WEEKEND LIGHTER: HAPPY ONAM

WEEKEND LIGHTER: HAPPY ONAM, 2016
(September 3/11, 2016, Nos. 36 & 37/2016)
Weekend Lighter is posted* every Saturday @mgwarrier.blogspot.in
Feel free to mail your views on this edition of WL to mgwarrier@gmail.com
*Posted on September 14, 2016. Due to some technical problems, WL was not posted on September 3 and 10, 2016. Trying to make up for the losses. This issue covers the period from September 3 to 13, 2016. Previous issue of WL was dated August 27/28, 2016.
I
Opening Remarks
WEEKEND LIGHTER WISHES ITS READERS
A HAPPY ONAM, 2016
LIFE in Kerala
Apropos "There is a people's alternative" (The Hindu, September 13) by Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan, one appreciated the positive approach running through the article. While claiming credit for achievements and placing on the table the future plans, CM has avoided talking 'politics' but minced no words in being clear about what differentiates "People's Alternative" from the policies followed by other governments in India.
The expansion of LIFE, livelihood, inclusion and financial empowerment covers the theme around which Pinarayi Vijayan proposes to weave the fabric of Kerala's economic development during his current tenure. Let us hope people of Kerala will support this initiative.
M G Warrier, Mumbai
Relevance of protest in a democracy
Workers in India responded to a call from several organisations including most of the major trade unions for an ‘All India Strike’ on September 2, 2016. The ‘demands’ highlighted included issues relating to wages and job security issues including social security. The day passed with some dislocation of traffic, a few speeches, a claim of majority participation by workers, laments about loss of production from industry with exaggerated figures to support, simultaneously with a sigh of relief from government side that everything was ‘normal’.
During the last week of August 2016, some last minute efforts were there from government to avert the strike, which included an upward revision of minimum wages, which, in any case, was pending somewhere for a decision.
Workers’ side dubbed some measures like raising minimum wages announced in the context of strike as an ‘eye wash’. The reverse too is true. The trade union leadership which is guided by political parties somewhere ‘in power’ is not allowing workers to comprehend the seriousness of the situation created by wrong prices, wages and income policy pursued by all governments both at Centre and in states, since independence. Some movement similar to ‘India Against Corruption’ will have to emerge to save workers from their ‘leaders’.
In a democracy, if the systems worked efficiently, there is no justification to give a call for strike. But, unfortunately, in India, democracy and orderly conduct of legislative procedures are still ‘work in progress’. Political parties managing governance are yet to become amenable to democratic processes within themselves and ideologies are compromised to ensure the survival of ruling coalitions. Such compromises affect adversely, not only the smooth governance, but also the working of trade unions and other arms like students’ organisations which have a role in protecting the interests of workers and genuine opinion-making. Simply put, there is a conscious effort to stifle thought processes which the political and corporate leadership feel, can go against their interests.
Writing in The Hindu on September 1, 2016, G Sampath raised a relevant question, “Do we need a minimum wage law?”. He went on to explain the concepts of living wage, fair wage and minimum wage and debated the seriousness with which stakeholders are approaching these concepts. One has to concede that it is a farce to retain the concept of minimum wage which does not ensure an income for the worker (who works full-time) which helps him and his dependents survive with some savings left for the family’s social security needs. The present levels of minimum wages ranging from Rs1,650 per month (Puduchery, agriculture) to Rs Rs 9,100 per month (The minimum wage of Rs 350 per dium for unskilled non-agricultural worker announced by GOI in August 2016), do not reach anywhere near the cost of 5 components mandated by the 15th Indian Labour Conference (1957) which were:
i)                   The wage must support three consumption units (individuals)
ii)                 Food requirements of 2,700 calories per day
iii)               Clothing requirements of 72 yards per year per worker’s family
iv)               Rent for housing area similar to that provided under the subsidised housing scheme and
v)                 Fuel, lighting and miscellaneous items of expenditure to constitute 20 per cent of the minimum wage.
It may be recalled that the Seventh Pay Commission had fixed minimum wage for central government employees at Rs 18,000.
Viewed in the above context, GOI will have to concede at some stage the demand for some reasonable relativity for wages of the workers in the unorganised sector with the entitlements of workers in the organised sector having comparable responsibilities. Whenever specific issues relating to job security and compensation are raised by unions or external agencies in the context of human development indicators in India showing uncomfortable levels in comparison with similarly placed developing countries, some sporadic initiatives are taken by Centre or state governments. One such initiative is the introduction of the concept of ‘full-benefit fixed-term jobs’ in the labour-intensive garment sector by Modi government recently (See box “Fixed term employment going to become reality” on page 64, Business Manager, September 2016). But, a comprehensive legislation covering all aspects of service in the unorganised sector is not yet thought of.
All these will necessitate revisiting the prices, wages and income policy sooner than later. This need to be done quickly and for making the processes transparent and findings and subsequent action plans acceptable for the stakeholders, there should be meaningful debates in legislatures and with users of services of workers. Strikes like the one on September 2, 2016 can only work as symptoms of unrest or an ‘eye opener’ and should not be evaluated on the basis of success and failure or losses and gains.
***************
Universal healthcare*
This refers to The Hindu editorial “The ill health of the nation” (August 31). It is a matter of shame that literacy and healthcare do not get the attention they deserve from the policy makers in India. The speech given by Singapore Deputy Prime Minister Tharman Shanmugaratnam at NITI Aayog in Delhi (his audience included Prime Minister Modi and several other dignitaries) should be an eye opener to all those who think that by improving GDP growth and giving an inflation target to Reserve bank of India, this country’s aim of ‘inclusive economic development’ comparable to emerging developing nations of the world can be achieved. Shanmugaratnam made specific reference to alarming levels of school drop-outs in India and terribly inadequate healthcare facilities here.
It is time we started monitoring efforts in literacy improvement and provision of healthcare by a reverse process of Aadhaar-linking. Grass-root level administrative limbs of the government, like district and taluka level administrations and local self-government bodies should be given the responsibility of linking every family in which a child of school-going age is there with a local school and all families with a local designated doctor or a primary health centre/hospital using Aadhaar number as identity-link. Thereafter, the burden of reporting inadequacy in infrastructure and monitoring progress in ensuring 100 per cent literacy and provision of need-based healthcare for all should be that of those agencies. Local MPs and MLAs should coordinate these efforts.
M G Warrier
*See Chapter III. 5 Universal Healthcare, pages 87 to 89 of my 2014 book “Banking, Reforms & Corruption: Development Issues in 21st Century India”
II
RECENT RESPONSES
1

Common man’s RBI*

*Submitted version of letter sent to Economic Times on September 7, 2016

Protect RBI’s reserves*

*A slightly edited version was published in The Hindu Business Line, September 7, 2016
Reserve Bank of India Annual Report 2015-16
 As RBI interacts with GOI and media on policy issues on an ongoing basis, the Annual Report has lost its significance as a conveyor of RBI’s intentions or assessment of the impact of the policy measures initiated by the central bank. Last year (2014-15), a separate chapter “Governor’s Overview” did a serious analysis of RBI’s concerns and an assessment of ‘work in progress’. But surprisingly that report did not draw much attention.
RBI’s Balance Sheet and accounts are part of the Annual Report. Some analysts in the media compared the growth rates of RBI’s income (which they concluded, was low) and expenditure (they found the rate was much higher than that of the growth rate of income!). Whether such comparisons were done in the past, I have not done any research. No one seems to be bothered about the dwindling reserves of RBI which has come down from a level of 11.9 per cent of total assets in 2009 to a low of 7.5 per cent of total assets by June 2016. Last three years there have been no transfer to reserves from surplus income which was being transferred to GOI. RBI’s capital remains at Rs 5 crores as was at the inception.
2
Landscaping the lending and borrowing scenario
This refers to your editorial “Changing the lending landscape” (Business Standard, August 29). Without doubt, several financial sector reforms, both structural and in relation to savings instruments and resources management initiated in recent years by RBI will have long term positive impact on India’s economic growth. The inadequacy of dialogue between GOI and RBI and the resultant weaknesses in the measures initiated by RBI will remain an issue for pondering even after Dr Rajan leaves Mint Road.
A wholesale revamp of bulk borrowing by both government and corporates and funds management by both private and public sector organisations is overdue. The sector-specific or instrument-specific approach to funds management is doing more harm than good to the markets affected and has an impact on the public trust in financial instruments and institutions (including government/s) which manage them.
To restore trust and reduce the damage already done by creating uncertainties in regard to public debt management and funds management by organisations like EPFO and LIC by using them as captive source for channelling resources to sectors/projects identified by GOI, some quick remedial measures should be considered by GOI in consultation with RBI:
(a)  Adjourn the idea of takeover of public debt management by GOI from RBI. This will help in using the RBI’s clout to retain G Secs marketable at least in the captive market of banks and financial institutions as hitherto, till a retail market for these instruments is developed.
(b) Allow organisations like EPFO and LIC to manage their funds professionally with the long term interests of the savers in view. Temporarily, this may mean a higher cost on government borrowings.
(c)  Have a re-look at the basket of instruments in which banks are allowed to invest SLR funds. Perhaps the level of SLR required to be maintained too may need a review in the context of rising capital adequacy norms.
M G Warrier, Mumbai
3
Bond market management
This refers to The Hindu Business Line editorial “Bond boost” (August 29). A wholesale revamp of bulk borrowing by both government and corporates and funds management by both private and public sector organisations is overdue. The sector-specific or instrument-specific approach to funds management is doing more harm than good to the markets affected and has an impact on the public trust in financial instruments and institutions (including government/s) which manage them.
To restore trust and reduce the damage already done by creating uncertainties in regard to public debt management and funds management by organisations like EPFO and LIC by using them as captive source for channelling resources to sectors/projects identified by GOI, some quick remedial measures should be considered by GOI in consultation with RBI:
(a)  Adjourn the idea of take over of public debt management by GOI from RBI. This will help in using the RBI’s clout to retain G Secs marketable at least in the captive market of banks and financial institutions as hitherto, till a retail market for these instruments is developed.
(b) Allow organisations like EPFO and LIC to manage their funds professionally with the long term interests of the savers in view. Temporarily, this may mean a higher cost on government borrowings.
(c)  Have a re-look at the basket of instruments in which banks are allowed to invest SLR funds. Perhaps the level of SLR required to be maintained too may need a review in the context of rising capital adequacy norms.
M G Warrier, Mumbai
4
Social insecurity issues
This refers to “Social media moved by picture of heartbroken elderly couple” (The Hindu, August 28). The story brought back an old experience to my mind. It was a Saturday evening, sometime during the 1970’s. I was walking on the footpath towards Vellayambalam from Sastamangalam (Thiruvananthapuram). Very few vehicles were moving on the road and many were not walking on the footpath also. I noticed an elderly fisherwoman coming from my opposite side shouting something. When reached very close, finding that she was weeping, I stopped her to find out what was the cause of her worry. She said:
“Rakthathee kedakkunnu saare…payaru poloru payyan…Avante vandi idichittondu oru kaarukaaran adichu minnichu poyennu kandunikkunnavaru parayanu…Aaalu koodeettondu…Aasupathreelu kondovumaayirikkum…Petta thalla engane sahikkum saare…”
(“A young boy is lying in a pool of blood…His vehicle (obviously a scooter or bike) was hit by a car and the car speeded away, according to onlookers…There is a crowd…Perhaps they will take him to hospital…How his mother will face this…”)
She continued her fast walk with the rhythm peculiar to old fisherwomen of those days…beating her chest and weeping…shouting…
These days, media is able to reach out to a large audience with stories like the one from Canada. I am not sure whether the real purpose of drawing attention to the social insecurity, especially among elders,  which is rising with the rising heap of wealth people and nations are accumulating, is being served by sharing and forwarding such stories.
 M G Warrier
5
Fly escapes sledgehammer!
As are most of the cartoons occupying edit page of the Hindu, the one by Keshav on ‘sedition charges’ (August 29) was also thought-provoking and carried a message which need to be pondered over by not only the users of sledgehammer for killing the fly implied in the cartoon, but also by those who waste newsprint, prime hours of telecast time and other resources on relatively trivial issues on an ongoing basis.
In the classic example of the ‘sledgehammer being used to kill a fly’, mostly the fly escapes, sometimes injured, but the surface which bears the shock gets broken or, if it is a gadfly which is targeted, the surface bleeds.
As a nation, we need to change our way of thinking and our approach to issues, from that towards Kashmir to handling issues relating to meat and stray dogs consistent with the changing times and the long way the world has moved during the recent decades. Infusing more pragmatism, compassion and respect for the ‘other view’ and democratic processes will help.
M G Warrier, Mumbai

III
Leisure
1
Not approaching him*
Lord Krishna tells Arjuna that reaching His feet is simple. All one has to do is to surrender to Him. Arjuna has a doubt. If it is so easy, why doesn’t everyone surrender?
The Lord tells him there are four types of sinners, in increasing order of sinfulness, who never reach His feet. In the first category come those who are ignorant. They have the idea that all things have been created for their enjoyment, and they indulge their senses. In the second category come those who know about the Lord, but do not approach Him. In the third category come those who pay heed to misleading arguments of those who say that the world is illusory. In the last category come those who are fully aware of His greatness and yet nurse hatred towards Him.
The ignorant think that the atma belongs to them; they do not know that it belongs to Him. To think that the atma is ours is akin to a tenant assuming that a house, since he resides in it, belongs to him, said Valayapet Ramachariar in a discourse.
Out of fear, some do not approach Him. Of what use is it if we know of His qualities but do not seek Him out of fear? If we do not know that He is accessible, of what use is any other knowledge?
The Gopikas did not know of His Paratva and yet their minds were full of thoughts of Him. These uneducated Gopikas were far better than those who know of His Supremacy, but keep away from Him out of fear of that very quality.
Hiranyakasipu, Ravana etc knew of His Supremacy and yet abused Him. These are the worst sinners among the four categories.
**********
*Source: The Hindu, September 1, 2016, Friday Review, Faith
Follow the wise
He knows not, knows not, he knows not
He’s a fool, shun him
He knows not, knows he knows not
Teach him
He knows, knows not, he knows
Wake him up
He knows, knows, he knows
He’s wise, follow him!
Anonymous
2
What is maturity?* - by Adi Shankara
1. Maturity is when you stop trying to change others...instead focus on changing yourself.
2. Maturity is when you accept people as they are.
3. Maturity is when you understand everyone is right in their own perspective.
4. Maturity is when you learn to "let go".
5. Maturity is when you are able to drop "expectations" from a relationship and give for the sake of giving.
6. Maturity is when you understand whatever you do, you do for your own peace.
7. Maturity is when you stop proving to the world, how intelligent you are.
8. Maturity is when you don't seek approval from others.
9. Maturity is when you stop comparing with others. 
10. Maturity is when you are at peace with yourself.
11. Maturity is when you are able to differentiate between "need" and "want" and are able to let go of your wants.  
& last but most meaningful! 
12. You gain Maturity when you stop attaching "happiness" to material things
*Quoted by Vathsala Jayaraman in a Group(Exrbites) email.
3
Description of 12 Jyotirlingams in Shiva Purana

Saurashtra Somnatham Cha Shrishaile Mallikarjunam ||
Ujjainyam Mahakal Omkare Mammaleshwaram ||
Parlyam Vaijnatham Cha Dakinyam Bheema Shankaram ||
Setu Bandhe Tu Ramesham Nagesham Daruka Vane ||
Varanasya Tu Vishwesham Triambakam Gautamitate ||
Himalaye Tu Kedaram Ghurmesham Cha Shivalaye ||
Aetani Jyotirlingani Sayam Prataha Pathennaraha ||
Sapta Janma Kritam Papam Smaranen Vinashyati ||
* Source: Email received from PPR on August 29, 2016


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