A couple of days back, the Tata’s launched the much hyped 1 lakh car, the Nano. The car is believed to be the cheapest in the world and is expected to revolutionize travel in India. The car looks good and also seems to come with a decent set of features. Considering that hardly any Indian companies consider research and innovation a priority, the Nano is a significant achievement for the Tatas.
With cities like Mumbai where an overwhelming majority of citizens travel south for work but stay up north, it’s quite obvious where the city centre is. However it’s intriguing how city centre means different things to different people in Pune. A friend was recently telling me how his company located in Kalyani Nagar refuses to give bus transport to employees stating that the company was located in the city and so bus transport need not be provided. Considering that he stays in Kothrud and believes that the old city and the Deccan area is the real Pune, he found the company’s suggestion that Kalyani Nagar was ‘in’ the city quite ludicrous.
Every few days, newspaper frontpages announce the Sensex’s march past another milestone, 10000, 15000, 20000 and so on. You have photos of brokers jumping for joy and quotes from experts. Business channel hosts are all smiles and it feels like it’s already Diwali. Media portrays the event as a big win for India.
Why the markets surge when nothing seems to have changed or why they crash suddenly is beyond the understanding of every expert, let alone a layman like me. There’s always some exotic reason put forward, like change in interest rates in Timbuktoo. However the fact is that no one knows. If the experts knew, wouldn’t they be making millions and then relaxing on a private island rather than giving tips on TV all day?
The chiefs of the 3 armed forces were recently exempted from security checks at airports. In the build up to this decision, you got quotes like “It is a shame that India cannot accord a small privilege for those who guard the country”. Since anything related to the forces always gets linked to patriotism and national pride, so naturally references to the same were made from all corners. Finally the government gave in and extended the privilege of exemptions from security checks. The minister added that it was “absolutely appropriate” that the people who defended the country’s borders should not go through the security check exercise. So ended the matter. The VIP list for exemptions got a little longer for another service. “No big deal. All’s well that ends well. Right?”
Not really. The basic premise for this or any VIP privilege is that a certain person’s time or pride is more important than that of ordinary citizens like you and me. This goes completely against my understanding of democracy and people’s rule. VIP privileges for a chosen few cannot be a part of a democracy. It’s understandable if a dictator is a VIP, but in democratic India, no minister, politician, military officer or even the Prime Minister can be a VIP. He is just another citizen of India chosen to lead and not to rule. Privileges to bypass the queue is just one aspect of the mammoth VIP baggage that the nation carries. In a supposed equitable society, the time and pride of my cook, driver, my boss or the Prime Minister of India should have the same value, at least on paper. There cannot be a government sanction for discrimination.
In my last piece I wrote about my time in San Francisco. After a hectic work week at San Francisco, me, my wife and a friend headed to Las Vegas. Las Vegas is casino country. You step out of the aircraft at Las Vegas airport and it becomes obvious that Vegas is not just another American city. The first thing you encounter at the airport isn’t baggage claim or immigration or customs, but a series of slot machines!
I am writing this column from the Oracle OpenWorld conference in San Francisco on an Internet connection that’s as fast as the Internet speed of half of Pune put together. It’s strange how fast Internet connections always put me in a good mood. Anyway, talking of OpenWorld, it’s an annual event that has over 40,000 people coming to San Francisco from over a 100 countries. It’s amazing that the city can pull off such a mammoth event fairly easily and the infrastructure doesn’t collapse under the load.
The city administration seems to go the extra mile to ensure that delegates have an enjoyable and safe visit to the city. Although OpenWorld is the biggest, it is just one of the many events that happen all year round at the Moscone Center. Each event not only gets people to San Francisco and works as a great public relations exercise for the city but also pumps millions of dollars into the economy of San Francisco.
Post the T20 world cup, Dhoni is said to be making crores more and every other cricketer is making lakhs more. Good for them and best wishes to them. However something that isn’t good for us, is how our tax money was blown by every government in the country during the post world cup money distribution ceremonies. I have nothing against good old Ajit Agarkar or the promising Rohit Sharma, but I think it was not right of the State government to dole out 20 lakhs of tax payer’s money.
Everyday we read stories about protests in the country where buses are burnt, trains are stopped, public and private property is damaged and so on. However one often feels that the creators of these protests do not get due credit for their work. The government releases figures about the property damages in rupees. However these figures don’t quite convey the true impact that a protest had on the nation. How useful would it be if earthquakes were reported not in a Richter scale but just in terms of the monetary loss of property? Only when someone tells you the Richter scale reading of the quake, do you truly feel the power of the quake. Considering India’s need for a scale for protests, the researchers at Oak Labs have devised the ingenious “OakTyre” scale for measuring the impact of social unrests.
The basic unit of measurement in the OakTyre scale is a “Tyre”. Like we measure distances in meters, we measure protests in Tyres. So the measuring scale goes as follows