Archive for July, 2015

India – Forget the Filth, Squalor, Lack of Infrastructure, Corruption ….

Posted on July 24, 2015. Filed under: Indian Thought | Tags: , , |

For a moment forget the filth, squalor, lack of infrastructure and rampant corruption that is India – just see the effervescent beauty captured by a photographer —

http://balajiviswanathan.quora.com/Different-View-of-India-Pictures-of-Indian-cities-you-dont-see-in-overseas-media

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Time for some Humor – and that from an Air line !!!

Posted on July 19, 2015. Filed under: Light plus Weighty |

Kulula Airline attendants make the in-flight “safety lecture” and announcements a bit more entertaining.

On Kulula flights there is no assigned seating, you just sit where you want. Passengers were apparently having a hard time choosing, when a flight attendant announced, “People, people we’re not picking out furniture here, find a seat and get in it!”

On another flight with a very “senior” flight attendant crew, the pilot said, “Ladies and gentlemen, we’ve reached cruising altitude and will be turning down the cabin lights. This is for your comfort and to enhance the appearance of your flight attendants.”

“There may be 50 ways to leave your lover, but there are only 4 ways out of this airplane.”


“Thank you for flying Kulula. We hope you enjoyed giving us the business as much as we enjoyed taking you for a ride.”

As the plane landed and was coming to a stop at Durban Airport , a lone voice came over the loudspeaker: “Whoa, big fella. WHOA!”

After a particularly rough landing during thunderstorms in the Karoo , a flight attendant on a flight announced, “Please take care when opening the overhead compartments because, after a landing like that, sure as hell everything has shifted.”

From a Kulula employee: ” Welcome aboard Kulula 271 to Port Elizabeth . To operate your seat belt, insert the metal tab into the buckle, and pull tight. It works just like every other seat belt; and, if you don’t know how to operate one, you probably shouldn’t be out in public unsupervised.”

In the event of a sudden loss of cabin pressure, masks will descend from the ceiling. Stop screaming, grab the mask, and pull it over your face. If you have a small child travelling with you, secure your mask before assisting with theirs. If you are travelling with more than one small child, pick your favourite.”

Weather at our destination is 50 degrees with some broken clouds, but we’ll try to have them fixed before we arrive. Thank you, and remember, nobody loves you, or your money, more than Kulula Airlines.”

Your seats cushions can be used for flotation; and in the event of an emergency water landing, please paddle to shore and take them with our compliments.”

“As you exit the plane, make sure to gather all of your belongings. Anything left behind will be distributed evenly among the flight attendants. Please do not leave children or spouses.” AND On landing, the stewardess said, “Please be sure to take all of your belongings. If you’re going to leave anything, please make sure it’s something we’d like to have.”

And from the pilot during his welcome message: “Kulula Airlines is pleased to announce that we have some of the best flight attendants in the industry. Unfortunately, none of them are on this flight!”

Heard on Kulula 255 just after a very hard landing in Cape Town : The flight attendant came on the intercom and said, “That was quite a bump and I know what y’all are thinking. I’m here to tell you it wasn’t the airline’s fault, it wasn’t the pilot’s fault, it wasn’t the flight attendant’s fault, it was the asphalt.”

Overheard on a Kulula flight into Cape Town , on a particularly windy and bumpy day: During the final approach, the Captain really had to fight it. After an extremely hard landing, the Flight Attendant said, “Ladies and Gentlemen, welcome to The Mother City. Please remain in your seats with your seat belts fastened while the Captain taxis what’s left of our airplane to the gate!”

Another flight attendant’s comment on a less than perfect landing: “We ask you to please remain seated as Captain Kangaroo bounces us to the terminal.”

An airline pilot wrote that on this particular flight he had hammered his ship into the runway really hard. The airline had a policy which required the first officer to stand at the door while the passengers exited, smile, and give them a “Thanks for flying our airline. He said that, in light of his bad landing, he had a hard time looking the passengers in the eye, thinking that someone would have a smart comment. Finally everyone had gotten off except for a little old lady walking with a cane. She said, “Sir, do you mind if I ask you a question?” “Why, no Ma’am,” said the pilot. “What is it?” The little old lady said, “Did we land, or were we shot down?”

After a real crusher of a landing in Johannesburg , the attendant came on with, “Ladies and Gentlemen, please remain in your seats until Captain Crash and the Crew have brought the aircraft to a screeching halt against the gate. And, once the tire smoke has cleared and the warning bells are silenced, we will open the door and you can pick your way through the wreckage to the terminal..”

Part of a flight attendant’s arrival announcement: “We’d like to thank you folks for flying with us today.. And, the next time you get the insane urge to go blasting through the skies in a pressurized metal tube, we hope you’ll think of Kulula Airways.”

Heard on a Kulula flight. “Ladies and gentlemen, if you wish to smoke, the smoking section on this airplane is on the wing.. If you can light ’em, you can smoke ’em.”

A plane was taking off from Durban Airport . After it reached a comfortable cruising altitude, the captain made an announcement over the intercom, “Ladies and gentlemen, this is your captain speaking. Welcome to Flight Number 293, non-stop from Durban to Cape Town , The weather ahead is good and, therefore, we should have a smooth and uneventful flight.. Now sit back and relax… OH, MY GOODNESS!” Silence followed, and after a few minutes, the captain came back on the intercom and said, “Ladies and Gentlemen, I am so sorry if I scared you earlier. While I was talking to you, the flight attendant accidentally spilled a cup of hot coffee in my lap. You should see the front of my pants!” A passenger then yelled, “That’s nothing. You should see the back of mine!”

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India Shining in Twenty First Century ….

Posted on July 14, 2015. Filed under: Business, Guide Posts, Indian Thought | Tags: , |

This is an edited piece by Avay Shukla, an IAS officer who retired in 2010.

An observer cannot fail to notice the deep rot spread in our polity and society. The cancer has spread through all organs of the state. All the four pillars of a democratic dispensation – legislature, executive, judiciary, press – have developed deep fractures and have been taken over by termites and weevils who have hollowed out the innards of the edifice.

It is my contention that a few families and individuals in these four vital organs have taken them over and have molded them to suit their own purposes.

Consider the political executive. State after state has been commandeered by the likes of the Badals, the Dhumals, Virbhadras, Yadavs, Mayawatis, Patnaiks, Karunanidhis, Jayalalithas, Pawars, Hoodas, Lalls, Abdullahs, Raos and Naidus. The states have become privately owned businesses. It is impossible for anyone not owing allegiance to one or the other of these sicilian-style families to enter the power structure.

Parliament itself is the personal fiefdom of a few dozen families, a franchise of the dominant families; and the franchisees are doing very well, thank you: According to the website of the Association for Democratic Reforms, the average wealth of an MP in the current Lok Sabha is now Rs. 15 crore, up from Rs. 9 crore in the last one. And this is only the declared assets!

The state legislatures are no different, packed with sons, daughters, spouses of the Dons. And so we have the scandalous situation of the Badal family having twelve Ministers in Punjab, and Mulayam Singh has so many of his family in the government that even he probably can’t remember the number.

The judiciary too is not exempt from question marks, the biggest of them being: why is it so keen to retain its choke-hold on appointment of Judges ? In no other genuine democracy do judges appoint judges, but here we have a circus playing out on a daily basis in the Supreme Court where a perfectly reasonable NJAC Act is being scrutinized for its constitutionality, and in the interim all appointments have been put on hold – and that too when as many as 251 posts of judges are lying vacant and more than 40 million cases are pending in the courts. Why?

Maybe the answer lies in the following statistics which a Mumbai lawyer M.J. Nedumpara recently submitted to the Supreme Court, based on information gleaned from the websites of the SC and 13 High Courts – 33% of SC judges and 50% of High Court judges are ” related to higher echelons of the judiciary, which translates to 6 in the former and 88 in the latter.

This has been the result of the existing Collegium system of appointments (which the NJAC seeks to replace) in which vacancies are neither notified/ advertised nor is there any transparency in the appointments. Further, a succession of judgments in the past has ensured that retired judges have almost complete monopoly over appointments to various Commissions and Tribunals, guaranteeing them post retirement sinecures – If this does not smell of an oligarchy or netocracy, I am not sure what does.

Take our so called “free” press or media. Most of our leading newspapers and News Channels are owned / managed by business interests (Bennet Coleman, Mukesh Ambani, Bhartiyas) or politicians (Jayalalitha, the Marans, Rajeev Shukla, Chandan Mitra, the Badals, Karthikeya Sharma). Their agenda is naturally set by these behind-the scenes puppeteers whose sole objective is to preserve the oligarchic status quo.

They will not tolerate any change or any “outsider” trying to crash the party. That explains their almost vitriolic hatred of Narender Modi when he first made his bid for Delhi, or of Arvind Kejriwal even today. Mr. Modi is now acceptable to them partly because they have no choice now that he is the Prime Minister, and partly also because he is gradually getting co-opted into the cosy club himself. But Kejriwal is still fair game for a disgustingly biased reporting because he will not abide by their rules.

Consider India Inc. as our world of business is grandly termed. They are the real plutocrats who pay the piper and call the tune. Protectively nurtured in the license -raj nursery they have now attained adulthood and have claimed their legacy. There are 180,000 of them – dollar millionaires. But the real barons of the business world, the dollar multi – millionaires number 14800 (India Today, 10th November 2014) and they are the real oligarchs.

According to the Credit Suisse Global Wealth Report of October 2014 the top 1% of Indians own 49% of the country’s wealth, and this continues to grow: In 2000 the figure was 36.8%. The top 5% own 65.5%. In contrast the bottom 50% Indians own just 5%! And this in a country where a quarter of the world’s destitutes reside, more than 400 million people still live below the poverty line – now we know why they are there.

Even in a far wealthier country like the UK the top 1% own only 23.3% of the wealth.

These then are the four sub-oligarchies which coalesce into a grand whole which is the democratic republic of India. The four guard their turf zealously, both individually and collectively and also network with each other to ensure that no harm befalls any of them. They do not allow any meaningful action to be taken against any of them and ensure that wrong-doing is never punished.

The Radia tapes exposed the most venal complicity between politics, media and big business but were quickly erased. 2G and Coal allocations were not a one-off mistake or malfeasance: they were part of a mutually beneficial public policy, and many more names than those charge-sheeted are involved but the lid has been hastily lowered on the investigations.

It is common knowledge where the SAHARA moneys came from and where they went, but our oligarchs are certainly not interested in the truth becoming public, so Subroto Roy remains in jail: he will pay the bail amount some day and walk free and everyone will breath easier. Jayalalitha’s bail application is heard in record time while the victims of UPHAAR still wait for their application to be heard even after one year.

Convicted members of our privileged netocracy can get bail within hours while unconvicted under trials rot in dungeons for years. A High Court judge passes a patently illegal order and threatens to register an FIR against his own Chief Justice; another defies the law by refusing to sentence a convicted rapist and instead ordering a “mediation” between the rapist and the victim (!!) – and both continue to serve in the courts, no doubt to pass similar illegal orders in the days to come.

Five thousand poor farmers have committed suicide in the last one year under pressure to repay their loans, but one of our high flying (literally) multi-millionaires who owes more than Rupees seven billion to the banks continues to party in his private jets and Mediterranean villas and produce movies for his son.

The country’s banking system is collapsing under the weight of Rs.300,000 crores (US$ 50 billion) “non-performing assets” which is just a euphemism for loans taken by big business which they just refuse to return, with no consequences for them: of course – you and I have to pay for it by more expensive loans and lower returns on deposits. Official secrets are stolen from central ministries and the companies doing so identified (yes, they belong to our 1% club) but only class four employees and middle level managers arrested – the long arm of the law in India shrinks in direct proportion to the moneys and oligarchs involved. (I can guarantee that we will hear no more of this case).

No less than four retired Supreme Court judges give (paid) legal opinions to help an absconding Lalit Modi, knowing fully well that his case is sub – judice and is likely to come up before the same court they were a part of till the other day. Can money speak any louder?
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One can go on ad-nauseam but I think I have made the point intended – viz. that our oligarchs look after their own. In the first place laws and policies are made to suit them. If they still fall foul of them, then the laws are bent to breaking point. If even that doesn’t help then perverse legal interpretations are floated (such as drawing a distinction between an ” affidavit” and a ” disposition” and ” absconder” and ” evader” and so on.) And if, by some miracle, even that is of no avail then the final frontier stares us in the face: an impenetrable thicket of laws and lawyers, judges and judgments, adjournments and appeals that somehow ensures that the innocent is incarcerated and the guilty is freed.

Is it any wonder then how the present Lalit Modi burlesque is playing out? The Congress may be shouting ” thief!” now but it took no action against Lalit Modi when it was in power itself – how could it, when it has been feeding at the same trough in our own Animal Farm? In fact, Mr. Lalit Modi has rendered a great service to this country – he has exposed the putrefied core of our democracy and revealed how every institution meant to strengthen it has actually been undermining it from within. It would appear our tryst with destiny has been postponed indefinitely, for surely it cannot be our destiny to be an oligarchy?

To take another metaphor from ‘Animal Farm':
”The creatures outside looked from pig to man and from man to pig, and from pig to man again: but already it was impossible to say which was which.” The bestial transformation is complete.

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Greece and its Socialism …

Posted on July 7, 2015. Filed under: Business, Searching for Success | Tags: , |

What is happening in Greece is the result of socialism playing out in the city square.

Greece has enacted entitlements which assure the citizens a royal life just because they are born in Greece. For example everybody gets pension. Everybody, means everybody. At the age of 57, you as a private or self employed person retire with full State pension. But there is another catch. If you work in a hazardous profession, you can retire with full pension at the age of 50. There are about 450 professions classified as hazardous. One of them is hairdresser. Yep, you read that right, in Greece, hairdresser is a hazardous profession.

So if you are a hairdresser, you can retire with full state pension at the age of 50.

All other entitlements- healthcare, education, unemployment benefits, housing, etc., of course are there. With these securities in place, Greeks did what all other Europeans have done: They stopped having babies. If government is there to take care of you from cradle to grave, why go to the trouble of maintaining families and having babies? Its fertility rate is just 1.41. (World Bank in fact put the figure at 1.29 in 2013.)

So there are not enough Greek nephews to take care of the old age pensions and medical care of Greek uncles. Greeks are discovering the hard way two inescapable facts of life:

1. Government doesn’t have infinite money.

2. Government has no money of its own.

3. If there are no taxpayers around, government earns nothing.

But Greek uncles say,”We don’t give a damn. We don’t care how you arrange the money. Just keep our Welfare cheques coming. Otherwise we will burn down our own cities.” The dispute right now is that Greeks want their entitlements to continue, to be paid by the rest of Europe, whereas rest of Europeans are not ready to pick up the tab. How cruel of them, those Europeans. They all profess to be socialists but are not ready to take care their poor brethren in Greece.

What is happening in Greece, and in the rest of Europe as well, is that the latest avatar of Socialism-the Welfare State- has also bombed big time.

Socialists through their control of media may put any spin to it, but the fact is that their latest project of collectivizing only incomes (and not means of production or property) has also ended up destroying some of the richest and most advanced countries on the planet- the Welfare States of Europe.

Another issue with Greece is their excessive borrowing from market, which they fail to disclose at the time of their application for joining EU. This means that only way they can survive is by keep borrowing to repay another borrowing. If it gets into crisis, which is likely, tourism will take a big hit.

Their economy was on low wages & good sea connectivity which was the reason why EU got them interested but over years they messed it up thoroughly. They still want to live in aristocratic ways even when they have no money to eat.

Have a Look at This Story ………

MARY is the proprietor of a bar in Dublin. She realises that virtually all of her customers are unemployed alcoholics and, as such, can no longer afford to patronize her bar – she will go broke.
To solve this problem, she comes up with a new marketing plan that allows her customers to drink now, but pay later. She keeps track of the drinks consumed on a ledger (thereby granting the customers loans).

Word gets around about Mary’s ‘drink now, pay later’ marketing strategy and, as a result, increasing numbers of customers flood into Mary’s bar.
Soon she has the largest sales volume for any bar in Dublin — all is starting to look rosy.
By providing her customers freedom from immediate payment demands Mary gets no resistance when, at regular intervals, she substantially increases her prices for wine and beer, the most consumed beverages.
Consequently, Mary’s gross sales volume increases massively.

A young and dynamic vice-president at the local bank recognizes that these customer debts constitute valuable future assets and increases Mary’s borrowing limit. He sees no reason for any undue concern, since he has the debts of the unemployed alcoholics as collateral.
At the bank’s corporate headquarters, expert traders figure a way to make huge commissions, and transform these customer loans into Drinkbonds and Alkibonds. These securities are then bundled and traded on international security markets.
The new investors don’t really understand that the securities being sold to them as ‘AAA’ secured bonds are really the debts of unemployed alcoholics. They have had a ‘rating house’ certify they are of good quality.

Nevertheless, the bond prices continuously climb, and the securities soon become the hottest-selling items for some of the nation’s leading brokerage houses.
One day, even though the bond prices are still climbing, a risk manager at the original local bank decides that the time has come to demand payment on the debts incurred by the drinkers at Mary’s bar. He so informs Mary.

Mary then demands payment from her alcoholic patrons, but, being unemployed alcoholics, they cannot pay back their drinking debts. Since Mary cannot fulfil her loan obligations she is forced into bankruptcy. So she now is broke.

The bar closes and the 11 employees lose their jobs.
Overnight, Drinkbonds and Alkibonds drop in price by 90%. The collapsed bond asset value destroys the bank’s liquidity and prevents it from issuing new loans, thus freezing credit and economic activity in the community.

The suppliers of Mary’s bar had granted her generous payment extensions and had invested their firms’ pension funds in the various Bond securities. They find they are now faced with having to write-off her bad debt and with losing over 90% of the presumed value of the bonds.Her wine supplier also claims bankruptcy, closing the doors on a family business that had endured for three generations. Her beer supplier is taken over by a competitor, who immediately closes the local plant and lays off 150 workers.
Fortunately though, the bank, the brokerage houses and their respective executives are saved and bailed out by a multi-billion euro, no-strings attached cash infusion from their cronies in government.

The funds required for this bailout are obtained by new taxes levied on employed, middle-class, non-drinkers who have never been in Mary’s bar.
Now, do you understand economics in 2015?

 

 

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