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Jan Lokpal Bill Movement: Lessons For India's Middle & Ruling Classes

`Supercop' Kiran Bedi learnt the hard way (or so we hope) how not to hold fort when she resorted to somewhat unusual theatrics to drive home a point about elected representatives. She was on stage as Gandhian Anna Hazare fasted to get the Indian Government to agree to pass the Jan LokPal Bill, a strong anti-corruption bill. His fast ended on 28 August 2011, 12 days after it started.

The fast (and the strategy thereof) has attracted kudos and criticism alike. The critics call the fast and the accompanying protests blackmail. The supporters say politicians are not known to respond to the usual greet, meet and review process. As they have not in the past. Moreover, the country has lived with unprecedented levels of corruption for decades and across all walks of life. And cannot tolerate it any longer. Extreme conditions call for extreme responses. Both sides however agree that the issue of corruption in public life must be addressed, with some urgency.

I see it a little differently.…
Recent posts

Business No Longer As Usual

My Singapore-based economist friend put the whole corruption issue in an economic perspective. "Indian systems and structures have always been geared to manage the Hindu rate of growth – 3.5% between the 1950s to 1980s. What you are seeing is the inability to cope with 9% plus growth, economically, socially and politically.”

Well. More and more bigwigs are being chargesheeted and going to jail on charges of corruption. Unfortunately, many of us believe they will somehow extricate themselves, using money, influence or both. I will come to that in a moment. Lets take a look at Tihar’s well-heeled jailbirds. Presently, they range from accused in telecom spectrum allocation to Delhi’s Commonwealth Games (CWG) scandals.

There are four kinds of people in from the abovementioned crop. The first is founders of organisations, like realtors Shahid Balwa of DB Corp and Sanjay Chandra of Unitech. To understand their wealth in perspective, Shahid Balwa apparently asked Central Bureau of Inv…

The Devil That Is Corruption

The devil is in the detail, goes the old but appropriate cliche. It could apply to the reading of a contract or the framing of a cohesive strategy to combat corruption. Its the latter or the immediate lack of it that worries me. To the extent that we expect this television and social media fuelled movement to go to a next, logical phase.

We are basking in a post World Cup cricket victory glow. A well-timed Anna Hazare anti-corruption campaign appears to have satiated our innate desires for another win. After beating Pakistan and Sri Lanka, surely a corrupt politician was small change. Question is can we now prevent the movement from being a one-day win just like its cricketing predecessor.

At the outset its not easy. I believe corruption affects us worst in our immediate vicinity, in our day to day lives. A 2G telecom scam revolts us but only because it deeply affects our sense of values and the context we see ourselves as a democracy. Beyond that, what price Government-owned telecom …

The Zone

I was watching Indian captain MS Dhoni's eyes when he hit the sixer that catapulted India to victory at the ICC Cricket World Cup 2011 on Saturday night. Only someone with numbing focus and meditative concentration, oblivious to the utter mayhem and cacophony all around, can play a shot like that. It was the definitive, you-guys-can-take-this stroke from a cricketer wanting to leave a permanent stamp on the game.

To be fair, many such definitive shots have been played, match winning and otherwise. But it was one of the few I would categorize as belonging to The Zone. Spiritual expert Jaya Row who once defined the Zone to me. "Its your ability to disconnect totally from the world outside and be in total control of your mind and body for that moment," she had told me.

I have always wondered about the role of spirituality (secular) in our lives. Ms Row, a Vedanta expert, defined ita appropriately. "Think of Sachin Tendulkar when he is facing a bowler. Look at his face…

My Way Or No Way

(Daily Mail pic showing former British PM Gordon Brown)

In India, this is something we are used to and used to giving in, almost as we would bow to kings and queens in medieval times. With citizens of other democracies, the reaction can be a little different.

Former British Prime Minister Gordon Brown came under fire after his entourage tried to bump a heavily pregnant woman from business class on an international flight. It happened at Oman, when passengers on a British Airways flight were told they would have to move to a lower class because of an `overbooking' problem'. The story appeared on Daily Mail but strangely cannot be found on the newspaper's website anymore, at least when I last checked !

The pregnant woman's husband moved from business to premium economy and other passengers from premium economy were moved to economy and some, apparently off the flight altogether. The story came to light because the woman, seven months pregnant, refused to budge. She als…

Buffett Lesson: Unite In Philanthropy

Warren Buffett came to India. The closest I came to him is when my aircraft passed his (parked) private jet in Bangalore last week. Of course I was flying commercial. Thanks to a fairly trying schedule involving four cities in as many days I missed most of the media coverage surrounding his India visit. Which means, by deduction, I missed most of media too.

So why did we get so excited about Warren Buffet ? So one reason is the obvious one. He is the Sage Of Omaha. He is the most valued value investor. And for all the wealth his firm Berkshire Hathway generates, he himself lives the life of, well, a sage. Its perhaps the failing of my current assignment (or boon ?) that I only have time to browse a few reports and not take the full blast. It was in this context that I read T N Ninan's piece in Business Standard. I think it beautifully sums up the Sage's wisdom.

The second reason is the reason he came here. To invite India's rich (add recently rich) to part with their billi…

The Real Fear Of Flying

I have been mostly on the road for the last three weeks. Which means catching flights of various shapes, sizes and of course pilots. I am worried. Because neither the airline, India's regulatory body (Director General of Civil Aviation) seem to know whether the pilots flying the aircraft have earned their licenses honestly and didn't forge their tests. And till some 4,500 licenses are fully scanned, we will entrust our lives to pilots whose credentials are not re-established.

I was reading an insightful piece in the Business Standard which talks about how the pilots forged critical components of the tests required to become certified pilots. For instance, most of the now suspended pilots flunked papers on aviation meteorology, radio aids and air nagivation. How this escaped everyone's attention is a little bit of a mystery. Or not.

The matter picked up steam when the DGCA ordered an inquiry into an improper landing in January (on the nosewheel) by a pilot who, amazingly, …