Of the World Bank’s ‘ease of doing business’!
This is out of 190 countries!
Rahul Gandhi’s immaturity, his simplistic remarks harming the interests of the people as well his own party’s prospects!

India is ranked by the World Bank at 50 out of 190 countries in the “ease of doing business index!

It is a great milestone of the Narendra Modi government’s achievements in transforming the Indian   economy. From one of time-tested slow moving, a bureaucratic laggard of sorts in many areas of governance so far.

Mao Zedong

Mao Zedong

Now, under Modi we see lot of energy and dynamism  in governance. It is a testament of the tireless efforts of the Prime Minister that had paid off. The PM’s single-handedly driven the momentum of the collective efforts of some of his colleagues of proven competence, the economy to reach this level transparency and efficiency. Let us openly acknowledge the glory the PM had brought home to the economic sector by all whomsoever, belong to whatever be the party to which we may belong.

From the Congress ranks we openly say so in spite of the very poor response from the higher reaches of the Congress hierarchy. The Congress hierarchy today is composed of some Delhi-based seniors who are rich and also earn high incomes from legal and other professions, some of the practising lawyers are also, ironically, practising Congress politicians. Congress politics helps for networking and these are also high net worth individuals!

Funds are flush and now, already politics, democratic politics at that, is becoming a big money game. Let us only hope the latest moves by the Apex Court to bring to book erring, tainted   criminal  politicians and ban them from political activity forever makes Indian democracy more vibrant.

Yes, we have to go a long way yet, we have to aim for the number 50 ranking and this, given the current mindset of the Central government that Indian will soon become a more dynamic economic engine and that would only gladden the hearts of every Indian. Some States like AP have done much to pull the economy from slumber and let us hope this moment of a milestone might trigger the “animal spirits” as Lord Keynes famously said to inject new energies!

And we, Indians, can’t be but be also alert to the developments in the outside the world.

See China after its just concluded 19th party Congress. Mr.XI, their President got a second term and also he got an endorsement from the party to assume more powers and he is designated as the second Mao Zedung! And still more powers, both political and military powers. Xi’s immediate predecessors, still around, had more experience and also scandal-free and also mature enough to give Xi the necessary political space so that XI’s truly gifted talents could further, let us hope ,flower to take China to greater glory. China doesn’t hide its ambitions. Xi, in fact, from the Indian point of view could pose some challenges too! On our border disputes and also in threatening to divert the Brahmaputra River waters. Of course, it is all in the future but in the South East Asian countries China would be seen further and further for more unfriendly acts.

While India as one of the leading powers and also a robust democracy (let us hope) has to both consolidate our position as an economic and a political power of sorts.

Seen in this broad light, how we can take the criticism of  Modi’s government’s achievements in boosting our ranking.
How immature and even silly on the part of Rahul Gandhi and his rather reluctant supporters like the spokesmen and others to come to defend Rahul’s such an irresponsible remarks.

How can you treat the World Bank as a foreign power and a foreign entity. India is a much rated and much respected and much cared for country.

We have utilised World Bank funds for a variety of projects and thus benefitted much.

Let us dismiss Rahul’s pranks. But how can such leaders like Dr.Manmohan Singh ,a much respected and rated economist can remain silent while he is often propped up a  as prop to the fumbling immature Rahul by his side always as a ceremonial prop!

Are, we Indians, not insulting our own self-image by tolerating such non-sensual remarks by a leader of a major party like the Congress?

Please let all our countrymen ponder over such non-serious politics.

But the much more serious issue here is to take our economy forward. Make India an economic power of sorts. Make Indian manufacturing, our various infrastructure, from railways to civil aviation to roads and other sectors in which we are lagging behind China, we are way back, backward when you compare developments  in China. China ‘s airports are all of giant sizes, they would last for another hundred years. So too the running of big cities like Shanghai. We  were amazed at the speed with which economic  development in China is taking place.

Of course, India has some strength, in the social aspects, we are an open society but then what does this means for an average citizen here?

Corruption is now almost unchecked. China is fighting corruption that is large scale corruption with vigour.Indians must read more about what China is doing.We need some democratic institutions like LokPal and Lok Ayukta urgently.

Also, we need more reforms like judicial independence ,press freedom and a great sense of nationalism and patriotism etc.
But then the outside world must respect us. This will come only when we behave as a responsible nation, our values, culture, sense of freedom etc are respected by the West.

These are important and also must be made known. We saw in China where when it comes to freedoms, openness, maccess to liberal knowledge, the state of libraries, bookshops and some other areas, there is still much primitiveness, we would say.
But we can’t provoke China, China is a very sensitive nation, a sensitive people.

But then in  democracy like India, we don’t have responsible and mature Opposition leaders.

Parties like the Congress must not resort to dynastic politics  and with immature leadership.

People would see through this political games, once the political cleaning like the one now proposed by the Supreme Court by punishing the 1581 political figures, ministers, MPs, MLAs and others are punished and banished  from active political participation.

A strong economy, a reformed political culture is the real foundations of a great country  in world  caught in conflicting ideological forces.

John Ruskin – The seer and prophet
The man who wanted to introduce a benign Socialism in the wake of the Industrial Revolution in England

Book Review Cover photo-9 1Alas! He even as a seer and prophet, as he was worshiped even by Mahatma Gandhi didn’t foresee the rising tide of British Imperialism nor did his celebrated disciple foresee such a world of greater inequalities and inequities. Today we live in a very different world.  What lessons do we learn today?

Ruskin lived and worked at a time when the world was searching for adjust world.  Socialism, both Utopian and Scientific, both Karl Marx and British Socialists like Ruskin, William Morris lived and worked. While Ruskin and Morris combined aesthetics and an ideal society, Karl Marx advocated violent overthrow of the existing economic and social order. The world however moved in its own way.

Violent Communism lasted for some 70 years from 1917 to 1989-90-91. In democracies, in Britain and France, even in Germany and Italy, witnessed different routes. What lessons Indians of this generation are learning? This is a time and place to reflect on some of these questions.

The life and work of John Ruskin – Publisher – Farrar, Straus and Giroux, New Yok, Pages, 500, 1990
Anyone of this generation knows John Ruskin who influenced Mahatma Gandhi, among others. Others who rated high of Ruskin were Tolstoy, Proust, the French writer and many others. Ruskin’s life almost coincided with the life and times of Queen Victoria.
There are eight chapters: One was: Graduate of Oxford (1842-1845) ,Chapter four: (The Luther of the Arts-1853-1860).Chapter Six: (The Professor-1870-1878), Chapter Seven: (The only Real Seer-1878-1890), finally Chapter eight(The Old Man of Coniston- 1889-1900).

You see, I was an early admirer and even a devotee of John Ruskin and was very much influenced by his views on arts, labour and Socialism and his Utopian projects at Oxford where he was Professor and a dreamer. He studied the Bible at home and his mother for whom he was the only child and thus she made him memorise the Bible and thus his English prose style has many Biblical allusions and there is a sort of classical tone to whatever he wrote. Of course he wrote a great deal, thirty eight volumes of collected works and thus you can see how much he must have written. Also, as a middle class man of some means he had the time and the money to travel abroad, mainly to Italy; Venice was his favourite city to illustrate his theories of art and architecture on which was a great authority. He did many wonderful things; from art he went on to politics and economy.

His thoughts on industrial revolution
It was the time of the industrial revolution, he hated the coming of the railways, and thus he was opposed to big industry which he thought spoilt the countryside and the beauty. In a way he was a successor to Rousseau, though Rousseau was too great figure, too vast an imagination was Rousseau’s and yet in his own way Ruskin came very near to the Utopian dreams.

Ruskin’s Life
You see Ruskin was born on February 8,1819 and died in the north of England ,near the Lake District at a place called Coniston Lake which I had the privilege of visiting thanks to my English hosts, the late lamented Dickenson’s, the husband wife and their children, Tim(Timothy) and Sue (Susane)were younger than me in 1959 when I was fresh to England and their home, Red How, near Cockermouth, the Wordsworth birth place town was my every day visit whenever the Dickensons went out!

Now, I am not going to tell more about Ruskin’s life. I had said it all many times and my own views on politics and society, art and literature etc. have all undergone many transformations!

John Ruskin

John Ruskin

You see that in the 19th century, at the end of the century, specially, the thinking men of the times were all drawn by certain basic outlook. May be, this is because of the industrial revolution and  the rise of the middle classes and the emergence of the working class as a distinct feature of the society that was also becoming rich by way of higher wages or because of the emergence of inequalities, exploitation of the labour by the new capitalist class.

Also, the vulgarity of the new rich, the culture was seen as one of barbarism! Matthew Arnold reflected this phenomenon and thus in his lectures, Culture & Anarchy, he called the new rich as Barbarians, the middle classes, the Philistines, the mass, the Populace!

All he sought for was what he called the Sweetness and Light! Now, in politics and economics, there was again much confusion and uncertainty about what new form of political authority would emerge. Also the economic structure.

It was this period we see many dreamers, Utopians and many radicals, the many advocates of violence; Karl Marx was the major figure. There is a latest book on Marx and this book reveals how Marx was born not as a poor boy, he married a high class girl her title was Von and though because of his radical views he had a rough life ahead and though he went through hell all his life, his later life in London, says the new book; became comparatively comfortable, bourgeois! He enjoyed holidays to seashore and eating in the company of Engels who funded his life and did many other helps. Now, there were others too.

This is a long list and in this list comes Ruskin.

Ruskin College at Oxford
Ruskin started to establish workers’ College at Oxford. I too wanted to start one similar to Ruskin’s soon after I returned from Oxford in Coimbatore where then was a very strong trade union movement. Thus, I became friend of most of these trade union leaders, from INTUC to the AITUC and from the Right and Left Communists’ had shared the public platforms with some of the then known great Communist leaders like Parvathi Krishnan, an Oxford graduate herself, her bother Mohan Kumara Mangalam and others like K.Baladhandayutham and also K.R. Ramani and many others, of course with Socialists like K.Arumuga swamy, from Madurai, a fellow MLC in the Upper House, also Congress stalwarts at the INTUC.

Alas! They are all gone, the very structure of the society and economy changed and so too my great patrons and friends, the great textile magnets like R.Venkataswamy Naidu who established the great companies like Madras Aluminum and South India Viscose, the other great ones, G.K.Sundaram of the Swathantra Party, G.D.Naidu, the home-grown genius and innovator of many things, chiefly in the auto sector. One reason, even now the city is home for all India, why international level auto driver and auto innovations. Now, I say all these things for the benefit of the present day generation readers.

In Europe there was a great upsurge in the wake of the industrial revolution, there was crisis in agriculture, and they were pleading for “self-sufficient farming”!

Now, in Russia there were many radical utopians like Alexander Herzen, in France like Saint- Simon, Pierre Proudhon (who called private property a theft!). Why Engels wrote on private property and much on the exploitative nature of capitalism. Why, Marx predicted the death of Capitalism, right?

Rusking in today’s world
Today, Capitalism is thriving and making the world a more prosperous place, right? New technologies have changed the very face of the planet from one of poverty and wants to one of plenty. Where does Ruskin come in this new world? He is nowhere, sure as Gandhi too! There are a vast new younger people and they are all into mobile phones and social media! Where is the time for reflection and deep enquiry and also a time to search for eternal truths?  Philosophy, humanities and ethics still do matter but who are the votaries of this high culture.

Now, Ruskin famously said in his classic, Unto this Last, what is economics? It is life that is wealth?

Fine words and fine sentiments. But is it really so? We need big organisations, lessons from history.

India Today
I had been traveling to Rome and Greece in search of answers from the past civilisation, from the past experiences in governance of Republics and Democracies. Also, Indians have to deliver themselves from the bondage of the British past! This has been one of my missions in life. How to give Indians their innate values, their own confidence in themselves? This is the biggest challenge. Our education can’t be an imitation of others. Our history has been totally different.

We have lived through centuries of occupations, invasions and defeats. Even in the last 70 years of freedoms, our universities are not ranked in the first 200! These are issues for us all. So, I would urge the readers to read this great and a rare book. All through my Oxford years I looked upon Ruskin as demigod. Not anymore. He never for once talked of his country’s occupation of other colonies. He never once seems to have imagined that his country might not survive the tag of great Britain! What a funny field history is!

There is much to ponder over when we read about Ruskin; the great German Nobel Literature Laureate Thomas Mann said of Ruskin, he was a great Romanticist of the Victorian era. May be, that is right. For every ear needs such Romantics and dreamers. Certain idealism gives every age certain glow and hope and faith in its future.

Or, who knows today’s villages better?

rural-india22It is our firm belief that only those who live in the villages or those who have links with the rural India as landowners, traditional owners of agricultural lands, are those with much stake and can speak for the villagers’ points of view.

Unfortunately the Indian media industry, both the print and the new style TV news channels like to print or present the rural India still in standard old-fashioned ways.

Villagers  are still, after 70 years of Independence  and also a great deal of economic development where you see almost every village has changed, why transformed  into sort of well-connected roads and telecommunications, the Internet and the mobile phones have really put even the illiterate people in the know of things.

In states like Tamil Nadu, to cite one example, rural roads are such an advanced development while in the nearby AP, in the border district of Chittoor which was once the constituency of Chandrababu Naidu where once we missed one rural route and the struggle and the fear we went through till we reached the Bangalore highway, it was a nightmare. The AP rural roads is a hell even now. This is one instance again.

The point is that rural India is still neglected in the over-all development perspective of the governments.

Also, for the rural distress we have to add the related political culture, the parties, more so the regional parties have added the multiple issues of widespread corruption, poor media reporting, the corruption-ridden administration means the many government services are not reaching the people, pensions are not paid and the 100-days work schemes don’t pay the wages and so on.

Again, taking TN as a state for reference, the TN state was once well-administered but not anymore.

The two regional parties, DMK and now the AIADMK have played extreme populist policies that   there is a breakdown of the state machinery. The police is at the beck and call of the local village party functionary and the rural issues, a combination of social, caste and other issues, too many to describe here, have led to, as we have seen right now in the state a series of suicides by the very poor people who have been caught in the web of usury.

Just as we write a series of suicides, from the Southern state to the capital where people have borrowed at very high rates of interests.
So the spread of usury means what?

It means that banks are not lending money to the very many segments.
So, what reforms needed?

A whole range of administrative reforms!

How to ensure the future of the villages would be set on some rational grounds?

We need to recognise the rural realities as they are emerging.We need to recognise, we say, by recognising the existing traditional social and economic hierarchies, right.

There will be social and economic inequalities, right?
Inequities right?
How to deal with inequities right?

As of now there is no such rational approach. The current chaotic political culture is one party when captures power dominates the entire society. From universities to the village panchayat, the local party functionaries dictate terms to even the Vice-Chancellor!

The District Collect, Superintendent of Police and even others, we restrain ourselves from mentioning the other branches of the government, these government agencies instead of operating in some independence depends upon the almost whimsical powers exercised by the incumbent Chief Ministers.

So, we are now living in a democracy which is becoming more and more authoritarian. So, the time has come to study the rural issues in some new objective manner.

So, please appoint a high-power commission to suggest the new rural institutions and thereby giving some new freedoms to citizens to become farmers, to buy lands and rent lands and cultivate crops and invest in rural professions and services.

We have to generate employment. One sure way of generating employment is to give freedoms to people, farmers to invest funds in farming.
Today, we have to resort to much illegal means to get things done in the rural areas.

We know much of the same corruption on a larger scale is indulged by the persons in cities.

Corporate corruption we all know. Some of the more powerful politicians have been punished and some are inside jail. Still many are outside the jails and are awaiting sentencing!

All this is now reported in the media for fear of the authorities only.
So, what to be done?

We have to debate. Teach rural sociology in all colleges in the first degrees like B.A. Teach rural sociology and conduct department-led research in all universities.

Let the Prime Minister and the Chief Ministers talk on the great rural issues of the day.

Introduce reforms with well-qualified to do it
Education’s many new challenges!  Education is a public cause!
Not a private profit!   This is the School Journal’s motto!

chairmanBut then there are many new challenges to education as a current ideal. There are practical issues and also theoretical and even philosophical issues. First the current issues. There are great many shortages in the education sector. There are no qualified teachers, you know in many areas like Maths and Science. In the UK they are looking for maths and science teachers. If you have the skills, you get the visas which are sought by Indians for all other jobs. So, there are education skills shortages you must know. Then there are shortages within India itself.

One top public school in India recently advertised for the headmaster’s job. The School advertised at huge costs in all Indian newspapers. Almost a whole year was wasted in the search for a qualified HM. But alas! Only two or three finally turned up! So, the Selection Board, very decoratively titled; panicked and then they wanted another search, after spending huge money on foreign recruiters!

Alas, there are not good graduates from any of the reputed colleges or elsewhere. One from such unheard places like Rohtak and some remote institutions are the ones that helped to send candidates. What is the message here? The message must be loud and clear!

India is not producing the required quantity of talents in a wide variety of fields! How can you become a first class nation with first class citizens. The corporate leaders gathered in Delhi and feted each other on the great strides they have made in economic growth. But do they think of the sectors outside their sphere of activity? We fear they don’t. So too others like politicians, social leaders or the cultural, religious and intellectual thinkers. There is a scarcity of talents in many critical areas, not to speak of education in particular.

Recently, there was this Kerala senior writer and intellectual in his own right, Paul Zacharia, the Malayalam writer and he spoke how the Indian media had destroyed the renaissance spirit in India.

May be this is an extreme view and in our view it is the moneyed class, it is the fund givers to the political parties and the new generation of politicians, selfish and unconcerned for the wider issues, it is this political and, if we can use such an expression, the capitalist class that are contributing to the rise of an authoritarian regime, authoritarian political culture, where the uneducated low caliber political worker calls the shots, the state machinery, the bureaucracy responds to the local police and  the local goondas that runs the state.

Corruption is an area we avoid. Why, now, education itself has become the very corruption breeding sector, where you needn’t study, learn and work at all. You have the money, you get the degree you want! From an LKG admission to a medical degree!

Unless we, the thinking sections wake up, there is every likelihood of Indian society turning to submit itself to an authoritarian regime. No democracy. Not even the semblance of anti-corruption measures taken by the Communist leader XI. Yes, education may be a public cause. But it is has become a business and an exploitation of the helpless society! So, please take education seriously!

What urban India owes back to rural producers?
Create one more body with specific goals to uplift and safeguard farmers!

CSR-Farming-2As we write there is news about one more farmer committing suicide in Yavatmal district in Maharashtra. Yes, this is one more routine news?

No, it is not. It is one more reminder of the callousness of the Indian polity and society. As a media venture, though small and modest and not   making too much noise or giving in screaming headlines, as the cousins  in the electronic media does, we at the same  time wants  to sensitise the  seemingly greedy power  seekers  who are entrenched in power and  authority.

After Mr.Took over power in Delhi, of course the new government had brought out the many skeletons   in the cupboard!

We saw how the m any activities, from collecting party funds, election funds to NGOs collecting huge sums, something like Rs.50, 000 crores at the last count and the money received in contravention of laws, why even in violation of the foreign contribution of funds to the NGOs and when the last few days we hear of the huge unaccounted funds at the disposal of the political parties, there is a hue and cry of sorts. The big parties avoid appearing in the courts of law!

Yes, black money in elections is no more news. So, we win elections, form governments and go about our business with total impunity.

So, we have all the inequity, in equality and injustice as our current realtiies. And yet, what we try to do to bring some sanity to what we pretend to represent by way of leadership?
We leave it to the best judgement of our readers and they can draw their own conclusions.

Now, as for agriculture and rural India, we haven’t even murmured our views, right?

The big corporates, once they were derided when Socialism was high in the political firmament as “running dogs” and much worse. Now, of course times have changed and the corporates, big and not so big are all welcome.

But in the new enthusiasm for   growth and development and still more for governance, new words signify new hopes and aspirations.
Fine, then what have you done or what have we done   for the marginal sections?

Agriculture and rural India are now changing of course .All the new changes, the coming of the Internet, smart phones and the spread of Internet in rural areas are all creating a new vision for rural India.

But then nothing happens on its own and that too when it come to revolving and redressing the many new inequities, inequalities and injustices, right?

The new measures like crop insurance are welcome. But then this is a great task. To create a more open, conducive atmosphere in the rural areas, you need a series of measures. The government machinery alone can’t do many things in these ares, everybody has seen it and though we don’t openly, we all know there is so much inequity when it comes to even accessing the many government schemes.

So, we need NGOs, more than anywhere, in the rural development fields.

The new corporates, the ones flush with big funds, the IT giants and the other top ten or twenty billionaire led names, they should all been  engaged with their  funds  and expertise to take, say, the crop insurance to work successfully.

Do we hear any such big visions or big commitment from them? No, not at all! They talk sometimes bombastically and that it all.
Why not ask some private banks to undertake the distribution of farm credit in select segments?

The CSR (corporate social responsibility) scheme is a flop as far as we are concerned.

For instance we asked one head of a corporate (the name was on the Sonia Gandhi led National Advisory Council). The response to our contact was rather impolite!

The corporates seek to influence the government. That is plain. We have come across so many instances in the recent past, how the big and mighty all fell at the many corruption scandals!

So, we like to ask for a new scheme that would give corporate responsibility specifically in the agri sector.

How to prevent and ct in advance over the farmers’ suicide prone circumstances?

Let some great minds, those who had accumulated big profits come out with some corporate responsibility for preventing farmer’s suicides?

Is this a big task? An impossible task?

Now, we read that the MNC PepsiCo is introducing   Stevia sugar added 7UP drink! Fine. Why not take up additional social responsibility for organising Stevia cultivation on a systematic manner?
We have spent almost a lifetime in such questions! So, we don’t elaborate further. We only ask our urban-based powerful segment to  look at the rural India with a much more sensitive spirit ask yourself you have  enjoyed your green foods, organic vegetables and fruits and lead a healthy life style, then ask from where all the goodies of a happy life at your urban dwelling come?
What have you given back to communities who silently toil and supply these for you?