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Tuesday, February 21, 2012

Democracy & Capitalism- Its Time to Adapt !

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I wrote a post in March last year hoping that 2011 will be remembered as an year of Democracy. Things changed significantly since then. Though nothing concrete has been achieved yet, but we have taken a giant leap in its truest sense. Call it a coincidence, but somehow then I felt that the winds of change which began blowing from the deserts of Middle East can sweep the globe and can potentially bring change, for the good!

Below is the brief excerpt of the article written year ago -

2011 will be remembered as the year of democratic reforms, reforms by the people, for the people, as it was meant to be. 2011 will also be remembered for the pace at which these reforms/ uprising/ revolutions have materialized. Let us leave the task of categorizing these events as people's reforms/ uprising/ revolution to historians, but what is more important is the fact that Arab nations which were never associated with ( in popular media, stereotypes) a place where free will, free speech prevails can embrace democracy. So whatever was considered impossible, is actually possible !


As we are venturing into 2012, we feel more optimistic then we were couple of years before. Greed and lust for power and money bred anger and hopelessness. In 2011 we saw a controlled outburst of this anger caused by acute state of hopelessness, which slowly gave us the much needed hope and belief in ourselves ! We saw what  a common man in Syria and India can achieve.

Post World War II, Democracy and Capitalism have stopped evolving and past 2 years have highlighted significant flaws in both the systems. We always thought that these systems are perfect but slowly we ourselves discovered the severe shortcomings in both. What started on Wall Street ended up in ballot boxes of Middle East and soon it will be extended to ballot boxes in US and India.

In past few years, Democracy and Capitalism have learnt a lessons from each other.
We all are aware of the founding principles of Democracy - by the people, of the people and for the people. Easier said, wrote, discussed then executed. Democracy which was supposed to be all inclusive, equally beneficial to all has been grossly misused by a handful of people in almost any country of the world post second World War. Though we are living in a Era of Information, but still we cast our votes, select our rulers, government based on our age old instincts.

The premise of Capitalism lies on maximizing the benefits of the all the stakeholders in proportion of their stakes. Capitalism appreciates merits, pays for hard work. If Democracy (i.e We the People) truly starts appreciating the hard-work, fire the unworthy, identify and reward based on merit and not on birth, color or sex, things can change significantly over next few decades. A lot of problems about governance and corruption which democracy bred, knowingly or unknowingly can be solved if Democracy borrows few ideologies from Capitalism.

Capitalism though promotes merit, has remained highly selective and restrictive at times. Lot of people worked hard for generations, but remained poor, lost their voice. Capitalism enthroned 'selected few' on the other end of the spectrum. The 'selected few' grew rich, powerful, untouchable and even mightier than the democratic governments.

The gap between those sitting at Zenith and Nadir in both the systems, Democracy and Capitalism has increased exponentially in past few decades.

ultimately took a nose-dive off from the peak tasting dust. If Capitalism can be more inclusive and participatory, open and accountable as Democracy is, lot of problems of greed, financial crimes and corruption can be solved in a jiffy.

Quiet surprisingly, more than 15% of the people in the world do not seems to care about either. Lets see for how long !!

I am sure in years ahead will be bit more Democratic and a bit less Capitalistic!

Friday, February 17, 2012

Simple, Pragmatic Suggestions to Election Commission

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Dear Sir,

We sincerely Thank you for providing us, reasonably good elections so far. While a lot has been achieved but still lot more is required towards Electoral Reforms. We realize that Free and Fair elections are foundation for any Democracy. We also realize that its we the voters who should come forward and play our part, but unfortunately we are sometimes occupied with our jobs, household chores, meetings or even watching the entertaining head over heels Bollywood movies. While all of our consumeristic heeds are important to push us ahead of China, we realize that by not sparing time to vote, we are insanely leaving our houses open, hoping that the Ram Rajya will prevail. While we have many other explanations about why we hope for Euphoria to prevail and prepare ourselves to be embraced by the daemons from heaven, we have few simple suggestions which can make our and your life bit more easy and comfortable. We are not challenging your or capabilities, but we believe that these suggestions can be easily incorporated -

1. Please try to plan to elections over weekends and/ or over lapping with some public holidays. I know that certain officials might not be inclined to work during such odd times, but I think that this step can significantly increase the voter turnout across all categories such as working professionals, students or housewives. We, the people wont mind spending half of the off day to vote, but the probability of voting decreases significantly, if its organized on one of the hectic weekend.

2. Please try to increase the number of voting booths, so that its easy for you to monitor voting in each booth and it takes less time, thus will not hamper many of us from voting, who cant afford to spend hours in que under sun, due to various reasons.

3. Please make some special arrangements for physically handicap, elderly people, pregnant women at the polling booths.

4. As you might be aware that in 20 major cities of our country more than 100 million people, reside, i.e more than 10% of the total population. A significant percentage (guesstimate> 50%) of people are not bonafide of that particular city, hence cant vote. Similarly in several Tier 2 and Tier 3 cities and towns (by population). Overall all these migrants (in metros, major cities and towns, including the NRIs) should total to more than 100 million India citizens, who cant vote. So please make simple and clear policies so as to include this group into election process.

5.  Instead of investing your time and resources in taming the Elephant, please try to tame the Liquor barons, the free food, drugs, cash distributors. You may disqualify candidates who found doing these un-democratic misdeeds and all his relatives from contesting in election for next 15 years. Please go on and ban that political party from contesting in the election of that specific constituency.

6. In addition to publishing all information on website, please create information kiosks in each village, town and city from where the citizens can gather information about the affidavits filed by each candidate, current and previous election manifesto of each political parties etc.

 7. Please the Government of India to allocate more funds to you, so that you can round the year propagate and educate the citizens about their rights and responsibilities.

8. Mobile Booths - Big trucks or vans can be converted into a Polling Booth which can travel to remote areas, Colleges, Hospitals, IT Parks etc where lot of potential voters reside but who are not able to visit Polling Booths due to insane traffic, heavy work schedule etc.

Implementing above suggestions wont cost too much of Exchequer's money, but will definitely improve the participation of we the people thus bolstering democracy in many subtle but powerful ways.

Of course the above list is not exhaustive, please add your suggestions in the comments and we can subsequently send an email/letter to Election Commission !

Tuesday, February 14, 2012

A Bird's Love !

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I can do what I like,
For me people are alike.
I do love their distinctness, their individuality,
But I have my own version of reality.

I can see you in high and low,
Often, staring right across the window
While I am here right on my tree,
Unnoticed, happy and carefree.

And then I fly,
Up there high, very high,
In the serene, blue sky.
Under the Sun shine, seldom I shiver
Across the clouds, over the river.
Above the mountain all blue and white,
Shining bright in the day light.

And then with night, I come back
With growing moon light, I come back.
 Perhaps, on the same tree.
Where again its me, only me.
And then, I rest.
In my nest,
Feeding my kids,
Hoping for the best.

With next lustrous ray,
They open their eyes.
I set my sight
On the tranquil, Orange Sky.
And then I fly,
Up there high, very high.

Nothing more, I will never need.
For, this is everything,
I ever Loved.


I started Writing this poem almost 8 years ago. I am glad that found it safe on my hard-disk (Don't ask how it reached my hdd, because I dont remember that :)) !

Saturday, February 11, 2012

From Poverty to Samruddhi - A Microfinance Solution

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Poverty remains one of the biggest challenge India is facing today. Unfortunately the number of poor living in abject conditions by any normal standard, is much more then the population of most of the continents. We all know about it, we all discuss about it and sometimes we even give some donations, but very few of us actually go on to soil our hands in mud and clay, work towards solving this problem.

One organization working silently to eradicate poverty is Samrudhi Microfinance Society. Microfinance is an effective tool to combat poverty. It helps people to help themselves. By providing small loans to low income women entrepreneurs Samrudhi aims to help several communities to get rid of the vicious circle..

Samrudhi Microfinance Society, recently launched an updated website - We Care India. The new website allows individuals like me and you to extend micro-loans through their websites. These loans are repaid back to the lender in around 12 months. I find this concept far better then blind donations. The lender can track the progress of the borrower online. Samrudhi helps the borrowers in several ways, so as to ensure that they pays back the loan in time.

Samrudhi is currently participating in an online contest organized by Global Giving. If Samrudhi can raise $4000 through Global Giving contest page here they will be listed on Global Giving website permanently. This will provide much needed online exposure to Samrudhi. If Samrudhi is successful they will also get matching grants from several corporate in UK and USA. I hope readers of this post will appreciate the work of Samrudhi and will help them to win the contest.

It's very difficult for most of us to realize how much interest people in rural India or urban slums pay to get cash so as to buy household items or to run their small business for few days. Banks or other financial institutions are not interested to even open account for such truly needy and hardworking people, because of the risk involved. So these men and women are left with no other option but take small loans (e.g. Rs.100/day- Rs.5000/month etc) from these lenders, also known as loan sharks.  I remember having a conversation with vegetable seller in my town. She told me she lends Rs.100 in the morning and returns back Rs.120-Rs.130 in the evening or next day. Loan sharks are omnipresent in India.

Lack of access to funds has multifaceted affects on the lenders, borrowers and the economy. Such transactions generate black money in the process, which loan sharks keep in the form of cash or gold. My guesstimate is that around $ 8-10 Billion black money is generated by this exercise. Secondly such high interest loans comes with high pressure including life threats. Several people are unable to repay such high interest loans from loans sharks. Some of them breakdown and abandon their families, some unfortunately ends up committing suicides.

Other organizations, I am aware of working to combat poverty in a sustainable manner having Internet based loan facilitation model are Rang De and Milaap.

Tuesday, February 07, 2012

And I think I am Smart !!

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I purchase goods from a  mega sale.
Yes, the huge discount was too much to resist.
I never cared to check few weeks before
Or after that sale.
But, yet I think I am smart.

I go by the reviews, rankings and ratings.
But I fail to realize that those previews,
Rantings and raketings are written, by
Somebody like me.
Some of them are paid for it,
Others write because they are still  not paid.

I love the senseless movies,
Not because they make lot of sense
For those who made them.
I know I can something meaningful,
With my time
Yet I choose to be entertained.

I care, so I never dare,
Though I know its not fair.
I choose to hear only few
Of my near and dear.
When confronted, I rarely give that stare
And instead look here and there.
But, yet I think I am smart.

I know they don't care,
Because I dont.
And so I gradually transcend
From being carefree
To perpetually careless

I think I am not harming anybody
But, I fail to realize
The One who's getting harmed,
The most.
Is nobody, but Me.

I know I deserve better
Yes, heaven is the place for me.
But I am ready to spend all my life
Right here, on this Earth.
Yet, I think I am...