Jag Venugopal's Blog

June 14, 2013

Future King of England a (part) desi dude

Filed under: India — Jag @ 6:08 am

Indians all over the world are ecstatic that the future King of England has been outed as a part-desi dude. To think that the house of Windsor would one day have the brown man’s genes!

Laloo Prasad Yadav is said to have dispatched a gift of two buffaloes to his newly discovered compatriot. Narendra Modi stressed that the genes discovered in Prince William are shuddh Hindu genes, found only within genuine believers. The RSS, elated by the discovery, has FedExed the prince his own khakhi chaddi. Given the Prince’s Indian background, the Central Bureau of Investigation has launched an inquiry into whether he too was involved in the betting scandal affecting the latest version of the India Premier League cricket tournament. Manufacturers of fairness creams in India have approached the Prince to be their “brand ambassador”, in an attempt to show that a desi can be lily white, too!

Meanwhile, a State Department spokesperson, responding to the news, stated that should Prince William desire to visit the USA on official business, he will now need an H1-B visa.

March 12, 2013

India’s a more advanced welfare state than even Sweden

Filed under: India — Jag @ 10:41 pm

Take that USA! India now even beats Sweden in being a welfare state. How you may ask? Well, in which other country do they distribute laptops like candy?

OK, let’s rewind. The head goon Chief Minister of one of India’s poorest states had a brain wave. Why not leapfrog the other Chief Ministers of the great motherland in showing how much he cared for his people? Others merely handed out bicycles, blenders, sarees, television sets and the like as government largesse. Akhilesh Yadav decided to hand out laptops to everyone that passed tenth grade. And each laptop has his face and his pop’s face plastered on it. How convenient!

Distributing laptops has significant advantages. For one, you don’t need to deal with pesky contractors as you would have to if you decide to improve sanitation, roads, and access to water. Secondly, the visible benefits are immediate, without the usual legal circus that accompanies any real project designed to benefit people. Third, real projects take time. And by the time they are complete, your rival could be in power and take all the credit. Ergo, the laptop giveaway! A final side benefit of laptops is that they tend to be small, yet expensive. All the bribes you could make on a large project can be made quickly and less obviously by purchasing high-ticket electronics.

Sarcasm aside, it is a crying shame that a Chief Minister is allowed to take the people’s money and hand out expensive goodies to a minuscule section of the population. This in a state and country crying out for basic necessities such as clean air, water, sewers, roads and access to basic education.

October 14, 2012

Mamata Bannerjee: Interacting with the opposite gender and holding hands invites rape

Filed under: India — Jag @ 9:54 pm

So says the Chief Minister of India’s West Bengal state, according to an article on IBN Live. See below. No mention of the state’s duty to provide law and order, or to make women feel safe. If you’re assaulted, its because you brought it upon yourself.

“Mamata said that rape cases are on a rise in the country because men and women interact with each other more freely now. “Earlier if men and women would hold hands, they would get caught by parents and reprimanded but now everything is so open. It’s like an open market with open options,” she said.”

March 26, 2012

African Indians

Filed under: India — Jag @ 6:48 am

Everyone has heard of African Americans. But African Indians? No, I don’t mean the Gujaratis from India who went to Africa as traders, but Africans who migrated to India in the past, and are now as Indian as every Thambi, Devinder and Harish?

Well, let me introduce you to the Siddis of Karnataka, who reportedly migrated out of Africa some four hundred years ago. The Wall Street Journal has a photo story of this tribe, who though African in looks, are Indian in language, religion, and pretty much everything else you can think of.

March 17, 2012

India is top international investor in UK three years running

Filed under: India — Jag @ 4:07 pm

According to Pranab Mukherji, Indian finance minister, India has been the top international investor in the UK for three years in a row.

I am sure Mr. Mukherji is thrilled at the apparent reversal of roles between formal colonial master and underling. Doubtless many Indians are delighted for the same reason.

But, let’s think for a moment here. India is a land of significant wants — poor roads, electricity, water, drainage and education. Countless numbers of people are unemployed and under-employed. Could our capital not be put to use in India? With so much pent-up demand for the necessities of civilization, could the money not have been put to use within one’s own country?

The flight of capital, sadly, is commentary that Indian investors see better opportunities to make money in the UK than they do in India. With all the political capriciousness, lawlessness (e.g. the Maruti strike), and such, one cannot blame someone for wanting to invest money where the investment is (a) safe, and (b) will earn some predictable return.

As but one example of why investors would feel unsafe in India, consider Vodafone’s example. Vodafone bought a controlling stake in a wireless company in India from a Hong-Kong based company. This was accomplished through the transfer of an offshore holding company. The Indian government slapped a huge tax on the transaction, claiming that the underlying asset being transferred was in India, and thus subject to taxation under Indian laws. Vodafone fought its way to the Supreme Court of India, where it won its case, fair and square (in front of Indian justices, I might add). What does the Indian government do? It proposes to change the law with retroactive effect. Whoever said there was no time travel just has to meet Mr. Mukherji. Move over Stephen Hawking, the next scientific genius is our very own Pranabda.

Let us not be proud of India’s investments in its former colonial master. Rather, it is sad, perhaps even shameful that India herself did not provide stable and safe opportunities for the money to be put to good use.

January 23, 2012

The 1909 letter that precipitated restrooms on Indian trains

Filed under: India — Jag @ 8:51 pm

Click on the document to be taken to the source.

January 13, 2012

Indian Government sues the Internet

Filed under: India — Jag @ 6:57 am

Someone please put Indian IT minister Sibal out of his misery.

He’s now off suing the Internet (or at least Facebook, Yahoo, Google and Microsoft) for “for offences of promoting enmity between classes and causing prejudice to national integration”.

Didn’t know that the Indian Republic, tracing back to a 5,000 year history, founded by such stalwarts as Gandhi, Nehru, Patel and Ambedkar, and forged through a freedom struggle of some 90-odd years is so fragile as to disintegrate due to posts on Facebook, Yahoo, Google and whatever Microsoft puts out.

Only in India, kids.

December 27, 2011

Indian justice system rides to the rescue

Filed under: India — Jag @ 10:48 am

Judges in India have finally thought it fit to come to the rescue of the hapless Indian. What might they have thrown the lawbook at?

  • Corrupt politicians?
  • Lawlessness?
  • Poor governance?
  • Sub-saharan Infrastructure?
  • Inflation?
  • Lack of economic reforms?
  • Governmental ineptitude  in handling terrorism?

No, silly. The greatest threat to the Republic of India (estd. 1947) comes from dirty pictures on Facebook and Google. Justices of India, borrowing a leaf from from China, that other great font of Democracy and Freedom, have summoned various online companies to answer for all the dirty content on their web sites. Of course, the great and farsighted politician, Kapil Sibal (he of the subsidized $35 tablet fame) also thought it fit to summon all these companies to complain about the naughty stuff online.

In any free society, norms of decency cannot be legislated. Society must decide what is acceptable and what is not. Surely, if one does not care much for dirty pictures or content, all one has to do is to not browse it. I have not heard any reports of Facebook or Google execs waylaying innocent Indians and thrusting all manner of pornography in their face.

And by the way, who gave these worthies (whether Kapil Sibal or the Indian judiciary) the right to sit in moral judgment over what’s obscene? Denying freedoms to the Indian citizen is a slippery slope. Today its alleged dirty content on the Internet. Tomorrow, it could be youngsters in jeans who are considered obscene. Oh wait, that’s happened already. And the day after, anything that’s determined obscene by the ruler of the day will be. Welcome to the Indian version of Saudi Arabia.

December 24, 2011

Does capitalism hurt or help the downtrodden in India?

Filed under: India — Jag @ 6:48 am

The old dogma, perpetuated by politicians of every hue in India is how a market economy and capitalism exploit the poor and underprivileged.

The new reality is that capitalism helps uplift those on the lowest rung of society… the people we would derogatorily refer not too long ago as “shudras”, or the lowest rung in the caste hierarchy. Read this article and look at the smile on the face of the mother… she has probably endured discrimination and insults her entire life. Her joy is palpable.

December 12, 2011

Who needs Pakistan as an enemy state…

Filed under: India — Jag @ 6:46 am

When we can do grave damage to ourselves without any assistance from them?

I’m not talking about the embarassment of the Commonwealth Games or the 2G Telephony scam that followed, which ought to cause every Indian to hang his head in shame. What I am talking about is a few excellent self-goals that India has scored in the past few weeks.

The first was when the government proposed to allow foreign retailers (e.g. Wal-mart) to open shop in India, with up to 51% ownership. If the government really acted on behalf of all Indians (and not a vocal minority of middlemen and traders), it would have rolled out the red carpet for Wal-Mart and Target. Much of India’s supply chain is in tatters. By one reckoning, 40% of produce rots without it ever reaching store shelves, because of the sorry state of infrastructure. The government buys copious quantities of wheat, and lets it rot in the open, for lack of storage space. Much retail trade has to travel through many hands from producer to consumer, with each one taking a cut. As a result, the Indian consumer pays unconscionably high prices, while the poor farmer receives a pittance for the same produce.

When the government rolled back its decision to allow foreign investment in retailing, it did so based on the outcry from the opposition. The prime opposition party, the BJP counts the banias, the small-scale middlemen and traders who stand to lose most from this disintermediation. The government’s own allies, such as the Trinamul Congress, see evil in any form of market economy; they were the ones that caused Tata to relocate its Nano factory away from impoverished Bengal. Thus, we had the spectacle of the opposition rightists, leftists and centrists all protesting vociferously against something that would have brought much of the now-rotting produce to market and driven down inflation.

The second act of hara-kiri is just unfolding. As it turns out, a few mobile telephony operators got together and hammered out a pact to provide seamless nationwide roaming to their subscribers. In any other country, this would be welcome news, not the least because the market worked to provide what consumers wanted. The government however, thought it fit to question this providers on their audacity to make a deal among themselves without involving the government. Presumably, the bureaucrats and politicians are upset that they did not get a cut of the proceeds, as is de rigueur in such situations.

I feel sad that every time it appears India will break out of the socialist-Nehruvian mold of statist economic thinking that has held it back for sixty years, something comes right along to push it back into the morass that it has struggled in all these years.

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