I love (not like) Aramco

I hardly read papers now. Whatever little news I follow is through what Google throws on its phone feeds. And then once in a while when I do read papers it is with shock and awe. And then sometimes it can lead to a lot of my time being taken away from urgent tasks to write notes like these. A waste. Nothing changes in this characterless country. The only take away? Never read the papers in the morning. At least not when you have a long to do list.

Two news pieces combined wonderfully in the past 2-3 days. I could see some headlines on the new Aramco investment of $44 billion investment in an Indian (or is it a Republic of Konkan) refinery. I think this was the first article I read.

$44 Billion?! Now where did they get that kind of money from? Somehow the money must have gone in to now come out? Here my vices and addictions have made me a pauper who can only sustain his dream projects on small donations from friends and there they have $44 billions! Now I should also learn to make that kind of money.

The interesting part was about how oil at $ 50 a barrel and oil at $ 80 a barrel makes a difference for Saudi Arabia and helps them support financing for some internal agendas. Every business and cause needs funds to sustain itself. And Indians sustain the Saudi business and cause(s) very well. They wholeheartedly subscribe. They love Aramco.

And then I saw this news item while going for this novelty called a newspaper at breakfast today. I had come from travels after a while and sitting for breakfast at home thought of also glancing through the papers. Saw this particular headline on page two, almost choked, went through a spin of thoughts and folded the paper to keep it aside to have my breakfast peacefully. Enough anguish, enough material to write this note. No need to even read the article.

trim 2

The headline was just regurgitating a similar headline from May 2015. Maybe there had been some new development (no) but the ground situation has been exactly the same, maybe even worse. I had even been invited to write a damn article on the development then in the Mumbai Mirror. Thinking that it will make a difference. It even started on the cover page not a sidey page 2 bottom.

I could speak at length about the joke that the Bombay HC is and bring in a dozen other pronouncements by it as case studies but why waste more time?

Walking for me is just not an activity, it is poetry, it is medicine, it is sustainability as a cause, it can be a topic for fiscal implications and most certainly a topic for how the transport planning of our cities should be carried out.

In 2012 I made an attempt to give shape to Walking Project as an advocacy movement, which will accelerate the development of pedestrian friendly roads in Indian cities. I had just come out of a showdown at my job at World Resources Institute where I got into a bad fight with the people who had taken control of a walkability improvement project I had developed with a lot of passion and fondness and were ruining it. The organisation itself is an elegant waste of money. Elegant is the word to note, not waste. As long as elegance is there waste is fine.

Since May 2015 (when I wrote the article on walkability as a fundamental right) and now when I read the article today, Indians have put billions of dollars into the pockets of Saudis and for Walking Project I have raised just about Rs. 100,000 from 5-6 odd individuals. And so the Saudi’s now are in a position to apportion a part of the money they have collected from Indians themselves and make an investment in a refinery of theirs. And here I sit fretting and fuming and wasting more time after reading a news article.

Much patriotic Indians (Mumbaikaars) have shown no support for a home grown initiative, which could at least endeavour to stop the flow of some of those dollars. I still sit on plans of a model road in each of the 24 wards, Andheri Kurla Road, E Moses Road, Senapati bapat Road and so on. Not to mention that in my mind I have plans all mapped out for important roads and junctions in 10 other cities I have visited since 2012.

There is a facebook group with 700 odd people. No activity takes place on the group now because I have decided not to engage people who cannot show character to contribute even 100 rupees a year. And they on their own do not have what it takes to show initiative and dare.

Two years back a think-highly-of-itself (which doesn’t) Rotary Club invited me to speak, two members got impressed with Walking Project and promised Rs. 25,000 each and that’s about it. No news after that. Another member suggested he could help with big sponsorship support but only for a co-founder tag. Ok sure. Self before Service.

The more character and intellectually challenged folks ofcourse do keep asking how any support for an advocacy movement will bring any immediate difference to their own experience of walking. It is like a quid pro quo. I pay the Saudi’s an xyz amount for every litre of fuel and that allows me to with much pomp and show drive around my luxury sedan. If I give you 10,000 rupees what is it that you have to show for the road outside my office? Nothing? Well you get nothing then. Please do not waste my time. I LIKE the activity you are doing. You can have my LIKE, the money is for the Saudi’s.  

While Indians have been luxuriously funding the Saudi business and cause(s), they – or the few I manage to reach through social media and personal interactions – are truly lousy at supporting any of my businesses and causes. Only a handful show the character and temerity to rise above.

My business does not prey on human weaknesses, it requires a certain character on part of the consumer. And that is where lies its shortfall. Weakness is aplenty in the people of India today, character too little. #sanskari

Yes a lot of this use of fossil fuels and outflow of money is needed to sustain the living paradigm we have adopted but a great deal of it is also waste. While we might question the paradigm and there may be differences of opinion on philosophical grounds there is no disagreement that the paradigm can be made a whole lot more energy efficient.  And it can be made energy efficient by only supporting those who will work on that agenda. Not by chanting Hanuman Chalisa.

Walking and cycling friendly cities, ecological waste management, would be so much more energy efficient and prevent millions of litres of diesel being used in the first place but some of us are left to doing pilots and giving quotes to newspapers while the big boys sign billion dollar contracts.

It is easier for a fossil fuel powered model of the world to be sustained because it can be funded. Dry up the funding and the Arabs would be like me and others in the ilk. Issuing requests for donations to sustain their enterprise and ideas.

Some side thoughts towards the end. The Arabs have learnt a lot from the Americans over the decades. After being fooled and used wholesale by the Americans they now have learnt to use the same tricks successfully to become (more) powerful. Everybody learns from the wonderful Americans. I am a product of American thought and action, though of the kind which does not find popular flavour. And so the Arabs have now started deploying the learning on gullible doormat nations like India who can be fooled and used any amount.

From money taken from the Indians they will not be able to create jobs for the same Indians and create a new loyal bureaucracy of people who have always loved to come out of the woodwork and serve up any new colonial master as long as they can get status and some money for lifestyle.

Buddhiheen tanu jaani ke pawan kumar….

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FRA then Operation Greenhunt – Congress double standards on the tribals issue?

Yesterday I attended a meeting organised by The Committee for the Release of Binayak Sen (CRBS) as recorded right below my post. (interestingly the event doesn’t find feature in the papers today even as far more frivolous news covers the pages.)

I was already aware of the atrocities being carried out by the Indian state in the tribal regions but hearing the account first hand was sad enough.

The one question I raised during the Q&A was about the status as regards the Forest Rights Act, discussion around which was raging during 2005-06

http://forestrightsact.com/index.php?option=com_k2&view=item&layout=item&id=3&Itemid=300038

The FRA then had polarized those in favour of the tribal rights and the environmental community, which feared the worst for the forests in terms of forests ripping away the resources.

Environmentalists also saw this as the worst form of vote bank politics by the UPA – I government.

Now 3 years down the line we see the UPA – II government declaring the tribals and their supporters as terorists and launches Operation Green Hunt. Whats going on?

Votes from the tribals and notes from the industrialists? What can be any other conclusion? As per the FRA the tribals are entitled to 4 hectares of land. Now they are being forced out of their forest homes and being forced to live in designated camps guarded by the police (concentration camps?, genocide?, state sponsored terrorism?). And if they retaliate then they are hunted down, raped, their houses and food stocks burnt.

Is Chidambaram the Gabbar equivalent?

From the first hand accounts it is very clear that the media is completely suppressing the real events taking place  in the interiors of the country. It will be upto a few right minded citizens in the city to make up their mind about how far will they let the situation deteriorate before it becomes all out war. The tribals are very determined and dont seem to be in a mood to take things lying down.

_________________________________________________________________________________________

The Committee for the Release of Binayak Sen (CRBS)

invites you to a press conference to be addressed by

two prominent personalities from Chhattisgarh

Himanshu Kumar — noted Gandhian who has been running the Vanvasi Chtena Ashram for more than 15 years in Dantewada in Chhattisgarh

Advocate Sudha Bhardwaj — leading member of the Chhattisgarh Mines Mazdoor Sangh that was set up by legendary trade unionist Shankar Guha Niyogi; executive committee member of Chhattisgarh PUCL; and Dr Binayak Sen’s lawyer

Thick in the field of action in the tribal areas of Bastar, Himanshu Kumar and advocate Sudha Bhardwaj have witnessed the effects of the “development” efforts on the adivasis of Bastar by successive governments. They have experienced first-hand the fallout of the government’s anti-Naxalite movement, the Salwa Judum.


In May, Himanshu Kumar’s Vanvasi Chetna Ashram was demolished by the Chhattisgarh government because he was trying to rehabilitate the Adivasis displaced by Salwa Judum. Kumar has tried to file FIRs against every offence committed against the adivasis, but to no avail.

With the Centre all set to launch “Operation Greenhunt” against the Naxalites in the tribal belt that runs across seven states, Himanshu Kumar and advocate Bhardwaj are best placed to enlighten those living far away from Bastar about the actual situation there.

  • Will “Operation Greenhunt” destroy or strengthen the Naxalites’ influence?
  • Who will be the “hunted” – the armed Naxalites or the unarmed tribals?
  • Whose purposes will “Operation Greenhunt” serve – those of the tribals who have lived there for centuries, or the companies eyeing the resources in the region?
  • Can peace ever be brought to this rich region?
  • What is the context of State violence and Naxalite violence in Chhattisgarh?

For answers to these and other questions, please do attend the press conference and talk on

Saturday, Oct 31, 3 pm -5 pm, Mumbai Press Club, CST

Those wanting to stay on to discuss the situation can join us after the press conference at

Saturday, Oct 31, 6 pm, Shramik Hall, Dadar

Its all about jobs silly!

I read the following story at the Guardian, and couldnt help feeling a bit amused

http://www.guardian.co.uk/commentisfree/2009/oct/27/economy-recession-car-industry-bankers

Till when will this charade go on? Lets accept it that our current developmental models are just not sustainable. Forget sustainability from the environmental perspective. They are just not sustainable from a very fundamental human need point of you itself. People are being given incentive to scrap even perfectly running cars to buy new ones just so that the companies sustain themselves so that employees are not laid of so that the employees have some income which they can then spend in the market and keep some body else in their job.

What is being missed out is that the employee of the car company is already aware that this could be temporary and sooner or later the hammer will hit again and therefore is very cautious in his spending, preferring to save for a time when his job might inevitably go.

And at what costs other than the immediate market stimulus does all this consumption come at?

In our own country iron ore and bauxite mines which provide the ore for steel and aluminum which goes into making these cars is stripped from fertile forest lands. Complete forests are destroyed and tribal communities murdered and raped if they refuse to leave their forests.

And then we talk about encouraging low carbon footprints? Tribals with zero carbon footprints get punished and some stupid Londoner (or Bombay-ite) who spends half his life in a pub drinking beer and engaging in stupid gossip gets rewarded? Forests which are the mother lode of all life, harboring biodiversity which makes possible strong nutritious fruit and cereal species besides originating life giving rivers are stripped apart to be able to give sterile metal which can only give rides to people, most of which might anyways be unnecessary?

Is this the development being talked about and spoken so gloriously by those who chide environmentalists to be anti-development.

While I read this I also remembered an excellent video I saw in June about the Cuban economic crisis and what they did to tide over the same.

http://www.livevideo.com/video/mercofspeech/CD893609A0CB495D9A9CF04AC9E4AEFF/power-of-community-how-cuba-.aspx

Also in a corner of the same Guardian article I saw and article for the films below –

http://www.guardianoffers.co.uk/mall/productpage.cfm/GuardianOffers/_17284/-/Classic-French-cinema%3A-Gloire-de-mon-Pere-%26amp%3B-Chateau-de-Ma-Mere

Maybe its time we moved away from an extremely centralised form of living which seems forever incapable of standing on its own feet without some support or the other. Maybe people need to move closer to the soil, which shows an infinite capacity to sustain everybody without any sops and stimuli.

Maybe those who have lost their jobs should consider it a god send and move to become masters of their destiny without relying on their corporate slave drivers for an identity.

An irrational legacy of Abdul Kalam

Into my new political avatar I got into discussion with a colleague about the river linking idea which was so vociferously supported by the ex-President Abdul Kalam. While discussing the need for having positions on various issues my colleague brought out the need for inter-linking rivers as supported by the ex-President. While I had also got the initial euphoria on Kalam becoming the President and was moved my his patriotic and well intentioned thoughts for the country, I had become increasingly begun to see Kalam as being a close minded senile man, a number of whose ideas were not well researched and indeed much damaging for the country.

I think Kalam made a fit case for the country to be very careful in choosing its Presidents and more importantly to not become blind worshipers of people.

On the river inter-linking issue it was not the first time I had felt my blood boil when I heard people discuss their appreciation for the ‘wonderful’ idea of a ‘great President’. The simplistic arguments of my colleague went as follows:

1) River Linking will eradicated famine as water from surplus rivers will flow into dry areas.

2) Russia had successfully done the same and see the benefits it has derived.

What I had to discuss was as below. These will also be the basis for my involvement in the government should my political involvement ever give me a chance to direct policy in India:

1) It is primarily water management that this country needs to start discussing rather than specific solutions like river-linking. Kalam was a defense scientist, not somebody who was involved with water or understood the issue. A frightfully large majority of people have this fallacy in their thinking, that they ascribe qualities to an accomplished person, which he/she may not have. While a defense scientist who has contributed so much to the country would undoubtedly be intelligent he would by no means be aware of the requirements of each issue. And I think becoming a President went to the head of Kalam or he was intelligently ‘managed’ by vested interests who stood to gain from the project, making Kalam a rubber stamp spokes person for the project.

2) In Bombay, while the city gets a comfortable supply of water, it is not difficult to find areas within a 200 km radius, which face tremendous water stress. All this while a lot of people in Bombay can afford to flush 10 litres of potable water every time they use the toilet. In such a scenario would it not be better to work on a policy which completely enables water recycling of grey water to be used for flushing? The resultant savings could be diverted to hamlets and villages in dire need. Where does one need water linking or heavy engineering for this? Most probably there is not enough money to be made. The Government needs to work more on enabling policies and less on being an agent for ‘some’ businessmen in finding projects or worse still become a businessperson itself.

3) As regards river-linking versus water management my point of contention is that you need to look into the cost benefit ratio of each solution. At what cost will river linking be achieved (keeping cost over runs and delays in mind) and how many cusecs of water will it deliver? As against that at what cost is water management achieved and how much water does it deliver (a large component in terms of savings arising out of efficient water use).

4) The costs for river linking are outrageously high. Does the country have the funds to get into such a costly project? Will we borrow money from donor agencies to execute the project? Which means that we will necessarily be indebting future generations who will then be repaying the loan. I read the following on the Sardar Sarovar Project – Reckless borrowing, unholy redemption.

5) Has anybody even bothered to look into the water quality in rivers in the country? Most have been converted to open sewers with untreated sewage and effluents being released unchecked into them. In such a scenario is it river-linking we are talking of or sewer-linking? Should not there be a fundamental focus on drastic improvement of the water quality in rivers across the country?

6) The country since millenia has developed wonderful water management techniques which aim to best capture and utilise water where it falls. Why then are we so enamoured by heavy engineering solutions from Russia and the rest of the world. Where does that excess pride in India and its glorious culture disappear at such times? Time to move beyond cricket and naach-gana.

7) This country and the people who run it are only interested in solutions which cost a lot of money. Solutions need to have multi-zero budgets. Solutions which cost less but possibly deliver better results (cost-benefit ratio) are not appreciated and much less find their way in policy. There are a large number of people in the country who discuss corruption and the need to eliminate then and they need to understand that many of these heavy engineering solutions are the fountain head of all corruption. Money siphoned from such projects is what finds its way to Swiss Banks.

If you agree with what has been expressed above then it is important that you make known your views to the government.

Till when will the economy hold

I read the two comments below made at the G 20 Summit and covered in Saturdays ET and got thinking:

” The key point is we must agree to a new order of global oversight. A more inclusive system can provide better surveillance and serve as an early warning mechanism.”
P CHIDAMBARAM, FM

Did he go all the way to New York to say this? Its not that early warning systems dont exist. It is just that cheaters rule. People who do the most damage are generally colluding with people like the FM and other politicians to not allow an inclusive system with better surveillance. Greed and cheating rules.

We are still no different from nature in that might rules except in nature when people have a full tummy they stop. Pillage and plunder does not take place. Pack hunting takes place and the weaker are at the mercy of the stronger but then packs also stop when tummies become full and there are natural checks and balances to such packs. I wouldnt be surprised that in the ways of the human world we will see the the people who landed us in this trouble reorganising themselves and getting on with their work. Most humans anyways dont understand the crisis and would care much the less about doing anything about it.

 

” While reforms in the financial sector are essential, the long term solution to todays problems is sustained economic growth. And the surest path to that growth is free markets and free people” – George W Bush

Which free people and which free market is he talking about. Somebody who should be getting skinned for his acts still has the gall to engage public time with inane utterances. It is not Bush alone who still believes that things like free markets are a panacea for all our developmental needs. There are still thousands if not millions of such people who will still not accept the concept of sustainable development and will not consider far less accept the fact that we might just be reaching the limits of growth. That maybe the existing economic system with its overarching focus on making people consume more and more and at a lot of times things which they really do not need is somewhere economically, environmentally and ethically untenable and will eventually collapse.

The farmer loans waiver

Some points which come to my mind:

Point 1) Almost every where I hear that the waiver will bring disposable income into the rural sector. This extra income will then according to people like Rahul Bajaj encourage people to spend on goods like two wheelers thus boosting the economy. Others say people will spend on FMCG and food. But where is the money? The fact that a loan has to be waived of means that the farmer took a loan to buy seeds, fertiliser, pesticide and other assortments to carry out farming. Say Farmer A took one lac rupees as a loan from and SBI branch in rural India. He tilled his farm and expected that within a period of a few months he will have a bumper crop, which he will then sell at a good price. He will then pay of the loan from the income and keep the rest of the money for himself. Since there is no tax to be paid he has all the balance money to himself.

Now as opposed to this what has happened is that either the crop failed or the markets didn’t offer a good enough rate. As a result the farmer has no money to buy food far less pay back the loan. Well he makes some attempts, pays an installment or two and then starts defaulting. So the SBI branch is then saddled with recovering a one lac rupees loan.

Point 2) Now the Finance Minister has waived of the loan. What does that mean? Is he giving one lac rupee to Farmer A to the farmer to go and buy a two wheeler and splurge or is he foregoing him from the burden of paying back any money.

Point 3) Now there could possibly a situation where Farmer A took the one lac and didn’t spend a rupee to buy the stuff listed in point 1) for his farm. He was an un ethical farmer. He decided to go ahead and splurge on liquor and those other things. When the time to repay came he expressed his inability citing the world economy and all those things. Now when the Finance Minister announced the waiver what happened? Why should the unethical Farmer A be happy. He hasn’t got one more lac to blow? All that has happened is that he need not worry about suffering for his profligacy. But then he isn’t exactly having any more money for more liquor and all those other things or is he? For a moment if I consider than no he is actually getting money also then too how long does that much money last?

Point 4) So the bottom line in my limited understanding is that the 60,000 crores being waived out is money which has already been consumed in the economy in terms of seeds, fertilisers, pesticides or liquor and other things. It is not new money being introduced into the economy. So where is the expenditure push to the economy?

Point 5) In fact, 60000 crores having to be waived of means that funds are being used for unproductive and inefficient uses in the economy. That same money could have been used for the ladies running the Anganwadi scheme or for teachers or for health.

Point 6) And finally a journalist friend from the Amravati district of Maharashtra which has been in the news for its farmer suicides tells me that the whole thing is a hoax. No body is verifying who the people committing suicide are? Is it for farm productivity related issues or even over a loan that they have taken? Or is a random suicide arising out of errant social behaviours. And are these being clubbed together under an agricultural crisis and thus being utilised to get waivers and handouts. And then the famed politician-burecrat nexus of the country (the famed one which ensures that out of every development rupee only 15 paisa reaches the actual benificiary) mops up all the funds?

Point 7) The real changes which are required in the agricultural sector dont seem to be addressed at all.