Monday, 25 February 2013

Some Chirp Stories...

Here are some of the chirp stories I compiled. Thought of sharing them via a post. I will keep updating whenever new stories are created. If you have created any, do let me know. I will be glad to add them to the list, for reference, with due credits. 

I would like to thank the creators of the chirpstory platform who enable the users of Social Media to create stories, and share them easily.

If Mahabharata Happened Now  

Here is a collection of some tweets with the hash tag - #IfMahabharatHappenedNow - a story that trended on 24th-25th Feb'13. Featured even on global trend list. The story demonstrates the power of how an imaginative idea can easily go viral on Social Media. It just needs the (b/)right spark! And, good timing!! 

Wakf Scam 

Karnataka Minorities Commission investigated the State Wakf Board properties misuse and reported to the State Govt that over 2 Lakh Crore worth of assets have been encroached, leased on pittance rates, etc., causing a loss. Many bigwigs are involved. The tweeple responded to the breaking story with the hashtag #WakfScam

Cardinal Sin - 

Cardinal Sin lists some of the reaction on Social Media to the explosive news of  'amicable settlement' talk by a Cardinal of the church who tried to use his influence (subsequently he retracted having tried) to stop the families of two Indian Fishermen (who were killed on 15th Feb'12, by armed escorts of an Italian Merchant Ship in Indian waters near Kerala), from forcing their prosecution. 

On a Scale of -  

On a scale of is a collection of some fun tweets, where tweeple made fun of many things...

Sunday, 24 February 2013

Manmohan's Budget Blues & Banta's Budget Nightmares

As the Congress / UPA government led by the two time PM of India, prepares to present its budget for this financial year, with almost every bit of it finalized (save for some last minute changes, suggested by the powerful lobbying groups of various interests), here are some thoughts of the common man. I am sure neither P. Chidambaram, nor Dr. Manmohan Singh, & Dr. Montek Singh Ahluwalia, have the time to read what I am sharing. But, I hope, against hope, somehow it reaches them, in time! Not like that speed post to Afzal Guru's family!

(image courtesy: The Hindu Business Line)

Who really looks forward to the budget?

1. The salaried class, the so called middle class, that looks for some sops to juggle its finances, dream of buying / building a home, buying a car, etc.

2. Do the rich bother? They have no major impact of the budget on their daily living, at least. If they are from the business class, most of the expenses, or the budget impact in terms of taxes, duties, surcharges, or duty on surcharges, and surcharge on duty on surcharges  to the end customer!

3. How about 'The Poor'? Most of them are too preoccupied with surviving the day, every day. Its the plight of of more than 30% (or, some say even 40%)  people in cities, in villages. They won't even know what that Rajiv Gandhi Yojana will do, or, the Indira Priyadarshini Scheme will give them, Or, Jawahar Lal Card will give them!

OK. Now let me narrate some numbers. Assume that Mr. Banta Singh lives in Hyderabad (or Chennai, or Bangalore), and earns 20000/- per month (post statutory deductions), and his wife is a home-maker. Let's say he has a small kid of 6-7 years and another girl 3 years age. You would have your own Abdul, or Rajan Kutty, or Sangayya, who more or less have the same struggle.

Here is Banta's monthly expense sheet:

Rent:              4000/-  (for a small 1BHK, on the outskirts of city)
Electricity:        750/-
Water:              350/-
Housemaid:     1000/-
Milk:                 900/-
Petrol+LPG:    1400/-
Provisions:       4500/-
Phone:              500/-
Vegetables:        900/-
Fruits:               300/-
Medical             800/-
School Fee       1000/-
Entertainment    500/-
Miscellaneous    500/-
Insurance          500/-
Contingency      500/-

Annual expenses
/travel:                    600/-
Own House dream 1000/-  (Mr.Banta Singh is an optimist!)

If Banta and his wife asked you how to improve their plans and how to improve their plight what would your answers be? Do you think Banta has done a good plan? Is it realistic expense for his family?

As you can see, there's no place for non-veg in Banta's meal plan. His family has to skip fruits if they want to buy meat. Does Banta qualify for a ration card? Subsidized ration? He found it tough to get a ration card here, being from another state. His few trips to get one were so tough, he gave up. So, Banta's family is one more malnourished!

Can Banta aim to buy good clothes for his wife, kids, and himself? Or, save money to travel and meet his family / relatives? What happens if any unforeseen expense comes his way? A big medical bill? Or, some guests? Child's admission next year?

You see the two-wheeler came as part of a belated dowry pack! Banta's salary couldn't let him buy a vehicle on his own. Now, don't ask how his father-in-law managed to find money! Why couldn't Banta use public transport? Commute took more time. It wasn't convenient, and also not so economical.

Can Banta buy some jewellery for his wife and kids? Yes. Some imitation jewellery, once in a while.

If Banta is govt servant, he will find some avenues of making "extra" income. If he is private sector employee, his chances of a better income are dependent on many factors. Let's not touch that.

Banta is forced to find ways of making more money every time govt increases petrol, LPG, electricity, train fares. Banta has to ensure his higher ups are in loop, have a share. He fears being caught by some lokayukta / vigilance squad. But, he also knows a peon in his office has a 2 story house, a car, etc. His boss has a farm house. Banta can't remain honest in a system where he won't be allowed to survive.

Banta's practical problems, and, constant pestering by his wife, have also made him compromise. His wife tells him of the expenses coming up, and challenges him to meet them. Banta & his wife have decided their family will be 2+2 (woh ji, dusra accident se hua ji! pattaa hi nahin chala! Gharwale bole, mat nikalwawo... lekin mushkil hai paaji, ghar chalana ab!)

Banta is quick learner. To make it tough for me, he posed me some more challenges! And, narrated some conditions to go with that!!

Now, imagine Banta's salary is 15000/- or less. He is not a BPL category person as per govt definition. Since Montek Singh says its a number to define where the benefits like food subsidy must be given. But, many people who go to ration shop know what kind of rice or wheat are sold. Banta's wife refused to cook if he bought rice, wheat from there! Her logic was simple. If you eat this, you will need to pay more to doctors!

Now imagine if he was in 12-15K bracket via his own business (a small retail shop, for example), or as a small farmer. It's a living hell for a farmer when they don't know if the seeds are genuine, if the fertilizer is not fake, if it will rain on time, or, there won't be any unforeseen rains, droughts. Or, there are no pest attacks. If the yield is good, will he get good price? Will the agents in the mandis cheat him? Transport costs high. Storage facilities (cold / granary) aren't available. Bribes to so many people for loans, subsidies, insurance claims. Does it tell you why so many find it easy to End it? Leaving behind their women & kids? The private lenders, land sharks, are all making hay.

It made me share my views as a response, but, not as any solution. Because, I had none!

Had the promised bank loans, insurance, quality seeds, reached them in time without any hassle, will so many farmers feel dejected to kill themselves? So much is rotten with our agriculture, food n civil supplies, fertilizers n chemicals ministries. These are called 'plum' postings, not without any reason!

But, Manmohan ji's Govt will be happy to charge a bit more to salaries class again. Spend via overdraft, announce more schemes that benefit middle-men & contractors who can milk the system, fund election expenses.

Finally, Banta Singh and I decided to list some questions for which we hope Dr. Manmohan Singh, our Economist PM, will have some answers in the budget.

1. Why is the govt spending on schemes that don't result in real, long term benefits?

2. You offer loan waiver every now and then. Have you not created mentality that not repaying is the best solution? What about those who work hard to repay on time, only to see others who avoided re-payment (even while having money), got the benefit of loan / interest waivers? Have they not become fools in the eyes of his society?

3. You are now talking of loans for minorities at 4%. Are only Muslims the minority? What about other communities? Should it not be made available by economic criteria rather than the accident of birth?

4. How long does it take to make quality education affordable?

5.  So many of us are not having medical insurance coverage. While some states have cards for BPL, many don't. In many places people do not know what they can avail of. And, its so difficult to even know, go get a card. Can we have an affordable healthcare system? Clean govt hospitals? Equipment that works well? Staff that doesn't take bribes to treat?

6. When can we see clean drinking water reaching villages? And, hygienic sanitation facilities, sewage lines? What has NREGA done in this regard?

7. When can we have 16 hour power supply in our villages? We don't want free power. But, we need assured supply of power. Is it impossible to deliver?

8. How many times do the governments, corporations lay / re-lay the same roads in cities? Why do they fail every rainy season? Do we lack technology? Or, the rates paid are so low? Or, bribe rates are so high that quality has to be compromised?

9. Every time a road is laid, its dug up by another agency? Is it not waste of our money?

10. Why the spend on village roads is so low? If you want to stop migration, provide us water, roads, electricity. Rest of the things we will manage in villages. Why can't we do it?

11. What have you done to gram panchayats and zilla parishats? Everything is party politics. Then you have municipal bodies, MLAs, MPs. Do we need so many layers to decide what's good for our villages or towns?

12. When can we see strong action on the corrupt? Why can't we seize the property of entire family, kith n kin? Debar them from politics, or, any business with govt? When will govt recover money stashed abroad or in India (in benami a/cs, land holdings, etc)?

13. How long do you want Aam Admi to wait? Since Aam Admi word is taken over by Aam Admi Party, have you become pro-rich party?

14. What's the future for me? For an aam admi? If you make me also BPL, I can get some benefit of DCT, NREGA, etc., and my family can live and save something. If you let me grow, do well, I may become upper middle class or a rich man. But, this middle class is trishanku. No benefits. All the pain. All the curses. From govt & from the society!

Manmohan ji, you may have your Budget Blues once a year. For the aam admi, you have made our budget a nightmare every day! Any solutions, dear Dr. Manmohan Singh ji?

A zen story....

Today, I read a zen story in the Kannadaprabha, and thought of sharing it with you. 

(Image courtesy: Barbara Walton/EPA & The Telegraph)
 A Zen Guru had immersed himself in studies, and deep meditation for many, many years. After a very long spell of it, spanning over a decade or so, he felt he had attained Realization. He got up, took out his collection of precious books, made a bonfire of them!

That's it! 

What does the story tell you? 

What's its moral? Forget the moral of it, tell me what do you think of his action?

[Note: The author (Mr. Nazim Hikmet) has listed some of the opinions shared by people who heard it, in the story. If you come up with same views, then its a coincidence!]