Friday, February 26, 2021

Bail or jail ?

 "If it is bail vs jail, it is always bail" is a populist nostrum. It all depends on the specifics of a case and the law which governs the particular case. Unlike the general criminal law, grant of bail in cases under UAPA (Unlawful Activities Prevention Act) is exceptional and rare. Similarly, in cases involving sedition and incitement to violence, bail ought to be the last choice.

In Disha Ravi's case, Judge Dharmender Rana, has reasoned that dissemination of information is encouraged by Indian ethos and has quoted the Rig Veda which says, "आ नो भदाः कतवो यनतु िवशवतोऽदबधासो अपरीतास उिददः। (Let noble thoughts come to me from all directions).” The Hon.Judge has concluded from this that we must welcome divergent thoughts. This is a wrong conclusion because the Veda refers only to noble thoughts and not any divergent thought.

Friday, February 05, 2021

N.Ram's advice

 N.Ram has cautioned Sachin Tendulkar that he should stick to cricket and matters he is knowledgeable about. This is in the context of support extended by the God of Cricket to the Farm Laws. Many have criticised Ram for this. I think they are grossly mistaken.

Ram being a non-partisan observer is actually sending a hidden message to Rihanna and Greta Thunberg. He is telling Rihanna, "Confine yourself to pop music. Indian agriculture is not your cup of tea."

His advice to the climate activist is "You are only 18 years old. Wait till you grow up and start understanding what is what."

In the meanwhile, Ram undertakes to stick to his knitting whatever it is.

Wednesday, February 03, 2021

Governance and Activism

 The year 1991 is notable in India's economic history. It was during this year that substantial reforms were introduced in the industrial and financial sectors. Opinion is divided on who deserves the credit for these path-breaking moves. P.V.Narasimha Rao or Manmohan Singh?

The creative reforms were possible not because of presence of these two. They were made possible by the absence of people like the climate activist Greta Thunberg who has an eye on Nobel Peace Prize, pop singer Rihanna and the writer Meenakshi Ashley Harris. These international busybodies think they have a divinely ordained right to comment on anything happening anywhere. Ignorance about the Farm Laws in India would not stop them from making uninformed criticism. (In a televised discussion yesternight, a participant supporting these nosy parkers ridiculed the other participants for pronouncing Rihanna's name incorrectly. When asked whether she (the participant)  was aware of the Farm Laws, she brushed aside the question!)

A celebrity is not necessarily an expert. In addition, expertise in one field does not make one an expert other fields. The 18-year old phenomenon, Greta Thunberg tweeted a toolkit to make the farm protests effective. The agenda was stated as standing up against India's failing democracy ! It called for boycott of products of Adani and Ambani ! The objective of these global meddlers is clear.

Governance requires that the government push through reforms despite these obdurate protests. The government carried on 11 rounds of discussion with the protesting farmers. These farmers are stubborn that the laws should be repealed. An additional demand is to make MSP obligatory till eternity. The flexible government is termed obstinate and the unyielding farmer leaders are called flexible!

Narendra Modi does not have the advantage (namely the absence of intervention by global busybodies) that P.V.Narasimha Rao had. So he has to strive twice as hard to get even half the yield for the country. Governance is not easy! It is clear that the reforms budgeted now  (privatisation of public sector banks and an insurance company) will face rough weather. We need to apply for approval from Greta, Rihanna and Meena.

Tuesday, February 02, 2021

Budget 2021-22

 Budget 2021-22 has received widespread welcome. The habitual naysayers have mostly been unable to pick holes in the budget. This is surprising since the budget is a political document that has no guarantee  against criticism. 

There are two reasons why the Finance Minister has escaped criticism this time. COVID-19 has conditioned us to be prepared for a higher than usual Fiscal Deficit. In fact, the general feeling is that the government should have spent more and that the FD must be more. The second reason is everyone was expecting a COVID Cess to improve government's finances. The absence of an expected negative constitutes a positive. Thus, though a budget traditionally attracts many justified and unjustified criticisms, Budget 2021-22 has a teflon quality that ensures that no criticism sticks to it.

However, some persons always go overboard in either direction. Shankar Sharma, co-founder, First Global exclaims that this budget is equivalent to Kapil Dev's 4 sixes in the Lord's test. P.Chidambaram bemoans that "this is a letdown like never before." Both must be aware that what they say is nowhere near the truth.

There are some ominous portents. External debt was raised in the current year for Rs. 54,522 crore against the Budget Estimate Rs.4,622 crore. India's economic strength has always been the fact that our borrowings are mainly domestic. Foreign borrowings are exposed to currency risk which might upset our plans.

Revenue Deficit for 2021-22 is budgeted at 5.1% of GDP. This is uncomfortably high. Revenue Deficit crudely means that we are borrowing to pay revenue expenditure like salaries and pensions. If we borrow money to meet revenue expenditure, how do we generate funds to meet repayment liability? We will have to borrow more to repay the present borrowings. A typical Ponzi scheme!

Monday, February 01, 2021

Rating the Budget

 There are different methods which are used to rate a budget. One easy method is to note the response of a prominent person and then to interpret the message the person betrays. Prannoy Roy is a fail-safe bellwether.

If Roy criticises a government move, one can safely conclude that the move is positive. If he is disappointed, it means the government is on the right track. 

Today he was extremely unhappy that the panellists in the post-budget discussion on NDTV Profit welcomed the budget wholeheartedly. A tax expert gave 7 to 8 out of 10 for the budget. The discussion was anchored by Srinivasan Jain who always obliges his boss. Even he could not extract negative comments from the discussants. Roy nudged Kiran Mazumdar - Shaw saying that she always comes up with the best observation. All that she could say was that she expected some incentives for R & D in private sector which were not offered.

In hindsight, it appears that everyone was expecting introduction of Corona cess. It was a big relief that it is not there. Roy had to find something negative. Otherwise he would not justify his raison-d'etre. He found two and not just one. The first criticism from him was 'what matters is implementation' and not the contents of the budget ! This is true for any budget. The second denunciation was that some expenditure was related to 3 or 5 years and not just one year. "She cleverly mentioned the amount and then sotto voce said 'in three years' " Prannoy Roy knows this trick because he employs this often.

The Finance Minister must be happy that her budget has made Prannoy Roy unhappy.

Friday, January 22, 2021

Biocon and Bajaj Auto

 It is odd to pair Biocon Ltd and Bajaj Auto Ltd. This is done only because the share prices of both companies moved by 10% today. Biocon Ltd moved down by 10.89% ; Bajaj Auto Ltd moved up by 10.45%

One would have expected a bio-pharma company which obtained accelerated repurpose use authorisation for itolizumab in treatment of COVID-19 to report good financial results for the quarter ended December 31st. But that was not to be. The executive Chairperson has lamented, "We continue to face headwinds across operational, regulatory and commercial functions, which have been deterrents to our planned market expectations." Headwinds from regulatory functions, really?

This is not all. The Managing Director of Biocon Biologics Ltd. a noteworthy subsidiary, has resigned due to "professional differences with the Chairperson on strategic priorities and vision for the company." There is no doubt that it is Kiran Mazumdar-Shaw who set up the reputed Biocon group. Is she finding it difficult to let top management take independent decisions and that is why she retains control as 'executive chair'? Shades of possessiveness a la Ratan Tata?

Tuesday, January 19, 2021

A tale of two countries

 The India-Australia 2020-21 cricket series brought out the best and the worst that is in Indian team. When India ignominiously lost the first test scoring the lowest runs it has ever made in an innings, many former Australian skippers including Ricky Ponting, Michael Clarke, Mark Waugh and Michael Vaughan wrote off any prospects for the visiting Indian team in subsequent test matches. India redeemed itself winning one test and famously drawing another before the final test at the Gabba, Brisbane.

The pitch and the field at the Gabba are made for the Aussies. The home team is rarely defeated there. Even forcing a draw there is considered a feat for any visiting team. The dice was loaded heavily against the Indian cricketers for another reason. The Indian team fielded at the Gabba was probably the most inexperienced ever. The Australian team, though, was one of the most experienced. Lyon, the spinner, had played in 99 test matches prior to this test.

Washington Sundar and Natarajan were playing their first test. Other Indian players also had played in a few tests only. Rishabh Pant played a swashbuckling knock taking his chances. Other batsmen were more cautious. When Pant played the winning shot (a nonchalant boundary), the home team was crestfallen. The Gabba was conquered by an alien team. The Indian underdogs retained the Gavaskar - Border trophy.

Even as the series was on, many contrasting events were taking place off the field. One player (Virat Kohli) left the team after the first test to be present when his daughter was born. Mohammed Siraj could not be present for his father's funeral at Hyderabad. Natarajan is yet to see his one-month old child.

Victory at the Gabba will remain in Indian minds for a long time to come. The pulsating win came in the 97th over of the day. If the Australians had contained the Indian thrust for three more overs, they would have preserved their Gabba glory. But the cool and composed captain, Rahane, and the newly capped cricket warriors ensured that Aussies bit the dust at Brisbane. Cricket is not the same any longer.