Thursday, August 31, 2006

The Office of the President

I am curious about why we continue to keep the Office of the President in India. As far as I know (and I know very little), the President has no real powers. I remember Giani Zail Singh (former President) being under controversy due to him taking orders from Indira Gandhi (then the Prime Minister). Abdul Kalam is certainly the most inspiring President we have had in the past two decades. He is a scholar and academic and has several accomplishments up his sleeve, notably his role at ISRO.

My conspiracy theory is that the current President's nomination was largely because he is Muslim and came close on the heels of the Godhra riots in 2002. The former BJP government did not take any steps to punish Narendra Modi but had to do something to show that their motive was not Hindutva. So they appointed Abdul Kalam a top scientist, known for his vision for India, and most importantly, in my belief, a muslim. There is no doubt this President is a very capable man; however, how much can he do from his current appointment? How much can any President of India do? If his powers are very little and there is very little voters can do towards making him accountable why have a President in India. I think I will take up a new hobby this semester, reading the voluminous Constitution of India.

Wednesday, August 30, 2006

Too much democracy in India?

Kalyan strongly believes that India has too much democracy. It is true that we have a multimodal distribution of interest groups and political parties who are all pursuing their own agenda. Can there be too much democracy? Suddenly I was not sure I understood the meaning of the word, so I scrambled up to Merriam webster for the meaning. Five are listed, the first one is : rule of the majority and the last is absence of hereditary or arbitrary class distinctions or previleges. We certainly do not have the latter in India. There are several arbitrary distinctions based on class and caste none of which have to do with an individual's merit or skills. Do we have the first, i.e, rule by the majority? There have been no clear majorities in the past decade or so in India. For several years it was the Nehru family at the helm, but since the assassination of Rajiv Gandhi in 1991, we have had no clear majorities in government. The BJP had and the Congress has coalition governments with multiple parties whose interests are in conflict several times. This time more so since the Left is part of the government and they are totally opposed to anything that even remotely resembles progress. They have even effectively persuaded two state governments to ban Coca-Cola and other soft drinks.

Does all of this mean we have too much democracy? I do not think so. There is certainly a very vibrant democracy, as we saw during the last elections when the BJP government was overthrown from the Centre and AIADMK from Tamil Nadu. I have lost count of the number of political parties we have. There are multiple interest groups with differing agenda. However, economic theory tells me that in a free market system the bad ideas will be weeded out and the good ones will remain (good and bad defined as what the market demands and not). But we do not have complete free markets in India, so the ones weeded out may or may not be bad and that is just chance and the level of power the interest group has on the government or any of the parties associated with the government. The current situation is that there are multiple groups and a relatively better informed public; however accountability is still lacking, so even if the majority were against a certain policy there is very little they can do to correct an unpleasant situation. It is obvious with the better informed public atleast that most of them are very active in their opinions about policies. A look at any discussion group online is enough proof, and there are equally vocal voices on either side of the debate. But then the government comes along and clamps down on using blogs to communicate because they feel terrorists use blogs to communicate and preach. If indeed the rule is of the majority then is this what bloggers desire? Can an individual sue the Government of India for curbing freedom of speech which is his constitutional right? How can I with any conscience say we have too much democracy?

Tuesday, August 29, 2006

Back to School

After three months of summer we are back to school today. I am excited about the new term and, classes. Looks like its going to be a busy semester and I am looking forward to it.

Thursday, August 24, 2006

Viral diseases and multinational companies

Surat and Ahmedabad are under viral attack. The recent flooding of the state and water logging in Surat for 6 days is the cause. This is the state where Medha Pathkar and Arundhati Roy have vocalised against the dam across Narmada. This is also the state of mass genocide. Instead of paying attention to improving the status of health and education in the country we are engaged in petty squabbles about banning blogs and products by multinationals. Read Jayant Bhandari's article on the Coke ban in the country. Its so silly that we spend millions of rupees fighting against multinationals which have made it easier for us to access world class products and have provided employment opportunities for so many. When was the last time Vandana Shiva tested municipality supplied water in any Indian city? Will she sue the government and ask for a ban on government supplied drinking water in the country? I am sure the content of pesticides in potable water is high enough to warrant such an action. If coke and pepsi are a health hazard what about the millions of people afflicted with water borne diseases every year. We still have Typhoid and Jaundice prevalent in the country. Even people who live affluently and can afford bottled water are at risk. What is the CSE's solution to that?

Indians still believe that foreigners will take over their country and politicians feed this xenophobia. What else could be the reason we are against multinationals? We are certainly not averse to profits and money. We even worship the Goddess of money (Lakshmi), and go to great lengths to please her so that we make more money. However, the Marxist mentality that the rich are getting richer at the expense of the poor exists and we have enough marxist professors to keep this idea fuelled for several generations. Even highly educated Indians believe such things and do nothing to prevent corruption within politics and bureaucracy which is the true cause of so much poverty and lack of basic services. Even the success of the relatively free computer industry has only led to more resentment against the haves. I would like to know where Vandana Shiva's children study. In most cases children of such activists and politicians, who are against 'everything foreign', happen to study in US or UK or Australia or any such country in the West. If indeed they believe that we need to embrace autarky why do they send their kids abroad to study and also take expensive tax payer paid vacations at exotic locations? A compilation of statistics (about politicians bureaucrats and activists) on vocalisation about multinational companies, foreign education of children and personal preferences of products such as Coke would be a good statistic for the media.

Monday, August 21, 2006

Worst fears come true

The best institutions in India are in the last stages of their life. The minute this bill passes through parliament, they would have sealed the fate of India and millions of Indians forever. I am not against equal opportunity, I am against the government mandating equal opportunity against better reasoning and judgement. If the last 15 years of India's recognition was due to our software gurus, the next generation of IITs and IIMs are going to bring a bad name to such institutions and India in general. My condolences to my countrymen. Why should I go back to such a country where I am not judged by my merit and what I can do but by my caste? Read my earlier blog on the reservation issue here.

Sunday, August 20, 2006

State owned oil companies

The economist has an article on state owned oil companies. The conclusion is that most of the oil reserves in the world are state owned and ill managed. This is the strongest case for oil market liberalisation I have heard (then again I have not been following journals all my life). The idea is simple, there isn't the required incentive structure in government run companies for them to be run profitably. Then again petroleum prices in countres like India are heavily regulated and there is heavy resitance against price increases.

Saturday, August 19, 2006

Finally a long deserved vacation

I am finally going on a vacation. It has been eight months since my last and I am looking forward to this one, especially since the shadow of prelims is past me. Haven't seen my niece and nephew in more than a year and I am excited to be getting away from Fairfax for a change.

Thursday, August 17, 2006

Its over

Its finally over.. three months of torture, anxiety, callousness, depression, hyper activity.. gone in a flash!! It feels strangely quiet around me now.. I feel empty!! I dunno if I am feeling relieved. I know my family would be. They have faced the worst of my exam blues and nightmares. Wish I was home and have them fuss over me!!

Tuesday, August 15, 2006

One down One to go!!

Micro down!! Macro to go!! Pray it goes better

Monday, August 14, 2006

Udavum Karangal and what Independence means to me

Literally translated, the title means "Helping Hands". Hats off to the independent spirit of independent Indians. We have what it takes despite the odds. Think about Vidyakar. I would love to listen to his story of what it took to be where he is today. He is well known, but there are so many unsung everyday heroes. We Indians do not have grand TV programs and Medals for our heroes; nevertheless, we are proud of them. They have shaped Independent India through 59 long years. We are yet young, and have much to achieve. However, we now have the distinction of "..those ruddy Indians in call centres, they are taking our jobs away.." Makes me very proud to see the world look up and recognise, even if its due to misplaced job security and immigration fears. What a bunch of resilient people we are. Even as I write this I am grinning from ear to ear, and my chest swells in pride at our achievements.
My personal Independence Day feeling is that it is freedom from colonization and the freedom to achieve my goals and educate my country's youth in Economics that has led me here. Ya! Ya! I know its my economic self-interest it is also my psychological motivation. Back home its 15 Aug already, and its a holiday very different from the grand 4th of July celebration here. I remember being in school and we had to practice long hours for the March Past, and we used to look forward to the free candy that was distributed. Nothing fancy!! The cheapest of all candy, but it was still candy given free to us at school (I am sure it was added to our tuition) and you could hang out with friends without teachers telling you off. I am sure it hasn't changed much since my times.

(Select text to read, its in the colours of the Indian Tricolour!!)

Help!! India is becoming communist!!!

The latest ban on Pepsi and Coke in Kerala is another instance of the leftists taking over in India. We have two of the champions of liberalisation at the helm (Dr.Manmohan Singh and Dr.Chidambaram) and yet they have let something like this happen. I remember when the incident first broke news in 2003. Does the Kerala government not realise the amount of unemployment they will have if they closed those factories down? But then, who said Kerala government was industry friendly at any point? They have always been communists, and that is what the children in Kerala grow up believeing. Someone please do something. Are the people in CDS leftists too? I thought atleast some of them were libertarians. If two Economics PhDs at the top positions in the country can do nothing about this, what hope is there for small fry like me?

Sunday, August 13, 2006

Crunch Time

Well!! the last few hours before D- Day and my marginal productivity has certainly gone up in leaps and bounds quite uncharacteristic of me. Usually by this time I would be reading fiction watching movies and getting thoroughly drunk. This time around I am sober and have been studying all day. Be it what it may, I am OK. I am getting more than my usual hours of sleep which is like every other exam time when i tend to sleep more. There were 30 panic filled minutes this evening, when I started looking at Macro empirics and realised that I knew nothing. How did I solve the problem? Well! I sent a panic email to my bro and called mom and dad. They are all surprised I am still studying for the exam!! Am alright now. My initial idea was to pull an all nighter, but decided against it. I still need to start on micro early tomm morning.

The woods are lovely dark and deep,
I have piles to read before I sleep
and piles to read before I sleep!!

Who cares about the piles now? The woods beckon!! :D
To all my classmates reading this, GOOD NIGHT AND GOOD LUCK!!!!

Friday, August 11, 2006

Whats new about terrorists in India

According to this news item, the US has issued an advisory that there might be possible terrorist attacks in India. Whats new about it? There are always some kind of terrorists in India at any point of time, especially now since Independence day is just round the corner. Every year around this time there is atleast one incident somewhere in the country (there is atleast one everyday in the Kashmir valey) that is classifed as a terrorist attack. Besides, Americans are paranoid anyway, and their news agencies like ABC only fuel the paranoia. Just as an example, if a house catches fire, the news report would say something like,"... we do not know yet if it was a possible terrorist attack..". C'mon guys give me a break.
Here's a very clear example of American paranoia. After the thwarted plot in Britan yesterday, ABC randomly interviewed about 4-5 people in the DC area.. one of them was a British family. All except the British family were ".. afraid for our safety.. i do not feel safe flying anymore..angry with the government and airports authority", the latter "..we are not intimidated.. they were caught weren't they.. this kinda thing happens.." Go figure!!

There are always terrorists of some kind in countries like India and Pakistan. We learn to live with that reality..

Monday, August 07, 2006

What a bunch of C@#$!!

These are the recommendations of the Quota panel. As was expected too much government control has been advocated. Reminds me of Atlas Shrugged. Is there an end in sight to this quota thing? Some readers ostentatiously say that the US has such policies so we should also have similar ones. It is obvious in the US that while they followed a pure merit strategy they were doing fine; however, recently so many people including Oprah are lamenting about the pathetic state of their government run schools. Why do we want to follow a stupid model that is proven to be a failure? Makes me so mad that we are wasting all our brilliance and talents in finding ways to get government favours while we can use the same to develop knowledge and increase productivity.

Now is the time to Panic or er not!!

After thinking about it, dreading it, and going on a roller coaster of studying and giving up its finally one week before the exam. I tried testing myself today and realised that I couldn't have picked a worse time to have all details muddled up in my head. I couldn't do something as simple as the Hicks, Slutsky and Marshallian demand differences. I completely forgot the Coase theorm and for some reason was attributing all of Demsetz's property rights arguments to Coase. What a disaster!! I did think that this would run me into a mild panic state; however, as has been my practice forever, my mind has conveniently shut down so close the exam and all I can do is read fiction. I am sure my middle school teacher has a smug look on her face, cause she predicted that this would be my lifelong habit. I concede defeat Ms.Suguna.