Wednesday, February 17, 2016

Close down JNU - a 'radical' solution suggested by Mr. Chandan Mitra, a BJP M.P.

Although it is a waste to read the article written by Mr. Chndan Mitra, it reflect the kind of hatred BJP has against JNU.

Today's (February 17, 2016) incident of hitting Kanhaiya Kumar in the Court also reflects the same sentiment.

Lawlesness is the result of government's inability to act against vandalism in the name of nationalism or religion. It is unfortunate that the this government has failed to handle JNU crisis sensitively. It has created a mountain of a molehill. Perhaps the sentiment expressed in the article has driven government action.

Is it the real India? Perhaps not. This is a transitory phase. India is always tolerent and will remain tolerant.

Friday, February 12, 2016

Intolerance - arrest of JNU student leader

The report in the media about the arrest of the JNU student leader (Knahaiya Kumar) charged with sedition and conspiracy for holding an event in support of Parliament attack convict Afzal Guru, who was hanged in 2013,  has deeply disturbed me. I see it as an example of increasing intolerance. Only because students raised slogans, which might be against the State, they cannot be treated like terrorists and cannot be charged with sedition and conspiracy. Democracy thrives in an atmosphere of tolerance. Therefore, when we see examples of intolerance, we get frightened thinking about the future of democracy. I strongly condemn the arrest of the student leader and presence of police in the JNU  campus.

One may argue that I am able to publish this column because the State is tolerant. I agree, but I am questioning the level of tolerance. If the level of tolerance continues to diminish, a day will come when democracy itself will be in danger. I cannot imagine India without strong democracy. 

Monday, February 8, 2016

Coca Cola - another example of lobbying power of industry

On February 8, 2016, Hindu Business Line reported that on February 1, 2016 President  returned the Plachimada Coca Cola Victims Relief and Compensation Claims Special Tribunal Bill 2011, which was unanimously passed by the Kerala Assembly five years ago. Thus, Coca Cola has been spared to pay damage (estimated at Rs 216 crores by an expert committee) to 1,000 Dalit and Adivasi families of Plachimada, a village in Kerala's Palakkad district. The company had to close the bottling plant in 2005 after long agitation by the local community against the hazarduous effect of the company's operation. The operation of the bottling plant resulted in drying of the local wells and contamination of local water resources.

The government owes an explanation to the society as to why the Coca Cola has been spared from paying damage to the local community for the pain it had inflicted on the it.

Sunday, February 7, 2016

Making strategic debt restructuring succeed

My column published  in today's (February 8, 2016) Business Standard.

HUL Project Shakti - Is it CSR?

During the year 2014-15, HUL spent Rs 4651 lakhs (56.48 per cent of total CSR spending of Rs 8235 lakhs) on project Shakti.

HUL describes the project Shakti in its website  as follows:

“HUL provides training on basic accounting, selling skills, health & hygiene and relevant IT skills to Shakti entrepreneurs and equips them with smart phones which have been enabled with a mini Enterprise Resource Package (ERP) which helps them to run their business efficiently and further augment their income. HUL has trained thousands of Shakti Ammas across the villages in a bid to develop an entrepreneurial mindset and make them financially independent and more empowered.
In 2010, the Shakti programme was extended to include ‘Shaktimaans’ who are typically the husbands or brothers of the Shakti Ammas. Shaktimaans complement our Shakti Ammas. They sell products on bicycles in surrounding villages, covering a larger area than Shakti Ammas can cover on foot.
Today, Project Shakti provides livelihood-enhancing opportunities to over 70,000 Shakti Entrepreneurs who distribute our productions in more than 165,000 villages and reach over four million rural households. There are 48,000 Shaktimaans across India.
HUL’s Project Shakti has become the model to reach out to rural consumers in developing and emerging markets and enabled Unilever to tap opportunity at the bottom of the pyramid.”

Shakti Ammas and Shaktimaans constitute direct rural distribution channel of HUL. Is it appropriate to classify spending on project Shakti as CSR spending?  

The empowerment of rural women and men is positive externality created from the HUL's activity of distributing its products at the bottom of the pyramid. Whether the spending should be classified as CSR spending is a contentious issue.

Saturday, February 6, 2016

My salute to Vatsalya Singh Chouhan and IIT Kharagpur

The Hindu published the news that Vatsalya Singh Chouhan, who is a son of a welder in Bihar has bagged a job with Microsoft with a starting annual salary of 1.02 crores. He is a student of IIT Kharagpur. Mr. Chouhan and his family must have struggled hard to achieve this success. I salute him for this success, as in India, boys and girls from poor economic and social background hardly get a chance to step on the stepping stone to success. They compete with children of affluent class who get everything on a platter because of their capacity to invest in education and grooming from very early stage of life.

Two teachers of Kota Coaching Centre, who mentored and motivated Mr. Singh deserve kudos. We should not undermine the contribution of IIT Kharagpur, which provides conducive environement and not a stifling environment, which stymie learning of students coming from the marginalised sections of the society.

Whenever, I read such a news, I realise that government institutions of excellence provide an opportunity to children of poor and lower middle class families to pursue higher education of substance and to leap frog to a life of more comfort and prosperity. They help to transform economically and socially marginalised families to empowered families creating great hopes for future generations. In those institutions merit and talent are recognised and teachers guide everyone without looking at his/her family or social background. Unfortunately, we do not have many such institutions. The government should strengthen those institutions which have the potential to become excellent and should not interfere with those which are doing well.

Private institutions of higher learning so far have failed to provide the same environment that are provided by institutions such as IIMs. IITs, ISIs, JNU, DU and IISc. Even, most government universities fail to provide that environment. Therefore, private investment in education might not be a substitute for government investment in creating centres for excellence.

Central and State governments should improve the quality of education in government schools in order to provide good education and groom  those who come from economically or socially marginalised families.