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The FIFA storm

Lots of action, drama unfolded in the past few days surrounding FIFA and the future of football in general. Camps were formed, strong opinions, stronger press conferences, FBI in action, twitter flooded with emotions – all possible ingredients of a classic Hollywood movie came into life in a week. Camera, focus, media coverage, action then went into the FIFA Congress at Zurich when the famous or infamous (depending on the camp you belonged to) Sepp Blatter got elected as the head of FIFA yesterday……. again!!!!! Prior to the voting, as part of the build up, UEFA announced veiled (or was it direct?) threats against Fifa through Platini. Even Mr. Putin, Mr. Cameron played their roles to the great drama. But still Mr. Blatter won…. convincingly.

Are there genuine issues in FIFA? Definitely… Grumbling and rumbling about rampant corruption charges were floating not for months, but for years. Allegations, denials were all part of the natural drama in the world of football for last few years.

Is this the beautiful game that everybody dreamt of for last 40 years? No is the answer.

Is there a need to rectify the rotten system and processes? Definitely yes… and the good thing is that everyone acknowledges that there is a major problem – that is the first step towards rectification indeed.

However what baffles me is the approach taken by Sepp Blatter’s opponents. If you have to fight head on, you have to really fight HEAD ON!! You just cannot fight for some time and then back out and then crib for the rest of the days, Mr. Figo. If you need to change the system, you need to get inside the rotten system and then change the same. You just cannot shout and scream from outside hoping that the rotten system will change on its own. To win a vote anywhere in the world, you need to form teams, you need to do lot of lobbying, campaigning and spread your point of view across all voters. I am sure all of Blatter’s opponents did the same – but did they fight till the end?

Now after the voting results, twitteratti is again full of rants from ex players, general public lamenting that the dooms day of football has again arrived yesterday. But what’s the use of this emotional outbursts apart from relieving your heart? Unless we play strongly within the system and then go for change, the existing system will continue the same way, irrespective of how much rotten it might be!!!

The only thing now to see is whether UEFA will lead the world with Latin American countries to bring up an alternate “rebel” FIFA equivalent and an alternative world cup soon….  Is there a Kerry Packer equivalent in the making? Well, UEFA and Mr. Platini – if you really meant those threats of withdrawing from FIFA, you better execute the same quickly to save international football….

Indian elections 2014

The 2014 elections of India are over, the verdict is out, the process of getting the mandate from 500+ million people across 930,000+ polling booths have been completed, the happiness of the victors and the despair of the losers are out in the open. Yet, as a common man, I find this particular election fascinating – specially with the verdict that has come up. Not going into the technicalities (the percentage vote swings, the conversion of these vote swings into actual seats, etc), my personal point of view of this election is based on some trends that I tried to think through from the results.

Let me start with the overall verdict – the BJP and NDA under the leadership of Narendra Modi has got a thumping majority of 333+ seats and the main other party, Congress party, that has ruled for maximum number of years in Indian history have been reduced to shambles with 44 seats only. So, the verdict has been strong and clear – a change after so many elections that has happened in last 15 years. To me, this verdict has established or challenged many things that we have been used to for last so many years:

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This has challenged the very concept of “dynasty politics” – a modern era “quota” system followed by Congress party. I find it strange that such a big and historic party still believes in the principle that the leader of the party has to come from a family with a surname of Gandhi, irrespective of the fact whether the person is capable enough to lead or not. The general perception of the leader was “weak” (which was apparent in his many speeches and “deadly” few interviews) – but still a majority of more capable leaders of the same party still believes that the name “Gandhi” will mesmerise the voters even in today’s world. Only time will tell whether this thought is eliminated or whether we see another member of that family trying to steer the ship in the future.

People are always sick and tired of corruption and scams – this has been true in the past, in the present and will be true in the future. But the frustration increases when scam after scam are exposed and millions of taxpayer’s money are siphoned off, the government, the ruling party leadership either remains mute spectators, or tries to “defend” the same as the first reaction, or tries to do some “lip service”. Add to the event of the head of the country remains silent or looks for inspiration to the party high command before uttering a word. In effect, corruption with “proxy governance” was something that happened in last few years and people have had enough of this, I believe.

The personal charisma of a leader counts heavily – sometimes much more than the party he/she represents. That happened with Narendra Modi. In spite of having some controversial past, the branding, the dreams spelt out by that person appealed to most of the people, including the 100+ million of new voters. Of course, there has to be a vision, a concrete plan to transform the nation – but at the end, you often tend to go with the perception of a person when you feel “Yes, I do think this person probably can transform the nation better than the others”.

It is also time to move on from the past that is more than 5-7 years old. New generation, today’s youth hardly believe in drooling on history (does not matter whether it is perceived as “good” or “bad”). Lives have changed, tha pace of life has changed – hence, we do want things to change fast and very often, the time period allocated for the change is in 1-2 years, if not in months. Yes, history is important – but more important is the vision for tomorrow, vision for our own lives – rather than the rich or not-so-rich history of the parties. So who cares what has happened 7-10 years ago – let’s discuss what will happen in next 1-2 years ! This probably scored heavily in the decision-making process as “development” took more priority than “RTI”, “women empowerment”, etc – rightfully so. Because with “inclusive growth”, other parameters like empowerment will come automatically.

The delivery contrast between two main persons help differentiate the difference much strongly. Hence, the more one leader failed to articulate the vision and instead kept on harping on non-priority things, the more strong the other leader was becoming in the minds of the people. So, a poor performance of a main player helps the others – now add to the fact that the other person by himself had more charisma and vision — then it becomes a double whammy to the poorer performer. So, field the best candidate who is best suitable for the role –> basic stuff, but often forgotten by some.

Finally, my belief that “development is more important than caste, creed & religion” got  more strengthened in this election. In a country like India, where the culture, the dialect of the same language, food habits, etc change probably every 50 km across the length and breadth; harping on religion, appealing for votes from a particular religion or caste do have an impact on votes. And probably this happened this time as well – but overall, I have a hunch that people disregarded this caste/religion play much more as compared to last few elections. I find it sickening when this divisive play, this polarisation of people is even attempted by so many parties.

Probably, this is the time when all of us should introduce ourselves to the external world as an “Indian” instead of a “Bengali, Marathi, etc” or a “North Indian, South Indian, etc” or any such classifications. That way, we will not allow anyone trying to “divide” us going forward.

Let’s make our country proud by taking this first step together !

Corruption Allegations

Indian political horizon is currently under a big storm – with potential impacts more than what we have recently seen with Sandy in US. This storm is man-made – made by one Mr. Arvind Kejriwal, the leader of a newly founded political party whose priority is to “expose” the reverend and famous politicians and industrialists who hog the headlines all the time. Whether these are actual exposures or not, we do not know; but I am sure these are very serious allegations of corruption.

Now the question being asked repeatedly by many sections is that this kind of ‘politics’ is baseless, waste of time and brooded with lots of negativity across the entire Indian leadership. Even our respected but most-of-the-time-silent Prime Minister mentioned recently that lot of negativity around corruption which are being published by the media will cause very severe negative market sentiments and negative perception to the extent that the foreign investors might stop the flow of FDI in India, which may result in less and lesser economic growth.

Very true.

But my question is that even if 10% of these allegations are true, then we can hold our head high in the international world mentioning that India is ruled by looters, very sophisticated ones indeed. Those who live their daily lives in India definitely will agree that corruption is rampant and everywhere – whether it is limited to a bribe of Rs 50/- or Rs 500 crores is something determined by the level of the transaction being carried out. On the other hand, if the allegations are indeed false, then Mr. Kejriwal should be jailed and probably hanged to death.

Only time will tell the course of action – but most of the citizens of India do have this negativity on the topic of corruption. Hence, it will definitely be interesting to actually follow the dramatic allegations coming almost every week and check out whether there is a logical conclusion (either positively or negatively) or whether this will go to a logical lengthy process of natural death (like the proven justice route of a video-taped terrorist activity is taking years after years and the person who has killed so many people in Mumbai perhaps still enjoy the occasional biryani served in prison !)

Posted from WordPress for BlackBerry.

Reveal the money, honey !

I was going through the global headlines in the net, when I saw this news in The Telegraph, UK and I quote an excerpt below along with the link to the detailed news:

The US government has warned 10 Swiss banks, including Credit Suisse, that they must hand over confidential information exposing tax cheats by tomorrow or face legal proceedings.
URL : http://www.telegraph.co.uk/finance/newsbysector/banksandfinance/8740641/US-warns-10-Swiss-banks-to-hand-over-information-on-tax-cheats.html

This struck me quite hard and forced me to look at the intention of the governments of world’s two largest democracies, US and India, on the topic of corruption – which strikes any country with varied intensity levels. Before I express my views on this ‘intention’ and ‘body language’ of the two governments, let me share some facts on the ‘illegal capital flight’ that impacts India.

There is the body of “Global Financial Integrity” (http://www.gfip.org/index.php?option=com_frontpage&Itemid=80) which promotes “national and multilateral policies, safeguards, and agreements aimed at curtailing the cross-border flow of illegal money”. In one of the reports available in the site, the name India comes quite often (along with some other countries) which by itself is an embarrassment for me, but again is the reality – so let’s face the data points mentioned therein:

  • The five Asian countries with the largest total illegal capital flight during 2000-2008 are: China ($2.18 trillion), Malaysia ($291 billion), Philippines ($109 billion), Indonesia ($104 billion), and India ($104 billion). On average these five countries account for 96.5 percent of total illicit flows from Asia and 44.9 percent of flows out of all developing countries.
  • Other reports (as available in Wikipedia as well as other sources) indicate that the total amount of black money deposited in foreign banks by Indians is to the tune of a staggering $1.4 trillion.

Whatever the exact number, it is a fact that everyone understands that we are talking of huge amount of money, accumulated through years of corruption at all levels and potentially benefited by a few powerful citizens of India. And everybody will acknowledge that – even the Indian parliament – that this issue is a big issue which needs to be tackled at a war footing. However, what has the Government and our Parliament doing on this ?

While US is taking tough stands with the banks and trying to take on the problem head-on, the world’s largest democracy and it’s parliament and politicians have been taking their own time to act. This actually puts a big question on their basic intention – whether they will really like to do this is a common question all of us have ! Why ? Because you will never know how many skeletons might suddenly tumble from the cupboards of our many respected politicians or other famous personalities. Perhaps that is why the body language of the government has been quite ‘soft’ when compared to our counterparts in US. To take a tough stand and talk the walk does not take much effort, but do our politicians have the will to do so ? I sincerely doubt … instead, the parliament has been busy in sending breach of privilege notices to a group who had been most vocal against corruption and who spearheaded a huge mass movement to fight against corruption. In this case, the parliament has been quite proactive and fast to send the breach of privilege notices, but they suddenly lose their energy and proactiveness when it comes to getting the black money criminals caught !

Even the Supreme Court of India expressed its frustration in Jan’ 2011 when they found that the government was reluctant to publish the names of potential 26 Indians who hold accounts, allegedly for black money, in Germany’s Liechtenstein Bank. The court remarked ” It is a pure and simple theft of national money. We are talking about a mind-boggling crime, not niceties of various treaties… This is the plunder of the nation”

But still, our government, our politicians are not showing the will to try to stop black money generation; they are not even showing the intention and body-language that they mean business when it comes to corruption. They speak great things on this topic, but unfortunately their action (or at least the sense that they are trying to act) does not match with their great speeches. So, is it that they are fearing some of the powerful, famous people will be exposed if they pursue to take this issue head-on ?

Corruption & Lokpal Bill

The issue that has been raging in India for years has been corruption. You might argue that the noises against corruption has risen recently – maybe true, but we all know that one of the big menace that India as a nation face is the rising trend of corruption. You and I face that probably every day in our lives – whether you apply for a new phone connection, whether you try to upgrade your electricity meter capacity, whether you want to pay your road-tax, whether you want to change your property ownership – everywhere it is that you give money, then only things will move; otherwise you spend a month in that office, you will see that nothing is moving at all.

Nothing new – isn’t it ? And if you then step back for a moment, you will realise that there is one common factor amongst all the above incidents of corruption – 99% of those incidents arise when you start dealing with government offices or public sector organisations. The opening of our economy in the 1990’s have forced certain behavioral changes in some sectors, specially in the banks, but the overall work culture, productivity is still pathetic. But with some money greasing, things are much better.

Why is it that we all knew about this for long and yet have been a silent spectator ? Well, my personal opinion is that Indians have now been accustomed to this culture and have been sponsoring a “chalta hain” attitude. How many times you and I have been a victim of corruption or have seen such incidents, then cribbed about it before side-stepping away ? I am sure the answer will be quite obvious, isn’t it ?

But what we are witnessing in recent times surrounding the Lokpal bill is unique and to some extent revolutionary ! In my lifetime, I haven’t seen any movement that has forced spontaneous participation from ordinary citizens – the poor and rich, the illiterate and the educated, the introvert and the extrovert – everybody is feeling that we need to do something and Anna Hazare has provided us the vehicle to act. The marches that we are seeing, the rallies that we are watching, the passion we are witnessing – all of this is without any compulsion, without the intervention of any political parties !

The corrupt politicians over the last 64 years have failed to provide a system which in general is not corrupt. Instead, they have been instrumental in triggering the most corrupt financial scams that the country has witnessed. And yet, they have the audacity to challenge the voices of the people of the country, the same people who have made them MP’s and MLA’s. Very often, it is said that politicians are shameless; well, I would say they are shamefully shameless. Of course, there are exceptions within the politician community, but in general, they are probably the most corrupt people and hence, they are the most vocal community to speak against the Jan Lokpal.

The below picture might not be 100% accurate, but definitely have accuracy to the extent of 80%-90% and even if we take a 50% accuracy, the amount that went as bribes and corruption to our politicians and their cronies will be staggering !!

For the last 24 hours, I was doing some research to find out the differences between the Jan Lokpal created by the voices of the common man and that of the Government, which lacks transparency and probably does not take into account the feedback from the citizens. I am sharing some of the interesting articles and documents for you to go through and make your opinion on which is the best to have as a citizen of any country !

Jan Lokpal vs Government’s version

Touching upon the \”controversial\” points

Forget whether you support or belong to a political party. I would believe that the choice between the two bills is quite obvious. But, whatever might be your opinion, the time has come in the history of an independent India … the time to see whether the citizens can “force” a law to be passed or whether be ‘happy’ with a law forced by the politicians.

If Egypt can bring a transformation, why can’t we do that ? Let’s give a BIG push and try !

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