‘The people of India’ – a much-abused term

January 8th, 2011

The term – ‘The people of India’ – seems to have caught the fancy of everyone. Yesterday, while panning the CAG report’s estimates on the financial loss to exchequer in the telecom scam, minister Kapil Sibal kept on saying ‘the people of India’ have to know the real numbers.

BJP’s Ravishankar Prasad also uses this term quite often while criticising the government.

“The loss incurred by the exchequer is humungous; the people have the right to know how could the government allow this to happen?” Or “The consistent rise in food prices shows that the government was unable to anticipate the shortage. The people of India are asking ….” And so on.

Who are these people of India that our politicians are referring to all the time? – Is it the voter? In the 2009 Lok Sabha elections, the average turnout was around 60 per cent. I would think that the majority of these voters are rural, and not urban.

I really wonder how many of their issues have been handled well by the government. And for that matter, any Indian government.

As a Mumbai tabloid reported, during the peak of the onion prices crisis, farmers were being paid as little as Rs 4 per kg while it was being sold at Rs 60-80. Then, there has been a sugar shortage. Garlic and tomato prices on the boil.

In spite of the rotting food grains in Food Corporation of India godowns all across the country, the public distribution system has been unable to distribute them to the people. Television channels reported that some of the food grains being distributed had to be fed to dogs because of bad quality.

It’s not just food. Recently a woman killed a politician in Bihar for allegedly raping her for three years. Wasn’t this politician supposed to be a representative of people? Villagers, and most likely, voters are consistently targeted, raped, maimed and killed.

Unfortunately, the politicians representing these so-called ‘people of India’ have let them down miserably. And it is across parties. At the end of the day, barring a very few, most politicians suffer from the lack of a clean image. So much so, that the expectations from politicians are going down by the day.

‘The people of India’ want simple things. You can have your scams, let us have our food. Is it too much to ask?

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When Citi was sleeping

January 4th, 2011

“Citi never sleeps” is the famous campaign of the bank. But then, it was sleeping like Kumbhakarna for almost a year.

If one were to go by news reports, a Citibank employee and his accomplices were investing monies – almost Rs 400 crore – of high net worth individuals through brokerage houses for a while now.

Corporate houses like the Hero group and 20-odd people invested in schemes which were sold to them by showing them forged letter of the market regulator, Sebi.

While the bank may argue that bigger scams have taken place all across the world, including India. But one would expect the bank of this size – another Kumbhakarna feature – to have better due diligence systems.

Aren’t there supposed to be quarterly audits, at least? How do they prepare their results otherwise?

It is slightly difficult to believe that there only one person involved. If the employee was issuing cheques on the behalf of a client, there had to be a second signature.

It is easy to understand that the clients were offered super normal returns (high returns at higher risks) and they fell for it. No wonder, they are cheated often because they do not understand the nuances of the product.

But can a bank, which is supposed to be specialising in these things, plead not guilty of the same? Can Rs 400-crore be diverted/ invested by one person without any scrutiny?

My fear is at a very basic level…

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