serious & genuine advocacy groups who promote/ advance the good ideas with rational scientific backing on different policy issue. I think would be ample opportunity for genuine advocacy groups to engage effectively to provide fresh, innovative perspective to tackle the tremendous challenge of development in front of country. So far we have lacked the critical mass of genuine advocacy groups as there were few avenues for political engagement at level of policy making except for Business lobbies and some favorable coteries or kitchen cabinets like National Advisory Council (NAC).

If you have look at spectrum of economy and social sector, except of few handful of Industrial lobby groups like FICCI, CII, ASSHOCHAM, NASSCOM, Sector specific lobby groups like GSM Operators Lobby, CDMA Operators Lobby , there was no serious advocacy groups for Agriculture, Small and Marginal Farmers, Service Sector, Small and Medium Industries, Students (Students organization like NSUI, ABVP , SFI are more busy in demonstration rather than engaging in any public policy engagement for improving the standard of education) and off course no one is there for primary education , for improving the public health or for that matter important issues like Urbanization , Urban Planning and Local Self Government.

Beside the above mentioned uncovered sectors of economy, there is serious opportunity to tap the innovative spaces in areas of Digital Technologies, Skill Development , Area Development (local, specific plans for each state, region , District etc), Smart Infrastructure, Financial Sector, Integrated Urban and Rural Development (RURBAN), Good Governance practices , E- Governance , Public Services Delivery , Manufacturing and Defense Sector. The underserved areas where there is huge scope for improving the qualities includes Public Sector Undertakings, Performance of Government Employees and assessing competitive advantage of country in global supply chain. The same applies to areas where government need to engage constantly with other countries or International Institutes such as Climate Change and Trade Negotiations, Defence procurements and Indigenization, Energy Supplies(or Security), New Technology Acquisition and Development, R&D and Development Assistance to other countries.

To add the values in above sector and to constantly innovate in order to remain relevant would require different set of skills than being present in existing advocacy groups. The New groups need to tap the talent from diverse sector and socio-economic background to make effective contribution. They need to be technology savvy but at same time being connected with grassroots to ensure that they don’t provide their advices and suggestions just based on paper modeling but from real life experiences. They need to mix the policy advocacy with real experience in implementation (even at pilot levels) in many of sector like Ru-Urban Development. In terms of Improvement in Delivery they need to immerse themselves in best model operating in country and then try to replicate that in different regions with necessary contextualization and adaptation in collaboration with governments at various levels from national, state to local level.

Though in recent time there has been emergence of some serious advocacy groups in School Education after the implementation of RTE Act. Similarly entities like Jangarah are working in areas of Urbanization and Urban policy. Spurt of such advocacy groups on Budgeting (Budget Tracking, Budget Analysis etc) has also been observed but they are more of sister concerns of big think-tanks like Centre for Civil Society rather than being independent entity.

Off course Big Foreign groups like Brooking India, CFR & Europeans are making their present felt in country but their mass engagement is rather limited and they are more of elite gathering and interested in influencing the policies to suite their vested interest rather than focusing on public interest from perspective of citizens or masses. Some local influentials have also started promoting the Groups like TakshShila (with Big Contribution from Spouse of Mr. Nandan Nilekani), Gateway House (with big Contribution from Mrs. Meera Sanyal) etc.

While it’s difficult to match either the network or pockets of either Foreign International Foundations or Indian Philanthropist but there is scope of committed people with Deep Interest in Public Policy to emerge as viable Advocacy group.

Off course CAG (Centre for Accountable Governance) is going to play important role in all the above areas especially its proximity with power-centre is going to help both parties. CAG would be envy for such start-up advocacy groups but they can & should focus their attention in creating niche in specific areas.

Many others who are now not in mainstream may become mainstream in next few years. Possible contenders includes Vivekanand International Foundation (present NSA was key brain behind it- It has already become a hot darling of foreign dignitaries which have established contact with this new Idea shapers club in capital. I came to know about these visits after writing draft) , India Foundation (in areas of Border Management , Internal Security and Neighborhood policies as it have good talent pools with some amazing ground work in border areas).

There is need for advocacy group who advocate Public Interest not lobby for their self interest. Since indication so far suggest, corporate lobbyist and cronies are not getting their way so far, it’s time for real Indian Citizens to come forward and contribute their ideas and suggestion and be partner in progress. There is need to build groups based on areas of interest who can work collectively , brainstorm among them, analyze the best practices from global to local and put forward the same to government for implementation.

Hopefully, such synchronous working would be possible. I hope a real partnership can be build between such citizens who are eager to contribute and government which is eager to improve the condition of nation. Only time would tell how successful this is going to be. But my intuition is that it would be going to be game changer partnership which has potential to transform India – for Good.

Post Script : A short remark on funding pattern which new advocacy groups should strive to achieve should also be innovate which doesn’t compromise their operational autonomy. Like foreign funded NGOs, foreign based think tanks & advocacy groups have their own vested interest. Such quad pro qua are never in public mandate or public statement but they advance the agenda of their funders through implicit means. The involvement of Indians in their boards or directors or as their employees is not going to change that. The same applies to corporate funded advocacy groups. But there is need to distinguish between institutes funded by handful of corporate and institute receiving donation from corporate (with no single corporate making a big chunk of overall funding). For the new aspirant group, they need to focus on maintain their autonomy and intellectual integrity. This doesn’t mean that corporate funding be abandoned or it should become anathema but it financing should be diversified in source and ways (with mix of consulting fees, revenue generating activities, funding from individuals, government and corporate). The focus should be on making itself sustainable on its own in medium and long term.

New Cabinet of India


The New government has sworn in after a historic election. People gave a historic mandate for stable government after 30 years of coalition governments at centre.

Obviously there were many expectations after such a mandate that new ‘Team India’ which will run the country for next 5 year would comprise of best of people from different walks of life. Off course, the question of who would be captain was already settled. Revolution of rising expectation was at its peak. But when cabinet was declared, there were not many surprise elements. Innovation quotient was also rather average.

Tough it would be premature to pass the judgement but preliminary comments on cabinet formation:

1. Cabinet Free From Coalition Compulsion. Not Really!

People were expecting absence of Coalition compulsion. But they were too eager to do so & disappointment was on expected line. Most of coalition, evens the smaller one with 2-3 seats, was accommodated in cabinet -which interestingly was one of smallest in recent years. This resulted in denial of due share to various states which gave historic mandate in favour of ruling party. Also the ministers chosen were not entirely choice of Prime Minister, as it should be, but were recommended people from Party bosses (in case of Shiv Sena & SAD) or Party Bosses themselves (Mr. Upenra Kushwaha, Mr.Ramvilas Paswan).

The coalition compulsion didn’t stop here. The Shiv Sena Minister didn’t join the ministry on day one citing that they sought different ministry (so it’s no longer prerogative of PM on either who should be minister & what ministry should be allocated…& after-all Heavy Industries doesn’t seems to give Heavy Return !). The same happened during the previous coalition government. More interesting is audacity of people from coalition partners like SS to put forward such demand in public despite the fact that BJP alone has majority at centre. This shows coalition compulsion didn’t end at majority at centre. It continues to operate due to compulsion of coalition at state level or state politics.

2. Representation to various geographies! But many left out

Cabinet have representation from various parts of India. It has people from Kashmir in North to Kanyakumari in South, from Gujarat in West to Arunachal Pradesh in East.  But in process many regions were entirely neglected one such example is Rajasthan which got only one MoS despite sending 25 MPs to winning party. On other hand, states like Maharashtra, Haryana & Delhi NCR Region got disproportionate share. This doesn’t augur well.

Yes, you can talk about India being one nation so it doesn’t matter from where the cabinet members come but it does. Representation based on geographies and various social groups not only have symbolic value but also substantial value.

3. Mandate was for LokSabha but Rajya Sabha would Rule!

Many sane people like Shivraj Singh Chouhan in past had demanded that RajyaSabha, a historic  relic, in which money power dictate the seats (otherwise what explain the number of industrialists like Vijay Mallaya, Anil Ambani , Rajeev Chandrasekhar, Rahul Bajaj & list goes on.. occupying RS seats) , should be disbanded. But alas! The power that is – RS rules. It is way to accommodate Delhi coterie, the leaders who don’t have any mass base, who are not responsible or accountable to anyone except their financiers. 

Things don’t stop at being MP. They are there to rule the India. It doesn’t matter if they lose the battle in Loksabha, even by a bad margin. RajyaSabha would provide avenue to rule India. Even our Prime Minister has done that in past. 

One clearly noticeable trend in present cabinet is ‘Disproportionate Share of Rajysabha MPs in Cabinet’. While the overwhelming mandate was for Loksabha but it was Rajysabha MPs who cornered important and lucrative portfolio. These include Finance, Defence, HRD, Power, Coal, Legal, Urban Development etc.

Mind that this was despite the fact that BJP has announced earlier that those who want ministry should contest the election & that was one of reason why former party president Nitin Gadkari decided to fight the LS election.

Hidden within the RajyaSabha membership is fact that People who were more in media than at ground got disproportionate share of ministries including three spokespersons (Mr. Prakash Javdekar, Ms. Niramala Sitharaman & Mr. Ravi Shankar Prasad) & one treasurer (Mr.Piyush Goyal) & off course media darling Mr. AJ.

Never Mind, even if you can’t fight election you have chance to rule the nation. The only requirement is you should be loyal to power that be, visible in media & good rapport in Delhi Durbar.

If you want to fight election, you are welcome. You didn’t need to worry about winning at all. Because if party comes to power you still have chances to rule the country provided you fulfil the above criterion. That was reason people like Mr. Arun Jaitely, Ms Smriti Irani, who lost elections are given plumb posting!

Off course in politics you have freedom to taunt your opponent (like Mr. AJ used to do to Mr. MMS) but same principle don’t apply to you. ‘One core principle of politics is Principle of Double Standard.’ 

3. Delhi coterie and ultra-loyalist (not necessarily organisational man) co-opted.

People were desperate for change and they gave chances to outsider in anticipation that there would be some drastic changes (for better). But alas! We forget one of Maxim “More the things change, more they remain same.”

How can anyone run the Delhi Durbar without presence of people from Delhi coterie, who speaks for whole India but aren’t able to win even one LokSabha seat. Beside they have added advantage of being proficient in English & language of diplomacy which many MPs who won from hinterland didn’t have. Off course they do have organisational network, how does it matter, if they are expert in manipulating and manoeuvring with press, PR & lobbyist rather than the real masses of dusty hinterland. 

4. Loyalty is more rewarding than competence & capabilities

It pays to be loyal in politics. This was very clear from shape of council of ministers filled with loyalist to Prime Minister. Very few baiters may have been accommodated but that was just to show that you care for party & to not get distracted by rebellion. Competence and capabilities can’t deliver without core element of loyalty to power that is. Nor can Domain Expertise or Special knowledge or experience or exposure of different facets of governance.

There is nothing wrong in appointing loyalist as minister, Prime Minister has full freedom to do so especially after he has won mandate on his leadership. He should be provided full freedom to choose his team to translate his vision into reality. The only hiccup is that there is only thin line between being loyalist & toeing the line on every issue. The later can turn hazardous as once flattery start it doesn’t take long to become appendage. Then the only causality would be the public opinion. Lack of serious dialogue, debate & deliberation within cabinet – filled with all yes men -can play havoc.  

Some Silver Linings within the above scenario are:

1. Not many dynastic faces find the space in new ministry. May be a good start and it would broaden the political talent available. It certainly sent the message that people with certain capabilities can expect important position even they are without connections but it certainly expect the loyalty to the power that to be

2. Lack of politically heavy-weight in minister may reduce the friction in government. The only thing they need to do is remain attuned to ground for continuous feedback through various channels. They shouldn’t become complacent.

3. There is for first time talk of accountability of individual ministers for their performance. This can put pressure on them to perform or perish. If it is actually implemented then it is good change. You can expect change of guards in coming years if they don’t perform.

4. People not having baggage of previous experience & not having domain expertise may eventually prove very good minister. As they have enough experts for advice at their disposal. Only thing they need is sincerity in their work & a bit of common sense. Off course, they need to be open minded for ideas, suggestion and feedback to deliver the agenda of people.

5. PMO is going to be much stronger and playing a coordinating role between the ministries. Having loyalist in various ministries allows the PM to implement his agenda without any hindrance and it also provides much needed coherence in governance.

6. Anyway, the real obstacle is implementation and that is job of bureaucrats. Clear, decisive leadership at top can mobilise the government machinery & that can work wonder. Some encouraging sign are appoint of people like Mr. Nripendra Mishra – Principal Secretary in PMO, who has earlier worker under Mr. Arun Shourie to bring telecom mess to end.  

7. Off course, this is just a start & more is going to come. Domain experts & specialist (or technocrats) can always be engaged in various capacities in implementation and deciding the vision for future.

People who were looking for Power-shift with drastic overhaul are certainly disappointed.

Now time for true Citizens is to put the new govt under scrutiny for every action and putting them on toe to deliver them for what they have promised. Only sustained efforts on this front despite our much reservation along with constructive cooperation can help to translate vision intro reality.  

“Together we will script a glorious future for India. Let us together dream of a strong, developed and inclusive India that actively engages with the global community to strengthen the cause of world peace and development”. (From Press Briefing of Prime Minister)

Making the meaning of Independence


What does Independence mean for us ? What is importance of Independence day for a common man ?

Are we really Independent ?

Jawaharlal-Nehru

Prime Minister Jawaharlal Nehru looks down on the crowd during India’s Independence Day celebrations at Red Fort, New Delhi, India, Aug. 15, 1947

Today is 64th Independence Day of India. British left India on 15th August, 1947 after the centuries of colonial raj and looting of natural resource and India became a sovereign nation.

So what had changed after the independence? What does Independence mean for us? Does this mean 1.Economic Independence 2.Social Independence or 3.Cultural Independence? What is importance of Independence Day for a common man? Are we really independent (as a nation and as an individual)?

Yes, we can beckon of emerging global power of world but what about the plight of 40 % population which is living below the poverty line and lacking the access to basic amenities? Well, such an occasion helps in sustaining the general euphoria of “Mera Bharat Mahan” among the public. It’s good to have  a sense of proud in one’s own country but this shouldn’t be a momentous phenomenon. Are we really proud of present status of country? (Crippling with tonnes of problems like widespread poverty, terrorism, internal security, corruption, inefficient governance, price rise and lack of efficient and affordable education and health care etc). Some may argue that “Cribbing about the inadequacies and shortcomings is never the solution. It’s up to you to make the best out of this situation.” This confirm to saying of Gandhiji “Be the change you want to see in world” .Don’t like it change it!

I agree to them to a certain extent. We (the common citizens) are responsible for present status of country (Good or Bad or whatever). We need to take responsibility for everything that happened around us and can’t remain a silent spectator for changes taking place in and around the society. There is no shame in accepting that our country in not the best in many areas (like Governance, security, infrastructure, and education, healthcare) but as the same time we should also rejoice our achievements. Acknowledgment of failure and strategies to improve on failed (or weak) frontiers are need of hour. There is always a scope for innovation and improvement.

It would be wrong to undermine the progress made by India in last 63 years after the independence but there is need to raise the concern about the way of development and unfold the truth about the real beneficiary of development. We need to ensure the accountability at each and every level and it shouldn’t stop at the “lofty promises of inclusive development”

I have tried to present my own perspective on few areas which would be crucial in shaping the future trajectory of India.

1. Education

Education is foundation stone of any nation. There has been an increase in the spread and reach of education in various hinterlands of India but we had failed to provide quality education to a larger section of people. This had undermined the growth potential and marginalised some section of society from mainstream growth story. Continue reading