2016, History & Hope!!!

This time of the year, the last week is usually a “feel good” week. There is celebratory mood around thanks to Christmas, holiday outings to look forward to and with a fresh New year coming up – a feeling of Hope. Had the year gone well, one is anyway happy and hopes that the good days continue into the New Year. If it had not, you want to quickly move on and again hope that the New Year brings some cheer. Was it Ghalib who said – ‘Umeed par Duniya Kayam hai…uska saath na chodo’ (Hope sustains this world, don’t lose its company!) So it is with fervent hope for Achhe Din (oops not the political type) that one usually steps into the New Year – year after year!

While there are 12 months, 52 weeks and 365 days to a year, when history is written a year is usually defined by what happened in a week or probably in a day.  And seldom have we realised when an event unfolds that it is history in the making. That is left to the wisdom of hindsight. For example, we now know that 1991 has been an important year for India. For opening up of the economy. For the end of license Raj. For unshackling the animal spirits. Yet, when the Industrial policy announcement was made in July 1991 by the Government, they were acknowledged by and large only as important “course corrections” considering the state of the economy by the media.  Then, they were not labeled historic.  The “Reforms” were always treated with suspicion and even in the Congress party there were many a doubting Thomases who derided the then Prime Minister Narasimha Rao and the Finance Minister Manmohan Singh. But today the rearview mirror displays that the reforms of 1991 have indeed left a positive trail in our country.

History is a great leveler. And at times more charitable than the present. So you find more eulogies on Narasimha Rao as a visionary, as a modern Day Chanakya,..,..  today than there were when he was alive. Or even when he passed away in the same month around the same date in 2004. Hence I was not surprised when Manmohan Singh in his last press conference as a Prime Minister famously said – “History will be kinder to me than the contemporary media!!!”

So likewise when history is written I do believe that 2016 will have a significant place in it for the one event which happened on the 8th of November – The Demonetisation of high value currency notes! We will know how the after effects of this move play out in the next few quarters. As I mentioned we live in eternal hope. So the hope is that we get over the pain caused by this move sooner than later and the economy is back in track by March/April.

But apart from this, if there is one thing for which this move will be remembered for in history, it will be for how Demonetisation changed some steadfast habits of Indians. As author Shankkar Aiyyar famously said in his book – Accidental India that almost all of India’s turning points like the White revolution, Liberalisation,…) were not the result of foresight or careful planning but were rather the accidental consequences of major crises that had to be resolved at any cost.  Similarly the cash shortage situation resulting out of the Demonetisation program in the initial few days was panning out to be a major crisis. (Some would say it is still, though I beg to differ looking at how ground situation has changed for the better) This made the buyers and more importantly the sellers think of carrying on with their businesses with no or less cash.

Today in a traditional market in Mumbai – the usual signboard which said “Credit Card and other cards not accepted” – has the word “Not” blackened out! Paan Walas sporting “PayTM Accepted here” is no more just a subject of WhatsApp jeers but a reality. Restaurants and other outlets no more scorn at you if you flash your credit card for small payments. At multiplexes, there was are big lines during the interval not for buying popcorn tubs, but for swiping cards in one solitary POS machine! Personally speaking I am left with more cash in hand than ever in the past few years! The expenses haven’t reduced mind you though I would have lived with that side effect!

So this change in behavior of using less cash and migrating to digital means seen in Metros and big cities which will also spread to small towns and villages in due course could again become one “accidental” after effect of Demonetisation. We all know the overarching benefits of a Cash less /Digital economy. Indians by nature are trained to be less transparent in terms of disclosures – in matters of income and expenses. If we are forced to shrug off this ingrained reticence and have now become more open to transparency (all digital payments leave a trail) I think it is one helluva big step for a country like India naysayers notwithstanding.

2016 has been a historic year when status quo has been demolished everywhere. Brexit, the ascent of Donald Trump and in India – the Demonetisation move. The underlying sentiment has of course been “HOPE” in all these of better times ahead.  With the ushering of another New Year, there is continued Hope. For, Hope is not just a good thing but is the “Best” thing! And isn’t it increasingly perilous to lose its company?


“Hoping” you will continue to read my posts and provide valuable feedback – see you in the next year!


A New Year’s Wishlist !!!

“In the last few days of his life, my predecessor earned the sobriquet of Annus Horribilis – regrettably so.   Blaming him for all that happened in that 365 days is unfair. But that’s how it’s always.   Like the ‘Mayfly’ insect which lives for few hours, our life span is fixed for 365 days. And in that short span we are expected to bring great amount of good to humanity.  We don’t have the fortune of being known by great names – just numbers and that too in a sequence.  So in spite of carrying a supposedly unlucky number 13 as part of my name, I am supposed to bring in loads of luck to people. So here I am, born just few days ago – 6 days to be precise as ‘2013’ – carrying the expectations of a few billion people. With my predecessor’s innings not going so well or so people have concluded the pressure on me seems to be immense.  I don’t have the time to grow up.  However I’m resolute.  While the world has its expectations from me, I’ve my own set of expectations from the people as well.  Particularly I’ve expectations from India and its people who by their acts of omissions and commissions contributed to the ignominy of my predecessor –2012.  The expectations span across from the leadership i.e. the political class to the common man – ‘aam admi’ and here they go: (some of the important ones)

  • The Ruling class:  The Government in India for most part of few years has been in a state of paralysis. It shook itself up few months ago and I sincerely hope that the Ruling class focusses on the unfinished legislative tasks in hand and work over-time to pass a few bills as early as the budget session of the Indian parliament.
              • A New Anti-Rape law as per Verma Committee’s recommendations is passed sooner than later.  I fervently hope that one doesn’t get to hear of what happened in Delhi in Dec ever again in India or elsewhere.
    • The Lokpal bill – now that a score of standing committees, GOMs and  parliamentary committees and what have you have value added to the bill, please table it in both the houses and get it passed.
    • Land Acquisition bill: This was again missed during 2012 but I hope I will be fortunate to see this bill passed in my life which can prevent another ‘Nandigram’ or a ‘Singur’. The key is adequate compensation, transparency in acquisition and of course re-settlement and rehabilitation.   I’ve high hopes on the passionate minister Jairam Ramesh who is piloting this bill. But I hope his colleagues in the ministry don’t put spokes in his wheel to stall the bill once again.  If passed, this can make India Inc. once again to start focusing on capacity expansion, new projects,..  in India or  Bharat rather than in Indonesia!
    • GST reform: ‘PC’ as India’s finance minister(FM) P.Chidambaram is fondly known is sharp, intelligent and articulate and hopefully with a good memory too.  It was he as FM in 2007 announced that GST will be introduced in India by Apr 2010. My predecessors were not that lucky. And I don’t want to be labeled one either. So, I hope PC can use his persuasive skills to address the concerns of the states in migrating to GST.  This will be one ‘Game Changer’ as per me in simplifying the Indirect Tax regime in India. So, Go PC Go!!!
    • Again I expect PC to come up with if not a ‘Dream budget’ but certainly not a nightmare of a budget like his predecessor. I hope he and his team are not either in a ‘regressive’ or a ‘retrospective’ frame of mind while preparing the budget of my life.

The Opposition: In India they have an opposition which performs it duty religiously by its definition i.e. it opposes anything and everything. Even initiatives which were conceived when they were in power few years ago – are not palatable to them now.  My predecessor years had to bear the brunt of their whims and fancies – which delayed reforms like FDI in retail, GST,.. and thereby removed the sheen out of India’s shining story.

  • So my expectation is that the Opposition performs its role of opposition constructively and value adds to the Governance.  Please don’t oppose for the heck of it. Soon the roles may reverse and you may have to face the situation of walkouts and boycotts. Please support the Government in key legislations which will finally bring goodwill to you.

Civil Society (Aam Admi): The last few years have been witness to some positive activism and energy of the civil society and I’m glad to see this development. I hope that this will continue which will keep the ruling class on its toes. Ofcourse I do hope that they save precious water by not using those water canons on common public!

Men: Just one thing. Please leave women alone in Delhi and everywhere.

Others :  Apart from the above there are quite a few hopes and expectations like :

  • India’s Prime Minister will speak/read less and communicate more with people. Teek Hai? !!!
  • Indians will buy less of the yellow metal and help to reduce the Current Account deficit
  • Rupee will strengthen against the dollar and come to near 50 levels
  • RBI finally cuts the interest rate at least once!
  • Indian Cricket team learns the spelling of the word “WIN” once again!  And a certain God retires from all forms of cricket!
  • Bollywood puts an end to the torture of ‘Sequel’!  Kamalhaasan acts in a movie without make up and Rajnikant well at least appears in a movie in my time!
  • Fewer politicians suffer from foot’n mouth disease !!!
  • ,…
  • ,…

The wish list is certainly long. And may get longer as I get older. I can hear you saying “If only wishes are horses!  But I’m desperate. I don’t want to be another ‘horribilis’. I as 2013 want to end up as ‘Annus Mirabilis’.  Please help.

With that hope, here’s wishing you all a happy, successful, peaceful and healthy ME!!!”holiday 2013