• India

    Why India should change its fiscal year

    When I was in school, I heard that India’s fiscal year start’s on 1 April because India is a agrarian economy and the harvesting season happens in April. But now I think it could be 1 April because UK has it’s fiscal year on 1 April, and after Independence, we might have preferred to simply keep it that way.

    But I think we should change the fiscal year to either 1 January or 1 October. Or we could keep start our fiscal year on Diwali, the way Stock market begins it’s new year.

    But why should we change it? Because majority of development work at center, state and municipality level happens between January to March, the last quarter. That is when everyone wakes up and decides that it’s time work needs to be done. This is how the fiscal planning and execution goes  at all 3 levels  –

    By February or March, a budget is allocated by the elected representatives.
    The new budget is enforced from 1 April. First quarter starts. But not much work is initiated in the first quarter because  June to September is a rainy season in India. And rainfalls interrupt all infrastructure work. So 4 months, no work. 2nd quarter just goes by waiting for rains to end. As soon as rainy season  ends, the festival season starts in India. It starts with Navratri, Dusshera and ends with Diwali. Everyone is in a festive mood so labor goes back to their villages to spend time with family. Bureaucrats don’t want to spend much time at office.  By November/December, everyone is back at work and then decide what needs to be done. Third quarter also goes by. The development work starts in January, 4th Quarter.

    Also, many government agencies don’t use the funds allocated to them till November. They start using the funds in January, 4th quarter, because unless they can show they have used their old funds, they can’t apply for more funds in next fiscal year. So they initiate lot of projects in January, which might or might not finish by May. If they don’t finish by June, there is a 4 month break after which work resumes in November.

    So basically the execution work happens in 4th quarter. Just like students wait till January to study properly for their final exams in April.

    So what if the fiscal year starts on 1 January, lets evaluate:

    1. The budget will need to be presented in the assembly by November, which means everyone in the government is busy from October. Bad timing for festival season.
    2. Budget is enforced on 1 January. Government has 2 quarters to finish the work. They have 6 months to use the funds.
    3. Majority of the nations have fiscal year on 1 January.

    What if fiscal year starts on 1 October:

    1. Budget to be presented by September. Government is busy preparing the budget in August September.
    2. By September we already know the rainfall which has a major impact on stock markets and budgeting, since India is a agrarian economy. This might be positive for budget planning
    3. Budget is enforced on 1 October, which coincides almost with Diwali.
    4. Our financial year will start with US fiscal year.
    5. Departments have 9 months (from October to May) or the first 3 quarters to use the funds without any interruption from rains.
    6. When development work stops in June, we can take stock of the situation and start planning from June to September, in 4th quarter.

    What if fiscal year starts on 1 July:

    1. Budget to be presented by June.
    2. Budget enforced on 1 July.
    3. Many countries including Australia have their financial year starting on 1 July.
    4. Departments cannot start infrastructure work in July, but they can start making purchases in the first quarter. We would still have 9 months or 3 quarters to finish the work.

    I am saying this purely from the point of view to implement infrastructure and development works. I am sure corporate sector will also benefit in this age of globalization and aligning their fiscal year with their counterparts in other countries.  This might not work well for agriculture.

    Other option could be that states should be allowed to choose their own fiscal year. But I think that is highly impossible.

  • India

    Why writers are returning their awards

    What will you do when your job is threatened and you can no longer do your work freely that you have been enjoying for your whole life?
    What if you are threatened of dire consequences just because you were doing your work the way you want to do it?
    What if you cannot roam freely because of your vocation? Do you sit at home or change your vocation?
    What if your views are disagreeable to others and that prevents you from doing your job properly, and sometimes even threaten your existence?

    I am sure many of us can’t even imagine these situations because of the mediocre boring jobs that we are doing daily. Who will really threaten us with our life at our plush air conditioned offices? So what if I have pressure from my manager to do the task his way, I will obey his command. Worst case, I will leave my job and find another company where things are more creative and liberal.

    But there are many others who are doing something different – writers, film makers, scientists, professors. These people are noticing the change in the society for past few years. I think these writers who are returning awards are concerned that if things continue the way they are, they won’t be able to write as they want, or make films as they like to. They would like to continue their vocation, their work, freely without any physical or mental pressure from the evil with no face.

    Then there are social workers and activists who are still trying to bring social change by doing their bit, sometimes without the help of government. These activists are offered police protection when they receive threats. But why should someone not roam freely just because he is trying to bring a change in the society for the good.

    I am not saying that these intellectuals or liberals are scared. They are only trying to protect their job. Everyone does. Chetan Bhagat says in this article that even politicians are defending their jobs. I think the writers, film makers, scientists, social workers are also defending their jobs by returning their awards.

    They want their peers, groups, institutions, academies, society and the world to take notice of what is happening. They want to tell everyone that we cannot continue working if people like us are threatened or killed for our work. And it is obvious that they can’t change their vocation and do jobs in cubicles like others. Neither do they want to join the system, become politicians and become CM. Hence the only non-violent way to get everyone’s attention is to return the awards. They are returning the awards to defend their job, lives and most importantly, their belief.

    And they have been successful till now in their efforts within a span of one month. Mahatma Gandhi said:

    First they ignore you, then they laugh at you, then they fight you, then you win.

    I think we are now at the second stage in this whole turn of events. Writers, historians, professors, scientists, social workers are always the ignored profession in India. When few writers initially returned their awards, not many people from other side took notice. They laughed at them and tried to classify or categorize them into leftist, opposition, elitist, intellectuals, liberals etc. But now even Members of Parliament are taking notice of them and inviting them for a “constructive” discussion. Hope the best side wins!

  • India

    Booking Indian Railway Tickets For Senior Citizens – Concession and Quota

    Concession means that you get a discount in your ticket price. Quota means some seats are allotted for a particular group – like few for ladies, few for defence, few for senior citizens and rest for general public. 

    Indian Railways provides some benefits to senior citizens which are mentioned in this document here

    Two of the most important things are – 

    1. Concession in Ticket price:

    40% for men and 50% for women. Please refer (i) in above document. 

    How to get this concession: 

    Getting concession is fairly simple when booking tickets online for senior citizens through www.irtctc.co.in. You need to simply select the checkbox for senior citizen and carry the age proof when you travel. 
    Getting a lower berth for senior citizens is difficult. Many times we book tickets with other family members and find that all lower berths are gone; no lower berths are assigned to old people even after selecting the senior citizen checkbox. But very few people know that railways have assigned 2 lower berths in every coach for senior citizens. Lets check the quota now. 

    2. Quota for allotting seats:

    a) General Quota: 

    Lower berths are allotted automatically from this quota to senior citizen/female over 45 years while booking tickets subject to availability. 

    b) Lower Berth Quota: 

    2 lower berths are allocated in each coach for senior citizens/female over 45 years/pregnant women.  These 2 seats can be availed by any of them. But there is a catch here – this quota is given to the person only if they are travelling alone. It means that they need to be the only one in the ticket. If you include more than one person in the ticket, then this quota is not applied. Also, if there   2 senior citizens are included on the same ticket, then too the quota is not applied.

    If you open the document that is linked above and below too, refer point 3 (iii) in the pdf. Lower berth quota is allotted when travelling alone. Hence to avail the lower berth for senior citizens, try to book the ticket for the old person with only his/her name. Other family members will need to book a separate ticket. If there are 2 old people travelling, then book 2 separate tickets! 

    Notes:

    • There are detailed steps to book tickets in senior citizen quota from here: http://www.indiamike.com/india/indian-railways-f10/online-booking-of-senior-citizen-quota-guaranteed-lower-berth-subject-to-availabilit-t168757/
    • Also, www.erail.in has  a good feature of checking this lower berth quota. You can search for trains and select the lower berth quota from the drop down. 

    Documents and links related to senior citizens quota:

  • India,  Thoughts

    The Return of East India Company

    I was excited today as my new table was delivered at my place. I was used to tables being delivered in full form (on 4 legs) with great difficulty through the three feet wide doors. But today the table was delivered in parts. The first package had the legs, the second had the table top, the third package contained the material for drawers. Then the ‘carpenter’ opened all the boxes and started joining the pieces like a child playing with a kit.

    In between this excitement, it was sad to see that the carpenter didn’t actually make the table from scratch but was only assembling the pieces. The table was made somewhere in a factory in China. All  he had to do was just fit the pieces together. I was surprised to see such engineering/craftsmanship from China.

    Just like the table, the furniture market is full of products supplied from China. I am wondering whether India can locally compete with that in terms of delivery time, quality and price. Probably we can compete in terms of quality. But it is faster to get goods delivered from China than getting it made locally in India. That is how someone can explain Globalization to a layperson. And that is the beginning of the end of one more local industry in India. 


    It reminded me of the 17th Century when East India Company came to India and everyone was excited to see new products in the market bought from distant lands. And soon that led to closure of many industries like handicrafts. And the rest is history. What we need to learn from our mistakes is that we should grow our local competencies. 

  • India

    Update on Reservation Issue…

    2 members of the Knowledge Commission recently gave their resignation to the PM, as they were not happy with the developments regarding the Reservation matter and the approach that the UPA government is taking to tackle it.

    The Indian Express has published the full text of the resignation letter that Mr. Pratap Bhanu Mehta gave to Mr. Manmohan Singh. It is in the editorial section of Indian Express on 23rd May, 2006. I would suggest everyone to read it, if possible. It clearly shows that even the UPA is internally divided on this issue.

    Update : You can read the letter here –

    Dear Prime Minister …

  • India

    One more blog on Anti – Reservation !

    The real hot topic amongst the youth of India is the anti-reservation bill which is proposed by Arjun Singh , the HRD minister. I have read some blogs on this topic, and I think there are hundred more, stressing on the disadvantages of the bill, and the impact it might have in future on our youth. So I wont write anything about that. It is well understood that the proposal to bring 49% reservation in education seats is definitely not good , if you see the big picture. Already , we students have suffered because of the 22 – 25% reservation currently existing in all institutions and universities.

    From past 2 weeks, lot of protest rallies and hunger strikes have been held all over the country, specially by Medical students. With help of lot of SMSes , orkut, forward mails , the whole drive has gained momentum and more and more students are coming together to voice their opinion. Good for them . But are the politicians listening ??

    I am saying politicians and not the government. Its because its pretty clear that not a single politician has even raised his voice or given any comments on this topic in media. Ofcourse, no one wants to offend the OBCs or EBCs, be it in the State elections or the Central . Everyone wants a share of the cake.

    I remember that Rahul Gandhi , the new face of Congress, had given his first speech in Lok Sabha just a few weeks before Arjun Singh had proposed the bill. Everyone applauded him and said that he totally resembled his father Rajiv Gandhi. You know the main agenda of his speech – it was on Education. It covered topics from school level education to premier institutes , and how we ( the government ) should work on this field to make India prosperous. But just few weeks back, he avoided any comments on this bill issue, when asked in Rae Barielly , and just said that he wished to have a conversation with the students.

    The opposition party – BJP – boycotted Lok Sabha to condemn the killings in JnK recently. But , when the Reservation Bill was discussed last week, no one even raised an objection, forget walking out of the Parliament. It is all very obvious. Who will offend the backward classes. Its better to keep your mouth shut.

    Don’t you see, the politicians are least interested in listening to our demands. The maximum that our PM did was to establish a committee ( as usual ) and included Arjun Singh also in it ! The committee is supposed to do a study on this matter, that’s it.No one did a study on the census and tried to find the actual percentage of OBCs in our country . The bill is passed based on 1931 census. Why will they listen to us ? The rallies and hunger strike has received so much media attention, still not a single party or a individual party member has come in open for support of Anti – reservation. Even the young politicians like Sachin Pilot and Milind Deora have said nothing. Obviously , due to High – Command pressure . So , I don’t think any concrete result will be seen in this matter.

    I had the same opinion when there were protest rallies held for Jessica Lal murder case and Narmada Bachao Andolan. But in those cases, the government had nothing to lose. The former case laid doubts on Police Investigation, not on the government . But if the government gives a confirmation to the students that no such Reservation Bill will be passed in future, they will lose all the OBC’s votes. What government will do ( if things go out of hand ) , is to hold the bill for sometime and when some elections will come later, they will bring this topic again and sell it to the public.

    Now, the question to be asked is – Why doesn’t the government give a damn about the youth. Only one answer – because we are a very very very small part of their vote bank, compared to other categories like OBC, EBC, etc.

    I don’t understand why we ( the Youth ) don’t vote. That’s our right. I know there wont be any drastic change to this country if the young crowd starts voting – as all politicians are same. Its like picking the best from the worst , but alteast the politicians will know that we are a part of public whose needs have to be addressed. Politicians know very well that we will never go out in majority to vote, but the OBCs and backward classes will. OBCs and specially the EBCs go to vote because they believe that by voting, the particular party will do something for them. And its totally opposite in case of the youth. The youth thinks that voting is just a waste of time. Why to go and stand in a line just to vote for someone who in reality doesnt give a damn about us. This has been the mindset from past 25-30 years, and that’s the reason the government turned a deaf year during the Mandal commission in 1990 and even now.

    I personally believe that all people who did not vote , specially the youth who had a chance to vote in the recent 2004 Lok Sabha elections , should not even speak on this whole Reservation issue. We are showing huge majority and unity now in these protest rallies . If only we would have shown the same unity for voting, maybe things might have been different now.

    What I don’t understand is , why cant these political parties see the big picture ? Why do they see only small goals .As seen in the last Lok Sabha elections, reforms were the major issue in public minds. People are no more interested in the Ayodhya issue. They want to see reforms, some work done in the country or atleast in their neighbourhood. That was what drove their decision.

    Also by 2009 , there will be abundant pool of just-turned -18 crowd, who , I hope, will vote. Shouldn’t the government or other political parties try to gain their confidence from right now. But, as I said, they have a reliable vote bank which they can cash on for years to come.

    Anyways, my opinion to voice our concerns should be to do something like Civil Disobedience Movement. Stop working, stop studying, boycott institutions, universities. I am not talking about only Medical students, but each and every field , be it medical, engg., MBA or arts. Parents of Open category students who are working in Public sector should also go on strike. Bring the country to a standstill But, maybe this is too extreme. And practically , not possible. Till then, all we can do is just protest in front of deaf ears.