Indian government’s self-made obstacles

Should we really prevent the government from announcing and acting on matters that have been going on for some time or simply postpone it and take a vacation from work till the elections are over?

The elections are scheduled to take place from 7th April and the process is spread over a month, with the full results being completed by end of May. The world's largest successfully operating democracy goes to polls and the whole world is watching its outcome. Will it be a hung house? Will the party in power lose and give way to a new change in political direction that will lead India? All these remain to be seen in the next 45 days.


In the meantime, we appear to be heading for all sorts of self-inflicted troubles. The first major blow, as far as the industry is concerned, relates to whether or not the revised gas prices outlined by the Oil Ministry months ago, scheduled to be effective from 1st April, comes into effect or not. Apparently, there are different views on the subject, including the reported statement that the matter is sub-judice and so, no one would like to cross the path with the Honourable Court. We are law abiding citizens.


However, according to the press, Moily, the Oil Minister is reported to have said that this is an on going process, where the issue of revision of gas prices, at the expiry of the existing contract, and which has been subject to debates and discussions actually cannot be stopped, because of the sanctity of the contract. Such a move would sound alarm signals to international business leaders who will hesitate to come in and invest. We now have to look for further guidance in the matter.


In a similar matter, the question of inviting private and public institutions to obtain new banking licence has been going on for almost nine months now. The bids closed on 1st July last year and a former governor of Reserve Bank of India (RBI), Bimal Jalan, and his team have spent months on scrutinising the applicants, before submitting the recommendations to the RBI. Here again, the major change made relates to corporate houses being allowed to apply, a deviation from the past, and now, as the elections are due, there is this fear that the announcement may be put on hold, if the Election Commission (EC) decides that the same may influence the electorate. There is the hint that the lucky corporate houses may be "tempted" to finance the parties, particularly the ruling, as they "may" have influenced the decision. This is an unfair assumption as the norms have been laid and a professional team of bankers have scrutinised the applicants.


The next issue is related with the Ministry of Commerce. The Ministry is on tenterhooks and jittery that the foreign direct investment (FDI) proposals relating to entry in Railways and Construction may also have to face a similar "ban" till the elections are over!


In a similar fashion, it may be mentioned that, according to the existing Foreign Exhange Management Act (FEMA), regulations do not permit the use of FDI funds to buy farm land. In the past, real estate companies have tried to bypass these restrictions.


The point at stake is that should we really prevent the government from announcing and acting on matters that have been going on for sometime or simply postpone the functions of the government and take a vacation from work till the elections are over? Don't we have interim budget, and let the new government take over the actual functions when they come to power?


Only those issues that are in the court of law should not be touched because they would, in real sense, be construed to be under their purview, and so to be classified as sub-judice. Other matters which have not been referred to the Courts may be allowed to carry on the work, in the normal fashion.


We reiterate that we are law abiding citizens and a clarification on these issues would put our mind to rest till the elections are over.


(AK Ramdas has worked with the Engineering Export Promotion Council of the ministry of commerce. He was also associated with various committees of the Council. His international career took him to places like Beirut, Kuwait and Dubai at a time when these were small trading outposts; and later to the US.)


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Tiring Out

Beware, tyres are getting damaged well before their tread life is over

Some of the best feedback I get on the motoring industry is from friends in the tyre industry. One issue that many of them tell me that they are facing now, increasingly all over India but especially in previously not so badly impacted areas like National Capital Region and the Mumbai-Nashik-Pune triangle, is the issue of tyres getting damaged well before their tread life is over. Which, in turn, leads to upset customers who come with complaints of tyres that are still new on tread life but have been damaged beyond repair because of bad road conditions. What’s the best solution for these?

1. Please try to select cars with tyre and rim sizes that permit at least 65% aspect ratio, if not 70%, especially for heavier vehicles. The simple reason is that, with such tyres, you have more air in them and, therefore, better life when running on bad roads. There may be a loss of control and performance, at the high speeds that those cars are designed for, but where is the need and the opportunity to go over 120-140kmph anyways, lately?

2. If everybody who had a car made one complaint each, along with a photo of and a location of a big pothole or a stretch of bad road to the relevant authorities, then maybe something would get done, because nothing else seems to be working in India other than public pressure.

3. In front-wheel-drive cars especially, but in other cars too, it is the front tyres which take the most punishment. (This fact appears to have missed the attention of designers at Tata Motors, who gave the Nano smaller tyres in front, by the way). Please ensure that the front tyres are always properly inflated, as both over- and under-inflated tyres can, and will, create conditions for severe damage when that sudden pothole or speed-breaker attempts to destroy them.

The coming general elections are going to impact the automobile world in India in many ways.
    Larger vehicles, like MUVs/SUVs and other four-wheel drives, will be requisitioned for election duties and there is nothing you will be able to do about it, but release the vehicle, often with a driver.
    Likewise, resale prices of second-hand vehicles, capable of carrying men and goods, will start going up; actually, this has already started happening. Coterminous with increased chances of theft.
   You can expect to be checked even more vigorously while travelling, especially if you are doing long, cross-country runs in out-of-state registered cars. Be sure all documentation is up-to-date.
    Do remove any and all political as well as religious stickers from your vehicle. This may be not just prudent, but also in keeping with the regulations.
Happy and safe driving then, until mid-May 2014!

Cost of Maintaining a Car

Do you keep track of all the cash expenses you incur on owning and operating a private car? I have asked the a few people, who live nearby, to do so, as cost to owner. I double-checked with the owners; the numbers in and around Delhi, are amazing.

Parking: Rs800-Rs1,500; PUC: Rs30-Rs40; Tolls: Rs1,200-Rs1,500; Cleaning material: Rs200 Driver meal & sundries: Rs500 (not including overtime)Traffic violations: Rs50 (About one in four cars gets pulled over for something or the other, every month, and it costs about Rs200 to ‘fix’; so that’s Rs50 per car, per month). That’s about Rs33,000 to Rs45,000 per annum which, typically, are not taken into account. I know some cars in running condition which are not worth that much; and these are cars not over 10 years in age, too.

Veeresh Malik started and sold a couple of companies, is now back to his first love—writing. He is also involved in helping small and midsize family-run businesses re-invent themselves.


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