Sunday, September 4, 2011

Wealth disclosures by Indian ministers

What a joke!! What an insult to the intelligence of the public !! Why would they take so long to disclose, then take even longer to stonewall any attempts to make the information public, and then finally come out with something that is totally unbelievable and incredulous.

Many ministers like Farooq Abdullah, Didi Banerjee etc have collective personal assets of less than 10 Laks and even Sharad Pawar has less than 10 crores. There is something rotten in the Republic of India. Despite the recent success of the Anna Hazare led Lok Pal movement, our thick skinned politicians have not learnt their lessons. They have neither made full disclosures, and even where they have made partial disclosures the values have been so understated as to make a joke out of the whole process. For example our honourable Aviation Minister has disclosed an apartment in tony Worli worth less than 8 laks, which is less than the cost of a parking space in most buildings there. Or is he confusing the monthly rent for the capital value?

Anna Hazare,s initiative to bring accountability into public life would be completely meaningless if our elected representatives continue to take such matters lightly. Even the new proposal to call back MP's may not be enough. We need to look at the laws relating to perjury in Parliament and disclosures that they are required to make and frame severe penalties for offenders, including loss of the asset that is either not disclosed or under disclosed, followed by a lengthy jail sentence which will keep them and the public out of harms way.

I just checked the processes in the US. Not that we have to follow them blindly. The mayor of New York city Mr. Michael Bloomberg, a multi billionaire, made full disclosures of all his assets, transferred them to a trust and to money managers with whom he maintains no contact. In public office, you not only have to be clean, but also scrupulously avoid any contact with anything or anybody that may contaminate your reputation, or even remotely influence your decisions as a public officer.

Our politicians on the other hand treat their election to power as a free licence to loot and pillage our country and accumulate personal wealth with complete impunity and total immunity from any remote chance of punishment.

Monday, August 22, 2011

Greece India and Grief

Just read Michael Lewis and his take on the Greece debt crisis. He is his usual inciteful and humorous self, as he talks about how Greeks who claim to have invented Maths had forgotten to count almost 30 billion Euros in deficit spending every year, about how failure to pay taxes and cheat and lie about your income and expenses is not even treated as a minor misdemeanour, in fact it is the Greek character..

How different are we? we invented the zero..and I would argue that our grasp of what our deficit is, how it is computed and what to do about it, would probably put the Greeks to shame. And our attitude to taxes is not different either. The only people who seem to pay taxes in this country are those whose taxes are deducted at source. For every one else it is an approach of broad understatement of wealth and income and deal with the authorities, if a problem arises.

Are we headed for a Greek type tragedy?

Read the article and judge for yourself..

Monday, June 13, 2011

Fast, faster and fastest

Fastest finger first. First faster is now last. Last faster is now in hospital. The only thing that continues to feed itself is corruption.

In the last few weeks self appointed and not so civil representatives of so called civic society have tried and failed to make a dent in the governments determination to continue to turn a blind eye to corruption. Protests and threats of fasting unto death, have yielded nothing barring raised voices on prime television and fodder for front pages of the dailies.

Corruption is and always has been a crime in this country. Both the civil society,( the briber), and the politician/ bureaucrat, (the bribee?) , are punishable under existing laws. There are existing institutions such as the Anti corruption Bureau, the CBI, the local police and many other investigative agencies that have the power to enforce this law. And what do we want? One more institution that will follow in the rich tradition of all other failed institutions. And we are fighting for this? Instead of fighting to make the exisitng institutions work?

And is this the right way? Why call it a democracy, when we ignore democratic and parliamentary processes of protest, and instead use populist and street and jungle laws to drive change.The media goes crazy, as they hunger for eyeballs looking for something to do now that the cricket season is over. Plus some of the leading lights of the media themselves are not above fixing a few lucrative cabinet berths for a small ( relatively speaking) fee. Intellectuals pretend outrage, (having earlier bribed their way to positions of power), and the aam aadmi  gives a damn.

Are these the right people to lead us to a corruption free polity? Hardly likely. These are people, who have never been elected, and will never be. One is a has been Gandhian whose only claim to fame is that he was a has been Gandhian and that he was using the Gandhian form of protest. The fact that the Mahatma was protesting against unelected usurpers of power, is ignored in all the hype. The other is a billionaire yoga teacher whose only claim to fame is his ability to stand on his head while thinking with some other part of his anatomy which is not his head. And the rest of the gaggle is made up of those who will hunt with the hounds and run with the hare, and are themselves not above dipping their hands into the pot when it suits them.

And what is this about the Prime Ministers Office being subject to the Lokpal scrutiny? As if the PMO is above the existing laws of this country? And what about the Lokpal himself? It is like the old question. If god created everything , who created God? Should we not bring the Lokpal too under scrutiny by another agency to be called  Lokpal + or Lokpal Supreme? And who will scrutinise them? The PMO's office? Or the ACB? A real alphabet soup this one.

Methinks that what we lack is leadership. Leadership with determination to enforce existing laws, and lets the existing institutions do their job..and an opposition that does their job within the confines of elected parliamentary democracy, and lets the Government do its job. If everybody did their job, we would not need a Jan Lokpal Bill. If they are not doing their job, lets bring them down, in parliament through well established processes.

Dont stand outside the tent and piss inside..

Monday, May 2, 2011

Osama, Obama and the sage of Omaha

Finally the largest manhunt in history has come to an end. 10 years and a  few billion dollars later, the US finally managed to locate and kill Osama right from under the noses of the Pakistani Intelligence forces who were probably sheltering him. Strange that they located him by following a courier. Strange that even google earth pictures show a highly secure and unusually unique structure a few meters away from a Pakistani military facility. Strange that the Pakistani authorities had no clue as to who the resident was.Strange that the US forces did not capture him and bring him to justice. Strange that the body was disposed of in mid sea in a rush.

Osama of course had many secrets to hide, including earlier US complicity in his origins as a terrorist. He also probably had access to plans for all future terror strikes, and it seems rather foolish to silence him permanently. Obama of course is a beneficiary of this sudden development. With sagging ratings, he needed something like this to have any chance of re election. Whether he deserves any credit for re uniting Osama with his promised virgins is debatable. The fact that it took the most powerful nation with the most sophisticated technology at its command almost 10 years to locate Osama smacks of incompetence , if not a conspiracy to protect him to buy his silence. Obama will now have to use his considerably eloquence to explain what really happened.

Meanwhile the sage of Omaha is having an unusually bad time. There is something about American CEOs visiting India. I have seen it happen time and time again. From Warren Anderson of Union Carbide to now Warren Buffet, the India visit tends to become the last business trip the a CEO makes. The sage of Omaha is now in trouble for not acting sternly enough against his possible successor for insider trading. There are also stories emerging of large re insurance losses and bad derivative calls. Is the sages invincibility wearing off, like Osama's? And when is Obama's turn?

Monday, March 7, 2011

The Supreme scam

In a season of scams the Supreme Court has been left behind, but not by much. But considering that the 2 G , CWG etc have set the benchmarks, should we even consider the piddling 10 or 15 crores that the eminent justices have put together as a scam? My suggestion is that to qualify as a scam the amount involved should be a minimum 1000 crores or equivalent in US dollars. Else we will be insulting the likes of Raja and Kalamadi, and we want to be careful about doing that.

Then the Supreme court castigated the government and the Chief Vigilance Commissioner for devaluing the office of the CVC (maybe we should call it CVG , in keeping with 2G, Cwg etc).Apparently the commissioner caused a loss of 5.8 crores to the state of Gods own country, almost 20 years ago. Oh come on your lordships... 5.8 crores??? That is rounding error these days. Plus it was a loss to the state, and he did not make any money personally. Plus even after 20 years our venerable judicial system has still not had the time to deliver it's verdict on the matter, and I think that is the scam.

An Australian woman spent 33 years in a wheel chair waiting for our judicial system to pronounce judgement in a case of gross negligence by a hotel that forgot to keep it's swimming pool clean. Now I am not a lawyer,but remember reading somewhere that justice delayed is justice denied, and 33 years is a long time to establish the facts of a case. And after all that wait the poor woman got 5 crores. Come on your Lordships even the agency that did not clean the toilets in the Games village made off with more than that, and they did not even have to wait 33 days.

The Bofors case was finally put to rest almost 30 years after it rocked the nation. I think the original amount involved was 64 crores. No charges were filed and I am sure much more than 64 crores was spent of tax payees money to establish the fact that there was no crime committed and if there was, there was no perpetrator. The trail must have gone cold or the investigating agencies, in this case the CBI, realized that the amount involved was no longer worthy of being called a scam and lost all interest.

I think that the scam really is that it takes so long to investigate, so long to examine the evidence and so long to pronounce judgement. In this long period a more juicy scam has taken over our collective attention and this never ending need for more and more majestic scams will never end.

Monday, February 28, 2011

The JPC Scam

For the last few months parliamentary democracy in India has been brought to a dead standstill by what can only be called the JPC scam. In the season of scams, this is the mother of them all.

Our honorable Parliamentarians will now waste more of the nations time on issues such as the size of the committee, who should be on it, proportional representation etc. Hopefully by the time all these serious issues are debated and compromised on, the original scams will no longer excercise the public outrage.

What makes them think that any of them have the competence, leave alone the credibility to sit in judgement on anybody?  They all had their hands in the jar at some time or the other, and now they point those soiled fingers and wave their criminal hands on prime time TV, in indignation at being left out of the current orgies.

Their solution? Start a new orgy. Call it the JPC. Which will be nothing but a legitimate forum for sharing the spoils of all previous scams, and some meaningful flogging of dead horses and horse trading of the rest. Then there will be some public hand wringing, and some insignificant scape goat will be named and life will go merrily on.

Havent we learnt anything? From our past experiences with JPC's? Do we need any further insult to our intelligence as a nation? Why cant we disqualify the entire lot of them from any public office for ever? Even if they did not partake in the feast, they were party to it, or at the very least turned a blind eye to the loot of a nation.

We dont need another JPC. Let us at least nip this scam in its bud.

Sunday, February 6, 2011

CONTACT:                                                                                  RELEASE

Rhea Rakshit                                                                                                                    24 Jan 2011
Micro Housing Finance Corporation          

Micro Housing Finance Corporation (“MHFC”) touches 500 loans,
crosses Rs. 20 cr in sanctions

Mumbai, India – Micro Housing Finance Corporation (“MHFC”), a housing finance company that is focused on financially excluded urban lower income families, has crossed 500 loans in sanctions, aggregating Rs. 20 cr. MHFC’s customers include mostly individuals employed in the informal sector, ranging from self employed vegetable vendors and barbers to salaried employees like housemaids, drivers and security guards.

According to Madhusudhan Menon, Chairman – “20 cr in loan sanctions is a key milestone as it represents the reinforcement  of an idea which has not been tested by any financial institution till date. These numbers, and the fact that we have no past dues on our portfolio, establish a strong case for lending to this segment and that customers who have adequate but undocumented incomes are good credit risks for secured mortgage lending. Most importantly, from a social perspective, we believe that every MHFC loan has improved the quality of life of large families currently living in deplorable urban conditions.”

MHFC received its license from the National Housing Bank in February 2009 and began operations in June 2009. Its first Rs 10 cr in sanctions took a little over a year with the second Rs 10 cr being sanctioned in just over 4 months. Loan amounts are usually around Rs. 5 lakhs (not exceeding 80% of the cost of the house) for a period not exceeding 15 years, with the house serving as security for the loan. Its rate of interest is currently between 12% and 14% per annum.

MHFC has a project-led approach and ties up with developers, both public and private, who have a similar focus on urban affordable housing (as defined as being in a price range not exceeding Rs 10 lakhs). Partnerships include tie-ups with builders like Tata Housing, Poddar Developers and Usha-Breco Realty in Mumbai. MHFC also has an active presence in Pune, Ahmedabad and Kolkata, and is currently operational in over 25 low-income housing projects across the country. The company plans to expand its outreach to Chennai, Bengaluru, Meerut and the NCR over the coming year.

About MHFC
MHFC, incorporated in May 2008, aims to fill a major need - long term housing finance - for urban lower income families, particularly those who lack documentation and thus cannot access mainstream banks and housing finance companies. According to the Chairman of MHFC, Mr. Madhusudan Menon, “This underserved segment is estimated to represent more than 90% of the workforce, but has almost no financial institution catering to its housing finance needs. Microfinance has paved the way to lend to this segment in an economically sustainable way, but its focus is on short term loans. We hope that MHFC will be able to take this process further and move towards supporting longer term financing requirements, especially for an important basic need like housing.”
MHFC received its license from the regulator, the National Housing Bank (“NHB”) in Feb 2009 and started sanctioning loans in June 2009. It lends to those who want to buy a home for use as a primary residence and cannot get loans for a variety of reasons, but especially due to the lack of documentary evidence of income (e.g. vendors, tradesmen, drivers, etc who do not have salary certificates).

For more information on MHFC, please visit

Monday, January 10, 2011

Mumbai marathon

           After a break of two years, I have decided to run the
marathon in January. And this time it is the half marathon, just to
prove that I am not yet too old. Frankly it is the opportunity to run
over the sea link that is driving me this time, apart from a desire to
maintain domestic harmony and peace by raising some money for
Childline India, with which as all of you know Kajol is deeply

           Since I have spared you of the effort to reach for your
wallets, for two years now, I am sure you will be generous this time.
You will all have the dual privilege of making me run 21 km while at
the same time contributing to a  worthwhile cause, fully subsidised
through tax exemptions by the Government of India. You cannot get a
better deal than  appearing to be socially conscious, and obliging a
friend, while getting the Government to pay for it.

          .I am attaching info on Childline and also how to go about

CHILDLINE 1098 is the largest national, 24x7, emergency, toll-free
phone and outreach service for children in distress. Once a call is
made on 1098, a rescue team reaches a child within 60 minutes. And
because it’s free, children of all ages from the poorest situations
can pick up the phone at any corner, any time, and say, ‘Hello
Childline?’ knowing that help, if they need it will reach them within
an hour

Currently in 82 cities across 25 states of the country,  Childline has
responded to  over 18 million calls.There is a perceived need to
extend this service to every district in the country. By the end of
March 2011, Childline will be expanding to 80 more cities, and
continue to grow. To know more youcan log on to

I am using this opportunity to raise funds for the work being done by
CHILDLINE and would like to seek your support for this cause. Any
amount, big or small (preferably big) can help change lives. You will
be surprised at how little it takes to make a mammoth difference.

 Donations can be made by cheque in favour of 'Childline India
Foundation' . Please mail the cheques to the attention of:

Madhusudhan Menon, 1802, Marathon Heights, P.B. Marg, Mumbai 400013.


Alternatively, you may give online through my iGive page -

 All donations by check directly to 'Childline India Foundation' are
eligible for 100% Tax exemption under 35AC of the IT Act.

Make sure you donate generously.