Monday, November 28, 2011

FDI in retail debate - Part 1

By D. Dhanuraj

FDI in retail sector has been a pending decision from the Government. That too at a time everyone ditches at the Governance for the lack of direction and the reform drive. Corruption, scam, tainted image of the Government.. all are adding pressure to the Government. It is argued that any such reform like FDI in Retail can push the Government forward and shed the image of stagnation in Governance.

In India, organised retail sector is not going to be a threat to kirana shops in the immediate future as India is diverse and the Purchasing power of each family and individual vary a lot. The organised retail is a long way to get accomplished as we lack the supply chain management, ware housing, processing, refrigeration etc. They say  more than 33 million are going to lose their livelihoods as a result of this policy. I wonder how it going to be as it is not Tsunami to strike the small merchants over night. there is a trade off always in any sort of changes happening in the economic activity. The challenge for all policy makers and the economists is that of finding a suitable way to absorb these tremors. In this case, it is a trade off between 33 million and 1167 million. If we go by public choice theory, trade off will be of lager benefits to the larger population. But this does not mean that we are asking these small trading communities to go to Hell. instead , contrary to expectations, they are going to benefit as many established Indian players already commented that the most important step in this bargain is to take these small time merchants into confidence. whether it is HLL or Future group, they have already rolled out smart programs like coaching and equipping these trader community on the best practices in sales while storing their products in these kirana shops. Thus, these merchants learnt the art of selling the items in a professional way while customers in the rural areas started getting improved and quality service hitherto not offered.

All the studies show that farmers are at the losing end as a result of middlemen and lack of infrastructural facilities within the system. Politicians exploit the opportunity by declaring MSPs gauging the vote bank politics of the upcoming elections in the region. A distorted market is created banning import and export without any scientific reasons but by reflecting the paternalistic statehood. When millions of citizens starve, food grains are thrown into Bay of Bengal fortunately without causing much social unrest. No one declares hartal when the nation dumps the food grains into the ocean. why? are we not sensitive to the poor or do we lack the sensibilities? what are the reasons and what are the remedies?

Free speech and defamation

by D.Dhanuraj

Three events or incidents caught my attention in the recent past. Though they are three different contexts, I tend to look through the angle of freedom of expression and personal choice.

Hon.Kerala High Court punished comrade Jayarajan for calling the judges 'Shumbhan'. Later, he was given bail by Hon. Supreme Court. Not getting into the legality of the issues here, I started myself asking this question; 'Who is Mr Jayarajan?'. He is not a minister or not an MLA while he had these remarks on Judges. He is a state committee member to CPI(M). then the next question splashes across my mind; why should people listen to him? in fact, it has been the volume of the followers to his speech that got him into trouble. But there is no twitter or face book fan following pages reflecting the popularity and damage he has caused to the system by such remarks. then who is culpable? all the visual channels and print media had given adequate coverage for the reported speech. I am wondering if they had not given him that kind of coverage to his purported speech on several occasions, what would have irked Hon High Court and the petitioner? so, arent we looking at the brand image of a CPI(M) leader in an incurious way? how many state committee leaders of CPI (M) gets such a reception in the media? how can we say that national executive committee members of different parties in India do not indulge in acts as comrade Jayarajan had risked. Whom to blame here? or is there any blame at all?

Second incident is related to the banning of the film 'Dam999'. if the above logic is applied, the whole media shall be banned before banning the film. No Government has any right to ban any art form citing some mischievous reason. if that is the case, how are they different from fundamentalist forces and Taliban?I also believe that the decision makers are living in a different world completely detached from online and smart phone era. Even, I am against the philosophy behind the sensor boards. if Government bans the film, then the first organisation to be dismantled is Censor Board as they only gave the certification. In both the cases, it looks so funny.

Third event is that of the media restrain on Baby Bachan. If the same media had taken such a step in Jayarajan's case, it would not have ended up in wasting so many man hours and prime time TRPs. If someone had tried to follow acts and commissions of Tamil Nadu Government, they media would have received severe punishment for eulogizing comrade Jayarajan. If the Director of the film had followed the logic of the petitioner in the defamation suite, he would have ended up filing a defamation case against Tamil Nadu Government.

Now, I am confused and getting weired results from these permutations and combinations. so lets try what media did on a self regulatory way in Baby Bachan's issue until these wielding powers are debated and removed from the lexicon..

Saturday, November 12, 2011

Santhosh Pandit and Hippocratic Malayali

By D. Dhanuraj

I am surprised by the way media, public and critics approached Santhosh Pandit's 'Krishananum Radheyum'. Many say, it is not a film but a musical album whereas some others say that it is comedy show. whatever it is, as per the Censor Board certification, it is a movie with a 'U' certificate. media reports that theaters are packed for this movie and has already generated surplus revenue for the director. now comes the question many ask these days; Is this movie making a history in Malayalam film industry??

I don't consider nor make any comment as it is the audience and applause that one craft gets in its wider platform that make an art live for ages. in this case, let it be decided by the society and art connoisseurs. But I don't understand why everyone is passing teasing comments on Santhosh Pandit. The debate how good the film is that what  i appreciate but he cannot be called as criminal by anyone for such an enterprise. In Malayalam there are 70 to 75 films are released every year. I don't think we know each and every film for that matter. so why dont we leave this film into the bracket if we don't like it?

it is interesting to learn that the movie and its parts are available free of cost on social media. how many other directors have done it in the past? if you go to a book stall, we get books written by Thankshi to MT to local writer. how many of us have complained about such a disparage? if we don't like those writings of inferior quality, we don't subscribe to them; it is a personal choice. here also, it is a personal choice to watch the movie. same is the case with any music show attended by legends like Yesudas and Chitra in comparison with  local troupes. if the outcry is from the organisations like AMMA et al, I am not sure how do they have the privilege of becoming apostles of Malayalam movie industry.

21st century has inaugurated many unconventional media fronts to all of us.lets accept it. he used one of those platforms and nothing else. This film has not been imposed on anyone.  In a way, he is smart and innovative to convey a strong message to all of us on how bad the films are made in the industry. In the days to come, I am sure many more changes and shocks will be in Malayalam film industry. Monopoly of the associations will be challenged. what we need ti s the freedom for creativity and expression. it cannot be bonded to the politically affiliated trade unions and academies. One is free to watch and criticize it. But he should not be made joker by all of us as I think, in that case we are better cases to fit as jokers.

Indian Oil Corporation and petroleum price hike

By D.Dhanuraj

Some times it is very difficult to understand the rationale and logic of these numbers and demand Oil marketing Petroleum comapnies raise. Sometimes it is confusing also. According to reports, IOC had decalared  an equity dividend of 95.00% amounting to Rs 9.5 per share for the year 2010 - 2011. According to the annual report of IOC which is available on their website, the profit after tax for the year 2010-2011 is Rs 7445 crores. in Chairman's report, though he discusses about the gap between international price and the domestic price, he does not delve into the details of how much it costs to the company for every liter of Petrol sold. 

Moreover, IOC is a Maharatna company. the definition and status of Maharatna company might be different but it actually helps the share holders to understand the value of the company. Here, a Maharatna company which has a profit of Rs 7445 crores demands for the price hike telling the world that they are on loss. 

I am not able to decipher the whole argument of IOC here though I believe that petrol prices should link with international prices... are we inflating the share value of IOC by covering up cost and expenses of IOC?

Tuesday, November 08, 2011

Gender Perspective on Urban Development and Planning

The Indian constitution guarantees equal rights to women. In addition, India is a signatory to the Convention on Elimination of Discrimination against Women (CEDAW) thus underlining its commitment to the elimination of Discrimination against women. But it cannot be denied that gender inequality exists and in varying forms. In the urban space, women constitute a diverse group but with specific gender interests which are because of some common sets of roles and responsibilities. Cities in general have more number of women headed households, single women living by themselves, working women with travel needs, etc. In addition, urban life poses greater risks with regard to safety and security of women. According to a women’s safety audit study undertaken by UNHABITAT in 2007, feelings of insecurity and fear of crime and violence are highest in large cities.  The report says that though urban design and planning do not generate violence but they do create and environment that offers greater or lesser opportunities for violence. Thus, by virtue of bad design, isolation, inadequate and poor maintenance, women can be at more risk and insecure in public spaces. Thus any kind of urban development planning must address the needs of these diverse groups. In addition, the empowerment of women is imperative in addressing issues like poverty.

It is assumed that urban development is gender neutral and provides equal access to men and women. Infrastructure planning in India has been the forte of men. Women are generally under represented in the fields of governance and planning process. One of the main reasons is the absence of active involvement of women in the political sphere and local governments. Even this can be traced to the lack of freedom of women to move about safely and without violence (Bealle, 1996). Thus women have little say in the distribution of city resources and to make them work to their advantage. The various services and infrastructure projects that seem to respond to varied requirements for men and women have different impacts on them. For example roads that are designed without taking in to account the safety needs of women (without streetlights) increases crime against women and are not ‘gender neutral’. It is important to provide gender specific interventions which are implemented and monitored in order to benefit women. For example, if public transport is designed with a view to addressing the special requirements of women, then access points and schedules will ensure that women utilize the service well. Unequal access to education, health care, housing, etc. not only serves to dis-empower women and weaken their voices in planning, but it also impacts urban growth. (Khosla,2009).