Friday, February 26, 2010

Budget India 2010-11

On 6th July,2009 when Finance Minister Pranab Mukherjee finished his 2009-10 budget presentation, the stock market had tanked by more than 5%. Even though, given the economic context it was a good budget as reported in my earlier blog of July 8th, 2009. However, this time around when he presented the budget today, the market went up by 1.3%. The general pre-budget opinion was a mixture of caution with fear. People were expecting that the Finance Minister would roll back all the excise duty cuts he made during pre- election as part of the economic stimulus package. But Pranab Mukherjee turned the tables on them by coming with another balanced budget.

He has promised to bring the fiscal deficit from 6.8% of GDP in 2009-10 to 5.5% in 2010-11 and has made a road map to bring it to 4% in the third year. Also, he has promised to implement the direct tax code(DTC) and goods and service tax(GST) by 1/4/2011. He has provided more money to the poor thro' National rural employment guarantee scheme(NREGA).

He has managed to increase the 10% i/tax slab from Rs.3 lakhs to 5 lakhs and similar enhancement for 20% tax slab from Rs.5 to 8 lakhs. This would really help the salaried class. However, he has made no changes in the base exemption limit of Rs.1.6 lakh. With inflation going thro' the roof, one would have expected relief in this as the value of the money has been eroded. The other surprising proposal was to roll back the duty on crude and petroleum products. Also he has enhanced the excise duty on petroleum produts by Re.1. This would increase the petrol rate by Rs.2.7 and Diesel by Rs.2.55. this will have a ripple effect and spiralling inflation. This brought uproar from the opposition who staged a walkout.

My first impression of the budget is the Finance Minister has by and large kept his earlier promise and has looked at the future pragmatically taking India to the 9% GDP growth era. Well done. i would give 7 out of 10 marks.

Thursday, February 25, 2010

God- thy name is Sachin Tendulkar

In India, cricket is a religion and Sachin Tendulkar is God. For twenty years he has held onto this exalted position where people revere him. In his playing years, cricket has undergone lot of changes like most things have. We have the longer version in the form of test cricket which most cricketers believe is the ultimate test of skill, endurance and patience. Then we have the capsuled version of the 50 over one day . In the last four years we have the slam bang variety of the 20 over game what with the IPL which has progressed leaps and bounds.

The greatness in a person hovers around how he adapts to all these types of format and comes out tops in all the three versions. That's exactly what Sachin has done. For twenty years his body has taken the grind in all forms of cricket and he has surpassed all obstacles to be in top.

More than 31,000 runs in international cricket( tests + ODI), 93 centuries, several world records including the aggregate number of runs in test and ODI, maximum number of centuries in tests, ODI . On 24Th February, 2010, he created another world record when he became the only person to score a ODI double century which he got against South Africa in Gwalior. Records are meant to be broken they say, but i have a strong belief that there are certain records which are going to be his own.

He is an icon in India. His fans would say " we have seen God and He bats No.4 for India". For all the adulation, Sachin is a very unassuming person. Both on the field and off it, he is mild mannered, no touch of arrogance, has respect and admiration for fellow players and mixes with people freely. This is another great hallmark of this person. Success has not got to his head as it had with so many sports persons who ended up in the dumps. The balance and poise he displays are remarkable and worth emulating by present day sports persons.

At 37 years now, some people might have thought he should lay down his boots. But he is probably having the best season of his 20 year career in 2009-10 with an average of 78.3 in tests with six centuries. What he plans to do, only God knows and he is God.

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Friday, February 5, 2010

Save the Tiger

Look at that majestic animal in the picture. The most graceful of the cat family, Tigers were considered as " endangered " species as early as 1976 by "convention on the International trade in endangered species" of wild fauna and flora ( CITES). India launched " Project Tiger " to save the animal from extinction in 1973. Now there are 29 Tiger in India. However, if one sees the situation today, the plight of tigers leaves much to be desired. At the beginning of the twentieth century, there were 100,000 tigers in the world and India boasted of 40,000 of them. By 2002, India was left with only 3642 tigers and now it has reached an alarming and precariously low level of 1411 tigers only. If the situation is not highlighted and awareness brought to the people, it may become too late to protect these big cats.

Hunting of Tigers is legally prohibited but poachers have either managed to hoodwink the authorities or colluded with them and escape the law. In earlier years, Tigers were hunted for their fur but with the global ban on tiger skin and fur, poachers are now eying for other organs like eyes, teeth and even testicles which is said to have aphrodisiacal effect. Tiger bones are much sought after in China for medicinal purposes.

It is time that the Government, media and all like minded people come together to create awareness among public and also tighten the security in the reserves to prevent poaching. Tigers are one of the top predators and by keeping the prey population in check they maintain the overall health and balance of the nature's food-chain and ecosystem. If tigers are lost, pretty soon forest will also go and as forest cover acts as water catchment area, it will result in insufficient rainfall. The complete ecosystem will be in imbalance. We will be doing a great disservice to the cause of a green world.

Apart from poaching, the other threat to tiger conservation is deforestation, fragmentation of habitats and human-tiger conflict. With urbanisation, settlements in forest areas and industrialization through mining and quarry, grave danger to tiger population and other animals have become a reality. The Government and ministry of environment will have to come out with stricter rules that will preserve our forests and have corridor of habitat connectivity to increase tiger population.

Let's join hands and save the tiger from extinction. Else, they might be a thing of the past and our future generation might only know through stories and pictures.

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Tuesday, February 2, 2010

The year 2009- A quick recap

The year started with the then chairman of Satyam computers divulging that the company's accounts have been fudged. The Government acted quick by forming a new Board to go into the irregularities and Raju finding himself behind the bars.

Cricket also became the target of terror when the Sri Lankan team was attacked in Pakistan. Fortunately there were no casualties but International cricket in Pakistan was put in cold storage.

The Global economic meltdown continued for most part of the year and the G-20 came to some sort of understanding on regulatory crackdown . With countries spending huge sums of money to prop up the economy, most nations showed signs of recovery in the last quarter of the year.

India went to polls and the Congress party came out thumbs up thanks to infighting in the major opposition party BJP.

The IPL cricket jamboree moved to South Africa as the Indian Government pleaded inability to provide security for the tournament as it was coinciding with the National polls. IPL Chairman Modi and his team did a wonderful job in shifting the venue at such short notice and coming out trumps. The tourney was a huge success and the " Deccan chargers" came out winners over the "Royal challengers", Bangalore. These two teams literally turned the tables on the other sides as these two were just about making up the rear during the inaugural IPL season.

Sri Lankan Government went hammer and tongs against the LTTE and virtually wiped out the organization and their supremo Prabhakaran.Innocent human lives were the casualties in this Government crusade against LTTE.
Racial attacks against Indian students in Australia was common place and by the year end it was gaining momentum. The Australian government seem to be incapable of arresting the turn of events. Ominous signs indeed.

The world lost Michael Jackson, the "King of Pop" music in June 2009. The world of music will be that much poorer.

Roger Federer created tennis history when he won the 15th Grand slam title upstaging Sampras' record. But in a different sport- Golf- we had Tiger Woods exposed for his "sexcapades" causing severe family problem and personal embarrassment.

The year ended with the Copenhagen accord on climate change. An accord devoid of any teeth and failed to meet Global expectations. Cutting on emission levels involve huge costs and the developed nations failed to reach a consensus on how to share this cost and fund the developing nations. This proved to be the biggest stumbling block for a brave and challenging target.

The world economy is trying to put it's head out of water and one hopes that the year 2010 would be lot brighter for planet Earth.