Friday, August 30, 2013

Prime Minister Communicates in Rajya Sabha - there is hope for Indian parliament

After a long time, I watched Rajya Sabha in session and listened to the Prime Minister's statement about the economic problems and the discussion that followed.

It demonstrated that Manmohan Singh can communicate! It is sad that he does it so rarely. He comes across very nicely in small groups (obviously televised as I have never seen him in person) and interviews  but sounds boring in speeches.

I wish he would have a monthly one-to-one interview, possibly with a different interviewer/channel each month.

I recall the disappointment with V P Singh's talks on TV after he became the PM. Somehow, his language and presentation moved from conversational and inspiring to bureaucratic and stiff. Possibly, TV was a new medium in India and his advisors must have been bureaucrats. Today, he could have seen Obama, Blair, Clinton and realised the alternative styles and ignored the bureaucrats.

V P Singh as PM seemed to talk as a PM was supposed to "talk" - serious and remote. It was sad and that stiffness probably caused his ideas and aims of social justice to be missed by the public. It is ironic that there was no opposition to Mandal after his government fell. I like to believe that discussions on social justice at that time might have resulted in far better mechanisms for positive discrimination to achieve some common aims than the rigidity of reservation percentages.

Back to the discussion in the Rajya Sabha today.

The points raised by the opposition were pertinent though surrounded by verbosity. I wish they would follow the elevator pitch. Were their interventions as precise and pointed as one which would not be longer than an elevator ride, effectiveness would have been far greater. They may even learn from twitter. Raising one pointed issue may raise the level of debate and cause discomfort to the government to a far greater extent.

It was ironic that when the PM responded and pointed out that a functioning parliament is critical for investor confidence, the opposition interrupted him repeatedly. They didn't seem to realise that they were proving the PM's point!

I loved PM's one liner to an interruption I could not hear - "I am not the custodian of files in the coal ministry."

One question which no one asked - why consensus in parliament is needed to improve bureaucratic processes and reduce red tape?

Tuesday, August 27, 2013

Food security bill, pensions increased for bureaucrats and share the pain fo the retired rest

I had a disturbed night's sleep, quite possibly affected by "Markets give UPA's Food Security Bill a thumbs down, fear its impact on economy". However, that was not the first news which struck me.

The news I noticed was the bureaucrats taking care of their retired bureaucrat parents! No wonder, it is hard to believe the finance minister, Chidambaram, no matter how much one wants to do so. His worst enemies could not have chosen a more symbolic time. My mother's pension will improve but my comfort depends on the economy and if the current trends continue, I will have to be dependent on others or search for a job whether I want to or not :(

It seems petty to question the benefit given to the bureaucrats who have spent their life serving the nation. I recall an episode of the Twilight Zone, where the aliens have come to earth which each one committed to the book "How to serve man". It was a cook book :)

Thursday, August 22, 2013

Our fate: wasted onions in peak time and wasted parliament during session

The handling of food as illustrated by Onions keeps surprising me. Why are we not preserving food?  Another news item a few days ago was even more saddening - In onion belt, BARC unit to increase shelf life lies unused.

We would be happy to use dehyderated onions whenever fresh are too expensive for cooking or even routinely for its convenience. Safal frozen peas has had a significant impact on the way we consume peas. What's puzzling is that what is preventing food processing from taking place. It makes no sense that we keep wasting food in season and paying a high price during shortages.

And our parliament is in uproar over missing files and who should tell that they cannot find them. Though any time I visit a government office, it seems amazing that they can find ANY file!

Our fate appears to be wasted onions in peak time and wasted parliament during session :(

I wonder what would have happened if our currency was part of the Eurozone and instead of the currency rate collapsing, government had to implement a Cyprus-like solution. Perhaps then the discussion in the parliament might have been more pertinent.

Friday, August 2, 2013

Public sector pensions - Generous world wide!

I was somewhat surprised by The Unsteady State of America which I read in the Indian Express. The surprise was that the generous pension which various Indian governments had been offering their employees was not all that unique. (Realistically, it is the government employees who are taking care of themselves.) Even US public sector had been offering pension based on the number of years of service and the last drawn salary!

Governments seem to have been remarkably ignorant of the life expectancy of their people or the financial implications of the long life span.

Government of India tried to offer the same pension option for even private sector employees(mandatory). I wonder what led them to implement it with an absurd limit of Rs. 6500 per month (less than US $ 110 per month) rather than scrap it. My unhappiness with the pension scheme is because all it seems to do is increase the size of bureaucracy while hurting the interests of the "organized sector" employees and doing nothing at all for the informal sector employees.