WEEKEND LIGHTER: Budget 2017-18

WEEKEND LIGHTER: Budget 2017-18
(February 4/5, 2017, No.5/2017)
Weekend Lighter is posted every Saturday @mgwarrier.blogspot.in
Feel free to mail your views on this edition of WL to mgwarrier@gmail.com

Opening remarks
In-House conduct*
From Rajyasabha (Upper House of Indian Parliament) to Gram Panchayats, normal functioning is being regularly obstructed for one reason or the other. The elections and having democratic institutions will serve public interest only if legislative functions, in which debates in legislatures have much to contribute, are allowed to proceed without let or hindrance. These thoughts come to mind today in the context of withholding of debates in Lok Sabha and Rajya Sabha on days following the address to the joint session of Parliament by President and presentation of Union Budget by the Finance Minister.
There is no denying that the issue raised, namely inadequacies in handling of the situation arising after former minister E Ahmed’s collapse in the House and later demise in hospital  needs to be debated by both the houses of parliament as similar situations in future can be handled more appropriately in future, if lapses have occurred in this case.
What is objectionable is a pattern in the functioning of legislatures which gives an impression that there is no effort on the part of legislators themselves to ensure that the house proceedings are not ‘skipped’ in the name of protests. Why not a Parliamentary Committee go into the issue of conduct of business while parliament is in session? The Committee could examine the possibility of:
(i)                A consensus on completing the day’s business before other matters
are taken up for discussion (Emergent issues or condolences could be exempted from this).
(ii)              Other matters of importance, like those now raised through
 adjournment motions or calling attention motions could be taken up immediately after the business scheduled for the day are over
(iii)           To begin with, through consensus, give a gap or holiday for
running into the ‘well of the house’ and walking out of the house as protest and use the entire time and energy for debates on issues that come up for discussion.
M G Warrier, Mumbai
*Copied below, the version published in The Hindu Business Line on February 4, 2017
House rules
Elections and other democratic institutions will serve the public interest only if legislative functions, in which debates have much to contribute, are allowed to proceed without let or hindrance. There is no denying that the poor handling of the situation after former minister E Ahmed collapsed in the House and later passed away in hospital needs to be debated by both houses of Parliament in order to learn how to handle such situations appropriately.
The impression is that there is no effort on the part of legislators to ensure that proceedings are not ‘skipped’ in the name of protests. Why doesn’t a parliamentary committee go into the issue while Parliament is in session?
MG Warrier
Recent responses
Understanding the other side

This refers to your editorial “Unfair demand” (Business Standard) January 31). The role of hard cash in electioneering is again in focus. This time, unfortunately, a statutory body responsible for monitoring abuse of cash in elections is openly coming out making a plea that 'cash' should play a greater role in elections.
It needs to be clearly understood that GOI or RBI are not standing in the way of candidates spending 'money' within the allowed ceilings. The limits for withdrawals are applicable to cash withdrawals from single savings bank accounts and not on 'expenditure'. These limits are, as rightly pointed out by you, to all citizens in India across geographies.
A section of the media is celebrating as if there is a tussle between EC and RBI, while both are just performing their assigned roles within their legal and policy constraints. This was an avoidable episode, if only the Election Commission had followed the practice of consulting with the stakeholders (which RBI has been practicing religiously for the last several years), before issuing ‘instructions’ using the constitutional authority.
If statutory bodies like Election Commission assert authority selectively and embarrass government, problems they create will get resolved, but the wounds  such actions inflict on their otherwise creditable performance record will leave unforgettable scars. Mutual consultations and effort to understand the constraints of the other side make democratic processes more graceful and acceptable.
M G Warrier, Mumbai
Effect of social media on today’s society
M G Warrier
View : “Erasers are made for those who make mistakes.”
Counter view: “Erasers are made for those ‘willing to’ correct mistakes”
Quoted above is from the first mail I read today and that was from my good friend Badri. Badri has a special skill to select quotes which are not ‘controversial’. Here, the counter view doesn’t reject the first view that erasers are made ‘for those who make mistakes’, but just sends out a message that the ‘use’ of eraser is for those who correct things the moment they realize that something has gone wrong. Badri says it is all about ‘attitude’. Same thing about social media, or any media for that matter!
All along, media, print, audio (you have forgotten ‘Aakashvaani’, I can’t!) and visual have been playing a positive role in educating society, correcting policies and entertaining people. Side by side, there was abuse of media for spreading rumors/scandals, destroying institutions, bringing down governments and so on. We have heard a lot about ‘paid news’, leaks, use/misuse of Right to Information by media for different purposes (both positive and negative) and so on. Then what is ‘new’ about social media?
The present position of social media is like, every individual who can use a mobile having a ‘political party’, ‘government’ and media (audio and visual) under her/his control, irrespective of the person’s age, maturity, literacy level or even ‘soundness’ of mind. This is an alarming situation. Think of a five year old using his grandfather’s mobile and transferring funds from the old man’s bank account to an unknown person’s account by just following the instructions coming on the mobile. Or I getting a call from an insane person telling me that I should transfer a particular amount to a particular account to save ‘X’ whom I know, but have not been in touch for some time. It’s not just monetary. Abuse of electronic media at various levels by miscreants for several anti-social purposes is on the increase. And, believe me, we are not going to get law or regulations in place which will provide a blanket  insulation  from the harms this monster can do in our day to day life. Still, there is hope and before discussing options to minimize the possibility of our becoming the ‘victim’ of frauds, let us examine the modus operandi of fraudsters in a couple of other situations.
Till the end of last century, duping people was a time-consuming activity. Remember the chit funds, Multi-Level-Marketing schemes (MLM), IPOs, various discount offers, installment  schemes and other money-multiplying activities in which some of us or our friends have lost money. By and large, the cheats were identified fast through word of mouth and losses were restricted to certain groups of people or some geographical areas. But, crores went down the line in the recent ‘mobile phone for Rs251 offer’ several people across the world are losing money every day by responding to phone calls or mails offering huge amounts against payment of ‘handling charges’ or ‘initial expenses’. Most of the offers come through messages from ‘unknown’ entities. In the recent past, quickly following some reports about fraudulent transactions using debit/credit cards, bank account holders started receiving offers over the telephone to ‘insure’ card transactions against payment of a ‘small’ fee. The promise from the other end of the phone was, once ‘insured’ any loss incurred by using debit/credit cards will be made good. It turned out that there was no such real scheme.
Through social media, many things are offered free. Use of WhatsApp for several purposes, I am told, is free (Disclaimer: I don’t have a WhatsApp account yet!). When I am using a mobile/internet connection provided by ‘Service Provider X’, a caller on behalf of  ‘Service Provider’ calls me and asks me about the last monthly bill I paid for the mobile/internet services. First, thinking that the call is from ‘X’, I answer some questions. Then, I am told that the call is from ‘Y’ who will arrange for shifting my account to his company, ’free of cost and without change of number’ after which I will be paying much less for the same services I use. That is ‘marketing’ in the digital world.
I have just keyed in some thoughts that came in mind when I thought of social media. I know these are disconnected and perhaps not relevant in many contexts. Perhaps I may try to edit this and make something sensible when I am somewhat free. Till then, my request to those who spend more than 2 hours a day accessing ‘social media’ (for this purpose, traditional print and electronic media excluded) is: “PLEASE CHECK AND ENSURE THAT YOU ARE USING COMMON SENSE THE SAME WAY YOU WERE USING IT DURING THE LAST DECADE!”


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