28 Apr 2013

The Real Story Behind the Biggest Revolution in Indian Politics...

Manmohan Singh did not free the Indian economy; P.V. Narasimha Rao did... Let's get that bit straight... I’ll tell you how.

A human bomb killed Rajiv Gandhi in 1991. Narasimha Rao was just about to retire from politics, but the Congress had other ideas. They wanted to make the – according to them, 70 something, unassuming, dull, and balding – politician to be the ‘stopgap PM’ of a government no one thought would last the whole term. But Narasimha Rao unleashed India’s biggest revolution since 1947 during his stint.

He understood India was bankrupt. Yes, WE WERE BANKRUPT! Our currency reserves wouldn’t let us buy oil for more than 2 weeks, especially with crude prices skyrocketing. There were talks of a bailout from the IMF like some EU countries are offered now. Gold reserves worth $2.2 billion had been flown from India to London as collateral for the bailout! The day after he was sworn into office, Rao stated that the government wanted to ‘remove the cobwebs that come in the way of rapid industrialisation... make India internationally competitive, taking full advantage of... opportunities offered by the evolving global economy’. Rao hired non–politicians to do the job – Manmohan Singh as FM and P. Chidambaram as Commerce Minister.

P.V. Narasimha Rao - our nation's hero
Singh devalued the Indian currency by about 20% in 2 days and proposed to abolish export subsidy, which reduced the fiscal deficit by a mammoth 0.4%. Chidambaram, a Harvard M.B.A. graduate, spent a week burning the midnight oil understanding the major issues India faced. Then, with MMS and Montek Singh Ahluwalia, he dismantled the 40 year old ‘Licence Raj’ in about 8 hours. They hurried to Rao’s house at 9 p.m. and he signed the policy. Rao wanted to further delicence all industries except the sensitive ones related to security. But he didn’t go the whole hog immediately. Instead, he arranged for reforms to be released in a phased manner. He had Chidambaram and MMS reword the policies so they seemed in continuation of Rajiv Gandhi’s work. He had friends in the opposition, whom he covertly convinced to support the new policies. He provided incentives to industries for progress. Consequently, India survived an embarrassment and is today viewed as a potential superpower.

It pains to see Rao not credited for the work he did in liberating the Indian economy; the Congress is always mum. Most experts don’t know the names of cabinet ministers of that time. That’s because Rao held those portfolios himself. If it wasn’t for Rao’s grit, political suaveness and in–depth understanding of India’s problems and their solutions, we would all have been neck deep in crap. Neither Manmohan Singh nor Chidambaram or Ahluwalia could have pulled off what they did without backing and support from Rao. No one else could’ve done what he did. Not Gandhi, not Nehru, not his daughter and neither her son.

Here’s a salute to the visionary named P.V. Narasimha Rao; one of the best things that could happen to India. Thanks to him, today we drive good cars, own fancy gadgets and watch English channels on widescreen TVs. India needs more leaders like him to grow, indeed.

21 Apr 2013

Why We Are Silent Now...

Ramya had gone to a restaurant with her friend. On the adjacent table sat 6 guys who were barely conversing. Strange! Why? They were busy with their mobile phones. One must have been playing Temple Run, one must have been on WhatsApp, one on Facebook, one tweeting, and so on.

Silence engulfs a lot of gatherings these days. We’re lost in our smart phones connecting with people who are not in front of us and neglecting those who are. We prefer WhatsApp and Facebook chats to face – to – face conversations. We inform our friends of changes in our lives via Facebook instead of phone calls. “You didn’t know about it? I put it up on Facebook.”

I’ve been keeping a low profile on the web lately. So a friend called and asked “Where are you these days? You’re not tweeting, no Facebook updates, no blog articles, no WhatsApp messages...” “Well, you should’ve called,” was my response. “Aah! That slipped my mind,” he sheepishly grinned.
Smart phones were meant to supplement us, just like PPTs are meant to supplement our presentations. But just like we let PPTs drive our presentations, we let smart phones control our lives. Internet connections must be on until the battery runs low; switching off our phones feels like a bigger catastrophe than 21st December 2012; most ads are now about mobile phones; we’ve lost count of the number of apps there are... wait, we never had count of them anyway!

We can't spend a minute without Smartphones
Tyler Dunden had said “Shut down Facebook and Twitter servers. People will make real friends when they come out on the streets rioting.” It is said that we cannot have more than 150 friends in our lives. But 150 friends on Facebook is nothing short of a shame, right? It doesn’t matter if only 10 of them interact with us regularly.

We agree that we need to spend more time in real life than online, right? Let’s extend that lesson to our phones also. Let’s meet people in real world than in the virtual one. Let’s make it a point to call at least one friend a day and speak for 5 minutes. Let smart phones make our lives easier, not become our lives. Let the conversation flow at dinner or lunch rather than on WhatsApp. Reduce playing Temple Run and take a dip in the pool. Stop looking for mobile phone apps and catch a snack with a family member instead. Stop listening to your iPod on a walk. Let your mind wander; you’ll be surprised at what it comes up with. Let’s remember we are humans, not robots; let’s live like them.
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