Monday, May 28, 2018

If these are the bitter pills that the middle class is being forced to swallow, someone really needs to explain to us why they are “bitter” in the first place

The following article was written for MyInd Makers. Pasting it here for reference:

Ever since the TDP has moved out of the NDA, most of the telugu media has toed the line of the TDP unflinchingly. Any statistics or arguments by the BJP have been drowned in the noise of the TV debates and half-baked articles.
Today, the largest circulated telugu newspaper (and also the 9th largest circulated paper in the country), Eenadu, published an exhaustive op-ed , that screamed – “Bitter Pill for the Middle Class”.
We are told that the author Dr. Kalluri Siva Reddy is a “Expert in Finance”. I was curious to see what arguments the “expert” was making to bolster this claim on “bitter pill”. Let me summarize the bullet points, in the order that he has mentioned. The text in quotes is what is mentioned in the article, and my comments are next to it.
1.      “GDP Growth rate is 7.3% over the past 4 years.” - This is good, right? We are one of the fastest growing economies in the world – how exactly is this a bitter pill?
2.      “Industrial Growth Rate is not 7% though, but “only” 4%.” What is the link between the two? There is no mention of which industrial growth rate is being referred here. Or what is the historical data for this? Has this been 4% all along, or it was very high earlier and it came down now?
3.      “Inflation has come down from 9.4% to 3.6%” – Someone needs to explain why oh why this is a bitter pill for the middle class?
4.      “Home loan rates have come down, enabling the fulfilment of middle class dreams of buying an affordable house” – Someone needs to explain why the fulfilment of a dream is a bitter pill for the middle class?
5.      “FDI Inflows have increased” – This is good right? This is definitely not a bitter pill right?
6.      “Current Account Deficit has reduced from 4.8% to 2%.” – Again, can some expert please tell how this is a bitter pill?
7.      “Jan Dhan Accounts have been opened and INR 81,203 crores have come into the banking system”. Opening of accounts, depositing of money directly into the beneficiary accounts – how exactly is it a bitter pill?
8.      “Growth rate of deposits is the lowest since 1963” – Am unable to understand the link of this data point to the bitter pill for middle class. Would really love for the “expert” to elaborate on this further.
9.      “Subsidy on Gas cylinders was slowly removed from 2014 onwards. An increase of 4 rupees per month was implemented” – Finally the bitter pill! I believe the subsidy still exists for BPL families but the rate is still high (subject to being corrected). There have been multiple reforms on the LPG front, but one can agree on this front – some subsidy for those BPL families which got benefitted in the Ujjwala scheme is desirable. For those who can afford it, we need to congratulate all those who participated in the #GiveItUp campaign!
10.   “Crude Oil rates have come down, but petrol prices haven’t come down. Central govt earned INR 2.42 lakh crores through excise duties.”Yes, that money has been spent judiciously to ensure the 1st eight “bitter pills” happen! This money has been spent on infrastructure projects across the country. 42% of what the central government earns goes to the states. In addition to this, the state governments also impose taxes, so it is really surprising to me why “experts in finance” don’t ask for state governments to reduce taxes?
11.   “Demonetization hurt the middle class” – The fall back argument of everyone who don’t have anything else to argue!
12.   “Reduction in budget allocation for education”. How is this a bitter pill for the middle class? Let me tell you what is a bitter pill for the middle class – high fees in private schools. Do you know who can help control this? State governments. Not Narendra Modi, but state governments. Like the TDP government in AP can do this. But no one will write that, for obvious reasons.
The power of the media is simply astonishing. A headline that is in direct contrast to the content of the article. A headline that will conveniently spread the propaganda of the opposition parties. If these are the bitter pills that the middle class is being forced to swallow, someone really needs to explain to us why they are “bitter” in the first place!

But for social media, ‘The Hindu’ would have whitewashed the Bengal Panchayat poll violence

The following article was written for OpIndia. Pasting it here for reference:

Thank God for Social media! Otherwise, this is what I would have read in the Kolkata section of The Hindu and believed it:
This news item was updated on the morning of May 14th. Curiously, there is an update in the “other states” section of the paper, in the afternoon of May 14th.

The morning update mentions only sporadic violence and doesn’t tell us about any deaths that have happened before May 14th. If there were no social media, I would just think that there were some clashes in which few got injured.
The afternoon update, however, tells us this:
Entire election process marked by violence: more than 20 persons were killed and with Monday’s killings, the death toll has crossed 30
Whoa! More than 20 persons were killed *before* May 14th, and The Hindu found it fit to classify it as merely “Sporadic”. With 12 more people dead, the situation has merely graduated to “grim”. 32 deaths till the afternoon of May 14th, and the situation is just “grim”. Well, this language is perhaps in line with what Derek O’Brien has already professed in his now infamous tweet:
The benchmark is 40 deaths in 2003 when the Left Front is ruling. And because that benchmark hasn’t been breached yet, perhaps The Hindu was ok to classify the deaths of 32 people as “grim”. But come results day, the situation was no longer “grim”. A report was published on May 17th, and guess what – there is NO mention of any “grim” violence. In fact, there is NO mention of even “sporadic violence”.
The table also tells us that nearly 18,000 seats went uncontested. But the report doesn’t tell us anything about those seats. Now I am confused thoroughly. Did 32 people really die? Are those deaths so insignificant for this newspaper that they don’t even find a passing mention?
The next news on Mamata Banerjee is her comments on the Karnataka politics, and I had to wait for 4 more days to read an editorial that screamed:
“Grim” situation has now become “high cost”. Trinamool’s sweep has come at a high cost it seems. After 235 words in a 502-word editorial, we are slowly told this:
Around 50 people were killed; the security provided for the election was clearly insufficient, and lumpen elements had a free run.
Whoa! We started the week with “sporadic violence”. We went to 32 deaths in no time. And then after a week, we are told that “around 50 people were killed”? Does this mean people were killed *after* the elections were over too? Or does this mean The Hindu is just recalibrating its numbers? 50 deaths are also greater than the 40 deaths that occurred in the 2003 polls, that Derek O’Brien called as “normal”. But then The Hindu has a different story to tell us:
But the kind of ferocity of the violence before and during last week’s poll has not been seen since the Left Front was ousted after 34 years in power in 2011. 
Now, this made me even more curious. Because this line meant that the violence before 2011 was much higher, when the harbinger of peace, the Left parties were ruling the state! In the previous elections of 2008, 2003 etc, there was actually no social media (or it was in its budding stages). A quick google search yielded this article of The Hindu that said 14 people were killed in the 2003 violence in West Bengal. Not 40 as Derek O’Brien claimed. About 3 weeks after this article, we are told in an Op-Ed in the same newspaper, The Hindu that according to another newspaper (phew!) Anand Bazaar, 47 people were killed! Why is it so difficult to get an official version of the numbers? A 2008 report in Times of India tells us that 30 people were killed in Panchayat violence in 2008, “making it the bloodiest in Bengal’s history, surpassing even the 2003 death count.
Here is the summary:
1. A 2003 Op-Ed in The Hindu claims, with 47 deaths that “The recent elections surpassed all State records in violence, killings, coercion, intimidation and terror tactics.”
2. A 2008 news report in The Times of India states that the 2008 elections, with 30 deaths are the “bloodiest in Bengal’s history, surpassing even the 2003 death count.”
We have all seen how the English media brigade has hyped up cases of “intolerance”, exaggerated instances of “attacks”, and has been subdued when actual violence and murders have taken place in states ruled by parties other than the BJP. Even the latest editorial in The Hindu seeks to do an equal-equal argument by saying that “The TMC and the BJP accuse each other of fomenting the violence.”
This is the same media that loses no time in seeking explanations from the Prime Minister himself, for every small statement made by ward members of BJP also. This is the same media that is now calling the violence in West Bengal as a “no holds barred tactics” by Mamata Banerjee. This is the same media that chooses what numbers to publish when it comes to deaths.
Like I said at the beginning – Thank God for Social Media!

Till Ego does them Part- United in Defeat

The following article was written for MyInd Makers. Pasting it here for reference:

 Rahul Gandhi tweeted a picture of him (above)  with other leaders and used the hashtag #UnitedInVictory. The astounding irony of the picture and hashtag was just too hard to miss. Many leaders attended the swearing in ceremony of H.D.Kumaraswamy. But not all of them are in this picture! Since this is the picture which was posted along with the hashtag, #UnitedInVictory, one is left wondering - who exactly is a victor in this picture?
D.Raja, who hasn’t won an election ever? V. Narayanaswamy, who didn’t contest the Puducherry elections but went on to become the CM? Mayawati, who hasn’t tasted any electoral success in the past 6 years? Sitaram Yechury, who personally hasn’t won an election ever, and whose party recently lost their last bastion – Tripura? Kumaraswamy, whose party stood third, and yet went on to become the CM? Ajit Singh, who? Did we already forget the drubbing Akhilesh Yadav received? Rahul Gandhi – under whose leadership, the Congress party has lost election after election after election?
The real story lies in not who is in the picture, but who isn’t! Outgoing Karnataka CM, Siddaramiah isn’t. AP CM Chandrababu Naidu attended the event, and is not seen in the picture. WB CM Mamata Banerjee who attended the event, is not seen in the picture. Telangana CM though invited, didn’t come to the event, because he doesn’t want to be seen with Congress. He visited Bengaluru the day before to congratulate JD(S) though. Odisha CM doesn’t want to be seen with both Congress and BJP, so he didn’t even attend the event.
The point being that the real victors in their respective strongholds, in the 2014 or later elections are not seen in this picture! Every single leader who has lost at the hustings, have come together to create a claim an imaginary victory, and are being liberally aided by friendly English media.
KCR wanted to create a regional party front that will not care about either the Congress or the BJP. He has made very harsh comments about both the parties when he announced his intentions to go into national politics, asexplained here in an earlier article. To this effect, he went about meeting many regional party leaders – Mamta Banerjee, M.K.Stalin, H.D.Kumaraswamy, Akhilesh Yadav, and Naveen Patnaik. Not even one of them have bought into his idea of not relying on Congress. Almost everyone has said that it is impossible to beat the BJP without the support of Congress – so KCR is currently is facing a dilemma on how to proceed further with his idea.
Meanwhile, Chandrababu Naidu keeps getting propped up. He was seen with the Congress party leaders yesterday. Obviously, he is open to taking their support (a la United Front effort), but is severely limited by the number of seats he can win. The strongest electoral leader of them all – Mamata Banerjee – is mum on her plans.
Meanwhile, so called analysts are trying to add up vote percentages of different parties and trying to sound intelligent by suggesting a simple solution – all these parties enter pre-poll alliances. Wouldn’t it be nice fun to watch Cong-Left form an alliance in Bengal but fight against each other in Kerala or to watch Rahul wage a war against corruption by allying with Lalu’s party?
Those who are “#UnitedInVictory”, what exact value are they bringing to the table? Those who are “#UnitedInVictory” are united only because of hatred towards one man – Prime Minister Narendra Modi.  Like a friend pointed out to me, the last time such a conglomeration happened was here, and we all know what happened since!

Saturday, May 5, 2018

15th Finance Commission should not be viewed as Southern vs Northern States

The following has been written for MyInd Makers. Pasting it here for reference:

Last week, the Finance Ministers of Karnataka, Kerala and Andhra Pradesh, along with the Chief Minister of Puducherry met. The purpose of the meeting was apparently to highlight how the “South Indian” states are going to lose a lot of money because of the terms of reference of the 15th Finance Commission (FC).
The entire English media went berserk on this “South Indian” conference. They didn’t tell you that Telangana and Tamil Nadu did not send their representatives to this meeting. Have you seen a single article, anywhere in the English media, trying to analyse why only 3 out of the 5 southern states were part of this meeting?
Kerala is ruled by the Communists, Karnataka and Puducherry by the Congress, and AP by TDP which has been going hammer and tongs against Modi. Not a single article that talks about the political color of this meeting! Come to think of it, Telangana and Tamil Nadu are also ruled by parties that are *not part* of the ruling coalition at the center. What then explains this skewed representation?
What was the purpose of the meeting? Political parties ruling these states make this claim that they are exceptionally performing states and are at a great disadvantage if the 15th FC is asked to consider 2011 census as their basis for tax devolution. The claims are based on ill-informed articles in the English media, because the terms of reference of the 15th FC make it absolutely clear that performing states will be incentivized. These lies have been highlighted in an earlier article here.
However, this has not stopped the media from continuing to spread mis-information on the 15th FC. Caught lying on the performance based parameters, they have now picked up on the “constitutional propriety” of some of the terms! Let’s take, for example, the lead article in The Hindu couple of days back.
The author of the article is a member of the 14th FC. And makes some really contradicting arguments.
·        “..from the perspective of economic objectives, there is no justification in using 1971 population data as a factor in the horizontal distribution of funds.”
·        “The ToR for the present Commission (15th FC) could have been silent on which population figures should be used and avoided a controversy
There is no justification, but the solution to a perfectly justified change is being silent? I am perplexed at this kind of recommendation coming from a member of the 14th FC! Modi government is perhaps the first government that is being castigated for doing the right thing! We move on to the next big point of contention according to this article:
·        Never before in the history of the country has a Finance Commission been asked to review the recommendations of the previous Commission on the grounds that it gave “substantially enhanced devolution”.
What exactly is the problem here? If the criteria of “never before” has to be applied for everything that we want to do, how can we even see any progress? Since the author is a member of the 14th FC, should we also then point out that “never before” has any FC proposed a 10% increase in the funds that state will get? Should they not have stopped from making such a recommendation then?
The rhetoric continues, with the following argument:
·        Asking the Commission to take into account the performances in implementation of various Central schemes is equally contentious
Why does he find this contentious? No concrete answers are given for this question – just some rhetoric on fiscal federal fabric, etc!
Just couple of days earlier, The Hindu had an editorial  that screamed a strong headline – “Divided we Fall”! It doesn’t mention who is creating this divide. Substantial space is dedicated to the PM’s clarification to this controversy, and not to actually who and how this all started. Just one line – “ but framing the issue as a southern vs northern States debate is not constructive. 
Did the ecosystem realize that this is not constructive because their lies were called out? Did they suddenly realise that if they are infact performing states, then they will be actually incentivized? And therefore, now are falling back to other frivolous arguments, like the following
And the Centre’s attempt to increase its share from the divisible pool of resources from the present 58% is something that should concern all States, whether populous or not.
Here is the Gazette Notification. Here is an open challenge to The Hindu to point out where exactly is the centre making this attempt?! Amongst other things that the the 15th FC is tasked to consider, it has to also take the following into consideration.
The impact on the fiscal situation of the Union Government of substantially enhanced tax devolution to States following recommendations of the 14th Finance Commission
I simply fail to understand the controversy and interpretations around this. There has been a huge increase in the devolution to the states, and it will obviously impact the centre’s finances. What exactly is wrong in studying that impact? If we go by how our media wants to generate controversies, then the central government should merely keep quiet on anything it wants to study!
Another editorial in Business Standard made the exact same points on April 12th. Picked up again by The Hindu’s editorial desk on April 14th. And further propagated in an op-ed article on April 16th! If there is anything we have to learn from this controversy, it is the amazing cohesion with which the ecosystem functions. A lie started by The Wire, led to a meeting of Finance Ministers of 3 states and CM of a UT. With the lie now busted, the ecosystem has moved on to the next lie, as if the first one didn’t even occur!
Amidst all this, it was very disappointing to see the centre’s lethargic response to this. Especially, when they have themselves drafted a very good ToR for the 15th FC.

We have had a good laugh and enough fun at Rahul Gandhi’s expense, but it is now time that we question his incoherence and ignorance

The following article was written for MyInd Makers. Pasting it here for reference:

In almost every Indian school that we study in, the story of Gandhi’s three monkeys is drilled into our minds. “See no evil, hear no evil, Speak no evil”. Ask any school going kid, and he/she will tell you this without ever needing to refer to their notes.
If you were to write a speech for a political leader and ask him/her to refer to this story, it should suffice that you write – “Refer to Gandhi’s three monkeys”. In 2015, Rahul Gandhi gave a speech in the Lok Sabha. He referred to his speech and read out “Bura mat dekho”. He then said, “The second monkey used to say” and then sees his notes again and reads out “Bura mat suno”. And repeats this sequence for “Bura mat bolo”.
Don’t believe me? In this speech here, please refer from 0:56 onwards, and notice how he had to refer to his notes to even read out the simplest of lines, that almost every school going kid in India is familiar with. His speech sheet went viral then too – notice how the monkey quotes are written in red ink too.
Why am I bringing out an old 2015 video today? Because that incident is not an isolated one. His non-serious preparation into serious political and policy related speeches are such an embarrassment and need to be highlighted at every possible instance. Rahul Gandhi’s recent gaffes during Karnataka elections have created significant news on the social media and the regional media but hardly created a ripple in the English media. This would have been fine, if Amit Shah’s recent gaffe referring to Yeddyurappa instead of Siddaramaiah, didn’t go viral. The entire hierarchy of Congress, beginning with Rahul Gandhi shared it on his twitter account, and the English media happily lapped it up, to create an equal-equal debate between Amit Shah and Rahul Gandhi.
Rahul Gandhi’s first gaffe (in Karnataka) was when he made a vain attempt to quote the great Kannada poet – Shri Basavanna. Rahul begins with “Basa… Basavaji ne kaha tha”. And goes on to recite a poem that took people a while to understand what was going on. However, the most shocking of his gaffes came when he failed miserably to even pronounce, Bharat Ratna, Shri M. Visvesvaraya’s name. Take a look at this video to see how he struggles and makes no attempts to even apologize for this gaffe.
If an Amit Shah or a Narendra Modi or a Yogi Adityanath committed this gaffe, the entire hierarchy of Congress and the English media would have gone to town, on how this is an insult to the Kannadigas and how  BJP is imposing Hindi everywhere.
Rahul Gandhi’s gaffes are therefore not an exception. They are a rule. The gaffes aren’t limited to mere pronunciation errors. They extend to even comprehension problems. Rahul Gandhi has even equated every person with the surname Modi to be corrupt. He has told us that for every single selfie you take, a person in China gets a job! Yep, he really did that, *and* he has been seen taking selfies ever since, after that statement!
Earlier, the answer to any question was “Women Empowerment”. These days, the answer to any question is “Demonetization and GST”. Is this what we really want to hear? Is this what the English media and the ecosystem is trying to thrust on us? Is it not time for us to take a step back and realize that behind all those memes and videos mocking him as Pappu, lies a dark reality – that he is the President of the Congress party; that he has near no clue on any of the topics he is asked to speak about ; that this strategy of imposing his raw thoughts on this nation is actually dangerous to the nation; and that he might get to a position where he will decide upon the future course of policy of our country. 
I kept on wondering – if Amit Shah’s gaffe is news everywhere, then why is Sonia Gandhi’s “Rajineeti ki balatkaar” not significant news to be covered? If Amit Shah’s gaffe is news everywhere, then why is Rahul Gandhi’s Vish…raya gaffe not news anywhere? If every single mannerism of the President of the BJP is news everywhere, then why is the same yardstick not applied to the President of the Congress?
We’ve had a good laugh and enough fun at Rahul Gandhi’s expense, but it is now time that we take his incoherence seriously. It is now time we seriously hold Rahul Gandhi responsible for his irresponsibility.

When Amit Shah wrote a letter to Chandrababu Naidu and he replied via a 2 hour speech

The following article was written for MyInd Makers. Pasting it here for reference:

On March 23rd, 2018, BJP President Amit Shah wrote a 9 page letter to TDP President and CM of AP, Chandrababu Naidu. On the next day, Chandrababu Naidu gave a 2 hour speech in the Legislative Assembly, most part of which was dedicated to countering the contents of the 9 page letter.
The aim of this article is to not go into every single detail, but to give a broad overview of certain aspects that need to be highlighted.
The controversy regarding Utilization Certificates (UC).
In recent times, BJP mentioned about the non-submission of UCs by the government of AP for the funds released by the central government. TDP, at first tried to counter by saying all these are available online, and BJP is attacking the people of AP and not just the government of AP.
So far, the center has released 2500 crores for the capital region of AP. 1500 crores were released for Amaravati, and 1000 crores for Vijayawada & Guntur (which fall under the capital region).  Amit Shah, in his letter, claimed that the state government has spent only 8% of Rs. 1000 crores released by MoHUA for the capital city. Chandrababu Naidu in his speech (At 1:34:30 in this video),  mentioned that ~36% of UCs were submitted for money released to Guntur, and 8% for money released to Vijayawada – on an average, 22% of UCs were submitted for the 1000 crore released. So whilst we can continue to debate on the quantum of UCs, it does remain a fact that UCs for the full amount released were not submitted yet.
Chandrababu read out details of a letter from NITI AAYOG, that said the UCs submitted for 1500 crores released towards Amaravati are in proper order, and recommended a further release of 1000 crores (which haven’t been released). However, it is pertinent to note that Amit Shah hasn’t questioned CBN on these 1500 crores yet.
Amit Shah has also claimed that only 12% of 1050 crores released by the central government for backward areas have been utilized. Chandrababu Naidu first told us that central government gave only 350 crores for 7 backward districts, and they immediately took it back, citing that PMO didn’t approve the amount yet! The claim sounded surprising, because I am not sure how we can get back money into our account, once we transfer it out!
After Amit Shah’s letter came out, Chandrababu Naidu clarified in his speech that UCs for 946 crores out of 1050 crores have been submitted. However, here is the catch. The amounts were released from FY 2014-2015 onwards (yearly 350 crores), but the UCs were submitted in FY 2017-2018!
Does this mean that Amit Shah is technically right in asking that funds were in fact not utilized in the FY 2016-2017?
And even to these UCs, there were some queries that came back from NITI AAYOG, and the state government responded back. Whilst this process was on, CBN claims that an additional 350 crores was transferred by Finance ministry, but taken back the next day because the PMO didn’t approve! Assuming this to be the correct story, what exactly is wrong in what the PMO did?
Chandrababu Naidu has been very successful in selling this 350 crores being taken back story. It was only after Amit Shah’s letter came that most people even came to know that 1050 crores were released for the development of backward districts!
The controversy regarding Educational Institutes.
In the AP reorganization Act, 11 educational institutes were promised. Amit Shah mentioned that 9 institutes have already been sanctioned and have begun operations too. Amit Shah doesn’t mention these are in temporary campuses, perhaps because it is norm for them to function in temp campuses until such time permanent campuses are built.
Chandrababu Naidu is telling us that only ~576 crores have been released for these 9 institutes, and a total of 11,000 crores is needed for setting up these institutes in permanent campuses. There have been some claims that the state government has not yet finished land acquisition. For example, the land for IIM Vizag, was only handed over last month. Chandrababu Naidu, in his long assembly speech, also told that nearly 550 acres of land has been given for IIT Tirupati, for which only 100 crores have been released so far. He is claiming that the center is not doing any favors because all land acquisition is by the state government only. But he hasn’t gone into the details of all these 9 institutes. So, we are back to the original argument – there has been good progress on the educational institutions, but the sparring is now about when will permanent campuses get ready!
The controversy regarding Infrastructure projects.
In his letter, Amit Shah has written about the detailed status of each and every project mentioned in the AP Reorg Act. For every progress shown, either Chandrababu Naidu is saying that centre is not doing any favour or saying that enough money is not given! He has skipped reference to most of these projects, but instead employed a lot of rhetoric.
For example, when Amit Shah mentioned about the development of three airports (Vijayawada, Visakhapatnam, Tirupati), CBN claims all land was given by him so what is the favour that the centre has done? Similar logic is employed when referring to the multiple rail and road projects that Amit Shah mentioned. Going by CBN’s response, it looks like these infrastructure projects are a reality and with nothing to counter upon, the rhetoric of “So what if the center did it? It’s their duty, they can’t claim credit” is constantly being employed!
Is anyone absolutely right or absolutely wrong, in this whole saga?
In consonance with what I have been saying all along – it is wrong to say that the center didn’t do anything for AP. Amit Shah’s letter and CBN’s response is proof enough of that. However, it is absolutely right in saying that the center has either ignored or significantly delayed some key promises, that has led to this breakup of the alliance. CBN, in his marathon speech, even claimed that whatever 2,00,000 crores additional funds they got was due to Finance Commission recommendations, and they are no special favours to the state of AP. He has cited the various incentives provided to the North Eastern states periodically (through cabinet decision), and questioned why AP is not being given any of those incentives. Solely based on what was promised, CBN is well placed to ask this question – and it is this query that the BJP has not been able to counter properly.
In his speech, CBN also claims that AP has the best GSDP and has been consistently ranked Number 1 in “Ease of business rankings”. The most obvious question that comes to mind is this – why then do they need any more special assistance? Answer is simple – because it was promised.
CBN has tried to portray Amit Shah’s letter as an insult to the people of AP, and has made some unsavory remarks on how the state sends funds to center and the center then decides how to split it – but that argument is for another day

Chaos over Amaravati – Why is yet to be built new Andhra Capital already mired in Controversies?

The following article was written for MyInd Makers. Pasting it here for reference. 

Ever since the TDP pulled out of the government and subsequently the NDA, a controversy has been raging on multiple fronts. My previous articles sought to give you details on a couple of topics. This article seeks to explain the (surprising) controversy around the construction of the capital city, Amaravati. 
In 2016, when Chandrababu Naidu shifted the secretariat from Hyderabad to Amaravati, here is a snippet from an article published in MyIndMakers.
“Nearly 5000 employees will be moving from the comforts of Hyderabad to the unknown confines of Amaravati.  From a no capital city in 2014, to acquiring more than 33,000 acres, to publishing master plans for the city,  to building a temporary complex for Secretariat in 2016 – is by no means a small achievement! The government needs to be congratulated for this.”
At that point of time, one of the biggest achievement of the TDP-BJP government was that a whopping 33,000 acres of land was acquired, through a unique land-pooling process. Detailed master plans were ready, and also the construction firm Maki and associates from Japan were tasked with constructing the key buildings like Assembly, Secretariat, High Court etc.
However, things didn’t work out as expected with Maki and associates, and their contract was cancelled. And the entire design phase opened yet again! This time, Foster+Partners, a UK based firm was given the contract. All through the year 2017, the designs underwent multiple discussions and changes (nothing surprising, given the importance of the buildings!). Chandrababu Naidu even roped in Bahubali’s director S.S.Rajamouli to help with the creative aspects of the design. A controversy erupted over it, but I think the controversy was silly – because Rajamouli was bought in only to give suggestions and not do the actual design.
During this time, the opposition kept on asking - why is it taking so long to finalize the designs? Again, I found it quite silly. If we are designing our own home, we would like to ensure that we are absolutely in love with that design. Here we are talking about the key buildings of a new capital city! A “delay” of about one year is quite understandable, and shouldn’t have been made into an issue.
We now come to the present. At the beginning of the article, I mentioned about “(surprising) controversy”. Once TDP pulled out of the NDA, they went to town saying that the Central government did not give enough money to Amaravati. The first question that will pop into your mind – Why should the central government award any money to Amaravati? Simple answer – because the AP reorg act says so:
“The Central Government shall provide special financial support for the creation of essential facilities in the new capital of the successor State of Andhra Pradesh including the Raj Bhawan, High Court, Government Secretariat, Legislative Assembly, Legislative Council, and such other essential infrastructure.”
Why did the central government have to include this in the act? Because AP was being bifurcated, and the successor state of AP will be losing Hyderabad. They wanted an assurance on building of a new capital and the Congress party found a way out – include this in the reorg bill.
The central government has so far released INR 2,500 crores for the capital city of Amaravati. TDP is now claiming this amount is insufficient to carry out any meaningful work. And here is where I found the argument very surprising. The designs for the High Court, Secretariat, Assembly etc were finalized a couple of months ago only! When there were no designs ready in the first place, how can the state government claim that not enough money was given? TDP is trying to explain that a Capital city merely doesn’t mean these buildings. The larger point may be fair, but the act clearly mentions these buildings and the design of the buildings were not even ready till recently!
TDP is also claiming that 1000 crores out of the 2500 crores was actually meant for drainage projects in Vijayawada and Guntur, and therefore shouldn’t count as money given for Amaravati. However, the AP government created a “Capital Region Development Authority” , in which the Capital region encompasses Amaravati, Vijayawada, Guntur, Tenali and Mangalagiri! So there is Amaravati, the Capital City (~130, and then there is the Capital region (~7000! And that is why I find this controversy created by the TDP (and the telugu media) to be extremely surprising!
Yet another surprising aspect is that the opposition parties are trying to question the need for building a World Class capital city. This quintessential Congressional attitude of trying to always remain second grade to someone else is why we don’t boast of any world class cities. The building of Amaravati is a brilliant opportunity that has opened up. At various instances both the center and the state governments have committed themselves to build such a city. It is extremely unfortunate that the TDP sought to make an issue out of this, when they had genuine grouses to talk about.
Amaravati should be built in such a way that future generations will feel proud about it, and not view it as a missed opportunity. Creating of unnecessary controversies isn’t going to help in making us feel proud about it.

Congress led by Rahul Gandhi has a vision for India- Pushing India back to the Stone Age.

The following article was written for MyInd Makers. Pasting it here for reference.

he recently concluded Congress plenary in New Delhi has attracted a lot of criticism, because nothing concrete was proposed in terms of what the vision of the Congress party is, for the future. I think that criticism is entirely unfounded. The Congress party has given us crystal clear clarity on their vision. Let’s look at why the criticism is unfounded.
The Congress party has just told us that their victories in 2004 and 2009 are suspect. Think about it this way - Do they doubt this, because they know that EVMs can be manipulated? What is the solution proposed by the election commission, for the “apprehensions” of the Congress party? The new EVMs will print out a “receipt”, that shows which party you voted for. For anyone with a common sense, this should resolve any doubts that you have with EVMs.
But not for a party that takes pride in telling us that they bought computers to India. They now have this contrasting new vision that wants us go back to the paper age. This clearly shows us how willing they are to take credit for driving India to both ends of the spectrum! And their magnanimity in telling the people of India that their 2004 and 2009 victories are suspect, needs to be applauded to no end!
Apparently, “The economic resolution promised an end to tax terrorism”. And they gave some details on how they will do this too. 
For a party that introduced Education Cess; for a party that increased ST/VAT from ~4% in 2004 to ~12 % in 2014; for a party that introduced retrospective taxes – it was indeed a bit rich that they spoke about “Tax Terrorism”. Many twitter users pointed out that  with available data, that anyone earning more than INR 66,000/- per month, will fall into top 1%! So, brace up fellow Indians for more taxes, and a complete full stop to “Tax Terrorism”.
Elsewhere, Rahul Gandhi has already said he will change GST rate to one slab only, and will cap it to 18%! Today, more than 80% of items are taxed in the 5% and 12% slab. Is Rahul Gandhi proposing to end Tx terrorism by increasing the 5% slab or decreasing the 12 % slab, or better yet – bring everything on par to 18%? Or am I asking for too much clarity?
The Hindu editorial was very disappointed with how the entire plenary went, but their description of the economic resolution was as confusing as the resolution itself! “The party’s economic resolution faintly echoed Karl Marx’s eleventh thesis on Feuerbach”. Raise hands, all of you, who have ever heard about “Karl Marx’s eleventh thesis on Feuerbach”!
What is the solution to the corruption perpetrated during the Congress regime? Let’s tar all those with the surname Modi. This mind-blowing genius statement can come only from the Congress President. No one else is even capable of such an analysis.
Various news organizations saw this amazing clarity as a new “aggressive Rahul”. All Modis must now start fearing for their future!
While celebrating the moral victory of Rahul Gandhi in the Gujarat Assembly elections, the English media went berserk. Here is a sample:
While democracy was developing elsewhere, Rahul Gandhi’s own party was singing a different tune. He himself was elected without any election, but that’s a given. Now, Rahul Gandhi has been authorized to choose the all-important members of the Congress Working Committee.
Overall, the Congress plenary session has accomplished what it set out to do. It sought to glorify the first family, which it did relentlessly. As expected, they ignored their Prime Minister’s outside of their family. P. Chidambaram credited Rajiv Gandhi for reforms that were carried out after he died.

Rahul Gandhi has criticized Manmohan Singh for not living up to people’s expectations. Rahul Gandhi repeated what he has been saying from many years, yet the English media sought to highlight a “aggressive Rahul”.
Keeping all this in mind, may Congress continue to achieve many more moral victories. For the good of India. For the glory of India!
PS: Typically, I wouldn’t rely just on media reports, and listen to actual speeches. But pardon me this time, it has become increasingly difficult to listen to Rahul’s speeches!