May 5, 2015

Dear Colleagues

Labour Day May 1 passed away once again somewhat unnoticed. Here is another round of for your consideration:

  1. Today is 2577th birthday of Lord Buddha—the apostle of peace. His preaching called Buddhism became a faith since his enlightenment nearly five centuries before Christ. Buddhism spread through a decentralised methodology when practitioners and believers travelled to many societies east of Persia. Its teachings encouraged followers to respect all forms of life in equal measure. Buddhism is now gaining a large number of followers west of Persia as modern consumerist lifestyle is making people wonder ‘what is the meaning of life’?
  2. The earthquake in Nepal has shattered lives, killed and injured thousands, and destroyed property. As a neighbour with considerable historical and cultural affinity to Nepal, all Indians are trying to undertake some ways of supporting relief there. Many have started collecting food and water; some are providing medicines, hundreds are ready to volunteer there. Such emotive responses notwithstanding, the moot question is how to get such relief and volunteers to those who need it most. Like in all such disasters, specialist skills (doctors, nurses, mountain climbers etc) are required than just physical labour. Partnering with local organisations—government and non-government— is a much surer way of ensuring targeted use of our ‘gifts of love’.
  3. In Kazakhstan, the President has been re-elected with 98% of majority support in recent elections. Was there any contest? Did voters have a choice? Was alternative choice difficult to exercise? Is this really democracy then? Is lack of credible opposition a good enough reason to suspect malafide in democratic elections? Similar unanimous electoral outcomes have been witnessed in many countries. Does it imply that fractured democracies with uncertain electoral outcomes (like in India many a times) indicate a vibrant democracy?
  4. In many places in America, young black men are  ‘dying at the hands of police’. There is a growing disconnect between law enforcement agencies and people of colour in that country today. The recent incident in Baltimore does suggest racial discrimination by police. Certain category of young men—Blacks in America, dalits & tribals in India—are “assumed’ to be carrying weapons to harm the public and the police. When law enforcement officers behave in this manner, societal prejudices against caste and race will be hard to eliminate?
  5. Reserve Bank of India (RBI) has recently imposed fines of upto Rs 1.50 crores ($250,000) on several Indian public sector banks for non-compliance with KYC norms. This is pittance in comparison to the fines imposed by American authorities on American banks for similar non-disclosures and non-compliances; Chase Manhattan and Bank of America were recently slapped billions of dollars as fines. That such non-compliances by Indian banks and its officials are deliberate and intended to mask money laundering and corruption is well known. When thousands of crores is being hidden through such shady procedures of Indian banks, mere one crore of fine is to encourage further non-compliance. Penalties for any non-compliance have to be immediate, targeted and substantial to act as deterrent for any such future action.

All the very best

Rajesh Tandon