Tuesday, December 12, 2006

‘Water, water everywhere …’

‘Water, water everywhere …’
By Narendra Luther

A British officer, after years of experience in the country remarked perceptively that Indian agriculture was a gamble in the Monsoon. It looks now that it is not only agriculture but also our entire life which is at the mercy of the annual water-laden winds given the name by the Arabs and corrupted by the English into Monsoon.

July 2005: The city of Mumbai was deluged. The entire urban system went for a toss. People of all rank in life from those living in slums to those commuting in their Mercedes Benz cars were stuck for at least 24 hours. Houses collapsed. Many people were killed. The army was called in to rescue the marooned and to provide succour to those who cold not come out of their rubble.

Causes given were: Worst rains in 40 years. Inadequate civic infrastructure. Flagrant violation of municipal rules and regulations in constructing buildings.

‘Never Again’

The Chief Minister promised to take necessary remedial action and said such a situation will not be allowed to recur. The Prime Minister visited the city. Relief funds were sanctioned. The weather changed and every thing was back to normal. The focus of news shifted to Dawood Ibrahim and his trial. Later, Pramod Mahajan’s fratricide became the scandal of the season for couch potatoes.

The devastation was not limited to Mumbai alone. It was replicated in varying degrees in different parts of the country in rural as well as urban areas.

Then we had an unduly long dry spell. Monsoon did not keep its time in 2006. We feared drought. Prices of daily needs started shooting up. People of different faiths organized mass prayers for rains to their respective Gods.


July –August 2006: The story of Mumbai of the previous year is repeated not only in Mumbai but also in Gujarat, Maharashtra and Andhra Pradesh. Locality after locality is shown sunk deep in water. Army boats and Air Force helicopters are drafted for rescue and relief operations. The situation in Surat city was incredibly horrifying and one wouldn’t believe it if one did not see it on television. Sixty percent of the city lay marooned under hose deep waters. As in Coleridge’s poem, there was ‘water, water everywhere, but not a drop to drink’. Roads became canals and trucks failed to swim in them. The airport in Visakhapatnam became a lake and there were no flight to or form it for over a week. My own experience of being stuck in a traffic jam caused by rains and the consequent absence of any traffic policeman on duty seems too trivial to be mentioned. The media highlights cases of individual daring and bravery in saving lives of the marooned people.

This is an annual tamasha and we are all so used to it as if it is immutable as death. We have become immune to the fact that it is a case of man–made tragedy and is entirely remediable. That is, if we have the necessary will to take some action.

It is a cliché that India lives in its villages. For some decades now the rate of urban growth has been greater than that of rural growth. People keep on migrating from villages to towns and cities in search of better opportunities. They swell the slum population. Everyone does not succeed in getting an honest job. Some of the failed ones take to crime or politics. In either case they increase the burden on civic amenities. Such migrations and transformations are a universal phenomenon. But the developed countries have handled them systematically. India is one of the countries in the east where a systematic approach has not been developed. Instead of foreseeing the problem, we chase it. Widespread corruption and the pursuit of populist policies to consolidate vote banks prevent common sense solutions.

Causes of the tragedy

Global warming is blamed for erratic weather phenomena. That is beyond our control. The rural tragedy is caused by our failure to tame rivers intelligently. People of Megha Patekar’s ilk blame it on big dams. To some extent they seem to be right. Some of flooding of villages has been caused by the sudden release of huge quantities of water from reservoirs.

The cause of flooding of our towns is entirely within our control. Not only has our drainage system not kept pace with our urban growth, whatever additions have been made have not been all sound engineering. The cambering of roads which is an elementary requirement is not done properly. Outlets for water from roads at lower levels have not been provided. Similarly, weep holes at stagnation points are missing. In many cases drainage lines have been laid without giving due regard to natural slopes of the area and the catchments. In some cases the drainage nallahs and lines are silted up or clogged and so are unable to take in the rainwater. It happened in Hyderabad in 1971. That was pure negligence. Thereafter, I saw to it that the silt in the drains was removed before every monsoon season. The result was that in 1976 when more rain fell than in the earlier floods, there was no flooding. That was purely because due attention was paid to a routine function. Such functions are neglected because there is no drama in them. When they blow crises, the very officials who ought to have been punished are hailed as heroes. Again in 2001 flooding on a massive scale occurred in the new fashionable areas of the city. That was because of large scale unauthorized constructions and faulty construction of roads. I called it a case of suicides and murders. People who built without due permission in low-lying areas and even in lakebeds and courses of nallahs were committing suicides. Those who permitted them were guilty of murders. Yet, no heads rolled.

The National Urban Renewal Fund

In a proper system of administration what happened in Mumbai and other areas in 2005 should not have been allowed to recur the next year. Yet we all saw it and those in authority saw it without any feeling of guilt or shame. Now the Central Government has sanctioned the Jawaharlal Nehru Urban Renewal Plan with an outlay of Rs. 64,000 crores. The amount is lager than the annual budget of many states in the country. This could be used to supplement budgets for specific schemes to prevent the recurrence of urban deluge. Yet we will see how the funds under this plan will be diverted to some other non-crucial schemes and flooding of cities will remain an annual feature.

A point to be stressed is that there is no divide between rural and urban problem of infrastructure. Both are two sides of the same coin. We must see them as whole. One affects the other. If the rural areas are developed properly the fatal attraction of urban areas will diminish. It needs a holistic approach. It is of course easier said than done.

The Wedding Picture

The Wedding Picture
By Narendra Luther

The wedding picture on the wall
A couple - young and handsome,
Looking dotingly at each other,
Or smiling deeply into the camera’s lens.
Or looking away - together - at some distant object,
Love that is undying and intense
Glowing like embers!
The future holding God-knows what treasures
A gift-box not yet unwrapped.

* * *
The couple in the sitting room
Mellowed by years of conjugality,
Looking in different direction, wanly
Searching different memory lanes.
The gift-box unwrapped and emptied.
Trials and triumphs and frustrations of a lifetime
Furrowed on their flaccid faces.
Love - those ‘embers for a year’; ‘ashes for thirty’;

The wedding picture on the wall
Smiles down upon them
From another world -- that was.

* * *
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Your Time is Up

Your Time is Up
By Narendra Luther

Economists of the classical school, like J.B. Say and Marshall, listed three factors of production: Land, Labour and Capital. They did not seem to have recognized that these operate under the overarching constraint of another factor - Time. Modern management experts have underscored the crucial role of Time.

Time has two contradictory characteristics. By itself, it is unlimited. But for each one of us it is limited. All of us are busy trying to kill time, but in the end, time will kill us. Of the various resource that we employ in any productive activity, time is the only on which is inflexible. Land – traditionally considered ‘fixed’-- can be acquired. Not time. Banks pay and charge interest for time. Most of our replies to letters begin with the standard apology; I did not get time earlier. Actually, it was there all the time. You did not take care to take it. It takes only few minutes to reply to any letter.

An Inflexible Resource

For most jobs, we are given deadlines. Time-overruns carry a penalty because time gone is an opportunity lost. Teachers of modern business management emphasize the value of time. Time is important not only in business; it is equally important in our private life.

Another advice dinned into our ears is to prioritize. That is necessary again because as the poet said, ‘art is long and time is short’, implying the necessity of prioritization.’ First things first’ formula is important because later things run the risk of being left out—for want of time.

Recently I read an interesting and instructive story. A man made an offer to give $86,400 to a person. There was only one condition. He must spend it within 24 hours. Now the man had numerous ideas about the things he wanted to acquire. But he was not ready to splurge the amount in such a short time. He thought of what he needed most. So, this constraint of time forced him to prepare a list of his priorities.

This happens to all of us all the time – everyday. There are 86,400 seconds in a day of 24 hours. We have to decide what to do with them. If we cannot make up our mind, that gift is lost forever. If one were to think of it, one would be surprised at the amount of loss we have suffered already.

So, planning our time is a very important. All our other achievement are dependent on that. Nothing can be done unless we allocate time to it. The goals of life are to be set considering that we have limited time. Napoleon observed in his Maxims that ‘ there is one kind of robber whom the law does not strike at, and who steals what is most precious to men: time’.

Your Own Time

First decision is how much time you are willing to allocate to your work. The general division is eight hours each for work, eating, and sleep respectively. Depending upon your age, health, and goals, you will have to modify the allocation. Napoleon said that man needed five hours, woman six, and child seven for sleep. Only fools needed more than that. But he was an exception who could sleep on horseback. We are lucky. We have the luxury of cars and it is far more comfortable to sleep in them provided you are not driving. Once an allocation has been made, the problem of managing that time will crop up. Most of us leave our time management at the mercy of others. A friend drops in without appointment and sheer good manners will force you to let him steal your time. It is assumed that if you are at home you are free. A friend of mine asked another mutual friend if he was at home in the evening. Yes, he replied. ‘Then I will drop in at six’, said our friend. ‘No’ he replied, ‘I have an appointment at that time’.
’Appointment with whom?’ asked the other friend.

‘With myself’, he said calmly.

He was the only Indian I have met who had the courage to say that. After all an appointment with oneself is mores important than with anybody else. But we assume that if you are alone you are doing nothing -- and are available!

Modern Techniques

In a rough sort of way, most of us do some time-management. A cooking range provides four burners. That is because a housewife cooks some dishes simultaneously, or according to the time taken by them, in a certain sequence. If there were only one burner, she would be forced to cook the dishes consecutively and waste a lot of her time. A coking range enables her to do her own intuitive analysis, work out sequencing, and cut down the cooking time. When you have to do a number of things, you try to take them up in such a way that you save time by bundling them as far as possible. Management experts have formalized them into what they call Programme Evaluation and Review Techniques (PERT) and prepare a Critical Path Method (CPM). These methods are employed in major jobs like erection of a steel plant, which entails a multitude of activities. They help managers to sequence activities so as to optimize the use of resources. It helps them to decide whether steel should be ordered before cement has arrived and so on. On a micro level, these techniques can be consciously applied to our daily routine. In the ladder of evolution, external discipline precedes self-discipline. Many persons are excellent managers when it comes to official work. That is because they are required to observe rules laid down by others, at the risk of losing their job. The same efficient managers are often sloppy in their private affairs because of the absence of external discipline. Superior beings internalize discipline and learn to be answerable to themselves.

Two things arise from the above. We have to optimize the utilization of time. For that we have to learn not to place it at the mercy of others.

External Discipline

Here again ‘external’ aids help. If you sit down in your study at a fixed time regularly, after some time you will be automatically led to that room at the appointed time. Also, it helps to have different places for different types of activities. The dining room is not conducive to serious work. Nor is bedroom. Properly maintained, it should induce sleep, not activity.

Life can thus become orderly and its pattern conducive to optimum results. However, I must warn against the danger of a martinet existence. Too much regimentation is the enemy of creativity. My last word therefore would be that having ordered your life, introduce an element of occasional disorderliness to sample what is going on elsewhere. I believe that railway accidents happen sometime because the engine jumps off the fixed rails out of sheer boredom of routine. Avoid boredom – to yourself and others.

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Whose Century?

Whose Century?
By Narendra Luther

In my article on the Anglo- American attack on Iraq in the April issue (A Fable for our Times), I said that its outcome was predictable. Despite the hype created by the two governments and the western media about the enormity of the weapons of mass destruction that Iraq was alleged to be possessing, it was a walkover for the ‘coalition forces’. More than a month after the conquest of Iraq, the victors have not been able to substantiate their charges of the existence of the Weapons of Mass Destruction (WMD) with Iraq. This has led to the cynical remark that the initials WMD stood for ‘weapons of mass deception’ and they were in the possession of the coalition forces. Also, if they are now discovered in Iraq, they will be suspected to have been planted, which the Police resort to in many cases. Art Buchwald, the American satirist-columnist has observed that instead of spending 75 billion dollars on eliminating Saddam, the U.S. administration could have got it done in one billion dollars through one of the Italian mafias in the U.S!

Body blow to UN

The basic motive of the Americans in attacking Iraq was always suspect. If it was to remove a tyrannical dictator, there were others far more deserving of that treatment than Saddam. The Americans are actively supporting many of them as indeed they did Saddam earlier when it suited them. The reception, which the coalition forces expected to be accorded in the vanquished country, was not enthusiastic enough to justify their vaunted claims that they were liberating the people from a despot’s tyranny.

The US approach to the Iraq question could be faulted on many counts. The Americans tried to take the UN with them in their campaign. When three permanent members of the Security Council refused to go along with them, the US decided to go it alone nevertheless. Both the US and the UK took the self-righteous stand that they were satisfied with the evidence they had about the delinquencies of the dictatorial regime in Iraq. That evidence was not shared with the lesser members of UN. The UN charter prohibits interferes in the internal affairs of any sovereign country. Thus, the very approach of the US and the UK dealt a body blow to the UN. For more than a decade, sanctions had been imposed on Iraq for possession of WMD’s. Now without having discovered them, or admitting that they were not there, the Americans want the sanctions lifted. Important members of the UN are against such an arbitrary approach. In my article referred to above, I had likened the America behaviour to that of the village tyrant. If the village panchayat did not go along with him, it was removed. The US bypassed the world panchayat (UN), and having got used to it, it shall do so again.

While in many Islamic countries, there was open expression of anger at the attack on Iraq; in other countries, there was a sense of moral outrage at the action. Again, as in the case of the village landlord, some countries thought it expedient to keep quiet, or just to mumble unhappiness, but the resentment against the action was universal.

Motive for Attack

The feeling that the motive for the attack was oil more than any thing else is strengthened by the fact that while priceless heritage in the Iraqi museum was allowed to be plundered and destroyed, adequate action was taken to safeguard the oil wells. That is why now the question being asked all around is: which country next? Syria has already been sufficiently chastened verbally by the victors of Iraq.

The American are not able to overcome the shock of 9/11 and the fall of the twin towers. The myth of its almight and invulnerability was shattered by that incident. An invisible band of terrorists, which cocked a snook at its fortress security, sent the nation into an unprecedented flurry. To eliminate the possibility of such a recurrence, it has vowed to root out terrorism wherever it exists. It is a laudable objective but here too consistency is lacking in its policy. It does not exhibit a uniform concern at the terrorist activity in places like Kashmir. Such an approach does not inspire faith; it generates cynicism.

With the demise of the Soviet Union, the bi-polar world of the last century is gone. Earlier, the Soviet Union could counter any move by the US, which threatened to upset the delicate balance of powering today’s uni-polar world where there is only one super- power. The non-aligned movement (NAM), which was born out of the bi-polar situation, has been rendered irrelevant. Earlier, non-alignment meant equidistance from the two poles. Now you are either with one power or you are against it. The very term ‘balance’ implies the existence of two units. In today’s situation, the balance can only mean the US (with its satellites) vs. the rest of the world. Who can be the spokesman of the rest of the world?

Morality in international conduct

While self –interest of nations determines international relations, there is a minimum sense of justice which must be perceived in the external policies and acts of nations. No nation can override the interests of other nations for all times. There is a feeling now that there is no one to counter any move by the US. She can get away with anything. There is a rudimentary sense of equity with which international policies and actions are judged. Today the American might is unchallenged. That however does not mean it can do whatever it likes anywhere. The bomb blast in Saudi Arabia on the eve of the visit of Collin Powell, and later at Casablanca show how many invisible forces are working against the US, and no body knows how and where they will hit.

The American historian, Barbara Tuchman, in her book ‘The March of Folly’ has shown how all wars from the Trojan to Vietnam were acts of folly. At that time they were waged, they were shown to be fully justified by those who initiated them. In retrospect, she shows them as unnecessary and avoidable. It reinforces the old saying attributed to Gustavus Adolphus of Sweden, and at least to six other statesmen: ‘See my son with how little wisdom the world is governed.’

Noting the emergence of the US as the unchallenged power, many pundits have declared that the 21st Century belongs to America. That is based on too narrow a reading of recent developments, and an insufficient appreciation of historical factors. Today in the global village, political hegemony has to be closely accountable to the Panchayat. As in our masala films, at the end of the day, the landlord–villain is humbled. Jack kills the giant and good sense comes to prevail. What is blinding us today might as well be the last flicker of the flame for the American lamp. The century will belong, not to the almighty America, but to the meek of the world.


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Which Party?

Which Party?
By Narendra Luther

Humans are social animals. They must live in groups to survive. Groups create
problems. In order to solve them they create parties. Parties are of two types. One is political.

Political parties come into being because man is a prejudiced being. Like-minded people get together and float a party. Once they join it, they see everything through a prism. Their objectivity, sense of fairness, and equity – become casualties. Political parties are popular because they relieve people of the necessity to think. That difficult task is handed over to some one else. How wonderful to have ready- made opinions handed over to you to pass them on as deep reflections of your own! Political parties have a problem for every solution. They will fight for finding other ways of reaching a place when a direct approach is available. God for them has one face, that of their own leader; truth, his utterance. Political parties often get into trouble when some men of conscience join them. A conscientious man suspects that the rival might be right. There is no place for such persons in a political party. Party men cannot afford to be in doubt. They must always assert that they are right. They should also be capable of saying the exact reverse of what their current opinion. That becomes necessary when they change parties. Abraham Lincoln as a young lawyer argued a case successfully in the morning. In the afternoon, he happened to have another case in the same court in which he gave arguments opposing what he had said in the morning. The judge asked him with a smile, ‘Mr. Lincoln, you are saying exactly the opposite of what you were saying in the morning’. Lincoln replied, ‘Your Honour, I might have been wrong in the morning, but I am definitely right in the afternoon’. He won that case too.

The other type of party is Cocktails. They have nothing to do with animals or birds as one might be led to imagine. They comprise humans of divers sexes—men women,
and people. They are held in the evenings and there is no saying how long they last. They are organized for various purposes – to willy-nilly welcome or to say farewell to some one, to celebrate an event, like marriage, birthday, or even a wedding anniversary. Strictly speaking, dinners should be given on such occasions, but cocktails parties are cheaper and more fun. Drinks of various types are served with snacks, which often make up for the lack of dinner. In a cocktail party, no one cares how bad your English is so long as your Scotch is good. After a while, a lot of bonhomie and good will is generated amongst the guests and every one tends to agree with the other. There are some spoil–sports or noveau- drinkers who will always disagree. Another drink is shoved into such hands and they are pushed to some equally garrulous person of the opposite sex. After a while either they both walk out or are too drunk to talk. So, one disagreement is resolved.

Cocktail party is designed to prevent concentration – either on a person or a topic. In a cocktail party, you are supposed to circulate. Some people complete their circulation too soon and come back to the same spot from where they started. That is bad manners. Your orbit is supposed to keep on varying unless the chief guest gets hold of you and wants to have a chat with you.

The host takes care to stay sober and to get the others sozzled, particularly those from whom he is trying to seek business or a favour. In non-business parties, the object is fun. But even there, you cannot prevent a discussion of politics or current events. As the spirits soar, the ability to solve intricate problems also improves. I have seen the Kashmir problem solved many times in such parties, the composition of the national cricket team decided upon, and alternatives offered to resolve the issue of Palestine, terrorism, and communalism. Iraq too has often been disposed of in a most harmonious way. There is generally consensus in such parties and everyone is fair to the other. Also, people are honest in the expression of their opinions about their friends. That sometime causes problems to sort out which another cocktail party becomes necessary. Even husbands are polite to their wives at such parties because nothing makes a woman look better than three cocktails inside a man. So, my advice to women is never to accept a compliment at a cocktail party at your face value. Men of my generation remember with envy the journalist who walked up to that stunner, Madeleine Dietrich and told her, ‘Madam you look as beautiful when sober, as any other woman would look when drunk’. Some over-drinkers are sad to get under the table. Mae West knew her limit. When offered another drink, she said coolly: ‘One more drink and I will be under the host’. But some men’s sense of truth is so strong that even cocktails can’t suppress it. Like when Churchill walked up to Lady Astor and told her bluntly: ‘You are ugly’. She retorted indignantly: ‘Winston, you are drunk’. Churchill slurred back: ‘Madam, I shall be sober when I wake up tomorrow morning, but you will still be ugly’.

I am a man of conscience. I can go astray temporarily. But I come back to the right track before too long. I am never cocksure; I am generally in doubt. That is why I have not joined any political party. For finding solutions to problems, I prefer to take a chance in a cocktail party.


Render the Account

Render the Account
By Narendra Luther

Tom Paine, the English revolutionary and thinker of the 18th century says in his celebrated book Rights of Man, that Government is the badge of man’s lost innocence. It is a necessary evil for civilized existence.

But safeguards have to be provided against the arbitrary exercise of power by government to maintain civilized existence.

No taxation without representation is an old axiom of democracy. That is to ensure that no unjust or unnecessary tax is imposed on the citizens. That is half the job. The other half is to ensure that the money collected from the citizens is spent properly for the purpose for which it is raised. In other words, the propriety of expenditure also needs to be ensured.

Citizen and the Government

To scrutinizes the utilization of public funds by the Government, our Constitution has created the office of the Comptroller and Auditor General. His findings are placed before the Public Accounts Committee. All instances of irregularities and improprieties and recommendations thereon by the Committee are placed before the legislature for appropriate remedial and punitive action against the delinquent authorities. While this is good, these reports are in the nature of a post-mortem and are useful largely for the future.

Secondly, given the party system of government, the elected representatives may overlook the infractions of the administration depending upon their party affiliations. Also, in the plethora of technicalities, the average citizen cannot grasp what is happening. Many people have therefore argued that we should supplement the present system of accountability of administration to elected representatives with direct and ongoing scrutiny by the people. That would ensure that mischief is nipped in the bud.

Information is Power

For such a scrutiny, relevant data and information are necessary. It has been said aptly that information is power. That power lies with the bureaucracy and it is loath to share it with others. As the French semiologist, Jean Baudrillard says in his book, Cool Memories, ‘Information can tell us everything. It has all the answers. But they are answers to questions we have not asked’.

For any scheme of empowering people, therefore, access to information is the first crucial step. It will discourage arbitrary action on the part of the bureaucracy and protect the citizens’ basic right to due process and equal protection of the law. It will also reduce corruption within government institutions and enhance integrity amongst public functionaries.

The question of enacting legislation to provide access to information has assumed importance come up in the last decade or so. According to Privacy International, 51 countries had such comprehensive Freedom of Information laws in place in April 2003. In India, similar legislation has been passed in some states to enable citizens to access information from government officials.

Information provides the transparency necessary for ensuring accountability. UNDP defines accountability ‘as the requirement that officials answer to stakeholders on the disposal of their powers and duties, act on criticisms or requirements made of them and accept (some) responsibility for failure, incompetence or deceit.’

Citizen’s Charter

An offshoot of the right to information is the Citizen’s Charter. According to article 21(2) of the United Nations Declaration of Universal Human Rights, ‘Everyone has the right of equal access to public service in his country’. Citizen’s Charter enlightens the citizens about their rights and how they can secure them. In case public officials fail to provide specific public services, they have to pay prescribed penalties. In India, Andhra Pradesh was perhaps the first state to adopt the concept when it issued its ‘Vision 2020’ document in 1999. Following upon that, some departments and public utilities issued their own Citizen’s Charters. The latest to do so is the Police. However, penalties for failure to provide specific services by public servants have not been indicated in some of the charters.

Civil Society Initiatives

By himself, an average citizen lacks adequate knowledge and resources to take up individual and collective grievances with the government. That is more so due to illiteracy and poverty of a vast section of our populace. So, a number of social action groups have come up in different states to take up public issues. They have pioneered the concept of generating valid and potent information to contest and challenge discretionary abuses and to expose corruption. A good example of that is the work of an NGO – the Mazdoor Kisan Shakti Sangathan (MKSS). Through the medium of 'public hearings' to demand public accountability, the Sangathan has been quite successful in bringing about transparency of development expenditure; accountability of officials; redress of grievances; and legitimization of social or public audit. The Public Affairs Centre in Bangalore has organized public interaction with official of the Municipal Corporation on provisions in the budget and their utilization. In Andhra Pradesh, the Lok Satta has taken up a number of issues in this regard. Its latest initiative is to mobilize public opinion to confer empowerment on the local bodies provided in the 73rd and 74th amendments of the Constitution, which have not yet become a reality.

Consumer’s Rights

It is not only with regard to government that transparency and the right to information is important. Similar transparency is important in regard to other institutions and organizations which serve social needs. We are all consumers of products and services. We need to be assured of their quality. We need to be protected from unscrupulous trade practices of manufacturers and suppliers of goods and services. ‘Goods once sold will not be taken back’ is a motto encountered everywhere in our country. Such a stipulation does not exist anywhere in the western countries. There, consumer is really the king. The Consumer Protection Act was enacted by the Parliament in 1986 and amended in 1993. Under it, National and State Councils and District Forums have been established for the redress of the grievances of the consumers. The concept of accountability has thus been extended to private organizations in manufacture, trade and commerce also.

Rights of Investor

The third aspect of accountability is with regard to the world of shares. Every entrepreneur borrows from public financial institutions and the public direct through public issues. As user of public funds, he is accountable for their proper utilization. The need for accountability in that field has also been felt particularly after some scams rocked the market. The Securities and Exchange Board of India (SEBI) has taken a number of steps to promote sound corporate governance. However much remains to be done. The non-official directors do not get to know about much of the day-to day working of companies. Yet, under law they are responsible for all the acts of the company. The shareholders get only one opportunity in a year to ask questions and they are easily disposed of. A specific and clear delegation of authority from the board to the executive directors needs to be provided for.
Our freedom has many aspects. They all need to be secured in order to ensure continuance of our civilized existence. Therein lies the importance of multifaceted accountability.

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On Making Money

On Making Money
By Narendra Luther

Money has been called the root of all evil. But it is forgotten that the lack of it is the whole blooming tree. It is the most important thing in life. You have to have enough of it not to need it. Those who have it decry it; those who lack it moan for it.

There are various ways of making money, and none can advise you better than one who has not succeeded in making it can.

Conventional wisdom lays down one of the three ways: Beg, Borrow, or Steal. The seemingly easiest way to make money is to beg. There is a mistaken notion that beggars ply their trade only by standing and stretching their hand. The only honest beggars are those who do not make any pretensions about their intentions. They are masters of psychology. They wait at intersections and approach you when you are prevented by the red light to proceed further. They make you feel guilty and many can’t escape from that trap. Some beggars accost you when you have just emerged yourself from your secret begging from a place of worship. That is when one beggar stands face to face with another. It is difficult to go past the horde of beggars when they proclaim loudly that what you begged from the deity will be granted if you grant them their small prayer. It will be jeopardized if you don’t play god to them. The other place where they wait in ambush for you is when you emerge from a restaurant after a lavish meal. Whether you have been a guest or a host, the outstretched hand from a rag -covered body stirs your conscience. You calculate guiltily what small fraction of the amount spent inside by you the miserable beggar is asking for. A coin thrown into the lap of the waif will make you feel light.

Stealing is not free from risks. But there are various ways of stealing that need not make you fall foul of the law. An excess claim on a journey, inflating the conveyance charges or adding a non-existent guest to the list of prospects entertained -- all go into the making of the art of thievery.

Borrowing is quite common. A good number of standard reasons exist for making borrowing look entirely justified. A sudden need for travel to attend a family funeral, a tragic mishap to a beloved kin, a sudden illness which necessitates hospitalization. Anything which induces the milk of human kindness flow in the heart of the borrwee. Borrowers generally drop their benefactors from their list lest they should start pestering them for the repayment of an insignificant amount. They prefer dealing with people with short memory in money matters. Unfortunately, an average memory is sharpest in that respect.

Bribe is another easy way of making money. But for that it is necessary that you should have acquired some placement. Any position is good enough for taking bribes. But one has to take care that one is not caught in the act. Punishment is not for taking bribe, but for having been caught at doing that. So, a good measure of intelligence is necessary for taking bribes safely. Also, one should not be too greedy. Otherwise, one may go the way of the Chairman of the Public Service Commission of a certain State.

Making investments in stocks and bonds is another way of making money. That is what the sellers of stock will tell you believing that you will skip the small print which gives the statutory caution. That makes it somewhat exciting, like smoking which warns you that it is dangerous to health. So is racing, mountaineering, and even swimming. But they are not as dangerous as sleeping on a bedstead. More people in recorded history world-wide have died in their beds than anywhere else. Yet we persist -- sometime taking someone else also to our bed and thus expanding the scope of the danger involved. However, investments have to be made cautiously, that is putting as little of your money as possible. In this field, one has to know when to pull out. But there is no right time; only right luck. And that is not in your hands.

Lately, sports also have become good business. Time was when sportsmen played for the heck of it. Playing was more important than winning. Now you play to win – not the game but money. That is easy. Al that you have to do is to be a good player, but to play poorly. There are enough people to pay you for playing below par. That is specially so in cricket. Others sports are also learning from it. One reason cricket has overtaken – even killed all other sports is that there is more money in this for not playing well. But here too you have to take precautions. One is not to talk on cell phones. Technology betrays as much as it helps.

Another easy way is to marry a rich widow. That is the only case in which second hand goods sell at first hand prices. For women, the equivalent opportunity lies in becoming a mistress of a rich business man. It requires an instinct every woman is born with. Let a man chase you till you catch him. But then comes the tedious problem of keeping your quarry in your own net.

So far no one has discovered a sure-fire method of making money without getting sold to it. Money does not guarantee happiness, but every thing, which can possibly give happiness is bought by money – including charity and philanthropy. So, there is no escape from money. As for myself, I don’t much care for money if I can be rich without it. For, I agree with Sophia Tucker: ‘I have been rich, and I have been poor. Rich is better.’


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