Wednesday, June 21, 2017


In a democracy, comparison between different parties or alliances in government at different times is inevitable and also useful. UPA was in power for 10 years; the present NDA has been governing for the past 3 years.

There are some obvious differences like surfeit of scams during UPA times and initiation of inflammatory issues when NDA is in power. Beyond the obvious, there is one basic difference which may decide if NDA will be voted back to power in the next general elections.

UPA was shrewd (?) or pragmatic (?) or indifferent enough not to attempt any experiment, call it reform or not, that would require widespread co-operation from the public. UPA's major achievement as its leaders are fond of saying was introduction of Right to Information Act. A crucial measure, no doubt, but it was easy to implement and nobody was adversely affected at least initially. When difficulties started, many subterfuges emerged heralding adoption of various dilatory tactics. RTI did not require people's forbearance for its successful implementation.

NDA however has charted a different course. It has embarked on two major missions which require(d) total and unflinching readiness on the part of people to take suffering in their stride. Objectives of Demonetisation were hazy but the problems it created for the people were tangible and crystal-clear. It is a tribute to Modi's shrewdness that he could not only weather this self-created storm but could successfully project it as a mission against all evils, be they terrorism, black money or inflation.

GST is the next big experiment that is bound to create a lot of teething problems. Its introduction is certainly called for. One does not know if UPA deftly avoided belling the cat though it made a lot of noise about it. No doubt, Modi strongly opposed GST when he was a chief minister. If GST is implemented without snafu, Modi will be a little more sure of retaining power post 2019. Would he have the nerve to come up with one more major experiment before 2019?

Tuesday, June 20, 2017

Changing times

There was a time when people had utmost faith in banks. It was not unusual for people to seek advice from their bankers how to invest their hard earned money. Any money kept with banks was deemed to be 100% safe.

Post 2007, things have changed drastically. It has become difficult to distinguish between bankers and politicians in terms of their trust-worthiness. Frauds committed by and on banks have become one too many.

I am tempted to write this because today when I saw a headline in NYTimes "DealBook: Barclays Charged with Fraud", I was least interested in reading the details. I was only wondering 'What is new in a bank committing a fraud?'

Would banks ever regain their credibility?

Monday, June 19, 2017

Ram Nath Kovind

Barring unforeseen events, Mr.Ram Nath Kovind will be our next President. Little known outside BJP (in fact, little known in BJP also), he is presently the Governor of Bihar. A non-controversial politician (oxymoronish?), he was a member of Rajya Sabha for twelve years.

He was practising law in Delhi. He dutifully handled cases of the marginalised sections. Obviously, he is not greedy for money. He is a dalit and he continues to evince interest in the welfare of dalits unlike many dalit leaders who care little for other dalits once they become rich and powerful.

It is evident that Kovind is not in any way unfit to be our President. BJP and Modi could of course have chosen a better candidate. But, politics being what it is today, we ought to be happy that they have not selected a worse candidate. He will be the second dalit to be our President. K.R.Narayanan was the first. KRN and  RNK share an interesting anagrammatic relationship.

Yet another terror attack

The incident at the Finsbury Park mosque in London in which one Muslim worshipper was killed and several wounded shows that terrorists of different hues are becoming active. This is an ominous sign that things are going out of control.

Terrorism by or against Muslims deserves strongest condemnation. This is no time for political correctness. Police should handle all such incidents with maximum seriousness, bring culprits to book and release their investigative reports for public understanding. Any person preaching violence has to be immediately arrested, Right to freedom of speech is not a licence to provoke hatred among people.

It is particularly sad that London is becoming a hotbed of terrorism. Does it mean that the salad bowl approach to immigration is failing?

Sunday, June 18, 2017

"Letter from a concerned reader"

One Mr.J.Mathrubootham who identifies himself only as a retired senior executive of a nationalised bank writes a weekly column in The Hindu. It appears in the Sunday Magazine section.

Titled "Letter from a concerned reader", this column justly trivialises what we normally (mis)take as important issues. The writer expresses his humorous thoughts conversationally and interestingly. Inclusion of this weekly contribution is a pleasant surprise from The Hindu which is normally associated with sedate seriousness and staid statements.

This is a double surprise because bankers are considered to be too serious to be concerned with lighter moments of life and flippant observations on those moments.

Saturday, June 17, 2017

Who is our next President?

It may be difficult to get a President like Dr.Radhakrishnan or Dr.Zakir Hussain, both eminent educationists. But does that mean that we need to accept a mediocre person who is least unacceptable to various political divisions?

A person like E.Sreedharan, the Metro Man, is the need of the hour. He is known for honesty, hard work and purposeful action. An equally good choice would be M.S.Swaminathan, the renowned agricultural scientist. Prime Minister Modi has a panache for springing surprises. This time he must also ensure that the presidential nominee is capable of acting without political fear or favour. He or she must also be knowledgeable about duties and responsibility of the First Citizen of the country.

Tuesday, June 13, 2017

PNB's uniqueness

I worked in Punjab National Bank for 21 years. It is not surprising therefore that any news about PNB interests me. It is the only bank in India whose Chairman and CEO (Managing Director) both have the same name: Sunil Mehta. This peculiarity may occur in family-owned companies. This does not seem to be the case in any non-family owned company in India.

The Chairman had earlier worked with Citibank and AIG. The MD came to PNB via Allahabad Bank and Corporation Bank. Placing both of them in the same bank is an interesting experiment.

PNB which was once considered a robust bank has fallen on difficult days. It has skipped dividend for the past two years. It's anybody's guess when its fortunes will revive.