Some Congressmen in the habit of mudslinging are trying to deflect focus from the anti-corruption debate by indulging in accusations against Anna Hazare and his team. Which other country has an unelected prime minister or, criminal cases against nearly a third of its elected representatives, and these same people are talking about democracy in peril from the unelected?
Congress Party spokesperson Manish Tiwari says, "Our democracy faces its peril from the unelected and the unelectable…." (13 June 2011) Finance minister Pranab Mukherjee labels Anna Hazare a tyrant! These Congressmen, who are habituated to mudslinging, have persistently indulged in hurling accusations at Anna Hazare and his team to deflect public focus from the Lokpal debate.
First they tried to fabricate a CD over some registration of a plot against the Bhushans, which attempt fell flat. Now they are trying to get people to believe that Mr Hazare is working for the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh/Bharatiya Janata Party and not for the masses. Only the corrupt, and not democracy, should feel threatened by such a mass movement. Democracy is the people, not the government.
And let it be understood by the arrogant who occupy positions of power, that democracy is not their personal domain or a 'members-only club' where 'unelected' citizens have no role to play. If that were so, should we assume that Mahatma Gandhi, Subhash Chandra Bose and the entire galaxy of our freedom fighters got away with their sins, and that Manish Tiwari would have prosecuted them for being 'unelected tyrants'. Such people must introspect and make a serious attempt to change their outlook.
I have ten observations that could help analyse the government's perception vis-à-vis the ground reality, in the ongoing turmoil in the country's political field.
1. No other democracy in the world has an unelected prime minister apart from India, which is supposed to be the world's largest democracy. Which is probably also why it is being said that "our democracy faces peril from its people…"
2. No other prime minister or president of a democracy has been as silent or as invisible as is the case in India.
3. No other government in the civilised modern world receives orders from an extra-constitutional authority (10 Janpath) as obsequiously as the Indian government.
4. No other government in the civilised world has been seen staggering so indecisively, and so clownish, as our government has been. First, they tried to make fun of Anna Hazare; then, terrified at the overwhelming response to his call and the support for the anti-corruption campaign, the government caved in and set up the joint drafting committee for the Lokpal Bill. Unable to answer questions raised by the civil society members of Hazare's team, Pranab Mukherjee calls him a tyrant! Next, the top four in the government prostrate before Baba Ramdev, then beat up the yoga guru's supporters two days later. What kind of 'democracy' is this, and who is destroying it?
5. No other democracy in the world has as many as nearly a third of its members of Parliament (mainly the Lok Sabha) (about 162 plus Suresh Kalmadi, A Raja, Kanimozhi and now may be even Dayanidhi Maran and P Chidambaram) facing criminal charges ranging from trespassing to murder. (This is more than a 26% increase over the record of members in the previous Lok Sabha. There are nine ministers in the central cabinet who face criminal charges, one of them for 'theft'. (According to National Election Watch, 76 members of Parliament are involved in serious criminal cases. A total 522 cases are pending against various members of Parliament; 275 of these are under serious sections of the Indian Penal Code.) What more do we need to add, Mr Manish Tewari, that will imperil democracy in India.
6. India ranks at 87 in the survey on the 'International Perception of Corruption' conducted by the World Bank and IBRD, Bertelsman Foundation, World Economic Forum, Global Insight and Transparency International Berlin. India stands on level with countries like Albania, Jamaica and Liberia with an index of 3.3 (out of 10), that has fallen from 3.5 in 2007 and 3.4 in 2008 & 2009.
7. No sane government, other than a heartless, tyrant would unleash brutality against a peaceful bhajan-singing congregation of innocent men, women and children, as happened at Delhi's Ram Lila ground, late night on 4-5 June 2011.
8. According to media reports (The Times of India, Ahmedabad, 8 June 2011), India not only tops the list of nations having tons of black money stashed away in Swiss banks, but its cache of black money ($1,546 billion) is far more than the combined total of the next four countries in the list of black money deposits namely, Russia, the UK, Ukraine and China ($1,056 billion). Contrast this with the poor farmers committing suicides, hapless pregnant women delivering babies at hospital gates, and destitute tribal masses fed up with a callous administration, seeking solace in a Maoist rebellion.
9. No other government can boast of so many scams as the UPA government.
10. Only the DMK appears to be ahead of the Congress (so far, at least) in the corruption race-so what if only a few of them have crash-landed in Tihar Jail!
However, these are merely some facts of the reality, not something that Manish Tiwari and Pranab Mukherjee would like to believe. They, like some of their colleagues in government, are suffering hallucinations and illusions. In Mr Hazare, they see a heavily-armed warrior-'a tyrant'-at the head of an angry army of India's masses, charging ferociously straight into them. This scenario reminds one of Wordsworth's adolescent thief, who was fleeing with a stolen boat, but he felt the hilltop behind was chasing him so menacingly, that the farther he went the bigger the shadow became that loomed over him. For, the more the government tries to shoo away the Lokpal and the uproar over corruption, the more vigorous becomes the public outcry against corruption.
Indian politicians could not have asked for more decent and loving enemies than Anna Hazare and his candle-wielding supporters, or Baba Ramdev, with his devotees practising abstinence and yoga. Arrogant governments in West Asia and North Africa are facing more violent and destructive uprisings. We have a choice to change peacefully.
While the anxiety of those in power is understandable, they cannot avoid the problem by looking in the other direction. The tide is unstoppable. The people deserve and they are demanding an effective Lokpal, to rein in rampant corruption and they will get it, with the government's your co-operation, or the tumult will crush authoritarian arrogance and install people's choice.
(The writer is a military veteran who commanded an Infantry battalion with many successes in counter-terrorist operations. He was also actively involved in numerous high-risk operations as second in command of the elite 51 Special Action Group of the National Security Guard (NSG.) He conducts leadership training and is the author of two bestsellers on leadership development that have also been translated into foreign languages.)
A recent survey indicates that 76% of Indians have a financial plan in place, but they were able to save just 150% more than those who had not planned for the future. This just goes to prove that a huge majority need to be better educated on how to plan for a future without a steady income—and start early in this process
In our previous article (Financial Planning: Positive approach but no support), we had mentioned how around 76% of Indian respondents to a recent global survey carried out by HSBC Bank on the 'The Future of Retirement', said that they have a financial plan in place. But there was a glaring contradiction—51% of them were worried about being able to cope with their finances after retirement.
There's another shocker in the survey—this 76% who have a plan were able to save just 150% more than the people who did not have a plan in place!
This shows that Indians have a long way to go as far as financial planning for the future is concerned. Considering the fact that the country does not provide any unemployment dole-or post-retirement benefits, for that matter—investors need to start financial planning early in life, a fact that Moneylife has been consistently pointing out.
And those who do not have a plan in place yet should begin immediately, as the survey results show that those who have planned have accumulated more wealth—albeit by a comparatively small amount, for reasons explained above.
So what is the global scenario, according to the HSBC survey?
On an average, the survey indicates that globally, those who have financial plans in place have accumulated nearly 250% more in savings and investments for their lives after retirement than those who are yet to build their nest egg. For reasons other than post-retirement investments, the ones who have planned have amassed 300% more in savings and other investments than those who do not have any kind of financial plan in place.
Along with the financial benefits, those who have planned their finances have a much more positive outlook toward their later life. But here's another shocker—just 50% of those surveyed globally had a plan in place.
The respondents to the survey were mostly between 30 years and 60 years, living in urban areas and having an above-average income (compared to Indian standards). The three income groups which the survey trifurcated werehigh income with gross annual household income over $100,000 (approximately Rs45,00,000); middle income with gross annual household income of $30,000 (Rs13,50,000) to US$100,000; and low-income, with gross annual household earnings below $30,000. For a country where just 30% of the population are from urban areas, a larger sample size would definitely be more worrying.
According to the report, "Despite India's rising prosperity, unease about the future naturally continues to concern the majority, and the most prominently cited reasons for this centre on fears about healthcare (41%), unforeseen events (45%) and the lack of performance from their investments (39%). Many people in India also worry that they have not saved enough for retirement (34%).
"While they are excited about their increased prosperity and longevity, people in India understand that longer (life after) retirement will be more difficult to fund. One in ten people do not know what their main source of income will be in retirement."
The report also says that "over the next 30 years, a higher proportion of the population will be of working age and when they retire, India will face the challenges of an ageing, non-working population. As life expectancy increases, the number of years spent in retirement is expected to get greater."
All this just goes to show that retirement planning is crucial. And the sooner you start, greater the benefit. The key to surviving uncertainty is preparation. Decisions therefore need to be made based on research and knowledge. The authenticity of the source should also be considered. The source should have unbiased views and opinions about different financial products and the advice should not favour those products which earn advisors a higher commission.
In India, there is a shortage of qualified advisors who thoroughly understand the intricacies of financial planning. This fact is thrown up in the survey too—55% of the respondents take advice from family and friends on financial products compared to the global average of 46%. Just 33% take advice from 'independent' financial advisors and 21% from banks.
One of the main barriers for an individual stopping him from going for financial planning is lack of time, especially for those in the higher-income groups. People appreciate financial advice which is suited to their busy lifestyles. Globally, 41% feel that a financial advice session should not last more than 30 minutes and should focus on their immediate needs, says the survey.
On receipt of the ministry’s reply, the CAG will examine the reply on merits and will hold an exit conference with it before making its final observations. “The ministry, therefore, appeals to all concerned to exercise restraint and allow the process to be completed,” a statement issued by the oil ministry said
New Delhi: Amidst a raging controversy over the Comptroller and Auditor General’s (CAG) draft report severely criticising its role in approving Reliance Industries’ (RIL) KG-D6 field cost, the oil ministry yesterday called for restraint and not jumping to conclusion saying the top auditor has not yet finalised its report, reports PTI.
“The CAG report is at the draft stage,” the ministry said in a press statement here. “This ministry is examining the draft report, it involves scrutiny of administrative/ policy issues and technical issues. The preparation of a detailed reply will take some time.”
“It is only after taking into account the reply of government that the office of CAG will suitably amend the draft report and send the final report for placing it on the table of Parliament,” it added.
The CAG in its draft report had alleged that the oil ministry and its technical arm DGH favoured RIL but did not say if by doubling of cost of developing eastern offshore KG-D6 field the Mukesh Ambani firm had overbilled the government and thereby caused loss to the state exchequer.
It also pulled up the ministry for going out of its way to grant nearly 1,700 sq km of additional area to Cairn India adjacent to its oil discovery in Rajasthan block.
“As the process of preparation of reply and its vetting by the office of CAG is yet to be completed, it would be premature for the ministry to give any response on the observations made in the draft report at this stage,” it said.
“It would be equally incorrect for the media commentators, political leaders and civil rights activists to jump to conclusions and thus short-circuit the process,” the statement added.
On receipt of ministry’s reply, the office of CAG will examine the reply on merits and will hold an exit conference with it before making its final observations.
“The ministry, therefore, appeals to all concerned to exercise restraint and allow the process to be completed,” the statement said.
The ministry said it was at its request in November 2007 that the CAG agreed to carry out special audit in respect of certain blocks/fields operated under pre-New Exploration Licensing Policy (NELP) and NELP regimes.
“The draft performance audit report has been received in this ministry on 8 June 2011,” it added. “While the above process is underway, the leaked draft report is being reported and commented upon in sections of the media.”
The CAG in its draft audit report on KG-D6 block said the ministry and the Directorate General of Hydrocarbons (DGH) also bent the rules to grant ‘huge benefits’ to RIL when it was allowed to retain the entire block, but said gains cannot be quantified.
“The increase in (Phase-1) cost from $2.39 billion proposed in the Initial Development Plan of May 2004 to $5.196 billion in the addendum to the Initial Development Plan is likely to have a significant impact on the government of India’s financial take.
“However, at this stage, based on the information provided, we are unable to comment on the reasonableness, or otherwise of the increase in cost, both overall and in respect of individual line items,” CAG said in the draft report.
Responding to the reports in media, RIL earlier this week said that “as a responsible operator, it has fully complied with the requirements in the Production Sharing Contract (PSC) at all times in conducting petroleum operations, and refutes any suggestion to the contrary.”
“The KG-D6 project has been globally acclaimed for its cost effective, speedy, flawless execution and smooth commissioning,” RIL had said in a statement.
Reliance had raised the cost of bringing to production India’s first deep-sea and the largest gas field after reserves almost doubled to 11.3 trillion cubic feet, raising the peak output two times to 80 million cubic meters per day.
An operator like Reliance is allowed to recover all the capital cost incurred on developing a field from revenues earned from the sale of oil or gas before profits are split between the stakeholders, including the government.
The CAG conducted the audit of the RIL accounts after allegations of ‘gold-plating’, or artificially inflating the development costs of Dhirubhai-1 and 3 gas fields, two of the 18 discoveries in KG-D6 block, were levied by the Anil Ambani Group.
The premier auditor, whose report will be tabled in Parliament after incorporating comments from the oil ministry, said RIL never had the intention of developing KG-D6 gas fields as per the initial cost estimates and said it did not initiate tendering for equipment as per the original plan.
CAG recommended that the “role of DGH and government of India representative on the Management Committee may be closely scrutinised to see why the operator was allowed to violate the provisions of Production Sharing Contract (PSC) and not adhere strictly to the terms of the approved initial development plan”.
On Cairns India, the CAG said as per the PSC, the total contract area of the company’s operated RJ-ON-90/1 block' in Rajasthan was 11,108 sq km. The oil ministry agreed to Cairn’s request for grant of additional 852.2 sq km in August 2004 and 856 sq km in March 2005.
“In our view, the contract area under the PSC is sacrosanct... It can by no means be argued that already discovered reservoirs extend over the entire extended area of 852.20 sq km (and) 856 sq km,” it said.