22 Feb 2015

Why Kejriwal’s Free Electricity Promise Should Worry You

I’ve mentioned before that despite being a Modi supporter, I am secretly happy that the AAP beat the BJP in the Delhi elections. It’s been less than a month since they have taken over and are already talking about fulfilling their pre-election promises.

When I studied MBA, my favorite subjects were Managerial Economics and Business Strategy. I still don’t understand regression analysis well, but like to look at organizational and governmental decisions from the perspective of economics and strategy. And yes, like you, I’m an advocate of progress and development.

Economics has made me question one promise of Kejriwal in particular - free electricity. And I have quite a few grave reservations about it. Here’s why.

Let’s give AAP the benefit of doubt and assume that they won’t provide free electricity to all of Delhi, but will substantially lower tariffs. AAP has already asked for a coal block from the Central Government (I hope they bid for it instead of demanding it for free). This coal, they say, will be provided to a private firm that will produce 3,750 - 6,000 MW of electricity for Delhi. Is it just me or do you see something black in the lentils, too?

The Delhi Electricity Regulatory Commission (DERC) has already stated that prices need to increase to compensate companies producing electricity in Delhi. Now, on to the AAP’s proposal of reducing tariffs by 50%. To do so, the Delhi government will have to compensate these discoms with up to ₹2000 crore each year. Kejriwal kept saying that the Delhi treasury has ₹5,000 crore in it. Does he plan to dry the funds up within 2 years?

Another question is related to the behavior of us Indians. We’re probably the most irresponsible bunch of people ever. If the prices of electricity drop, Delhiites will leave ACs, lights and fans on all day. After all, why worry since the bill is so low, right? And not just Delhiites, any Indian would do it considering how much we care about anyone but ourselves. This will lead to wastage, and more demand for electricity, further leading to more demand for coal and other resources and invariably, more weight of subsidies on the shoulders of the Delhi government. And if Delhi gets free electricity, these issues will become even more rampant.  So the Delhi treasury may very well run dry in less than 2 years.

free electricity Delhi

Increase in usage of air conditioners will increase air pollution. Kejriwal is already coughing his lungs out. Plus there will be no funds allocated for infrastructure development to reduce congestion. The result? Even more air pollution and poor road infrastructure. More people will cough like Kejriwal and encounter lung disorders. Who will invest in Delhi then? And without investment, where will jobs and better livelihood come from?

The free WiFi, if implemented will also take its toll on electricity production. Contrary to what you believe, WiFi will only be free for 30 minutes in Delhi, after which it will be chargeable. Routers, data warehouses and infrastructure are going to demand electricity, which further adds to the challenges mentioned in paragraph 4. Then again, do you think anyone will pay for WiFi after 30 minutes when they have mobile data and internet at home? I know you will say that free WiFi is on offer in Ahmedabad also, apart from other cities globally. But they don’t have to deal with the challenges that AAP will create. Plus their governments have alternate ways of generating revenue. What plan does the Delhi government have? Populism does not attracts investors.

Which brings us to yet another question. Does a government body need to earn revenue and profit? I say “Yes”. But then I am a ‘capitalist’, right? People like me are considered selfish, greedy and downright evil. Nehru thought so, and hence he was always against the business class - a belief that he drove in his daughter who further stifled our economy when we should have been growing. Apparently, Kejriwal thinks so too. Is the secret love between AAP and the Congress surprising, then? But you know one thing? No focus on generating revenue makes a company inefficient and unaccountable. The result? The demand for bailouts like from Air India. And who pays for AI’s inefficiency? You and me, through taxes. Taxes which should be deployed for growth and development, not to bail out a firm that can’t take care of itself and will continue to squander funds. The same concept applies to governments, whether local, statewide or national.

Populist measures have no place in a developing economy like ours. But they are what please us most. They make us feel secular and pro-poor and all inclusive. However, they offer momentary relief to some strata of people, but we are back to square one in no time. The way forward is pro-development measures. And asking people to be a part of it. The Central government has already started by letting people voluntarily opt out of LPG subsidies and keeping a buffer margin on fuel prices to compensate oil companies. While Modi is headed in the right direction, Kejriwal is headed in the opposite. Only time will tell who’s decision was right, but it mostly will be Modi whose decisions will stand vindicated. We need to think measures and policies from a dispassionate and economic perspective, rather than simply supporting it because we love the party. 

11 Feb 2015

Why I'm Secretly Glad That BJP Lost to AAP in the Delhi Elections

67 out of 70 seats! ‘Landslide’ is the word being used for Aam Aadmi Party’s (AAP) victory in Delhi. ‘Comprehensive’ is an understatement, isn't it? I’ve started following politics pretty late, but even those who have been watching this field closely for decades will consider this worthy of being termed ‘historic’.

A disclaimer up front: I am not an AAP supporter. In fact, I am no specific party supporter - I just am anti Congress and pro growth. This is why, as you may have guessed, my current loyalties lie with Narendra Modi. The man has good intent and is working towards making India a better place, although the media conveniently fails to report more than 70% work being done.

I had a ringside view of the Delhi Elections campaigning as I was there from 3rd - 7th February. I watched news channels, spoke to the aam aadmi (common man, not the party volunteers), and witnessed political campaigns at various places. My ears rang with the '5 saal Kejriwal' song being played everywhere.

While Tarun and I agreed that it was better to vote for even the Congress rather than AAP, I am secretly glad that AAP beat the Bharati Janata Party (BJP). Can’t say that I’m happy at the mauling that the BJP received in the results though. Anyway, here is why I am glad that AAP won.

AAP Wins Delhi Elections
"Ro lo, behenji"

  1. Kiran Bedi would not make a good CM
    Many people weren’t pleased with the BJP’s decision to bring Bedi onboard as their CM candidate. Obviously the party had its reasons which we don’t know, or it took a wrong call. Happens. But seeing that woman cry on TV saying that she was overwhelmed by the love she received, cooking roti at Gurudwaras and pulling off other antics, most of us said “Yaar, yeh nautanki hai (man, this is drama).” And it’s very hard for people to trust someone fond of drama (Arvind Kejriwal seems to be an exception though). Bedi had a lot of foot-in-mouth situations. If she had become CM, she would’ve done more of it and given BJP haters more chances to ridicule the party, further adding to Modi’s headache.

  2. I stand to gain, whether I am or wrong
    I was ecstatic when Kejriwal became Delhi’s CM in 2014. Like everyone, I believed that Delhi had done the right thing. The rest, as we know, is history. Kejriwal then returned to Delhi with promises and strategic campaigning. And Delhi-ites have lapped it up. Now is the time to see how much Arvind Kejriwal lives up to his promises. After all, hasn’t the AAP lambasted Modi the most for failing to keep up to his.

    Kejriwal’s interviews on TV were interesting. He would never look at the camera, except when he was accusing others. I’m no body language expert, but have the ability to pick subtle hints thanks to reading and observations. And a man who keeps looking elsewhere when someone is talking to him - well, he’s lying.

    Most TV reporters didn’t grill Kejriwal. Even the #RavishAsksKejriwal interview on NDTV looked staged. They just asked him questions which he could answer easily. No one asked him about how he planned to interact with people whose feet he stepped on in his cameo stint, or the condition he left Delhi in. He talked about populist measures like setting up free WiFi in Delhi for 200 crore (mind you, it’s gonna cost more than that) and free water. He didn’t speak about improving the infrastructure condition in Delhi. And trust me, the condition of roads and traffic in Delhi is depressing. Also, by declaring that they will punish every corrupt person, AAP risks entering the same state as the Congress - policy paralysis. This is because bureaucrats will be terrified of pushing things forward lest they get punished. This is what got the Congress into a rut.

    Kejriwal kept repeating one thing in all interviews: “The Delhi treasury has ₹5,000 crore in it.” I get the feeling that he has an eye on it, that crony capitalism will occur even with the AAP in power.
    But you know the advantage of being a pessimist, like I am when it comes to the AAP? You’re either proved right or pleasantly wrong. If AAP proves me wrong, I’ll be glad for the people of Delhi. And if I’m proved right… well, you can expect to read an “I told you so” post.

  3. The BJP can be an opposition party
    Yeah yeah. The BJP doesn’t have enough seats to be in the opposition. And the AAP has been really classy in offering the LoP position to them. But hey, this move by the AAP is more tactical than classy. They know the repercussions from the central government for denying the BJP an opposition place. And if you are reading this and saying “Oh come on! This is blackmail”, then snap out of it. Politics is rampant at your workplace, among relatives and friends, everywhere. A state and country are much bigger. Every politician has to take it in his/her stride.

    Rather than having to prove their mettle in Delhi like across India, BJP’s party members can simply play devil’s advocate to AAP (don’t know how effective that will be though).
  4. The BJP won't get complacent
    However good the intentions, complacency always creeps in. In fact, it's been an Achilles' Heel in human nature. With victories in many states, complacency could have been creeping into the BJP's ranks. This demolition at the hands of AAP will stifle that. The BJP will know that they can't take anything for granted and have to work towards growth and development to stay in the good books of common man. And that was primarily why people voted for Modi in the 1st place.

Kejriwal has a second chance to prove himself in front of the same people. And that is so rare! Forget the ‘5 saal Kejriwal’ song. Kejriwal’s 1st step will be successfully manage 5 days, and then 5 months. After that, we can wonder what he plans to do for Delhi for 5 years. So all you people rejoicing over AK’s victory, remember, this is just the beginning. The true test lies ahead.

8 Feb 2015

A Question to 'Freedom of Speech' And AIB Roast Supporters

I have just returned from a long awaited trip to North India. I witnessed the Kila Raipur Rural Olympics, visited the Golden Temple, Wagah border, Akshardham and saw many other places in Delhi and Punjab. I drove more than 500 miles in 5 days but barely felt exhausted because the weather was so damn good.

In Delhi, I caught up with a friend - Anmol Ahuja a.k.a. The Preachy Professor. A graphics designer by passion, he has moved up the ranks to become a manager. Anmol has always come across as a balanced and mature bloke. When we met a few days ago, being social media enthusiasts, we discussed a topic which has angered many people - the takedown of the AIB roast video. Anmol has an amazing perspective on things, backed by facts. “You’re a very wise guy. You have a mind way more mature than that of a 27 year old” I said. “I’m 23”, he corrected. Anmol is truly unique.

But I’ll shower praises on Anmol in another post (maybe). This one is addressed to the people who are furious at AIB allegedly being asked to take down their 'Roast' video. Allegedly. I love that word.

I saw the below image on Facebook with a status update which implied that abusing in real life is okay, so it should be allowed in reel life too. Well, we’re okay with having sex in real life too, right? So what’s your demand going to be? A fully blown and legal porn industry? “No. There is a huge difference in porn and profanity”, you say. But going by the above logic, because it is okay to have sex in real life (and enjoyable too), it should be okay to upload videos of consenting adults in the act watched by consenting people too. So we can make porn legal in India too and not be offended when people watch it in public places. And our culture can continue to go to hell.

aib roast youtube

We like picking outrageous things from the west. It makes us feel cool. I mean, AIB couldn’t even come up with a new name. They had to rip the one used in USA. But why ‘be inspired’ by only the bullshit? Why don’t we pick the good stuff? Like learning to respect each other the way they do, especially the lesser fortunate people who serve us at hotels and other places. Or following proper etiquette while driving. Or not littering? Why don’t we allow people to pursue different interests instead of making them choose only engineering or medicine? Why don’t we see more responsible single fathers? Why don't we see a balance of household work between men and women? Why don’t we force organizations to be more sensitive to their employees’ needs?

We know how ‘sensible’ the young parents of today are. They care more about their smartphones and tabs than about their toddlers. Imagine them watching these videos on full blast in front of 3-4 year olds. And one day, when they walk home, they are welcomed with ‘Behenchod’ by their child. They might laugh and feel proud - after all a 3 year old calling his father a ‘sister-fucker’ is funny, right? Or is it? Or imagine your mother browsing through YouTube, an AIB video filled with choicest profanity comes up in the suggestions and she innocently clicks on it. Will you laugh if she walks up to and says that she was disturbed by what she saw? (By the way, when my mom went to see Delhi Belly because it was an Aamir Khan movie, she left within 10 minutes and came home almost in tears).

Anmol made a great point.”You don’t need profanity to promote good content”, he said. “And if you are using something controversial, it was your intent to court controversy all along.” Mind you, AIB knew exactly what they were doing. And they did it to evoke these responses from you which further adds to their publicity. They don’t give a rat’s ass about what you really think. They know that they aren’t talented enough. So they resort to toilet humor and cheap antics like this to create a wave of sympathy to suck you in.

It’s time you stop paying attention to this nonsense and channelize your energy into fruitful and constructive things. Even if you protests, make sure it is for the right things, not those which probably shame your parents and your children.
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