Thursday, October 18, 2007

Is it a pipe-dream?

Just read the news headlines in any international journal. The season's flavor is India. Take a look at some of them: India will be the next super power. India will play a major role in the world of tomorrow. India will surpass the US with its technological & economic superiority. The list just goes on and on.
But have you ever wondered that to turn all those things into reality, how much reform needs to be brought into India? Right now, I do not see that happening.
We as a nation are open to new ideas, but just in theory. When it comes to practical implementations, we get cold feet.
Take the example of the retail industry. The world-over, retail has been known to create millions of jobs. Sure, some of you will say that Wal-Mart is the saddest thing that happened to the US. I would say, go grab a copy of Mr. Thomas Firedman's The World is Flat and read it without any pre-conceived notions. You will come to admire the efficiency of the company.
Coming back to retail in India, Reliance, ITC, Bharti etc are in the process of opening up number of stores across the country. I have visited a Reliance store in particular and noticed that the fruits and veggies stocked there were fresh and very very affordable. The secret of this it seems is to eliminate the middle men involved in this trade. These middle men would earlier buy the produce from the farmer at a very low rate and then sell the same in the city markets at a much higher rate. Big retailers like Reliance and ITC buy the produce directly from farmers, while giving them a substantial cut out of the actual selling price and still manage to keep the prices low. These low prices allow the poorest of Indians to get fruits and vegetables at very affordable prices. So is it a win-win situation? Well not quite. What about the livelihood of the middle men?
ITC understood this and brought about a plan in which the out-of-work middle-men would start managing its storage and procurement from the farmers, but under the watchful eye of the professionally managed company. So now is everything fine.
Not yet, as what about the livelihood of the neighborhood mom and pop store owners? There is no real threat to them, as in India, people do not want to drive 5 miles to buy grocery for the house. Why do I say 5 miles? Because the size of the stores is huge and space in the residential areas is scarce. Hence the big stores are located mostly outside residential areas. Due to the distance not everyone will travel because not everyone has a car and petrol is also very expensive. So for most stuff, people go to the neighborhood grocer. But the neighborhood grocer goes to the superstore once a week to buy lots of stuff at less that retail rates. He sells the same to end consumers at a little more cost. So all is well, right?
Yes, except for the mindset of certain state governments. Take the case of state of UP, in which the dynamic chief minister (CM) Mayawati ordered the closure of all Reliance stores in UP. West Bengal has asked the big retailers to just forget about setting shop. No wonder that, as they have a reputation to live up to. After all, they are the communists. Did I mention that these two states are the laggards in terms of job creation and human development?
The retail business had the potential to create a huge number of jobs in these states. But the old foe of development, came in the way. Petty politics that is. Is this the kind of reform that we want to show the world? Is this the kind of reform that we plan to keep doing? Is this our plan of getting India to a super-power status?
Somehow India the future super-power rhetoric feels like a pipe-dream.

Tuesday, October 16, 2007

The day I felt defeated...

Its a sad day in the history of our great nation, India. Why you may ask? After all the stock exchange indexes are rising and the moolah is being pumped in like never before. You would ask, what happened? Why are you so distraught? Well today is the day that our honorable Prime Minister Dr. Manmohan Singh laid down arms against the damn commies (Indian communists CPI-M, CPI...).
Till about a week back, the PM and the super PM (Sonia Gandhi) were showing off their newly found biceps and daring anyone to stand against the historic Nuclear deal with the US. All this when the commies were threatening to withdraw support to the already lame-duck government. Now in a week the PM has done a U-turn on the deal by laying down arms in-front of the commies. I had never expected this from the seemingly great statesman.
And the commies are gloating at their success in stalling the deal which would have catapulted India into the big-league. Well who can blame them? Public memory is very short, but someone must remember their support to China in the 1962 war. What is the colloquial term for that... let me guess ... treason? And since I am on this topic, I must also mention that China is very happy at the performance of their proxy soldiers. Yes, you guessed it right, I mean Mr. Karat and company.
And I would also like to pay special attention to the role of the BJP in all this. Here you have a political party that was instrumental in getting relations with the US on the right track. But what a sore looser, it has proven to be. Its anti nuclear deal rhetoric is just hollow. I am sure had it been in the place of the Congress, it would have supported the deal in the current form without any qualms. The deal can go through if the BJP supports the Congress. The BJP can redeem itself by doing so. But this is just wishful thinking, as petty political oneupmanship is more important to Indian politicians than national interest.
What makes me sad? A number of things. One, we as a nation will become the laughing stock of the world. Two, the Congress with a great PM at the helm finally resorted to saving the government than saving the deal. Three, the BJP with its so-called nationalistic image, turned out to be just one more opportunistic hyena. And last, alas no-one has the guts to stop the black-mail of this country at the hands of the commies.
Is anyone listening? Or has the rot within engulfed you all?