Saturday, November 8, 2014

Book Review: Power Of The Best

Authors: Peter Brown and John Hughes
Publisher: Portfolio Penguin

“Canada’s ‘Best Managed Companies’ program began in early 1990’s, when plants closing and job losses were the order of the day” writes John Hughes and Peter Brown, authors of this book. Peter Brown National Co-Leader, Best Managed at Deloitte and John Hughes was leader in Greater Toronto Growth Enterprise practice for Deloitte.

Tough times crushes the majority but paves the path for the ‘real toughs’ to show their character and stand still and move forward. Best Managed Companies program is sponsored by Deloitte, the Canadian Imperial Bank of Commerce (CIBC), the National Post and Queen’s school of Business. The program aims to build the network of exceptional Canadian businesses so they could help one another succeed. Candidates are evaluated each year on how they address key challenges which comes under: Strategy, Capability & Commitment.

Peter Brown & John Hughes’s first book ‘Building the Best’ was focused on growth, strategy, capability and commitment. Power Of The Best deals with twelve themes, explained in twelve chapters, the authors have seen over the past twenty years.

Strategies are not aliens to the organization but some successful companies designs them not just the better way but creates the ‘Blue Ocean’ (Blue Ocean states above the competition) out of it, as shown by Great Western Breweries in chapter one titled ‘Strategy: Brewing Up A Winning Formula For Marketplace Success. The strategic plans do not always work out as planned. Companies that embark on them need to be alert and nimble enough to recognize when market conditions have changed. It’s the responsibility of the leadership to convey the need for the commitment and to provide the tools and structures necessary to achieve it.

The second chapter deals with the innovative concept of leadership. Leadership in business is seen as a purview of individuals, charismatic personalities leading thousands of people. Leadership in Canada’s Best Managed companies is dedicated to minimizing hierarchy even to the inverting pyramid (often called Collective Leadership) so that employees understood they have the power to lead without waiting senior management to show the way. The author explains, economic uncertainties, new technology, greater regulatory scrutiny and global competition are demanding more responsive operations. It’s more gratifying and more profitable to lead a group of collaborators rather than the group of followers. The companies in this chapter vary enormously in size, but trier essential leadership philosophy is the same. Leaders do more than issue orders. They need to be supported by talent in decision and that’s where ‘Collective Leadership’ lies.

You can’t step into reading the third chapter without getting impressed with the title of the chapter, Branding and Marketing: Making the product an experience, not a thing. A brand is more than a logo, a trademark, or a bottle of pop on a supermarket shelf, speaks author. A brand is not something that can be papered over by an organization with clever slogans or advertising. It reflects the authentic value of the enterprise to the clients. The clients perception of brand must align with the company’s self-perception if the brand is to have true value.  This chapter explores the brand strategy of three B2C (business to customer) companies and one B2B (Business to Business) company. Fountain Tire, Goodlife Fitness and Harley Davidson are associated directly with their customers so they can  check the quality of experience of their customer at different levels. “We draw a direct line between customer experience & profitability”, Harley Davidson says. While operating B2C or B2B many of its strategies for marketing are different but essential theories of building, maintaining & marketing a strong brand is no different.

The chapters like funding growth gives an insight into the innovative solution to feed fund requirements of the company’s unique business model of OMERS private equity bridged the gap between pension fund safe investment requirements and fund-deficit organizations.

Mergers & Acquisitions (M&As) are required to increase capabilities, capacities and to expand in the new areas of businesses. Niagara Group, providing mechanical contracting services focused on plumbing and piping, acquires Golan Mechanical to provide total mechanical package. Acquisitions are not the matters of spreadsheets but a lot about integrating the cultures. Good culture match is important. Edmonton-based Supreme Group shared ‘2011 Engineering Award’ from Canadian Institute of Steel Construction (CISC) of ‘The Bow’, 58-storey tower. Supreme Group has not only relied on acquisitions to increase its competitiveness, it undertook many projects through Joint-Ventures.

When somebody speaks of innovation in business we invariable think about technology, hardware, patents and new product breakthrough. Seventh chapter not only talks about the companies that have excelled through the introduction of innovative products but also bring new ideas to market that require as much innovation as innovation themselves.

Burnbrae Farms Ltd. is a remarkable story of innovation which once was family business but today it presides over largest integrated supplies in Canada, selling over 35% of the shell eggs and over 80% of retail liquid egg products. More than 300 egg producers reach the market through Burnbrae’s grading station. Cactus Club has changed the casual dining experience and it has nothing to do with engineering breakthrough. Technology can be an important aspect of innovation but it remains a subject on its own, believes author.

To be the best is to do the best and that’s where sustainability comes. Sustainability too often is seen as a corporate luxury, a feel-good option located well beyond the business plan. But the president of  DIRTT (Do It Right This Time) says ‘If being green or sustainable costs more money, then that solution is not sustainable itself’. DIRTT founder, Mogens Smed, earned 2010 Product Prize from American Society of Interior Design for his contribution to the advancement of desing. Such out-of-the-box approach towards sustainability made DIRTT to be listed in Best Managed list. Steam Whistle with Bullfrog Power powered its Roundhouse brewery in Toronto with zero carbon emission, drawing electricity only from wind farms and low impact hydro generation. For many companies that are embracing sustainability, a “green” ethos is good business because customers respond positively to it.

All local and global brands are switching gears to attract and retain talent, suggests chapter ten, which depicts the story of four of Best Managed companies that faced unique challenges in attracting and retaining workforce talent and have applied their own solution to great effect. Great Little Box company’s talent retaining strategy comes down to not how to attract but who to attract. And then throwing plenty of social events as employees spent their maximum awaking time with their colleagues. A broad basket of compensation, fresh fruit every day, BMI (Body-Mass-Index) contest, getting paid to quit smoking, 24X7 fitness centre where you can bring a friend on weekends, own vegetable garden, take part in golf tournament and so on won’t make anybody to think about changing the company. Another interesting example is form Brock Solution from Ontario. The company embraces ‘Lattice Model’ in which hierarchy into different assignments and challenges, developing new skill sets along the way. Instead of strict vertical model of increasing seniority, a lattice environment seeks to deliver growth for an employee with multi-directional movement. One project, an employee might be a technical lead and on another that person might be a project manager.

The companies profiling inspire all entrepreneurs who resolve to turn challenges into opportunities. The book talks about the success stories of the scores of companies and many Canadian Business Leaders that make it an indispensable book-must-read for all entrepreneurs, business leaders and those you aspires to become business leaders.  

Saturday, April 5, 2014

Who is at Fault?


I could only see a textbox on my computer screen in which I was typing my roll number. I was preparing for this day for last one year. I was holding a storm of anxiety inside me; butterflies were flying in my stomach. If I could not get through then my current life-at-halt would start drifting backward. My life was at halt after I completed my engineering. My college was among one of the colleges in the country that gives you the degree and prepared you to stand in the never-ending queue of frustrated unemployed youths. These colleges push students in some ‘Big-City’ of rat-race where they learn, how difficult is to exist in this world.

A year back I decided to achieve success on my terms and choose to prepare for Master’s degree entrance test rather than to search job in those ‘Big-Cities’. But it was not sufficient, I had to compete 20 million engineers of the country and the probability to succeed was less than 1%. If I study day and night then I could increase tsome probability but no surety. It was a great risk, I did not have any alternate  but to choose that, as million do the same each year.

I typed 3245263, which was my roll number, in the textbox and pressed enter to see the result. I could hear my heart beat as I was sitting on the mountain of expectations. I did not know what would I do if I do not get selected. My two friends, Amar and Vaibhav, also decided to take the same  risk as I did.

We shared room in the college hostel and a common interest that is, Love for Science. Amar’s father was a doctor in a government hospital but he never asked Amar to follow the tradition and become the doctor. Vaibhav had a family retail business and his family wanted Vaibhav to be a great engineer. Vaibhav and Amar were also from a small town like me where ‘First-Class-First’ was never less than to be like great engineers like Abdul Kalam. Amar was always excited to do anything and his excitement was his greatest strength and enemy as well. He was called as the calculator of the class as he played with numbers like toys. Vaibhav was calm and composed, he had his own world. He could design the most complex circuits in our Labs.

None of us could get the campus-placement. In fact, only five students got placed out of a batch of one hundred and twenty. Some self-acclaimed ‘Experts’ says that these students got other skills with technical skills but I would say that only one student can be selected out of every twenty four students or four students in hundred students. Other have to join the rat-race in some form or other. We heard that IIT’s have 100% placements so we thought to prepare for IIT’s. Later we came to know that the probability of getting into the IIT’s is less than 1%. Filled with motivation or perhaps we did not have any choice, we resolve to crack the GATE exam.

Today, we are going to get the result of our decision that we took a year back. The display was delayed on the computer screed due to the heavy traffic at that time. With every second I could visualize all the hard-work I put last year. All work could go in vain. I was not powerful even after being an engineer, I was feeling helpless. I failed to understand ‘Whose Fault Is was?’

Whether I am a good engineer or bad engineer does not depends on if I am a good engineer or not, but all depends on the performance of other candidates. I was told to do competition with yourself but life is showing everything is relative. If you are getting 90% marks in the class, which you have never got in past, and the average marks of class is 92% then you are not good. Hell with the creativity and all forms of education that does not guarantee more marks. My main objective was not to get good marks but more marks than other students. And I got the best strategy for that; suck more and more days and nights and vomit on the answer sheet as much as you can. Try to use the slip to vomit more that I prepared last night. In a nutshell, I had to get more marks than others. My question remains same ‘Who Is At Fault?’

The screen refreshed this time and could read two numbers, 253 and 74. First numbers was my all India rank and other was my score. There were all darkness of happiness in front of my eyes and I could not understand that how could I express my happiness. I picked-up my phone and called my brother, his works were encouraging, as always. I informed mom, dad and my sister about this great success. But nothing was greater than ‘First-Class-First’ for my mom. She only said her favorite line ‘The one who works hard never get defeated’. There were two more persons who did the hard work; my two friends. After an hour of celebrations, I phoned Vaibhv. The phone ranged five to six times and I disconnected it as I was impatient to know their results quickly. I called Amar, he picked up the phone, in the dull voice he said “My rank is 2500, buddy”. It meant that admission in IIT’s was extremely difficult, if not impossible. As a newly-turned-expert I said “ Don’t worry brother, many students don’t take admissions as they choose to go for PSU’s, you will get the admission, I am sure”. Inside I knew that it was impossible. I was just lucky if I compare myself with my both friends.

“What about Vaibhav?” I asked. “I’ll let you know when I reach the flat” he said. “He must be sleeping, as he watched movies last night”.

I got three messaged in a row from Ankita, Anubhav and Priya, all were my classmates. Same message in different words “Congratulations”. I was so excited that I wanted to take the admission at this moment only. I will be getting IIT Kanpur at this rank as per the last year’s records.

My phone beeped again. “Some congrats message”, I thought. But this time the message was from Amar. I read the three-words message and I felt like somebody pushed me back very hard. I fell down on the nearby sofa. Those three words were “He hanged himself”. I struggled to find out his roll number which I wrote in some of my notebook. It was written with pencil at the end and I got it.

I inserted the number in my computer and saw Vaibhav’s rank was 22,000 and score was 32. “It is impossible”, I said to myself. But the truth is in front of me. And again the question came “Who is at Fault?.

Monday, February 24, 2014

Book Review: Talent Is Overrated: What Really Separates World-Class Performers from Everybody Else

Author: Geoff Colvin
Publisher: The Penguin Group
MyRating: 5/5

‘Talent Is Overrated’ is not another book in the volumes of ‘Performance Improvement Tips’ that fills you with motivation while reading and then pushes you into the black-hole of repentance when facing real life situations.

It would not be exaggeration if I call this book as ‘research paper’ aiming to present the available facts in easiest words possible. This book is an inside story of all the great achievers of the world; be it an organization or an individual.

The world often mesmerizes with the great shots of Tiger Woods in golf arena. They praises it as god’s gift or hard work without realizing that fact that his father made him to sit and watch him hitting shots hours after hours when he was only seven months old. The author claims that there is nothing like ‘natural talent’ or ‘hard work’ that makes any performer as best performer but it is the ‘Deliberate Practice’.

The author, Geoff Colvin, is the senior editor at Fortune. He is the lead moderator for the Fortune Global Forum and he co-anchored ‘Wall Street Week’ on PBS for three years. According to the author, both the hard work and natural talent camps are wrong. What really makes all the difference is a highly specific kind of effort that few of us pursue when we are practicing golf, pianos or stockpiling. This book shares the secret of extraordinary performances and how to apply these principles to our lives and work.

The book is divided into eleven chapters breaking the all-prevailing myths. And explain the steps to deliberate practice. I fail to find any assertion in the book that is not supported by any research and example. Colvin explains deliberate practice is a large concept. It’s about: what exactly need to be presented? Precisely how? Which specific skills or other assets must be acquired?

Deliberate practice is very hard and in most cases it is ‘not inherently enjoyable’, then why do some people put themselves through it day after day for decades, while most do not? Where does the necessary passion come from? The question has been answered in the last chapter ‘Where Does the Passion Come From?’

The passion to put oneself into the deliberate practice comes from intrinsic motivation. The intrinsically motivated state is conducive to creativity, whereas extrinsically motivated state is detrimental. To explain this author has used may illustrations, one of them is: ‘For most of the mathematicians, the joy of discovering a new way of solving problem was more important than a high test score or receiving good grade’.

But not all the time extrinsic motivations that do not work. It has been observed in many cases that extrinsic motivation stimulated intrinsic motivation. Like, “if you don’t do your piano practice we’ll sell the piano” or “If you do not go to swimming practice we’ll take you off the team”. If the child truly didn't care about the piano or swimming these threat wouldn't work but if he cares about them these threat will work for him.

Chapter five and six explains about what deliberate practice is and isn't and how deliberate practice works. How can we apply it in our lives and in organizations is addressed by section seven and eight in the book. There are three models of practice; the music model, the chess model and the sports model which can be applied in different arenas of practice.

No question is left unanswered by the end of this book. It is not that book that is entirely read in one deep breath. It is serious intervention in the personal and organizational performance set-up. The book is written in easy and racy (exciting and interesting) style. I recommend this book to everyone who struggled to perform well and to those who are in the field of training and development. 

Wednesday, February 5, 2014

Book Review: The Heart of Change

Author: John P. Kotter
Publisher: Harvard Business Review Press
MyRating: 4.8/5

Significantly changing the behavior of a single person can be exceptionally difficult task. Changing 101, or 10,001 people can be a herculean task. Yet organizations that are leaping into the future succeed at doing just that.

Turbulence will never cease but winning organizations will continue to deal with this fact by following certain steps of transformation. The transformation means the adoption of new technologies, major strategic shifts, process engineering, mergers and acquisitions, restructuring into different sorts of business units, attempts to significantly improve innovation and cultural change. To understand why some organizations are leaping into the future more successfully than others, one need to see the flow if effective large-scale change efforts. And this flow is often a set of eight steps that few people handle well.

The story of ‘The Heart of Change’ starts with the Author’s first book ‘Leading Change’. Leading Change describes the eight steps people follow to handle large-scale change for any transformation in the organization. According to the author, a few questions were unanswered, especially about how more specifically achieved what was described in that book. John Kotter, author of this book, got the invitation from Deloitte Consulting to work on a follow-up project by massive interviewing and to collect stories that could help people me deeply understanding the eight-step formula. The Heart of Change digs out the core problem people face in all of those steps and to successfully deal with that problem.

John Kotter is internationally regarded as the foremost authority on the topic of leadership and change. Kotter is the Konosuke Matsushita professor of Leadership, Emeritus at the Harvard Business School and a graduate of MIT and Harvard. Most recently Kotter was involved in the creation and co-founding of Kotter International. He has authored eighteen books, twelve of them are bestsellers.

This book is extending the scope of eight-step process by explaining how they can be implemented using various case-studies from different industries. Kotter’s main finding is that the core of matter is always about changing the behavior of people and behavior change happens in highly successful situations mostly by speaking to people’s feelings. So, See-Feel-Change mechanism is more powerful than Analyse-Think-Change, asserts Kotter. The pattern of Seeing-Feeling-Changing is applied in all steps to steer the emotions of the people.  

The book is divided into eight chapters, each explaining the proceeding steps of change, supported by convincing conclusion. The book has been written in easy and racy style, full of zest and strong quality that would make even a lay reader to sit-up and think.

The first step contributes to the idea of creating urgency among relevant people. Too much complacency, fear, anger, or all three can undermine change. A sense of urgency gets people off the couch and ready to move which is succinctly explained though ‘The Videotape of the Angry Customer’, a case. When employees watch the video of angry customer, most employee were surprised, some became fearful, many find false pride dropping a notch and a sense of urgency growing within them and they start listening to the customer and management. Now they talked about the need of change. When urgency turned up, in step two, the most successful change agents pull together a guiding team with the credibility, skills, connections, reputations, and formal authority required to provide change leadership. This group learns to operate with trust and emotional commitment. In the best cases, the guiding team creates sensible, clear, simple uplifting visions and set of strategies, this comes under step three. Detailed plans and budgets, although necessary, are insufficient in large-scale change. A vision shows an end state where all the plans and strategies will eventually take you.

Step four narrates the importance Communication of the vision and strategy, which is simple, heartfelt messages sent through many unclogged channels. The goal is to induce understanding, develop a gut-level commitment, and liberate more energy from a critical mass of people. Step five is all about removing the key obstacles that stop people from acting on the vision. People are Empowered with information and self-confidence to work for the vision. In less successful situations, people are often left to fend for themselves despite impediments all around. So frustration grows, and change is undermined. Obstacles in the form of system barrier, barriers of the mind and information barrier disempower people. The author cautions trying to remove all the barriers at once.

The most interesting and important step is short-term wins, which is step # six. The wins are critical. They provide credibility, resources, and momentum to the overall effort. Without sufficient wins that are visible, timely, unambiguous, and meaningful to others, change efforts inevitably run into serious problems. Initial wins consolidate early changes and that should not declare victory prematurely, warns author in chapter seven. The most common problem at this stage is change efforts is sagging urgency. Success becomes an albatross. “We’ve won”, people say and you have problems reminiscent of those in step one. Finally, step eight concludes the change process my making the change stick. Change leader make change stick by nurturing a new culture. A new change - develops through consistency of successful action over a sufficient period of time. Appropriate promotions, skillful new employee orientation, and events that engage the emotions can make a big difference.

Because the world is complex, some cases do not rigidly follow the eight step flow, but the eight steps are basic pattern associated with significant useful change. This book is not a textbook of management school but a handbook for professional manager. It is the outcome of industrious research and insightful results to make any large-scale-change a real and long term success. 

Saturday, January 18, 2014

Book Review: SUPERPOWER? The Amazing Race Between China’s Hare and India’s Tortoise

Author: Raghav Bahl
Publisher: Penguin Group
MyRating: 4.5/5

China’s growth story has always been the fuel of discussion for opposition parties in India and for everyone who chooses to criticize India’s way of growth. Undoubtedly, China’s hare is far away than Indian tortoise when we compare the gigantic Chinese GDP with India’s GDP. But comparing two countries on the basis of only one parameter i.e. economic fundamentals is not quite apt when we are comparing these contenders for the next superpower. The emergence of these two potential neighboring superpowers came out from the ironic different paths of history explains Raghav Bahl, the author of this book; “SUPER POWER? The Amazing Race Between China’s Hare and India’s Tortoise

Raghav Bahl is the founder and Editor-in-Chief of Network 18. He was hailed as the Global Leader of Tomorrow by the World Economic Forum and selected by Ernest & Young as Entrepreneur of the year for Business Transformation in 2007. The book starts with the notion of doubt that prevailed long among the western countries about the survival of India as the world’s largest democracy. But with the existence of universal adult franchise (It is the right of all adult citizens to vote without any discrimination), equal fundamental rights, a daringly free press, a genuinely autonomous judiciary, a bustling entertainment and information society, a strong English-speaking middle class, a high quality technological and education infrastructure and the culture of liberal thoughts; the west could not discount the contender-ship of India, like China, as a future super power.

The book is comparing India and China on five parameters which are explained in five parts of the book; the race begins, geo-politics, entrepreneurs, consumers and English speakers, urbanization and infrastructure and social infrastructure. In the epilogue section, the author bets fifty-fifty on India and China stating the reasons for not underestimating India’s potential of growth and overestimating China’s capabilities. The book ends with answering the questions related with the future of India and China, which is supported by the experience of the author, not with any forecasting model. It makes this book more comprehensible and easy-to-read for anyone who wants to know the history and growth model of both the countries, without any technicality.

Both India and China were giants in the seventeenth and eighteenth century and accounted for 50 per cent of world GDP in 1600. But two hundred years of colonial domination shrunk their economies and political space on the globe. The British describe their rule as one which ‘civilized’ India whereas China’s colonial history was far more turbulent several rulers without a similar ‘institutional osmosis’. India attained freedom in 1947 and Mao Zedong founded the People’s Republic of China at a massive rally in Beijing. India became a parliamentary democracy and China became a totalitarian state. Till 1978, both the hare and the tortoise were at the starting line but hare had started it reforms at this time while tortoise didn’t realize this till 1991, a decade later after China stared to leap in the race. Nearly two and a half decades after hare has become a $5.9 trillion gorilla while tortoise is a 1.6 trillion cub.

The robustness of the two models was tested in 2008 during Leyman Brothers collapse. When whole world got panic India’s stock market reacted the other way allowed its investor to short the stocks while China, whose stock markets had not even been introduced the concept until then, chose to go ahead with a trial experiment in short selling just a month later.

When religion is the main force behind geopolitics played by America, Britain, Saudi Arabia, Iran and other countries, it is clearly not driving the geopolitical reflexes of India or China. But economic ambition is. Raghav Bahl equalizes both India and China on geo-political parameter. I think, he should also mention the effect of China’s ‘veto’ power in United Nations in world’s geopolitics.

When George Soros (a well-known investor) visited India in 2006, he said in his interview that the one word that makes India far ahead of China is ‘Entrepreneurship’. China has over 2,000 listed companies and more than 80 percent of these are state-owned and India has over 6,000 listed companies and over 95 percent are privately owned. The demography of India is far more conducive to the India’s growth as compare to China. By 2020, US could be short of 17 million people of working age, China 10 million, Japan 9 million and Russia 6 million. Only India will have a surplus of 47 million people in the working age. If India can harness this population then it could become the job exchange of the world. But if it fails to do that, India could become the job graveyard, explains Raghav Bahl.

The sector where China made progress by leaps and bounce is urbanization and infrastructure. China has become the standard for India can be seen in the PM’s statement when he wishes to transform Mumbai as the Shinghai of India. The author keenly studied the basis of this difference which lies in the approach of both the governments. While Chinese mayors may be accused of overreach, Indian Municipal leaders lacks ambition. China has added 20,000 km of railways tracks in last two decades and India done a 860 km in same period. China’s rail investment was $133 billion in 2010, fourteen times that of Indian railways. China has 18,000 km of coastline against India’s 7,500 km. China also has 1300 ports against India’s 200 making China a bigger seafaring nation. In 2010 China has 960 GW of installed capacity, five times more than India.

The race between China’s hare and Indian tortoise will depend on the China’s not-yet-fully tested model of ‘escape velocity’ and India’s classical and sustainable model of development. When China is investing nearly half of its GDP in its factories and creating infrastructure, India is struggling to hit the meagre targets in investment. Paul Krugman, a Noble Laureate, explains that the answer will not be quite as simple as who is investing more and growing faster today but a lot will depend on who has superior innovation? Who has more entrepreneurship savvy? Who is expanding in intensely competitive conditions?

The growth potentials of the two countries are measured on tangible and intangible abilities of India and China but, I feel, Raghav Bahl should also have covered the available natural resources in both the countries and their approach in acquiring the world’s resources. The growth model of United States resides on its huge natural resource base and their strategies in acquiring resources in other parts of the world. If any country wants to achieve and maintain double digit or close to double digit growth rate then the sustainability will largely depends on the fulfillment of its energy requirements.

 The book has been praised by Anand Mahindra (VC & MD, Mahindra and Mahindra), N.R Naraina Murthy (Chairman, Infosys), Mukesh Ambani (Chairman and MD, Reliance Industries), Bimal Jalan (former governor RBI), K.V Kamath (Chairman, ICICI) and many more authors, policy makers and entrepreneurs. I found the complements from Mr. N.R Naraina Murthy are most apt in the description of this book. He says ‘In his inimitable way, Raghav Bahl has painted very insightful and highly data-rich perspective on the history and potential of India and China. His powerful story-telling, backed with analytical research………..’.

The author disclaims that he is not writing this book as academician or economist or policy maker so he recommends reading this book as a work of instruct, intuition and his experience. But I didn’t find any arguments or statement, given in the book, that is not supported by any data or available fact. 

Sunday, January 12, 2014

Phones become smarter, people get dumber

Big data, unfettered information, the ability to be in constant contact, and our growing reliance on technology are all conspiring to create a noisy traffic jam between us and our place of insight and peace. Call it an iParadox; our smartphones are actually blocking our path to wisdom.

Thursday, January 9, 2014

Election 2014: What Is There For A Common Man?

Year 2014 came with the promise of giving the chance to choose the government for the next five years. People from all over the country are more active and excited this time as compare to last election in 2009, atleast on social media, as many of them wants to exercise their voting right. The conventional political fight has become more interesting with the entry of AAP and activation of some regional parties. People are joining some party or other in an attempt to make an impact in the development of the country which is not bad. Couple of months ago, I failed to understand when Kiran Bedi said that people too can work a lot from the outside. Is there anything for the common man to do in the current politics? Can he/she participate from outside?

There are three types of people in the elections; one, political parties and their leaders who will be the direct beneficiary for victory in the election, two, volunteers of these political parties, which are seen as supporters, are the indirect beneficiary of these election as they KNOW SOMEBODY who is in the power, third, the common man, who is always at the at the mercy of their leaders for whom they voted for.

Let us see what common people are doing right now; they have some preferences for some political party like BJP, Congress, AAP or any other region party. They think these parties can do something good for them, which is not wrong. They post everything for the support of these parties on Facebook and tweets in the favour of this party, they want to win every discussion which is related with the party of their interest. People are searching and researching material to post on their wall and if any one comments anything against it then there are exchanges of news articles, youtube links, reports and anything and everything which is in favour of his/her party or against the other party. Isn’t it happening right now?

“Whatever is good, it is for me, whoever says”, may be the another strategy of this common man but when they commit to some political parties, they have to prove everything right, inside he may be feeling it wrong. Do they have any obligation to prove their leaders correct in all respect? No political party can be envisaged as free-from-doubt and has the magical stick that will change everything. Biasedness is our greatest enemy. All political leaders are delivering their speeches, although it’s political, and one can judge it correctly if he/she is unbiased. Our leaders, most of them if not all, are very good students of marketing and they know the power of positive and negative branding. They give us the spectacles of negative brand from which we 
see our opponent leader with.

Time and again we blame them for their arrogance, autocracy, nepotism and cronyism but we have also contributed in some way or another to make them powerful, we prefer to defend them by giving the examples of opponents that they are more wrong-doers than mine. Let negative criticism leave onto these leader and their paid-agents we need to adopt positive criticism from all the depths of our wisdom, which is the required most at this time.

Wednesday, January 8, 2014

Kashmir: Not a Black and White Problem

In the cozy living rooms of middle class India news from Kashmir excites the people and gives them the chance to prove themselves as the great lover of the country by saying few line about it like ‘Dooth Mangoge to Kheer Dange, Kashmir mangogay to cheer dange’ (we will give you anything you want but if you want Kashmir then we will tear you), ‘Why don’t we attack Pakistan to solve the problem of Kashmir’, ‘The people of Kashmir don’t want to be in India and army is teaching them nice lesson’, ‘When we are giving them so special rights like article 370 then what else they want’. ‘Those who are helping the terrorists should be killed’ so on and so forth’. These casual comments on Kashmir try to make the issue black and white which hints that the solution is very easy and why not the Government of India is showing its intention to solve the issue.

Time and again the hue and cry for Plebiscite is asked by the people from some parts of the society considering that it will solve their problem. There are three sections of the people in J&K, one, who wants to remain with India, second, who want to go with Pakistan and third, who wants them to be independent and not to be ruled by India or Pakistan. We can sense that the majority of them don’t want to be with Pakistan but skewness of the graph tilted toward India and Independent Kashmir from time to time. Let us say, majority of the people want to be Independent, what answer do we have? Before jumping in to the conclusion and imagined-theories we first understand how this segment of the people looks towards India.
This section of Kashmiris never likes India, because they always have seen India with guns in CRPF jawans or in army men. Outside they are been treated as terrorist and in Kashmir they think they have been treated as slave. The history has created their memory the way it is and Pakistan continued fueling the issues to create a hostile environment against India.

Parveena Ahangar achieved international attention in 1994 when she formed Association of Parents of Disappeared People (APDP). On 18 August 1990, Javed Ahmad Ahangar, then a 17-year-old student, was allegedly picked up by the army for a militant. She started an agonising search for her son. She informed the local police station about his arrest and staged a sit-in on the road for a full day. After a six- month search for her son, she finally approached the court which ordered an inquiry into her missing son's case. For four years nothing substantial happened in her case. The state government's request for sanction to prosecute the accused Army officers was not granted by the central government. In 1994, determined to continue her struggle, Parveena formed the Association of Parents of Disappeared People (APDP). The APDP believes 8,000 to10,000 people are missing.

On 21 August 2011, the State Human Rights Commission (SHRC) confirms that 2,156 unidentified bodies lay in unmarked graves in 30 locations in north Kashmir. The SHRC had ordered the investigation after taking cognisance of a December 2009 report on mass graves titled “Buried Evidence” by the International People's Tribunal on Human Rights and Justice in Kashmir (IPTK).
Now there are two versions of truths; one version says that these are the bodies of militants who were killed by armed forced and another version says that these bodies are from 10,000 missing people.

The incident that further strengthened the memory of this section of the people is Kunan Poshspora incident occurred on February 23, 1991. An army unit launched a search and interrogation operation in Kunan Poshspora, Kupwara district and 53 women were allegedly gang raped by soldiers that night. Villagers claimed that a police investigation never took place in the region. Wajahat Habibullah, former DC, asked why not the incident was first reported and answer was not easy. Some women don’t want them to be publicize as the raped victim in the conservative society and others who wanted to come up were not heard.

After much criticism Press Council of India investigate the incident and medical examination conducted on 32 women nearly one month after incident, confirmed that the women had wounds on their chests and abdomens, and that the hymens of three of the unmarried women had been torn. But the team claimed that that such delayed examination proved nothing.

Once again there are two versions of statements; one states that the charges against army were bundle of fabricated lies and a massive hoax orchestrated by militant groups and all allegations are grossly exaggerated or invented. Another version, from Asia Watch, in its 1991 stated, ‘The alacrity with which military and government authorities in Kashmir discredited the allegations of rape and their failure to follow through with procedures that would provide critical evidence for any prosecution’.

The plight of soldier fighting in the Kashmir valley is not less critical than the people of Kashmir. If he is asked to kill the enemy in battlefield, he doesn’t have to give the second thought but to shoot. But if he is landed in the place where he is surrounded by his own people but some of them can be his enemy whom he has to kill to save him and his country. Thousands of the solders have given their lives in the valley.  Nearly 4,000 soldiers have been killed in the country after the Kargil operations in 1999 while more than 390 Army troops have committed suicide in the last three years, Lok Sabha was informed on 25 November 2012.

Minority hindu and majority muslims believed and created ‘Kashmiriyat’ in the long past was ruined by the crackdown in 1990’s, when a number of forces started playing together; ISI’s role in Kashmir, Political right of Kashmiris, Mujahideen Influence, religion and human rights violation by militants and by armed forces. The people in Kashmir, whether participated with any force or not, remain the only victim.