Politics and Current Affairs

Nationalism and the National Anthem at Theatres

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The Supreme Court of India has been the figure head and guardian of the Constitution of our country and history has proven that it has been the last bastion of democracy. However, the very same organ that is established to protect the fundamental rights of the members of the country, has violated them in a shocking judgement. The bench of Justices Dipak Mishra and Amitava Roy, today, mandated that the Indian National Anthem must be compulsorily played at every theatre across the country before a movie begins.

 

This judgement of the Supreme Court has been delivered at a time when there is a worrying increase in the usage of the word ‘Nationalism’.  The word itself is fairly harmless. It denotes pride and patriotism for a citizen of particular country towards his or her country. However, Nationalism today has become the dagger of action and the shield from repercussions. Almost as if an escutcheon, incidents of crowd vigilantism, lynching and communalism has taken shelter in the public eye. The Nationalist agenda runs deeper and thicker than what it actually means and has traditionally manifested in vested interests using it as a tool to further power.

 

Nationalism and Dictators

History has shown us that the rise of nationalism has been followed with dictatorial reigns with vested interests. The rise of Nazism in Germany, Idi Amin in Uganda, Facism in Italy, Soviet Communism(Stalin) in USSR, Fransico Franco in Spain, Saddam Hussein of Iraq and Gaddafi of Libya.  Nationalism is an ideology evokes enthusiasm—elicits an emotional response—to the extent that it articulates a fantasy that is shared by members of a population. And when such an enthusiasm can be captured by a powerful and admired leader of the society, it can elicit passion among the population. Passion is usually associated with an enemy and this can be dangerous as the enemy could be anybody or anything that the leader directs to be.

 

Something more disconcerting is the rise of nationalism in India, at a time when borders between countries are vanishing and the world is becoming a unified global country. If borders are to be taken into cognizance then one must first delve into the borders that exist in our very own country. With 29 States and even more cultures in a single country, India really is multiple countries within the single country. For instance, a Punjabi Sindhi would find more in common with a Pakistani than a Tamilian or a Keralite. The Tamilian or a Keralite will be more similar to a Sri Lankan than an India from Assam. However, the Punjabi, the Tamil, the Keralite and the Assamese are bound by the agenda of India and nationalism while Sri-Lanka or Pakistan become the neighbour or the enemy. It’s not to say that we must wage war upon our brethren in various parts of country, but a hilarious factual representation of why nationalism is a concept which is fictional and fairy-dust.

 

“Time has come when people must respect national anthem which is part of constitutional patriotism. People must feel that it is their country. It is because of the country that they are enjoying freedom and liberty” – Justice Dipak Mishra, Hon’ble Judge Supreme Court of India

 

“Your life is bound up with the life of your whole people(your country). The nation is not merely the root of your strength; it is the root of your very life” – Adolf Hitler, Dictator and murderer of 6 million people

 

The Solution – Not Nationalism but National Fraternity

There exist too many differences between the very members of our own great country. Unity is mere term and divisiveness exists in spirit and can be seen in day-to-day interactions with people in different states. However, to genuinely overcome this challenge, one must lift the veil of nationalism and look beyond it into jungles of culture and fraternity. While students in school are taught that India is a melting pot of cultures, they’re not taught enough about the ingredients that make up the wonderful stew in the pot. Acceptance to different cultures, religions, languages, food, personal choices and lifestyles is the first step in achieving this object of fraternity.

 

Tolerance allows free and rational thinking and bring people together. Indians will love India, not because they happened to be born in specific geographical zone in the world, but because they genuinely love the people of the country and hence, love the country as a whole.

Reservations – Why it’s Essential and Why it’s all Wrong

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It is an issue which is constantly rumbling in the pits of the stomach of the country. Multiple stirs and suicides, paired with the Ruling Party’s strategic silence on the matter has meant it’s slowly working its way to the forefront of challenges faced by our Overlords. Most recently, the Censor Board banned a movie about the Patidhar Stir in Gujarat stating that it is likely to cause unrest and it will be a threat to the sovereignty and security of the country. I’m inclined to agree with this move and personally feel that the country is not educated or aware enough to handle a subject of that level of seriousness. The likelihood of the populous being swayed by simple yet emotional or violent portrayals of reservations might evoke passion and cause unrest in certain parts the country. Unfortunately, none of these acts nor movies will delve deep enough into the Jungle, that is reservation, to find the solution and solace that the country really needs.

 

Reservation is not Unique to India, its prevalent across the world

Before, we journey into the treacherous issued posed by Reservation, I felt it appropriate to brief the uniqueness of this problem in India. While reservations is a concept that is fairly common across the world, to uplift certain parts of the society that require facilitation, caste is a concept that entirely unique to India and does not exist anywhere else in the world. ‘Casteism’ was reasonably prevalent in the 1700s and 1800s in India. It was something that originated from centuries old customs and writings that nobody questioned. If someone broke the designated duty of the caste, they were either shunned or moved away from that society of people. It was a problem but not one which was out of hand, not until the British realised it could be.

 

Divide and rule was a strategy used by the British to devastating effect and the trappings of which are still felt to this day. Caste was one of the victims of this Divide & Rule policy where the Monarchy constantly gave benefits to a particular part of the society and quite vocally neglected another. This exercise was done in frequent intervals, ignoring one community while favouring another community/caste, driving a wedge between the different castes and societies in India. This vitriol channelled itself into various outlets including theatre, music, news and, the most damning of them all, story-tales to children. Is there any surprise this dislike has continued not only shortly after 1947 but even till 2017, almost 70 years after the British Oligarchs left the promise-land?

 

“History shows that where ethics and economics come in conflict, victory is always with economics. Vested interests have never been known to have willingly divested themselves unless there was sufficient force to compel them. “

 

Reservations were meant to be for 15 years only. The Constituent Assembly was short-sighted

The most eminent, Nationalist, far-sighted group of individuals were tasked with the responsibility of developing the Constitution for the largest democracy in the world. They set-out to tackle some of the greatest challenges faced by the country at the time and set precedents for the future of India. As Casteism and offshoots of the same, such as untouchability, was rampant at the time of Independence, the Assembly felt it appropriate to genuinely adhere to equality guaranteed by the Fundamental Rights and give every person in the country an equal opportunity to lead a dignified life.

 

‘What are we having this liberty for? We are having this liberty in order to reform our social system, which is full of inequality, discrimination and other things, which conflict with our fundamental rights. ‘

 

They felt not providing reservation for the oppressed sections of the society would only perpetuate inequality and would therefore not be true to the Constitution of India. They introduced Reservation but stated it would exist for 15 years for the specified classes of people. This move, in my opinion, is 2 of the most short-sighted decisions taken by the assembly. While I am in total agreement with the concept of reservation and the idea behind it, the fact that it was meant to be only for a period of 15 years automatically invalidates the ideology of equality. Humans by nature discriminate and it would only be a matter of time before another society becomes oppressed while one becomes the oppressor. Further, the Assembly introduced rigid ‘classes’ that would be eligible for the benefits of reservation. Another shockingly short-sighted view as, yet again, it invalidates the point of reservation itself as it guarantees reservations for a certain set of people constantly, which means they are never really empowered.

 

Needless to say, 70 years on, we have seen this part of the Constitution to be the most contentious. Repeatedly Politicians have used it as a weapon for political vote-banks and have kept these sections of the society oppressed and uneducated to benefit their political ambitions. These ambitions saw the 15 year reservation period extended indefinitely and classes of people eligible for reservation, constantly increased with the % of reservation also constantly being pushed. Despite, Supreme Court directing a cap on the % of reservation, some State Governments have still found ways to increase the reservations to 60%.

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Why is it always Reservation or No Reservation? There Exists a Middle Ground – My Solution

Reservation is essential to enable equality and growth to specific people. But Reservation as it stands is a failure and the very fact that it has existed for 70 years and continues to remain static goes to show that it has done nothing to fuel the growth of the people whom reservations has been made for. It has merely been a powerful tool for the Politicians to wield and use effectively for their vested interests.

 

Reservation needs to be dynamic. It needs to be something that can be reviewed on a regular basis and check the effectiveness. A system should be in place which ensures the right level of reservation and resources need to be directed to the identified groups of people. It needs to be measurable. But considering the diverse nature and amount of people that exist in India, is it practically possible? How are you going to identify these people?

 

I believe it’s easily possible.  We have an existing very powerful and expensive exercise that is carried out by all governments, irrespective of who is in power. The Census! Every person in India is visited and demographic details are obtained from the people of India. All the Government will need to do is expand the scope of the census, add more questions understanding the income status, wealth status and education status of everyone in the household. Get a trained representative to ask more questions about the social challenges and difficulties faced and the impacts of the same. The Census process will probably take a year longer to complete, but it’ll be a process that will be entirely worth it. The Government will have quantifiable and quantitative information regarding every citizen in India. The information will enable the Govt. to take decisions which are directly at addressing any inequalities which have been measured by this census data. All resources and reservation can be directed effectively in addressing these issues. A firmer stand can be taken where qualitative issues have plagued the growth of a certain class of people. Further, the Govt every 10 years can evaluate the impact of the decisions and resources to the specific class of people. The Govt. will be dynamic and will evolve and ration the right amount of resources to be administered to oppressed groups of people, the ones that are improving and new groups of people that might feature in the census.

 

I believe, this approach will ensure that there is genuine eradication of inequality and it will uphold the soul of the Constitution to enable Right to Equality. It will make reservation more effective and transparent and it will transform the Country.

 

‘People are pretty much alike. It’s only that our differences are more susceptible to definition than our similarities‘ – Linda Ellerbee

The Dark Underbelly of Freedom of Speech and Tanmay Bhatt

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Samuel L Jackson places reasonable restrictions on saying what

The tirade of Tanmy Bhatt, of AIB fame, about the beloved public figures Sachin Tendulkar and Lata Mangeshkar has evoked some very strong reactions on twitter and in the upper echelons of the Government. Needless to say, this has brought to forefront the ever raging tempest, the Free Speech debate.

India has the longest constitution in the world and this is not without reason. A fairly young constitution, less than 70 years old, the Constitution has already seen 100 amendments made compared to just 27 made to the 228 year old Constitution of the United States of America. In an almost comical and ironic, but relevant comparison, the first amendment to the Indian Constitution put into place ‘reasonable restrictions’ on Freedom of Speech, while the first amendment of the US Constitution prohibited any sort of abridgement of free speech.

 

So what happened in the 1 year of Absolute Free Speech in India?

 

Earlier, in March 1950, in Delhi, the government’s attempts at pre-censoring the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh’s mouthpiece, the Organiser, had been over-ruled. The East Punjab Public Safety Act, 1949, under which the curbs were being applied, was held to be unconstitutional by the Supreme Court. In another case in May 1950, involving a left-leaning journal called Crossroads, published by Romesh Thapar from Mumbai, met with the same fate. At the time, Madras state had banned the Communist Party and, as part of that policy, prohibited the entry and circulation of Crossroads in the state. Thapar contested this ban legally and won, with the Supreme Court declaring the Madras Maintenance of Public Safety Act, 1949 unconstitutional.

 

Within a week of the decision, Home Minister Vallabhbhai Patel wrote to Prime Minister Jawaharlal Nehru, complaining that this ruling weakened the power of the Center in regulation of Press and the Public. Patel feared not being empowered to gag a Leader who was campaigning to annul Bengal’s partition (at the time). Despite their dissensions on most matters, both Nehru and the Iron Man of India believed in a powerful centralised state and decided to put into place certain controls which they could use as a device to restrict free speech in specific places. It is believed that the Father of the Constitution, BR Ambedkar, did not agree with these views but was a minority. However, he still managed to place the caveat of ‘reasonable’ restrictions that would be decided by the Judiciary, opposed to the Patel camp which insisted on total restriction which was in power of the executive.

 

Ridiculous Reasonable Restrictions Restore Ringleader Rule

 

We’re today saddled with vaguely defined hate speech, sedition and blasphemy laws that are repeatedly used on a regular basis for political ends. When people found solace in the internet, the Government sought to control the same and passed the Information Technology Act, 2000 which even went so far as to penalise “offensive” electronic messages. While one might argue that curbs on free speech are required in a country as wide and culturally different as India is, one fails to appreciate the ground reality of the situation. As we have seen in Mumbai in 1993 or in Gujarat in 2002, the state does not really seek to clamp down on free speech for such altruistic purposes. Instead, free speech curbs are used for petty political ends, banning books, movies, paintings, college gatherings and even Facebook status updates.

 

Even the last bastion of happiness has not been left alone in India. Comedy has always been an art that is liberal-minded. Almost all comedians will fight against censorship and have a way of interspersing comedy with public messages on freedom which has for several decades been a medium to reflect the mood of the public to changing jurisprudence. Ofcourse, this is something which is pure evil and shouldn’t be allowed.

Hence, in India, we’ve seen crackdown on a comedy roast hosted by All India Bakchod which poked fun at actors, directors and producers with their consent. We’ve further seen crackdown on poetry or music which capture the mood of the nation or take jibes at the ruling party; and now we’re witnessing the ruthless onslaught of an entertainer who ridiculed, on a lighter note, two famous Indian people on his personal snapchat account. This has been blown out of proportion and now the incumbent government and many political parties are urging the police to arrest the comedian and put him behind bars.

 

I personally don’t find All India Bakchod or Tanmay Bhatt too funny. In fact, a lot of their humour borders on being obnoxious and heavy handed, however, this remains their fundamental right and their freedom of speech. Tanmay Bhatt has not incited violence, nor has he indulged in hate speech. Neither the roast, nor his snapchat tirade been an attack on the democracy or freedom of the people of India. It might have been idiotic, sure, but it’s definitely not a crime. If anything, instead of putting restrictions on freedom of speech, the government could make idiocy a crime. Then again, if that is done, most of our Parliament would be behind bars.

 

Freedom of speech needs to be appreciated and put on the pedestal it deserves. Even if absolute freedom is not given in India, the reasonable restriction should genuinely be reasonable and the archaic sedition and hate speech laws should be vanquished in place of genuine laws to protect the sovereignty and integrity of India.

 

‘The Framers of the Constitution knew that free speech is the friend of change and revolution. But they also knew that it is always the deadliest enemy of tyranny’ – Hugo Black

Will Stalin’s Response Spur a Change in Tamil Nadu Politics?

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The Opposition Leader MK Stalin is seated with the general public at the CM Swearing in Ceremony

The move by MK Stalin to attend the swearing-in ceremony of Hon’ble Chief Minister Jayalalitha a few days earlier is not really a political move; atleast not in any sense understood by traditional Tamil Nadu politics. That’s not to say it isn’t political at all. It strikes one as a move that is scathingly political but it’s disruptive, different and ruthlessly transparent. It’s a spit in the face of the modern politician, the culture of the soulless ghouls who inhabit that world, and the vacuous public multitude that seeks to worship and emulate them.

 

The State of Madras (as Tamil Nadu used to be called) was dominated by Congress till the DMK ousted the grand old party from its comfortable seat. Led by the charismatic Anna and assisted by his trusted Lieutenant, the fiery and dynamic, MK Karunanidhi and the razzle-dazzle of the party mascot, MG Ramachandran. After Anna’s passing, Karunanidhi ascended to the throne of Chief Minister, still with the help of his good friend MG Ramachandran.

 

Things soon turned sour as both the film-star and the Kalaignar looked to eclipse each other on the stage, vying for the love of the general public. The Film-Star won the battle and went to become the Chief Minister of the State and continued to be the Chief Minister till his death, a feat never repeated till Jayalalitha won the Legislative Assembly this month. However, the politicians continued to remain friends despite their differences and allegiances to their parties.

“Both MGR and I attacked each other in debates. But I can never forget my 40 year friendship with MGR. When I came to know of MGR’s death I rushed back from the railway station to pay my last respects. Rationalist leader Periyar E V Ramasamy had serious differences with Rajaji, but when the latter passed away, Periyar cried inconsolably”, Karunanidhi recalled. ”These great leaders had set examples of the great political culture in the state. Now, we have the responsibility of preserving it”, he added.

Well, that’s rather touching from Kalaignar, but neither him or nor the current ruling Supremo, Hon’ble CM Jayalalitha took efforts to mend their fences, instead focussed on undoing what the previous leader had done. This has been the legacy of Tamil Nadu politics, the state is littered with examples of discontinued work of the previous government, as if it was a haunted relic stayed fearing completion will unleash an unspeakable torment on the people, yet dominant enough to not be destroyed.

 

However, there now appears to be a new leaf in the primordial book of Tamil Nadu politics from left field. The source is none other than the 63 year old MK Stalin, son of the former Chief Minister MK Karunanidhi. Though, the ‘Thalapathi’ was not projected as the CM candidate of the DMK, he has led the party from the front and despite defeat has said all the right things (or the things the public want to hear but have never heard in the past).

 

On defeat, Stalin tweeted “We respect the people’s verdict & will work as a responsible opposition party. I take this opportunity to congratulate Selvi J Jayalalithaa”. He also stated that he would attend the swearing in ceremony of the AIADMK Supremo. While this could all be done by his Public Relations team, one may be allowed to dream that positive thoughts have been communicated, even if it’s sham. To the credit of the DMK leader, he went on to attend the swearing in ceremony and despite being seated in the 16th row(considered by his father as an insult), went on to wish the Chief Minister, the best for her term.

 

The move from Stalin is simple but unprecedented, atleast in recent times, and has evoked many a positive sentiment from the general public and his political competition. Infact, the Hon’ble CM later went on to apologise for his seating debacle and said “I convey my good wishes to him and look forward to working with his party for the betterment of the state”.

 

While one could call these leaders charlatans and their actions simply those where they pull wool over our eyes, we must have faith in our democratic system and trust that change will happen and I’d like to think that the change is happening right now. Sometimes, a little change is a good thing.

 

Will Employers Reqlinquish their Digital Leash?

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In France, President Francois Hollande’s Socialist Party is about to vote through a measure that will give employees for the first time a “right to disconnect”. Soon companies of more than 50 people will be obliged to draw up a charter of good conduct, setting out the hours – normally in the evening and at the weekend – when staff are not supposed to send or answer emails. It is an imitative that has been in the pipeline for months now and was globally mocked as a socialist move. There exist several press images of Government Inspectors snooping on industrious and hard work workers. It was largely panned as a move that intervened into the private lives of dedicated employees and growing industries that are making their break in a competitive environment. However, is it really as silly as it sounds?

 

The last 25 years has been dominant by great and rapid change. The internet and ease of access to various modes of communication has shrunk the world and has brought people together. However, as the proverbial saying goes, every positive is usually accompanied with a negative, the digitalisation of communication and transfer of information has significantly impacted the life of the employee. Use of laptops, smart-phones and internet is now a universal phenomenon and almost every working person has access to both. It also means access to e-mails is now prevalent 24/7 as opposed to 8 hours a day at the office before the technology explosion.

 

Impact of Technology Explosion

 

All the studies show there is far more work-related stress today than there used to be, and that the stress is constant. Employees physically leave the office, but they do not leave their work. They remain attached by a kind of electronic leash – like a dog. The texts, the messages, the emails – they colonise the life of the individual to the point where he or she eventually breaks down.

 

With the technology explosion there is now a real threat to the personal life of an employee. When you’re home, you’re not really at home and this poses a great danger to relationships. There is tremendous physical, psychological and emotional distress caused by a total inability to rest.

 

A survey by industry lobby Associated Chambers of Commerce and Industry of India in 2012 showed that due to demanding schedules and high stress levels, nearly 78% of corporate employees in India sleep less than six hours a day, leading to severe sleep disorders. The survey pointed out that 21% of the people in the sample suffered from depression, the third most prevalent lifestyle disease, ahead of high blood pressure and diabetes.

 

 

The ‘So What’?

 

India is a country notorious for the little regulation in favour of professionals and graduate employees (anyone that is not a labourer). This has led to incredibly high work hours, working weekends, increased stress and discomfort in personal relations due to all of the above. It’s very evident that the employers have to take initiative on controlling the work hours of employees and ensuring that their employees remain stress free. A conscious and concerted effort to ensure that there is minimal work related communication off-work hours will go a long way in not only relieving the employee of work stress but also in improving his/her work creativity and efficiency.

 

A regulation like what is being passed in France will not be passed in India unless there is a serious uprising from the working class regarding work stress. This is an under-current of unhappiness at the workplace which does not get communicated to those charged with governance as there is a reluctance to speak about it. There is apprehension as to how it would be construed. However, as the adage goes, the squeaky wheel gets the grease. Unless there is some noise made about it, it will continue to remain in a state of state decisis. Even if regulators fail to take notice, employers will take notice and will encourage activities for the welfare of their employees.

 

Whistle Blowers are important to us…Till they mysteriously disappear



A news article published in today’s Economic Times reported Edward Snowden flagging off to the public that there are significant threats to his life, as he had leaked information on the NSA and their collection of telephone records and conversations. For those who aren’t aware, Edward Snowden is a former CIA employee and former NSA Contractor Employee who leaked several top secret documents to media outlets and has been on the run since then. Snowden has been considered a fugitive by the USA Authorities and has been charged of Espionage and theft of Government property.

 

Snowden is just one example of Whistle-Blowers being under threat. History has shown us that while in theory Whistle Blowers are revered doyens of their field, in practice they are hurled into the spotlight of the public eye and are swiftly in constant peril.

 

Whistle Blowers are meant to be people who gesture to decision making authorities (or regulatory powers) about any wrong doing in their place of work. Ideally these people should be honoured for their courage and dedication to do the same, but that’s rarely the case. Whistle-blowers might be safe(sometimes) while in the limelight but public memory is limited and Media outlets don’t publish articles unless they get views, the whistle-blowers are then left to handle the situation themselves, or with little help. It’s a very precarious position to be in and even the thought of it is unnerving.

 

Harry Markopolos had discovered the Madoff Ponzi Scheme and tried to blow a whistle on it (almost 10 years before it finally unravelled) and no one listened to him. Instead, as the years passed Markopolos began to fear for his life — he carried a gun and regularly checked his car and house for bombs. He said that if Madoff didn’t silence him, one of the many people enjoying steady returns from Madoff’s “feeder funds” would. Even if some corporate Whistle Blowers manage to escape with their lives, they lose their employability. I mean, which top management executive would employ a person with a track record of blowing the whistle on them. I’m sure Sherron Watkins would allude to that. She was the VP of Corporate Development at Enron when she blew the whistle on a scandal that blew the top of the Corporate World. She had to turn to a new career of becoming a writer and a lecturer after this incident.

 

India is no safe haven for Whistle Blowers either (Well, Duhh). There have been multiple instances of threatening, harassment and even murder of various whistle-blowers. Satyendra Dubey, was murdered in November 2003 after he had blown the whistle in a corruption case in the NHAI project. Shanmughan Manjunath, an IOC employee, was murdered for sealing a petrol pump that was selling adulterated fuel. A senior police officer alleged that Mayawati’s government was corrupt and had embezzled large amounts of money and was shortly thereafter, sent to a psychiatric hospital. The country still does not have a Whistle Blower Protection Act. The Whistle Blowers Protection Bill was passed by the Lok Sabha in 2011 and has for over 2 years been pending with the Rajya Sabha.

 

You’re likely to be a proletariat blowing it on powerful people higher up the Corporate Ladder. And more likely than not, there will be powerful investors connected politically as well; and while on paper it would be ideal to blow on the whistle on wrong doing; practically people are not really encouraged to do so. Whistle blowing is a dangerous proposition that almost entirely shrouds a person’s identity and life in uncertainty, risk and danger. We can only hope that things change. But in my view it is unlikely that it will.

 

“Haaai FDI. Lol, Just Kidding”

As Im sure most of you are aware, the Government of India took a bold decision to allow 51% FDI in the retail sector, last month. Less than half a month later, this decision was withdrawn after furor from Opposition and some allies, as well. This has been one of the most comical and appalling things we’ve seen happen in recent times(remember there have been far too many incidents like this, so it must be quite ridiculous to be top of the pile).  Here I am mulling over what could possibly be the reason and Ive managed to deduce what follows. But before going there, we need to have a little perspective on the situation.

 

The retail market is one of the most competitive sectors in the India economy. It varies from the established super-markets or mega-stores like Spencers Daily, Nilgris, Reliance, Big Bazar, Landmark to people who sell at farms, in the local markets and people who cycle to your house with vegetables every morning. As almost all highly competitive sectors, you can understand that this is going to mean low margins. People must understand that in retail costs extend beyond normal operating costs and go on to constants discounts, price cuts, offers etc. to help gain market share(which mostly ends up being temporary). Needless to say, the recent economic slowdown has hit retailers. Lower volumes, lower margins, increasing costs due to infaltion and sky-rocketing rentals have left most Retail Giants stumped on how to better the situation. The obvious answer is FDI in this sector will help increase the margins, volumes and growth. Not stopping there, it improves quality, confidence and likely more discounts and better offers for consumers. Would Foreign Retailers be interested? Hell yeah!

 

One report estimates the 2011 Indian retail market as generating sales of about $470 billion a year. The Economist forecasts that Indian retail will nearly double in economic value, expanding by about $400 billion by 2020. This projected increase alone is equivalent to the current retail market size of France. The Indian consumer market is the biggest in the world and will continue to grow at a very high rate. Foreign Retail Giants like Tesco and Walmart have been monitoring the Indian Retail Scene for a few years now. They’d been in constant discussion with some established Indian retailers regarding their possible entry or tie-ups to enter into India.

 

Now the Government has decided to pull back on the plan of allowing 51% FDI in Retail. This happened in less than a month. The reason is objections from the opposition, allies, logjams and a Nation-wide Bandh. This sudden shift in government stance could wreck the plans of India’s top retailers like Future Group, Bharti Retail, Spencer’s Retail and Next, all of which were banking on foreign capital for their expansion and expertise to run a complex business like retail.

 

The Indian Economy desperately need to kick-start its growth and a new lease of life in Retail through the means of FDI would have delivered just that. The most alarming part is not the fact that it was withdrawn, but the fact that the Government was bold enough to put into place first and then be threatened so easily to withdraw it. FDI could have easily helped boost India’s foreign reserves as well, which is in a sad sad state of affairs. However, that is a matter which will be discussed separately, through another piece on the blog.

 

As consumers, why should be we be denied better quality products, more affordable prices, recognised brand-names, more job employment opportunities in favour of buying from local sellers, through various middle-men, at inflated prices? Is a small-scale retail base of people in Lakhs more important than a consumer base of several crores? The Govt. simply shouldnt do that. They should succumb to this squabbles over vote-bank politics, where most of the parties are playing to gallery. A lot of people opposing this deal have vested interests. I fail to see how they will put up a formidable argument to having FDI.

Consumer : “Hey, I want FDI. It’ll be useful for us all.”

Opposition : “No. Think about the farmers and small scale sellers.”

Consumer : “But there are far more consumers than sellers. We have get better quality and much better offers and prices. Its a lot more affordable and dependable.”

Opposition : “No. Think about the farmers and small scale sellers.”

Consumer : “But companies like Walmart and Tesco normally buy or use upto 40% of their products from SMEs. They will be protected upto a significant level.”

Opposition : “Uhhh… well….. Foreign companies have poopy pants!”

 

Ok, maybe the debate wouldnt end like that but you get the point. Vested interests and vote-bank politics are affecting a deal that will significantly help both consumers and the Indian Economy. The Govt. should mash out a deal that will the best share of the pie to the most no.of people who consume it, Ala, the consumers.