Tuesday, 29 December 2009

Refusal by police to register reports of crimes and alleged crimes

For those who don't know: in our country, if you have a civil or criminal complaint to make and you go to your local police station to do so, the police often refuse to register your complaint. If they do register your complaint, it is called a "First Information Report" (FIR).

As such matters are in the competence of the governments of the local, state and union territory (UT) governments (not the central government), the central government's circular to state governments and union territories calling for mandatory registration of all complaints as FIRs.

Why has the central governments decided to issue such a circular? Because the central government cannot legally force the local, state and UT governments to register all FIRs, but it can in practice pressure them to do so by means of creating national standards and training programmes, and providing or witholding funding for local, state and UT governments.

Such a circular is the first step towards creating such pressure.

Why has the central government decided to act now, rather than at any other time in the 63 years or so since Independence? Because of a particularly nasty case which has gained national notoreity, which involves among other things the alleged refusal of a partiucular police station to register a FIR.

Why do police stations refuse to register FIRs? Sometimes simply because it is too much bother. Sometimes because they hope to get a bribe before they register it. Usually because it does not look too good to have a huge number of FIRs that have not been investigated, let alone solved, by the police station concerned.

Why would police stations have a huge number of uninvestigated and unsolved FIRs?. Here is one explanation by a police official, as quoted by a recent e-mail circular on the issue (a "lakh" is 100,000):

"In a country where the state police collectively have over one lakh vacancies, the first step should be to recruit more policemen so that each and every complaint is attended properly. Mere registration of FIRs will not serve the purpose".

Clearly, steps need to be taken to investigate why, in a country with so much unemployment, over a 100,000 job-positions remain unfilled.

Compulsory registration of FIRs is certainly an essential step towards identifying the true extent of law-breaking in our country; without that, no one can assess the severity or frequency of the different types of lawbreaking that are taking place, let alone measure whether adequate steps are being taken to address lawbreaking, or evaluate the general impression that lawbreaking is increasing in our country.

In fact, one would have thought that compulsory registration of FIRs was an obvious and minimum first step which should have been implemented long ago.

However, the real issues with the central government circular are: how to prove that a police station has refused to register a FIR? And what penalty is to be applied for failure to register a FIR?

Friday, 25 December 2009

India now has roughly half a billion mobile 'phone numbers, but...

Sometime at the start of 2010, India will become the country with the second largest number of mobile phone users in the world (the largest is China) - though the actual number of subscribers will be less than 500 million, since some people have multiple SIM cards.

In average terms, that works out to roughly 45 phone connections per 100 of population. However, in the urban areas, the number is closer to 97%, while it is only about 18% in rural areas.

India’s broadband connections, however, continue to be a shockingly small 7.5 million.

This is partly because we don't have the right policies to facilitate greater broadband connectivity, and partly because fixed-line connectivity is actually coming down - to 37.25 million lines at present.

So is the increasing popularity of mobile a consequence as well as a contributor to illiteracy?

As long as we continue to be primarily an oral culture, we will never make the kind of progress we should. We need to be a culture that is equally oral and literate.

Thursday, 19 November 2009

China now equals India in use of English

According to a report in the Financial Times today, reporting a study by the British Council (which I cannot actually find on the British Council website!), India is rapidly losing one of its clear economic advantages over China: the number of Chinese able to speak English is now equal to the number in India.

My guess is that the Chinese who do speak English, probably have the same range of proficiency in the language as do Indians.

As far as I can see from today's Indian newspapers, none of them has picked up the story. It is neither entertaining nor mood-lifting. Perhaps our newspapers may get around to the story tomorrow?

Apparent Maoist Attacks

Today's news that explosions have blown up a railway track, leading to the derailment of a passenger train in the eastern state of Jharkhand, have apparently been attributed to Maoists by the police.

It is probably the case that Maoists are capable of such attacks. However, other groups, such as extremist Hindu groups, and mafia-type gangs, are also capable of them - as we all know.

So it is not clear whether Maoists are in fact responsible.

Have Maoists claimed responsibility for the attacks?

When Maoists claim responsibility for the attacks, then we will have some grounds to think that that may well be the case.

We Indians have a tendency to rush to unfounded conclusions...and our police and other officials easily take to such "conclusions" in order to deflect attention from their own inefficiency in pursuing all such cases.

Wednesday, 30 September 2009

"It is our bad luck to have Pakistan as a neighbour"

That is what was written recently in one of our national newspapers by a commentator, and it is a sign of the degree to which we we have historically been psychologically preoccupied with Pakistan, and continue to be preoccupied with Pakistan.

But Pakistan is merely a thorn in our side and, it seems to me, will
continue to be merely a thorn in our side - no matter how adroitly or
maladroitly we manage it - barring a miracle of some sort, of course, which is always possible - but one does not count on miracles as an orientation for foreign policy.

On the other hand, our real bad luck at present is to have China as our neighbour.

The issue is not what we do about Pakistan, but what we do about China -
and our nation does not seem to want to face that question.

It is not Pakistan that is capable of taking over Kashmir but it is
China that is capable of taking over Arunachal Pradesh (and, actually,
Nagaland and indeed Mizoram). It is not Pakistan that has us surrounded. And it is not Pakistan that has the capability to deny us access to sea
lanes...and it is China that is opposing us in all international fora where we are seeking to have our rightful place.

Tuesday, 8 September 2009

Mistreatment of OCIs by Indian Officials

The PIO (Person of Indian Origin) scheme by the Government of India was greeted by a wave of disinterest as it was far too expensive and complicated, and did not offer enough to Indians abroad.

That is why the PIO scheme was supplemented with the OCI scheme (Overseaas Citizen of India).

This is less expensive (but as pointed out below, more expensive than a 10-year visa) but the OCI scheme actually creates unexpected and unnecessary hassles

In reading the rest of the material below, please be aware that everyone who successfully gets OCI status receives two things:
- a document which looks like a passport but is really only a sort of OCI "card", and
- a visa-like stamp in her/ his passport.

So here are two interesting stories:

1. A family friend of ours (a Canadian citizen) was recently denied boarding by airline authorities in Canada, even though she had both her passport and her OCI card with her, because the passport she had with her was a new one and she had not organised herself in the middle of her busy life to get the OCI "visa" stamped in her new passport. In fact, she might have been under the impression (as I was till then) that the OCI Card has a certain validity of its own. But apparently, an OCI has to have BOTH the stamp on the passport and the OCI Card - in which case it is difficult to see why the OCI card exists. It is worse than useless because it costs the Government of India money to produce, which could be put to better use by the Government if the document was not produced, and the system creates hassles for OCIs because they have to remember to carry an unnecessary document.

REAL dual-citizenship is accepted by much less developed countries such as Pakistan, as well as by much more developed countries such as the UK and Switzerland. The Government of India's refusal to provide REAL dual-citizenship seems to be part of a casteist/ feudal heritage of control of the people by an elite which does not want Indians to cross the Kala Pani (traditionally, Indians became untouchable if they left the shores of India by crossing the "black waters" of the oceans). For some curious reason which I have not been able to fathom or get any explanation for, our rivers are holy but our oceans and seas are unholy.

Anyway, here is the second story:

2. Dr Sujit K. Pandit M.D., Professor Emeritus of the Department of Anesthesiology at the University of Michigan at Ann Arbor had an experience even worse than that of our family friend mentioned above. Here is the story in his own words, which he has given me permission to provide in this Blog:


My advice to all my friends who hold an OCI (Overseas Citizen of India) Card and those who aspire to get one.

I am an American citizen. I also carry an OCI card (Overseas Citizen of India) since 2007.

On Saturday, June 20, 2009 , I arrived at the Kolkata Netaji Subhas Airport from Detroit via Singapore, by Singapore Airlines (SQ 516) at 10:30 P.M.

I presented myself to an Immigration Officer (Mr. Biswas) for immigration clearance. I gave him my American passport and my OCI card. He demanded to see my visa from the Indian consular office. Unfortunately, that visa was attached to my old passport and I did not bring it with me.

I explained to him that I am sorry I forgot to bring my old passport but since I do possess a valid OCI Card that would automatically mean that I do also possess a permanent (life long) visa for India and there are proofs that I have traveled multiple times to India after I had received my OCI card.

Mr. Biswas detained me for two hours inside the airport and then he told me that he is going to allow me to stay in India for 72 hours and asked me to report to the Foreign Relations Regional Officer (FRRO) in the city within 72 hours. He kept my passport. During all that time I had no opportunity either to approach his OC (Officer in Charge) although I asked for it, or to contact my relatives who came to the airport to receive me and were waiting outside and had no idea why I was being held back or if I have even arrived.

Forgetting to bring my old passport was my own fault but I 'forgot' to bring it partly because I knew I have my OCI Card with me and I thought, that means something, I really believed that I am a citizen of India too. Why would a citizen also need a visa to enter his own country? I thought I have a dual citizenship for both the USA and India . Other wise, what is the difference between an ordinary foreigner and the OCI Card holder?

Next day was a Sunday, I called a friend in Ann Arbor who went into my house, got my old passport and sent me the scanned copy of my old passport and a copy of my permanent visa by e-mail.

So, on Monday I went to see Mr. Bibhas Talukdar, the FRRO. He hardly looked at the documents (the scanned visa) that I had with me he simply asked me to get my old passport by courier mail within another seven days. He appeared gleeful telling me that it is only out of "pity" that he is allowing me to stay in India for seven more days. He was totally unimpressed by either my status as a Professor Emeritus of the University of Michigan or my age (70+).

I called my friend in Ann Arbor again who then sent my old passport by FedEx. Three days later the passport arrived. Since I had to leave Kolkata for prescheduled visit to Bangalore, my niece took it to Mr. Talukdar. But due to lack of communication between the FRRO office and the airport immigration department my passport had not arrived at the city office even after 9 days. My niece had to go to the FRRO's office three times once waiting until 6 P.M. still they did not have my passport. They only promised: "it will come soon". At last, 12 days after my arrival, my niece got my passport.

From this painful and anxiety provoking experience I have learned a few valuable lessons:
1. The loud talk about "Dual Citizenship" for Indian Americans is just a political hoax.
2. The OCI card just does not have any value. It is just a piece of expensive junk. You still need a visa every time you travel to India whether or not you possess an OCI card. Only difference is that for the high price of getting an OCI card you will get a "life long " visa. A 10-year visa is much cheaper.
3. When coming to India always consider yourself a foreigner and bring your visa with you, there will be no exceptions. Your OCI card is not a visa substitute.
4. In fact, you will probably be treated worse than an ordinary foreigner arriving without a valid visa. Because a foreigner especially a white Caucasian will at least be treated with courtesy and probably offered a temporary visa if there is no reason to deny it, but not you.

Please feel free to forward this mail to any of your friends who may benefit from my experience. Especially feel free to forward this to any influential politician or civil servant in India that you may know.

Sujit K. Pandit M.D.
Professor Emeritus
Department of Anesthesiology
University of Michigan
Ann Arbor , MI
48109, USA

Saturday, 5 September 2009

Abolish the Registrar of Newspapers

Some colleagues are launching a fresh publication. One of the colleagues happens to be an OCI.

After jumping through several hoops whose existence defies justification, and after coming to hope that all the formalities had finally been completed, my OCI friend received a letter from the RNI (Registrar of Newspapers, India), apparently prepared on a certain date, and posted a full week later but in such a way or at such a location as to take two and a half weeks to arrive. This letter basically simply questions whether my friend is in fact an OCI.

This is an interesting and curious question, considering that the papers submitted include (as required) a licence by the seniormost possible member of the police force, who had (of coure) to check with the Home Ministry about the status of the OCI before the licence could be issued by the police officer.

Interesting question: does the RNI have the authority to question anyone's OCI or citizenship status?

If they do have such authority, is that not a criminal offence and should RNI not take it up with the policy authority that issued the licence - or indeed with the Home Ministry itself?

Or is this not simply an effort to delay registration totally unnecessarily - or perhaps another attempt to get some payment "under the table"? (My friends have resolutely refused to pay any bribes).

Under India's Right to Freedom Act, some activist in India needs to take up the question of how many such letters have been issued by RNI over let us say the last 5 years, as a proportion of the total number of publication licences granted.

How many months or years DOES it take from the initial application for registration to the granting of registration.

Indeed, under RTI someone needs to raise the question of whether it is necessary for the RNI to exist.

Abolish the RNI, say I, along with a multitude of other such useless offices, which simply waste government money (that is, the money earned and handed over to government by taxpayers)

I will offer to create a list of other such offices or functions that should be eliminated in order to reduce public expenditure.

Friday, 4 September 2009

How can our corrupt judicial system be cleaned up?

Supreme Court lawyer Prashant Bhushan deserves a Padma Vibhushana award for his heroic attempts to clean up our judiciry, specifically in terms of his role in the battle to have the assets and earnings of our judges declared on the public record.

Bhushan's calls for a National Judicial Complaints Commission and an independent Judicial Appointments Commission will not be the whole answer to cleaning up corruption in our judiciary, but they are certainly steps in the right direction.

See the interview with him in Tehelka Magazine, Vol 6, Issue 35, September 05, 2009, titled: "Half Of The Last 16 Chief Justices Were Corrupt"

Monday, 31 August 2009

Kerala and Switzerland

It is always interesting to see the response that people make on receiving a copy of my Personal Report, which I try to send out twice a year, once around the turn of the year, and once around now. My Report for the first half of 2009 has just been sent out, and it has produced the usual range of responses - except that one person who I did not know earlier, responded: "Can I wish you a Happy and prosperous "Onam" ? Not sure whether you have any opportunity to remember the Kerala festivals now a days."

That triggered a short series of thoughts which I put into the following reply:

How can I forget?!

Switzerland is probably the only country in the world where the majority of Indians is Malayali!

Out of the 7K indians here, 5k are Malayali!

I was told last week by someone who should know that there are 22 Indian associations here, the majority of which are (of course) Malayali

the city of Basel alone has at least 3 different Onam celebrations (that I know about - there may be others that I don't know about)

Kashmir is known as the Switzerland of Asia.... but Switzerland should be known as the Kerala of Europe :)

Sunday, 23 August 2009

Are Chinese and Indian elites right in blaming the West for the world's ecological problems?

Chinese and Indian elites want to place the blame for the ecological crisis firmly on developed countries, and therefore want these countries for take the full (or at least the major) responsibility for paying the cost of addressing it.

The argument is simple: it was the industrialisation of the West, over 200 years or whatever, that has caused environmentally harmful substances, for example CO2, to be accummulated in the atmosphere to such an extent that it is now creating environmental problems.

Though China and India may be producing more pollution now than the West, Chinese/ Indian pollution is still lower in per capita terms than the West - therefore, it is up to the West to take the lead in paying for sorting out the mess. When they are prepared to do so, we might be prepared to think about making some token contribution.

This sort of "macro-level argument" is attractive for the elites in China and India because we can, by using such arguments, absolve ourselves of the responsibility of changing our own ways.

But the moment one takes one's eyes away from the stratosphere and looks closer home, the possibility of such stratospheric blame-transfer fails.

For example, when one looks at India one sees plastic bags and bottles everwhere, littering the streets and railway lines - and even the villages. In a country with a hydrocarbon shortage, this indicates a close to criminal misuse of hydrocarbon resources. Is the original misuse of the resource the fault of the West? Is the lack of concern for the plastic (and other) litter the fault of the West? No - it is our own very dear fault. Which is why no one talks about it or does anything about it, except a few brave souls such as Dr Ken Gnanakan.

Or, when one looks at China (if one ignores the political question of whether these areas "belong" to China, and simply focuses on the fact that China has had actual control of these areas for the last sixty years or so, which is when these problems have arisen), one is confronted with the extensive denudation of these areas and the consequent warming of Qinghai-Tibet Plateau whose glaciers are receding at such an dramatic rate that they could disappear within my remaining life (and I am over 60 years old).

The glaciers are the world's third-largest store of ice. Their continued disappearance threatens something like 2.7 billion people who depend on the various rivers that arise in this Himalayan plateau -including the Yangtse, the Ganges and the Indus.

"The Qinghai-Tibet Plateau is among the regions worst hit by global warming" Qin Dahe of the Chinese Academy of Sciences is reported to have said. "Glaciers on the Plateau are retreating at a speed faster than in any other part of the world". Eighty two per cent of glacier surfaces on the plateau have already retreated. The glacier area itself has decreased by 4.5 per cent during the past 20 years. This is already causing, and will cause even more in the immediate future, the expansion of lakes, more floods and and a greater flow of mud and silt.

The pattern as well as the intensity of the summer monsoons in Asia has already changed, and will change even more, further intensifying drought in north India and China, as well as floods in southern China and Eastern India.

Temperatures in Tibet have risen by an average of 0.32 degrees Celsius every 10 years between 1961 and 2008, even faster than the average across China, where temperatures rose by between 0.05 and 0.08 degrees. Tibet's average temperature in July this year was the highest since 1951. During the same month, there was between 30 and 80 per cent less rain in western and southern Tibet than in the same month in all previous years on record.

Yao Tandong, one of China's leading glacier experts and director of the Qinghai-Tibet Plateau Research Institute of the Chinese Academy of Sciences, points out that glaciers are accurate archives of climate changes. "Glaciers on the plateau show warming has been abrupt and exceptional. It is warmer now than at any time during the past 2,000 years," he said.

Why is all this happening? Because China has been cutting down the trees, employing the area for agriculture, and adding concrete, housing and tourism at an unprecedented rate.

The West no doubt deserves the blame for many things and it is right for us to blame them for those things, just as the West has done many good things and it is right for us to appreciate and even learn from those things.

But we also need to recognise where we are at fault, and not simply pride and preen ourselves on the things we do right.

Our pride and our preening are all very well but they are worse than useless when they stand in the way of our learning what we urgently and speedily need to learn if we are not to destroy ourselves - even if we ignore the unimaginable horrors that we are already beginning to unleash on the rest of the world.

Saturday, 22 August 2009

More forests as India's contribution to reducing global warming?

According to news reports, the Indian government has unveiled a plan to protect our forests, saying the initiative is a key element in our strategy to combat climate change.

No details of the plan are given, as far as I can discover, beyond saying that India has set up a fund to manage its forests with an initial budget of 2.5 billion dollars and annual funding of one billion dollars.

In our country, the problem is not so much the availability of money for any purpose as the implementation of anything in an effective and corruption-free manner.

Till details are known of what is proposed to be done, and how it is proposed to be done, and till we see how it is actually being done, naturally no comments can be made beyond welcoming the intention and the allocation of money.

As a child growing up in the Himalayas (the Simla area), I had the misfortune of seeing our natural forests in the hills systematically denuded while being taught at my school about the multi-dimensional importance of forests and trees for life on earth.

I grieved for the loss of our forestst then, without knowing what to do about it. I grieve for the loss of our forests even more now when I know that the consequences of the loss of forest cover that I was taught about as a child (floods, desertification...) have in fact occured so extensively and damagingly in our country - only to make a few people very rich.

So I welcome the government's initiative while hoping that it is not merely a political ploy to divert pressure at the global climate talks.

Wednesday, 27 May 2009

China's Strategy for Attacking the Outsourcing Market

I see that a new KPMG study has been released on this subject.

Titled, A New Dawn: China's Emerging Role in Global Outsourcing, the report examines the current state and future prospects for China's increasing involvement in global outsourcing.

"China's central and local authorities have shown great determination to promote IT and other business services industries," says Ning Wright, Partner in charge of Sourcing Advisory, KPMG China. "We have seen the Chinese government's eleventh five-year plan (2006-2010) shifting more focus towards IT services. The broader strategy from now until 2020 calls for the development of an IT economy, driven by science and home-grown innovation. The long term development of a robust domestic outsourcing business is a major goal."

It you get the impression that the Chinese are intending to develop primarily DOMESTIC outsourcing, that is only half the truth.

"We have found that many companies globally and in Asia are increasingly turning to China for their outsourcing needs," says Egidio Zarrella, Global Partner in charge of IT Advisory, KPMG China. "This, combined with the untapped potential of China's large domestic market, means that China's outsourcing companies are well-placed to weather the current economic turmoil. Many global outsourcing companies are now setting up operations in China to target regional markets, including Japan".

Though the share of IT and IT-based services in China's export revenues is only 3% at present (compared to 26% in India), China's outsourcing market is developing quickly.

The Ministry of Commerce has crafted a number of initiatives for developing the sector. One of these, dubbed the "1000-100-10 project", aims to DOUBLE China's service exports by establishing 10 Chinese cities as outsourcing bases, attracting 100 international companies to offshore in these cities, and assisting in developing 1,000 outsourcing vendors that can meet the demands of multinational customers. Since these details were announced, the government has actually identified 20 cities as service outsourcing hubs. In addition, a number of other cities already have strong outsourcing capabilities.

Despite the perception in many overseas markets that China remains a risky place to do business, with IPR the key issue, there is no doubt that India needs to wake up if it wants to keep its lead.

For all practical purposes, India has only two major IT cities (Bangalore and Hyderabad). Though other cities are not negligible, the infrastructure even in Bangalore badly needs to be thoroughly upgraded, and Hyderabad too needs to consider several things it needs to do if it wants to remain competitive - let alone improve its competitiveness.

All the other Indian cities need a major shot in the arm in order to make them globally IT competitive.

The new Indian government needs to turn its mind to this key issue.

When China attacks a sector it does so with military thoroughness - not surprising, given its political structure.

KPMG report is at: www.kpmg.com.hk

Tuesday, 26 May 2009

The CRT's Social Capital Index: India's score improves, China declines

The Caux Round Table published its last Social Capital Index in 2005, where India came 78th out of some 190 nations. China stood 84th.

The CRT's latest Social Capital Index, just published, puts India at number 76 out of 199 countries. So India has improved two places.

By contrast, in the latest Social Capital Index, China is now 94th. That is a decline of 10 places.

The reasons for these changes cannot be definitively reduced to any identifiable factors from the Index itself, at least so far as I can work out.

Nevertheless, interesting.

Wednesday, 20 May 2009

Memo to Prime Minister Manmohan Singh: A giant step to solving India's educational challenge

Dear Prime Minister

Shanti Bhavan is an Indian school which has just seen its entire 10th class achieve First Division in the ICSE exam results just released.

ALL the students in the school are Dalits!

Are this year's results a fluke?


But that is less than likely, given that this is the second year in a row that the school has achieved this astonishing success.

In India's entire academic history, Shanti Bhavan is the first school for Dalits to achieve First Division in the ICSE exams for 2 years in a row. Over 1,500 schools in India and abroad take the ICSE annually.

You may wonder whether these students are, perhaps, from exceptionally RICH Dalit homes.

Actually, all are apparently from families facing extreme poverty - the parents are employed as sewer cleaners, quarry laborers, and so on. Many are, or have been bonded-laborers, trapped in debt to landowners and money-lenders.

Apparently, even though something like 25% of our population is Dalit, less than 5% of those who take the ICSE are from the "lowest castes." Graduating from high school has been difficult for Dalit children because of poverty, but an even more important factor is the social injustice that is rooted in our languages, scriptures and culture.

The Founder of the school, Shanti Bhavan, is Mr Abraham George whose family originally hails from Kerala even though he has created the school in Tamil Nadu.

"With this success", he writes in the Press Release announcing the results, "the door is wide open to our children, and they now have limitless opportunities to pursue higher education at top universities".

Well, that might be a bit of hyperbole, since it is not entirely impossible for a school to be available near a Dalit area, but a "top university" is far less likely to be available locally - so travel, accommodation, fees and the rest will have to be found if any of these Dalit children is to actually make it as a student into such a university.

However, Mr. George is right in indicating that, in principle, it is now possible for these children to find open doors at the top Indian or even foreign universities.

Dr. Dagmar Etkin, a former Harvard instructor and an environmental scientist, taught Chemistry and Environmental Studies to the 10th grade students at Shanti Bhavan. "The children of Shanti Bhavan are as intelligent and (now as) educated as any of their peers. They would fit in perfectly in a class of freshmen at Harvard" (brackets mine).

She added, "I cried when I saw their huts and the overwhelming poverty. It was difficult to believe this is where my students had come from. The ICSE results prove that Shanti Bhavan's model is working."

The Press Release closes with an appeal to individuals to donate money so that the good work of this school can continue and be extended.

Naturally, I support such an appeal for such a school - and I hope that you, Sir, can do so as well.

However, I wonder if the following might not be a better idea.

On the basis of value-for-money, should not the Government of Tamil Nadu hand over all poorly-performing government schools, one by one, to Dr George? If and when he has made an equally outstanding success of these schools, perhaps the Government of his State of origin, Kerala, might be willing to do the same? And what about the rest of the States in the country?

Alternatively, perhaps all Central Governemnt money which goes as subsidy to schools that are not performing well in ANY part of the country should, step by step, be handed over to Dr George?

The man and his team must be doing something right! Why not give him the resources to replicate that success right across our nation?

Naturally, as I believe in the merits of competition, I am not suggesting that all other schools should be shut down (government or private).

I suggest merely that all schools receiving government subsidy but not performing as outstandingly well as Shanti Bhavan should, gradually (with the respective government subsidy) be handed over to Dr. George.

At the very least, Dr. George's contribution should be recognized by the award of a Prize for National Integration, as he is a Keralite but has created the school in another State.

For your interest, the school's website is: www.shantibhavanonline.org

Yours sincerely

Prabhu Guptara

Saturday, 16 May 2009

How India discourages NRIs from returning

I have read various articles and interviews on this subject, and all of them focus on the "culture shock" of returning - the inefficiencies and convoluted ways are apparently the main discouragement.

However, I have never seen anything in print on the following issue:

Someone I know, let us call her Shanti, who has been to India regularly and therefore does not face that problem, was in discussions regarding a job offer in India which he was considering very seriously.

Everything else seemed to be more or less settled, when she discovered that, if she stays in the country for 182 days or more, she becomes liable to tax in India for all her income worldwide!

As she has a pension from her employment abroad (on which she pays tax in that country), she did not want to pay tax twice over! She could not get any clear answer regarding whether that would or would not be covered by any Double Taxation Treaty.

She wanted to return to India to contribute to the development of the motherland, not to wrestle with tax officials interested in hassling her for a bribe.

The company which was discussing the job offer with her had, on the basis that she was an NRI, agreed to pay all tax due on income arising from employment with them.

So she offered to the company to disclose her pension income and to take the job on condition that the company dealt with the Tax Office on her behalf, while she indemnified the company against any tax liabilities in India or abroad.

Interestingly, the company declined to do this. Preeti decided that if even an Indian company was unwilling to tangle with the tax inspectors on her behalf, she had better not go.

It is right and proper for the Indian government to want taxes to be paid by NRIs as from "normal" Indians on all income derived from activity in India.

But why exactly does the Indian governemnt want to tax income arising abroad from activities or investments done prior to an NRIs return to India?

Anyone know?

Monday, 11 May 2009

India No Bribery Coalition

What a wonderful initiative!

If you want to help the country progress, then get your company or organisation to sign up!

The website is: www.nobribe.co.in

It says all that they have thought of saying, but they tell me they would welcome any suggestions.

Saturday, 9 May 2009

Sex and Indian youth

A newspaper report of a study titled "Youth in India - Situation and Needs" has been sent to me by a friend. The study indicates that rural Indian youth indulge in pre-marital sex far more than urban youth: one in five young men in rural areas as compared to one in nine in urban areas had indulged. For women, 4% in rural areas had sex before marriage as compared to 2% in urban areas. Cutting across the urban-rural divide, the study found that 16% of young men and 3% of young women reported being physically intimate with their partners. Apparently, the authors of the study were surprised by the result, opining that "It can safely be concluded that pre-marital sex is not an elite phenomenon any more".

The reaction of the report's authors shows that they know very little of Indian history or culture. Multiple husbands/ wives was common in India throughout our history till the influence of the Gospel of Christ brought in the idea of one man/one wife. As that influence was more in the cities and among educated people, that is where the idea of one-man/one-wife was most prevalent till Independence. After Independence, the idea of one-man/one-wife was popularised by what we now call Bollywood, which took up the idea along with the notion of romantic love (much more entertainment potential than arranged marriage, for example). However, as the influence of Christ's Gospel has waned in India in the last twenty years or so, the idea of multiple-husbands/ wives (or at least of mistresses and lovers) has begun to make a comeback all over the country, even among educated Indians in the cities.

For the original report, by Sumitra Deb Roy, see: http://www.dnaindia.com/report.asp?newsid=1234623

Tuesday, 5 May 2009

Royal Gourmet Tour of India for German-speakers

On the basis of his many years of experience btween India and Switzerland, my friend, Mr. Ramraj Bhalla, has decided to bring it all together in a new Royal Gourmet Tour of India, which I warmly recommend (beware: I am a shareholder in the company jointly-sponsoring this - i.e. King's Kurry - and I might even join in!)

India's first fully bi-lingual Hindi-English magazine

I welcome the announcement that FORWARD, India's first magazine to have its full text in Hindi as well as in English, is ready for launch.

The idea of the magazine is to help Hindi-speakers have the English version of exactly the same material in order to improve their English, while also enabling them to keep up with current affairs.

Ditto for English-speakers who have some Hindi and want to improve their grasp of the language.

The magazine will appear monthly, and its first print run is 100,000 copies.

Congratulations to the Delhi-based team for struggling past all the hurdles that Indian bureaucracy can set up: the team started working on the magazine in January 2007!

It isn't easy to acquire property and to get hold of all the various permissions without giving a bribe, but they have done it!

Well done! And all best wishes!

Now they "only" have to make a success of it through distribution, ads and marketing!

(I should say that I am involved with the magazine, chiefly as cheer-leader!)

Friday, 24 April 2009

Mumbai's housing situation

According to architect and housing activist P K Das, quoted in the India Real Estate Monitor: In Mumbai, 60% of the population lives in slums, 5% live on pavements, 15% are tenants living in old cessed buildings and about 5% live in rental housing. Barely 15% of Mumbaikars live in private houses.