July 30, 2011

Rohtang Pass Scam and UPA II

The headlines in the papers announced that the snow had melted in the Rohtang Pass, much earlier than usual. I was expecting some boring, dull scientist or a weather report on how the climate change was to be blamed for the melting snow. However, it looks like its another scam, as big as the 2G or is it 3G? This very inocuous news has the government on the edge, all thanks to our 24/7 news channel. The anchor, Rahul Goswami has 20 uncomfortable questions to the Congress spokesperson, Manoj Tiwari who looked distinctly unwell. Not to let the heat dissipate, lest the snow further melt, the grand old party tried their best to send their two best men, into the studios, Kapil Singh and Digambar Swain. "It is a mailicious campaign by the opposition, the snow began to melt during the NDA regime; the UPA government only continued the policy of the previous government were some of the replies.. They sure sounded jaded.

Kapil Singh went to the extent to explain that its part of any economic growth and development of a country and there is absolutely nothing alarming, as making profits have always been the idea behind development projects, that are aimed at Aam Aadmi!! Not to be buying this argument, Rahul Goswami, said, "Mr. Kapil Singh, India has the right to know why this news was not available one week ago and it was due to the painstaking efforts by this channel to source this secret correspondence between the Environment and Tourism Ministries." Mr. Kapil Singh was unruffled and said that media and civil society are always welcome to the offices in North & South block and can always discuss issues over a cup of coffee (there is now an Open House every 4th Saturday of the month, "Koffee with Kapil" - this new initiative is thanks to Lokpal, we are told)

Picking up the thread from this news channel, another channel had a detailed discussion on how this could be the handiwork of China and Pakistan. They even had inferences on the discreet help they sought from the USA and it maybe so that this Operation was outsourced to the US Army, as they didn't have many projects in hand. The discussions even veered to the possiblity of the visit by the Secretary of State to distract us from this Operation Snowstorm.

This post is inspired by Fakingnews.com

July 28, 2011

The Oracle of Chennai

After two months of being tutored about the 'Market / Street', I feel compelled to share the knowledge gained or not gainedL (no, it’s not a reflection on the tutor but on my intelligence). It’s about my hubby - this post. You see, he always had this gamblers' streak in him and I always knew he would pursue this full time, one day. No, it’s not the illegal bets and match fixing deals I am talking aboutJ. Ah yes, I am referring to the little money he stakes on equity, commodity and whatever else he takes fancy that moment... seems pure fun? Well, not for me, I can assure you.

Let me give you a sample of our daily conversation... "Petrol prices are going to touch Rs. 100/-", I say. Pat comes the reply, "never mind, we have x barrels of crude"L. I was naturally horrified & speechless!

Another day, I remarked about a news headline on 2G scam or some other scam being the trending topic, he just looked up abstractedly from his screen and gave a lecture on how to study trendlines of stocks!! I gave up and stuffed my head into a book. And needless to add that the only channels we get to watch are Bloomberg, NDTV Profit, ET Now or some such... The favourites setting in the TV have either these or CN! Talk of bipolar tastesJ

Talking of books, years ago, I had mentioned about joining the British Council, he guffawed and said it was archaic and old fashioned, in the internet age, to read booksJ But now, its suddenly trendy to hangout there and sip hot chocolate and browse through reams of print - on markets, and read up on 'how to be a successful trader, investor'. There is even a book titled, “Make more money than God” or some such thingJ that he reads like the Bible. Does it make any sense??

He announced very gladly that he had enabled internet on his BB. No, he doesn't surf the net or catch up with friends on Fb or twitter, he has downloaded Apps that stream stock prices 24/7J Can anyone get more mundane and boring than that?
In any average household, people would talk about family and the usual stuff... but here, I have to endure a lecture about the lives and times of famous traders. I get to hear about the different categories of men – the employee, employer, entrepreneur, investor… get the drift? One day, I got home after my usual round of stocking up of groceries and veggies for the week and our man looked up absent-mindedly from his laptop and asked me if I had heard of some Big Five Corporations in Agriculture. I almost faintedJ

July 21, 2011

Upgrades can mean bad news too!

Yeah, you read the title right! Lets talk of the most discussed topic on social networking fora.. "Will Google plus overtake Facebook?".. And the discussions go on and on and people pretend to be a Nostradamus - in predicting the future of social networks:-). To add my own two bit, I am a diehard google fan but I do aceept that I chose facebook over Orkut, so far. I think its too early to call

And Facebook, not to be outdone by all the news space that Google + was hogging, launched video calls on their site. This was hailed as "awesome" by Mark Zuckerberg and many others but it meant that facebook would be blocked in most offices. Most offices had blocked social networking sites but with video calls and conferencing options in Fb, it has definitely gone to the 'blocked list' of sites in offices that earlier allowed access to Fb.

So, there you see, upgrades and awesomeness may not be a good idea, always, and may actually boomerang for the company! I suggest Fb must commission a study to see if the active users are now less active or if they show altered / noctural times in their activity. It must be interesting for them and many others who are in this business.

July 10, 2011

Aadhaar card is a good joke

With great fanfare our PM announced the Unique Identification Authority of India programme, that will serve many purposes, and requested Nandan Nilekani to head the project, in February 2009. Papers were full of the great opportunity ahead for him, and everybody had high expectations. Its two and a half years now and there seems no sign of the card being issued! I read about its launch in a remote village in Maharashtra a year ago. Surprisingly, media has not gone hammer and tongs at the UIDAI, yet. They have their hands full with scams and fasts unto death to cover, this past year. And our Chairman Nandan Nilekani still manages to talk of it (planning and promise) without drawing ire from the audience. 

My personal experience appears a big joke, so far. One day in April, my office was abuzz with excitement, that an extension counter is doing the Aadhaar project (well that's the desi name) and will wind up in 3 days! So, as is expected, a mad rush ensued, tokens given and after many futile unsuccessful trips to the bank, I finally managed to get my fingerprints and biometric information taken. I was also promptly given a slip with date and time of my application and was told that the card will be couriered in 2 months! I came away impressed. An application number on the slip was one way to track the status of the card, we were told.

Well, its 3 months and more and there is no sign of the card:(. Not to lose heart, I told myself that its a mammoth project and prone to get a little delayed. My hopes are however dashed, as Wodehouse would have said... according to their website, none of our applications are traceable!! I would still have had hope but for the fact that our Chairman's application alone, the status message reads "under process". So, in India, the fancied Aadhaar card that has been hailed for the masses, is being done for VVIPs:-), as of now.

I am sorely disappointed with Nandan Nilekani, not because of my personal experience, but because he has failed to execute a project as he would have done in Infosys. I have a couple of grouses on the methodology used: why use bank staff premises and allow all and sundry to apply? Ideally they should have done this street wise and get all residents covered in 2 days for each street. Secondly, there is absolutely no information of the Aadhaar cards being issued in the papers. For such a prestigious project, I think its being very sadly executed and this is where we fail, most often. I certainly expected better from Nandan Nilekani but I guess he couldn't break the Babudom stranglehold, and has let us down!

Perhaps, he misses the Infosys culture and feels he would have been better off there:)

July 8, 2011

Favourite Things

Sometimes an ordinary routine turns out to be special. This morning was one such day for me. As it happens often, I was running late to work and left a good 15 minutes late! I was dreading the traffic and the delay in getting into office. But the road seemed like everyone else decided to be home or left early this morning! I reached office in record time, like I would on a holiday:). Every painful traffic signal was green and the whole drive made me feel like they were waiting to make my day. 

It was a wonderful feeling to reach office on a working day, during peak hours without being in a traffic snarl. Such a very small event, very trivial, but had me beaming as I parked and got into office. Like Maria Von Trapp lists a few of her favourite things, I guess I can make mine too:-) 

July 6, 2011

Only in India!

There is in an uproar in Chennai over the killing of a 13 year old boy, he got shot when  scaling the wall of the Army campus. And why was he there in the first place? He was stealing almonds from the tree insideJ. The jawan / officer (?) has certainly over-reacted in shooting the boy, instead, of reprimanding him, but the public reaction borders on the ridiculous. That the boy ought not to be trespassing or stealing from inside the campus is all forgotten... The public want the jawan / officer to be handed over to them!! And even the State Government is baying for the his blood..Why, pray?

What do they want from him? What will the public do when they get their hands on him? Lynch him, most probably. One wrong cannot be set right by another. This is an important principle we all need to bear in mind. Actually, we need to put pressure on the Army and get them to initiate action against the jawan / officer, instead, we behave so irresponsibly. Such a response is so typical of India! Its always a knee-jerk, band aid reaction that we love to exercise, and make a hue and cry about. And promptly, these very 'public' will forget the whole episode in few days. My point is neither of these reactions are wise.

As I was cruising on the IT corridor yesterday, I had to slow down as a mob crossed over.. oh yeah, they were crossing under an overhead footbridge:-). Public (in this case, pedestrians) often break rules and get let off but the bad guys are the ones in cars / bikes... I wondered what would happen if my car had touched or hit one of them, as its hard to apply sudden breaks at high speeds... No guesses here, yours truly would get abused / beaten by the rest, and languish in the police station for a few hours,  and be let off after paying a compensation or bribe:-) [aha, civil society members, don't read this line:-)]. But the point is the pedestrian ought to have used the footbridge in the first place, built just for him to cross the road!

I truly empathise with the all those who are often, for no fault of theirs, are made to pay a price!