World of India!: March 2007 e

World of India!

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Burger King - killing me softly

Thursday, March 29, 2007 Digg! Add to Technorati Favorites
While reading feeds from 'TIME', the following news item caught my eye-

Burger King Going Cage Free


Turns out that Burger King has committed to begin buying eggs and pork from suppliers that do not keep their animals in cages or crates.

Burger King will also give purchasing preference to poultry suppliers that use or switch to "controlled atmosphere stunning," which animal rights groups consider the most humane way to slaughter poultry.

Hmm...interesting, I suppose that should make the hens, the eggs they lay and the pigs which are consumed by Burger King customers a happier lot. After all they were being tortured and then killed painfully,earlier. Now they will be ecstatic that death will come faster and with much less pain. Hallelujah! Peace be on thee Burger King!

Disclaimer: I am a die-hard carnivore.


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BLINK and you lose - the U.S Army's debacle in the Iraq War

Tuesday, March 27, 2007 Digg! Add to Technorati Favorites
The mighty U.S defence machine will gobble up $532.8 BILLION dollars, in 2007. For such a well funded outfit, it seems to be doing remarkably poorly in Iraq, given that the insurgents number a few thousand and operate with weapons which can only be described as crude, compared to the sophisticated machinery used by the U.S forces.'The Hindu' reports the U.S generals as saying that their army is "outwitted" in Iraq.

Some excerpts from the news item
:


In a bleak analysis, senior officers described the fighters they were facing in Iraq and Afghanistan "as smart, agile and cunning.By contrast, the U.S. military is said to have been slow to respond to the challenges of fighting an insurgency. The senior officers described the insurgents as being able to adapt rapidly to exploit American rules of engagement and turn them against U.S. forces, and quickly disseminate ways of destroying or disabling armoured vehicles. The military is also hampered in its attempts to break up insurgent groups because of their "flat" command structure within collaborative networks of small groups, making it difficult to target any hierarchy within the insurgency.Other officers said coalition rules of engagement were being used against the forces fighting the insurgency. "They know when we can and cannot shoot, and use that against us," said one officer, reflecting the comments of U.S. soldiers in the field. Another said recent video footage of an ambush on a convoy, posted on the Internet, was evidence that insurgents were filming incidents to teach other groups about American counter-measures."

All this is well known and already in the Public realm. So why am I repeating it? The reason is that the above news item reminded me of a chapter in Malcom Gladwell's latest book 'Blink'. In it Gladwell describes Paul Van Riper,a retired U.S army officer and a celebrated Vietnam vet being drafted in by the U.S Joint forces command (JFCOM) in planning a war game in 2000. The Pentagon spent a fortune on planning this war game which was going to be the most sophisticated and comprehensive war game in the Pentagons history. Paul was drafted to lead the opposition and be the rebel army leader in the Middle East. Paul opposition in the war game , the U.S team (known a a the Blue team in the war game) was given a sophisticated information system called the Operational Net Assessment, which according to Gladwell " broke the enemy down into a series of military, economic, social, political systems and then created a matrix showing how all these systems were inter-related and which links among these systems were the most vulnerable. The Blue team was also given a tool called the Effects-based operations, which directed them to think the conventional method of targeting and destroying an adversaries target. They were given a Comprehensive Relevant Operational Picture (CROP). They were given a tool for joint interactive planning. They were given an unprecedented amount if information and intelligence from every corner of the U.S Govt. and a methodology that was logistical and systematic and rational and rigorous.Paul's army on the other hand had roughly the same toys that the Iraqi insurgents have today.

The outcome?Red team (Paul's army) knocked the pants of the Blue team (U.S Army) by taking them by surprise in a series of guerrilla attacks and improvising. Ex: When the rebels came to know that their communications were being monitored, they used couriers on motorcycles. When the Blue team shut off systems for Paul's army to launch planes, he used a forgotten WWII technique to enable him to do so. Paul's army won the war game because they were - yes - smart, agile and cunning, with a flat command structure and ability to use the U.S army's known processes against them.

In the end a severely embarrassed Pentagon organized a second series in which they restricted Paul's army so much, that the Blue Team had to win. In essence the second round was rigged to create a false victory for JFCOM and its Operational Net Assessment Tool. Just in the same way that the CIA was to shortly present a series of reports which were 'touched up' or 're-interpreted' in a way which completely altered their meaning. The reports stated that Saddam Hussein was trying to acquire weapons of mass destruction (which has been subsequently proved as a totally false acccusation) and that in turn, became the pretext to launch a full scale invasion.

But the perils of ignoring the lessons from that war game in 2000, have come back to haunt the Pentagon and its mean war machine. Much in the same way as the political fallout of the military defeat in Iraq has severely tarnished President Bush's political legacy and the reputation of the U.S forever, in the eyes of the world.

What goes around, comes around.

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Cricket and India - Its the fielding stupid !

Saturday, March 24, 2007 Digg! Add to Technorati Favorites
Some time before the world cup started, I suspected that this world cup would be one of the worst for India. No, not because I am an astrologer, but because of the simple fact that it was being played in the West Indies. I wonder why so many people had such unrealistic hopes from the team when our record abroad has been so miserable. This record abroad is even worse when it comes to stronger teams like Australia, South Africa, New Zealand. This triumvirate has succeeded in changing the game and raising it to a new level, by adding an element of athleticism to the game, which was never a factor pre 1990's. This combined with many changes brought about to speeden up the game, has ensured that subcontinental teams who have not adapted well to the dynamics have been seriously exposed, except on home soil, where they continue to enjoy a slight advantage, yet.

The new twenty -twenty format, will speeden up the game even further and demand far more athleticism, which I suspect would make matters worse for us.

Then there is a resurgence of new cricketing countries, all of which, play the same style of cricket like the triumvirate(emphasising athleticism and agility in the field). These so called minnows (Bangladesh- coached by a Australian, Ireland and Canada) have more then proved this world cup, that they will challenge the current status quo as it exists and severely test some of the nations in the top league, despite their battinng and bowling beinng nowhere in thee same league as us, man to man. I wouldn't be surprised if one or all of them move up and better India , at least in the one day and 20-20 version of the game, in the next 4-5 years.

The mistake we are committing is that we are (again) underestimating our opponents and the efforts they have undertaken to change the paradigm of the game. We are still stuck to thinking about cricket as a game between bat and ball, where as the game has moved on, to bring an element of the 'body' in it.

Considering it in this light, is it really surprising that India should loose so badly when all our Stars are on the wrong side of 30 and those who are on the right side, would be thrashed by even the senior most members of the triumvirate, when it comes to athleticism in the field?

This is not to say that our limitations in the field are alone responsible for our poor performance. Of course, it is a fact that, we also failed in our traditional strength of batting. But evenn this 'failure' was induced by the teams that defeated us, by tightening the screws in the field and bringing about an unbearable pressure on our batsman.

The game has truly changed. Now lets see when the BCCI will 'get it'?

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Thank God for the Bangladeshi cricket team!

Wednesday, March 21, 2007 Digg! Add to Technorati Favorites
After Bangladesh defeated India, and Dravid commented that they fell short by 30-40 runs, the Bangladeshi captain took umbrage and commented that this was a sign that India had not accepted that Bangladesh played well and therefore won on merit. Although, frankly, its well implied in Dravid's remark that they fell short because Bangladesh played well.

This mild sparring aside, its great to see Bangladesh come into its own. For one, this means that now there is one more country against which we can loose. Secondly, we can tour one more country regularly and make good money all round. Thirdly, its one more opposition which has slow wickets and this is always good for out of form cricketers to get that once in a year century and cement their place in the side for two more years.Lastly, sub-continental cricketing boards stick together in matters related to ICC. So, it means one more vote on the BCCI's side, provided they "feed" the hungry and the powerful from the Bangladeshi Board.

With all these advantages, who but India's enemies can be unhappy about Bangladesh's victory over us? Let a million defeats bloom, I sayy...

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Looks can deceive

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When I see a member of the female species I can rate her on 1-10, no problemo. If I ask another female whether she agrees with my rating, we are usually on the same lines. In other words, females are good judges of how attractive other females are to the male eye.

Curiously though, my powers fail me if I (not when !) were to try the same experiment on males. I can of course distinguish the ones who look like Greek gods or pigs and sneer at them both appropriately and give them a 9/10 or 1/ 2. But I can't seem to be able to pinpoint how attractive the rest of the boring middlers would be to the female eye.

The problem is that while we are quite specific about what we want from females (symmetry and/or size ) all around, the female mind seems to also consider other puzzling factors like, "smoulder", "intensity", "warmth", when it comes to the middler males.

Not a life & death issue, this. But I thought you would like to know about this curious state of affairs.

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Bob Woolmer - a fine legacy marred by a troubled last inning

Monday, March 19, 2007 Digg! Add to Technorati Favorites
Various T.V channels have just reported the shocking news of Pakistan cricket coach Bob Woolmer having died,after Pakistan's shocking defeat to minnows Ireland.

Woolmer was a controversial man having been attacked by numerous ex-cricketers as well as commentators, not to say the Pakistani cricket fans for his coaching methods. Lately Imran Khan had trained his guns on him accusing him of playing too defensively and of bringing the English county cricket mentality into Pakistani cricket, thus robbing the Pakistani team of their natural aggression. For this Khan had repeatedly demanded that Woolmer be sacked.

Sunil Gavaskar, another cricketing legend was never impressed by Woolmers
excessive use of his laptop in coaching and mocked him many a times on T.V. Woolmer had a software which had the capability to analyse every ball that had been balled in cricketing history and he used computing capabilities to its fullest in devising is game plans. Gavaskar was never sceptical of this and opined that this was a mere waste of time, as cricket was played in the field and not on the dressing room laptop.

All said and done, Woolmer's methods were not without merit. He was the chief architect behind the South African teams amazing success in International cricket, since their rehabilitation into world cricket post the apartheid era. So successful was he in building an almost clinically professional side that Woolmer and his laptop became the talk of the cricketing world.

He was snapped up by the Pakistani Cricket board who hoped the Woolmer would work the same wonders with the Pak team. Here Woolmer failed miserably, but not on account of his faults, as much as that of the temperamental Pak cricketers and haphazard administration of the Pak cricket board. Perhaps for the first time in Woolmers life, his was expected to perform in a environment which was not predictable and therefore easy to analyze on a laptop. Which machine for instance could predict when Inzamam would be run out next, whether Shoaib would resort to dope to improve his balling speed, repeatedly question his authority as coach and even push him in front of T.V cameras? How could Woolmer predict the shenanigans of the Pak cricket board which was ultimately controlled by none other than President Musharraf himself and was run on his whims and fancies with administrators being changed like soiled cricketing whites?

Greg Chappel, another coach who is a stern disciplinarian is also running into the same problems in India, where discipline and authority are not very welcome to our cricketing superstars and our cricket board, which is run in a totally ad hoc manner.

Both these coaches are not used to sub- continental way of working. Neither are they familiar with the cultural context of the place. With their taciturn manner, both have been accused of acting aloof and not bothering to know the players and concentrating more on strategy /tactics, but in the process not even knowing their players as human beings. The western ways of communicating and working which are very goal and task oriented and to which the English, S.African, NZ and Australian cricket players are used to , don't seem to work with our sub-continental emotional lot.

So when the results did not come out to the liking of the public, the pressure on Woolmer was enormous.Finally Woolmer paid a price.Fittingly,he was last caught on camera packing his beloved laptop for good, before leaving for the hotel. But he will always be remembered for playing a big role in changing the game to where it is now.


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Why India can still win the Cricket World Cup?

Sunday, March 18, 2007 Digg! Add to Technorati Favorites
After yesteredays defeat at the hands of Bangladesh, there is still hope !

Year 1981
1. Prince Charles got married
2. Liverpool crowned Champions of Europe
3. Australia lost the Ashes
4. Pope Died
5. 2 years later India won the world Cup!!!

Year 2005
1. Prince Charles got married
2. Liverpool crowned Champions of Europe
3. Australia lost the Ashes
4. Pope Died
5. 2 years later India wins the world Cup!!!


Hat Tip: Hrushikesh

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World Cup Cricket fever - Cricket's Greatest moments

Saturday, March 17, 2007 Digg! Add to Technorati Favorites

Now that the Cricket World Cup mania is starting to warm up, I chanced upon this wonderful clip capturinng some of Crickets greatest moments. nJOY!

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Mallu in space along with Virgin !

Friday, March 16, 2007 Digg! Add to Technorati Favorites
India's first space tourists is ready to fly and guess who can it be? A mallu of course, who else?

Mallu's are anyway omnipotent in all parts of the world (when my colleagues first travelled to Schenzen in China to visit our office there and tried to track an Indian restaurant, they could only find a hole in the wall run by a mallu.) So its only appropriate that the first space tourist from India would be from malluland- Simmmbly right, I say. I can only hope that Santosh George opens an Idli Sambar stall once he is up there.

BTW, 1 crore for a ride to space is not as expensive as one would have imagined. I am sure Richard Branson's virgin can get the price down by half, once they start pulling in more volumes and if the first few flights work well (which means if people survive to tell the tale). So one can easily imagine the price coming down to aroudn the Rs.50 lakhs range- which I am sure, would even lead to queues of Sardarjis, Gujjus and of course, Mallus, in front of the Virgin Airlines office : )

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No Public toilet ,No Pee - BMC's unfair Diktat

Monday, March 12, 2007 Digg! Add to Technorati Favorites
The Municipal Corporation of Mumbai has started a campaign which fines people for littering public places or makes them clean the mess they created. A few weeks back, this campaign shot in the news when the BMC fined Tavleen Singh , a respected columnist , Rs.500/- ,when her dog was caught making a mess on the Marine Drive promenade. Tavleen, a hypocrite if there was ever one, made a fuss and protested saying that other dogs are making a mess all over Mumbai, so why should she (or her dog) be singled out. But the point was that this in itself doesn't give license to dog owners like Tavleen to dirty the city even more - although the fact that the BMC has a duty to make efforts at cleaning up the city is undisputed. But such is the attitude of even the city's elite. While they go around prescribing all kinds of solutions for India's ill's , these are the same people who fail to walk the talk (or clean up their Dog's mess when he takes one)- Tavleen being a prime example of this brigade.

But having said that- the BMC ( and other executive bodies) have a duty too. NDTV interviewed one person today, who was literally caught with his pants down- urinating in public. Now ,although this is a hideous thing to do, can you blame people when there is a complete lack of clean public urinals in our public places, in even our biggest and best (sic) cities? The city fails miserably in providing the appropriate public infrastructure to our citizens so as to enable them to follow good civic behaviour. Where, for instance, are the toilets? Where are the dust bins? Where is the enforcement of rules which facilitates people to walk along roadsides without danger of being rammed by vehicles or hawkers?

If the BMC was sensible (now that's asking for too much, I know), they should enforce rules in places where they have provided these facilities to the tax paying public. The public on its part should try and carry their litter with them home, if bins are not to be seen. I do this all the time, and its not at all difficult. But when it comes to the natures call, when you got to go, you got to go. Well dressed people can get entry into the toilet of a commercial establishment, but what about the millions of lower middle class and poor, who have no access to public toilets? Fining them, when the executive has failed to perform its legitimate duty is really a travesty of justice.

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Corruption in India - The Supreme Court says hang the guilty !

Thursday, March 08, 2007 Digg! Add to Technorati Favorites
"The Corrupt should be hanged in Public"! Guess who made this quotable quote recently- The Al Qaeda, The Taliban, The LTTE?

It was a Judge of the Supreme Court of India.

I don't know whether His Lordship was merely in a bad mood or genuinely believes in what he says. Or was this quote meant for consumption f the media to project the Supreme Court as a 'saviour' of the masses? Lately there have been a spurt of issues where the judiciary has been delivering judgements on subjects which ought to be handled by the executive. By tackling these issues head on, the judiciary has acquired an image that this branch alone is some how uncorrupted and better than all the rest.

Consider- the courts are deciding whether kids should be interviewed or not before being admitted to Kindergarten in schools. The court decided that the rule on overloading of lorries had to be strictly followed, which has led to a virtual chaos in a range of industries. Just yesterday, the High court in Delhi termed the decision of the Govt. to impose a peak surcharge on air traffic in peak hours as consumer unfriendly and asked them to relook into it. I can go on and on with examples where the courts seem to be judging matters, where expert decisions need to be taken and are going beyond the remit of interpretation of law.

Because the courts are seen to be taking the cudgels on behalf of the general public and because the reputation of the political classes is in tatters, the society in general more than welcomes the pronouncements of the Courts. More so, because in many cases the courts are seen as the last

Yet, the fact is that the convoluted judicial system, corruption and plain insensitiveness has led to a huge back log of cases (running into millions off cases) and justice being dispensed off after delays of years , if not decades as a matter of routine. This has actually led the society into creating a parallel judiciary- be it in the form of goondas, caste/village courts or other such extra constitutional authorities who freely dispense with their own brand of justice or what passes for it. And what have the courts done to stem this long standing problem? I haven't seen any court pronouncing that this "has to stop" - a tone which is usually used when confronting the executive. Did you know for instance that Courts in India STILL go on a summer recess, just like in the days of the British Raj- for 2 whole months? All work , except the most urgent grinds to a halt! This of course is over and above the already chock a block diary of holidays that any Govt. office has. What is the judiciary doing to reform this?

We, the people, should also understand the futility and the danger of relying and pinning too much hope on one pillar of the constitution. The fact is that the judiciary is not as sqeaky clean ,as it is projected it to be. Neither is it a expert on matters as far ranging as the education of 4 yr olds, pollution from automobiles, to whether or not peak surcharge is the right way to avoid congestion in the air. These matters are best tackled by the executive- who have the experience and more importantly, legitimate authority to tackle these decisions. The courts should only enter when a point on law is brought to bear on such decisions, not otherwise.

Democracy is a institution which is a system of checks and balances. Each pillar of a democracy needs to functions within its remit, while keeping the other institution in check. If we the people allow one to over arch itself, it wont bee long before this privilege is abused. Just look at the Army in Pakistan, which successfully projected itself as a saviour of the nation and under that guise usurped power and pelf, far beyond its entitlement, successfully trampling all democratic systems, in the process.

If we continue looking at the judiciary as the sole saviour, we would fall for the same fate or worse, be considered worthy of being hanged in public by a Lordship!

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NDTV Profit v/s CNBC TV 18

Wednesday, March 07, 2007 Digg! Add to Technorati Favorites
I watch CNBC-TV18 almost everyday but almost never watch NDTV Profit. Why?

Maybe I have so gotten used to the
CNBC format because CNBC was around much earlier than Profit? But is this really true or are there deeper factors at work?

Lately, I have been reading Malcolm
Gladwell's 'BLINK' and have been thinking as to how our instincts play a role in us liking or disliking a particular channel or anchor. Is it possible, for instance, that the only reason why I like CNBC more is because its anchors seem to speak English in a more 'comfortable skin' than the NDTV profit anchors? So better format or better analysis (after all both channel share virtually the same 'expert commentators') is just an excuse for my other subconsciously held biases like comfort level of anchors with English that are playing a role?

Come to think of it, I positively dislike some of the
NDTV Profit anchors. Although they are as knowledgeable as others, I subconsciously brand them as 'tapori' (street loafers), becau of their rough tough looks. I hate one CNN-IBN (Sister channel of CNBC TV-18) financial analyst because of her accent ( I think she has a fake accent).

In fact , I have branded many
NDTV profit anchors in some way as 'fakes' (my pet hate)- since many of them are not as comfortable in their English diction and in finding the right words to say, in comparison with CNBC TV-18 anchors. So in order to mask this dis-comfort, they tend to overcompensate or mask their discomfort (hence the 'fake' tag). But of course, its very easy to catch this discomfort and this makes you uneasy as well. And you don't to squirm watching an anchor struggle with words, do you? You want to concentrate on the markets and the analysis and be comfortable. I think that's why I prefer CNBC TV18...all the anchors they have are 'easy' and 'comfortable' with anchoring and this makes me feel watching them 'comfortable' as well.

Isn't that exactly what
Prannoy Roy and Barkha Dutt make you feel, other than the fact that Roy also has 'Gravitas'- a very rare quality amongst anchors?

Wonder how
NDTV missed this trick when they recruited NDTV Profit anchors?

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Tom Peters warns the western world's workforce against India

Thursday, March 01, 2007 Digg! Add to Technorati Favorites
The Grand Daddy of Corp. Consultants Tom Peters has warned the workforce of the western world against the kind of outsourcing that is now being done out of India. In Tom's words that is - "bio-tech research and complex approval processes of complex loans". He congratulates India but stresses the need for the western workforce to have a " incredible, incredible, incredible sense of urgency" and the "need to work and work and work" and "repurpose, repurpose and repurpose" and fashion oneself into a "brand".

Last war cry of the Samurai? : )

Tom might be glad to know that the Indian finance minister, has now announced, in the financial budget for 2007, a move to start taxing Indian BPO's and also made it more expensive for them to rent the already costly commercial office space (the only two areas of the budget I differ on with the F.M- I believe BPO's should have been spared from the M.A.T. since they are still in the process of evolution, unlike the Indian Software companies which are already prize atheletes and therefore, rightly under the ambit of this tax. The other provision to levy service tax on commercial office space is also ill advised.)Both these provisions would hurt the Indian BPO's, but I am not sure that can still give 'The Last Samurai' lasting hope. : )

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Chidambaram is hooted by India's greedy upper class

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So the Finance Budget is finally delivered. The stock markets cracked predictably. If you watch CNBC-TV18 and other business channels and listen to their anchors and the experts, you would well be forgiven to believe that the end of the world is nigh. Udayan Mukherjee, the Stocks editor on CNBC TV18, has been frothing in his mouth of anger against Chidambaram. One suspects that it has more to do with the tax that would be levied on ESOPs Udayan has received from TV18, than genuine concern for the Indian economy.

Its amazing to watch how selfish the Indian upper middle class and the rich have become. The mantra is more, more and more. All companies wants tax breaks (the honourable exception being Infosys), regardless of how much they are raking in. Equity investors have lost sight of the fact that they have already received significant largess from the F.M when he cut the capital gains tax to 0- if you invest inn equity for more than a year. If you are a trader- the tax is a measly 20%. But this has been conveniently forgotten and everyone's cribbing about the marginal dividend distribution tax that has been levied. Corporates have forgotten how corporate taxes have beeen reduced to very reasonable levels as have custom and excise duties.

Take Cement sectorr as an example. Cement companies are raking in the moolah at fabulous operating margins of 30 % or more. These companies are more or less monopolies in the region they operate in, and worse, their association is known to act like a cartel- while shamelessly advocating for more sops. Cement prices have increased from around Rs 135-140 to Rs 205-210 per 50 kg bag between December 2005 and May 2006 in the wholesale market and now ruling around the 240-250 levels in Mumbai. So prices have virtually doubled. But the fat cats in the cement industry continue to wail.

I can go on and on....no body seems to like that they haven't got that extra bar of chocolate, while the population which is living at the margins are fighting to survive. The fiscal allocations meant for them in the fields of education, water conservation, agriculture, health has been described snidely in the English Presss as 'Hand Outs', ' Preparation for the next election' and 'Dole'. While the fact that the F.M did not oblige the fat cats once again is being described with words like ' a lost opportunity','insipid budget' etc.

The greedy selfishness behind all this was, ironically, exposed by a well known and well respected analyst and fund manager- Sameer Arora who runs an India fund from Singapore. Sameer said that the finance minister has done nothing to damage growth which in any case is more or less assured, if corporates do what they are supposed to do and therefore its unreasonable to ask more. He advised the rest of the panelists to read the well known book -'Globalization and its discontents'- to become more aware about the realities of today's world around us.

I always had great respect for Mr. Arora as a analyst. But now, I must say, he is a equally good human being.

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