The average Indian has much more serious problems to attend to, like making both ends meet, or how to procure high-priced essentials, or get decent health care, and the hugely expensive UID programme isn’t going to make any difference about this
Thanks to a pliant media (and through the Radia tapes we now know who controls the mainstream media) and the UIDAI's media campaign (tax payers' money spent to brainwash people) one almost begins to feel that lack of identity is a real problem in India. In urban India, however, one need only look at a few examples to bust the myth being propagated by the UID campaign. Here are some examples from lower middle-class Bangalore.
Joy is a car mechanic who has his own mechanic shop. He works deligently, gets a few customers, and does a very good job for a very reasonable price. He is not a dealer or an approved mechanic for any of the big car brands; he doesn't even have an air-conditioned showroom that might attract upmarket customers. He operates in a low-class locality in Bangalore called Viveknagar.
Joy basically lives a hand-to-mouth existence, and to his credit has created a few jobs too. Joy's mother, 75, was ill some time back. She was taken to the government-owned Bowring Hospital. She was diabetic and also suffered from a heart disease. The doctors told her that one of her kidneys was not functioning and that the heart was functioning only about 10%, and that was only a matter of time before she would leave for her heavenly abode. They asked that she be taken back home.
No tests like echocardiogram, or a treadmill test, let alone an angiogram. It puzzles me how the doctors came to the conclusion simply on the basis of an ECG. I won't be surprised if they looked at Joy's ability, or rather inability, to pay for the sophisticated tests and surgical procedures and concluded that Joy and his mother were not worth wasting time on. Joy had a resigned look on his face-he told me it is all a matter of fate. A few weeks after his mother was brought home, she passed away.
Harry is a painter who works for a big paints manufacturing company in Bangalore. He earns Rs10,000 a month. Harry is a Bangalorean, owns a small house in the HAL locality. He has rented out a part of his house, and that gets him an income of Rs2,000 a month.
Harry's problem is that two years ago, his son who was about 12 years old had an accident. His leg was damaged; the bones near his thighs were damaged. The hospital screwed up or some such thing happened, and his son will forever be on crutches. Harry spent Rs2 lakh on medical treatment. Not knowing the intricacies of the medical condition, or how the hospitals and doctors operate, Harry sees no solution for his son's health condition. All Harry does is plead with me, "Pray for my son".
I could describe a hundred stories like these, deaths that should not have happened, or of permanent disabilities due to a lack of knowledge of patients, about private health-care costs that are very high, and dismal health care in public hospitals.
Among the several people in the low-class localities of Bangalore that I know, the story is more or less the same. Many die by the time they are 50, bad food habits, drinking and ignorance of modern health care leading to heart attack in most cases. When the sole bread-earner dies, the cycle repeats. Children don't have the money to study and take up a higher professional degree, as a result of which their earning capacity is dismal. The loop will continue to the next generation. This to me is urban lower middle-class India's story.
Unless I am drastically wrong somewhere, I believe what urban India needs is cheap government subsidised education, affordable health care, and good education that can give people higher-paying jobs. For instance, today the IT sector has high-paying jobs but not enough talented and skilled people. There are too many low-skilled or unskilled people around, and most job vacancies require higher skills. Thus, there
is a mismatch.
I cannot understand how UID (unique identity number), or deploying a sophisticated biometric scanner is going to help these people. Sure, they will enroll in the UID programme; for that matter, show them any carrot and they will enroll in anything. They are too naive to see through the complex, sophisticated business models of the fat-cat corporates.
Portable identity is touted as a feature of this UID programme. Eliminating fake ration cards is touted as another feature. In a recent talk by the IT secretary of Karnataka on a panel discussion on UID, he mentioned how computerisation of traffic records and subsequent linking of records had helped increase revenues from traffic fines in the state. This may be true, but how high a priority should this be? Even with a few fake ration cards, a poor family could make say Rs5,000 a month more by pilfering grains and kerosene. Compare this with the hundreds of thousands of crores taken away by sophisticated scamsters in the Commonwealth Games, the Adarsh army building case and the 2G spectrum allocation matter. Who should the government be going after? Big crooks or petty thieves?
Coming to catching traffic violators, it is interesting that most traffic cops prefer to catch two-wheeler riders over those going around in say luxury cars. The concept of a hierarchical society is ingrained in our psyche so much, more so in the psyche of even our cops. That all citizens should be equal before the law is hardly practiced in our country.
Coming back to the UID programme, why spend Rs50,000 crore of tax payers' money to catch a petty thief? And to whom are we going to give the contracts for biometric scanners and such other contracts to? It would have helped if the contracts for biometric scanners were given to Indian companies who could have done research on biometrics, manufactured the scanners in India and as a result would have created good technology and good jobs in India. Indeed, India could have become leaders in biometric research and manufacturing, and these companies could have then tried to get into foreign markets. However, these contracts have been given to the likes of Microsoft and L-1 identity solutions. L-1 has had or continues to have a number of former US government intelligence personnel as its top executives or employees.
Indeed, it takes a few conversations with a man on the street, and not moving about the malls alone, to see the state of the nation and the aam aadmi's problems.
Even the so-called conveniences attributed to come from UID-instant mobile connection for instance-would be useful really for the upmarket crowd who are busy making money and cannot afford to make even two visits to a mobile providers' office, or do not have the time to arrange for address proof and identity proof documents. The aam aadmi on the other hand has time at his disposal; he wouldn't give much importance to this convenience. But he has much more serious problems to deal with-like how to make both ends meet; how to deal with the huge price rise of essential commodities; how to get health care; problems that are much more serious than helping you shop for the right item at the click of a mouse.
(The author has a BTech from IIT Mumbai, and a PhD from Columbia University, New York. He runs a start-up, Teknotrends Software Pvt Ltd, that does cutting-edge work in the area of network security.)
Tata Power boards the Mumbai local trains for a new commercial, to connect with the city’s electricity consumers. Unfortunately, it’s a theme that’s been done to death and doesn’t really help to persuade household power users to shift from Reliance Power
The Tatas have been supplying power that runs the local trains in Mumbai. And it's been nearly 100 years since they began that activity. Ok, I am impressed! But then, er, what's in it for me, the aam aadmi?
To be frank, I have no idea; I can only guess. This is Tata Power's way of running its corporate campaign. They have decided to put their flagship activity-that of supplying power to the local railways-to leave the rest of us household electricity consumers awestruck. And switch to Tata Power, immediately.
To achieve that objective, they have released a new commercial that attempts to tug at your heart strings. It's called 'Mumbai ki lifeline'. And the ad features an uncle who boards the same 8.30am suburban train each day. And he's been doing that for over two decades.
The commercial is all about the special bond he shares with his co-passengers, who board the same train and the same bogie. Their special characteristics, their expert comments on current affairs, the joint celebrations with rasgollas, sharing stock market tips, jokes, forecasts, etc, etc. And the connection? Mumbai's lifeline is the local train. And the local train's lifeline is Tata Power.
Ummm, am not really impressed-for both creative and strategic reasons. As for the commercial itself, while the idea is no doubt very Mumbai, this whole concept of Mumbaikars bonding on a local train has been done to death, in movies and TV soaps. It's kinda getting tiring now. In fact, for me, the setting has strong negative connotations.
When I used to travel by the locals some years ago, I noticed such gangs would operate like the mafia. They'd reserve seats for each other using their soiled hankies, and create huge commotion inside the bogie, much to the annoyance of other hapless passengers. So apart from the feeling of déjà vu, the idea may actually put some people off. And even the situations depicted are packed with clichés. Stock tips, marriages, jokes, blah blah… At the very least some effort ought to have been made to cut the stereotypes and come up with surprising stories.
On another front, I am quite happy with Reliance for my household needs. There's never a breakdown (unlike Tata Power, which claims a kite tripped their lines and resulted in a massive power shut down in SoBo recently!). And their billing is pretty accurate. So the Tatas may be running the local trains. Good for them. But I have no reason to switch.
Simply put: Totally ineffective communication.
The local market is likely to witness a cautious opening following tepid cues from the global arena. Wall Street closed mostly lower overnight as investors digested comments made by Federal Reserve chief Ben Bernanke over the weekend and on concerns that the ongoing European debt crisis will derail the recovery process. The Asian pack was mostly in the red as worries that a weak dollar would impact export-oriented economies in the region. The SGX Nifty was down 3.50 points at 5,988.50 over the previous close of 5,992.
On Monday, the market opened on a firm note on support from its regional peers, which were trading in positive terrain, following assertions by US Federal Reserve chief Ben Bernanke over the weekend that the central bank would buy more bonds, in addition to the amount announced last month, to boost growth. Key benchmarks began their upward journey and touched the day's high around noon. However, investors resorted to profit-booking at higher levels pulling the indices below their psychological levels and ensuring a flat close, for the second day in a row. The Sensex added 14.38 points (0.07%) to close at 19,981.31. The Nifty was 0.55 points (0.01%) lower at 5,992.25.
The US markets ended trade mostly in the red on Monday as investors studied the implications of the comments made by the Fed chief over the weekend outlining plans to boost the economy. The ongoing European debt crisis also weighed on investors. Germany rejected attempts by Eurozone members to increase the size of a Euro 750 euro ($1 trillion) safety net for debt-stricken members.
The Dow declined 19.90 points (0.17%) at 11,362.19. The S&P 500 shed 1.59 points (0.13%) to 1,223.12. On the other hand, the Nasdaq added 3.46 points (0.13%) to 2,594.92.
Markets in Asia were trading mostly in the red as concerns that a weak dollar will impact export-oriented economies in the region and on a disappointing close by the US indices overnight. Concerns over Chinese anti-inflation measures also kept investors on the sidelines.
The Shanghai Composite tanked 1.50%, the Hang Seng declined 0.54%, the Nikkei 225 was down 0.65%, the Straits Times fell 0.27% and the Taiwan Weighted was down 0.29%. On the other hand, the Seoul Composite gained 0.22% in early trade. The SGX Nifty was down 3.50 points at 5,988.50 over the previous close of 5,992.
The Philippines has become the call centre capital of the world, overtaking India as the number one player in the global business outsourcing market, according to industry data and the government.
President Benigno Aquino has led celebrations in recent weeks as it has become increasingly clear that the Southeast Asian nation has become the world's dominant player in the outsourced back-office operations industry.
At an opening of an IBM outsourcing centre in Manila last week, Mr Aquino forecast that the industry's revenues would hit $12-$13 billion next year, rising to $100 billion by 2020 for a fifth of global market share.