Letters to the editor

Readers' comments: To go cashless, India must take lessons from Africa

A selection of reader's opinions.

Digital divide

Although going cashless may have its benefits in the long run, by insisting on using smart phones and internet, the government is barking up the wrong tree (“Phones as wallets: Three reasons why Modi’s cashless drive will not happen in a hurry”). India should, like Africa, use the mobile money route to go cashless. Using basic phones and Unstructured Supplementary Service Data systems, Africa has been able to make majority of its transactions non-cash. In a city like Dar es salaam, more than half the payments made by commuters to the city bus is through mobile money. If Africa can do it, there is no reason why India can’t. – Ajith Kumar

Even if a cashless economy becomes a reality, do we have firewalls to protect account holders from hackers? Credit card fraud is rampant. Which agency is going to going to offer security to the country as a whole? – Prasad Jacob

Food for thought

What I have seen and experienced across Gujarat, from the top down to the level of Food and Corporation of India warehouse labourers, is that people are working in tandem to pilfer food meant for the poor (“Can biometrics stop the theft of food rations? No, shows Gujarat”).

They don’t feel ashamed for what they are doing, on the contrary, they proudly narrate the tricks they employed to deny poor people their rightful share. It is akin to vultures feasting on a body. Morality at it lowest can be seen in society and the rot is so deep that rooting is out is next to impossible. – Sultan Surti

Ideological divide

The author’s allegation about Rajiv Malhotra’s plagiarism is false
(“From social media to summits: How India’s right wing is trying to create its own intellectual space”). Those who think they are left- leaning intellectuals do not seem to have the knowledge, wisdom, courage and guts to have an open and honest debate with Malhotra to settle matters. It is sad that they hide in their ivory towers and enjoy mud-slinging. – Krishna Chadalavada

Editor’s note: As this tweet by Rajiv Malhotra demonstrates, this letter writer is makin an inaccurate claim.

Demonetisation conversations

This a fine article in which Ajaz Ashraf’s “radical leftist” friend explains the wide acceptance for demonetisation (“Why the media doesn’t understand the widespread support for demonetisation”).

But the repeated use of the words “radical leftist” was jarring and interrupted an otherwise fine read. You did not have to make that pointed repeatedly. It leads one to wonder whether
this radical leftist is for real. What is the harm in naming her, especially if she is radical? (She did not anything that would put someone’s life in danger in any case). – L

Number crunching

Modi’s claim, dutifully echoed by his acolytes, that 70 years of corruption would take time to remove is poor arithmetic (“How are you seizing crores in new notes every day if banks say they don’t have money, SC asks Centre”). To begin with, August 15, 1947 to November 8, 2016, is closer to 69 years. More importantly, Modi became prime minister two-and-a-half years ago. So, according to his own arithmetic, his current term was within the 70 years, meaning he is party to the corruption and black money.

Most importantly, according to his arithmetic, the RSS, the Jana Sangh and later the BJP, as well as powerful chief ministers like Bhairon Singh Shekhawat and Keshubhai Patel, to leaders at the Centre such as LK Advani and Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee, did nothing to fight black money and corruption.

Modi’s core rhetoric is personalised and he is the sole crusader. He is above the law. Legal requirements have to be fulfilled before demonetisation. He has not done that. Further he has had the Swachh Bharat slogan printed below Gandhi’s picture on the Rs 2,000 note. That is also illegal. – Kamal Chenoy

***

I have been an avid reader of Scroll.in for a year now but lately, I can find only biased news from countering the government. I expect articles to give the whole picture of the prevailing situation, rather than just projecting one side of the coin, as they did in the past. – Charan GV

Question marks

In his article on S Gurumurthy, writer Mohan Guruswamy makes an erroneous claim (“Why Gurumurthy has to employ voodoo economics to defend demonetisation (and attack Manmohan Singh)“). He says that:

In his recent column, Gurumurthy blandly writes that the National Democratic Alliance I government of Atal Behari Vajpayee created 600 lakh jobs during its five years, while the UPA I and II just resulted in 27 lakh jobs. The reality is quite the opposite.

However, Guruswamy has misquoted Gurumurthy, whose original statement in the Hindu column is as follows:

In the first and best six years of the UPA (2004-’05 to 2009-10), ... how many jobs did UPA’s high growth produce? Believe it or not, just 27 lakhs against 600 lakhs during NDA’s five years, according to NSSO data.


This has been fact-checked here and been found to be reasonably accurate. – G Jayendran

***

In this article, Mohan Guruswamy, says that “according to the Economic Census, ‘new jobs grew at an annually at 3.2% between 2005 and 2013 (UPA period), faster than the annual pace of job growth of 2.78% between 1998 and 2005 (NDA period).’” Where is he getting these numbers from? Both the Economic Times as well as the Ministry of Statistics and Programme Implementation confirm S Gurumurthy’s numbers and not Guruswamy’s.

He further says that “Gurumurthy argued that ancient India had all of the technologies needed and we need to just draw from them.” Gurumurthy, in all of his lectures, has never claimed anything of this sort. What he has always claimed is that ancient India was the most technologically advanced among all ancient civilisations, which is completely different.
Guruswamy needs to substantiate his allegations he can’t be allowed to get away with fabrications and half-truths. – Rahul Joshi

Wearing thin

The hardship being faced by people due to the mismanagement in the banking system and the distribution of new currency may have lost the BJP some supporters but but people are still hopeful of happy ending (“Amit Shah loses temper at BJP meeting as party leaders say demonetisation could cause a backlash”).

Some leaders in the BJP who faced problems and lost their black money may be against demonetisation and no doubt the implementation has been a problem, but it is curable. – PSM

***

Amit Shah’s reaction indicates the direction in which the BJP, and as a result, the government is headed in the near future. – Siraj Ahmed

***

The government, after demonetisation, announced one more yojana came in the name of the poor. This is another trick to cheat the poor.

This government has slashed budgets for public health and public education, facilities mainly meant for the poor. Similarly , funds for schedule caste and scheduled tribe sub plans remain unspent or have been diverted to other works. The price of diesel has been repeatedly increased. Now, the BJP is making the false promise that black money would come into the Pradhan Mantri Garib Kalyan Yojana 2016. Such lies. – Vipparti Ramamohana Rao

Looking out

I am grateful to our political parties for setting aside their differences to pass this much-needed legislation for people with disabilities (“Rights of Persons with Disabilities Bill 2016 passed in Lok Sabha”). In the bill, disability has been defined based on an evolving and dynamic concept and the types of disabilities have been increased from the existing seven to 21. The Centre also has the power to add more types of disabilities to the list.

The bill aims to secure and enhance the rights and entitlements of differently-abled citizens. The legislation, drafted to make Indian laws compliant with the UN Convention on Rights of Persons with Disabilities, will replace the Persons with Disabilities Act 1995. Persons with disabilities will be provided barrier-free access in buildings, transport systems and all kinds of public infrastructure, and will not be discriminated against in matters of employment. – Akash Kumar

Weighing words

As a first-time writer likely to publish my book in the next three months, I was eager to read this piece and was hoping for some insightful tips on what to do differently (“What a first-time writer learnt about how to make a bestseller in India”). However, I was disappointed. – R Sridhar

Losing ground

The poor feedback on demonetisation that the RSS has received should not come as a surprise (“Word on the ground: Support for demonetisation is fading in Uttar Pradesh, finds RSS”). Effectively depriving millions of labourers in the unorganised sector, who are essentially daily wage earners, of their livelihood is an act of unprecedented cruelty. The Constitution guarantees right to livelihood to every citizen and it can be successfully argued that the government denied this fundamental right to millions of citizens by pursuing demonetisation in this ham-handed manner.

If elimination of black money was the main target, the government had the opportunity to slash tax rates, ensure tax compliance and fast track legal processes against evaders. Further, the government should have waited for the roll out of GST, which would have increased tax receipts. A large-scale drive to move towards a cashless society could have also been pursued, parallelly. As it stands, the roll out of GST has been delayed as states feel cheated by demonetisation.

Demonetisation is the last option to be pursued, only if all else fails, and even then it should be done only after building adequate infrastructure so that the salaried and daily wage earners are insulated from the shock. A “surgical strike” approach for demonetisation is completely unwarranted and demonstrates only electoral lust. In a democracy, the only weapon available to the aggrieved citizen is the power of the ballot and should the results turn out to be disappointing for the BJP then the surgical strike may well turn out to be a self goal! – Rangacharimohan

***

I am highly disappointed. This is pure cheating. Political corruption is the mother of all corruptions and scandals. Modi, if he really wants to root out corruption, must get all political parties and NGOs under ambit of RTI and do away with tax exemptions and cash donations.
Believe me, all will support this. – Rakesh Mehrotra

Troubled waters

Hats off to Capt Sanjeev sir for writing this first of its kind article (“How all work and little sleep have left the Indian navy fatigued and stressed”). The first step in problem solving is acknowledging the fact that there is a problem – something that officers of the Indian Navy have been denying so far. Thank you very much for bringing out this important matter on work-life balance, albeit after retirement. I don’t know what you had done to address this issue while in service, but I have seen officers most often speak the truth either after they are grounded or after they retire.

Nevertheless, I still doubt how many serving officers of the Navy are going to buy you views because, burying their head in sand is all they are doing to solve the immense problems being faced by our beautiful organisation. As any acknowledgement of the truth or a deviation from being a yes-man is surely going to cost them their dream of becoming an admiral some day.
Keep writing the truths sir, this means a lot to the Navy. – Manas Hazarika

***
Capt Sanjeev Kumar has rightly acknowledged the most important but least talked about factor which plagues not only the Navy but all uniform services. I truly admire his concern and hope there will be zero accidents in the future if the fatigue of workers is looked into. – P Vijayakumar

Fact or fiction?

These are all Savitri Devi’s fantasies (“Writings of French Hindu who worshipped Hitler as an avatar of Vishnu are inspiring the US alt-right”). No where in the Hindu scriptures is it mentioned that someone would be born to pave the way for Vishnu’s last avatar, Kalki. And neither has it happened for his previous avatars. Vishnu doesn’t need a mediator. It’s all one person’s fantasy and should not be given any importance at all. No more time should be wasted in writing some fantasies. Please don’t insult the oldest living religion in the world, Hinduism, by associating it with some person’s fantasies or imagination. They are being given so much importance just because she is a white. Please stop publishing such nonsense. – Hersh Mauskar

Leadership vacuum

This finance minister lacks the wisdom that this country expected of the BJP, with the RSS’ intellectual support (“India not a ‘fragile economy’, has the capacity to fully implement demonetisation: Arun Jaitley”). His expressions here are boring and laborious. Demonetisation, except for temporarily halting terror funding in Kashmir and sleeper cells across India, has only harmed the Indian population by varying degrees.

What India needed was a change in the direction of our economy, efforts to increase the contribution of agricultural produce to the GDP, free education, investments in science and technology, mass transportation and rural development, among other things.

The BJP and the RSS should give the finance minister post to Dr Swamy, who would have addressed the aforementioned things and would have caught the big thieves of all parties, including the BJP. I have been writing to Modiji on some implementation strategies for the past two years with no acknowledgement. – VTC

We welcome your comments at letters@scroll.in.
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Some of the worst decisions made in history

From the boardroom to the battlefield, bad decisions have been a recipe for disaster

On New Year’s Day, 1962, Dick Rowe, the official talent scout for Decca Records, went to office, little realising that this was to become one of the most notorious days in music history. He and producer Mike Smith had to audition bands and decide if any were good enough to be signed on to the record label. At 11:00 am, either Rowe or Smith, history is not sure who, listened a group of 4 boys who had driven for over 10 hours through a snowstorm from Liverpool, play 15 songs. After a long day spent listening to other bands, the Rowe-Smith duo signed on a local group that would be more cost effective. The band they rejected went on to become one of the greatest acts in musical history – The Beatles. However, in 1962, they were allegedly dismissed with the statement “Guitar groups are on the way out”.

Source: Wikimedia Commons
Source: Wikimedia Commons

Decca’s decision is a classic example of deciding based on biases and poor information. History is full of examples of poor decisions that have had far reaching and often disastrous consequences.

In the world of business, where decisions are usually made after much analysis, bad decisions have wiped out successful giants. Take the example of Kodak – a company that made a devastating wrong decision despite overwhelming evidence to the contrary. Everyone knows that Kodak couldn’t survive as digital photography replaced film. What is so ironic that Alanis Morissette could have sung about it, is that the digital camera was first invented by an engineer at Kodak as early as 1975. In 1981, an extensive study commissioned by Kodak showed that digital was likely to replace Kodak’s film camera business in about 10 years. Astonishingly, Kodak did not use this time to capitalise on their invention of digital cameras – rather they focused on making their film cameras even better. In 1996, they released a combined camera – the Advantix, which let users preview their shots digitally to decide which ones to print. Quite understandably, no one wanted to spend on printing when they could view, store and share photos digitally. The Advantix failed, but the company’s unwillingness to shift focus to digital technology continued. Kodak went from a 90% market share in US camera sales in 1976 to less than 10% in 2012, when it filed for bankruptcy. It sold off many of its biggest businesses and patents and is now a shell of its former self.

Source: Wikimedia Commons
Source: Wikimedia Commons

Few military blunders are as monumental as Napoleon’s decision to invade Russia. The military genius had conquered most of modern day Europe. However, Britain remained out of his grasp and so, he imposed a trade blockade against the island nation. But the Russia’s Czar Alexander I refused to comply due to its effect on Russian trade. To teach the Russians a lesson, Napolean assembled his Grand Armée – one of the largest forces to ever march on war. Estimates put it between 450,000 to 680,000 soldiers. Napoleon had been so successful because his army could live off the land i.e. forage and scavenge extensively to survive. This was successful in agriculture-rich and densely populated central Europe. The vast, barren lands of Russia were a different story altogether. The Russian army kept retreating further and further inland burning crops, cities and other resources in their wake to keep these from falling into French hands. A game of cat and mouse ensued with the French losing soldiers to disease, starvation and exhaustion. The first standoff between armies was the bloody Battle of Borodino which resulted in almost 70,000 casualties. Seven days later Napoleon marched into a Moscow that was a mere shell, burned and stripped of any supplies. No Russian delegation came to formally surrender. Faced with no provisions, diminished troops and a Russian force that refused to play by the rules, Napolean began the long retreat, back to France. His miseries hadn’t ended - his troops were attacked by fresh Russian forces and had to deal with the onset of an early winter. According to some, only 22,000 French troops made it back to France after the disastrous campaign.

Source: Wikimedia Commons
Source: Wikimedia Commons

When it comes to sports, few long time Indian cricket fans can remember the AustralAsia Cup final of 1986 without wincing. The stakes were extremely high – Pakistan had never won a major cricket tournament, the atmosphere at the Sharjah stadium was electric, the India-Pakistan rivalry at its height. Pakistan had one wicket in hand, with four runs required off one ball. And then the unthinkable happened – Chetan Sharma decided to bowl a Yorker. This is an extremely difficult ball to bowl, many of the best bowlers shy away from it especially in high pressure situations. A badly timed Yorker can morph into a full toss ball that can be easily played by the batsman. For Sharma who was then just 18 years old, this was an ambitious plan that went wrong. The ball emerged as a low full toss which Miandad smashed for a six, taking Pakistan to victory. Almost 30 years later, this ball is still the first thing Chetan Sharma is asked about when anyone meets him.

So, what leads to bad decisions? While these examples show the role of personal biases, inertia, imperfect information and overconfidence, bad advice can also lead to bad decisions. One of the worst things you can do when making an important decision is to make it on instinct or merely on someone’s suggestion, without arming yourself with the right information. That’s why Aegon Life puts the power in your hands, so you have all you need when choosing something as important as life insurance. The Aegon Life portal has enough information to help someone unfamiliar with insurance become an expert. So empower yourself with information today and avoid decisions based on bad advice. For more information on the iDecide campaign, see here.

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This article was produced on behalf of Aegon Life by the Scroll.in marketing team and not by the Scroll.in editorial staff.