Tuesday, December 10, 2013

Assembly elections analysis and dramatic debacle of Congress

Congress's depth of defeat in the Hindi heartland cannot be measured in numbers anymore. They have been rejected so badly that it would take years for it to recover. Forget decent defeat this was a decimation. Congress continuous effort to make India a welfarist state where tax payer's money would be given to poor people and convert India into even more corrupt system without altering the existing delivery system of governance has made them an entity to hate by large sections of the country. The misgovernance and increasing inflation has caused widespread anger.


Ending up with 8 out of 70 in Delhi is the worst ever performance. This is worse than Congress's lowest tally so far of 10 in 1978 (post Emergency). A huge variety of factors worked against the Congress - corruption, the way Commonwealth Games were conducted after loot of people's money, deteriorating law and order, rising prices, the inhumane way of treating Anna Hazare and his movement supporters and so forth. Delhi was the safest bet for Congress and a citadel hard to breach with Sheila Dikshit at the helm. Anti-incumbency was not a factor for Sheila as much as Congress wants to portray it.

The rise of AAP is a big shocker for the entire political spectrum. With Omar tweeting that low turn out of crowd is a big problem he was signalling that absence of people at Rahul's rally was a disaster waiting to happen. AAP which captured voter's imagination by raising issues that genuinely affect common man, by writing a manifesto with direct inputs from voters, reaching out to peripheral areas of Delhi which had never received any benefits from either BJP or Congress - were all honest efforts by a new political party to reach out to voters.

Sheila had taken Delhi for granted and the people saw in AAP a genuine alternative to both Congress and BJP. Many people were confused whether to vote for AAP or BJP (since a new clean face Harshavarhdan of BJP personally selected by Modi himself was the CM candidate). Had BJP not changed their leader in the nth moment AAP would have stormed to power with a clear majority. The real hero is AAP and its leaders. They defeated so many Congress and BJP leaders and Arvind defeated Sheila - a moment remembered in history. One could not have imagined that Arvind could defeat Sheila in this manner. He even refused to contest from any other seat and was so convinced to face Sheila and wanted to stand anywhere Sheila stood. 

Role of Modi Factor: Yes, since a clean image of Harshavardhan got BJP the chance of being the single largest party.


No where can Congress's rout be felt as much as Rajasthan (after Delhi). A mere 21/199 seats and BJP getting 80% of seats - 162/199 is a remarkable first time feat for both BJP and Rajasthan's political history.
This is worse than BJP's lowest tally so far of 32. Vasundhara Raje campaigned too hard in the state. Rajasthan somehow votes very decisively each time. It looks like the entire state votes in the same manner. No state probably can match this sort of behavior every 5 years. Gehlot government had been so much inactive that the people were very much against it. Besides, Congress pushed all its central government schemes in Rajasthan to be used as a test lab to be replicated across India and that too in the final year. It failed so miserably that it even backfired. 

Role of Modi factor: DEFINITELY YES. Since the surge of BJP could not have been because of Vasundhara alone. She herself expected close to 120 seats. This additional 42 seats is definitely because of how Modi campaigned in Rajasthan. He truly capitalized Congress's non-performance.

Madhya Pradesh:

Madhya Pradesh genuinely saw real development work in the last 6-8 years. Roads, electricity and women's welfare schemes were a huge hit. Several of my friends repeatedly told me Shivraj Singh Chauhan did impressive work in rural parts of the state and life improved under his leadership. By all its standards BJP did its best performance here since winning 3rd time with this sort of majority is no less achievement. 165/230 which is 22 seats more than in 2009.

Shivraj did what Modi could not do. He increased his victory margin the third time by a whopping 22 seats. Modi in his 3rd time victory managed to get almost the same number of seats as his last time.

Role of Modi factor: Only the SURGE since Shivraj's own charisma was much more than Modi's presence.


Dr. Raman Singh of BJP was known for improvising the PDS scheme by which nearly a corrupt free system of transfer of food subsidies was operating. Further, Raman Singh had a tough opponent - Ajit Jogi. Last year when close to 50 Congress leaders were massacred by Naxals it was expected that Congress will ride on sympathy wave. The race between the two was so intense that till the last moment the seats were shifting in both BJP and Congress's favor. Finally, a 10 seat gap made BJP get 49 and Congress 39.

Role of Modi: Not Heavy, but the game tilting in BJP's favor was purely because of Modi's aggressive campaign.

What does this mean for Modi and BJP?

Modi wave cannot be discounted at all. However, Modi's success now hinges on how he can capitalize this Anti-Congress momentum in South and Eastern parts of India where BJP doesn't get good seat count. It is important that Modi makes his presence felt more than ever before in these regions and more so in UP. It is completely MODI and only MODI who can deliver now the drastic increase in BJP's tally. It is time for more smart strategy at work for Modi.

What does this mean for AAP?

AAP is truly the hero of this elections. However, a movement that converted itself into party would take time to make their presence felt in elections at the national level. They can increase their presence in several urban constituencies but can't really dent both BJP and Congress at least in the upcoming Lok Sabha elections. You can win votes by showing your anger at the present government but unless they can prove in Delhi by being in government they can't convince voters throughout India. AAP's economic policies are like Congress where there is too much subsidy and freebies. We don't even know what their foreign policy is, how they plan to modify Tax code, how they plan to revive economy, how they can tackle China, how they can increase manufacturing etc. These issues are not easy to tackle just by getting clean and honest people. Right now the best answers to these questions lie only with BJP and Congress because of huge administrative experience in states and the Center. Here is my observation. To prove your mettle you need not be in power, but ruling the country is a whole new game that requires a different vision and perspective. Why is Modi acceptable to a large people? He has a proven track record of excellent governance unlike Rahul. He is making every effort to make himself acceptable to all sections of society.

The best way is to support either BJP or Congress in Delhi and get their Lok pal version passed. If they do so and then withdraw support at least they will prove to be serious contenders to both Congress and BJP. Also, they can offer issue based support just like Mr.Prashant Bhushan of AAP suggested so that way they can withdraw support if either of the 2 parties play tricks.

In other words AAP cannot emerge so strong so as to challenge BJP and Congress right away in this Lok Sabha, but given time they can definitely do so. 

What does this mean for Congress?

There is nothing to say except that things will get worse for Congress in 2014. But Congress is too smart to be ignored. You never know at the last moment what political strategy Congress may employ. It can say it won't declare Rahul Gandhi as PM. This is the best strategy since Sonia Gandhi would shield her son's career by not staking it in a fight against Modi. Secondly, Sonia Gandhi may prefer PM Singh to continue or ask Chidambaram to be the PM face.

Congress may resolve to more freebies and their famous "farmer loan waiver" may be triggered adding a fresh burden on the economy. Their attempt would be to woo the farmers or a massive reservation attempt for Muslims to win over their votes. Any resort to populist votes can be a double edged sword to the party.

The country cannot let itself go bankrupt by involving in these welfarist policies. Sonia Gandhi's National Advisory Council (NAC) must be thrashed out immediately for it is the main entity Sonia is relying on for coming up with such schemes. A young aspiring India is not at all a concern for the Congress.

Unless Congress reforms and comes up with a good vision they will fail to win the hearts of the people. And definitely, as its party member Mani Aiyar put it - "Who can be even half-way realistic and expect the Congress to return to power?" 

Saturday, November 16, 2013

Gurgaon Rapid Metro: The first private Metro system opened for operations

Gurgaon has emerged as the city with the third highest per capita income in India. 50% of Fortune 500 companies have their presence here. It is the hub of software outsourcing in India. It is also home to several banks and financial institutions. The city is expanding and yet inadequate infrastructure facilities and rising crimes against women are becoming pressing concerns for the city. Like Delhi, Gurgaon has been craving for Metro Systems ever since Delhi started expanding in several directions.

Gurgaon has now become the only Indian city to have 2 different metro systems. No other city can probably see 2 metro systems in future considering the slow pace of metro construction in Jaipur, Bangalore, Mumbai, Chennai, Kochi and others. Delhi Metro's YELLOW LINE (Jahangipuri to HUDA city) was the first line to go outside Delhi and reach Haryana. Sikandarpur is the second station one reaches while boarding the Yellow Line Metro and crossing Delhi border into Haryana. Currently, yellow line has 5 stops in GURGAON - Guru Dronaacharya, Sikandarpur, M.G. Road, IFFCO Chowk and HUDA city center.

The Congress led Haryana Government wanted HUDA (Haryana Urban Development Authority) to do the construction and operation and issued tenders. Delhi Lease and Finance (DLF) emerged as the only bidder and wanted to provide the construction, operation and connectivity. DLF came into an agreement with HUDA that it will pay connectivity charges and some percentage of ad revenue to it in lieu of complete self funding and operation. 
This project called RAPID METRO started in Aug 2009 and was intended to be complete in 30 months. A delay of 10 months did happen and then Rapid Metro was opened on 14th Nov 2013.

This is the first time such an agreement led to Metro construction in the country at such a quick pace justifying the name "RAPID METRO".

Unlike Delhi Metro that is patrolled by CISF Forces, Gurgaon Metro will be patrolled by private security. Only time will tell if these security set ups work efficiently or not. Huge presence of CCTV is a big plus and is becoming a norm for most new infrastructure projects these days. The trains will operate from 6:05 am -12:20 am with a frequency of 3 minutes.

Some of the salient features are presented in the image below (Courtesy: Skyscrapercity, Google)

 Phase - II will be finished by 2015 and will have 6 stations.

Why is that the speed of average Metro train is 30 km/hr when the speed can be reached to 80 km/hr? This speed must be eventually increased considering the increase in usage. Train systems operating at this speed is too slow and modern systems that have the ability to reach 80 km/hr must at least maintain 60 km/hr

It would rather surprise commuters of Delhi Metro as to how this train doesn't have reserved seats for women and senior citizens. Rapid Metro perhaps must learn from Delhi Metro regarding this. The number of coaches are just 3 with a 1000 passenger capacity. This is too less considering a huge workforce which plans to use this to commute to their workplaces. Eventually, I am sure they will increase the number of coaches based on Delhi metro experience.

While Delhi Metro has maintained all its stations fairly clean despite 12 years of its operation, one needs to wait and watch to see how this privately operated Rapid Metro does. As of now, Phase- 1 is just 6.1 km long and phase-2 is underway.

Another very interesting feature is that Delhi Metro and Rapid Metro have integrated in the way the smart cards are accepted. This is very convenient and well planned out strategy otherwise passengers would have had to get separate tokens and cards to cross the 2 systems. Like many tracks of Delhi Metro this one too draws power from a third rail.

The official website of the Rapid Metro is http://www.rapidmetrogurgaon.com/Default.aspx

The biggest lesson that comes out of this project really is the fast pace of execution. In 30 months this project was completed and when one looks at Mumbai it looks like Metro will not even be completed in another 30 years. Mumbai, which is much bigger than Gurgaon badly needs faster execution of Metro system and so is Bangalore. While Bangalore's progress is way better than that of Mumbai, Gurgaon's Rapid Metro business and execution model is worth emulating. The majority of the area where this line passes is owned by DLF and so DLF found it very profitable and tied up with Siemens and others (more details here).

If the IT companies in Bangalore took a similar initiative and just connected the Electronic city to major parts of the city it will be a big boost to all employees who commute to that area from other parts of the city. The Bangalore Metro phase - II envisions this but given the retarded pace of Phase - 1 construction it may take several years for this to see the light of the day. Hence, Gurgaon Rapid Metro is worth considering for areas of any major city where business and offices have a big presence.

Tuesday, October 8, 2013

Land Acquisition Bill - Impact on Real Estate and Congress in 2014

Around 3-4 years ago several protests erupted across the country over land acquisition issues. Many highway projects were stalled because of this too. I had highlighted in my article in 2010 (Click here to read) how China passed a major land acquisition bill that kick started their economy since 1998. In fact, there has been no legislation that defined how the land will be acquired and what compensations must be given since 1894 when the British first introduced it. Land was acquired and no fair compensation was given to any land owner. This caused outrage, protests - popular amongst these being Singur protests in Bengal where farmers were killed because they didn't want to give up their land.

Congress worked hard to get a bill because the farmers vote bank was one they couldn't afford to lose. But it kept on delaying this bill until it found an opportunity at the time of elections to get it passed in a hurried manner. Mrs. Sonia Gandhi, I guess took this as a personal project. She somehow asked all her party members to get it passed. Now, the BJP had to support it because it too has farmers vote banks in several states. Even if the BJP had opposed, Congress knew how to get the bill passed (hook or crook). This bill has many good provisions, yet the process to get to these provisions in reality is corruption prone and will only take us back to good old days of government control over everything.

Some salient features of this bill: (Source where numbers are got). MY comments are in Red below
  • 70% of land owners and workers/affected families consent required for public-private projects and 80% in case of private projects.
  • Compensation amount is upto 4 times market price in rural areas and two times in urban.
  • Any land that is very fertile cannot be acquired and must be done as a last resort and states will apply restrictions regarding extent of such an acquisition. If states do want to take this then the state government needs to pay the value of agricultural land upfront (this is excellent since fertile lands should not be used for anything but agriculture)
  • Only if no unused land is available (determined by the Collector) shall a farm land be acquired.(Can't the collector be bribed? If so, what happens). The collector can be fined upto 4 times in case he doesn't update records accurately since the compensation is heavily dependent on this.
  • Any affected family (agricultural labourers, tenants including any form of tenancy, share-croppers or artisans who depend on this land since 3 years prior to acquisition) can accept a) employment which will be in addition to training, and skill development with monetary benefits such as Rs.50,000 transportation expenses and resettlement expenses. b) Or accept Rs.5 lakh one time payment, plus Rs.2000 per month for 20 years with inflation adjustments. c) Affected people will get Rs.3000 per month for 1 year. d) If the affected people include artisans then minimum amount (one time) must be Rs.25,000. (Good provisions! But how will payments be made? Can't it be connected to AADHAR or bank accounts directly? It needs to be else there will be corruption for sure). All this money that the recipient receives is exempt from TAX. (Wow!! That's better)
  • In case of acquisition of land for irrigation or hydel project the rehabilitation and resettlement shall be completed six months prior to submergence of the lands proposed to be so acquired.(Good provision, at least money is given before land is acquired)
  • The Collector shall take possession of land only after ensuring that full payment of compensation as well as rehabilitation and resettlement entitlements are paid or tendered to the entitled persons within a period of three months for the compensation and a period of six months for the monetary part of rehabilitation and resettlement entitlements commencing from the date of the award. However, families will not be displaced from this land till their alternative R&R sites are ready for occupation.(This is even better because land owners may not trust their buyer as seen in several cases).
  • Any land belonging to tribals, SC/ST communities - shall be paid 1/3 of compensation amount upfront and the land must be acquired only after consent of the Gram Sabhas of that region. SC/ST communities do get additional compensation if their land is taken. (Good part is tribals are protected. It is the forced acquisition of tribal lands that has led to Naxal movement in several parts of East India)
  • Social Impact Assessment Reports need to be carried out by government appointed experts with the Panchayat heads and must be discussed with them and Panchayats have the right to reject (good, but overreaching because any deadly nexus between the two could be disastrous on end and on the other hand industrialists will have to wait big time to get their land).
  • Social Impact Assessment Reports must be done within 6 months.
  • State Governments allowed to add more laws to enhance the same. In case the acquired land is not used for the intended purpose then the govt can use it for another purpose or return back to landowners. In case of return it has to be done within 5 years.(Can't it be done faster?)
  • If the State Govt acquires the land and then sells it to a 3rd party for another price, then 40% of the appreciated value needs to be given to landowners.(Good Indeed!!)
Major issues with this bill - 

1)Time and increased costs associated with it and will take India back to pre-liberalization era:
It takes 6 months to do Social Assessment Impact, then another 1 year for further notification and approvals and then so forth. Why should the state sit and do this work? Why would so many layers of bureaucracy come in way to acquire a land? Why can't we have a regulator? At least regulators are better off than state governments and its various committees which will be corrupt and less interested in encouraging projects. The chart below will explain why this bill adds 50 month wait time(chart source: economictimes)

When land acquisition takes this long, it does affect industrialists. They cannot infinitely wait to start a business. This bill is heavily in favor of land owners rather than buyers. So, where should a border line be drawn so both interests are satisfied? There is no easy answer. However, given the lethargic bureaucratic system we have, multiple authorities and multiple approvals would take us back to pre-liberalized days and this is unacceptable. The time for clearance must be more only for exceptional cases rather than normal ones.

2) This bill is so outdated with respect to consultation process in that Chief Secretary and various other committees will decide everything. This is not the way highways are done, this is not the way telecom market grew, this is not the way insurance market is growing. Who would decide what the procedure of consultation is? How will the consent be taken - any verbal agreement or written agreement? It is left for states to decide? Such a regressive policy makes no sense. This provision is the most disastrous and poisonous provision of this law.

3) The Real Estate costs will only escalate with time. Any delays will impact the costs and corresponding compensation dearly. Imagine if a builder wants to acquire a piece of land how much time and money has to be spent in compensation, bribing officials to clear their tenders and projects and in the actual execution. Naturally, the costs will be passed to tenants, residents and eventually escalate the costs of buying or owning a house if the builder has to pay 4 times the compensation to the land owners. At least, if the clearance process is faster we will be better off. Our Environment Minister Jairam Ramesh is having an excellent track record for the past 5 years to stall every industrial project citing environmental concerns.

4) Will an Environmental Ministry hurdle come despite clearance from the Govt for a piece of land? The law doesn't seem to clarify on this. If yes, then forget we are moving to 21st century; we are already back in 1970's.

5) There are several constitutional flaws in the law. This article explains how Govt can still misuse an acquired land for public purposes.

So, while Congress can use this to their electoral advantage, industries have already begun to hate this law. Unless a borderline is drawn the legislation despite some of the best provisions can be a very outdated law with respect to time.

Remember, Indira Gandhi did this kind of bureaucracy in every department and every sector thereby causing the current corrupt state of the country to be what is. Had she thought of liberalization her tough leadership would have propelled India into a developed country right in the 1970's. The bureaucratic system and license raj system she introduced is precisely what many legislations of UPA are filled with under her daughter-in-law Mrs. Sonia Gandhi. 

At the end of the day it is quite obvious that Congress will sell this policy as pro-farmer with the expectation they will return back to power and who knows this may well be the truth come 2014.

Monday, September 2, 2013

Food Bill passed assuring Sonia of 2014 Congress victory

Indira Gandhi from 1966-1984 (except 1977 elections where she lost) was re-elected every time because she championed the cause of poor people although poverty never got eliminated. The most disastrous consequence of such a welfarist policy led to a declining economy, but an increasing vote share for her. India grew at 3% but Congress vote share went on increasing to more than 30%. "Garibi Hatao" was her slogan but Garibi was never eliminated and India got more corrupt. "Garibi" increased under her. If that was not the case why would we still have poverty?

Sonia seems to have caught this same pulse. She knows that it is the poor people who vote and so long as they are satisfied power cannot cease to Congress. Who cares about economy anyways? Economics is always stupid while populism is always clever.  Whenever this country has seen real all around growth people seem to have voted out that Government. Indians are to blame for themselves because poor people vote, half of the middle and rich class people are hardly concerned (and yet they want Government to be good...insane !!). This happened to Congress's Narasimha Rao in 1996 and BJP's Vajpayee in 2004. People really don't know what they want. If Sonia comes back to power in 2014, it is a clear victory to people who don't care about economy. We currently have a second term PM whose silence is being projected as innocence and when the PM says global factors are affecting India, here is a clear rebuttal to this blatant lie. There are 59 countries growing faster than us (considering 5% GDP growth) in the very same global scenario as the PM is accusing of. If everything is caused by global factors- why are we importing so much and why are we spending so much when we don't have any money? PM's statements in Parliament clearly reflect bankruptcy of ideas and cover up of misdeeds by his Government. His image is declining everyday but Congress will come back as people will vote them back.

Sonia will bounce back to power with a thumping majority because of Food Bill and there can be hardly any doubt I feel. All the corruption will get covered up as people will vote for Congress back.

My problem is not the Food Bill. My problem is its timing and its implementation at a time when we really don't have a transparent system by which food can reach the poor. Let's get to some glaring facts (Source):
  • Of 79 countries on the Hunger Index, India stands at 65.
  • Rs.60,000 crore worth of food is wasted due to inadequate storage facilities - Why no step has been taken to increase the storage capacity in the 9 years of UPA rule? If this was increased the food would have been distributed to poor. This would have not costed anything on the finances.
  • Rs.2.6 crores is spent every year to increase storage capacity but this money is eaten as corruption.
  • In 2003 India had produced 63 million tonnes of food grain but had storage capacity of 48 million tonnes and the rest was sold in international prices for prices lower than market price as against allowing them to rot in India (This was under NDA rule)
  • 4.5 lakh sacks of wheat (worth Rs. 25 crore) was allowed to rot in UP in 2010. Utter waste of money. Why didn't UPA govt so concerned with the poor not take care of this?
  • 3 lakh sacks of wheat was allowed to rot in Haryana under Congress rule
  • 56,000 sacks of grain rotted in Maharashtra at a time when Sharad Pawar promised he will increase storage capacity.
  • 50% of India's children are malnourished. Malnutrition levels are worse than sub Saharan Africa. What an absurd contrast? Excess food rotting and children with no food.
  • There are enough cases of corruption in the existing PDS. There is absolutely no transparency and there are huge leakages in distribution, and money - What else can accurately explain that 50% of India's children are malnourished. Without improvising PDS Food Bill will only lead to more corruption.
  • 70% of poor never get the grains under PDS and 55% of total grain gets leaked out based on studies done in the past few years.
So, if these are shocking facts what does Food Security Bill do? (Source)
  • Aims to cover 75% of rural India and 50% urban India's poor people.
  • 5 kg of foodgrain/person/month at Rs.3 for rice, Rs 2 for wheat and Rs.1 for millets and other coarse graisn
  • Free meals for pregnant women, infants 6 months - 6 years age in the nearby anganwadi's.
  • State Food Commissions appointed to address grievances (It's laughable because these commissions would eat up money than allow the process work transparently. Any common educated man knows this)
  • State governments should make progressive steps such as doorstep delivery of foodgrains; end-to-end computerisation; leveraging “aadhaar” (UID) for unique identification of entitled beneficiaries; full transparency of records; preference to public institutions or bodies in licensing of fair price shops; management of fair price shops by women or their collectives; diversification of commodities distributed under the PDS; full transparency of records; and “introducing schemes such as cash transfer, food coupons or other schemes to the targeted beneficiaries in order to ensure their foodgrain entitlements” as prescribed by the central government.
Agreed that this country needs such a bill and it is not new since Tamil Nadu, Haryana, Chattisgarh, Andhra Pradesh, Rajasthan and Orissa already have similar schemes. If all these states have the schemes has hunger been eliminated in these? It isn't. Why? It is plagued by faulty, non-transparent processes and high corruption. Only Chattisgarh has been an exception and the central government itself can emulate Chattisgarh.

What sets Chattisgarh system of Food Bill apart? These measures below have reduced leakages from 40% to 4%. This is a model example as several economists have also agreed to. The Central Government doesn't seem to include any of these to their flagship as given below. 
  • Elimination of fair price shops by private firms and substituted by cooperatives, panchayats or women’s self-help groups; 
  • Raised the commission earned by these mediators; 
  • Computerised ledgers in godowns and, among other things
  • Sent out a diktat that all food-related grievances must be settled by district magistrates within 15 days. 
In the Center's bill why would State Commissions bother to address these issues when the grievance mechanism is not strict and quick? That is why I re-emphasize that this is a faulty bill leading to more corruption and passed at a time when money and economy are in a tight spot and it is nothing but careless spending and done solely for vote bank politics.

Costs of this bill: 

The UPA Government says it already spends 90,000 crore on food subsidy and this bill adds another 10,000 crore. So, by its estimates about 100,000 crore. This is all but a gross under evaluation of expenses. This is just to calm down the markets. Let's see how much money Government has and how it can spend. The numbers below are taken from this article.

2013-2014 Receipts of Govt (money collected by Government) => Rs.11,22,799 crore
Add Govt's estimate of Food Security bill                                  => Rs.   1,24,723 crore

  • i.e 11.10% of total money Govt gets will be spent on this.
  • Economists estimate it will be 28% since the figure given by The Government doesn't take many costs like administrative ones in this estimate
  • Commission for Agricultural Costs and Prices - Ministry of Agriculutre estimates to be 21.15%
  • Either way 20-25% of money Govt gets is being spent on Food Bill - This is 3% of GDP and this is huge financial burden. What about money for electrification, water supply, health etc? No one knows
Impact on Farming and why prices will go up with this Bill:
  • We don't produce enough rice to meet these increasing demands. Therefore, we will have to import and the amount would be in dollars. Result: Increasing deficit, and pressure on rupee.
  • Inflation will be natural if even food is now imported more than ever.
  • While farmers may get inspired and produce more rice and wheat (because the government has assured the purchase) they will stop diversifying into any other crops and vegetables. This will lead to importing vegetables.
  • Govt argues that farmers who grow vegetables will be assured of rice and wheat they will continue to grow vegetables and this may reduce the import. Will this mean that prices of vegetables will come down in the coming years? Not at all. People's lives will get worse in the coming years but people will still vote for Congress. 
At the end of this article I wish to emphasize the fact that the Congress doesn't have any explanation as to why it waited this long to make this bill pass and why it passed now.

It is often said that a hungry person cannot get satisfaction from anything other than food. Economics, politics or anything else doesn't matter to such a person. It is precisely these people that will be selected and Congress would create a hype out of this. This would turn the entire election game in the favor of Congress. If this bill has to succeed the ground work needs to be strong enough. At this point the sole aim is to win back votes and come back to power. This bill will surely do. The opposition led by BJP could not have opposed this since they too would risk losing votes if they blocked it.

Friday, July 5, 2013

What's causing Rupee to hit 60 against Dollar and what can be done?

Everyday when I look at Rupee v/s Dollar I am astonished at the apathy of the Central Government which doesn't want to do anything but keep quiet since it believes the real voters are poor people who will anyway be given free food through the Food Bill and then in return get votes and come back to power.

In 2012 I had written an article explaining journey of dollar from 1947-2012. Read here if you want to gain some insight. I had also written an earlier article highlighting the fact that Indian economy is in shambles because of self inflicted wounds. I had also highlighted (click here) how India escaped recession between 2008-10. If you notice between 2010-12 there were great expectations from the present government. In fact, Manmohan Singh was re-elected because the expectations were very high from an economist in a time where economies of developed countries were in a deep mess. What has ended up happening is that Manmohan Singh's inactivity has put the country into such a deeper mess that it would take years to fix.

While the government claims that global factors don't help India's economy, here is my take on how government's calculations are misplaced and what it can really do to boost the economy. We are not in an impossible situation but the government has made it impossible by being passive. The economy is directly impacting the rupee's fall.

What exactly happened between 2010-13? Till about 2008, Indian economy was having surplus money and foreign capital mainly because of higher GDP growth, higher domestic demand, increased productivity, increased exports and decreasing imports. The confidence in India growth story was very high that external money in the form of FDI and FII continued to surge. This helped the government to finance all its welfare schemes. (Note: Foreign Institutional Investors -FII -  is just money flowing into market. It can enter anytime into the market and exit anytime. The dependence of this money is not good. FDI on the other hand is investment in partnership to start business. In other words FDI is more reliable and less easy to exit. So, if business rules in India are simplified then FDI will bring in enough capital, best practices and better governance mechanism).When the recession struck the global markets Indian government had cushioned the losses of exporters by giving them enough stimulus and generating domestic growth. Since India doesn't export much the amount needed to cushion was also less.

However, since 2011 end to 2013, one by one scams began to unearth and Govt sat quietly doing nothing. No reform, no major policy initiative, and no confidence building measures were taken. This is shameful and disgraceful.

Analyzing imports, exports and deficit driving the country to low confidence:

Let's look at some interesting graph below that explains export and imports of India. (source)

Note that Indian imports are far greater than exports. While China deals with 10 times more than this in imports and exports, its imports are very less compared to exports. In addition to an export driven economy China is aggressively driving towards unbelievable growth in terms of roads, railways and electricity. The only state growing at a pace similar to it is Gujarat.

Unless India doesn't reduce imports and increase exports, the deficit will never be controlled and economy will continue to be weak and rupee being the most impacted. The major import India does is crude oil to meet its electricity and fuel needs. Kerosene which is a product got from crude oil is extensively used because of erratic power supply.  Crude oil is not abundantly found in India and for its gas needs it needs to depend on it. However, coal accounts for 59% of electricity needs. Why can't this change? It can - We have never tapped solar to its fullest extent despite high temperatures in various parts of country. If we can increase our dependence on solar and wind, coal dependency reduces and thereby one major portion of our import bill goes down. For this we need aggressive actions on increasing solar presence in India. The National Solar Mission set up by the Government aims to do this but it is going at a snail's pace. In contrast, an excellent example can be found in states like Rajasthan and Gujarat where the share of electricity from solar has tremendously increased and the dependence of coal is minimized. As of 2013, Gujarat accounts for 66% of solar energy in India and 20% coming from Rajasthan (Source). Contribution from all other states are very less. Why is this? The central government uses reverse bidding mechanism where it first gets the bidders and once finalized decides to hand over the project to it, while Gujarat's solar policy is to set a fixed tariff and then attract the foreign investors. This has made the terms favorable and that is why both Rajasthan and Gujarat are tapping solar to fullest extent. Imagine if each state that has high temperatures and soaring heat began to depend on solar aggressively our coal import will drastically reduce, thereby reducing import bill and pollution because of coal. If crude oil import cannot be reduced other components of the import bill can easily reduced. The government simply doesn't want to do more. The more you import crude oil everything gets linked to inflation and falling rupee increases inflation. Vegetables - like tomato is now Rs.80 per kg and everything else will increase.

The next important import I would like to highlight is gold and coal. Gold is a status symbol in India and it will never change for another 100 years. Be it marriage or savings gold is a must.  The import of gold will never reduce.

India needs to step up its manufacturing base. Look at electronic goods imports bill. When will India start manufacturing many of the components like China does? The PM announced Manufacturing Zones to be set up. Where are they? Everything is on paper. Has any action been taken? Is the PM serious? These are questions not be asked nor to be told to the public since the major public giving votes to the party are poor people and the party doesn't really care about middle class. 

It is good that pharmaceutical products, transportation equipment and gems are exported in huge quantities. The amount of textiles, ready made garments exported is very small compared to what China does. The government doesn't really boost these segments through major policy initiatives. These sectors which help the economy are not in a good shape.  Doing business in India needs simplified and no one wants this in the government at present. Our export base therefore cannot be easily broadened.

Analyzing the Money flow into and out of the country:

Now, after analyzing this great tragedy of imports v/s exports another there is another sad situation that needs analysis and that is the amount  of money flowing into Indian market. In the last 3 years FII as against FDI has been increasing. FII drastically increased when US economy fell into recession. The Indian government continued to rely heavily on this FII and never encouraged FDI , disinvestment policy and aggressive manufacturing policy. The government did not create competition in insurance, health, road and other sectors which require huge investment. FDI in retail was introduced but it takes years to see its benefits. The government did not step up the pressure on building highways and railways. It neither did create enough domestic demand. Reduced money flow, reduced demand, reduced competition, led to reduced confidence. Between 2000-2004 because of huge roadways growth and electricity generation the country became attractive to money from other countries who were willing to invest and generate jobs in these sectors. The result was high confidence, huge FDI flow, more jobs. In fact, the money was generated from within the country by increasing disinvestment that made public sectors more productive.But now everything has taken a full U turn and there is no economic confidence. 

In 2013, when this FII began to deplete because US economy began to grow at 2%, (source) the government did not have enough reserves. RBI has only up to 30 billion dollars (Source) that it can safeguard by supplying dollars into the market to cushion the outflow. Beyond that it cannot do anything unless the government cuts down inflation and reduce imports.

If US grows at just 2% and FII deplete dramatically like this, what would happen if US grws at 3% will dollar reach 80?

Supply side constraints and inflation:

Inflation continues to rise and rise and AAM AADMI is suffering and there is no way government shows the resolve to tackle this. Unless our supply of goods is more organized and the supply chain model of vegetables and fruits change we will continue to face these. FDI in retail was precisely done to address this, but it takes years. While this happens, it can force states to amend APMC acts to make farmers easy to supply and sell their produce. Because these things are not done, the middle men continue to hike prices thereby causing inflation to only increase.It's time to bring buyers to farmers rather than farmers going to buyers. Interested readers can read my article to understand how prices of vegetables are priced so haphazardly that inflation is intentionally created. Every time the excuse given is no proper crop yield, no proper rains and huge wastage of the produce due to inadequate storage facilities.

The Goods and Services Tax (GST) was supposed to be introduced in 2011 to encourage a uniform taxation and uniform price mechanism. This would have helped curtail to some extent pricing mechanism that directly affects inflation. Nothing has been done so far.

These 3 major factors unless corrected rupee fall cannot be stopped or mitigated satisfactorily. If the Govt acts tough then rupee will slowly continue to reach below 55, but if it doesn't then short term fixes will make it hover around 58-59.

Global factors which Government cites is not convincing enough. The fall of Euro does affect Indian currency but how did we grow despite Euro's fall in 2008-10? Here is an NDTV article that clearly explains the factors and no Euro is mentioned in it. Read here

Sunday, June 9, 2013

Why BJP's loss was so obvious in Karnataka 2013 election

It's been a month now that Karnataka elections resulted in Congress coming to power. While Congress was very happy there was nothing to cheer about for the party itself. What was good was that BJP was voted out. BJP in its truest sense became a party just like Congress or even worse when it came to Karnataka.  Going by its own standards this was the worst government BJP ever gave. BJP had become so corrupt in the state that it was beyond recognition that it was the very party that was swept to power for it to be given a chance. The chance was greatly misused. Thousands of crores of corruption in mining scams in Bellary (close to 50,000 crores), the monopoly of Reddy brothers over the government, the bribery cases of Operation Kamala - all were recipes for disaster. One could not imagine BJP falling to these levels in a state where it first formed the government. Usually it takes at least one term for a party to become corrupt but BJP in Karnataka proved that no matter when given a chance it will show it will become truly corrupt. The extent to which Yediyurappa stole crores of rupees from the state exchequer was a glaring example of monumental corruption the head of the state can do. 

BJP's weak action against moral policing organizations's high handedness in Mangalore was not just inhumane but completely void of logic and sense. Sri Ram Sene attacks on pubs in 2009 and Hindu Jagarna Vedike attacks on the homestays were the heights of moral policing. Despite its claim that it doesn't associate or affiliate with such organizations it did not take any action. The whole Mangalore area clearly voted out BJP because of these acts. When I looked at the videos it just touched me and was just too brutal. I don't know how many inhumane things happen everyday in our country. We truly have lost the right to be calling ourselves a civilized society. 

BJP's weak record was so sharp that Congress did not have to do any hard work. Even if they had not campaigned they would have swept to power. In a way what is good is that JD(S) is out from controlling the government since the mercurial Deve Gowda can only bring in havoc for everything. Karnataka faces many challenges because of the lost decade since S.M.Krishna exited. It is far beyond in solving electricity and water problems. Water problems has become so acute in Bangalore that almost all parts have begun to feel it. The groundwater is used so extensively and there is no scope for water to recharge it. Congress in Karnataka is no good either but given a majority there is hope.

There are so many challenges before the new CM Siddaramaih. if he acts tough against non-doers people will vote him back again if not God knows the fate in the next election. 

People voted out BJP because the party led by Yediyurappa had tarnished its own party at the center and the people in the state so badly that they wanted to give a befitting reply and they did. BJP in the center is not same as BJP in states and Congress doesn't exist in states and is weak at the center. Remove Sonia Gandhi and you will see Congress fall like a deck of cards.Ironically if Sonia Gandhi binds the Congress it is her NAC which is spelling doom for the country. The deafening silence of PM is better to be left to itself for explanation.

If BJP can be voted out for corruption in Karnataka will Congress be voted out in Center next year? If the answer is "no" it only indicates how biased are our people in having 2 yardsticks for measuring a govt's performance. Congress record in UPA - II is so bad that every day there are scams and no one wants to take accountability. The way CBI was misused as spelled by the Supreme Court clearly shows how it has become a norm to keep quiet after corruption for Congress party.

There is another thing to notice as well. Both Modi and Rahul did not do any wonders and their impact on the state was zero. Te fact is Karnataka people wanted to vote on local issues and not national ones. Karnataka has the history of voting differently when it comes to state and center. Let's hope that it happens this time too.

Remember that a leader makes a party and party's ideology is not all relevant in Indian politics. If there is a credible face people will vote without caring for party's ideology. Given that fact Congress in the Center is leaderless and BJP doesn't want to have anoint a leader even though it has one - People will have to vote whichever carries a tough decisive leader.

I hope Karnataka sees good days given the fact that Siddaramaih is made the CM.

Monday, April 15, 2013

Who is a better leader? Modi or Rahul?

Media is obsessed with comparing the 2 future PM candidates from Congress and BJP even though both parties haven't officially declared them as the candidates.

However, every day there are many articles written and published about good and bad characteristics of these personalities.

In my assessment, any day, comparing the two, Modi comes out stronger and more fit for the post. Rahul is sincere, clean but very amateurish. When you hear Rahul he portrays himself to be more philosophical, less substantial in content and weak. He doesn't carry any baggage as per many, but according to me he does. He has been in power with his mother for 9 years now, but yet he doesn't speak out his mind. What he thinks about the existing problems, solutions he wants to implement and most importantly his control over his party - all are deep mysteries. 9 years is a long time for such mysteries to remain so. Recently, he gave a speech to Industries and it was a philosophical speech. Why despite being  9 years in power the philosophy hasn't been converted into reality? It's a simple question a common man must ask. This current government has faced enough crises and put the country into enough crises and no where Rahul has been visible. Chidambaram appears to be the only tough leader in the government who takes tough decisions and implements them. He doesn't depend upon anyone and neither does we wait after taking a decision.

How long can this country wait for undecisive leaders to continue? Whenever our country has seen tough leaders it has progressed. Toughness may or may not co-exist with corruption. Narasimha Rao was corrupt but was very tough. Vajpayee was tough and non-corrupt. Indira Gandhi was tough and had corruption baggage. Manmohan is neither corrupt nor tough. The time has come for tough leaders not just sincere ones.

Modi comes with 15 years of experience. Experience where he has led, where he has implemented tough decisions, taken out of box solutions to the ground. He neither exhausts himself nor reduces his stamina when it comes to saying what he has or wants to do to address problems.

Lot of people think industries are mushrooming but farmers are not under Modi. If that was the case what explains the growth of agriculture. Look at some of things Gujarat has seen. Check dams are built that replenish ground water tables, soil health cards are given to farmers that accurately help them know what to grow and when to grow (leading to very less crop failures), contract farming, continuous water supply, allowing farmers to sell produce directly to buyers saving costs on transportation and enduring physical pain. This is not what I am speaking. Here is an article from Forbes that proves this. Here's another business article that explains that even dry areas have become rich and arid land is no longer an inhibitor.

Here are some startling stats: (As of 2013) (Source)
  • Drip Irrigation Area:  Increased from 12,00 hectares to 7 lakh hectares
  • Cultivable land: Increased from 108 lakh hectares to 148 lakh hectares
  • Horticulture production: 350% growth through crop diversification
  • Milk production: 85% increase due to animal hospitals, better animal care, eradication of 122 cattle diseases
  • Water: 6,50,000 water harvesting structures that help retain water and let it reach underground so that recharging takes place. Without this recharging there cannot be water recycling.
  • 75% Gujarat has pipeline/water connection unlike India's 30%  - HERE"S UNICEF WEBSITE TALKING ABOUT THIS. - a mechanism by which amount of fluoride, nitrate, salt content has reduced making water truly drinkable.
  • On its way to implement largest water grid in the country
  • Gujarat uses 85% surface water and only 15% underground water whereas in Bangalore underground water has become the only source of water.
  • Institutional baby delivery has increased from 45% to 95% (2005-2012)
  • Here's UNITED NATIONS WEBSITE DESCRIBING use of technology to address common man's problems through CISCO developed SWAGAT mechanism where all districts, sub-district offices are connected using video conferencing directly interacting with Modi. Here's Indian express article confirming the same.
  • 2800 km statewide Natural Gas grid helping industries.

Aren't these farmers common people, poor people? Isn't this an inclusive growth? Which state in India has these many programs being strictly and regularly implemented for farmers?

Each time Modi keeps telling "minimum government maximum governance" and that is what he has implemented in Gujarat. It is very true that just having a government doesn't help anyone, but a government that delivers governance can make all the difference. We keep talking about GDP. Newspapers are flooded with articles explaining Bihar is growing faster than Gujarat, Madhya Pradesh is growing faster than Gujarat and so forth. But GDP is not just numbers. GDP is true growth with respect to roads, electricity, water and initiatives taken that go beyond just solving problems. How many villages in India have electricity? According to an article there are still about 80,000 villages without it. However, Gujarat's 18,000 villages have continuous, uninterrupted electrcity. Not only that Modi has ensured that Gujarat becomes surplus in electricity but also ensured the same is exported the same to other states. Not only does Gujarat lead the solar energy production, it accounts for nearly 80% solar energy production in India. So, there is not only an emphasis on current electricity, but its future. Now, all government offices have been asked to have solar panels and very soon they can transfer this to the grid. Just think of this. Farmers in almost states struggle to get electricity, while in Gujarat they do not.  Here's CNN-IBN article on the same.

Now, coming to roads. The Planning commission headed by Congress itself has praised Gujarat's roads. World Bank's own report confirms that Gujarat has 20,000km of district roads and 16,000 km of highways and all roads are close to international standards. While Mumbai still suffers roads with potholes as like any other major city, Gujarat is not like that. Gujarat has lot more well planned and well implemented district roads connecting all villages.

Aren't roads, electricity, water - symbols of progress that reach every section, religion and caste of the society? 

Here's a well known journalist Madhu Kishwar who wanted to do a reality check in Gujarat and conclude if it is just hype and she wrote a well documented article which can be read here.

Gujarat stills lags behind several parameters in Human Development Indices. However, it is important to note that the number of development initiatives visible from the ground are far more than any other state.

I do not intend to go on writing more than these 3 basic things in this article. But these basic things are so much lacking in most parts of India. We have a highways revolution, airways revolution but electricity and water revolution are far from reality. Should we wait for another 100 years to see these or allow Gujarat's model to be replicated across the country.

One thing is for sure. It may be misfortune for India not to see this leader head the country, but Gujarat will continue to be fortunate to see unseen heights of glory. Gujarat will soon be the only state that can compete with China and its growth. 

Wednesday, February 27, 2013

Asia's 2nd longest railway tunnel opens in Kashmir

This is the 3rd article in the series of railway connectivity between Kashmir and rest of India. In my earlier 2 (Article 1 and Article 2) articles I had written about the various stretches of Kashmir rail link that were completed and in completion. This 3rd article now is about the railway connectivity between Qazigund and Banihal.

Even after 65 years of our independence, Kashmir is not completely connected to India on the railway map. Now, we are very close to its completion except the stretch between Katra and Qazigund. The stretch between Katra and Qazigund is the toughest project Indian Railways has ever executed. The formidable Himalayan terrain presents never before seen challenge of having a railway track on the mountains. This is something Switzerland has quite remarkably done it.

If you observe in the pic above, Jammu was connected to India long back through train. Jammu-Udhampur, Qazigund-Srinagar-Baramulla railway tracks were made operational 3 years ago. The only stretch remaining is Udhampur-Qazigund. This stretch of the entire project is very challenging because of the terrain. It's highly mountainous and snow covered for almost 4 months of a year. Despite these hurdles and bureaucratic delays Banihal-Qazigund rail link successfully was run on a trial basis. This will open to public later this year and so the Udhampur Katra section.

This would facilitate 8 million pilgrims who travel to Vaishnov Devi (located in Katra) via train instead of road via Jammu. This shrine is the 2nd largest visited shrine after Tirupati. I have visited this shrine 3 times and each time the place mesmerized me. Once this train link opens in April this year (hopefully opens so) people can travel from any part of India to Katra via train. This will boost tourism and generate huge revenues.

The Banihal-Qazigund tunnel is the 2nd longest in Asia and longest in India. (Top 10 longest tunnels in india are given here). This train tunnel is an engineering feat by itself because the tunnel is 11.21 km and passes through PIR PANJAL mountain range which is one of the most rugged terrain.

Banihal - Qazigund total stretch = 17 km
The railway tunnel passing through Pir Panjal = 11.21 km (so, nearly 64% of the total 17 km travel between Banihal-Qazigund is via tunnels).

The impact on travel time of this train through tunnel:

By road Qazigund-Banihal is 35 km and it takes an hour by road passing through Jawahar tunnel. I have gone on this road and although it is meant to be all-weather road it is not so. Constant traffic jams and closure in winter due to snow is a common aspect throughout the year. With this train it reduces the distance to 17 km and time taken is not more than 6 min.

The world's highest railway bridge to be operational in 2016?

As mentioned earlier the Chenab river bridge that would connect Katra and Qazigund will be the world's highest railway bridge(1056 feet height and 1509 feet in width). The trains would be able to cruise at 100 km/hr.

Supposedly this bridge would have a lifespan of 120 years and would be resistant to blast and seismic disturbances. This is being executed by Konkan Railways. Konkan Railways has had a good reputation of executing toughest projects. 

What about North East India?

While other parts of the country are connected by train the north east isn't. Even today it is still a distant dream.

What about high speed trains and newer technology in trains?

Until Indian Railways is run like a government organization no high speeds and presence of newer technology can exist. Although Indian Railways has formed a separate ministry called National High Speed Railway Authority nothing has happened since then. Often bureaucratic committees go very slow and inhibit serious progress. It took 8 years to transform the picture of Highways scene mainly because of private participation and competition amongst different bidders. The Railways has not been fortunate to be so.

The highest speed we have been able to achieve is close to 150 km/hr while Chinese trains run more than 300 km/hr. We don't have to match 300 km/hr speed but if we build our trains that can run at least at 200 km/hr we would have achieved a big deal. Most importantly it is the railway stations and the maintenance of it that need a big overhaul. In this regard, seriously there is no initiative yet taken. People also are to be blamed for its pathetic maintenance. Even today simple things like LCD screens are absent.  The best parts of our railways include cheaper fares, extremely good connectivity to different parts of  the country, good food and many more.

In the new budget Railways introduced "Anubhuti" a new luxury train that is not as expensive as "Palace on wheels"  and not so cheap as 1st class Shatabdi trains....but what if at least some of these can be added to normal A/c coaches?

Wednesday, January 23, 2013

The unsafe woman in India

It gives me no pleasure but pain, anger and shame while writing this article. The woman in India is not safe anymore. The ancient narrow mindset about woman is so predominant that the attitude towards them hasn't changed that much. The Dec 16th brutal gang rape is so unnerving that when I read it sent shivers down my spine. The pain that woman would have experienced can't even be expressed.

It makes me so pitiful and painful looking at the statistics about rape in India. In 1973, 2919 rapes were reported while in 2010 the number was 20262. This is about 800 % increase. As we are growing economically it looks we are shrinking socially.

It is so tragic that the very country where the mantra -"Yatra Naryastu pujyante ramante tatra devata" originated (this means Gods reside where a woman is worshipped or respected), the very country where woman is considered the harbinger of prosperity, where wealth, knowledge, wisdom, beauty and love have all been personified as woman - is struggling, suffering and relentlessly experiencing different kinds of torments and taunts every day. Indian society is not new to rape. It has happened over centuries in India but at least after we became independent this crime ought to have decreased.

We mince no words in telling to the whole world we are a nation where culture originated. No country in the world has a culture like we do have. We always feel we are more civilized than others. What sort of culture is it where woman gets raped like this? What sort of culture is this where some men get to such worst and heinous levels even beasts do not? What sort of civilization are we a part of where such thugs and unscrupulous elements co exist? The Dec 16th case is clearly one of the most touching and brutal events. 

The lust and cowardice in these men involving in these acts are an insult to life, freedom and love. They have shown they have the highest bestiality in them. No animals behave the way these humans have. These men don't even think about what life the woman would lead after the incident. This is happening across the country and no political party - Congress, BJP or others have shown even tough measure to deal with it. Look at the rape map as given by Wall Street Journal.

It is equally senseless when politicians from different political parties start making such narrow comments -"Woman wear skirts, so this problem occurs", "Whenever Sita crosses the lakshman rekha she is going to suffer for it", "The WEST is making woman do this", "woman should not step out with boyfriends" and other such absurd statements. They have no rights to talk about life leave alone woman. They act as though they are the guardians of the society and custodians of our culture. Where were they when these acts happened?

The main problems and/or solutions to the same are highlighted below:

Attitude of society towards women:

Women being treated with respect for what they are and giving them their personal space is very important. Treating them as objects of just lust, considering and treating them as inferior are mindsets that must change. This is the toughest part and I don't easily see changing even in another 100 years. While freedoms cannot be given in excess to both men and women, respecting each others gender is absolutely necessary. 

I don't know how many goddesses are worshiped and celebrated everyday. What is the use of blindly doing it when the woman in the country cannot be made safe? What is the point of worshiping goddess and then have female foeticide spread everywhere in the country? It is no surprise that women nurses, women doctors are involved in abortion if bribed. This was revealed on Aamir Khan's Satyameva Jayate. (Watch the video here).

Such women may boldly talk and spread Indian culture but they are black mark on the country, medical system, their parents and last but not the least - "Life". . How could women do this to their own gender? It is even worse and inhumane. 

There are women who in their own family when their daughters are incest-ed  molested or raped are asked to keep quiet since it would be detrimental to the family's respect. Such women and their thinking makes domestic violence and rape even more under reported. They have to come open and report them.

Go across the country and you will find how women are looked at. Here is the detailed article. As you read this you may be shaken. In India, particularly, woman suffers before and after she is born.

These women who are going through these tortures are not specifically belonging to any religion, class or creed. Dalit, Muslim, middle class Hindu, minor - all have become victims.

Rape is often treated as shame and not as a violent crime. This very attitude makes people weak and then they hesitate to report.

The desperation with which some men can behave like this implies that moral values are bankrupt in them. We as a society are somehow responsible for allowing this to continue.

Change in Law:
Speedy trials are need of the hour. Fast track courts are absolutely required that enable hearings everyday and cases be disposed soon. However, we have to note that public pressure that was exerted for Dec 16th doesn't always exist. If the convicts were from a rich family or influential family we would have not seen this much progress at all as much we are seeing now. So, clearly the law condition is so bad that if you are poor and innocent you can be forced to plead guilty and if you are poor and guilty you will be quickly punished. 

The law or the law system doesn't instill any fear. Since it does not it breeds more criminals and they get away with it.

It is also true that if police is given sweeping powers to execute the rapists without a fair trial you never know innocent men can also become victims. If the victim is innocent, hails from a poor or non-influential background he can be made to confess forcibly and a fair trial is very much required. 

As it is found in 99% of cases, inadequate police force, gender insensitive cops often make the case worse or close the case without proper justice. Women police officers are very few and often they don't handle these cases. 

Women helplines are now introduced. This is a welcome step. Initially they were reports that this line never worked, calls were not being answered or continuously transferred but post Dec 31 there has been a steady increase in calls. The article here explains some interesting statistics on the same. The number is 181 (delhi)
Here is the link from which the image is taken

Even after Home Minster announced that streets will be patrolled more, nothing on the ground seems to change. There are many areas unlit, remote as was reported by the special team of india today. Click here

These videos will shock at the utter carelessness of the police and how they openly violate the very statement the home minister had made. Here is AAJ TAK's exclusive video (Click here)

So, it is very clear that accountability and sincerity lacks in so many police officials despite many orders from their governments.

We might have good laws, but not their good implementation.

Here's what Justice Verma submitted after his analysis to the Government.

Self Defence:
Women must be made to learn, practice self defense such as karate and other martial arts so that they can defend themselves. These days lot of women are taking these and training themselves. It is high time this happens.

People pressure:
People pressure like the one that happened post Dec 16th must continue to happen. When it happens it puts pressure on the system to swiftly act. Because people acted the ministries (Law, Home, Police) all had to act and show something. As of now the case is proceeding in the right direction. Hope justice is given to the victim. Even the Chief Justice of India remarked that he wished he could participate in the protests which the government manhandled it and lost the plot completely.

We face far danger and long term threat from the psyche of our own people than terrorists across the border. A corrupt society may be palatable but a society unsafe for women is totally unacceptable.

In short, I feel we really have no solution that can work over a long time except that women learn to self defend themselves. This sad state of our society is a huge hindrance to our social freedom. We may mint more money, build more roads, newer trains, airports, export more IT services - but we are too far from being a safe society.