Tuesday, 31 January 2012

Hugo Dixon & Jeff Glekin: Unravelling India: growth bottlenecks

Hugo Dixon & Jeff Glekin: Unravelling India: growth bottlenecks:

'via Blog this'

Classic analysis and Development  - 360 degree viewpoint, almost. In summation, the authors are looking at the following points:

  • Corruption
      • High-level corruption
      • Petty corruption
      • Electoral corruption
    • Anti Corruption Movement/s
      • Lokpal / Anna Hazare
      • Media
      • Right to Information and its impact
      • CAG, CJI etc other pro-and re-active offices
      • Stray political responses
    • Corruption Remedies
      • Powerful Independent Lokpal
      • Transparency in Government
      • RTI - 2005 and its impact
      • UID Project and its impact
  • Sustainable Growth
    • Economy
      • Demographic Dividend
      • GDP Per Capita
      • Bottlenecks
        • Private Investment, negative sentiment of the same
        • Politics - Coalition politics and decentralisation
        • Environmental issues and problems
        • Corruption
    • Problems of the day: Decline in investment, fiscal deficit, corruption and environmental roadblocks
The article deserves special mention since it places corruption, negative sentiment and environmental problems at the same level, and examines - or attempts to examine- their impact on growth. 

The Demographic Dividend, first extolled by Nandan Nilekani in his book on India, is worth mentioning: India will have an average age of 34 by 2050, whereas the age of the average Chinese will be 46. This means that both consumption and working-age population will be in abundance in India. But at the same time, our nation will have to struggle to provide land, water and power to satisfy an ever increasing consumption - which is going to be a challenge. And to make sure that we are able to cash in on this dividend, some problems have to be overcome. Interestingly, we dont have any option: unless we overcome these bottlenecks it is our own country and consequently our own population that will have to bear the brunt of our failures. Because we have to produce enough to provide for this burgeoning population!

The proposal of decentralisation is worth examining. Furthermore, the point they have made that given India's diversity, a plethora of political parties is inevitable seems justified. Decentralisation, or devolution of power to the state would also be in keeping with the spirit of our federal constitution, as well as the panchayati raj bill etc amendments. It is a fact that the well governed states- Gujarat, Chhattisgarh and now Bihar are doing well. 

The 3rd take-away for me from the above is the author's belief that the anti - corruption movement is here to stay in one form or the other. The increasing levels of awareness and education, media focus have given rise to a broad anti-corruption consensus - which would serve to generate reverse pressure, as also win converts within the system itself - there are many that we can think of today. All in all, a great article that offers a balanced, holistic view and several thought provoking suggestions and observations. For me, these are:
  1. Broad anti-corruption consensus
  2. Coalition politics, its inevitability and decentralisation
  3. Demographic Dividend - pluses and minuses. (We are aware of both sides, but have never linked them together like the 2 sides of the same coin, so to speak)
A must read article, in my opinion

Monday, 30 January 2012

Book Review: Chanakya's Chant

Chanakya's Chant

Author : Ashwin Sanghi
Category: Historical Fiction

It is quite a difficult to tell one story in one book -and carry it off well, maintaining the pace of the story and the interest of the reader. When one comes across a book which does that, it becomes an enjoyable read... most avid readers would agree with me on that score. On occasion, authors' have used sub-plots within the main story line and carried it off quite well. However, the subplots tend to merge with the main story and are integrally connected with it, and aid the flow of the story - again making it an enjoyable read. But when you come across a book that deals with 2 different stories, unconnected stories running parallel to one another, the first reaction is likely to be of disbelief, or expression of doubt in the quality of the work, or some such reaction. My first reaction was, to be quite honest, along the same lines. I am quite fond of reading history - esp Indian history, and had been exposed to the concept of historical fiction earlier. But even so, I checked out several reviews before taking the plunge.  

That is what this book is about - Chanakya is reborn in India in the 20th century, who takes a poor girl under his wing and ensures that she rises to the post of prime minister of India. Running parallel to this story is the story of how Chanakya makes Chandragupta Maurya the King of Magadha. First off, the concept of 2 different stories piques your interest and serves to draw you to at least consider the book. Next, the base of the book is a blend of historical fiction and political thriller as a category... this further stokes your curiosity, for mixing these 2 unrelated concepts is indeed difficult. Has the author carried it off? This is what my review is about

First, Chanakya. Please remember that this is historical fiction: "Writers of histrorical fiction are not historians and they must depend on others for historical information. The narratives about Chanakya and Chandragupta in Chanakya's Chant are fictitious although their events and lives depicted may possibly have roots in history or mythology." - Ashwin Samghi in Acknowledgments and References. I cant put it any better that the authr himself! The story starts with Chanakya as a young boy whose father is beheaded - this leads the hero of our story to swear revenge. He duely reaches Takshila with the help of Katyayan, a minister in the Magadha Cabinet. Once there, his natural intellect ensures that he outstrips others among his peers and pretty soon acquires fame. 

The story mercifully fast-forwards to adulthood, when he returns to Magadha - and promply earns the wrath of the Nanda King, Dhanananda. He is thrown into the dungeons wherefrom he escpapes - again with help, and meets Chandragupta in whom he sees kingly attributes. Accordingly Chandragupta is taken to Takshila for his education. Chandragupta is the son of the senapati of the Magadha Army, who along with Katyayan set about helping Chankya... there is one significant hurdle, though. The Magadha Empire is the most powerful in India - so how does our hero fulfill his terrible vow? The rest of the book showcases the legendary skills of Chanakya as he sets about his task of converting a state-less, army-less young Chandragupta into the most powerful ruler in ancient India. I shant tell more - revealing anything more will be sacrilege, almost! Suffice it to say that everyone from Paurus to Alexander features in the events as the story unfolds! Read the book for more details... sorry!

Pandit Gangasagar Mishra
The modern story starts in UP - Kanpur of all places, and traces the life of the modern Chanakya from the lower - middle class environs of Kanpur to his becoming the most powerful man - the kingmaker - of India. The story parallels that of the ancient Chanakya perfectly, and you can see the similarities between the storylines as the story develops. Mishra quickly earns the trust of, his employer Agrawal (Gangasagar Mishra's father's patron) - and from there starts one of the most amazing tales of planning, plotting, calculating and most importantly brilliant execution that propels Gangasagar Mishra and his protégée  Chandini Gupta into the realms of national power. 

As earlier, revealing anything else will wreck the enjoyment of the book, for it is a tremendous achievement for an unconnected individual to to single-handedly enable a poor slum girl into becoming the Prime Minister. Quite a stupendous achievement - and this is one we can appreciate all the more since we are able to relate to the background of the story. In the case of Chanakya, the story is set in a background that we have only heard about, whereas the modern story is set on a stage that we are actually living and experiencing. For example, it is a common opinion that you need contacts, especially in modern politics. Then how has Gangasagar Mishra achieved what he did, seeing as he had no contacts to start with? The forms the core of the book - read it to find more!

The Analysis
The format of the book is the key point - it interleaves one chapter of Chanakya with one of Gangasagar Mishra. This heightens your appreciation of the book as well as the storyline. In fact, this is the core of the book, its USP and its punchline all rolled into one. Because of this style of writing, you can guage the similarities in the strategems of the twin heroes, appreciate their brilliance and spot the linkages / similarity in the sequence of events and tactics employed. The mirror image of the tactics of 2300 years ago can be readily seen in the modern tactics, which makes the book fun - and you end up looking forward to how has the modern Mishra implemented it. The similarities in the 2 lives, the events that occur have been superbly highlighted, and make this book the stuff of legend. 

Hidden in these 2 stories is one awesome realisation - the 2 heroes have never used the power or the wealth that came their way for personal profit. One has to appreciate the way in which both - especially Ganagsagar Mishra - enters the murky world of crime and the shady side of politics, dwells on the border between law and lawnessness, uses the weapons of the system he is fighting against that very system. Neither have they used the power the further the cause of crime, but have rather used the gains therefrom to overturn those very unsavoury people.  

The book is surprisingly racy-paced and well written. As you reach the end of one chapter, you are tempted - sorely tempted - to skip the next chapter of the other era and continue the story in the same era. Credit to the author that has managed to pull the reader into each interleaving. Then, as you see the similarities and the linkages, you forget abut skipping altogether!

In summation, this is a unique book - unlike any other that you will have read. It mixes 2 separate genres - Historical Fiction and Political Thriller - quite successfully, creating a memorable book in the process. It sets a racy pace, has a unique storyline, a unique concept, an engaging style of writing and is a thoroughly enjoyable read! As you set it down after the last page- the story tends to stay with you. What more could you want from a book?  I started with a question - has the author pulled it off? Answer - Yes, he has! 

Sunday, 29 January 2012

General Observations on Driving {Non}Sense…

My job carried me on my trusty motorcycle - a Kawasaki Bajaj 4S Champion - to several states and on more highways than I care to count. What started as journeys undertaken with some trepidation soon became a fun activity, laden with many observations, life experiences and learnings that have stayed with me... and shall stay with me all my life. I have tried to encapsulate some observations on driving on roads, digging into what all my collective bosses hope is sincere working hours spent on a bike during the formative years of my career:

Common sense says beware of them. The newspapers say beware of them. The people say beware of them… I say that they are the best drivers on the roads. They come in various styles, shapes and sizes. Here I shall attempt to enumerate the styles:
1) The 40-km-an-hour truck: This guy will stick tape on his accelerator once speed reaches 40. Result? The damned truck will stay at 40 kmph come hell or high weather! Any kind of road, any traffic – he will stay at 40. Wont pass, wont allow you to pass – left or right! DON’T ride behind him for the love of mike, for he will like as not go to ZERO from 40 in the twinkling of an eyelid…
2) The Speed Demon: If a whiff of a gale force wind passes you by, and you can see the vehicle, then you’ve got yourself a speed demon truck. The most dangerous of the lot – beware of him. Let him pass sooner than soon – and for heaven’s sake don’t follow him as he overtakes!
3) The rest of the lot: These comprise the balance 90 – 95% of all trucks, and are generally very stable and good in the driving etiquette they display. Almost never have I noticed a miss from these guys.

Whats to worry, says your common sense, your friends, your newspapers and your spouse. This only goes to indicate that your common sense ought to be locked up somewhere... your common sense, friends, newspapers and spouse are specifically WRONG. These are the real problems- direct or indirect. They generally display a complete lack of driving sense and etiquette, will overtake from right or left, will speed, will NOT show dipper, will not allow you to pass – and if you perchance manage to somehow pass, will turn the highway into a racing track! Their types:

1) The racer: Unseen. Only heard and felt. Heard as a roar, Felt as a whiff of wind that shakes your vehicle from stem to stern. They, along with speed demons above, are the real killers of the road. Unlike a speed demon, if you see a racer coming, park your vehicle by the road side. The speed demon has more sense than this guy!
2) The stable guy: Nice dependable character. Only problem: he numbers around 5% of cars on the highways!
3) The selfish guy: Balance 90%. Charactarised by:
a) I will not show dipper. I will ride on FULL BEAM, saamewaaalaa be damned! {In 10 years, I have yet to meet a SINGLE truck who does not show dipper when I dip my headlights. Fact}
 b) Thou shalt not pass
 c) Thou shalt not blow horn – or else!
 d) I will not signal
e) I have purchased the middle of the road for my good self, it belongs to me, and I shall possess it till I reach my home

What is it with these car-waalaa drivers? In my considerable experience, very few car drivers show the consideration of the dipper on highways. I wonder why? Just compare with the trucks, who always do! I also wonder why the slow truck will drive usually by the road side, while the slow car occupies the middle of the road as a matter of right?


1) The value - lifers: These guys stick like glue to the left of the road, and will not leave come what may!
2) Duniya-hamari-hai: Twist accelerator to speed 90 and keep it there. Overtake wrong side et al – all the ills displayed
3) Miya-Biwis: Dangle all over the road, leading to honks etc etc!
4) The sensible types: Quite a few actually. Ride as per the road!
5) The Cyclists: Are extremely unpredictable!

As for the rest: you will get Bullock carts, cows, buffaloes, dogs, and many other variants, which make the road a panorama of some note!

The point that I want to make, well wonder about, is -

  • Dipper! Why, Oh Why dont more people give dipper? And in cities, why dont people drive on dipper? As I observed earlier, trucks almost always shift to low beam when someone gives them the dipper. Cars never do. Well, almost never. Truck drivers are on the road almost all their lives, and thus realise the importance of the dipper... 
  • When a vehicle approaches on full - beam, it blinds you for a few seconds. Secondly and far more importantly, you dont get any idea what lies behind this full-beam gentlemen. Why should it be so difficult for anyone to understand this simple point? It becomes a task just to navigate your vehicle... 
These are just some random thoughts that passed through my mind today while returning home after dark... a chance encounter with a gentleman / lady (as the case may be) brought my thoughts round to this... 

(This post has been inspired by one of my older posts on my old blog on mouthshut)

Friday, 27 January 2012

A statistical analysis of Indian Cricket since 2008...

Ok, so here we are... nearly 4-0. That makes it 8 in a row... who is to blame? Everyone is baying for the blood of the Indian Quartet of Tendulkar, Dravid, Laxman and Sehwag. Are they really to blame? I dont think so. OK, so I dont play or follow cricket too much. But my education has trained me in analysis, and statistics dont lie. Statistics are at the core of business, and they dont lie - only their interpretation and their presentation is at fault. We are looking at a short term scenario of 8 losses - that is point 1. Secondly, if we are looking at past performances, then we are presenting only that data for analysis that talks about results. A complete Data Sheet paints a completely different picture:

Count - Winner Result

Venue Drawn Lost Won Total Result
Away 7 13 6 26
Home 8 2 14 24
Total Result 15 15 20 50

  1. India has not toured Australia from April 2008 till date
  2. India has not been to England in the past 4 years!!!! Last England Tour was in 2007.
  3. We have lost 13 and won 6 abroad, counting this test. Remove the past 8 tests, and you still have less than flattering numbers of 5 lost and 6 Won Abroad. 
  4. These 6 away victories are :
    1.  West Indies
    2. 2 Sri Lanka
    3. 1 Australia
    4. 1 New Zealand
    5. 1 South Africa
  5. At Home, 14 wins to 2 losses! 
  6. In 2007, India played  10 tests - 7 away, 3 home. 2 lost, 2 won and 3 drawn abroad. Incidentally, the 2 won includes a win against Bangladesh!!!!

Not World Champion Stuff, I must say... I am beginning to think that our weaknesses lie brutally exposed... as we did not come into contact with England, which was also doing well. After the drubbing against England, the demotivation faced by the team ensured the Australia debacle. We perhaps became number 1 by default, caused by Australia's debacle, with the others being in no position to stake a claim. Perhaps they were playing away from home!!!!

And the last point is also critical: look at the figures after the coach change, and see the graph - especially away results...

Are the batsmen to blame??????? I dont know, but these figures are certainly queer, and thought provoking - and deny the accusations against our batsmen....

Team 1 Team 2 Winner Margin Ground Match Date Scorecard
Australia India Australia 122 runs Sydney Jan 2-6, 2008 Test # 1857
Australia India India 72 runs Perth Jan 16-19, 2008 Test # 1862
Australia India drawn
Adelaide Jan 24-28, 2008 Test # 1863
India South Africa drawn
Chennai Mar 26-30, 2008 Test # 1870
India South Africa South Africa inns & 90 runs Ahmedabad Apr 3-5, 2008 Test # 1871
India South Africa India 8 wickets Kanpur Apr 11-13, 2008 Test # 1873
Sri Lanka India Sri Lanka inns & 239 runs Colombo (SSC) Jul 23-26, 2008 Test # 1882
Sri Lanka India India 170 runs Galle Jul 31-Aug 3, 2008 Test # 1884
Sri Lanka India Sri Lanka 8 wickets Colombo (PSS) Aug 8-11, 2008 Test # 1886
India Australia drawn
Bangalore Oct 9-13, 2008 Test # 1887
India Australia India 320 runs Mohali Oct 17-21, 2008 Test # 1889
India Australia drawn
Delhi Oct 29-Nov 2, 2008 Test # 1891
India Australia India 172 runs Nagpur Nov 6-10, 2008 Test # 1892
India England India 6 wickets Chennai Dec 11-15, 2008 Test # 1898
India England drawn
Mohali Dec 19-23, 2008 Test # 1901
New Zealand India India 10 wickets Hamilton Mar 18-21, 2009 Test # 1915
New Zealand India drawn
Napier Mar 26-30, 2009 Test # 1917
New Zealand India drawn
Wellington Apr 3-7, 2009 Test # 1918
India Sri Lanka drawn
Ahmedabad Nov 16-20, 2009 Test # 1933
India Sri Lanka India inns & 144 runs Kanpur Nov 24-27, 2009 Test # 1935
India Sri Lanka India inns & 24 runs Mumbai (BS) Dec 2-6, 2009 Test # 1937
Bangladesh India India 113 runs Chittagong Jan 17-21, 2010 Test # 1949
Bangladesh India India 10 wickets Dhaka Jan 24-27, 2010 Test # 1950
India South Africa South Africa inns & 6 runs Nagpur Feb 6-9, 2010 Test # 1951
India South Africa India inns & 57 runs Kolkata Feb 14-18, 2010 Test # 1952
Sri Lanka India Sri Lanka 10 wickets Galle Jul 18-22, 2010 Test # 1964
Sri Lanka India drawn
Colombo (SSC) Jul 26-30, 2010 Test # 1966
Sri Lanka India India 5 wickets Colombo (PSS) Aug 3-7, 2010 Test # 1968
India Australia India 1 wicket Mohali Oct 1-5, 2010 Test # 1972
India Australia India 7 wickets Bangalore Oct 9-13, 2010 Test # 1973
India New Zealand drawn
Ahmedabad Nov 4-8, 2010 Test # 1974
India New Zealand drawn
Hyderabad (Deccan) Nov 12-16, 2010 Test # 1975
India New Zealand India inns & 198 runs Nagpur Nov 20-23, 2010 Test # 1978
South Africa India South Africa inns & 25 runs Centurion Dec 16-20, 2010 Test # 1985
South Africa India India 87 runs Durban Dec 26-29, 2010 Test # 1987
South Africa India drawn
Cape Town Jan 2-6, 2011 Test # 1988
Coach Change
West Indies India India 63 runs Kingston Jun 20-23, 2011 Test # 1997
West Indies India drawn
Bridgetown Jun 28-Jul 2, 2011 Test # 1998
West Indies India drawn
Roseau Jul 6-10, 2011 Test # 1999
England India England 196 runs Lord's Jul 21-25, 2011 Test # 2000
England India England 319 runs Nottingham Jul 29-Aug 1, 2011 Test # 2001
England India England inns & 242 runs Birmingham Aug 10-13, 2011 Test # 2003
England India England inns & 8 runs The Oval Aug 18-22, 2011 Test # 2004
India West Indies India 5 wickets Delhi Nov 6-9, 2011 Test # 2015
India West Indies India inns & 15 runs Kolkata Nov 14-17, 2011 Test # 2017
India West Indies drawn
Mumbai Nov 22-26, 2011 Test # 2019
Australia India Australia 122 runs Melbourne Dec 26-29, 2011 Test # 2025
Australia India Australia inns & 68 runs Sydney Jan 3-6, 2012 Test # 2027
Australia India Australia inns & 37 runs Perth Jan 13-15, 2012 Test # 2029
Australia India -
Adelaide Jan 24-28, 2012 Test # 2031