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Showing posts from July, 2011

My latest phone

My track record of buying new phones is not very aggressive but not too dull as well. I  last bought  my HTC P3000 in late 2008 and my latest phone is the Blackberry torch which I bought in March this year. In fact, it was bought by Shubham for me from the US. As yet I am quite liking the phone - blackberry's app ecosystem may not be as  ecstatic as Apple or as explosive as Android but its a good mix. I have downloaded a couple of apps mostly for quick updates from social networks, email client for GMail, news updates from sites like ndtv, bookmyshow app for movie ticket booking and stuff like Google Maps and Waze. I think blackberry is a good option if you are one of those office users of phone as you get a good mix of social apps and office email (which is the core functionality) together.

How Government Stimulus (should not) Work!

The global recession has brought the term 'stimulus' in vogue; however government aid is nothing new. Government financing of business is at least as old as the 19th century - the Pacific Railway Act passed by the US Congress in 1862 authorised the government to float Bonds to finance railway projects. Government aid is distinct than government spending; spending is the regular expense on civil and defense infrastructure development and upkeep - including spending on social welfare programs such as health care and education. However, aid is usually in form of special grants given usually to non-profit institutions to conduct activities which the government cannot conduct but requires to get conducted. Some examples of such requirements are: Outreach programs in remote areas where government machinery is not present One time exercises requiring large manpower such as Pulse Polio Campaigns   However, apart from such benevolent activities, government aid has been often used

All heroic acts are foolish to your contemporaries!

In the scène de finale of Die Hard 4 - John Mclaine (Bruce Willis) shoots himself through his shoulder to kill the villain in the movie Thomas Gabriel. Later when his daughter tells him - "Daddy, you’re out of your mind. You shot yourself!" he responds -"It seemed like a good idea at the time. Don't tell those guys [meaning the FBI] that I did this". The parting dialogue illustrates one of the most fundamental truths of life - any heroic or courageous action is usually also an act of foolishness when it is actually committed. Often if you too do things at work or personal life which are acts of personal sacrifice or risk - you try to conceal the fact that you did them. Few of us usually find pleasure in publicizing such acts. Think of any acts that we today honour and think of how these were perceived in their times - Copernicus or the fictional Phileas Fogg or even Bhagat Singh - all were considered courageous fools - if not by the whole world but definitel

Making India Work [contd.]

Read Part I (book review) here . We often criticize our bureaucracy of being slow and stubborn - frankly after working with them I realize that they are not so bad. These institutions are manned by more people who share the 'common man' space than those who form bourgeois - hence even they feel the need to decentralize governance and carry out reforms. But the number of stakeholders in the governance system in India is so humongous that matching everyone's expectations and changing the system monolithically is not an option. And its not just bureaucratic mechanization which make the system unmalleable to change, but also the complexities and uncertainties of real systems. As an example, take the case of an earlier experiment to create planned cities - Chandigarh. The experiment failed for reasons partly known partly unknown and on the contrary Gurgaon - an unplanned city flourished but still lacks some basic amenities like public transport [Read full case study here].

Making India Work [Book Review]

On my recent visit to traditional outfit store fabindia, I spotted the book by its founder William Nanda Bissel for sale and I being me could not resist buying a copy for myself. Making India Work is an ambitious attempt to dream a new India - but may be its a little too ambitious. Nanda Bissel talks about a complete revamp of the way India is governed - from its administrative divisions (46 Regions instead of 28 states) to the way ministries are organized and managed. It is quite easy for us to write off his ideas giving reasons like our politicians would never bring about such changes or because the bureaucracy would block all attempts for these ideas to succeed. However, I have more fundamental differences with the proposals being made in the book (while I also concede that I like a lot of proposals made by him). Before we jump to them, let me outline a few of his proposals in brief: National Division: Lots of proposals have come through for decentralization of power or in f

Is the Civil Society interfering with Parliamentary Process?

A lot is being said in the Media about the recent crusade by Anna Hazare and team trying to subvert parliamentary process by becoming an extra-parliamentary body and "forcing" the government to agree to a "law" made by itself. The words in quotes in the previous sentence are of note as they are being used by the anti-Hazare brigade to bring what they call as extra-parliamentary processes to light.  The real question is - was the formation of a drafting committee comprising of the Group of Ministers and civil society activists an 'extra-parliamentary' step meant to side-step the parliament? Let's analyse the answer to this question by understanding how a normal law gets passed by the parliament. Typically, a the process to form a law usually starts with the government ministry planning to form a law - the trigger may be a new requirement, directive by the courts or suo motto recognition by the ministry (minister). The ministry in question then forms a