Friday, 27 March 2015

Open Manhole!

LOCATION : INDORE

3 Days Ago, {24th March, 2015} Old RTO Road, in front of RTO : {I noticed it lay open for at least 2 days prior to this} 











TODAY, 27th March 2015, same place..






An open Manhole, lying open for days in a public place, in front of a Mandir... 

What makes things worse is that this stretch goes isolated at night. And right in the middle, an open manhole. Wow, what governance! Cant the Municipal people at least put a cover on it? Isnt it a potential risk? Worse still : No one cares! Why should they? It isnt their lives, isnt it? 

Update: Informed the authorities, nice and encouraging response. That is interesting, and raises questions on us the people. For the response was equally blunt : "aapne dhyaan rakkhhaa yeh kyaa kam hai"? Intend to send letter of thanks to the official once it is done... 

Friday, 20 March 2015

Corporate India : The Self-Perpetuating Vicious Conditioned Response

A LinkedIn Question on Managers, and their attitudes towards employee’s mental health triggered a thought process; Do managers really care about employee’s mental health?

No, they dont. I dont think this can be an argued, with; neither is this open to question. There are several documented surveys in existence that bear the proof : that disease of every kind is rising, and fast. Question is, does anyone care? No. Also true. Next question : can anything be done? Answer : No. Concluding Question : Why? Answer : The stupid idiot who tries to do something gets sacked, regardless of level. Statement of simple fact. 


It doesnt take a genius to figure out that you run everyone under incredibly high stress combined long with 14-hour days - there are going to be cases of burnout, breakdown, mental disorders, heart attacks, diabetes, Asthma, etc. That is basic 10th standard Biology. Everyone should and does know this. Still they dont care. If they did, things wouldnt be as they were. That is also an unfortunate truism. People at the top – some of them, at any rate – are also well aware of the range of issues, but shy away from doing anything about it. Why should this be so? And why is bucking the system so damned tough for even a top manager? 

But first, the proof. As proof, in May 2013, The ET carried a damning indictment of Corporate India and its work culture. { Analysed on my blog here : Corporate India, work stress and employee dissatisfaction. } It holds an interesting divergence, and a hint of the key. While the Employer view was that employees value Career, the Employee view was the e.x.a.c.t opposite : they value job security. Another sector specific survey identifies rising mental illness in Corporate India. A third has clearly delineated abnormal and rising rates of sickness – especially lifestyle diseases. Just reading these surveys makes clear the TOTAL disconnect between Top Management and Middle-Lower-Frontline Staff. 

At core of the issue lies a bunch of cowardly middle managers, who are too scared to speak; brow-beaten frontline and firstline managers who know that if they speak, khatam, finish. And at the core of that lies a disturbed authority-responsibility matrix that gives power to people who dont deserve it, or dont train people for the higher responsibilities. And it is this self-perpetuating matrix that is in effect a vicious circle, breaking out of which is virtually impossible. 

This vicious circle is actually indicative of a deeper systemic malaise: the internal systems and processes are not coping up with the changed business reality that is confronting the corporate scenario. And that, to my mind, is the core reason for what we have seen above. HR systems, fist of all, need to be strengthened to cope with the new reality. This has to go hand-in-hand with a more humane treatment to employees, with a receptive ear to their manifest and genuine concerns. 

And the proof of that {malaise} is simple; all you have to do is look, ask the right questions – for example, in the sales function,  just trace sales, cost of sales, distributor and team instability, cheque bouncing, customer complaints, vendor issues etc : all are directly proportional, whereas logic and experience both dictate they should ideally be inversely proportional. This is basis practical experience of tracing numbers. The problem : The PMS does not measure anything except the first parameter, which means that there is no reason to do anything about the rest. Result? Also simple to trace. Trace the brand failures, their number and rising incidence. {To those, esp HR people, who lay claim that the modern PMS does measure other parameters – my rejoinder; no, it doesn’t, but that is another story, for a different blog post. Stay connected}


At one level, people are just plain dumb, and too scared of chucking their jobs; that is admittedly a part of the problem. To that, I can only say  : come on, everyone! You are educated, a post-graduate {at least a graduate}, qualified, intelligent... dont you have confidence in yourself? Just because someone threatens you, you back down and do something against your nature, or the law, or plain common sense, or something that causes a loss to your team or the organisation or both? What that means is that you are good for nothing except what you currently do; that outside that comfort zone, you are a total failure.  

The second level is the rampant and completely one-sided belief that people who stay and compromise are resilient; nothing could be farther from the truth. Resilience does not mean compromising on the virtues and good values that differentiate a human from an animal. True resilience is standing up for your beliefs, and fighting it out. Staying and admitting defeat or compromising is admitting that you are incompetent, that the system has changed you! And, as we shall see later, this is the compromise that actually deepens the problem; it is this compromise that creates a vicious cycle.


What you see is a conditioned response; a response conditioned by organisational policies that are as harmful to the organisation as to the employee, policies that, acting in concert, create a vicious cycle, strengthening one message, and one message only. These policies, acting in concert, selectively build unhealthy competencies, simultaneously undermining the organisation's internal strengths and capabilities. This is a matter that lies at the door of the CEO, HR heads, OD Teams, Line Functions VP's and above, requiring deep-rooted policy level action and lots of time to correct. 

The policies in question the entire breadth of the organisation, and together coordinate to co-create what we see, what is evident in the various surveys, suicides, murders, pink slips, anger, heart attacks and lifestyle diseases cropping up. For example, the moment you promote based on end-result alone, without looking at the underlying factors, you are sending a strong message that reinforces the learning that anything goes. 

Even during hiring, the same message : with the focus being on your achievements, not how you did them; background checks also just check the veracity of the written documents, when they should in reality be talking to all concerned to get at the gist of the real performance of the person : has this person left behind a sea of problems, dissatisfied customers / team members etc? The proof is the ease with which people who are sacked for rampant financial irregularity get hired.


The same reinforcement goes into the people during meetings, with the focus being on achievements, with no serious questions being asked as to how these were done. Fact of the matter is that all of us know that there is no hanky-panky / short-cut that cannot be revealed in a set of targeted questions at the so-called high-achiever. Any fool with experience can expose the reality; it doesn’t require either intelligence or extraordinary levels of skill to pull that off.

This message is further reinforced when someone who has not performed is pulled up, usually in public, with no attempt to analyse the reason for the non-performance. This is actually a serious business risk- as a lack of competitive ability in the organization and its products first shows up in the non-performers’ numbers; the so-called performers, skilled as they are at getting numbers any which way, hide the erosion in competitive ability of the offering in the market. Result? Organisation after organization is taken by surprise as the entire edifice crumbles… when all you really had to do is put some time and energy understanding the non-performing areas in terms of strategic offering, not a purely tactical view. 

But this isn't done - sending, yet again, an exceptionally powerful message. A conditioned response is created. The same thing happens as leaders try to inculcate a uniformity in companies, leading to a team that thinks along a defined line, lacking the perceptive and functional in-depth skills that are built up by diversity. Yet again, the same message. This is further deepened when people compromise, and say “this is the way it happens”…

The exact same thing happens when people hire for stability, or for deep skills in one skill area; you are building a team that can and does crack open under pressure; these so-called stable, or skilled people, in reality have never seen adversity, or have no exposure to other areas, knowledge sets and experiences; this is a vital and needed parameter that builds a vital and strong organisation. In each and every case, a strong message is going : to succeed, this is what you have to do…


Each  and every policy and step taken, rather than engender a positive attitude and out-of-the-box thinking, further deepens the problem in a self-perpetuating cycle.

I have said it before; I say it again... 

In 16 years and counting, in a full 100% cases of failed products and launches, the frontline teams have predicted the outcome with 100% accuracy. Organisations regard them as not having knowledge; my experience at front, first and second line tells me they know more about the business realities than anyone else in the company; this is across functions as well, with faulty policies being rightly called as such in 100% cases by the people who are not listened to. You ignore them at your organisation's peril. No one speaks for the simple reason that speaking up is not encouraged; I have been told on occasion : teraa aadmi bahut boltaa hai, chup karao yaa nikaalo! Yet again, you are gving a message... a reinforcement...


This requires deep-seated change, and can only happen when people at the bottom start saying no, and give a push-back; which can only happen in a crisis period for the industry, when the bloodbath begins... Examples abound. Sad part is, in the bloodbath, many innocent careers are sacrificed. Hansa chugegaa daanaa.... etc etc... how to change this in any other way? I have no idea… if you do, drop a comment, and educate me! Cant be more honest than that.  

Tuesday, 17 March 2015

Make In India - A Critique

Make in India is the flavour of the season, almost - with Media going overboard on its prospects, and waxing eloquent on the benefits it holds for India. Lost in all this panjandrum are the voices - some small, like mine, and others highly influential, who have been raising questions {not objections} on this entire affair. Let us look at some hard facts, conclusive facts that can drill a hole through this initiative, or at least raise some serious questions. 


1) India is a primarily agricultural economy with employment in agriculture being at around 57% 

2) The total number of dependants on agriculture can easily be around 500-700 Million people, perhaps more 

3) Data supports the above : let us look at just one data point - number of land holding in agriculture. There are 121 Million individual land holdings in India. If you assume one family per holding, you are straightaway staring at a figure of around 500 Million. Add landless labour and support services, and you have a humongous number. 

4) Another proof can be had by taking a look at Census Data; more than 75% of the population stays in Rural India. The population of the top 200 Urban agglomerations do not exceed 20%. It was 15.4% as pre census 2011, and 14.4% if you take out the agglomerations and list only the cities. That is the reality. 

5) The Indian Economic structure is not a large-company structure; Corporate India - towards whom this plan is pointed - contributes less than 20% {I think it is less than 19% even} of national income. Ditto on any other parameter you may care to check up on. 

6) Another proof is the data on employment, which also shows a skewness towards unincorporated and unregistered employments, as also data on Rural-Urban split of employment 

7) Consumption data is another interesting data point, with the consumption of the bottom layers of economy having grown by around 1% since 1978, and by 3% in the top layers of the economy, thereby proving that increased economic activity does not lead to riches for all. We do not have consumption trends of consumables, unfortunately - so we have no way of knowing the relative speads of this increased consumption 


India isnt just about Corporate India, which is a rather insignificant contributor to any economic number you may care to anaylse; and there is a strong possibility that Make In India might not directly benefit the people who need change the most - the rural population, whose needs and challenges are not the same as those of Urban India; the same can be said of the economically deprived segments of our society.

In order that the potential of the bottom 80% of the population is unlocked, and the impact of growth is felt across all sectors and income-levels in a more equitable distribution, some basic steps are vital. In fact, it may even be possible that the absence of these steps might actually stall the entire MII initiative, and ground it fully and finally. I havent seen any indication from the GoI that it intends to do these; if it is in the works, excellent. If not, we are still hurtling form one crisis to the next. 


1) Agriculture ; Data again clearly show that nearly 93 Million of the 121 Million holdings are losing money on every crop {NSS - 2005; am not aware of any survey conducted after this}. This indicates that earning for the farming community have to improve; which means that the entire ecosystem needs looking at : viz subsidy structure and outlay, inputs, market access, price controls, APMC, price realisation at farm level, education of farmers in latest techniques, spread of knowledge from ICAR and other research places to farmers, etc. Not one point from these is being talked about. 

2) Unless the farmers and those dependent on agriculture earn real money, there is zero chance that they will educate their children beyond the basics - and even that is doubtful. Literacy does not mean education - and economic growth requires education, not literacy 

3) Rampant Health Problems in rural India; economic growth means health is a prerequisite. And we as an economy spend among lowest on health worldwide. Fact. 

4) Education{1} - IITs and IIMs are not required, where the focus currently lies - and quite a few of these people run away from India, and that leaves out scores of colleges that require upgradation. Why should we focus on building capabilities that enable those who dont want to call India their home encash and leave, forgetting their mother? Not all leave, I admit - but then again, we do not require more IITs and IIMs for internal candidates - it is far better to upgrade existing infrastructure that will benefit not the select few but the large majority! That is the need of the hour!

5) Education{2} - For the mid and lower level colleges to perform better - another input is the quality of incoming students; improving their education levels requires investment in primary and secondary education. This isnt happening - GoI is not spending on these 

6) Education{3} - Participative growth requires education that enables people to take advantage of the opportunities. This will not happen under the current MII plan, that is a foregone conclusion 

7) Education{4} - Education is a state subject, or a subject in the concurrent list, What initiatives are being taken by the states? What pressure is there on them to improve, to ensure proper education and implementation? 

Ditto Agriculture - with focus being on freebies and irrelevant matters like GM Crops which will have no impact whatsoever. Ditto health. It is one thing to give them money - which is excellent; quite another to ensure its proper utilisation. RBI report on states budgetary health 2013-14 categorically lists the improvements as well as shortcomings of the states of India, as I stated in an earlier article. Please google and read.

It is indeed a laudable objective that GoI has undertaken - MII; but the question remains, is the timing right? Can it be postponed will we have the right infrastructure and mechanisms in place? Of course it can; these years can be far better utilised in building strength and capabilities across the board rather than undertake a high-risk venture like MII. 

An initiative like MII requires a few basics to be in place for it to be successful and implemented smoothly without which, delays are inevitable, as also massive cost overruns as businesses find a lack of requisite resources playing spoilsport. Some, like a digital backbone, can be implemented side-by-side {see data at the end}; others cannot. These others are matters related to people parameters like health and education. 


1) Factories require workers, Where will you get them? If you get them only from Urban or Semi Urban India, the time taken for the percolation to reach rural India will ignite resistance as the perceived gap between Rural and Urban India increases. The objective is to make all India a wealthy nation - not just Urban India. Does rural India have the ability as of now? I do not think so. As I stated above, there is a massive difference between literacy and education. We need education, not literacy.

2) They require Land. Where will you get land? Create draconian laws that ignore the interests of farmers? You do that - and you are guaranteed failure. We are a democracy, and have an excellent judicial system. The only result of ignoring the land-owners interests will be court proceedings, resulting in stalling of the entire MII initiative fully and finally. Irrefutable historical evidence exists of this. There is no option but what the UPA did- approval of 70% {pecentage negotiable as per me; point is community interests need taking care of} of the community who stand to lose. 

Urban India has no conceptualisation of Rural India; MII only stands to benefit the Urban population, not the interiors. And the result of a skewed growth will be another crisis as Urban India will not find the resources to fuel their growth as they go into hinterland, leading to a massive crisis of gargantuan proportions, given Corporate India's idiotic penchant of investing without proper analysis and on half-hearted reports created by people living in secluded AC environs of Metros, from excel sheets and data inputs which are highly suspect for their content and accuracy. 

That leads me to the most vital set of reforms - proper data collection, and statistical analyses; and digitisation of everything - which includes digitisation of land records, economic activity, data collection authentication and analysis, everything. Please remember that Millions of our enterprises are unregistered, and Millions more do not reveal the full story. For a proper reasoned analysis - data is vital; and unless captured properly and completely, surprises will arise that will cause hiccups, delays and wrong turns.

There will be tax and legal repercussions that will need to be thought through - which is relatively simple; It will also require taking various vested interests on board, which is exceptionally hard, and the only real challenge; vested interests who will see no benefit in lieu of losses in various ways - not without the concurrent reforms in the comments above. The result? More delays. 

On the dream of digital India etc, please take a look at the reality in a national perspective. Coverage alone will suffice, we need not go into the aspect of quality of coverage, which is a subject unto itself. Data Points in the coverage do not support the contention of most people that India is a digital nation. And data is sufficiently important a factor for it to merit an independent analysis, given that we are in the information age. The reality is starkly exposed by data :

Average Data Usage Per Customer Per Month on GSM : 62.16 MB; CDMA : 192.99; Avg Tot : 70.10

Broadband : 68 Million; Narrowband : 190 Million subscribers approximately


Data Arpu, while it is growing, is still in the doldrums; the average Indian consumer consumes less than 500MB as per this news article - a figure that is corroborated by the TRAI report.

The figures above are again borne out in this report : http://www.trai.gov.in/WriteReadData/WhatsNew/Documents/PR-TSD-80-05122014.pdf, which clearly states on page 12 that the number of user in India on 31st October accessing speeds of greater than 512kbps is 75.73 Million, including 60.61 Million from mobile devices.


We are a nation of 1.27 Billion! Penetration is abysmal; can we afford to wait till penetration rises? Will it rise in the absence of other reforms - or will it hit a glass ceiling? The data clearly states that only a small insignificant segment of our population stands to benefit from the data revolution as of now; things are changing fast - but this is where it stands today. This goes hand-in-hand with income - for the people in the bottom income levels to gain, they should be educated, and earning enough to have access to the services. 



We do not, as per me, have the proper ecosystem to sustain such an initiative; at least not one that can ensure fast devolution of benefits to the lower income segments. We run the risk of increasing the income differential. Furthermore, MII requires an ecosystem conducive to it, not rhetoric.Is it rhetoric? Or is it real? We dont have enough data to make a definitive conclusion of that as yet. But the indicators are worrisome. Let us see.

Saturday, 14 March 2015

Sick Mentality, Moral Depravity Or Just Plain Fear?

Sick Mentality, Moral Depravity Or Just Plain Fear?


Yet another accident… yet another victim… and yet again, our lack of decency, humanity, empathy and caring lie exposed. Yet again, we lie exposed for what we have become as a people – uncaring, depraved and self-centered people who care nothing for anyone not related to us, who feel no empathy and no pity for any person not directly emotionally connected with us. My head hangs in shame… what have we become as a people? How did we become so heartless, so cruel?


“”

She lay bleeding on the road in front of St John's Church at AJC Bose Road-Ripon Street crossing for about 25 minutes in rush hour. What makes it even more shocking is, people went about normally all around her. One flank of AJC Road was then packed with vehicles bringing students to two of Kolkata's most reputable schools. On the other flank, buses carrying passengers to Sealdah and the IT hub of Salt Lake jostled for space.

Yet, no one stopped to help an injured woman.


If anyone thinks this is an isolated incident, think again… remember Nirbhay, and how no one came to help her? Or you can also do a simple google search – or go and read at least one more article on my blog itself. This is the fourth case I have documented of such brutal and heartless behavior of Indians towards their fellow citizens, fellow humans in dire need. This is what we have become – morally defunct, without any sense of humanity, decency, honesty…



I would like to ask all India – what would you feel like if someone you know and love {God Forbid} goes through a similar experience – and you chance upon him or her lying on the road, bleeding – and in need of help? What would you do? Take a snap, or just look, and walk away? No? If not, why not? And what would you feel like if you ran to people for help – and they just looked away, walked away? Shame on you, shame – all of you who walked away, or looked away in all such cases. If you are reading this, let me tell you – you are a disgusting and brutal excuse for a human. Even an animal tries and helps its own species in distress!


The mere thought of it makes my blood run cold… my mind freeze in shock at the sheer uncaring, inhuman and cold-blooded brutality displayed by everyone.  Are we so depraved, bled dry of all that our resplendent culture has taught us, devoid of all humanity and morality that we will let people die? This despite there being a series of commendable decisions by the courts supporting the helpers? How can such people go in front of their families, and face them? How do they manage to look their loved ones in the eyes? And what do they think that God is not watching? I am shocked… just plained stunned at this shocking display of selfish brutality by the average Indian! Chhi! Shame! Shame on us, all of us!


WHAT LIES AT THE CORE OF THIS BEHAVIOUR
What lies at the core of this inexplicable display of moral turpitude, this display of depraved or wicked behaviour or character? Is it that the average Indian’s character has gone bad? Have we become the demons of our age, the Raavan or the Duryodhan of the modern age? The evidence would certainly support such an indictment; there can be no doubt of that. Walking away from a wounded and dying man certainly qualifies for a wicked character. That is certain. Except for one thing : Both the above were very learned and able men. We certainly aren’t either; we are worse, if anything – judging from the above.


The only other explanation – fear. Fear of hurt or loss to self due to a lack of trust in the systems that govern us. As I observed – this fear persists in the face of repeated court interventions and decisions telling people, exhorting people to help victims without fear. Yet, such horrifying displays of crass inhumanity persist, pointing to a large and yawning gap between the people and the system.


The need of the hour then becomes planning and executing steps that can be taken to bridge this gap; to lessen the fear in the minds of the people. This would involve educating and reforming the interface between the people and the system – the front-facing Government staff like the police and civil servants, and ensure that they are more receptive to the genuine needs of humanity.


However, having said that, these representatives also come from within our society. And if these people are still harassing the helpers {I don’t know that, to be honest- that is why the qualification “if”} it calls for deep seated reform within the system. But more pertinently, this also goes to prove that there is an additional factor beyond “fear”; that fear cannot explain everything. Had fear been the sole causative factor, then at least the interface would have been more friendly, and more caring.


And if they aren’t harassing the helpers, which is a distinct possibility given the many decisions, and the absence of media hue and cry on this - such cases goes to show that we as a people are unthinking and self-centered, and morally defunct and depraved. We just don’t care. Not even when there are such blood-curling cases happening. That is a simple conclusion that can be drawn. We all of us need a deep relook at our priorities, our morality and our lives.


If we assume that there is some fear factor that lies at the core, along with other problems, then the solution could be canvassing door-to-door or otherwise reaching out to the people – not impersonally through media  - but with the personal touch and assuring people that they wont be harassed in case they have to help. This requires deep and systemic reform within the police system and other administrative reforms, which will enable the police to be a bit freer to execute such tasks; but it is doable, and very practical. This will also go a long way in building trust within communities and rebuilding some character in the people.


But how can that happen, when we the people are ourselves  not wanting such reforms? Even the courts want them, the police themselves want these reforms, but no. Not we the people. We all go excited over nonsense and / or relatively unimportant aspects, but are not concerned about this very vital set of reforms that can redefine the way we live. We are too self centered in our ways, too idiotic in our approach to see how we are harming ourselves by such activities…


Friday, 13 March 2015

Defence : Budget Brings No Cheers {Business Standard}

I normally carry my own articles and analysis; for the first time, please read an article on Business Standard on the Defence Forces {Business Standard}, which is self-explanatory, and is a factual analysis. This is a small attempt from my side in educating the people, at least those who may not be aware. The genuine needs of our Defence Forces cannot be put off; having said that, it is equally true that we are a developing country, and funds are always going to be extremely scarce. 

But does that mean we spend historical lows on defence in percentage terms? I am sure the Government can find space in the budget for a better allocation to the genuine needs of the security forces. I understand the difficulties faced by the government, and am not stating the Government doesn't want to; they have to make some difficult choices in the governance of the nation, and are a democratic government. They have to meet the needs of a diverse set of requirements, all of which are genuine. 

That is why I appeal to the people - can we please allow and ask our government that we the people can make some sacrifices, and that please ensure proper allocation to the defence of the nation? I do not know what those sacrifices will be myself; but I am certain of one thing - if we empower our government, and build democratic pressure on them, they can easily find half-a-percentage point of GDP more to allocate to defence, or at the very least, a decided, definable, emphatic and firm increase in the allocations as well as other steps that may be needed to modernise and make our defence better than it already is. All it requires that we the people empower our Government, which is clearly one of the best we have had, with our support and voice for such a step enabling them to take the hard decision that will perforce be required. In true democratic fashion. Please keep in mind the challenges we as a nation face on the security of the nation, India!

The articles lists in detail the genuine requirements of the Armed Forces of India; I request all to read the article. The link to the original article is provided above. And please remember that no one can state with certainty that we will have to fight a war; then again, it is also true that no one can say for certain that we wont. It is better to be prepared; furthermore, we the people of India owe it to our protectors, The Armed Forces, to do something for them. They deserve our support, and more. 



THE ARTICLE:

For the armed forces, Budget brings no cheer : Ajai Shukla, March 9, 2015, Business Standard



The Budget presented on February 28 has disappointed the armed forces. With acquisitions in the pipeline worth almost Rs 20 lakh crore, military planners protest that the allocation of Rs 94,588 crore, not a rupee more than what was allocated in last year's budget, is far less than what is required.


Over a period of 15 years, Rs 31 lakh crore worth of acquisitions are needed, say sources in the that carries out long-term planning of acquisitions for the three services.


Adding to the military's disquiet is the repeated inability of the ministry of defence to spend the capital budget on new equipment. Year after year, chunks of the capital budget are surrendered unspent, or diverted to the revenue budget for funding running expenses like military salaries, and maintenance of equipment. (TIGHT PURSE STRINGS)

Walking a tightrope

A Business Standard analysis of equipment requirements over the next 15 years and the likely funds available finds a precarious balance between needs and means.

In the near term, there is precious little money to meet the three services' requirement of Rs 20 lakh crore worth of equipment. However, as the years go by, especially in the next decade, an expected real increase of 10 per cent per annum will allocate Rs 22.5 lakh crore by the end of 2027-28 towards the military's capital budget.

This includes a cumulative total of Rs 5 lakh crore for the army, Rs 5.65 lakh crore for the navy, and Rs 7.72 lakh crore for the air force. Another Rs 4.17 lakh crore will provide capital funding for Defence R&D Organisation (DRDO), Ordnance Factory Board, joint staff, railroads and military land and buildings.

Given the army's requirements of Rs 5.29 lakh crore, that leaves a shortfall of Rs 30,000 crore. Thewill be short of Rs 1.75 lakh crore. The alone might have the money it requires.

These projections assume that the distribution of funds between the three services remains static. In fact, the share of the navy has steadily grown over the years, rising from barely 5 per cent of the overall defence budget to 16 per cent today. The military implications of a "Look East, Act East" policy might result in further increases for the navy, with some analysts predicting that the navy's allocations might inch up to 20-23 per cent of total military spending.

Future budgetary projections are always uncertain, and Lieutenant General Anil Chait, who coordinated tri-service budgetary and acquisition planning until he retired as chief of the Integrated Defence Staff last May, points out that with 60 per cent of the military's equipment requirements being sourced from abroad, any significant rupee devaluation would indeed buy less.

Battling for modernisation

While the army remains the service most in need of modernisation, land systems in general are significantly less expensive than aircraft and naval equipment. A large chunk of the army's modernisation budget will go towards procuring, or indigenously building, modern howitzers, rocket launchers and various missile systems. There will be large expenditure on modernising the army's mechanised forces, including the indigenous development and production of a main battle tank and infantry combat vehicle.

Also being developed indigenously is the digital backbone for a "networked force", which will include communications and data networks like the tactical communications system, as well as soldier-specific networks like the battlefield management system which was kick-started last week.

Trouble at the seas

The navy's maritime capability perspective plan envisages a 160-ship force that is centred on 90 capital warships like aircraft carriers, destroyers, frigates and corvettes. While there are currently more than 140 vessels, the navy has barely half the destroyers and frigates it needs. About five ships need to be inducted each year just to replace warships that are decommissioned after completing their 30-40 years' service. Much of the navy's modernisation budget, therefore, would go towards constructing new warships and submarines.

Submarines will form a thrust area. These include twelve conventional submarines, of which six Scorpenes would start rolling out of Mazagon Dock next year. Another six will be built in India along with a foreign shipyard. will build another two nuclear missile-carrying submarines of the Arihant class and develop and build six nuclear-powered attack submarines.

A hefty chunk of the expenditure will go towards developing a brand new naval base on the Andhra Pradesh coast at Rambilli, which will be the key operational base for the Eastern Naval Command. Money will also be spent on the Western Naval Command's premier new base at Karwar, and on naval facilities in the Andaman & Nicobar Islands.

Air strike capabilities

With just 35 fighter squadrons against the authorised strength of 42 squadrons, and with another 11 squadrons likely to be decommissioned before 2022-23, the air force's focus is on acquiring fighter aircraft. Besides the Rafale medium multi-role combat aircraft, it will buy six squadrons of Tejas light fighters, 80 more Sukhoi-30MKI fighters under an existing contract, and upgrade its fleet of 50 Mirage 2000 and 125 Jaguar fighters. There is under way an Indo-Russian programme for 144 fifth-generation fighter aircraft as well as another DRDO project for at least 150 advanced medium combat aircraft.

These procurements do not include a host of high-tech development projects that are planned for developing the battlefield capabilities of the future: space surveillance, launch-on-demand satellites, hypersonic vehicles, electronic warfare systems, cyber warfare capability, unmanned combat aerial vehicles and a range of drones that have precision strike capabilities. DRDO has programmes under way to develop high altitude long endurance and medium altitude long endurance drones, long range cruise missiles and an anti-ballistic missile shield to shoot down incoming nuclear-tipped ballistic missiles.

None of these have been budgeted for, except through the DRDO's budget. However, in a 15-year perspective, some of these projects might reach fruition, but their introduction into service would require additional funds.


Tuesday, 10 March 2015

Book Review : The Rise Of The Grey Prince

THE SAGA OF AGNI

THE RISE OF THE GREY PRINCE

By Arka Chakrabarti : You can read more about the author on this link :  Interview


If you have read the first part :  4 stars. If you have not read it, 2.5 stars. That should tell the reader of this review all he or she needs to know.

Image result for the rise of the grey princeThe first time I picked it up I just could not make any sense out of it. It was all Greek and Latin to me; nothing made sense, and nothing connected to anything. The land portrayed was alien, the people were completely alien, the narrative connected to events of which I had no knowledge. I found myself constantly leaving through pages, going back and forth to make some sense out of it. And then, I almost gave up. And then, I re-read the most critical page - The Story So Far. 

It was a slow and tedious build-up, as the names and characters were totally unfamiliar; and the layout alien. But the concept- that was the puller; that was the attraction. The concept of a fantasy novel always has attraction - and if it is one that is well executed, and real and practically written - then it is a very attractive package...


THE PLOT
Had I read the first part, I could have enjoyed it fully. There is a link back in the book, with a short prĂ©cis on what happened in the first part; but it does not suffice. It is badly penned and presented; there should have been attention to this vital aspect of the book. "The Story So Far" is the most critical section of the book, and needs urgent and immediate refurbishment. It only connected up slowly as I read the book; only then did things make sense. The learning is : have patience; this is a good book. It will connect up. 

The book is about a fictional land called Gaya, divided into two continents - The Land Of The Rising Sun, and The Land Of The Setting Sun. It focusses on the main protagonist : Prince Agni, his guru Sidak and his friend Vrish; alongside Prince Yani, in whose father's care Agni grew up. 

The story revolves around The Abode Of Seven, a sort of oligopolistic dictatorship over The Land Of The Setting Sun. A seer has prophesied that a prince will take this down, which is what leads to all Princes being targeted. Agni's father takes on  The Seven, and smuggles him out; Agni grows up in The Rising Sun, unaware of the reality. 

This is the backdrop of the story of the current book. This 2nd part focusses on Agni, Yani, Sidak and Vrish, as their lives intertwine as a result of the past, and through them the author tells the story of Agni returning to the Land of the Setting Sun, the place where it all began,, where Agni returns - to hunt for his mother; and to hunt for answers to the many questions in his mind. 

THE ANALYSIS
First, the "The Story So Far" section needs to be properly organised. Second, the start of the book should ideally give a list of characters and the basics of those characters, which is vital given the length of the story, and its complexity and number of characters. This is what some other authors have done; this helps in furthering the absorption of the material.

Charectarisation is not upto the mark; the characters have not been properly filled out in this book at least. This could of course be due to the fact that the character development happened in a previous book; in which case a small short but effective summary of each character on re-introduction becomes vital. As things stand, as the characters are not fleshed out and are in addition completely alien as well as in an alien or fantasy setting, they just do not register or impress. You do not make a connect with any character. 

The story is fast-paced, develops rapidly, and is enthralling once you get into the story, and begin to make a connect with it. This part has been properly handled, and this is what tells me that the story is worth reading. The key is getting clarity as to what happened in the book, as I clarified above. 

All in all, this is a very promising concept, and could be a top-notch fantasy thriller, if the points highlighted above are taken care of. The narrative is fast and interesting, the story has been handled well, and the concept is fascinating. All it requires is attention to detail, proper presentation, and properly fleshing out the story so that late comers can also connect; this will work in two ways. 

First, it will heighten enjoyment for readers of the entire series, as they will like as not have forgotten the contents of the previous book/s - and will thus serve as a reminder to them. Second, for newcomers, it will ensure that they understand the concept properly and will cut down negative reviews of the book. The current presentation does not meet the mark; that apart - all else is great. Should you buy into the series? If you are into fiction, then no reason why you shouldn't; the concept is fascinating.