Wednesday, January 25, 2006

Independent Republic

January 28, 2006
Vasu Reddy from Chicago

Indian finance minister Mr. Chidambaram proudly points out that the Indian GDP is growing at 7%, and could possibly go to 8%. A sustainable growth of 7% to 8% GDP will definitely influence the Indian economic might globally. The Indian politicians in power are making statements that imply the current government policies are influencing the excellent but sustainable GDP growth. The current government is less than two years old, and it is practically impossible to influence a GDP turnaround in that short span of time. The real architects of the forward looking economic policies; Dr. Man Mohan Singh and Mr. Chidambaram who originally were in the early 1990s government of Mr. Rao, today run the country and its finances. The growth in GDP should be attributed to the long term and positive influence of the then progressive looking government, and the good fortune to have the same leadership back in power after fifteen years to enhance the opportunity to extend the economic benefits.

Independent India after getting rid of the British rule was governed under the leadership that felt that we were a country of poor people, who needed basics to live. To a large degree the first three leaders of the independent India were simply trying to deal with the aftereffects of India’s independence from the British, and tried a combination of democracy and Marxism to rule the independent India. Many a noble men and women who sacrificed their entire life to gain Indian independence from the British were freedom fighters, not politicians nor trained administrators to handle the enormous list of issues an independent India faced. The people themselves did not appreciate the value of democracy, as they perhaps did not have a feel for democratic thinking for hundreds of years under the divide and conquer rule of foreigners. The leaders of Independent India invested their entire thought process into achieving an independent republic, and perhaps never had the time to think of governing an independent country. When we finally became independent, we lost the father of the nation quickly to one of our own, and perhaps Mahatma was the best non-office seeking politician we ever had. His loss also set independent thinking amongst the freedom fighters turned politicians to frame their own agendas for the independent India. The magic of being independent India lasted for at leas the first couple of decades and perhaps Mr. Nehru and Mr. Shastri, and then the government of Mrs. Gandhi.

Mrs. Gandhi when she came into power after her illustrious father and a short span as prime minister by Mr. Shastri, was also perhaps the first leader of the Indian republic to face the reality of Independent India’s list of problems and she could not avoid them in her tenure as her predecessors did. She enjoyed the benefit of her father’s goodwill and her astute observations of the governing of India, and also understood the psychology of the Indian people before she came into power.

Mrs. Gandhi’s real challenges did not come until the 1970s. She was jubilant with war with Pakistan and supporting the separation of East Pakistan that became Bangla Desh. Although India helped Bangla Desh become independent, the long term political relationship with the neighbor has not been positive. Our relationship with Pakistan only went from bad to worse and no immediate plan to sort out the Kashmir issue. The controlled areas of Kashmir by Pakistan and China seem to be under their control for good, and the land grabbing by the neighbors seem to be OK with the international community, which clearly is undecided about the position that Kashmir belongs to India. The policies that allowed the occupation of Kashmir by the Chinese and the Pakistanis is simply lack of aggression and global astuteness of the Indian politicians. Granted that they were more concerned about how to take care of the newly independent India, but they for sure were not capable of laying claims to the land that belonged to India and keeping it as a part of India.

Ignoring the challenges of our neighbors the country’s ever growing population put a lot of demand for food and basic necessities. Hunger and poverty are the biggest diseases humans can get in contact with and India with its ever-expanding population suddenly found itself very independent and very hungry. Political parties and dissent in the congress forced the emergency rule. There were a lot of terrible decisions made by the government to keep the political power, but all said and done history tells us the Janata Party and other offshoots came into power, quickly lost it, as they did not have any better solutions, except a lot of rhetoric.

When Mrs. Gandhi came back to power she continued to be confronted with the massive problems of the huge population that was expanding faster than what was politically possible to solve. Mrs. Gandhi also made small strategic errors such as attacking Golden Temple, and believing that she was in control. Her killing was unfortunate, instead of voting her out. But again the country had already tried another government, but it was not a good option for the people. When Rajiv Gandhi became the prime minister after the death of his illustrious mother, he did bring fresh outlook into politics. I believe Rajiv Gandhi was truly forced into the leadership of a country that believed in dynasty rule. Remember that the 2006 Congress plenary in Hyderabad is demanding Rahul Gandhi to take over. Going back to Rajiv Gandhi, once he was thrown into the leadership of a vast country that needed everything, he did make great progress with policies. He hired great support cast and was open to changing the way the political structure behaved to the country’s needs. I believe he was the first leader of the post independent India to take necessary steps to meet the demands of the country. Rajiv Gandhi was surrounded with intelligent people who made some good decisions to make the country market driven. They started to take into account the reality of the resources available to the nation and what can be done to meet the needs. Although Rajiv Gandhi survived for several years, and then lost elections and then eventually assassinated by Tamil zealots, he was in my opinion the first leader of the independent India to make decisions and enforce policies that started to bring India into market economy, and move away from “Jaribi Hatavo” slogan and start doing something about removing poverty.

In any case the eventual political turmoil after the assassination of Rajiv Gandhi, and the coalition government of Mr. Narasimha Rao, is what I believe that started the economic powering of India that is happening today. Toady we speak of Tata acquiring companies in USA, or people from other countries hired to word in India, BPO boom, IT dominance and a host of foreign investments in every imaginable area in India. I worked in the time when India was easing restrictions on foreign investments, currency conversion and communications. Today’s Congress leaders were a part of that government and they were reformists then who promoted progress. Those policies of the early 1990s helped to create the IT and communications boom, that helped every other industry, and in turn made India grow at a rapid pace. The GDP growth over the past 15 years has been more than double that of the rest of the world, and only the Chinese may be growing at the same pace. Our current leadership is capable of driving extraordinary growth of the country.

Great countries grow over decades of extraordinary management of their policies and politics. I believe India can do the same. The politicians continue to banter about the things that are wrong but no one from the opposition seem to recognize the achievements of the Indian industry and commerce. They are simply finding faults on a personal basis, or complain of wrongdoing of people who are dead. I think the country should separate the political grandstanding and become independent of the personalized politics. A leader should become popular for what great policies and achievements on his or resume, not because of what the last name is, or what caste he belongs to or who he is associated with. Let the country’s politicians believe that they must continue to earn the right to govern the country, and not believe that they are the rulers of a country. Our democratic land has always been keen on politics and preserving the right to vote, as we did even with Mrs. Gandhi and voted her out of power when we no longer could deal with the autocratic rule. India today is independent and growing and becoming its own within the global community. Indians are smart, intelligent and politically very astute. The people in power most times are behaving well and taking notice of the needs of the people. The opposition parties by and large are focusing on the past wrongs of the dead leaders, or simply opposing the current leaders on every project or initiative. All said and done sustaining the growth of the country needs continued fiscal management and clear thinking. Politically and economically, the leaders of the independent India must continue to be progressive. The country doesn’t have time to think of the past, but look forward to the future of prosperity. We as a nation have always been world travelers with the intelligence to keep doing the right things to help our family and country.

Our independent republic slowly has been taking charge of its own destiny and the politicians who are given the opportunity can be as independent as the people who put them in power. Make independent and forward looking decisions, and make India the best place in the world to live and work. The beauty of independence is that it has a mind of its own, and nothing can stop independent thinking from progress.

Saturday, January 21, 2006

Congress And Andhra Pradesh

21 January 2006
Vasu Reddy from Chicago

As I write this week, the Congress party is having its AICC Plenary session in Hyderabad. Every Congress leader that has any position of power in India is probably in Hyderabad. It is not astonishing that every newspaper, every Internet magazine and every TV station is covering this event in great detail. It should as Mr. Man Mohan Singh and Mrs. Sonia Gandhi are both heading this up, and are in same location for 3 days. I am always fond of Hyderabad and Andhra Pradesh. Also, I am fond of our food (actually all food, but partial to Indian food). I am also fond of the development these great big events will bring to the infrastructure. To enlighten myself I have been watching with great interest the happening just before this big Congress party gathering in Hyderabad. The usual stuff listed has been happening in preparation for the big gathering of Congressmen and Congresswomen in Hyderabad.

Ø Roads widened and cleaned.
Ø Buildings painted clean.
Ø Trash out of the way.
Ø Restaurants and Hotels completely full.
Ø Lot of cash spent on flowers and fruits and gifts.
Ø All tourist places full.
Ø Sonia Gandhi in town.
Ø Man Mohan Singh is also in town.
Ø City is full of posters and cutouts competing with movie posters.
Ø Tourism money and full demand for everything.
Ø Autos, busses, cars and jeeps full of congressmen and congresswomen.

Here are great details on what is happening in Hyderabad:

Busy Schedule

The three-day 82nd Congress plenary session, which commenced in Hyderabad on Saturday with the meting of the extended Congress Working Committee, will have a hectic schedule over the next two days. According to the schedule released Saturday evening, the All India Congress Committee session will commence at 9.30 am on Sunday with flag-hoisting by the Congress president Sonia Gandhi in the presence of Congress Working Committee members, Pradesh Congress Committee presidents, Congress Legislature Party leaders, AICC and CPP office-bearers and chairman, reception committee.

The AICC meeting will begin at 10 am with 'Vande Mataram', followed by a welcome speech by the chairman, reception committee. Once the condolence resolution and organizational constitutional resolutions are adopted, the AICC general secretaries will present their reports. After confirmation of the minutes of the previous AICC meeting held on August 21, 2004, the AICC will be converted into Subjects Committee.

The Subjects Committee meeting will begin with the opening remarks of the Congress president. The resolution on political affairs will be taken up for discussion around 11 am, followed by a resolution on economic affairs at 2 pm, resolution on agriculture, employment and poverty alleviation at 4 pm and resolution on international affairs at 6 pm. Members can take up any other matter with the permission of the chair at 7.30 pm. The meeting will end with the concluding remarks by the Congress president.

On the third and concluding day (Monday), the plenary session will commence with the arrival of Congress president at the venue at 9.30 am. After flag-hoisting, party functionaries -- CWC members, PCC presidents, CLP leaders, AICC and PCC office-bearers and chairman, reception committee, will escort the Congress president to the dais in a ceremonial procession.

After 'Vande Mataram' and welcome address by the chairman, reception committee, the plenary will adopt condolence resolution as well as the constitutional resolution. The Congress president will make her speech and later discussion on the political resolution will commence at 11.20 am, followed by discussion on the economic resolution at 1.20 pm.
Prime Minister Man Mohan Singh will address the plenary at 3 pm.
This will be followed by discussion on the resolution on agriculture, employment and poverty alleviation and the resolution on international affairs.
After the concluding remarks by the Congress president and vote of thanks, the plenary will conclude with the national anthem at 6.45 pm.

Great emphasis on FOOD

South Indian delicacies like the hot and Spicy Sambar, Idli, Vada, Dosa and Utappam will be among served to Congress President Sonia Gandhi and the delegates for breakfast. For the lunch and dinner the attendees would be served with three types of Chapatti, Rice, Sambar, Brinjal, Beans, Chicken, Fish, Green Salads and Fruit Salad and some Italian delicacies. Prime Minister Man Mohan Singh’s menu will mainly consist of Punjabi recipes. Three types of Punjabi Roti, Paratha and Nan were being prepared specially for him. I am sure he will enjoy them, and as well as everyone around him.According to estimates, The Andhra Pradesh Congress Committee would be spending about one Crore Rupees on food during the three-day event, which will be attended by more than 11,000 delegates. Over sixty varieties of mouth-watering dishes, including the Hyderabad Dhum Biriyani, popular ''Chepala Pulusu'' made of fresh fish specially brought from West Godavari District, and ''Ulava Charu'', a special gravy made with Horse gram by coastal Andhra cooks. There will be six food courts at the plenary session with food laid out with great care. Of the six food courts, one would be exclusively for the AICC delegates, one for the media and three for PCC delegates. A small food court would cater to the over 100 members of the extended Congress Working Committee, including PCC Presidents, Chief Ministers, former Chief Ministers and former Governors. The food courts would be manned by 15 legislators to extend due courtesies to the guests. Through out the three-day sessions, snack counters will be setup to serve fresh juices, coconut water, tea, coffee and snacks, including Bondas and Samosas to the delegates. I only wish I was there to enjoy just the food.

Rahul Gandhi is coming?

As his father did from an unknown field to come into politics and did quite well as a politician, before his own people killed him, congressmen await Rahul. I am not sure of his likes or dislikes, but he is already a member of parliament and a politician. His Mom is in control of Congress and he has some experience in being a politician, and he is after all a Gandhi.

The three-day All India Congress Plenary is expected to bring Amethi parliamentarian Rahul Gandhi to the center-stage of Congress politics, which he has sought to evade for many years now.It is evident that there is a clamor among party cadres and leaders to induct the 34-year-old son of Congress President Sonia Gandhi into the high-powered Congress Working Committee and entrust him with organizational responsibility so as to groom him for taking over the reins of the party at a later stage.
The mood in the party seems to be in favor of not delaying any further the launch of the high-profile first-time parliamentarian into active politics.Though Sonia revamped the 25-member CWC, the highest policy making body of the 120-year-old party, ahead of the AICC plenary, she has left five seats vacant. This is seen by political observers as a clear move to accommodate Rahul, and four 'Generation Next' leaders of his choice into the CWC.Rahul Gandhi is the only person other than Sonia, Prime Minister Man Mohan Singh, Andhra Pradesh Chief Minister Y S Rajasekhara Reddy and Pradesh Congress Committee President K Kesava Rao whose pictures figure in the plenary hoardings and posters put up all over the 'Pearl City'. Sonia has reportedly received requests from several PCCs and Pradesh Youth Congress Committees, asking her to nominate Rahul to the CWC.There were also speculations that Priyanka Vadra, the daughter of the Congress president, was keeping away from the plenary only to allow her brother to bask in the limelight. In all likelihood, Sonia will nominate Rahul after the AICC plenary.Prime Minister Singh has reportedly expressed a desire to induct Rahul into his ministry in the impending expansion of his Council of Ministers but the young parliamentarian is apparently unwilling to accept a ministerial responsibility at this stage. Congress managers say he would like to first work for the party before taking up an assignment in the government. Leaders close to the Gandhi family are also in favor of Rahul first taking up an organizational responsibility, like his father Rajiv Gandhi.The plenary may have significance in many ways but what party workers and the AICC delegates are keenly looking forward to be whether Rahul will oblige them by accepting an organizational responsibility.

Saturday, January 14, 2006

Corruption Of Mind

January 8, 2006
Vasu Reddy from Chicago

Pay for performance was my dear friend Colin said, when we spoke of the financial results of our old company we both worked for in the mid 1990s. It has been long since we worked for someone else, but when a reader asked me to write about corruption this past week, I had to think of my own take on how to deal with corruption.

Much of my working life I have been a business development guy, traveling world over. I was in many countries when it was still communist or government controlled environment, and worked hard to make the two big companies I worked for many a profitable ventures. I learnt a lot from my experiences and made many friends across the world, and still keep them in cherished position. I am 100% sure that countries such as India where I worked hard on being on the teams working on privatization, have come a long way and millions of people working in the private enterprise. In a recent visit to Delhi, I was told my old employer had a multistory building that it owned. If I think of the little office space they had when I went to India first, it made me proud to think of the enterprise building that a group of us bravely undertook. A lot of my colleagues and myself faced no dilemma in finding new business opportunities for our employers, and we did what we could to find good business deals. We negotiated on behalf of the company and found many partners in then remote parts of the world, where no American company did business. I think we were rewarded well with great tour of the world, many a great friends with their diverse cultural and business backgrounds, and a taste of being one of the first global traveler’s with a budget. One thing in specific that none of our companies asked is how we got the business started in these new business environments, expect that our employers wanted high returns on their money and did not want to get senior managers involved in any controversies. We had a lot of leverage in starting the work in any country that afforded the opportunity, and the risk of our own neck with both our employment and performance. We had to get the deals done to satisfy the budgets, and we had to perform in the environment to get the business deals done. These objectives were in obvious conflict of each other, but were the only way to live happily to work and deliver to the employer.

I survived many years of serious business development in two companies, but ended up leaving both of them after achieving great financial results to both of them and their stakeholders. No regrets from me after all these years of leaving them, and no scoops to be told after all this time. I really am still fond of the times I did work for them. I will always be fond of the great times of business development in the early 1990s, especially in telecommunications.

Corruption is a serious issue in almost all countries. To be corrupt in mind is no different than blatant request for money for getting work done. Have you been to a temple in India? They have three ways of getting to see the god.

Stand in queue and wait until you get pushed to the front of the God and quickly say whatever is on your mind, and get pushed hard to be out of the temple.
Pay money to buy a ticket to see God faster than the general queue, but still get pushed around when you get into the queue, and get pushed out same way as people who don’t pay anything.
The third way is that you have influence where they stop the queue or someone escorts you to the front of the lord, and you have a few minutes in front of God, and you don’t get pushed around in the queue. But you sure make thousands of people in line wait and probably curse you.

I don’t know if we can call the influenced people corrupt. They are simply taking advantage of the available option to make others inconvenienced while they take advantage of the system that allows them privilege.

Same thing happens when you know a person who can help get you the privileges of information or access. By having a friend you get access. In business a friend is an associate or a consultant or a person who is available to make a business proposition. Simply by making corruption a global issue the access privileges of who you know will not go away. Darwin theory is simple, that the fittest will survive. In the early 1900s people brought in many a communist societies that were supposed to be equal in access and privileges to all of the citizens. At the end of the 1900s these so called perfect societies collapsed, leaving the capitalistic societies to continue to flourish. Democracies and capital societies somehow survive as they allow people to make informed choices. So, if I equate corruption to democratic principles and capitalistic societies, people who give to get favors are primarily the conduits to the process of developing the mindset for corruption. I am only a human being, and I will use the resources I have for making the most out of the situation I am faced with. When visiting a temple, developing a relationship, getting permission to do a business, gifts for my family and any potential situation where I am faced with making a choice, I am sure I will use the resources I have to get the privileges in my favor. My mind is democratic and competitive in a capitalistic society. Please don’t let me preach the theory of corruption, and we much be corrupt to get things done, and we must pay for everything. But, let me speak of the democratic mind set, and using resources to get things done. Perhaps the mind will begin to associate the degrees of corruption, make informed choices that what each instance requires and make necessary adjustments in judging the level of corruption it will tolerate. Simply think of this as a informed mind, making informed choices to make informed payments or adjustments to get things done, that are of importance to live life in a democracy.

I don’t support payoffs and favors for getting things done. I don’t support monopolies. I don’t like people asking me for money to do their jobs. I don’t like the discomfort of not being able to afford the ability to do business in any country. I don’t like talking about corruption. I don’t like to discuss how to do business in a new place. I can’t even speak to my old experiences of how I worked in so many places for my two employers, and survived so many deals. I just don’t like to speak of the anything that is not necessary.

Life is full of adjustments. People need money to make things work. Some need it more than the others. Elections cost money. Homes are expensive. Families need money. Food, clothing, comforts, cars and every single thing need to be supported. So, room for corruption exists, and the more we support the process the more expensive things get.

Mind you, it is you the individual that will have to make choices to do the right thing. Don’t push the blame of your acceptance to give as the societies acceptance to take. It is the corruption of mind that leads to the societies making corruption a part of the process. Wait in the queue, and don’t worry about how long it takes to see the Lord. The comfort factor should not make you bend the mind to accept the normality of corruption.

Privilege of an NRI

January 14, 2006
Vasu Reddy from Chicago

In the past few weeks as in most of the last few weeks of December every year, the planes are busy with folks going to India and coming back. Be it Chicago, be it Frankfurt, be it Hyderabad or be it London, the planes are bustling with Indians going and coming. Lot of people are traveling and at the same time and a lot of their families are also going back and forth and adding to the big crowds at every airport that has a flight to India. No matter what airline and no matter what airport, lots of our folks are getting on planes. Travel is cheap, and the families are larger and the numbers are bigger. All of us, with NRI status and our families simply go back and forth and can afford this long journey much easier than the olden days. I mean olden days simply because, a phone call was a luxury in the days when we had smaller NRI population, but I believe a reported 1.4 million people of Indian origin now living in USA, and their extended families equally big if not bigger than the reported 1.4 million, along with huge numbers of people working in IT consulting jobs on temporary permits obtained by their companies, we have a sizeable number of our people who are occupying almost every seat on the planes going back and forth to India. Every one of us should believe that we have worked hard for their personal privilege of their success.

Non Resident Indian (NRI) is no longer a stranger to the world. They have the money and resources to yield the economic power, and command respect of the global community. Business and education, jobs and power, wealth and travel, along with name and fame are all part of parcel of what NRI has achieved, as with many an immigrant communities have done so in the United States and the West. It is a privilege to be recognized in the global community for the success of a nation’s people who work hard and contribute to their adopted lands. I am quite proud of belonging to the community of great achievers. By and large the members of the Indian community outside of India are hardworking and well mannered. The aspect of family and friends continue to be a big part of our community aspect, despite the distance we live away from our motherland.

The NRI also is quite visible in India with their contributions to the political process, business establishment, individual investments in homes and farms, building hospitals, schools and whatever their affordability to help with the perceived need of our country. For name and fame, no better way to contribute back to the society where we originally come from, and spending our holidays in India gives the motherland much needed tourism dollars and the local economies the benefit of the purchasing power of the dollar. Its great to see the NRI community spend money in India, and build things in India with their earnings from hard work abroad, and increasing the awareness of the multinational aspect of living. It’s a wonderful privilege to be able to move freely from India to wherever the NRI lives, and be able to participate in the growth of both places.

The additional privilege is that our motherland represents a place of great dignity that respects the NRI achievements and invites the NRI to be a part of its rapid growth. India needs help to grow at a much rapid pace than that of the west to bring basic amenities to its citizens, and keep creating jobs and opportunities to become a place where simple things are affordable. Water, power, transportation, communications, education and housing are continuing to be in great demand for the billion plus people in India. NRI community can help with the developmental aspects of the national needs without the need for any additional recognition to support the development. NRI already has the money and abilities, and their special skills (along with their money) need no further privileges in India, as the very privilege is to be a part of the community that is their homeland.

Awards and honors are not needed to help, especially when you can. They are reserved for outsiders, who seek recognition for their work. NRI is not a stranger, rather a part of the community fabric of India. What better privilege than a nation of advancement and rapid growth? The ability to contribute is a privilege. It’s becoming a native in America that has made the NRI the success story that is well documented, so it must be easy to do the same in India without any additional privilege.

When we travel to India, there is certain amount of anxiety (with water for me especially) with what will be the conditions that await us. Its alright to feel anxious about the time it will take to get from Chicago to Hyderabad, and weather we will get a cart that will fit those huge bags. It is all right to imagine if the first breakfast will have our favorite snacks, and plenty of them. It is OK to think if people are available and old friends still in town. It’s all right to make plans for spending time in places we grew up in, and thinking if they have changed. Just about all-personal anxieties are simply things we are used to and wanting them to be unchanged. But why expect privilege to be a part of growth of the nation if you can help with its development.

If every NRI returning to India and making an investment into it seeks privilege to its system, the country will be a place of discontent and cannot afford to develop a plural system. All things may not be right with the current system of working, but to create a system that differentiates its own people because of the wealth factor or contribution factor, it will become a bigger bureaucracy that it already is. If a system of NRI privilege is created, then it becomes a system of classes that has more money than the others, and only when privilege is given contributions are made. Isn’t that what we all campaign against everyday and why should we need any special system for helping when we can?

There is no need for special cells, there is no need for even calling an Indian person NRI, there is no need for making special allowances, there is no need for free permits, or any other privileges to NRI or anyone else who can afford to do things the same way as rest of the citizens. The community doesn’t need to bring in one more class of people who claim privilege to the workings of the nation, and add additional burden to an already needy environment. The patience to wait in line, the ability to survive in strange lands, the opportunity to contribute to ones own nation, the tenacity to be successful and the status of an NRI is already a global privilege. We don’t need any more privilege.

The best physicians, the best builders, the best engineers, the best bankers, the best communications experts, the best money managers and the best of many a fields don’t need additional privileges to be involved in India. They can simply be privileged people who can be selfless in simply be great citizens of the motherland. Citizens help without self-interest and become aggressive in contributions to their land. That will make India a place of privilege. The attractive privilege is making India a global force it can be. Every NRI should take the privilege of being an Indian, and the honor of its success. Privilege is what we are, but not what we get in return for what we do. The country doesn’t need to afford us any free passes or award us any plaques for being good citizens.

Past Perfect

Vasu Reddy from Chicago It has already happened. Past is already on the books, recorded, and can’t be changed.   It ...