Saturday, August 20, 2011

Anna Hazare Rekindles Gandhi’s Fire To Purify India

A man, who once contemplated suicide and even scribbled a two-page note on why he wanted to end his life, is the new Gandhi of India. Indian government, led by foreign educated Prime Minister Manmohan Singh had jailed the aging Hazare when he threatened with fast-until-death protesting India’s corruption.

Kuldip Nayar, one of India’s most respected political analyst commented on the action of Indian government, “It is bungling, mishandling. They do not know at all how wide and how deep the resentment is.” And of course the mercurial Nayar was right. The jailing of Hazare sparked nationwide protests, and forced Singh's government on defensive. Singh criticized Hazare as out of touch, and dismissed his fast as "totally misconceived" and claimed that Hazare’s action was undermining the parliamentary democracy. At the end it was found Singh himself was out of touch and had no idea what Indians want today.

Students, lawyers, teachers, business executives, IT workers and civil servants, people from all walks of life took to the streets in New Delhi, and other major cities, and also remote villages stretching from north to south and east to west—the breadth of India. Outside the jail that once held Hazare, a 21 year-old Sweta Dua said , “We are India's youth. We are with Anna. I've already seen corruption at this age. In my college people got admitted despite being unable to clear the required cut-off scores, simply by paying money.”

Sujeet, a young software engineer from the IT city of Gurgaon said, “We don't have faith in our government. We are living in a democracy but only in letter, not in spirit.” The editor of the weekly Outlook magazine, Vinod Mehta said, “The movement has meant politicians realize that they cannot fudge these issues or ignore public opinion any longer. It has succeeded in concentrating the minds of politicians across the political spectrum on one issue for the first time”

The crowds on the streets are mix of young and old, rich and poor, educated and uneducated. Some youths had rucksacks on their backs, painted face, olders were decked in outfits as worn by the Hazare himself, complete with white cap and kurta.

Who is this Anna Hazare?

Born Kisan Baburao Hazare, June 15, 1937, however, popularly known as Anna Hazare, he is an Indian social activist who is especially recognized for movement against corruption, and his contribution to the development and structuring of a model village in Parner Taluka of Ahmednagar district, Maharashtra. For this action, he was awarded the Padma Bhushan—the third-highest civilian award—by the government of India in 1992.

A diminutive man in his seventies, dressed in white cotton, he once served in the Indian army that had temporarily relaxed the requirement for height and weight, because of dire need of new recruits at the time of Indo-China war. Once out of the army, he was frustrated with life and did not want to live anymore, since he did not see any purpose of his life. The storyline is: One day at the New Delhi Railway Station, in that dejected frame of mind, Anna came upon a book on Swami Vivekananda. He read the book and found the answer to his quest—the motive of his life is service to his fellow humans.

Today, Anna Hazare, in his pure white adornment, is the face of India's fight against corruption. He has given voice to the millions of voiceless Indians and taken the people’s fight to the corridors of power, and shaken the bastion of government at the highest level. Common populace, and well-known personalities alike are joining enmasse supporting Hazare, crowds swelling to the thousands.

Anna Hazare is a few of the remnant Indian politicians who had modeled their lives on Mahatma Gandhi, and embraced his weapon of “fasting” to unite people against falsehood. The word “mahatma” connotes great soul, and there has not been a greater soul to walk on the surface of earth than Mohandas Karamchand Gandhi, the bapu (father)—anyone who disputes this is ignorant of bapu.

Many Indians such as Manmohon Singh believes, Gandhi’s time came and went—in today’s environment he would not be successful! Anna Hazare demonstrates that Gandhi is as relevant today as he had been in his time.

Republished from Technorati.

Sunday, August 14, 2011

S&P—The New Villain Of Obama Administration

Senate is upset with Standard & Poor (S&P) and they want to investigate them for downgrading US’s rating one notch from the coveted AAA grade. Senate Banking Committee Chairman Tim Johnson lashed out, “As the financial markets stumble, investors continue to regard Treasury debt as a safe haven in times of economic uncertainty. This irresponsible move by S&P may, however, have spillover effects that tax the American people by increasing interest rates on home loans, credit cards, and car loans, and by increasing the cost of finance for some state and local governments. I am deeply disappointed in S&P’s decision to enter into the game of political punditry.”

Not to be undermined by this, the Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner shot out, “They've shown a stunning lack of knowledge about basic U.S. fiscal budget math. And I think they drew exactly the wrong conclusion from this budget agreement.”

Those are strong words.

S&P is the new villain in the financial world for downgrading the credit rating of USA. It is the same rating agency that had consistently given the failed Lehman Brothers and other financial institutions top rating when they did not deserve that. Was S&P bad then, or, are they bad now?

What is a triple-A rating by the way and what does it mean?
In the rating business there are two major houses, S&P and Moody’s, who are market mover and both have been caught napping during the past major financial turmoil. This time however, S&P appears to be wising up and inclined to mend their reputation. On April 18, 2011,S&P had warned that a debt ceiling increase without meaningful budget reforms would still merit a downgrade. The long term US fiscal imbalance is nothing new and it had been in the making for at least two decades now. S&P had correctly pointed out that if the politicians do not wake up now and refrain from silly game playing, a future default becomes a significant.

Moody’s is still playing the catch up game. On July 13, they placed the US credit rating on watch for possible downgrade and also declared that if US government did not take significant deficit reduction measures with a debt ceiling increase they would assign a negative outlook. On June 8, 2011, a third rating agency Fitch threatened to place the US on negative watch if the ceiling was not raised by August 2nd.

The triple-A rating signifies that the government is stable and bonds it issues are considered safe, thereby, the nation can borrow funds at the lowest possible cost. By downgrading the US from AAA to AA+, S&P is not saying that the US govt. is likely to default, it is saying that likelihood of a default or a loss of principal/interest has increased. There are 18 different grades and a transition from the highest rating to the second highest rating does not signify a massive risk change. The downgrade for the US implies that the credit risk of the US has gone from minimum to very low.

If S&P had kept the US rating unchanged and the country would default that would totally discredit the agency, and now they know, that with Europe declaring to come up with their own rating agencies it would be a disaster for them if they fail to do their watchdog duty one more time. The CIA World Fact book mentioned that in 2010, the debt to GDP ratio for the US was 59% in comparison with 34% in Canada and 22% in Australia. Obviously, it does not seem we are in the same league as either of them.

First published on Technorati