Covid 19 and the Indian response.

There have been lot of stories about Coronavirus and with it a lot of political blame-game has been happening. The first step that India took of a lockdown is and was a good step but without having a plan as to how especially the poor and the needy and especially the huge migrant population that India has (internal migration) be affected by it. A 2019 World Economic Forum shares the stats. as 139 million people. That is a huge amount of people and there are a variety of both push and pull factors which has displaced these huge number of people. While there have been attempts in the past and probably will continue in future they will be hampered unless we have trust-worthy data which is where there is lots that need to be done. In the recent few years, both the primary and secondary data has generated lot of controversies within India as well as abroad so no point in rehashing all of that. Even the definition of who is a ‘migrant’ needs to be well-established just as who is a ‘farmer’ . The simplest lucanae in the later is those who have land are known as ‘farmers’ but the tenant farmers and their wives are not added as farmers hence the true numbers are never known. Is this an India-specific problem or similar definition issues are there in the rest of the world I don’t know.

How our Policies fail to reach the poor and the vulnerable

The sad part is most policies in India are made in castles in the air . An interview by the wire shares the conundrum of those who are affected and the policies which are enacted for them (it’s a youtube video, sorry) –

If one with an open and fresh mind sees the interview it is clear that why there was a huge reverse migration from Indian cities to villages. The poor and marginalized has always seen the Indian state as an extortive force so it doesn’t make sense for them to be in the cities. The Prime Minister’s annoucement of food for 3 months was a clear indication for the migrant population that for 3 months they will have no work. Faced with such a scenario, the best option for them was to return to their native places. While videos of huge number of migrants were shown of Delhi, this was the scenario of most states and cities, including Pune, my own city . Another interesting point which was made is most of the policies will need the migrants to be back in the villages. Most of these are tied to the accounts which are opened in villages, so even if they want to have the benefits they will have to migrate to villages in order to use them. Of course, everybody in India knows how leaky the administration is. The late Shri Rajiv Gandhi had famously and infamously remarked once how leaky the Public Distribution system and such systems are. It’s only 10 paise out of rupee which reaches the poor. And he said this about 30 years ago. There have been numerous reports of both IPS (Indian Police Services) reforms and IAS (Indian Administrative Services) reforms over the years, many of the committee reports have been in public domain and in fact was part of the election manifesto of the ruling party in 2014 but no movement has happened on that part. The only thing which has happened is people from the ruling party have been appointed on various posts which is same as earlier governments.

I was discussing with a friend who is a contractor and builder about the construction labour issues which were pointed in the report and if it is true that many a times the migrant labour is not counted. While he shared a number of cases where he knew, a more recent case in public memory was when some labourers died while building Amanora mall which is perhaps one of largest malls in India. There were few accidents while constructing the mall. Apparently, the insurance money which should have gone to the migrant laborer was taken by somebody close to the developers who were building the mall. I have a friend in who lives in Jharkhand who is a labour officer. She has shared with me so many stories of how the labourers are exploited. Keep in mind she has been a labor officer appointed by the state and her salary is paid by the state. So she always has to maintain a balance of ensuring worker’s rights and the interests of the state, private entities etc. which are usually in cahoots with the state and it is possible that lot of times the State wins over the worker’s rights. Again, as a labour officer, she doesn’t have that much power and when she was new to the work, she was often frustrated but as she remarked few months back, she has started taking it easy (routinized) as anyways it wasn’t helping her in any good way. Also there have been plenty of cases of labor officers being murdered so its easier to understand why one tries to retain some sanity while doing their job.

The Indian response and the World Response

The Indian response has been the lockdown and very limited testing. We seem to be following the pattern of UK and U.S. which had been slow to respond and slow to testing. In the past Kerala showed the way but this time even that is not enough. At the end of the day we need to test, test and test just as shared by the WHO chairman. India is trying to create its own cheap test kits with ICMR approval, for e.g. a firm from my own city Pune MyLab has been given approval. We will know how good or bad they are only after they have been field-tested. For ventilators we have asked Mahindra and Mahindra even though there are companies like Allied Medical and others who have exported to EU and others which the Govt. is still taking time to think through. This is similar to how in UK some companies who are with the Govt. but who have no experience in making ventilators are been given orders while those who have experience and were exporting to Germany and other countries are not been given orders. The playbook is errily similar. In India, we don’t have the infrastructure for any new patients, period. Heck only a couple of states have done something proper for the anganwadi workers. In fact, last year there were massive strikes by anganwadi workers all over India but only NDTV showed a bit of it along with some of the news channels from South India. Most mainstream channels chose to ignore it.

On the world stage, some of the other countries and how they have responded perhaps need sharing. For e.g. I didn’t know that Cuba had so many doctors and the politics between it and Brazil. Or the interesting stats. shared by Andreas Backhaus which seems to show how distributed the issue (age-wise) is rather than just a few groups as has been told in Indian media. What was surprising for me is the 20-29 age group which has not been shared so much in the Indian media which is the bulk of our population. The HBR article also makes a few key points which I hope both the general public and policymakers both in India as well as elsewhere take note of.

What is worrying though that people can be infected twice or more as seems to be from Singapore or China and elsewhere. I have read enough of Robin Cook and Michael Crichton books to be aware that viruses can do whatever. They will over time mutate, how things will happen then is anybody’s guess. What I found interesting is the world economic forum article which hypothesis that it may be two viruses which got together as well as research paper from journal from poteome research which has recently been published. The biggest myth flying around is that summer will halt or kill the spread which even some of my friends have been victim of . While a part of me wants to believe them, a simple scientific fact has been viruses have probably been around us and evolved over time, just like we have. In fact, there have been cases of people dying due to common cold and other things. Viruses are so prevalent it’s unbelivable. What is and was interesting to note is that bat-borne viruses as well as pangolin viruses had been theorized and shared by Chinese researchers going all the way back to 90’s . The problem is even if we killed all the bats in the world, some other virus will take its place for sure. One of the ideas I had, dunno if it’s feasible or not that at least in places like Airports, we should have some sort of screenings and a labs working on virology. Of course, this will mean more expenses for flying passengers but for public health and safety maybe it would worth doing so. In any case, virologists should have a field day cataloging various viruses and would make it harder for viruses to spread as fast as this one has. The virus spread also showed a lack of leadership in most of our leaders who didn’t react fast enough. While one hopes people do learn from this, I am afraid the whole thing is far from over. These are unprecedented times and hope that all are maintaining social distancing and going out only when needed.

Indian Economy, NPR, NRC and Crowd Control Part – II

Protests and their history

A Happy New Year to all. While I would have loved to start on a better note, situations are the way they are. Before starting with the prickly process of NPR, NRC let me just focus on the protests themselves. Now protests either in India or abroad are not a new thing. While thinking on this, I found one of the modern, medieval recorded entries of protests to be in 12th century Paris, and just like most strikes, this one was for rights of liberty, freedom and price increase. The famous or infamous University of Paris strike 1229 , There have been so many strikes and protests worldwide which changed the world, in recent memory the protests against American involvement in Vietnam , The Montgomery bus boycott by Rosa Parks , the protests that I became aware in South Africa, UCT about Rhodes must fall movement . I would be forever grateful to Bernelle for sharing with us the protests that had happened the year before near the Sarah Bartman Hall. Closer home i.e. in India, we have had a rich history of protests especially during the Colonial period and the Indian Freedom movement, as well as afterwards, i.e. after india became free. Whether it was the Navnirman Andolan or the Great Bombay Textile Strike which actually led to industries moving out of Mumbai. My idea of sharing above strikes and protests has been that protests are not a new thing in India and have been part of India socio-political culture throughout its history. I am sure there were also protests during the medieval period but not going that far as it would not add value to the post currently. It may be a good idea to share about that in some other blog post perhaps.

The protests against NPR, NRC and CAA

So, let’s start with what these acronyms are and why people are protesting are against it . The first acronym is National Population Register (NPR) . Now while the Government says that NPR is nothing but the census which is done by GOI every year, there is a difference. There are few things which make it different from earlier years, those are, birth certificates, ‘date and birth of parents’ and ‘last place of residence’ . The problem starts and ends with these two points for NPR apart from biometric information which again has issues, both for rich and poor alike . Let me explain what is the problem therein, using my own use-case or history which probably can be multiplied by probably millions of people of my age and lesser and elder to me.

Now one could ask naively, what is wrong in birth certificates, in theory and today’s day and age, perhaps not, but everything has a context and a time and place. While I was born in Pune, in 1975, the Registration and Births Act had been recently passed in 1969. So neither the Municipal Corporation of that time was active and nor was that a statutory requirement in those times. To add to that, my mother had to go at least 10-15 times to the Municipal Corporation in order to secure my birth certificate even though there was no name. This brings to another issue, in those times, almost till date, the mortality rate of newborns have been high. While we have statistics of the last 20 odd years which do show some change, one can only guess what the infant mortality rates would have been in the 60’s and the 70’s . Apart from that, most deliveries happened at home with a mid-wife rather than in a nursing home. This is still the norm today in many cities and hinterland as well. Recently, there was news of 100 babies who died in Kota, Rajasthan. While earlier they were being given clean chits, it seems most neonatal units which should house only one child were housing three children. Hence the large number of deaths. Probably, most of the parents were poor and the administration while showing that each child was given a separate neonatal unit were put together. The corruption whether in Indian public or private hospitals deserves its own blog post. I had shared some of it in the blog post no country for women or doctors.

But that apart, in those days because babies died, many children didn’t get the name till s/he was of kinder-garden, school going age. In my situation was a bit more different and difficult as my parents had separated and there was possibility that my father may go for a custody battle which never happened. Now apart from proving my own identity even though I have all the papers, I might still need to procure more, I would need papers or documentation proving the relationship between mother and I . Now I can’t produce father because he is no more apart from his death certificate, with my mother, I would have to get and submit most probably a DNA test which is expensive to say the least. I know of some labs who also charge depending upon many genetic markers you are looking for, the more the better and costs go up like that. Now here itself two questions arise with the NPR itself.

a. How many children would have proper birth certificates, more so the ones who live either below poverty line or just above ? Many of them don’t have roof over their head or have temporary shelters, where would they have place to get and put such documents. Also, as many of them cannot either read or write, they are usually suspicious of Government papers (and with good reason) . Time and again, the Government of the day has promised one thing and done another. Mostly to do with property rights and exclusion. Why to go far, just a few days back Sonam wangchuck, the engineer, who shared his concerns about Ladakh and the fragile ecosystem of Ladakh in Himalayas due to unchecked ‘development’ as been promised by the Prime Minister bringing it par to Delhi. Sadly, many people do not know that Himalayas is the youngest geologically speaking while the oldest are in South Africa (thanks to Debconf for that bit of info. as well.) . While they celebrate the political freedom from Kashmir, they do have concerns as being with Kashmir, they enjoyed land rights and rights to admission to Indians and foreigners alike, this they have now lost. A region which is predominantly buddhist in nature is being introduced to sex tourism and massage parlours which are not needed. If possible, people should see Mr. Wangchuk’s talk on Ted talks or any of the work the gentleman has done but this is getting off-topic here.

b. What about people of my age or above me. Would all of us would become refugees in our own lands ? What about those who go from place to place for work ? What about Government servants themselves ? Those who work in Central Government, many of them have and are supposed to change places every 3-4 years. My grandfather (from mother’s side) toured all of India due to his job. My mother also got transferred a few times, although I stayed in Pune. This puts up questions which make it difficult for many to answer if they were to do it truthfully as nobody would have full papers. There are also no guarantees that just having the right papers would make it right. It is very much possible that the ‘babu’ or beareaucrat sitting at the other end would demand money. I am sure there was lot of black money generated during NRC in Assam. This would happen at NPR stage itself.

c. The third question is what would happen to those who are unable to prove their citizenship at the beginning itself. They probably would need to go to court of law. What happens to their job, property and life as it is. As it is, most businesses have a slack of 40-50%, this will become more pronounced. Would we be stateless citizens in our own land ?

NRC and CAA

Somehow, let’s say you managed to have yourself included in NPR, it doesn’t mean that you will be included in NRC or National Register of Citizens. For this, one may have to rinse and repeat. They may ask more invasive questions as never before. The possible exploitation of people by the state would be as never seen before. Most of the majority in India think of Germany and how it became an industrious house and they think, they became industrious because they persecuted Jews. In fact, I believe it was the opposite. As have shared before on the blog itself, numerous times, if the Jews had been part of Germany, Germany may have prospered many times over. If the Jews could make Israel so powerful, where would Germany would have been today ? Also not many people know about the Marshall Plan which perhaps laid the foundation of the European Union as we know today but that may be part of another blog post, another day. I would probably do a part III as there are still aspects of the whole issue which I haven’t touched upon. I might do it tomorrow or few days after. Till later.

Indian Economy, NPR, NRC and Crowd Control – Part 1

I dunno whether this would be a short or a long post but as the NPR, NRC seem to be deeply linked to how the Indian Economy is at the moment, I would say that the energy and the political capital the Government is putting into wrong things . Why I say that, I will attempt to use studies, data and newspaper reports to share what the issues are and where the Government should have been looking at and instead where it is using its energy and why it’s wrong.

State of Indian Economy

While it is by and large recognized by everyone that the Indian Economy is in slow-down or perhaps beginning a recession, a recent working paper by Arvind Subramaniam and Josh Felman who tell how the Indian economy is doing or not doing. While I’ll not go into many details as the paper itself is quite interesting, I would like to draw attention to couple of things .

While I have shared the working paper as well, one of the more interesting graphs I found in the paper is the one I am sharing below –

Difference between Interest and Profit

Now the sad and interesting part of that graph as shown above is that entrepreneurs, business houses etc. would be paying more to service debt rather than making profit. So, in essence, if an entrepreneur decided not to do any businesss today, he would be much better off than taking efforts, taking all the risks and still spend money out of his pocket to service debt instead of making profits. Of course the transmission of why lower interests given to banks are not reaching to the businessman have been more than effectively shared by the working paper so will not go into that. I have to commend Dr. Arvind and Mr. Josh for making the paper so simple so reading it even once or twice is enough to grasp the issues which threaten the Indian economy, this is when I have read and have been reading such papers about the Indian and International markets in my spare time.

There is another part however which hasn’t been really answered as the point being made in the working paper is that private banks are better than public sectors banks at either risk management or other things but there is no evidence shared which bears that out. One could argue, in fact the opposite. Private banking is much more opaque and there has been no discussion on how such banks are supposed to fill the needs of the millions of the customers and potential customers. The social welfare of banking that Public banking fulfills, how Private banking is supposed to do that is not told. India is still a very much an under-banked market. While Dr. Arvind and Mr. Josh have shared a bit about direct benefit transfers, they haven’t talked anything about the needs of the MSME sector or even how DBT would work in real life. As have been in Airtel Payment banks and others, most private banks have at one time or the other violated rules and norms. I am not going to get into great lengths but there are possibly about a dozen or two-dozen well-known scandals with private banks where people have lost money. The Great 2008 financial crash itself was made by private individuals, companies who were doing risky products and even after the crash, riskier derivative financial products seem to thrive in the American market. As far as regulatory bodies in India, such as the banking ombudsman or RBI is concerned, they seem to behave very similarly to SEBI and other regulatory bodies which doesn’t bode well for the Indian economy.

V.G. Siddhartha and CCD story

Apart from the working paper, there have been other things happening which don’t tell or paint a good picture of the Indian economy. For e.g. I am sure some of the readers may have remembered my blog post about V.G.Siddhartha . For those who might not know Mr. Siddhartha, the gentleman was the owner of CCD or Cafe Coffee Day. He committed suicide in July 2019. I, alongwith several thousand users, patrons, entrepreneurs who were encouraged by his vision and rise were saddened by the news of his demise. There is a fact or news which I hadn’t shared on the blog post around that time. The whole tax authorities issue which started was that some gentleman who claimed that he was working for CCD or Mr. Siddhartha was caught with some cash. Another fact is that both Coca-Cola, Barista and others were interested to take over CCD so it isn’t far-fetched to assume or presume that the person who was caught with cash might have been planted by his competitors. Also the amount of cash, apparently a few crores which were found in CCD offices was not at all commensurate with the scale of business the gentleman was doing at. In part, his suicide was made by the Tax Department’s heavy-handedness and that continues even today.

Government’s approach to Business

Over the past few months, there have been lot of negative views and how the Government of the day views businesses and businessman. A recent example would prove my point. Do you know for instance, the Ministry of Corporate affairs (MCA) removed almost 2 million directors and about 0.4 million companies due to not filing either their KYC forms or not filing the annual returns. In fact, this news item has been buried and only some people who are interested in knowing such news are able to dig it up. Now while the Government says these are all bogus and shell companies and in fact the FM (Finance Minister) shared the same in Lok Sabha (the lower house of the parliament) shared the numbers while also in the same breath sharing that there never has been a definition of what a ‘bogus’ or sham company is. With the cost of real-estate and other things going up, many such small companies are using co-working spaces. In fact, even quite a few medium to large business houses have used co-working spaces especially as the overheads are low. Also what has not been mentioned that the costs of compliance has gone up while the window of compliance has gone down and there are all sorts of inefficiences and corruption that small companies have to deal with than with large companies.This will severely impact as more entrepreneurs will think to remain as entrepreneurs or as partnerships rather than become private companies and eventually public companies which are needed for a big country like India to fulfill the country’s needs and requirements. Also less competition means more monopoly and more possibilities of more companies coming from overseas and taking advantage of less competition. The other part is when companies are known to be penny stocks which thrive on false or fake news, no action has been taken. While there are probably hundreds of examples in the Indian Stock market, a recent example shared by Sucheta Dalal is enough to prove the point. Her link to stock manipulated where she has documented at least 100 more cases and no action taken by SEBI is case in point.

Now as far as competition is concerned, there are probably hundreds of examples, for e.g. all electronics comes either from China, Taiwan, Singapore or States. Neither the GOI has any concrete plans for the sector and more often than not just make noises so they can be seen as doing something rather than doing actually something. For e.g. Mr. Piyush Goyal recently made a statement that we should not be dependant on imported electronic goods. Now there is nothing new in this statement, this same statement has been told and shared almost for a decade, decade and a half by almost all political parties but no effective strategies and finances have been put in place to make other people invest in India. In fact, I was talking to a dear friend few days back and we were talking about negative interests which is there in Japan and many European countries as well as ECB and low interest rates in States and why don’t they invest in India and we came to the conclusion that perhaps other avenues such as Bangladesh and others seem to provide a much more stabler economic, policy and political environment than the one we see in India where there are flip-flops every so often, case in point the GST flip-flops among many others.

Political Capital and Remedies

The last 10 odd pages of the working paper delve upon possible solutions of how the issues need to be tackled have been shared by Dr. Arvind. Most of the solutions and recipes as shared by him are not new at all. They have been often documented often enough. What this Government had in 2014 and even in 2019 is the political capital which could have been used to push the reforms or changes shared by him. He has also mentioned co-operative federalism and I should say the art of negotiation that Mr. Vajpayee had vis-a-vis our current dispensation which seems to lack imagination or depth of any kind. While Dr. Arvind has tried to end it on a positive note, that only can happen if the Government appears to engage with the opposition and try to find answers rather than doing the my way or highway attitude that the Government currently has. Part -2 will be more about the whole NPR, NRC issue and the agitations which are happening in that regard.

100 million Indians, no hope and future

What will happen when you have a 100 million Indians in the productive age of 14-40 are not working, neither looking for work, neither training or have any hopes that they will get any jobs. This is the India that most Indians are inheriting which has been shared in a recent Govt. report released about a month back.

The Report

If you look at the Report, it seems to be a humongous 600 pages + report but it has been buffed up by interspering the hindi translation within the report itself. Now, while I haven’t gone fully through the report the numbers themselves seem to be shocking. There are other numbers related to women participation in labor force which has plummetted which also is a huge cause for worry. It is estimated that the original numbers were 10 million who were disillussioned in 2010-2011 financial year for labor markets or job creation. Mind you, these are all Government figures. So what happened in the past 6-7 years to have such shocking numbers due to which you see divisive steps such as CAA (Citizen Amendment Act) being taken for which protests have been taken place across the country. I believe there are at least 6-7 major issues for which the present Government doesn’t seem to have time to fix and doesn’t even seem to have any ideas or seriousness as to how to fix them.

Demonetization

The first one right there is demonetization which the current Government fails to acknowledge as it mistake. While hindsight is always 20/20 while it didn’t do any of things promised to the citizens, it made sure that rural markets, startups and small businesses went out of business where most of the exchange happens by cash. Ironically just 2 years after demonetization, the amount of money in cash was more than before, which means those who generated black money were still in good business. In fact, as I have shared before, Dr. Arun Kumar who has done lot of work on black money and black economy, been part of 40 odd committees and did generate and use black money as he has confessed especially in real estate in early part of his career, has written two books recently on the topic –

Understanding the Black Economy and Black Money in India – An Enquiry into Causes, Consequences and Remedies – Dr. Arun Kumar , 6 Feb 2017

Demonetization and the Black Economy – Dr. Arun Kumar, 20th December 2017 – this one gives a far larger picture of how Demonetization failed to live upto its promises and what it didn’t take into account.

The Big Reverse: How Demonetization kicked India out : Meera Sanyal – 10th November 2018

There is nothing I can write that what these economists have written about it and in greater detail than anything else I would write hence would suggest you to go through them. I have given the amazon.in links you may use others. In fact, interestingly, just couple of days ago in a business channel, there was talk on commodity markets and one of the big jewellers had shared this on national media that due to Govt. imposition of high GST, there has been gold smuggling and people buying gold in black (i.e. without receipts) . FWIW, this was on CNBC TV 18.

Goods and Services Tax

About this I have covered in the last blog post so nothing much to reiterate here except link back. Although have to say GST is still hurting people, a lot. GST refunds is still an issue as shared by the finance minister. Although nowadays trusting any numbers including the PLFS numbers should be taken with a bucket of salt as the present Government attempts to always present a rosy picture rather than the real picture. So the numbers for people not looking for jobs as well as people whose refunds have not been given would probably be much more than what has been shared. With the Statistical Commission not having enough members of high quality and quantity how good the numbers are anybody’s guess as have shared before. And in fact, now whatever autonomy, the statistical commission had is also being eroded as can be seen in a draft bill. This will only lower India’s stature in global eyes.

Electoral Bonds

I don’t really have to say much in it except the reports by Nithin Sethi . While the Government has sought to placate the masses by its submissions in Rajya Sabha it hasn’t answered any of the questions raised by either Nithin Sethi or any of the findings by the RTI answers received by the Colonel. There is lot more to the story than still meets the eye, but probably this on some other day. This is apart from the fact that India is now funding lobbyists in U.S. so that Americans support India’s actions in Kashmir. This is after Americans found Indi actions baffling in Kashmir and Americans have lot of experience in enemy engagement.

Retrospective Tax

This is perhaps one of the things which I had shared in the last blog post as well. This is what has scared most potential international investors away. In fact, Bloomberg had shared a nice well-written article about the issue and also links to Mr. Harish Salve’s take who has been an unapologetic critic of the move by the then Congress Govt. which the BJP Govt. had promised to fix and since then has done nothing in that regard.

Rural demand and high agricultural prices and middleman

There has been no uptake in rural demand and there is no policy by the Govt to tackle this. Couple of months back the FM gave 1.45 lakh crore or $20 billion dollar tax bonanza to corporate houses which make a measly 3-4% of the total economy and are already swimming in cash, while the other 96% of the economy which actually oils the Indian market which is the small businesses, the farmers who are net loosers in the current regime. Even essential commodities prices have gone up both in retail and wholesale markets with almost all of the profits acruing to the middleman rather than the farmer or the agricultural labor . We are on the path of being England which imports all of its veggies. Last not but not the last exports have been down from India for straight fourth month.

Conclusion

Unless India fixes lot of structural issues for e.g. adherance to legal contracts or fast resolution in case of issues, don’t see India bouncing back anytime soon. Nobody from the other side even comments why economies of Bangladesh, Vietnam, China and even Cambodia are able to ramp up their economies even if the argument is ‘global slowdown’ . Some people have argued for cyclical slowdown but haven’t had any evidence to prove that other than conjecture.

Rape, aftermath, GST

While I do not usually like to start with bad news, but seems bad news is the flavor of the month. We seem to be going downhill one day after that. So let’s see what happened. First there is this piece which came in Washington Post and then there was the travel advisory for women travelling by their lonesome from UK and USA . It probably applies to women, even couples for sure . I am sure it was not an easy decision to come to but they had to as they as citizens come first for them. In between my last blog post and this, couple of more horrific things happened. The first thing we came to know is the burning of the Unnao rape victim which happened on Thursday i.e. 2 days from now when I am blogging. Apparently, she had gone to give her statement in a court hearing when the 5 people burned her. It does raise questions about the quality of protection being given to her. Just to be clear, there were no reports of any of the policeman coming to any harm which makes it all the most curious.

The second horrific incident were when the 4 accused in the Hyderabad rape case were ‘encountered‘ . Curiously in this case as well, except for some slight injuries to the policeman there were no injuries. This was when there were 10 policeman accosting the 4 accused. The 4 accused have supposed to taken away all the guns, how we don’t know and still didn’t manage to fire on one of them. It raises and raised too many unanswered questions. Because of these killings, we will never know the answers. What if it turned in investigation that these were not the culprits or there was a fifth or a sixth person who was not named. There was also lot of celebration of this ‘encounter’ which seems that we are still a medieval state rather than a 21st century state. Of course when you have majoritarian narratives such as ‘Hindu Khatre mein hain‘ driving election campaigns rather than anything else than all sorts of things are possible. This is when the country is going through its worst economic history, probably parallel to 1991 although that one was more externally driven while this was is more due to internal factors rather than externals.

GST

Apart from demonetization which was a huge disaster to the country, GST is perhaps one of the biggest badly implemented ideas in the country. Whereas, in other countries it is used as only as a single tax to be levied to the end-user stage, here it was put at very stage which instead of making it easier to use, made it much harder to use. While I had been numbed by seeing quite a few MSME units shutting down due to GST issues and mostly attributing to slow-down rather than blaming demonetization and GST, I was till surprised and shocked to find Reserved bit, a makerspace shutting down the end of the month. While Siddesh, Nisha had attributed a bit towards GST, they also shared they should have done more. While I have been to reserved-bit a few times and did find it engaging quite a bit, getting there was always an issue for me. The GST refund issue has been an eye-sore for everybody but neither the center or the state did anything for it, of course both being in BJP’s hands all this while, this is in my state Maharashtra, one of the more progressive states. The entire process of GST has been anal and had been in popular media for a while now but nobody seeks or shares any proper answers. Why, it even crashed last month and the month before that and before but nobody raises a voice.

The FM being as arrogant as ever. In such situations how startups are supposed to survive ? There were some reliefs given to start-ups but they were too small and still have a sting in their tale to be anywhere effective. Having retrospective taxes is another thing that people are afraid of and that is the reason you are not seeing people investing in new ventures. As it is, there is demand-slowdown or to put it perhaps more boldly perhaps, a demand recession while food inflation is at all-time high. While our FM wants to blame everything on externalities such as global slow-down but won’t answer as to why China is still growing faster than us without using questionable stats. which we are accused of. This is when they are 7 times larger than us in economy size and having a war with U.S. (economically) This is when conventional wisdom holds such that as you become a bigger economy your rate of growth decreases quite a lot as you need more economic muscle to move like for e.g. the United States or the Japanese . This is when they are far more efficient economies and have a larger tax-gdp ratio vis-a-vis compared to India. There is also the savings bit where India excelled which was wiped by demonetization and even now from the moves of Central Govt. savings are failing India which is and was one of the backbones of our economy.

For all their failings, people forget to honor Chidambaram and Manmohan Singh to make it easy to file Income Tax Returns. Of course the present regime has been making it more and more invasive but that’s story for another day. All in all a sad note to end the day on 😦

No country for women – rehashed

This is not the first time I am writing about it, sadly I had written it twice before in the preceding months. But the scenario instead of changing for the better is changing for the worse. Sharing a screenshot shared by somebody today on social-media.

Indian Express page inside page screenshot Page 9, Decamber 1, 2019 Reportage of Rape only.

The most recent gruesome addition to the list was that of a 26 year-old veterinarian. From the various news reports it was a pre-planned rape and murder of the woman. What was startling to me when I read the report that it seems people still either don’t know or police officers who should know and inform people do not inform people of their rights such as zero FIR . Maybe some RTI activist can find out how many people have used zero FIR or not and make efforts to popularize the concept and its utility. If people are courageous enough, they can even live-shoot video when asking a police officer or constable to file a zero FIR . The other part is I do hope the police do investigate and do the DNA matching so they have conclusive proof other than the statements which the rapists may later claim as being under duress. The views of police is almost Victorian in nature irrespective of whether it’s an officer or a lower hawaldar/constable on the beat.

While there have been many attempts to try and figure out solutions, it somehow always falls short. There was the ‘Occupy streets by women’ movement in 2017 and so many small and major attempts but almost all have fallen short. Simply put, neither the society, nor the police or the judiciary seems to have any answers. I probably had shared about India’s Daughter , a documentary which shared an insight into the rapist’s mindset. Except for the juvenile, all the other rapists who had confessed to the crime shared their opinion on why the rape happened and most of it was victim-blaming or victim-shaming. The producer Leslee Udwin at the time she made and released the documentary shared that she herself had been raped. The statements made by various BJP leaders as well as some from the opposition were so in favor of the men who had committed the rape were such that they had to finally ban the documentary as lot of hypocricy was being unveiled.

From 2012, till date there probably would be a dozen or more apps. which are designed to help somehow never work. There have been few women cab services, driven by women for women but that too has not scaled. The couple I know of are kaola kabs based out of Bangalore and women cabs in Delhi . The problem with Kaola is that they don’t have night services when most of the rapes occur and when they are needed, about womencabs maybe somebody who may have used the services could perhaps share their their experience. There have been many experiments, right from 2012 onwards but more often than not, most have been more or less a failure. The problems stem from many systemic and societal problems. The problem is not just of women but men too. Places which are unsafe for women are unsafe for all vulnerable groups, whether it is children, the elderly and anybody else who is not a bully. This simple understanding somehow fails to connect or be understood by people. We had this happen everywhere, whether in Bollywood or whether they are women cops or the judiciary. The situation for women is the same everywhere. And before somebody accuses me of India-bashing even though I live here. We know the same happens in all countries, surprisingly more in European countries where I expected human rights to be a savior but it seems they have their own fights to win. I guess if you are a predator you can find your prey no matter what your race or orientation is as shared by a victim recently.

Sex Education

While we can’t take the excuse of Sex education, the short video does illustrate the views of most people. If they don’t want to be responsible about children’s understanding and influence about sex especially in the nuclear families most are, then who will ?

https://www.invidio.us/watch?v=feQocm2TSBc

I had to look back at how I had helped Dr. Shome in her book where we had gone back and forth on her book on sex education titled ‘Let’s talk about guys, girls and sex’ which is there on Amazon, Kindle and elsewhere. My discussions as well as discussions with others, she had shared when last we met that she had material for at least another 2 books if she decided to go that way. The problem even with that such books do not make for casual reading and nor would either most parents or schools will attempt to have discussions around a book like that.

Mobile application for women safety

There are attempts to make a mobile application but I don’t see how any mobile application can help when it’s society’s issues at large. I am guessing funding is also going to be a big issue as well as transportation of people from place X to Y itself carries a cost other than costs and expenses incurred at various places.

Ancedote

I can share an anecdotal tale I heard from a gentleman couple of years ago, and like many stories or incidents this one also didn’t make the newspaper. A few years ago, I had gone to a friend’s place who was staying at Baner, at a somewhat secluded place. We used to meet for talking about FOSS, sharing foss, eating, drinking and sleeping at his place at night and next morning having a chai before using public transport to come back. We used to do this once a month or once two months till he shifted to Bangalore. Anyways, one night after partying I didn’t sleep well and went outside to the bus station quite early, around 0600 hrs or something like that. There used to be quite a few cycle rickshaw shops ( similar to food carts that you see in the west but somewhat more rundown.) The thing about Baner and the area I was in, this was factory area so most factories have 3-4 shifts so most of these food carts (called thelas in the vernacular) make brisk business. Unlike other times, instead of 3-4 food carts, I saw only one and also a bit of eerie silence. After a bit of talking, cajoling the owner, came to know that a naked woman had come and created a scene and other thela walas had run away. Whether she was mentally unstable or had she been raped was not known. Even the police jeep for some reason didn’t want to take her as they suspected they may blame the policeman. Even he had run away but as he was old he couldn’t tow the food cart so he simply ran away because in his twilight he didn’t want to get into any such complication.

The reason I shared the above is, in such a scenario how are men supposed to act and react, I don’t know. Whether it’s just fight or flight or some other behavioral patterns that should be incultated by men in such a scenario ?

Anthillhacks

FWIW, there is anthillhacks happening in Bangalore. For people interested in hacking or doing something like above, this may be a good chance to connect with like-minded people and have some sort of rough prototype out or at least hash out much more face-to-face rather than using the web. I had been a part of this just as have been part of similar things in the past and my experience has been swell. Unfortunately travel budget is an issue this year otherwise for sure would have been part of it. Hopefully people enjoy and also blog about their experiences while staying there.

Unbelievable

This will be short as I have been having a touch of cold and flu over the last week. As I shared, I moved to mastodon from twitter and quite a number of people have moved on mastodon and many other instance which run mastodon. The best thing IMHO was that –
a. I came to know the wide range of projects that fediverse is attacking or working on. While I’m not going to dwelve much into fediverse in this blog post, maybe some future blog post either here or on itsfoss.com might be used to share some of the features which I thought were far better than twitter and the possibility of people challenging the status quo, especially since if you have a bit of experience servicing a web-server. It is very LAMPisque in nature, except of course they use postgres ( much better choice and probably much more scalable) although they are still trying to fix and figure out response times and such, being a non-corporate, non-ad service, they rely on people’s donations.

Unbelievable

I just started seeing Unbelievable which was produced and shown on netflix. While I probably need a week or two and would be staggering my viewing so that it doesn’t affect me emotionally as have been told by friends. I just viewed the first twenty minutes of the 1st episode and there itself, it seemed lot of things had gone wrong. Some of my observations –

a. What is not told is when the first call to 911 went, if it was told that the assault involved a young woman shouldn’t a lady officer have been sent to the scene to investigate. While I have heard that the cop defended the girl, perhaps it would have been better if a lady cop would have gone to the scene. She might have been a tad more empathatic and it probably would have been easier for the victim, in this case a young girl to share her experience.

b. When it was told it was rape, there were again two male detectives. Shouldn’t it be women handling this. I would have seen multiple advantages in having a woman detective here. Probably most women are able to have a good reading about other women. Probably women in law-enforcement much more so. She would also have been empathatic and usually girl/women are usually much more relaxed around other women. So for the detective it would also have helped her in the investigation for signs of ‘tells’ to know if the victim was lying.

c. No legal help for the victim – After the lead detective questions the girl again in the police station, he asks her to sign over the results of the tests of the testing from the lab as well as to write the statement again. Having an attorney there perhaps would have advised her as to what are her rights and whether she should or not either sign those documents or start writing by herself right in the police station which was stressful for her. As she does tell in the beginning of the interview, she has a headache. If such a statement was indeed needed by her, she should have been told to write in the confines of her home or where she was staying with her guardian. I know of so many times while I think of writing a blog post, there are so many ideas, when I start typing, half of them I simply have forgotten. Later, if I do even want to make a change or two, many a times the change itself would be so dramatic that I would have to re-write quite a bit of the blog post taking that additional info. which I had known but not voiced on the blog. So, when somebody like me who may miss formulations or ideas even when I’m not stressed, here is a young girl/woman who claims to have been raped/assaulted. Having had a lawyer even if she was not very sharp would probably told her of her rights and what she can or should not do in the cirumstances she is in. I probably will expand on it as I see more of the series either here itself or on other blog posts as I see more of it.

Hopefully we will meet in a more cheerful blog post 😦