Thank Heavens for the Greenery Around!

Imagine a snow-capped mountain and tree at its foothill. All of a sudden, the sun appears above, causing the snow to melt into a waterfall or a river that flows through across the land and reaches the roots of the tree located right at the bottom.  The tree leaves now bask in the sun and the tree itself rejuvenates with a display of flowers and fruits. It’s a perfect scenario, wherein all factors converge and unite to follow a ‘natural’ course, designed to benefit all that surrounds the space of the mountain.

The adequately melted snow (into water) and a fully-rejuvenated tree could serve as an analogy for understanding ‘trickle-down economics’….

…an accumulation of resources (tax money) or policy-level decisions are designed at the top level of our socio-economic system. These should be collaboratively executed and implemented by institutions like governments, corporates, investors, etc., to benefit  the entire society (at the ground-level).However, for the success of these policies, the above mentioned entities need to  unite  and work together, just like the natural rejuvenation system we mentioned above.

Take the example of, whether FDI[1] should be allowed in India’s organized retail sector, or policy measures like changes in the interest rate by the central bank to curb inflation or AGM[2]s by companies announcing profits made by companies. All of these are based on trickle-down economics, which begins with accumulating something in lump-sum from certain sections of the society (mostly rich), which gets indirectly redistributed to everyone equally. This could be through a cooperative involvement of many people like businesses, researchers, common people, legal entities, etc. This concept however, raises three questions:

Whether is it really possible that everything, that is accumulated, can be redistributed?

Can the redistribution be done equally?

Whether this benefits everyone at an individual level, specifically does it better an individual’s standard of living?

If we look at the world around us and our daily lives, we might find answers to the above questions. It makes us believe that trickle-down economics may not be working adequately and to its potential.

Huge structures fail to do so primarily due to lack of internal cooperation and greed for power causing rivalry within them. Lack of transparency and accountability are other deterrents to the success of the intent of ideas and policies. Rigid structures, made by people have become static like mountains that stubbornly refuse to move or explain their positions. That’s where the ideas fail and debates begin.

Only if nature worked in a similar fashion, mountains would be semi-barren and trees would be pale-green.

By Bhakti Joshi

mountain n tree


[1]Foreign Direct Investment

[2]Annual General Meetings that involve disclosure of the companies’ fiscal performance

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An Honest Attempt in….Tomfoolery

Education never gets old and never does the discussion on its effect, on the minds of people who seek it. It is and will probably always be “in fashion”. People receive it in different ways, though. Some treat it as a bandwagon and some take a conscious effort into becoming aware citizens. . But if there ever was an iota of truth – everyone is keener to achieve an end goal but “the act of learning” is almost always sacrificed.

Over the years, citizens, institutions (profit-centered or otherwise) and governments have ensured that the upcoming generations are equipped to receive education. These entities are mainly guided by the metrics they are measured with. Governments disseminate education to “showcase” their own capability and be counted among the top governing groups. Other institutions seem to serve their own objective based on which they ever began to exist in the first place. And we, the citizens, are wont in addressing our own social and peer pressures.

Getting “educated” is a common occurrence likened to a natural phenomenon of witnessing sunrise – but “learning”? Talk about an elusive goal!

Now, let me throw some facts on the results of current approach to education (reproduction from analyses done by Lant Pritchett’s recent book and work done by Center for Global Development):

  1. An average Haitian or a Bangladeshi had more years of schooling in 2010 than an average Frenchman or an Italian in 1960.
  2. Population of labour force age in developing world (reproduced more for lucidity of our discussion) has now completed 3 times more years of schooling than in 1950, when 60% of the labour force had no schooling at all.

And back home..

  1. Between 2007 and 2011, India increased expenditure on elementary education by 80%, but average learning outcomes reported by ASER surveys[1]  have slightly declined.

May I venture a guess at the risk of being wrong? A lot of it seems to be influenced by the common expectation from education institutions of making students ready for immediate employability. Aren’t organizations themselves responsible for that? When did that ever become the core agenda of an education institute?

“Oh, but the economy is run by organizations and they are entitled to get a ready resource from an education institute! Otherwise what are they there for?”

So, doesn’t this undermine  the way in which organizations have trained its workforce in the past?

Should not our “on the job” training assume more importance than putting this seemingly “pressurized goal” on our educational institutes? And how will they ever keep up with the pace with which these organizations work?

How about this: ensure every student gets the basic education (writing, reading, forming thoughts, science, history, economics, sociology, technology and the like) right on the dot and let organizations take it forward and train these students the way they want to? This training could be through other specialized institutions.blackboard-lightbulb-300x200

I am saying this because so often the employees in organizations have had a “water cooler chat” in which they openly agree that they are not using their complete education in the work they do. If that is the case then why do we even waste our efforts in acquiring knowledge that too for which we are tested and rated, and aren’t even  applying?

“Oh, but then what about the specialized skills in engineers and we need MBAs, come on!”

I have seen and experienced the services that people with these specialized skills bring to the table. Sometimes, they don’t even match the elementary standards set by schools (or actually which is presumed to be set by schools). Considering the number of years I have spent in a corporate environment, it will suffice to get a task done with the help of individuals who have obtained solid foundational education till high schools. Beyond that, something else governs the development of the careers of individuals, which is tough to define and more to experience!

Can we just focus on getting the basic standard of education right first and increase the “learning outcomes”?

In any case, I am just fooling around…. or am I?

Note: This blog was largely influenced by a recent podcast at Econtalk.org (http://www.econtalk.org/archives/_featuring/lant_pritchett/)

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By Tarun Abhichandani

Culture of Isolation – Urban India

Over a dinner, one weekend, a friend told me about how our urban lives have transitioned into a western culture of isolation. I completely refused to accept the isolation bit, given the fact that, in an overcrowded city like Mumbai, we are constantly surrounded by people whenever and wherever possible. She then clarified, that about 90% of households in her vicinity consisted of mostly retired elderly folk, whose children were living abroad. They visited them annually or once in two years. And it suddenly hit me, that I was in that category too since I had done that briefly, until I permanently decided to relocate to India a few years ago. At that discussion, I realized that this particular phenomenon, which I call the westernized culture of isolation, may seem like the economic boom gone awry and would call for some interesting blogging and debate if required.

So let me begin with the economic overview of what triggered this situation. As a country, we were always going to be heading upwards economically, but the trigger point was the economic liberalization in the 1990s. It was followed by a small blip with India’ nuclear weapons test in 1998 (with the trade sanctions levied) but a then VOILA! there was a re-emergence between 2003 and 2007 which saw an average GDP growth of about 9%. The growth in GDP would mean that many people, especially those born in the 70’s and beyond, experienced its benefits through various opportunities in education and careers, both in India and abroad. It gave birth to an entire species of confident young Indians, who were armed with capabilities to earn lots and lots of money, to buy homes, cars, pets, luxury products, to party hard, etc.  It all suddenly looked good and very achievable.

Who felt most ecstatic about this? Our parents! They were so  happy and proud of our achievements especially with the thought that we wouldn’t now have to struggle with the hardships of making ends meet, like they did (though what we faced in terms of our own defined ‘hardships’ could be another blog). Little did they anticipate, what was to creep up on them as a bane to this new life. What our parents did for most of their lives was essentially to PROVIDE for and SECURE their families, more often than not with no liabilities attached (loans, etc.). Therefore many parents like mine, own their homes, have enough money saved for themselves and to some measure have ensured that they have some amount saved as backup for their children as well.

So let’s look at the situation today? Most of the children have moved away, if not into their ‘privacy demanding’ nuclear lives, moved out of the country in search of a better lifestyle, leaving their parents to face their own battles.

I believe this is where economics went awry. We didn’t realize when the sound of the economic BOOM, went so loud that we were deafened to hear or recognize the voice of the unspoken word.  I didn’t realize it, until I returned back and saw my independent, well-travelled and professionally secure parents, now seem disoriented and unable to cope with their emotions.  Health issues at that age had just added to the emotional instability in their lives.

With everyone now succumbing to the same thought process, this westernized culture of isolation has now become integral to Urban India. New housing residences have situations where after living for years; neighbours are still strangers, giving rise to feelings of insecurity within spaces. Increase in crime rate is then just a natural progression. No longer do people walk into and out of neighbours houses, chatting up, celebrating festivals with neighbours, looking out for the children and the elderly of the building. Today all of these would be looked upon as allowing intrusion and providing food for gossip within the neighborhood.  ‘To each his own’ is the new age mantra.

So what does one do? With no family around…No neighbours to have your back…

In an attempt to find solutions to this problem, we implement solutions that are convenient to us (ie: have your cake and eat it too). Some of us move nearer to our parents’ homes. Some of us get our parents to uproot themselves from their stable and comfortable lives and shift abroad. Some of us find solace in making new friends and constantly engage in conversations with complete strangers (as vague as that sounds, social media is witness to the fact that we have 500+ friends online but don’t care to befriend our neighbours) . Whether all of these are mechanisms employed to get rid of our own feelings of guilt or just merely cope with an unsolvable circumstance, is best known only to the person involved.

Whether this westernized culture of isolation works positively for Urban India in the future, we will have to wait and watch. We are at a stage of trying to change the thought process of a generation that finds joy in the simplest acts of cooking for their children, correcting them and constantly caring about them (age no bar). Will it work? Is that even possible?

It may work though, for our generation, which can balance between the essentials of family bonding while adapting to the new found culture of privacy.

Who knows?

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By Malaika Fernandes Image

READER COMMENTS:

Read it; not sure of what the author was trying to say. Just a bunch of stats and observations, without a clear perspective. Nuclearization and isolation are by products of urbanization and development. Feeling conflicted about change or progress or blaming ‘western’ societies is wimpy. By the way ‘western’ societies are far more mature when it comes to familial relations than what is happening in India. It’s as if we are stuck in a time warp; holding allusions of being Shravan without breaking out of the mould of what is in it for me? – Baburaj Neelkanthan

good article, but not completely accurate interpretation…. Well it is the author’s perspective of course…………. If one were to look at the current generation, 90+ % of families are having both partner’s work. Many times husband and wives pass each other like ships at a sea port. We don’t get quality times with our kids either………….. We are challenged more in India since we never developed an infrastructure to support this situation. Not that the rest of the world are doing much better. Problem is real, have not found real solutions that satisfies allSantosh Gopinathan