Thursday, July 30, 2015

A Hanging!

What would you have done if your loved one had perished in the bomb blast in 1993 in Mumbai?

Hope and pray that the perpetrators were brought to justice. You would have rejoiced when one of them gave himself up (for reasons best known to him) or was he nabbed? That he helped in the investigation would not have mitigated your hatred for the man when you read or heard that the man was one of the masterminds.

You wished him punished; in the least you wanted his life snuffed out. It wouldn't really mean much to you if he was hanged or shot or whatever. You had seen the mutilated body of your loved one & flinched at the thought of their suffering. If given a chance, you would have preferred a tortured death for the perpetrator.

You would have rejoiced when more arrests were made, but your joy quickly turned to confused sorrow when none were given the death penalty.

Your one chance of redemption was the death sentence awarded to Yakub Memon. You clung to that last straw. Forgiveness isn't for mere mortals, you said. Some one mentioned about the 2000 deaths in riots preceding the bomb blast; and that none of the perpetrators had been punished. But they were not your loved ones, were they?

Someone was seeking the abolishment of capital punishment. You prayed that it should be after this hanging.

Someone spoke of a Presidential pardon, you hoped against hope that the present incumbent wasn't like his predecessor. That woman had commuted not less than 37 death sentences.

Someone mentioned that 97% of those on death row were dalits and Muslims. To hell with statistics you said.

When the media reported a last minute parlay to commute the death sentence, you grew restless. "Get on with it!" was your silent prayer.

You cursed those prominent citizens who signed a petition asking for commuting the death sentence; what did they know of your suffering.

Your despair turned to joy when you heard that nothing had worked and Yakub would be hanged. You woke up this morning, whispered a prayer thanking the Almighty as you heard that the culprit had been hanged.

Evening fell. Somewhere in the depths of your soul you felt an emptiness. Justice had prevailed, or had it? Your loved one continues to be dead. You look at the photo of your loved one and tears well your eyes. Justice?

What would you have done if your loved one died in riots that preceded the bomb blasts? Hope and pray that the perpetrators were brought to justice. But nothing of that sort has happened. You look at the photo of your loved one and tears well your eyes. Justice?

And darkness falls signifying the end of yet another day.

This is written by Professor Lionel Aranha. He is an Adjunct Faculty in the Humanities & Liberal Arts Area of IIM Kozhikode. Follow him on Facebook here.

Tuesday, July 28, 2015

Me & Kalam.

I met him once, at IIM K, in a crowd of people. He was the President, I, a mere mortal. He endured to the students, I wasn't impressed. Over the years, I kept a tab on him. And I grew to like him.

And this is what I learnt from him, in random order:

a. Greatness is sometimes measured by simplicity, not by wealth.

b. Keep your religion to yourself, don't wear it on your sleeve.

c. The future of any nation lies in the youth. Mould them for works that will bring glory to the nation; not for politiking.

d. Believe in yourself. A boatman's son can become a scientist & a President of a Nation because he believed in himself.

e. Dare to dream but don't forget to wake up and make that dream happen.

f. Don't worry about the critics. They don't feed you or clothe you. And you can't please everyone.

g. Acknowledge old friends and colleagues who helped you and stood by you. Find time to spend with them.

h. A busy man finds time for everything.

i. There is no such thing as retirement when you can keep yourself occupied doing what you do best.

j. Leave footprints in the sands of time. Don't leave this earth without disturbing the sands of time.

k. Revel in working hard for yourself, your family, your friends and your country.

l. Be a unifying force. Don't be divisive. After all, your neighbour has as much right to be on the face of this earth as you have.

Never will be there be another A P J Abdul Kalam. Wherever you are Dr. Kalam, rest in peace.

A grateful nation bids you goodbye.

Adios Amigo!

This is written by Professor Lionel Aranha. He is an Adjunct Faculty in the Humanities & Liberal Arts Area of IIM Kozhikode. Follow him on Facebook here

Saturday, July 25, 2015

Our Middle-class Conscience and a Corruption-free India Cannot Coexist!

The anti corruption movement gathered steam few years back and over threw the central government and a few state governments. I was one among the guys who gave missed calls from mobile phones of all my family members in my house in support of the Anna Hazare movement. I even asked all my friends to give missed calls to the toll free number to show their support. I wished that few years down the line, ours would be a different nation from what we had then. But have things really changed? Did I stop paying bribes. NO. Even few days back I bribed someone in the hospital where my mom was admitted. It comes so naturally.

The feeling you get by buying out people gives you a high. You have to experience it to understand what I am saying. You may not have realized it, but yes it does give a high. For a particular period of time it seems like you have made them your slaves. The private hospital where my mother was admitted sucked the Vitamin M out of us like leeches and I am not required to bribe anybody. Things get done without bribing.. But if you do, you're given a wonderful service. You are treated like kings. I haven't seen a single person rejecting the money or tell me that they're just doing their work  and I need not pay them. I wanted to study their behavior and  manipulate by paying them. Not that I do not enjoy the heavenly service, I wanted to see their change in behavior upon receiving money

The driver who helped me

Does this act of mine seem hypocritical? YES. It is. Even a murderer would justify his action if you ask him. I am no different. I have had experiences where I acted like a good citizen and it cost the victims their jobs. One was working at a leading private bank and the other at a leading telecom operator. You cannot blame me for what I did. I was only trying to be a good citizen. I was promised something but got something else and I protested. I never thought my action would end in their termination. I did not want that to happen, all I wanted was what I had been promised.

In my cousin's office, a year earlier, they caught a guy accepting bribes and he was put behind bars. He was just few months away from his retirement but he landed in the jail without his PF money and pension. Incidents like this are good for the nation. These guys took bribes for doing their job. A few days back I saw a traffic police man taking bribe from a truck driver and had clicked his picture too. This guy wears Rayban sunglasses with a big beer belly and chews gutka and he deserves to be behind bars but he can still be seen near the Madiwala Police Station signal in Bangalore.

But would I pull the plug? Will I file a complaint with the picture I took of him accepting bribe.No. Why? The guy who got sacked from the private bank because of my protest called me and mentioned that his family would starve till he finds a job and he broke down. I should not have done that. I have never been confronted by someone like that before. His words scarred me. So would I pull the plug on anyone? No. I wouldn't. I also believe that some days you need people who would bend the rules for money. Like the other day when I had to rush back to my hometown because my mom was admitted in the hospital, I had to bribe the private bus driver to allow him to at least sit behind him and travel since there were no tickets available by either bus, train or flight. What if he hadn't allowed me? I cant even imagine the situation especially because entire Bangalore was shut down the following day on account of a bandh. On hearing mothers condition, he wanted to give back my money though his salary is only 12,000 a month. Allowing someone to travel behind his seat gives him some extra cash to run his family. But the same guy, on hearing my story wanted to give back my money.

I am sure, pulling the plug on someone would cost his job. His family would starve. May be he would never get a decent job again. If everyone thinks this way, can we stop corruption in India? No, a single message would cost this traffic police man's job and who knows, he might have a son or daughter studying in college and he/she might have to discontinue if he loses his job.

Do not jump to conclusions that I do not follow rules ever. I do adhere to rules and I do not flout the norms wherever possible. But when needed I work my way around to get things done. Answer this, would you be a stakeholder or just a silent spectator in such situations? Let me conclude on behalf of all the middle class folks out there, our middle class conscience and a corruption free India cannot coexist.

PS - Sorry for stereotyping the middle class folks but that is what the middle class folks like me do, ain't it?

Saturday, July 18, 2015

LIBOR Rigging.

LIBOR- Benchmark Interest rate

The LIBOR, which essentially mean London Interbank Offered Rate, is a benchmark interest rate based on the rates at which banks lend unsecured funds to each other on the London interbank market. It is published daily by the British Bankers' Association (BBA), and was first used in financial markets in 1986. The LIBOR rate determination comprises of a process whereby each day about 40 banks submit their interest rates - at which they plan and decide to lend to the trade organizations in their region. Then, aligning to the middle averaged quartiles, the high and the low bids are essentially discarded. It ought to be more out of a risk into its assessment as it in turn reveals the real cost of money of the bank. The Libor rates serves as a reference rate for mortgages, student loans, Financial Derivatives, and other financial products.

LIBOR Scandal

Many banks worldwide use Libor as a base rate for setting interest rates on consumer and corporate loans. When Libor rises, rates and payments on loans often increase; likewise, they fall when Libor goes down.
Major banks showcased to be healthier than they actually were during the financial crisis and made substantial profits (purging Libor interest-linked portfolios) by suppressing their funding costs and manipulating the rates through a setting process which proved to be opaque. This resulted in the International rate-rigging scandal. 

Profits and Prophets- The Cost of Capital for Alternative Investments

The Parties which were involved were traders and the managers at the major banks which included Barclays, Citigroup, UBS, RBS, BOA, JP Morgan, HSBC, Deutsche Bank and Credit Suisse – all of which are undergoing an investigation and might be fined further. The breach showcases that the banks deliberately tried to skew the Libor rate to make windfall gains on their large Libor interest-linked portfolios. The Regulators are trying to determine whether the banks submitted inaccurate data during the financial crisis. 

Tan Chi Min, a trader with RBS in a conversation with other traders said this in the year 2007, 

“It’s just amazing how Libor fixing can make you that much money or lose if opposite. It’s a cartel now in London”

Effect on the Markets worldwide

The pressure from the Libor rate setting scandal led to loss of ground for the Pound and the British currency against the Dollar and the Yen. The LIBOR incident adversely affected the European markets and is turning out to be among the largest financial frauds in history (Including mortgages, bonds and consumer loans). The significant negative effects are on European Financial Markets and consumers worldwide. LIBOR rigging and the Greece crisis made investing in the US markets a safe haven strategy which is evident from the recent rally. 

Fines for manipulation

Following reflects a list of banks that were penalized for this deed:
1. Barclays Bank was fined
$200 million by the Commodity Futures Trading Commission
$160 million by the United States Department of Justice
£59.5 million by the Financial Services Authority

2. The Royal Bank of Scotland was fined €260 million,
3. Deutsche Bank €259 million,
4. JPMorgan €80 million and
5. Broker RP Martin €247 thousand.

Survey by Members of CFA institute

A survey taken by CFA Institute Members about LIBOR resulted in the following.

Survey Results:

As per the survey:

56 % of members believe that an average rate based on actual interbank transactions would be the best methodology to set for LIBOR.

49 % believe that if the interbank market becomes very illiquid, using estimated rates would be acceptable. Herein, a higher proportion of those in APAC (62%) than in AMER (45 %) agreed.
55 % of members believe that industry bodies with regulatory oversight on top should administer and oversee the LIBOR. 

26% believe that bank regulators should administer and oversee the LIBOR. Also, a higher proportion of members in AMER than those in APAC and EMEA think that industry bodies should administer and oversee the LIBOR, though this method is the preferred one to administer and oversee it for 11% of all the members, globally.

As we analyze the results of various official investigations, it becomes increasingly apparent that not only were a large majority of financial institutions engaged in fraudulent manipulation of the benchmark LIBOR to their own advantage, but also that bank management and regulators were completely unable to effectively monitor the activity of institutions. That was because they were too big to manage and too big to regulate. One would think that the obvious conclusion here is that structural changes are needed to effectively regulate, something which has been proposed on numerous occasions by the Levy Economics Institute. Rather unfortunately, discussion in the media and political circles have turned to whether the problem was the result of the failure of central bank officials and government regulators to respond to repeated suggestions of manipulation, and to stop the fraudulent activities. This is a classic case of ‘Can’t see the wood for the trees' and thereby not addressing the real issue.

Groups Negatively Affected by LIBOR Manipulation:

Institutional investors
Consumers (borrowers and savers)
Global Financial markets

The way forward

It is high time the European banks fasten their seat belts by having more stringent rules and regulations implemented to end the anti-competitive practices and should be used within the broader context to preserve the exclusive dealing and to limit conflicts of interest. There should be better supervision by the compliance officers and they should be made accountable for the lapses. 


This article is written by Juhi Ramani. Follow her on Facebook here

Wednesday, July 8, 2015

Sincerely from heart.

Disclosure: I am someone who voted for AAP in 2014 Loksabha elections just because of the fact that no other political party was in a position to give me confidence of a corruption free and transparent governance. But I also thought Narendra Modi to be a guy with capability, integrity and considered him to be a rare species with an incorruptible tag when it came to governance. But just because of the fact that he was leading a party which had consistent history of corrupt top leaders(at least in states), I couldn't make my mind or convince myself of Modi single handedly transforming this party into one that could provide clean governance.

The current scenario, considering the Vyapam scam, conflict of interest issue with Minster of External affairs Sushma Swaraj and corruption allegations against Rajasthan Chief minister Vasundhara Raje, is what I had feared that central govt or Modi's leadership would face. But instead of celebrating for my prediction being right I would want Modi to prove me and others wrong by sacking these ministers rather than remaining silent as if such issues are non existent. If he acts strict on these issues then the whole nation will build a sense of confidence on this government for its commitment to clean governance. 

I know this is one big "Dharma Sankata" (Indecisive state because decisions can have opposite effects on two equal priority matters) for him in a sense if he supports the ministers and doesn't sack them then his promise of No corruption is affected and if he sacks them then things inside the party could worsen. But every great leader has faced such issues and they have become greater by finding solution to this Dharma Sankata by upholding in every sense that truth alone triumphs. Arjuna faced this same situation in the battlefield when he was suppose to fight against his own people for upholding the Dharma. Krishna, the god himself was there to guide him then. But in real life God can act only in a surrogate way. Onus is on us to find clarity in thinking and act in that direction.

This situation is also a test as well an opportunity for Narendra Modi to show his commitment to clean and transparent governance. If Narendra Modi utilizes this opportunity by exposing his ministers for the sake of the country, it can boost his Image so much that those who had doubts on his leadership like me will be silenced and many will become his ardent supporters. There are 2 more advantages to this. First one being that people in the party will become serious about their work and wouldn't want to get into corrupt activities which can call for strict action from Modi and second is that in future if  any corruption issues arise then people of the India will have tremendous faith in their Modi that the corrupt will be wiped clean and will not trust the Media or any other opposition party.

I sincerely urge Narendra Modi from my heart that he take up this opportunity given to him by God to show his commitment towards clean and transparent governance and earn people's confidence which is required for a leader like him who has huge plans for the nation. Without taking people with him it is difficult to implement those huge plans and get results. This is one big opportunity for him to get more people into his side. But will the PM break his silence.

This article is written by Raghupathi Bhat. Follow him on Twitter here.

Thursday, July 2, 2015

India celebrated Yoga Day... But why stop there?

China is known for its manufacturing prowess and martial arts, Japan is known for its culture and technology, Germany is known for its engineering, France for its art and fashion and Australia-New Zealand for its tourism. 

What about India?
Only recently has India been able to graduate from being associated with Taj Mahal, elephant rides and snake charmers to a global back office, IT powerhouse, Medical tourism and space exploration. However, India is much more than these things. It has its own rich culture and heritage, which is yet unknown to the world. India has always been leagues ahead in mathematics, science, literature and philosophy; but we have failed to build upon these to create a unique identity for our country.

In today’s age of globalisation every country is a brand and the way it portrays its brand image is how people perceive it and its countrymen to be.

Yoga, which originated in India around 5,000 years ago, is today a multi-billion dollar industry. Today it has become a global phenomenon and has spread across all corners of the world. It’s high time we reclaim our lost glory.

The first right step towards this was celebrating Yoga day. On 21st June, 2015, World celebrated International Day of Yoga, with India being in the forefront right from proposing the idea to organising various events and programs at various locations across the country and overseas. The biggest event was organised at Rajpath, Delhi, with 35,985 people from 84 nations performing Yoga together to celebrate Yoga Day which is a world record. Despite all the criticisms, in today’s era, even a big nation has to promote itself to attain a favourable global perception and celebration of Yoga day was one such event that garnered worldwide attention and re-emphasized the fact that Yoga is a way of life that originated in India, a country of great thinkers and intellectuals. 

But why stop there? There are so many things in Indian culture and philosophy which can be taken to the global level and thus help create an image of brand India. And what best way to kick-start the campaign than to dedicate a day to celebrate it!

Here are few of our suggestions. You may kindly go through it and vote for the one you favour the most. We would also like to hear your opinions and suggestions. So don’t forget to type in your suggestions in the comments box below.

Ayurveda is millennia old medical science of India which uses herbs, oils, minerals and natural supplements to treat nearly every known disease without any side effects. It is a known scientific fact that plants and herbs have medicinal value in it. Ayurveda is the most extensive study of those medicinal properties and how it affects our body, thus emphasizing its use in not just eliminating diseases, but also to keep the body healthy and strong. It has been practised, followed and improved upon for thousands of years. Ayurveda has a tremendous potential to bring about the next revolution in the field of medical science and attain premium position in the field of Alternate Medicines.

Indian music is something that you listen with your ears but is felt by your heart. Music has been an integral part of history and culture of India. Indian music has multiple varieties and uses various types of musical instruments. Its history spans millennia and has developed over several eons. Contemporary music has brought new ideas like fusion between traditional and modern music. Whatever the type or style, Indian music calms your soul. It transcends the barriers of language and region. It is truly universal in nature and its soothing effect has been scientifically proven. So why not promote it by celebrating Indian Music Day and let the whole world experience the beauty of Indian Music?

If Yoga is exercise of the body, maths is exercise of the brain. Indian Mathematics has given the world more than just zeros and decimals. There are so many theorems, properties, formulas and derivations that Indian scholars have come up with thousands of years ago. There are many alternate ways to solve a problem or to reach a decisive conclusion, which is hidden in this magical world of Indian mathematics. It was developed to such perfection that even before invention of any mechanical instruments, Indian mathematical scholars were able to do complicated calculations, determine accurate position and mass of planets and stars. Vedic maths has many alternate and quick methods that could help in day to day calculations, as well as highly complex ones. So why not inculcate it in our daily lives and perform mental, written or computerized calculations quicker and with more accuracy? The more you practice, the more perfection you attain. Vedic Maths surely deserves a day.

India is a land of languages. The prominence of languages can be determined by the fact that Indian states are mostly linguistically divided. Sanskrit, often known as the mother of all languages, is considered to be one of the best languages for Space and Computer Science. As per Census report, there are 30 major languages that are spoken by more than a million people, while there are 122 languages that are spoken by more than ten thousand people. Apart from these, there are 1600 other languages which are spoken in India. Learning a language is a doorway to discovering treasures hidden in the scriptures and literature of the languages. A report says that around 220 Indian languages have been lost in previous five decades. To preserve the diversity of Indian languages and to appreciate the vast knowledge base that is yet to be explored, we must promote Indian Languages Day to spread awareness among the people on the importance of our native languages.

Well, why not? If Yoga is exercise, then Kamasutra is exercise with pleasure. Kamasutra, which was composed in 400 BC, is perhaps the most widely known (and followed) Indian literature in the world. Kama = Desire, Sutra = Bond, hence Kamasutra means ‘Bonds which fulfil desires’. Contrary to popular belief, it is not just about poses or postures; it also describes various aspects relating to life, family and love. More importantly, it shows how open minded our culture had been when it came to learning new things and transferring the knowledge in the form of texts and visuals (Khajurao temples, Sun temple, etc). Of course, if we study the scriptures and culture of those times, we would realize how fulfilling desire and attaining pleasure was considered sacred enough to build several artefacts depicting them and writing thesis on them. Alas, like all the previously mentioned cultural gems, we have forgotten about this and its time we revive the knowledge (and practice) of this great Indian literature. When we have so many scriptures and temples that have withstood the test of time and are standing tall in glory since thousands of years, why can’t we dedicate one day to Kamasutra? This will be one day which will be truly celebrated across the world with whole hearted participation.

So these were five ideas we could think of to celebrate Indian culture and knowledge. I once again request you to kindly vote for your favourite day and write down your views or suggestions for any other ideas in the comment box below.

Ayurveda Day
Indian Music Day
Vedic Maths Day
Indian Languages Day
Kamasutra Day
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This article is written by Raju Verghese. Follow him on Facebook here.