WEEKEND LIGHTER: Three Questions to Dr Raghuram Rajan

WEEKEND LIGHTER: 3 Questions to Dr Rajan
 (September 23/24, 2017)
Feel free to mail your views on this edition of WL to mgwarrier@gmail.com

Section III Leisure: Verse 11, Saundaryalahari


Cover Story

3 questions to Dr Raghuram Rajan:
Why you didn’t do, what you wanted to do?
This refers to TT Ram Mohan’s piece “Rajan in the limelight again” (BS, Finger on the pulse, September 19). Those who have been following Dr Raghuram Rajan at least from mid-2013 will have no doubt about what the former RBI Governor meant by titling his 2017 book “I Do What I Do”. So far, Rajan has used his ‘properties’ and timing with the deftness and precision of a magician. His understanding of the Indian media and the ability to change the directions of cameras and mikes single-handed is well-known. This much of introduction is the minimum needed, to make the following observations about ‘what he did’ during the last one year.
Once the media and the analysts start contemplating over the content of his recently released book and the bold statements Dr Rajan made during his speeches and media interactions during the first half of September 2017, several questions will resurface, which will predictably haunt the former RBI Governor when he comes back to India next time, perhaps armed with another book. What Dr Rajan conveniently ignored is the fact that time did not stand still in India for one year period during which he was on a self-imposed silence on Indian affairs. Three issues selected at random which may need further elucidation from Rajan are:
(a)             Demonetization: If Dr Rajan gave his views not favoring withdrawal of legal tender character of Specified Bank Notes as early as in February 2016, why he left it to his deputies in RBI to associate with the preparations culminating in the November 8, 2016 announcement by Prime Minister Modi?
(b)            RBI’s reserves: Was he convinced personally about the ‘adequacy’ of RBI’s reserves as certified by Malegam Committee, when the level of reserves was steadily depleting  from the 12 percent (of total assets) level targeted by RBI much earlier and almost achieved in 2009? Was he succumbing to GOI pressure to ‘transfer more funds’?
(c)             On page 211 of the book, Dr Rajan regrets his inability to get parity with GOI, in retirement benefits for RBI staff. Why he refrained from convincing GOI about an issue he was deeply concerned?
M G Warrier, Mumbai

Recent responses
HR at the top

This refers to Shyamal Majumdar’s piece “Public sector chiefs deserve better” (Business Standard, Human Factor, September 22). Institutions are made of people and successful institutions have talented and efficient people providing leadership at the top. This is equally applicable for organizations in private and public sectors irrespective of their age or size and recent experiences in India give enough supporting evidence to prove this.
Since 1950’s India has recognized the prominent role public sector need to play in economic development and supported development of strong public sector organizations in core sectors like banking, oil exploration, defense, space research  and so on. Success stories of PSUs in India conflicted with the commercial interests of the private sector in India and abroad. 1970’s and subsequent decades saw conscious moves by the rich and the powerful lobbying against PSUs and tasting success in weakening the institutional structure in the public sector.
There was no better way to make PSUs weak than making their top managements spineless. Top positions in PSUs and even regulatory bodies like RBI became pre-retirement transit homes for senior bureaucrats. These ‘yours obedientlies’ accepted briefs from GOI forgetting the mandated roles of the institutions they presided over. In the banking sector, with the exception of SBI, no PSB was allowed to retain own identity and were pawns in the hands of junior finance ministry officials.
Occasional emergence of one Vinod Rai here or a Raghuram Rajan there asserting their rightful positions were deftly handled by vested interests (read money power) with the help of an obliging media and subservient political leadership. This explains the short-term tenure appointment of individuals in top positions in PSUs. Many accept the positions either to improve their CV for the next assignment (sometimes abroad) or as a reward for ‘favours showered’ earlier. Interests of the organisations they preside over, normally is not one of the top priorities that weighs in their selection.
M G Warrier, Mumbai

Rahul’s willing
This refers to the report “Anger growing against Modi govt” (The Hindu, September 21). Looks, planetary positions are changing in Rahul Gandhi's favour after a long time. Geographically, today there is no better place than US for a political leader of Mr Gandhi’s stature to declare his intentions to play the lead role in Indian politics. A section of Indian media has assigned the job of giving the final makeover to Gandhi for becoming the main opponent to Modi to Sam (Pitroda) for whom Delhi politics is nothing new.
Converting the anger of the masses into an opportunity is an art. No one will dispute, there is enough anger against Modi. The anger is growing day by day, in the fertile grounds of demonitisation, one paisa loan waiver, beef to GST and fuel price to cost-benefit analysis of bullet train controversies.
When back home, the only uncomfortable thing Gandhi may have to handle is the delaying tactics by other leaders within his own party who are not as confident about a change of guard in Delhi in 2019 and therefore may make a last minute bid for status quo. Gandhi need to assert his position without going back to Sonia for help, in that unlikely eventuality.
M G Warrier, Mumbai

Law and justice
This refers to the piece “Highly objectionable” by Jinoy Jose P (HBL, From the Views Room, September 20). Recently, lamenting about unethical behavior by law makers, social activist and poetess Sugathakumari in her poem mentioned about the helplessness of the frog which got hooked by Srirama’s arrow. The frog had been taught by its mother that Rama was the protector and when his arrow caused fatal injury, the frog suffered in silence.
If the political leadership which comes to power decide to do things arbitrarily or in violation of established norms and practices, a time has come when common man feels helpless and doesn’t even feel like going in appeal. The frustration emanates from the sense of futility in fighting the establishment. The money power of the rich or the omnipotent government will keep fighting in courts from the lowest level to the Supreme Court. If after long years, if the Apex Court rules against the intentions of the rich and the powerful (government included), the latter have their own methods to alter laws!
GOI has tasted success in withdrawing the pension scheme for government employees and now are confident in taking the Aadhaar imposition forward. As media adopts a ‘blow hot, blow cold’ approach to such issues, the other three pillars of democracy get immunity, if they become arrogant.
M G Warrier, Mumbai

GST was intended to be "Good and Simple Tax". Initial hiccups indicate that we can create a 💯 problems from any solution!
Moneylife is in the forefront of fighting on consumers rights. Last week I "purchased" online a month's subscription for Moneylife Magazine. I was charged Rs100 (pre-GST subscription) plus Rs18 towards GST.
A Sulabh Shouchalay receipt is doing rounds in WhatsApp which shows:
Charges for use: Rs 5
GST.                     : Rs 1
Total.                    : Rs 6

The background for the letter published in Business Standard today (accessible using the above link) is explained above.
M G Warrier



A verse from Shankaracharya’s ‘Soundaryalahari’ explained:

Ancient Predictions

The compilation may interest some of us who may be interested in analysing predictions.
M G Warrier
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