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10 things Jayalalitha can and should do for TN!

In Thoughts on May 15, 2011 by shsmani Tagged: , , , , , , ,

The results are out in the open, the people of TN have expressed their intentions very clearly. While the debate is still on as to whether this was a vote against corruption or the same anti-incumbency, one thing is clear, people want a change and have chosen Jayalalitha to be their agent of change.

Tamil Nadu as a state is not as much in dire straits as Bengal. This gives Jayalalitha with a wonderful opportunity to capitalize on the strengths of the state and take it from peak to pinnacle. At a stage when competitiveness among the states is at an all time high, it not just sufficient to make the environment conducive for investment, but also to go out and woo the investors (something similar to Vibrant Gujarat Global Investor’s summit).

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One would expect Jayalalitha to have matured and not be obsessed with trivial details like she did in her last term, by altering the entrance to CMBT to highlight her name board. However initial signs are not positive, for she has already ordered shifting back the secretariat to the Fort from the swanky new building for her oath taking ceremony.

As the saying goes “The one who worries about the best spot in the table is not important and the one who is important seldom worries about his spot in the table”. I think it is time to move on over such childish obsessions and work on things that carry much more importance to the well being of the state. Hoping that sooner rather than later, the focus will shift towards things of importance, here are things that should be at the top of her list.

1) State Treasury –As has been the case in the past, this time too the ADMK government will be handed over a treasury which is in deficit. Going by the track record of Jayalalitha in revenue collection, it should not come as a surprise if she can turn this situation around half way through the 5 year term. After all, it doesn’t hurt to be cash rich. This surplus in turn can be used constructively to fund a number of projects listed below.

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2) Power – Power has been one of the strengths of Tamil Nadu as a state. It was one of the very first states in the country to provide electricity to every single village under its jurisdiction. Off late there has been an increase in power outages both in the urban as well as rural areas. While a number of power projects have been initiated, it is essential to ensure that these power projects do not hit unwarranted delays and cost overruns leading to further shortage of power. In fact, if Jayalalitha can

deliver on her power promise as per her election manifesto, Tamil Nadu might actually have a useful surplus of power that can be used to trade for things that Tamil Nadu lacks in, for example water.

3) Infrastructure – While a number of projects are ongoing and planned on the infrastructure front especially in the road and highways, we are way behind schedule from where should have been. A number of these projects should have been implemented in the late 80’s and early 90’s so that we never had the congestion problem that we are facing today. However, it is essential we have a robust infrastructure in place with focus on port development and the connectivity between ports and upcoming industrial towns.

4) Education – This is another area, where Tamil Nadu is considered a leader. While there is no dearth for educational institution, the emphasis should be on making education available to all. Even today, a number of children in the rural areas are having to travel tens of kilometers to reach a proper primary school, leave alone secondary and higher secondary. Most importantly, not all educated people are employable. The government should take the help of the industry in actively imparting skills and creating awareness on what makes a student a good worker. The common remark from the people who have struggled and come up in life from the rural areas is that, we did not have awareness, we did not have anyone to guide us. If that gap can be bridged, I am sure we will see many more stalwarts from Tamil Nadu in different walks of life.

5) Industry friendliness – While not being anti industry and anti development, Tamil Nadu can do much more to woo investors into the state. While Chennai and its suburb of Sri Perumbudur is widely know as the Detroit of South Asia, we have still not capitalized on that. The fact that there was zero efforts from the government to bring the Formula One track to Chennai, which boasts of one of the oldest race tracks in the country, came as a total shocker. That would have certainly brought the focus of the entire motoring world to Chennai, and in turn Chennai could have been showcased as a major manufacturing hub, and it is only appropriate that the auto hub gets to be the home of India’s F1 race track. While Auto is just one industry, there are no dearth of opportunities for other. The need of the hour is not just to set up a single window approval system for new industries, but to widely publicize and bring investments into Tamil Nadu.

6) Agriculture – Tanjore, was called ‘Rice Bowl’ of India not without reason. It is one of the most fertile  agricultural belt in the whole country. Thanks to the lack of water (read cauvery), in the recent past that district has been anything but conducive to farming. While we have not reached the levels of farmer suicide like other states, such a situation is not far away. While water is an important problem that needs to be addressed, there are other technological advancements that can be subsidized to the farmers and also creating awareness on modern farming techniques could make the difference. Subsidizing Diesel is only making ‘snazzy gas guzzling SUV’ owners happy, nothing more.

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7) Medicare – While medical facilities in Tamil Nadu is world famous and there are medical tourism packages being promoted, a number of sections of the Tamil Nadu population still doesn’t have access to basic medical facilities. Making it mandatory for the newly graduated Medical students to serve in rural areas alone is not a sufficient measure, though that is a first step in the right direction. It must be made mandatory for corporate hospital chains (which are at par with star hotel chains) to provide, if not  swanky facilities, at least basic facilities in rural areas and the specialty doctors be requested to take tours to such remote locations from time to time and serve the poor. If college pass outs are expected to do this, it is only appropriate that the specialists and experts lead from the front.

8 ) Tourism – Tourism is not well promoted in Tamil Nadu. Contrary to the popular belief there is no dearth for tourist spots in the state. With one side of the state completely along the coast, it is surprising

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there aren’t many beach resorts to cater to the domestic and international tourist population. It would be a good idea to mimic USA in setting up State and National Parks across the state. Once, the basic amenities are provided and the location is showcased, it would just be a matter of time before locales around that develops into a thriving tourism towns. Not to forget the rich temple architecture all across Tamil Nadu which is already attracting tourist from around the globe. If only, the government takes steps to promote tourism, it could be a top contributor to the state economy.

Combine this with the concept of Medical tourism, we will begin to see a number of hospitals being developed in such tourist locales which not only improves tourism but also increases medical facilities around that area, which will be a big benefit to the locals.

9) Law and order – With the growth of industry, tourism comes another challenge; that of safety and security across the state. Again, Jayalalitha has a proven track record in maintaining law and order in the state, it will subjected to testing times with population explosion. It would only be wise to ramp up the police department and bring down the crime rates in order to be people friendly, both local and tourists.

10) Environmental Development – While this is not exactly a revenue generating activity, it will certainly do a lot of good to the city of Chennai and Tamil Nadu state as a whole. With a flurry of construction activities going on in the city, dust clouds are at the highest levels. To add to that state of pollution, record number of trees are cut down to accommodate the infrastructure development. While the adverse impact of these may not be seen in the immediate future, it is certain to affect the population in the long run. Mature government is that, which not only works towards development, but towards sustainable development.

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It is not entirely the government’s responsibility to make Chennai and Tamil Nadu a better place to come live in, it is also the responsibility of the citizens from different walks of the life including workers, entrepreneurs and so on. However, the direction and the drive has to come from the top. Once government puts in the foundation and creates sufficient awareness on top of that, there is no looking back for the state of Tamil Nadu.

While these 10 things struck me as important not in the exact same order, there is more Jayalalitha can do to TN in her upcoming 5 year term for instance e-governance is one such thing. Hit the comments section below and share your thoughts on what should be her priorities.

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Top 10 worst gifts for your female friend!!!

In Thoughts on May 15, 2011 by shsmani Tagged: , , , , ,

birthday gift

The other day, along with a friend of mine, we were trying to find a good gift for one of our friends. Given the fact how knowledgeable we were in these things, we were never close to deciding on anything (poor store keeper, he showed us every single item in the store).

The so called practical thinker in me was against getting anything like flower vase, crystal vase or any other thing which doesn’t serve a practical purpose and my friend was equally clueless. So banking on my practical thinking he landed with an innocent idea of gifting a “Weighing Machine” for her. What a brilliant idea??? 😛

I can hear your mind voice already 😀 I realized what  a bad idea it was and later in the day when we all met at Tuscana Pizzeria in Nungambakkam (which is a good Italian restaurant btw), we decided to find out what our female friends’ thoughts are on this.

Apart from being ridiculed for our totally lack of sense, here are the items that came up with deodorant being at the top of the list.

So here goes the list, never gift these:

1) Deodorant

2) Weighing Machine of course 😉 (it is a bad gift idea in the first place, leave alone for a girl)

3) Cookery book

4) Dictionary or a thesaurus (again a bad gift idea overall)

5)  Gadgets (it seems iPod is an exception, and strictly no gaming consoles)

6) Home appliances (Kitchen appliances a strict no no)

7) Beauty supplies ( there seems to be some different opinions on this, nevertheless)

8 ) Re-tweeting is cool, re-gifting is not (whatever the item might be, and even if you still do it, remember to remove your incoming name stickers)

9) ___________

10) ______________

Well the title suggests Top ten, but then I could gather only 8, never mind when ever I hit the number 10, I don’t have to change the title (my laziness instinct)!

Share your ideas in the comments below!

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TN Election 2011 – Anti Incumbency or Vote against Corruption???

In Opinion on May 13, 2011 by shsmani Tagged: , , , , , , , , , ,

 

With the verdict out, the clear question on every one’s mind is, have people voted against corruption or is it just an anti incumbency factor with no other choice than to fall back to the other major party in the state as it has been happening since inception of Tamil Nadu as a State with the exception of 1991, which is largely attributed to the shock assassination of the then Prime Minister Rajiv Gandhi.

The fact that Tamil Nadu has seen only 4 full time Chief Ministers ever since it became Tamil Nadu state is a testimony to the strong hold, the regional parties in DMK and ADMK have over the political affairs in the state. Those four being Annadurai, MGR, Karunanidhi and Jayalalitha. We have had intermittent chief TN Elections 2011

Ministers in Janaki Ramachandran and Nedunchezian who lasted only a few weeks both of them were acting Chief Ministers. The only other chief Minister who was in office for about 6 months is my O.Pannerselvam, who was widely regarded as the dummy to AIADMK supremo Jayalalitha.

The fact that Tamil Nadu has seen only 4 full time Chief Ministers ever since it became Tamil Nadu state is a testimony to the strong hold, the regional parties in DMK and ADMK have over the political affairs in the state. Those four being Annadurai, MGR, Karunanidhi and Jayalalitha. We have had intermittent chief Ministers in Janaki Ramachandran and Nedunchezian who lasted only a few weeks both of them were acting Chief Ministers. The only other chief Minister who was in office for about 6 months is my O.Pannerselvam, who was widely regarded as the dummy to AIADMK supremo Jayalalitha.

Looking back at the pattern of how the parties have been in power clearly indicates that it has been alternating every 5 years with the only exception being MGR’s 10 year term between 1977 and 1987 which was also came to end because of his death. Jayalalitha being in power 3 times in 1991, 2001 and now in 2011. Karunanidhi has been the Chief Minister maximum number of times at 5. Interestingly, only 3 out of his 5 terms have been full 5 year terms and even in that, one of his full three terms came to a close because of imposing President’s rule on account of corruption charges against Karuna’s government. On the Contrary Jayalalitha has enjoyed 2 out of 2 full 5 year terms so far.

Talking about Jayalalitha’s 2 terms, they weren’t bed of roses either. She began her tenure in 2001 with the controversial arrest of DMK chief Karunanidhi, which was basically a tit for tat for her arrests during his previous tenure. It was further marred by her actions against Kanchi seer and then the State government employees who went on strike.  Not to forget the O Pannerselvam episode because of her court cases. Her earlier tenure between 1991 and 1996 was dominated by the Sasikala episode and the grand marriage of his adopted son and the resultant power cuts due to the extravagance of the marriage, not to mention the various scams and court cases. 

While DMK’s government have been marred by corruption charges and law disorder across the state, ADMK’s government though excelled on anti-corruption and very good law and order situation was marred by excesses not only to politically affiliated people but also common people. Each of her actions affected the sentiments of various sections of the public, which was clearly visible in the 14th Lok Sabha elections where ADMK did not get even a single seat in the Parliament.

It is very clear that the People of Tamil Nadu deliver justice through the voting system every term. They are angered by DMK’s corrupt government or the excesses of ADMK government and vote for the other party. There is a slight tilt in the trend in favor of ADMK which tends to suggest that people are more angered by DMK’s corrupt practices and the growth of DMK chief’s family, which by the way is an extended family spread across cities and towns and it is interesting that it is considered legal, which in itself is a separate discussion entirely. All 2 terms when AIADMK were sent out of power indicates this.

In 1991, there were approximately, 11 million voters and in 1996 when AIADMK were voted out of power, there were only approximately 6 million voters. It was widely reported that the missing 5 million names in the electoral roles were Pro ADMK voters. In 2006, in spite of ADMK’s excesses in the first 3 years of its term, its reversal of policies and good governance in the 2005 and 2006 certainly helped them gain some lost ground. While the expectation was that DMK will sweep the elections, however ADMK managed to win 61 seats, while MDMK not only won a few seats but also, divided the anti DMK vote between ADMK and DMDK which indirectly led to DMK’s victory.

So clearly, DMK were not the favorites even when they came to power in 2006, so it does not come as a surprise this time, ADMK has made a clean sweep in the elections. This added to the fact that DMK’s atrocities this time have exceeded all borders. Be it Karuna’s favors for his family both at the State and at central level, or be it their dominance in most of the industries in the state including the movie industry or the much publicized 2G scam. While anti-incumbency has been the leading reason for regime changes every term, this time people have expressed their minds very clearly by making it a clear win for ADMK. This shows the growing anger of the atrocities committed by the DMK led front in the state.

People of Tamil Nadu have a very good track record of display of intent through the electoral process. Unfortunately, there are not many options available. With Central parties like Congress and BJP never a force to reckon with, people are left to choose from the better of the two. With ADMK coming into power this term, one can only hope that they capitalize on their track record of good governance and go on to give a good 5 years to the People of Tamil Nadu. If anybody, people of Tamil Nadu certainly deserve a good government.

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KO and the relevance to present day India!

In Review on May 13, 2011 by shsmani Tagged: , , ,

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              The recent Tamil Movie KO has got a good feedback from the masses. Thanks to the timing and some excellent cinematography. From a critical stand point, there have been a number of complaints of how the subject has been mishandled and dramatized.

While all of that is partly true, we are forgetting some very real aspects of the Indian/Tamil Nadu politics this movie has portrayed. Let us also keep in mind that being released in the Tamil movie industry this was no exception from being hijacked by the largest family in Tamil Nadu. As a result of which we saw some isolated scenes in the movie supporting the actions of the existing government.

After watching the movie, I was very impressed by the concept of Photo journalism. Being a person interested in photography I was really impressed at the photography displayed in the movie especially during the opening of the movie. We will also have to give credit to the music and the locations of the songs, though the timing of the songs in the movie is questionable.

Moving beyond the basics and technical aspects of the movie, we get to the underlying message of the movie. For more than 75% of the running time of the movie, the central theme or the message of the movie appeared to be Youth’s contribution to politics. How infusing the enthusiasm and the sincerity of youth only can take Politics (both in Tamil Nadu and in India) to greater levels of transparency and towards excellence.

Then comes the twist to the story, this is where the Director shines brightly and so does the underlying message. The need for the hour is not youth, but it is “Honest” citizen who are willing to take on the baton of being accountable and responsible citizen representative. It highlights impressively how irrespective of whether being a youth or not, one’s actions are governed by their principles. “Youth” factor doesn’t necessarily mean honesty. This is indeed the harsh reality in India today.

At a time when the average age group of Indians is less than 40, we needed a veteran like Anna Hazare, who is past his retirement age to spear head the anti corruption campaign. What in Anna Hazare made him a popular figure and generate so much of following. It was certainly not his age, it was his honesty that created trust and a mass following.

Having said that, can Anna Hazare or the lokpal bill drafted under his supervision be the solution to our corruption problems? The answer is far from ‘Yes’ infact very very far. As per the lokpal bill, the chair persons for the lokpals and the lokayukthas are going to noted personalities from different walks of life and normal citizens. How many of them are honest?? That is the 176 lakh crore Rupees Question!!!

Consider small independent group of citizens, for instance a Colony association or a flat owners association with just 10 members. The operations of these small groups are any thing but smooth. Constant accusation of money laundering, misuse of association funds, so on and so forth. These small associations we are talking about are handling money in the range of few hundreds or few thousands. They award work to workers they know, side with some members of the group and sideline others. With this being the case, how do we expect these same citizens to sit in the lokpals or lokayukthas and deliver justice?

The need of the hour is not a youth leader or another bill, it is Enforcement of the existing laws and accountability of the people in office. Moreover, the need is for a fundamental shift in the mindset of every single citizen, not just the politicians or the bureaucrats. Like Tamil Comedian Vivek, portrayed in one of his comedies, it is the case of the chicken and egg story, which stops first. But then, as seen in most of the success stories of any organization the directions come from the top. Successful are those teams that are lead from the front by the leaders.

The same has to happen in India too, we need honest and sincere leaders at the top to lead us from the front. It doesn’t matter, if that person is a youth or a veteran, emphasis is on honesty and clean principles.

Unfortunately KO ended up being a half cooked meal, with no clear message at the end. This is mostly due to the pressure from the producers as was evident from the message regarding freebies in the movie.

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This is what I am talking about.. Superb Race

In Opinion on May 13, 2011 by shsmani Tagged: , , , , , , , ,

“This is what I am talking about” seem to Seb’s favourite quotes. These words hold true not only for Sebastian Vettel or Red Bull but for Formula One sport as a whole. What a race it was at Istanbul, overtakings, position changes, still no huge accidents. And the other three races in Australia, Malaysia and Shangai were no less in terms of excitement and action.

With about 1/5th of the races for the season behind us, there is no way of predicting the champion of this season. Sebastian Vettel appears to be a strong contender, but last years championship is still fresh in our memories where in Seb came from behind to win the championship while he had never led the points all along in the season. This season, McLaren seem to be very competitive though they missed out in Istanbul because of messy pit stops.

Talking about Ferrari, it is clear they are lacking Genuine pace, both in terms of Engine power and aero dynamic package, but Alonso chauffeuring one of the Red Horses, they are far away from being written off not to forget Ferrari’s technical strength in bouncing back mid season.

Mercedes GP with Rosberg and the Schumacher is a bit of enigma, they seem to be on and off the pace and are lacking consistency. My doubts are that Mercedes lacks the genuine pace and are just carrying out a marketing Gimmick by running lower fuel levels in practice and also in races to get more TV exposure. Look at the standings, they are behind Renault. I think their true pace was at display at the second race in Malaysia, everything else appears to be far from their real pace. The fact that teams lose out in millions in sponsorship for every position they lose seem to support this theory. But it is surprising that Mercedes is adopting this strategy because during the season the truth is likely to come out, maybe they believe they can some how have a miracle with 7 time champion in their team.

Renault with the Lotus branding has been going from strength to strength this year. With the absence of Kubica with a tragic accident they started off the season with uncertainty, however Vitaly Petrov has proved that he has it in him to lead from the front. Renault is a team to watch out for this year.

Force India doesnt seem to be in the reckoning at all, from being a mid fielder to giving Renault a run for their money last season, this year they are at the back of the pack with the fear of losing out to teams like Toro Rosso and Sauber. Not sure what seems to be the problem but they just don’t seem to be getting the setup right. They can depend on tracks like Belgium to always give them an edge, they have to develop their machines to suit the other tracks as well.

Williams have nothing to write home about with the worst starts to a season in a long time. HRT brings up the end of the pack with Indian Narain Karthikeyan ‘Driving’ the car around the track rather than racing…

The biggest difference to this year has been the tyres. Pirelli has done what it was supposed to do which doesnt come as a surprise because its purpose this year was to make sub standard tyres which degrades much faster. This is a funny parody because F1, which is considered the pinnacle of Motor sports and one that strives towards technical advancement and excellence has opted to take a move like this to make it a better sporting spectacle. Agreed, it has delivered the results, increased and renewed interest and excitement on and off the track, but I would think F1 as a sport has taken a step backward rather than forward with the tyre strategy. No wonder Bridgestone wanted to exit the sport as it would be detrimental to their company. On the other hand, for Pirelli, it doesnt matter as they are in their comfort zone 🙂

There a number of other measures that F1 could have taken to increase the competitiveness in the race, like multiple tyre vendors which puts the teams on different strategy and the last time we had this with Bridgestone and Michelin, it was certainly a great season in terms of competition. Another way is to tweak the qualifying format, very simply they could reverse the order in which the competitors start. The winner of the first race starts last and the last position starts first. Some fans would consider this extreme, in which case we can divide the track position into 3 segments 1-8, 9-16, 17-24 based on their championship positions and apply this order within the segments.

The other star of this season has been the DRS – Drag Reduction System. This has not only increased overtaking opportunities in the races, but also reduced the accidents. This has been possible because with the Drag Reduction System activated at the car trying to overtake, the car being overtaken is no match in terms of pace. This has been a major factor because before the straights come to an end the the car has moved over completely from behind to the front of the other car, there by reducing chances of contact between the two cars.

So far this season, while Sebastian Vettel and Red Bull are pulling ahead of the pack, the heroes have been the DRS and the Degrading tyres from Pirelli. This season will no doubt be one of the most interesting F1 season in recent times. I wont be surprised to see a two way or  three way tie going into the final race or as a result of the final race itself.

F1 Fans.. This is one season you would not want to miss!!!

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Recalls – How about applying this concept to the electoral process?

In Thoughts on April 28, 2011 by shsmani Tagged: , , , ,

This past year, we have been hearing about a lot of recalls, predominantly in the automobile space. So what is this recall? Recall is the process of taking the car out of the roads back to the company facility for unsatisfactory performance or probable concerns!

How about we apply this same concept to the electoral process? We elect MPs, MLAs, and elected representatives to the various civic bodies in our country. How good would it be if we had a recall switch to recall and throw a MP or MLA or any other elected representative for that matter, out of office for non-performance. Think about it, there is so much we can achieve by this; we could have prevented the huge scams like the 2G from happening.

Few critics could argue that tApplying Recall to the electoral Processhis would add the additional cost of re-elections and the subsequent burden to the tax payers. I would like to remind them as to how much of our taxpayers’ money has already gone into the pockets of vested interests as a result of these scams. One way or the other, the tax payers hard earned money is not fully and properly utilized so why not have a control mechanism in which, tax payers get to have their say more frequently than the 5 year period. This way at least there will be some pressure to perform.

The concept of recall in the electoral process is not completely new, rather not new at all. According to Wikipedia, the process of recall elections dates back to the Athenian democracy and is prevalent in a number of constitutions across the globe today. They include counties like USA, Venezuela, and parts of Canada and Switzerland.

More recent example of a successful recall is the 2011 recall of Carlos Alvarez, mayor of Miami-Dade county, Florida. Imagine, if we had a similar process in India, we could have by now removed a number of our “tainted” ministers who should never be in office in the first place. The term “tainted” minister pains me. How could a person be guilty of malpractice, dishonesty and deceit hold a public office and be an elected member?

Lokpal Bill and Anna Hazare’s crusade against corruption are our first steps toward the right direction. However it will be rendered meaningless if the enforcement of the laws are weak. How do we keep it under check? It is through such tighter control over the elected body via processes like recall elections.

Ideally the setup for India should be to have the ability to recall independent elected members, rather than the entire government. That way re-election spending can be reduced and people can send out feelers if they are unhappy with the performance of the government.

Well, this is the rants of yet another Indian of the 1.2+ billion Indians. Hope to see the light of the day when India grows to its fullest potential, sooner rather than later!