UP elections have always been intriguing and most of the times for the wrong reasons. This is one state where political leaders have always been riddled with controversies, be it from criminalized and caste-based politics, to corruption and scams. But this year, controversy seems to have taken a new shape. With the rise of a young and dynamic leader in UP, the scenario here would change soon. Against expectations, Samajwadi Party (SP) suddenly came out and swept the elections. This sweeping victory cannot be credited to anyone else other than Akhilesh Yadav – a young politician who never projected himself as the Chief Minister, even after the victory. But then, SP read the minds and hearts of the electorate and decided to make Akhilesh the CM. And thus a new star was born in Uttar Pradesh!

Akhilesh Yadav, son of UP strongman Mulayam Singh Yadav, steered SP to a sensational victory in the state assembly, a victory that decimated all their political rivals. Uttar Pradesh may be the biggest state in India (and hence politically most important) but certainly, it is not the best governed state. Even though the state sends the maximum number of MPs to the Centre, it has been perpetually ripped apart through generations (how else would one describe the agenda of UP’s division) by the communal, casteist, self-indulgent, and shortsighted chieftains to meet their short term goals. The last two decades probably have been the worst for the state when Mayawati and Mulayam Singh reduced the politics in the state to nothing but a jungle raj! The battle was almost lost for UP, had it not been Akhilesh Yadav taking centre stage to rechristen the state with long-lost optimism and hope. His performance speaks for itself for he is the one who rightly represents today’s youth. Amidst many other young politicians, his one young face shines the brightest, and all because of his calm, pleasant, confident and positive attitude which most of the other young politicians in India comprehensively lack.

Amidst the praise and starry eyes of hope that surround him, one cannot undermine the immensely difficult and daunting task ahead. And that’s exactly what happened within days of his winning. The same media, which lavished much praise on this young man for winning, wrote him off overnight the moment he announced his cabinet. Along with the infamous Raja Bhaiya, his cabinet of 47 ministers (that is much smaller than his father’s jumbo cabinet of 97 ministers) had as many as 28 with a criminal background. All I can say is that it’s not easy to win elections in a state like UP and any other party’s cabinet would have looked quite the same if history and Indian politics are things to go by. Akhilesh inherited a party, which had a history of harbouring thugs and goons. Their inbred nature certainly cannot be changed by merely snapping off ties! And if Akhilesh tries to replace them abruptly, it will create such an upheaval that his government could even fall. Akhilesh in his campaign did stress repeatedly of clean and transparent governance by scientifically sidelining the criminals. However, let’s as of now assume this cabinet to be his political compulsion! He perhaps had no choice but to induct these people to safeguard his government.
But to his credit, he smartly and cleverly kept the ‘head’ of all thugs away from his cabinet. Despite huge pressure, he didn’t allow DP Yadav to become part of his team – smartly cutting the umbilical cord of all thugs from their mastermind.

This allowed him to win support and confidence of all minorities and those pockets of population that underwent immense subjection during the reign of DP Yadav and the likes. Akhilesh cleverly kept all key ministries with himself (that would allow him to keep a track of all funds and curtail embezzlement). More than 100 contestants of SP were below 40 years of age with many having professional degrees of medicine, engineering, management and science.

The first name in team Akhilesh that must find a place in any reference is Abhishek Mishra, a 35-year old gentleman with a PhD from Cambridge and a professor at IIM Ahmedabad. A friend of Akhilesh, Abhishek was persuaded by the former to join his team after 6 years of teaching at IIM-A in the field of strategy and innovation. And what an astounding strategy he made in Akhilesh’s manifesto and campaign! He was the man behind the criticism-free election campaign strategy and the ploy of advertising in the media outlets.

Then comes Tej Narayan Pandey, a close friend of Akhilesh, an ex-student union vice president in UP with a resounding influence on student unions. He was instrumental in mobilizing the student unions in favour of Akhilesh. He is all set to head the Home and Finance ministries besides key departments like administration, vigilance, tax and registration, education, housing, IT and many others. A quick glance would be enough to gauge the intelligence and technocracy Akhilesh possesses. He cleverly gave the less-important ministries to old and non-performing cabinet ministers and gave specialized ministries to talented and educated ministers. Something that the Centre also needs to learn.     Read More....

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The day our railway minister was forced to resign, a train rammed into a van killing 16 people and injuring many more! What looked like a coincidence, is not in reality one! For had he resigned almost on any other day, a similar news would have been there in any case – such is the sorry state of Indian Railways. Out of the 33,000 odd railway crossings in India, a shameful 15,000 or so are unmanned, due to which about 33% of the accidents and a whopping 60-70% of the railway deaths happen!!! Yes, that is the morbid statistics! To man a railway crossing, all we require are two men on a twelve-hour shift each, which means a salary of 1.5 lac rupees per man, multiplied by 2 per crossing, multiplied by 15000 (number of unmanned crossings); and this equates to a mere 450 crore rupees per annum, an amount that our politicians mystically do not feel the need to budget, consequently killing thousands every year, an ignominious onus that our railway ministry must directly take. While we apparently do not have this amount of 450 crore rupees, our politicians have shamefully not hiked the rail fares for ten years at a stretch, while every rail passenger whose fare should have been hiked has got salary increases year on year as well as various pay commission windfalls. The ostensible reason forwarded to us is that the aam aadmi will get penalized. Frankly, the reason itself is hogwash. The man to whom an annual raise in railway fare would hurt – the real aam aadmi in India – unfortunately doesn’t travel long distance by train... He is at the most a short distance traveller. Without any argument, the hikes are a must and the lack of it is almost criminal, especially when we have such massive safety issues in the plying of trains.
 
If just inflation would have been adjusted into fares these ten long years – not having done even that, I repeat, is almost criminal – then the railways would have been richer by 25000 crore rupees per year! Compare that now to the meagre 450 crore rupees that is required to phenomenally reduce the 60-70% deaths which occur on railway crossings! The money thus earned would have not only taken care of all our safety related expenses but also the pathetic speed of growth of Indian Railways since the British left India (for comparison’s sake, China every year adds five times more new tracks than India).
 
In most of the budget shows that I attended this year, I was asked that if the solution was so simple, then why had the ministry not already increased the fares? My answer was that with money, comes the responsibility of spending it. Our politicians are literally so visionless and irresponsible, one worse than the other, that they have simply chosen to not undertake such a clearly straightforward solution. And of course, it helps their jaundiced political posturing of being ‘highly concerned’ about the aam aadmi; all this while actually murdering the aam aadmi in cold blood – a common trait of the Indian political class, top to bottom. They claim that 97% of Indians travel ‘lower class’. The fact is that 97% of railway seats are lower class. None of this actually means that the poor are traveling long distance via trains here in India.     Read More....

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First of all, congratulations to our Chief Election Commissioner Dr. Quraishi for yet again managing the elections with the least reports of rigging; congratulations also to Akhilesh for becoming an icon overnight for the Indian youth through sheer hard work. I shall write on him very soon! This time, I want to write on something that is spoken about every time that elections are held anywhere in India – the question of election time funding. Of course, it’s shameful the way black money dominates election funding in India. But then, if you thought American Presidential elections – the nomination fight for which is underway currently in the USA – are clean, then here are some facts which will make you think again!
Actually, throughout history, elections have never been democratic in the true sense with money power significantly dominating the outcome instead of ability, one way or the other. There has been rarely an election where power-variables have not played their role. Almost all elections around the world are manipulated to one extent or the other with money, power, rigging, hacking or even fixing. The upcoming American Presidential election is no exception either. Clearly a strange paradox – on one hand, the American election system is considered one of the most transparent electoral processes; on the other, this very election rarely has been fair to its masses.
 
Unlike in India, where election funding is mostly clandestine and is funded primarily with black money, the US electoral system has been legally endowed with formal procedures to direct cash flows into the system, especially for election campaigns. On hindsight, it might appear that therefore, the elections held in the US would be quite transparent and money would play a moderate role in deciding the final winner. Unfortunately, the fact is that irrespective of how transparent the election process might be, money power is quintessential for any political party or any Presidential candidate to perform well in the elections – that in itself undermines the true essence of democracy! Today, the underlined fact is that globally, it is money that makes one win the elections, (and this has been proved through various studies). Period!
 
US election laws allow Political Action Committees (PACs) – organizations that campaign in favour or against political candidates – to raise money for financing the election process. In the veil of being non governmental organisations, the so called PACs have been known to generally redirect money obtained for electioneering to specific political lobbying and political purposes. However, now a new kind of PAC – called the ‘Super PAC’ – has come into existence. These infamous Super PACs gained legal backing and dubious prominence after two court judgments in 2010; the first by the US Supreme Court and the second by Federal Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit. Post these judgments, a Super PAC is allowed to be the recipient of an unlimited sum of money from individuals, corporations, or unions and further can keep their names anonymous – provided the Super PAC remains independent and away from the direct control of any political party/candidate it is supporting! As is quite evident, the latter part of the ‘direct control’ requirement can be quite easily fudged over, thus ensuring that the Super PAC model has given the perfect opportunity for political parties and candidates to sidestep the existing campaign finance rule, which enforces that no individual can give more than $2,500 to candidates during the nomination race and another $2,500 during the actual elections. Apparently, contributions to Super PACs can be unlimited (as they’re ostensibly ‘independent’ of the candidates). Even though officially the Super PACs seem to be independent bodies with no connections to respective candidates and political parties, it’s anybody’s guess that no sensible and wealthy American would leave out on an opportunity to gain the most out of this system. Also, needless to say, many of these Super PACs are in reality run by the candidates’ own acquaintances and former associates!     Read More....

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My colleagues tell me that India changed decisively in 1982. I was in school so I don’t really remember the detailed newspaper headlines of those days. But I do know that the politics of Andhra Pradesh changed forever in 1982. Apparently, the then Chief Minister of AP T. Anjaiah wanted to pick up the slippers of Rajiv Gandhi. And history was made. Rajiv Gandhi was the anointed leader of Congress and somehow, fact or not, that gesture to please Rajiv Gandhi prompted a film star called NT Rama Rao to launch a movement and a party to reclaim Telugu pride. Rao and his Telugu Desam party swept the assembly elections in 1983.

Cut to about 30 years down the line and you see something dramatically different; and yet dramatically similar. Despite the huge hype that surrounded the Congress campaign led by Rahul Gandhi, it is Akhilesh Yadav of a regional outfit called Samajwadi Party who has won. In 1982, when Rajiv Gandhi took over the reins, Tamil Nadu was the only major state where the Congress party had been pushed to the sidelines as a fringe player dependent on outfits like AIADMK for votes and seats. In 2012, as Rahul Gandhi takes over the party, Congress has become a fringe player in almost one third of India.

Many political pundits and scholars are ascribing many reasons for this latest series of defeats confronting the Congress. Quite a few have gone on to say that the charisma of the Gandhi dynasty is irrevocably fading away. Some uncharitable analysts have even started questioning the credentials of the Congress General Secretary Rahul Gandhi to lead the party during 2014 Lok Sabha elections. I personally think it is too simplistic to start drawing such conclusions every time an election happens. In 2009, when the Congress won more than 200 seats in Lok Sabha elections and about 21 seats in Uttar Pradesh, everyone hailed Rahul Gandhi as a miracle man. Now, with such heavy defeats in the assembly elections, the same sets of people are writing off Rahul Gandhi.

A better way would be to look at the undercurrents of change that have been sweeping across India since 1982; some very visible and noisy and some low profile and silent. These changes are what have made things more difficult for Rahul Gandhi than they were for his father Rajiv Gandhi in 1982. It is for Rahul Gandhi and his advisors to understand and interpret the significance of these changes if they want the Congress to perform well in 2014 and beyond. I would list 10 major changes that have transformed India between the Rajiv era of the Congress and the present Rahul era. A lot of these changes are interlinked and have reinforced each other, without a doubt making India a more mature democracy despite all its flaws and blemishes.
 
1. Everyone talks and writes about the miracle of Indian democracy; about how free and fair elections have always been a plus for the country. I personally don’t think Indian elections were always free and fair in the true sense of the term. Booth capturing and rigging were often the norm. In a state like West Bengal, rigging had been developed into a fine art. That was mainly because the Chief Election Commissioner of India and the Election Commission were often hesitant to challenge the power of money and muscle during elections. That was till a gentleman called T.N Seshan took over the Election Commission. It was T.N Seshan who actually started the process whereby the Election Commission became a truly independent body. Seshan ended up offending many political parties and even challenged many goons openly. So powerful was his impact that politicians actually tweaked the law to ensure India has three election commissioners at one time rather than one. But there is simply no doubt that a more independent and fearless election commission marks the difference between 1982 and 2012. The process has moved so far ahead that the commission now takes on even the media when it comes to the dirty practice of ‘paid news’.
 
2. Back in 1982, telephones were a luxury that only the rich or the powerful could afford. People had to book a trunk call and wait for hours for a conversation. And phone calls were terribly expensive. It often cost Rs 90 for a 3 minute telephone call between Mumbai and Delhi. But the communications revolution – many ascribe it to the original vision of Rajiv Gandhi – has completely changed India. Today, the country has more than 800 million mobile phone subscribers who are constantly interacting with each other not just through voice but also text, chat and many other ways. In just a few years, India will have more than 400 million active users of the internet. In contrast to the India of Rajiv Gandhi, today’s India is all about instant and continuous communication. Both good and bad news spread instantly and no political party can now claim a monopoly over communication channels. Till not too far back, Mulayam Singh Yadav was known for publicly asking for a ban on English and on computers. In these elections, his son Akhilesh Yadav actually promised computers and tablets to voters. That is the power of the communications revolution in India.
3. Along with the communications revolution, India has also witnessed an unprecedented revolution in media. Back in 1982, the whole of India was in a tizzy when Rajiv Gandhi announced the launch of colour televisions on the eve of the Asian Games. In 2012, more than 100 news channels are round-the-clock telecasting bad news for the Congress and analyzing the performance of Rahul Gandhi. There is no doubt that India has enjoyed a free media since 1947, but it is only the advent of electronic media and private news channels that has made a deep impact. No doubt, private news channels go overboard, but it is their relentless coverage of scams and scandals that has ensured that even Akhilesh Yadav publicly distances himself from an alleged bahubali like DP Yadav. You may recall that DP Yadav’s son has been convicted for the murder of Nitish Katara and no one can deny the role played by media in highlighting and following up this crime to its logical conclusion. Already, every major town in India has a local news channel and this process will deepen even further in the future.     Read More....

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The future of the inheritor, and more importantly, of India, depends on fighting corruption. Here is how Pranabda can use the Budget to tame the monster

February 28, 1958: “While we should always be prepared to reconsider the methods we adopt, should this become necessary, we have to strive with all our strength for our planned development by conserving all our resources, increasing production and trying to ensure progressively a more equitable distribution and to thus raise the standards of the great mass of our people,”

- Jawaharlal Nehru as Union Finance Minister

February 28, 1970: “It is generally accepted that social, economic and political stability is not possible without the growth of productive forces and the augmentation of national wealth. Also, that such growth and increase in wealth cannot be sustained without due regard to the welfare of the weaker sections of the community,”

- Indira Gandhi as Union Finance Minister

February 28, 1987: “Twenty nine years ago, presenting the country's Budget, Jawaharlal Nehru told this house [that...] we have to strive with all our strength for our planned development by conserving all our resources, increasing production and trying to ensure progressively a more equitable distribution and to thus raise the standards of the great mass of our people…Our principal objectives are the elimination of poverty and the building of a strong, modern, self reliant independent economy,”

- Rajiv Gandhi as Union Finance Minister

Some of you would be aware of how and why these three former prime ministers also had to don the hat of a Union Finance Minister. For those who haven't found time to check out this bit of deliciously ironical history, here is a brief recap. In 1958, the son-in-law of Nehru and Indira Gandhi's husband raised uncomfortable questions about the role of the then Finance Minister T.T Krishnamachari in what became the “Mundhra scam”. TTK, as he was popularly known, was forced to resign in February 1958 and Nehru had to temporarily take over as the Finance Minister. In 1969, the Congress party split and the then Union Finance Minister Morarji Desai quit the government. Desai was strongly opposed to the “socialist” vision being gradually adopted by the then Prime Minister Indira Gandhi. She preferred to take over the Finance portfolio after the exit of Desai. Her titanic tussle with Desai and its consequences resulted in the ‘license permit' and ‘inspector raj' era, issues that continue to haunt India till date. In 1987, V.P Singh, a loyal and trusted aide of Indira Gandhi and Rajiv Gandhi, was ready to present his third successive budget to the nation. Prime Minister Rajiv Gandhi, for reasons future historians will be better able to explain, shifted Singh and chose to present the budget. Within a few weeks, the Bofors scam started tormenting him.

Many of you who have been waiting for my 12th successive Alternative Budget this time must be wondering why I have taken a historical detour even before talking about the proposals I have in mind this year. Many of you might even be wondering about the headline for this year's Alternative Budget: “A Budget for Rahul Gandhi”. I'll address the second issue first. One fine day in August 2010, out of nowhere, I got a call from the office of Rahul Gandhi informing me that he wanted to meet me. I was taken aback as I had made no such request to meet him. Despite my initial surprise, I decided to go and meet Rahul to see what he had in his mind. In the brief meeting we had, he kept asking me what I wanted from him and since I had gone with no expectations, I spoke to him about the Alternative Budgets that IIPM Think Tank comes out with every year. I didn't expect him to give it much of a thought but I was pleasantly surprised to see him quite interested in it and asking me several questions around it. The meeting ended with him requesting me to send a copy of my next Alternative Budget in time for his perusal. Come February 2011, I did that. However, there was no response from his office and the real budget hardly took note of my suggestions, which were all to do with changing the plight of the farmers in our country (http://www.thesundayindian.com/en/story/do-dooni-chaar-budget/12869/). So this time, keeping in mind that in any case, there is a very high probability of Rahul Gandhi becoming Prime Minister in 2014 (and since history repeats itself endlessly in India, I wouldn't be shocked to see Rahul Gandhi like his great grandfather, his grandmother and his father present a Union Budget in the future), I thought of addressing the budget directly to him; Rahul being young, I believe he has a higher probability of taking a note of it than Pranabda! Moreover, I am certain even Pranabda will be presenting this year's budget with Rahul Gandhi's future Prime Ministerial prospect in mind!

But it is my historical detour quoted at the start that I think holds more relevance for the future of India. The reasons I have quoted Nehru, Indira and Rajiv in their avatars as finance ministers are twofold. The first: there is no doubt that all three were passionate about India and did try their best in their own ways to at least minimize, if not eliminate poverty from India. No objective analyst can doubt their intentions. The second: the primary reason why all three largely failed in their efforts is because of corruption that started as a harmful disease in the Nehru era and now is a malignant cancer that is corroding the insides of India, even as Rahul Gandhi makes a pitch for his personal tryst with destiny. As Dr Pranab Mukherjee makes the final preparations to read his speech as Finance Minister on March 16, 2012, and as Rahul Gandhi gets ready to absorb the import of the verdict delivered by the voters of Uttar Pradesh, both surely must be aware of two things. Corruption and good governance will most definitely play a big role in the 2014 Lok Sabha elections. And that it could well be a kind of a last chance for Dr Mukhrejee and the Gandhi scion to use the two remaining budgets before 2014 to send a loud and clear message to voters that the two (and Congress per se) actually walk the talk when it comes to curing India of corruption. On this hinges the political future of Rahul Gandhi. More importantly, on this hinges the future of India. Quite simply, India can no longer afford tall promises and noble intentions even as we march towards hell for the poor.

In 2009, when the UPA surprise, surprise stormed back to power and the Congress an even bigger surprise won more than 200 Lok Sabha seats for the first time since 1991, I presented my Alternative Budget with a headline that raised quite a few eyebrows. The headline was “Khao aur Khilao Budget”. My premise was simple: it is impossible to change a rotten system overnight in an electoral democracy and yet Dr Mukherjee should be able to implement many proposals that would make a huge difference to poverty, inequality, education, healthcare and governance “even if corruption continued, albeit on a lower scale”. That Alternative Budget surprise, surprise again was a huge ‘hit'; and many economists, analysts and bureaucrats, and even politicians, appreciated some of my ‘realistic' proposals. One such proposal went with the following headline: “A census, a national database and biometric cards for the Poor.” I further wrote, “The FM must allocate another Rs 2000 crore and rope in the Election Commission to provide the poor with biometric photo identity cards. Smart card technology is easily available... I estimate that at least 250 million Indians will get these smart cards and claim welfare scheme funds and resources. Knowing Indians, many undeserving people will sneak into this database while many deserving ones will get left out. But we are not talking about achieving perfection in this budget.” (For more details, log on to http://www.thesundayindian.com/en/story/arindam-chaudhuri-presents-the-khao-aur-khilao-budget/19/7719/)

I doubt if Dr Mukherjee and the former Infosys CEO Nandan Nilekani found time to read my Alternative Budget in 2009 in this magazine and our sister publication Business and Economy. And yet, I was delighted a few months later when UPA-2 actually announced the UIAD project that was all about biometric cards. I feel a little sad when I read newspaper reports about how vested interests are trying to stall, or even kill the UIAD project. And yet, it made me think that there are people in policy making who are genuinely thinking about tackling ‘leakages', which is a polite word for blatant, shameless and parasitic corruption. As with everything else in India, when it comes to corruption, there is a lot of despair; and a lot of hope. The very fact that biometric cards are now a reality for the poor in many districts of India makes me concentrate more on hope than despair.

But to give the devil her due, I have no choice but to highlight some statistics and studies that reveal how corruption must be a cause of despair for all well-meaning citizens of this country. The primary reason for a country being ranked very low on ‘the quality of life indicators' is not poverty or lack of resources but corruption and poor governance. Despite tall promises and about 65 Union budgets some presented by charismatic prime ministers India's ranking continues to be pathetic at just about 125. Not surprising because 400 million Indians are still illiterate, 750 million Indians lack access to basic sanitation and 1,000 million Indians spend their own family money on healthcare because the State has failed to act in that area. Look at the Transparency Index, or the Competitiveness Index or any other damn index and you will realize that India has a pathetic record of taking care of its poor and underprivileged. And it continues to do so despite so many social welfare programmes launched by this UPA government since 2004 when it came to power. The astonishing thing is that Indians still appear to be largely optimistic when we see results of global surveys. And then I realize those survey guys probably never went to slums or villages where farmers were committing suicide.

There is another way to look at how corruption is corroding our innards. Back in the 1980s, Rajiv Gandhi said that about 85% of the money meant for social welfare schemes was eaten away by corruption. If anything, despite RTI and the rise of social activism, media activism and judicial activism, corruption has only gotten worse. One interesting data here. Together, the Centre and all the states have spent close to Rs 20 lakh crore on education since the UPA came to power. This includes plan and non plan expenditures. Assume that Rajiv Gandhi was exaggerating and only 50% of the funds get ‘diverted', you still have a figure of close to Rs 10 lakh crores siphoned away in the name of education. Add health, irrigation, rural electrification, roadways et al and you can well imagine the extent of corruption in India. And almost all of it could have been used to lift the desperately poor above the poverty line. Forget Swiss Banks and black money. I honestly think we in the media should start an audit of expenditures on these schemes meant for the poor and prove how much was actually ‘diverted'. I know activists and the media are already doing it. But no positive outcome seems to come out despite judicial intervention. That brings me close to my proposals this year in my Alternative Budget.

But before I start presenting my proposals, let me share something that we all know. Corruption is flourishing in India because the corrupt are more likely get away with it. I have nothing personal against the former Telecom Minister Sukh Ram who has been convicted again and again on charges of corruption. But the case has dragged on for so long that he is now in his late eighties. I felt troubled about the future of India when I read in a paper that the 96 year old Sheila Kaul a former Congress minister who faces corruption charges was summoned to appear in court despite her lawyer arguing about her age and health. I think Indians are so fed up with corruption and the system that encourages it that they might think that people in their late eighties and nineties are getting just desserts. The simple reason why corruption flourishes in India is that our judicial system is completely broken down and paralysed. We get occasional glimpses of what the judiciary can do like in the cases of Priyadarshani Matto, Jessica Lal, the 2G scam and many others. But they are not even a drop in the ocean.

So what can Pranabda do if he presents a budget for Rahul Gandhi?

Well, he should tackle the key issue of corruption that has rattled the government this year, in particular during the Anna Hazare movement and the Ramdev fiasco! Yes, as of now, both the issues have been managed, but the truth is that it won't be long before more agitations rock the country if it is not tackled properly. Thus, this budget keeps tackling corruption as its top priority! The biggest sufferers of corruption are the poor as the high and mighty use corruption to their benefit.

Here are my suggestions for this year's Alternative Budget.

Key resource allocations:
Transform the judiciary
The Lokpal has been given its silent burial with a completely manipulative and flawed bill. Though the Lokpal bill in its ideal best had the power to make a big impact to deter corruption, I never believed that this was the first priority when it came to tackling corruption. The first priority as I also told Arvind Kejrival during one of our interactions has to be necessarily a massive focus on judicial reforms. Unfortunately, most people don't understand its real relevance and those who do are sitting in power and thus keeping it dysfunctional so that the corrupt can make merry! If Rahul Gandhi is really keen to change this country and make an impact in the field of reducing corruption, he has to awaken the sleeping and completely dysfunctional judiciary of this country!

I was truly shocked when a colleague pointed out that less than 1% is allocated by the Central and State budgets every year for the judiciary. In the Ninth Five Year Plan, the government set aside Rs 385 crore for the judiciary. That works out to 0.078% of total plan expenditure. In the tenth Five year Plan, the allocation was increased to Rs 700 crores; about 0.071% of total plan expenditure. In the Eleventh Five Year Plan which is in progress, the allocation was ‘generously' raised to Rs 1470 crore. As a percentage of total plan expenditure, things haven't improved at all. These figures are so laughably small that I marvel at how the judiciary functions at all!

All this, while new laws, amendments to existing laws, a massive increase in corruption and the rise of activism have led to more and more cases piling up even as old cases continue to languish. As I stated earlier, and have often stated in the past, the only way to reduce corruption in India is to make the judiciary more effective. Till the corrupt remain convinced that they can either escape punishment or delay it indefinitely, corruption will continue to increase. The one and only solution for corruption is a functional judicial system. Corruption and greed are globally prevalent, yet it touches far less lives in the USA than in India simply because the American judicial system is functional and ours is dysfunctional. In America, they have ten times more judges per million people than in India. If we are to try and achieve such standards we need to have about 100,000 more judges. It sounds huge but is surely achievable in a span of five years. And to have 20,000 additional judges per year, we have to budget for an additional amount of approximately Rs.6,000 crores per year, assuming that the expenses around a judge and his office assistants put together is definitely not more than Rs.30,00,000 per year.

So if I were Pranabda, I would use the 2012 Budget to announce that Rs 6,000 crores have been allocated for the judiciary in the coming fiscal, with a commitment to increase it to Rs 10,000 crores in the next fiscal. India desperately needs such a big ticket and transformational move. The budget must unveil a concrete plan whereby the Law Ministry works with Supreme Court and High Court judges to draw up firstly a concrete blueprint to “quadruple” the number of judges and courts before the general elections in 2014; and secondly, to draw up a blueprint that will compel litigants, lawyers and judges to commit to a time frame to settle cases. First, this will send a huge message to voters that the government actually means business. Second, it will actually transform governance in India. If those facing corruption charges know that they could be convicted in less than a year and their property confiscated and auctioned as it has started happening in some isolated cases the incentives for corruption will vastly diminish, if not disappear altogether. This is far more important than making noise about a Lokpal. This is very doable. No progress was made for almost two decades in Bihar when it came to tackling corruption cases. Then Chief Minister Nitish Kumar set up fast track courts and lo and behold, the corrupt actually started getting convicted quickly.

These massive allocations for the judiciary will ensure that ‘fast track' courts do not remain exceptions but become the norm in Indian judiciary.

Focus on education and healthcare
For close to a decade, I have been repeating the simple fact that without education and healthcare, there is just no way that India can ever hope or dream of catching up with China. It is a disgrace that public expenditure on health and education at less than 2% of GDP is less than the share taken away by myriad subsidies and exemptions. The only way out is a massive increase in allocations for schemes like Sarva Shiksha Abhiyaan and National Rural health Mission. But as I have often pointed out, merely allotting more money without improving governance and reducing corruption will not help. For a more detailed perusal of my proposals, do read my 2010 Alternative Budget that went with the headline “A Budget for Three Idiots” (http://www.thesundayindian.com/article.php?category_id=28&article_id=637). The recommendations I have made in that proposal are even more relevant today.     Read More....

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With state elections gaining heat, the farmer community of India would again, suddenly find themselves in the thick of all attention.This pocket of population that is usually sidelined, would again find themselves at the top of all political manifestos. And why not! When farmers constitute 60 per cent of the entire population, no political party can ignore this huge vote bank. And ironically, in spite of their seasonal electoral importance, the very same people are left in the lurch post the elections. Today, this one sector employs almost 60 per cent of the entire population, yet contributes merely 17 per cent to our national income! Shamelessly, our successive governments have succeeded in keeping a majority of them marginalised, bereft of even basic amenities, which are required for day-to-day sustenance.

The fact is that till date, our agriculture sector has hardly seen any major technological breakthrough. We are still stuck in an era from where we started. A stroll through any of our villages would be enough to visualise the archaic method of agriculture that’s still being practised throughout India - as even today, cattle is mostly used to plough fields, thus reducing the per hectare productivity. Our irrigation facilities still need so much upgradation that even today we are dependent on a good rain for a good produce. A Food Agriculture Organisation (FAO) report reveals that India’s yield of rice in the period 2003-2005 was 3,034 kilograms per hectare. This is nothing when compared to China’s, which produced more than double the yield of India with 6,233 kilograms per hectare, during the same period. The same trend was seen in the productivity of other crops like wheat (India’s production being 2,688 kg/hectare while for China it was 4,155 kg/hectare) and mustard (India’s average productivity was 909 kg/hectares which was a little less than half of China’s 1,778 kg/hectare) too! In 2004, China’s aggregate rice production was 186 million tonnes – way ahead of India’s 124 million tonnes. That’s not all. In 2009, in the international market, the per-hectare crop-produce value per for India was $914, compared to China’s $2780 and Korea’s $3530. In other words, the per hectare value of crops from Korea was around 4 times that of those from India. Similarly, China was 3 times ahead of India on the same parameter.

In 2008, China employed 39.6 per cent of its people in agriculture, a fall from 40.8 per cent in the previous year. On the contrary, in India, agriculture and its allied sector have been responsible for 60 per cent of the country’s employment, even though the sector contributes only 17 per cent to its GDP. It has always been observed that conventionally, over time, nations take a natural course in their path of development – a shift of employment concentration occurs from the agriculture sector to manufacturing and finally to the tertiary sector. In this context, even though India is lagging behind China (China has a lower proportion of its work force employed in agriculture), both are almost in a similar platform. But South Korea is in a different league altogether! It employs only 7.2 per cent of its total workforce in agriculture. This is due to South Korea’s committed adherence to incredible growth and its integration with hi-tech Western economies and scientific methods since 1960s!

In spite of the humongous population involved in agriculture in India, the value addition per farmer has always been an issue of concern. As known to all, our agriculture sector suffers from huge disguised employment and wastage of manpower. A quick analysis of World Bank data (May 2011) would be sufficient to comprehend the sheer waste of manpower. An Indian agricultural worker added $400 to the sector back in 1994 which increased to $500 by the end of 2009 – an increase by just 25 per cent point. In the same period, China increased their per worker contribution to the sector by 85 per cent; currently, a single Chinese agricultural worker adds $550 to the sector. However, it is Korea that has left all these nations behind, even before the race literally started.

Korea, unlike India and China, does not enjoy a burgeoning demographic dividend nor does it enjoy a vast land area. But this is one of those nations which despite all shortcomings have successfully created high labour productivity. Back in 1994, the value added per agricultural worker in Korea was around $7000, which is now on the verge of touching $20,000 – an increase of 185 per cent! And this despite the fact that India has 158 million hectares of arable land (53.11 per cent of total land area) compared to China’s 110 million hectares of arable land (12 per cent of total land area) and Korea’s 1.60 million hectares of arable land (16 per cent of total land), which talks volumes about the productivity and land usage of these nations.

This huge productivity coupled with extensive modern techniques of agriculture allowed Korea to maintain an undernutrition level that is a dream for many developed nations – an undernutrition level of zero per cent. Even China successfully decreased their under nutrition prevalence level from 18 per cent (in 1990-92) to 10 per cent by the end of 2007. Nowhere close to world leaders, India had an undernutrition prevalence rate of 20 per cent in 1990-92; this shamelessly increased by 1 per cent by the end 2005-07. Of course, this should not come as surprise, especially in the light of scams that are surfacing every now and then. What else can we expect from successive governments that have successfully made new records in allowing grains to rot in godowns, promoted and facilitated hoardings, sold onions at metaphorically gold-like prices, and above all, created situations where farmers had to commit suicide! What else can you expect when the interest on a loan for a tractor is more than that on a luxury car – or for that matter when a farmer has to pay a higher interest rate on agricultural loan compared to the loan meant for conspicuous consumer durables! This not only creates a dearth of capital at the farmer’s end but also keeps him alien to modern tools and scientific methods – thus lowering both per capita labour productivity and per hectare agricultural output!

What more, even the food supply per capita per day in India has been dismal. Our food supply today is merely 2333 kcal per person per day (an increase by 8 kcal per person per day since 1992) compared to 2947 kcal of China (increased by almost 400 kcal in 1992) and 3104 kcal per person per day of Korea (increased from 3003 kcal per person per day). In simple words, India has failed in a big way to address both the problems of undernutrition and food supply, thus pushing millions towards death.     Read More....

For More IIPM Info, Visit below mentioned IIPM articles.

IIPM B-School Detail
IIPM makes business education truly global
IIPM’s Management Consulting Arm - Planman Consulting
Arindam Chaudhuri (IIPM Dean) – ‘Every human being is a diamond’
IIPM ranked No 1 B-School in India
domain-b.com : IIPM ranked ahead of IIMs
IIPM: Management Education India
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IIPM Proves Its Mettle Once Again....
Planman Technologies
IIPM Contact Info
IIPM History
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IIPM Infrastructure
IIPM Info

IIPM: Selection Process
IIPM: Research and Publications
IIPM MBA Institute India
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