Wednesday, December 19, 2018

Has Modi lost a golden opportunity?

It was one Saturday one time and a Sunday the following week and every week almost,  the people of India were hooked to television sets waiting to listen to the future leader of the country, none other than Modi.  That was 2013 September onwards when Narendra Modi got elected as the head of campaign committee of BJP who was addressing rallies in various parts of country.  There was euphoria all over with the expectations soaring as the then dispensation had failed miserably having  been accused of one scam after another.  It was a  movement that began with Anna Hazare fasting for the cause of Lokpal bill which eventually got passed by parliament. Arvind Kejriwal gave the political touch for the movement with his Aam Aadmi Party that eventually got Delhi to rule.

History was created on 16 th may 2014 when BJP got a historic mandate of 282 seats and people started celebrating  with joy the advent of a non congress dispensation in full majority  for the first time after Independence. The mood was palpable as the expectation that Modi rallies with its slogan of Achhe Din had generated tremendous response from public.  By then the public was reeling from the effects of not only from rampant corruption, but also with higher fuel prices, inflation with high cost of living, high interest rates and lack of job opportunities.

So what did BJP promise that got them to 282 in 2014? The main catch was bringing black money back and putting it into every Indian account an amount of Rs 15 lakh. Come 2018 almost after 4 and half years of the Modi Government, where do we stand? The petroleum minister says he is helpless to bring down fuel prices as the Global factors are responsible for it.  If that is the case why didn’t you bring down the prices when the global prices were falling between 2014 and 2016 the people are asking.  What happened to the wind fall gains by the government during that period. You are claiming that the oil marketing companies have become profitable, what about people, a big hole in their pockets?.  Is this what Achhe Din all about?.

When Demonetization was announced, there was a promise “Give me 50 days, you will see happiness forever. What happened later? The Govt has not even bothered to listen to people, when some people lost lives, not an iota of sympathy was shown towards them. Let alone that, when some people could not exchange their old currency sought one more opportunity, they were denied suspecting them to be black money hoarders.

So what has demonetization brought our life to as on today.  The so called perceived black money did not come in thousands or lakhs of crores. All that RBI ended up was just a difference of 0.7 percent in the currency not returning after demonetization.  The economic chain of activity got cut. Jobs were lost.  Just walk on the main commercial streets in your city, you will see only the staff of a shop seen inside with occasional visits by customers.  This was prevalent even during festive season. The only exceptions have been eateries.

The BJP is claiming that with demonetization the tax base has enhanced and unaccounted money has been unearthed.  But at what cost? Imagine the cost of New currency printing, jobs lost, economic chain of activity getting hit. We are not privy to some of the statistics that the government claims to have benefited due to Demonetization.  The better way to describe this situation is, for a professional, the money flow is badly hit, payments are not given on time even after completion of the job due to cascading effect. People are not spending money but postponing their decisions in the private sector. Orders even after confirmation is either getting cancelled or deferred due to money crunch. To add insult to injury increase in petrol price, interest rates remaining the same for old customers and essential commodities remain where they are with respect to price.

One more hit came from GST. It was a brave and bold move by Modi government but what is the benefit to common man.  The prices have not come down, they have increased on some goods and more shocking has been the irrational entry of GST into certain goods where none existed earlier. Like for example, people are paying for GST for the premium they are paying for Insurance. This has lead to a perception that Modi has started punishing his voters for having voted him to power.

There is a clear perception that has set in the minds of public especially amongst the middle class that Modi government has shut all the doors for them.  What used to be the safe source of income thro’ Bank interest rates has come down drastically.  Any scheme that you invest in does not offer more than 7 percent returns. Let alone the FDs, keeping money in Bank Account has become scary with frauds of Nirav Modi & Mehul Choksi coming to light and the way the customers are being fleeced with various charges. Besides this, the middle class has also seen the commitment of this Government on fighting corruption and black money.  It was only symbolic of them to join Anna Hazare for Lok Pal bill as an opposition party. After coming to power there is no word on instituting Lok Pal except a few meetings  to have been called to discuss it  being reported in the media.

The point here is where do people stand after 4 and half years of Modi Govt? they feel disheartened, let down. Imagine the optimism they had when the Government took over and see where they are today. Miserable is what you can describe it as.  Some of the spokespersons of BJP are so vocal in suggesting that “look at the number of subscriptions to EPF, they are a big indicator of employment generation.  But in reality what is the picture? When a Government undertakes such measures as demonetization and GST, it is like a scientist conducting a test before certification. What people are asking is why don’t  you listen to them when it has gone horribly wrong and hurt them.  Probably a dialogue will help in achieving the success. Come February every year, for the last 4 years, people have been looking forward to the Union Budget for some initiatives, measures that will address the needs of the common man.  Where are they? One of the regional channel chief post this year’s budget was commenting, has this BJP government lost a golden chance? After all the Government has still not ensured basic necessities of food, shelter and education to one and all. It makes the people ask the Government why do an animal test on us when you cannot provide an alternate to our present state of affairs?

So in Summary, after 5 years our lifestyle has not improved but deteriorated with same old issues of higher prices, lesser income and more difficulty.  If the recent assembly election results have not served alarm bells to BJP, then they may end up ceding the space back to Congress despite arguing in Television channels that Congress does not stand a chance.

Wednesday, December 12, 2018

Eight ways of reducing weight of school bag

1.  Teach a subject for two periods in a day
2.  Combine home-work and class-work in a single notebook
3. Reduce the thickness of notebooks
4. Reduce the size of text books
5.  Split each text book into multiple smaller books
6.  Let the children and parents know which books are needed and which are not needed for the day
7. Allow students to take notes in one common notebook  and copy the notes to respective class work notebooks at home
8. Reduce the size of school diary to be carried by students

Monday, August 20, 2018

United Ways - an Introduction

United Ways is an international umbrella organization that hosts thousands of non-profit organizations many of them many of them are Christian faith missionary organizations.

Started In 1887 in Denver of Colarado state of USA (central portion).  A rabbi, two ministers, a priest and a woman started it. Frances Wisebart Jacobs, the Rev. Myron W. Reed, Msgr. William J.O’Ryan, Dean H. Martyn Hart and Rabbi William S. Friedman were founders. They created an organization to collect the funds for local charities, to coordinate relief services, to counsel and refer clients to cooperating agencies, and to make emergency assistance grants for cases that could not be referred. That year, Denver raised $21,700 and created a movement that would become United Way.   In the mid 1900s local United Ways founded a national organization, later called United Way of America. In 1928, a Community Chest organization was established in Cape Town, South Africa. By 1974, may organizations internationally were established leading to creation of United Way International. Its staff spoke eight languages, with a Board of Directors from more than seven countries, working with member organizations in 45 countries and territories outside the US. In May 2009, United Way of America and United Way International were integrated as one global entity, United Way Worldwide. In its first 100 years, the United Way network reached 20 countries. Since 1990, United Ways have been created in 25 additional countries.

Unitedways has partnership with the National Football League from 1973 when the NFL and United Way of America came together to discuss the possibility of using the NFL's network contract airtime to promote United Way during game telecasts. NFL commissioner Pete Rozelle recognized the partnership as a viable means of communicating the good works of United Ways while putting faces on a league of players hidden by helmets. Since 1946, the American Federation of Labor and the Congress of Industrial Organizations (AFL-CIO) and United Way Worldwide have enjoyed a cooperative relationship Leadership 18 is a coalition of long-established charities, faith-based organizations, and social and health groups that support and promote people's safety, health, well-being and social and economic development across America.

There is a significant history of misappropriation of funds and false accounting at United Way, with several high profile frauds by high ranking officials leading in part to the collapse of United Way of America and the organisation's rebirth as United Way World wide [William Aramony, a founder of United Way, was himself jailed for theft of funds

In 1986, The United Way of Cleveland, Ohio, held an event called Balloonfest '86, setting a world record by releasing 1.5 million balloons. Unfortunately, the event had disastrous consequences, wreaking havoc at Burke Lakefront Airport and Lake Erie, causing injury to animals and contributing to two fishermen's deaths.

William Aramony, CEO of the national organization for over 20 years, retired in 1992 amid allegations of fraud and financial mismanagement, of which he was subsequently convicted. He was sentenced to 7 years in prison and fined $300,000.

Ralph Dickerson Jr., a former CEO of United Way of New York City, was found to have used $227,000 in United Way funds for personal expenses during 2002 and 2003. He later agreed to reimburse the organization.

Oral Suer, CEO of the Washington, D.C. chapter, was convicted of misuse of donations in 2004. He pleaded guilty to theft of almost $500,000 and was sentenced to 27 months in prison. Norman O. Taylor, Suer's replacement, was never charged with misconduct but was forced to resign.

United Way has been criticized for abusing the employer-employee relationship to acquire funds. Employers often strive for 100% contribution by their employees, keep track of which employees contribute and which do not, and bring pressure upon those who do not, leading the employee to fear that his job is in jeopardy or that he otherwise is subject to economic penalty if he does not contribute

Friday, July 20, 2018

Understanding “Modern Slavery”

The term “modern slavery” is creation of Walking Free Foundation
The Global Slavery Index is annual report providing ranking, by country wise, of the number of people in "modern slavery", as well as an analysis of the actions governments are taking to respond, and the factors that make people vulnerable. The report is published by Walk Free Foundation.  The Walk Free Foundation is an Australian NGO aimed towards ending what it refers to as 'Modern Slavery'. 

The Minderoo Foundation is behind Walking Free Foundation
Walk Free Foundation (twitter account @WalkFreeFdn) is one of the programs of the Minderoo Group encompassing both commercial and philanthropic activities. The group pursues opportunities in investments, benefits from a number of pastoral leases, property investments and mineral exploration projects. The Minderoo Foundation was established by Andrew and Nicola Forrest in 2001 and was originally known as the Australian Children’s Trust. Other activities under philanthropic branch of Minderoo are Generation One (aimed at ending disparity between Indigenous and non-Indigenous Australians through providing employments), Forrest Research Foundation (aimed at assisting Western Australia in becoming a research and innovation Centre through through doctoral studies or a postdoctoral fellowships), Thrive by Five (aimed at encouraging a long term and evidence-based approach to Australia policy on children) and Arts, Culture & Community (aimed at supporting community projects nationally and internationally through a network of more than 250 partnerships that range from Channel 7 Telethon, the Salvation Army, St Vincent de Paul,  Inspired Living,  and Gurama Yani U’.

Walking Free Foundation leverages International Organizations
Walk Free Foundation works together with the International Labor Organization (ILO) and the International Organization for Migration (IOM) to generate joint estimates of "Modern Slavery". Walk Free Foundation is leveraging Bali Process by providing the Secretariat for the Bali Process on People Smuggling, Trafficking in Persons and Related Transnational Crime, and championing business sector engagement in this regional program.

Bali Process is an informal non-binding International official forum working towards issues relating to people smuggling, human trafficking, and related transnational crime and proper responses to these issues.  Bali Process is since its inception in 2002, is engaged in effectively raising regional awareness of the consequences of people smuggling, trafficking in persons and related transnational crime. It is a forum for policy dialogue, information sharing and practical cooperation to help the region address these challenges. The Bali process is steered by Australia, Indonesia, New Zealand and Thailand and is co-chaired by Indonesia and Australia. The Bali Process has 45-member states and IOM (International Organization for Migration), UNHCR (United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees), UNODC (United Nations Office of Drugs and Crime), APC, Interpol, ICMPD, IGC, UNDP, IFRC, ICRC, ILO, ADB, World Bank are also associated with the Bali Process.

Walk Free Foundation is behind Global Freedom Network (GFN)
Walk Free Foundation has strategized and created Global Freedom Network (GFN). The GFN is aimed at leveraging engagement with faith leaders around the world and work with them to take spiritual and practical actions to eradicate modern slavery. GFN is also claims to empower faith leaders to mobilize their efforts to collaborate with the private, public and civil sectors to fight the cause of Walk Free Foundation. GFN also works with governments of the ten leading economies of the world to support them to enact laws, and ensure budget and capability for enforcement, to hold organizations accountable for "modern slavery" in their supply chains. GFN seeks participation of country leaders to join faith leaders in signing the Joint Declaration Against Slavery. The Walk Free Foundation is also scaling effective anti-slavery responses in partnership with the Freedom Fund and seed funded the global activist movement, Freedom United, whose community of 8 million supporters are campaigning for change. The Walk Free Foundation continues to work with faiths, governments and NGOs throughout the world to agitate for change and support initiatives dedicated to the eradication of modern slavery in all its forms.

The Minderoo Foundation is inherently Christian
While the Walk Free Foundation has created faith-based organization GFN which is led by Christian organizations, the Arts, Culture & Community wing of Minderoo has many Christian and Church organizations missionary in nature.  The activities of Minderoo is thus influenced by Church organizations.  Minderoo is able to sew a network of commercial, philanthropic activities in the background of Christian framework and is attempting to leverage non-Christian celebrities, institutions and resources to set global agenda for Internal organizations and governments of nation states. 

Among the prominent organizations of this sort includes the Salvation Army, an international movement, is an evangelical part of the universal Christian Church. Its message is based on the Bible. Its ministry is motivated by love of God. Its mission is to preach the gospel of Jesus Christ and meet human needs in His name without discrimination.  One other organization, the St Vincent de Paul Society was founded by a 20 year old student named Frederic Ozanam in 1833. It was established by like minded individuals who wished to put their faith into action. This society talks the language of compassionate outlook, enthusiasm and vision and social justice and are referred to as Vincentians. Vincentians engage in activities to feed, clothe, house and assist people who are identified by the society as forced onto the margins of society. Vincentians follow the teachings of scriptures in their enquiry about the suffering of the people.  The Channel 7 Telethon Trust is a registered charity, governed by a Board of Trustees.  Telethon is a network of media channels providing the Trust with tangible and intangible support through infrastructure, facilities, service and professional advice. The Trust also engages numerous other companies who donate time, resources and equipment to help us keep our costs to an absolute minimum across each year.  The Inspired Living Foundation is a not-for-profit organization, which has been providing leadership and wellbeing programs to schools and community groups throughout Western Australia since 2011.

Friday, March 16, 2018

World Happiness Report - a media perspective

Annually, UN backed World Happiness Report is published with a list of countries in the decreased order of happiness. Specifically, the World Happiness Report is prepared by a group of independent experts acting in their personal capacities. However, the report is assisted by Gallup organization with data and financially by other western academic institutions and funding agencies.  In this report Indian position is 128, Pakistan is 75, United States is 107, Finland is 1st, Syria is 150, Burundi is the last one (156th).  The report is generated by assessing countries on six indicators income, healthy life expectancy, social support, freedom, trust and generosity. The assessment is based on a survey conducted by Gallup company, which is a US based performance management consulting company.  The Gallop World Poll (GWP) questions are used to extract opinions from people of each countries and the assessment of happiness is carried based on their responses.  A sample size of 2,000 to 3,000 is taken for the assessment. Gallop company claims that the conclusions are in 95% confidence intervals.  The responses are collected with binary responses (yes or no) and common questions are used across the countries.  For example, to determine the 'social support', the GWP question used is "If you were in trouble, do you have relatives or friends you can count on to help you whenever you need them, or not?”.  Similarly, the freedom to make life choices is determined by GWP by using the question "Are you satisfied or dissatisfied with your freedom to choose what you do with your life?”.  Further, the Generosity of people is determined by the question “Have you donated money to a charity in the past month?”.   To assess on the corruption, the GWP uses the questions “Is corruption widespread throughout the government or not?” and “Is corruption widespread within businesses or not?” are used.

The World Happiness Report is given wide coverage by the western media and world organizations. Influenced by Western media, Indian media too provide visibility to this report.  The unconvincingness of Pakistan and USA being above India in Happiness index remains with the public. However, the UN stamp on the report, backed up by media reports silences the reader. 

The Gallop company is known for conducting engagement surveys in companies to assess the extent of engagement of employees in the companies.  It is the experience of vast majority of employees that the engagement results are meaningful. Further, although surveying agencies and the companies promise confidentiality of participation and responses of individual employees, employees deeply suspect the credibility of this promise.  In general, the questions used in the engagement surveys are also binary.  Many experts have severely criticized the methodology of engagement surveys. In the surveys conducted by the Gallop, it is observed that ambiguous measures are passed off as conclusions.  From a professional researcher's point of view, agree/disagree questions are the weakest type. It should also be observed that large claims are made based on such yes/no type of responses.  The questions that are used in the surveys are disconnected, many times interpreted differently by different individuals and the frame work is just not understandable.

Every year, UN backed, Gallop supported World Happiness Report is being published and Indian media highlights the contents of the report.  Indian public are misled about the concept of happiness without knowing the methodology adopted to generate the report.  Indians think that they are less happy compared to most of other countries of the world and distance themselves from the true happiness concept they naturally inherit.