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Thursday, June 08, 2006

some thoughts

well its a sunny day here in gurgaon...the monsoon seems to have disintegrated and only a few wispy clouds drift across the sky. So many things happening here in india, and mostly its all bad news..lets do a quick round up of what these last few weeks have been like.

1. The great indian reservation saga - this still commands some space in the newspapers. Unfortunately only the top 5% of indians earn more than 500 dollars a year and yet they claim to be the middle class of india. They are visibly agitated because of certain government moves which aim to please the underpriveleged castes in india, by granting them reservations in colleges and jobs. This has raised howls of protest from doctors, engineers and suchlike, and they claim that this move would lead to a lowering of standards in Indian education and industry. Noisy visible protests are being staged and most people after protesting realise that they miss their air conditioning more and beat a hasty retreat. The government wants the votes of the 95% of the population and the money from the 5% of the population and is trying to please everyone and failing spectacularly. The searing heat has stopped all the protests and most people are now indoors conducting discussions and negotiations in the shade of split-unit airconditioning plants.

2. Fuel price hike - Every rupee that an indian pays for petrol, half of it goes to the government in the form of taxes. This is because petrol is considered a luxury item :). Petrol costs 1 dollar per litre here. If you remember from above, 5% of indians earn more than 500 dollars a year. So it definitely is a luxury. In the aftermath of global fuel price hikes, thanks to our new pal, George Bush and his middle east adventure, the prices of petrol and diesel were raised by about 10%. This led to howls of protest from opposition parties, threats of agitations and strikes and might have led to acts of self-immolation ( burning oneself alive - a standard protest form in india ) were it not for the fact that it would be too expensive. The summer heat derailed these protests too, and the concerned parties are holding press conferences in air conditioned meeting rooms.

3. Stock Market Meltdown- This is a painful topic, because yours truly believes in putting all his savings in stock markets, specially in the riskier stocks, which have a habit of diving down like a soccer centre forward when approached by a defender. The markets have been falling and keep on falling, 33% in just over a month down, and there seems to be no end in sight. This bear hug is painful and specially for the less than 1% of indians who own any shares whatsoever. All the incredible india stories now seem jaded, the summer heat, the failing monsoon, the cynical government, the rising cost of oil, the global downturn are the new stories of the day. If this moves your heart, please send a  cheque to me .... i am 33% poorer than before.

4. One in every two Indian children is malnourished - 90% of india's rural family spend over 60% of their income on food. Against this backdrop, it is understandable that there was very little rejoicing when the price of wheat was incresed. Parts of india are so poor and backward that people starve to death. In this hot summer there will be countless tragedies that happen in villages and towns. Dead bodies lying by the roadside as the cars whizz by. Mothers starving to death as they try to keep their children alive. Farmers eating rat poison to escape the indignity of life where their children scream all day of hunger. Government schemes will be launched and fat officials will become fatter. The old farmer sitting on a dry piece of earth, looking to the heavens for signs of rain knows that no one will help him, only the gods can do something and he prays that they send him a raincloud or two which softens the earth below his feet, so he can hitch a iron plough to his 100 pound 60 year old body and till the soil and try and raise a few crops which will feed his family.....we all pray for those clouds...but it seems this year  the weather patterns are disturbed and the monsoon is not moving forward as it should...and we all wait anxiously. It is in June that we realise that this poor beautiful lonely little country still lives and breathes because of the grace of god and his clouds. All the computers and all the dams and all the government schemes are forgotten and only the clouds matter now.

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