Sunday, November 30, 2014

Why is 'orange' so called?

In Tamil, 'oranju' means six and five (totalling eleven). Indian oranges commonly have eleven segments aka carpels. Thus the fruit's name might have originated from the Tamil word. Some oranges like the Persian ones typically have ten carpels.

Strangely, though many etymological interpretations are usually provided, this straightforward origin is not found anywhere. Are we uncomfortable with Occam's razor?

Saturday, November 29, 2014

Faith or Sarcasm ?

Sri Padmanabhaswamy Temple case under argument in the Supreme Court keeps evoking a lot of interest among the public. A Bench of Justices T.S.Thakur and Anil R. Dave is hearing the case.

Gopal Subramanium, the amicus curiae in this case, has recommended fortification of the walls and floor of temple vaults containing precious articles. The Bench has disagreed saying that there is no immediate threat of pilferage. It is not clear what is the basis for this threat perception. The judges have observed that security arrangements have been made and the inventory of all articles has been completed.

Subramanium has also suggested that guards protecting the temple should be suitably armed. Responding to this suggestion, Justice Thakur waxed eloquent expressing his faith (or was it agnostic sarcasm?): "God himself is there. Then there is the Kerala police. (Oh, what a seamless movement from God to Kerala police?) You mean to say if both fail, these guards would be able to protect all?" The parenthetical observation is not of the court.

Apparently logical arguments are at times the antithesis of pragmatism. Availability of 'Redundancy' is very often a basic requirement of risk management. The judges will do better to recognise this.

Sunday, November 16, 2014

Raghuram Rajan corrects C K Prahalad

The Indian Express reports:

"Rajan, himself is a renowned economist, said during a recent micro finance event, “I think Prahalad did a disservice by saying that there is a fortune at the bottom of the pyramid. “My sense is that you cannot, in good conscience, make a fortune at the bottom of the pyramid. Make reasonable profits, but if you start making a fortune, it does start raising societal anxiety about how the fortune is being made”. 

Rajan has exhibited intellectual honesty and political incorrectness in correcting a widely-held thought.

Sunday, November 09, 2014

Reliance does India proud

It is customary to treat Reliance Industries Limited, the corporate juggernaut, as a punching bag and accuse it of all possible deviations from governance guidelines. Consequently, when it practises rules of good conduct, it is scarcely noticed and even less appreciated. We don't give the devil its due.

Transparency International has released its 2014 report on 'transparency in corporate reporting' comparing and contrasting 124 global companies which are the largest listed companies in terms of market capitalisation. Of these, two are Indian companies, Reliance and ONGC.

The companies have been ranked under three parameters, 1) Reporting on anti-corruption programmes, 2) organisational transparency and 3) country- by- country reporting.

Overall Index Average Score for 124 companies is 3.8 out of 10. Reliance has scored 5.6 and ONGC 4.8.

Reliance occupies 9th position and ONGC 26th. Arcelor Mittal (registered in Luxembourg) promoted by Laxmi Mittal is ranked 6th.

Following table speaks for itself:

Overall index score (max-10)

Note: 'A' stands for reporting on anti-corruption programmes, 'B' stands for organisational transparency and 'C' country - by - country reporting.

Saturday, November 08, 2014

Anand vs Carlsen Game 1

Honours were split in game 1 of the World Chess Championship being held in Sochi, Russia. The game was too sharp for an opening game in top level championship. Anand engineered it that way and yet became tense as the game went on.

The opening (Grunfeld Defence) was partially expected since Anand was sure to switch to d4 opening given his excruciating experience with e4 against the world champion. Carlsen was tentative in the opening game though he made a robust comeback in the middle game. Anand could draw the game thanks to a brilliant move towards the forcible end.

The game has ruffled Anand a little more than Carlsen. This has some predictive value. After all, in chess as in life, the more unruffled are the ultimate winners.

Carlsen has a 71-point lead over Anand in the current Elo rating. Overpowering an opponent with such a lead in a 12-game match can only be a trans-Six Sigma event. Anand is now ranked sixth in the rating. The four who rank between the championship players are Caruana, Topalov, Aronian and Grischuk. Interestingly all the top six belong to different countries namely Norway, Italy, Bulgaria, Armenia, Russia and India respectively.

Wednesday, November 05, 2014

Can Modi deliver on black money?

It is very pleasant to hear Narendra Modi's assurance that every black penny deposited abroad will be brought back. Can he make good on his promise?

His Finance Minister whose affiliation to the Delhi Gang is obvious is hesitant even to share whatever details are available with the government. He is not ashamed of parroting the excuse given by the earlier government which he used to make fun of.

Ram Jethmalani who is carrying on a crusade against black money lying abroad was conveniently removed from the BJP. If Modi had desired, Jethmalani could have been brought back to the party. (But why bring back an inconvenience?) The boisterous lawyer is forced to write letters to Modi and Jaitley because they are unlikely to be serious about the matter.

The irrepressible Subramanian Swamy has penned an open letter to Narendrabhai detailing six ways of bringing back black money. If he did not doubt government's intentions, he would not have written an open letter.

Therefore, all indications are that the tax evaders are too powerful and promiscuously present in all political parties to fear. Honest tax payers who are unwilling or too timid to cheat on tax may continue to revel in masochistic pleasure of doing the nation a good turn by coughing up taxes.

Saturday, November 01, 2014

Congress' views and Congressmen's views

Indian National Congress is the most democratic political party in the world. It is the only party which dissociates itself from the views expressed by everyone of its members but does not disempower them from freely expressing their personal opinions. It is a miracle that there is a political party whose 'collective opinion' is not shared by any of its members and therefore is always at variance from the opinions of all its members.

P.Chidambaram wanted Sonia and Rahul Gandhis to speak more and more often. The High Command lost no time in qualifying it as PC's personal view and confirmed that the party does not toe this line.

Digvijay Singh desires that Rahulji should take over leadership because 'the Congress always favours young leaders'. (?) The party immediately declares that this is his personal view and not that of the party.

G.K.Vasan wants appropriate importance to be given to Kamaraj.  Expectedly this is shot down as an individual's opinion. He was not Kamaraj Gandhi after all.

Shashi Tharoor had the temerity to praise the prime minister's initiative for cleanliness. This certainly was not the party line.

At this rate, even if Soniaji or Rahulji expresses any opinion, the party may hastily dismiss that as their personal opinion. Is that why they do not take the risk of saying anything?

We now understand why Manmohan Singh was totally inarticulate during his prime ministership. He did not want to give a chance to the party to distance itself from his views.