Archive for March 27th, 2015

Indian cricket fan’s new low..

March 27, 2015

Indian cricket fan keeps hitting a new low. The swings in the mood go from over-optimism to over-pessimism and outright shamelessness. Both the heights and lows of the fan are way over the top.

Ever since India lost the semi-final in the world cup 2015, we have moved to a new low. All kinds of jokes about personal lives of players are being blamed for the loss. Humour is fine but it has become too crass. And this one on beefing security at Indian captain’s house is just too much to handle.

I mean India played really well through out the tournament and there is no reason for this kind of behavior. Even if the team does badly, one should not get into all kinds of abuses and personal targeting. People do not really play to lose and you can’t win all the time. Sometimes you have a bad day in the office and that is it.

The fans have forgotten how amazingly India won all its previous matches with such aplomb. No one gave us any chance to move beyond quarters and that too because of the format (though England showed the way). To get into such theatrics, speaks really badly about the tolerance levels of Indian cricket fan.

All this points to several lessons for Indian cricketers as well. There are some current crop of cricketers who love all this fan and media attention. They love to make their personal lives public and love all that hype. One should learn from the earlier players who just played cricket and kept all this hype away. They protected their private lives fiercely and did not allow any such talks. Even then they were not spared if we remember the 2007 World cup..

One should be weary of Indian fan’s over the top attitude all the time. There is no scope for tolerance here…

Arbitrage opportunity in Indian railway tickets..

March 27, 2015

Well, one can only do so much. The Govt recently hiked the price of platform tickets (allows to just enter the railways station, could be to drop or pick someone or any other purpose) from Rs 5 to Rs 10. I mean now we have stopped hiking prices by 1 or 2 Rs. It is straight double which become too much to handle. Why should someone pay that much right away?

Anyways, interestingly there is an arbitrage opportunity. It is not a strictly arbitrage in the finance sense where one can buy cheap and sell expensive without a fuss. Here, one can avoid buying the platform tickets as train tickets are cheaper. The cheapest travel ticket in Hubbali costs Rs 5. So someone can still just pay Rs 5 and get the platform ticket service:

Starting April 1, Rs 10 will get you entry to Hubballi railway station platform, while Rs 5 will take you to Unkal, 20km away. Or Kundgol. Or Kusugal. That’s the minimum fare on an unreserved ticket. People chary of paying up Rs 10 for a few minutes of farewells on the platform, have already found a way to get paisa-wise: buy a general ticket for Rs 5, spend time on the platform with family and walk coolly out of the station – Rs 5 saved. Such shades of Scrooge are apparent among our folk who are looking to take advantage of an option provided, wittingly or otherwise, by the railway ministry itself.

The railway ministry has decided to increase the rate of platform tickets from Rs 5 to Rs 10 from April 1. It has also allowed divisional railway managers to increase the platform ticket rate beyond Rs 10 for occasions like fairs, rallies and festivals, the intention being to control the rush on platforms.

Passengers have been quick to spot the irony of the situation – that the minimum fare for ordinary trains is Rs 5, 50% less than the proposed rate of a platform ticket. They also know that no one can object to them walking on to the platform, armed with a ticket for Rs 5 – it may be unethical but perfectly legal, and probably happens only in India. Receiving family members and saying goodbyes is a deep-rooted Indian travelling tradition which few violate.

A clerk at Hubballi station recalled that this was happening regularly till October 7, 2013, when the minimum journey fare was Rs 3 and the platform ticket rate was Rs 5. “When the minimum fare was raised to Rs 5, on par with a platform ticket, visitors started buying platform tickets. Now it will be back to square one,” he said.  A lady clerk, who worked at Bengaluru City station earlier, said this is common in the metro too. Passengers buy a ticket to Malleswaram, Cantonment or Nayandahalli stations for Rs 3 to evade paying Rs 5 for a platform ticket. “This was the general fare for ordinary trains then,” she recalled.

As unreserved tickets can be bought only an hour before the train arrives, passengers have found a way out of such tight situations too: they buy tickets for any ordinary train headed in any direction, at any time. Naveen Parapur, a construction worker in Hubballi, recalled that he often bought tickets to Unkal, Kusugal or Kundgol — stations on Hubballi’s outskirts but on different routes – for Rs 3 just to reach the platform. “I will do this now too. I will certainly not buy a platform ticket for Rs 10,” Naveen said.

Mahendra Singhi, member of the Divisional Railway Users’ Consultative Committee, said the ministry’s move lacks practical sense. “The ministry itself is promoting this unethical practice. Seeing off and receiving family is our tradition, the ministry should look on it as a service rather than as a commercial opportunity. It should maintain the same fare for platform tickets or reduce it,” he felt.

It has come to our notice that the minimum journey fare is less than the proposed rate of the platform ticket. As journey tickets are given one hour before the arrival of a particular train, visitors cannot buy such tickets all the time. If they do this to evade buying platform tickets, they cannot be prosecuted according to the existing guidelines.

Fascinating. And we keep thinking poor people are stupid. They are the first to spot such opportunities.

I mean more than just increasing the fare, one should ensure there is regular checking to ensure people buy platform tickets. Most of the time it is not the case. The government is more interested in random surprise checks which only leads to more illegal monies in the pockets of checkers. On being caught, people just pay half the fine as a bribe which is a win -win for both.

A simple check at the entry and exit point will ensure both, more revenues and less traffic on the platforms.

Village as ‘Class’ and City as ‘Mass’: Andhra Pradesh Capital Development Story

March 27, 2015

S Ananth is doing a terrific job telling us about what is going on Thullur, AP’s new designated capital. In an earlier EPW article he had showed how land sharks had taken control of the designated site. The prices were zooming as if there is no tomorrow.

In a recent picturesque piece, he says land price mania has declined. But the village continues to be developed into a city. The villagers are not sure where their lives are heading. Worse, agriculture priorities are changing:


Was Mahatma India’s first corporate agent?

March 27, 2015

Bhupesh Bhandari reflects on the recent comments to call Mahatma Gandhi India’s first corporate agent. Not sure about that. As there have been so many before. People call East India Company the world’s first corporation and there were quite a few Indian agents of the company as well.

recently called India’s first “corporate agent”. Ms Roy has never hidden her visceral dislike for “capitalists”. allows full freedom to profess your economic philosophy, so there’s nothing wrong with that. But the bigger question is: did Gandhi really push the interests of businessmen?

Unlike the Left-leaning leaders, Gandhi did mingle with them freely. His closeness to the and the families was well known. He often stayed with them for long periods – he even died in the lawns of Birla House in Delhi. Ever the practical man, Gandhi knew that the freedom struggle would require money, and the only people he could tap for money were businessmen.

Soon after Bharat Ram, of DCM, got married in 1935, he took his wife to meet Gandhi, who was at that time in Delhi, to seek his blessings. Gandhi was staying in a colony of untouchables. When the newlyweds came, Gandhi, who was at his spinning wheel, said: “Do you know that my thirst for begging is simply unquenchable? I do not mind taking ornaments either.” Shiela, Bharat Ram’s wife, got the message, took her gold bangles off and handed them over to Gandhi.



as there a quid pro quo? It was said forcefully by his detractors that Gandhi’s call to boycott things made abroad helped Indian industry immensely, especially textile mills like DCM. It is difficult to say if that was the intended consequence of the boycott.

What is certain is that even his ardent followers in the business community, men like and (Bharat Ram’s father), had serious differences of opinion with Gandhi.

Lala Shri Ram, having supported the Congress in the Swadeshi movement, expected the party to do something for Indian business. Instead, he was alarmed at the rise of the Leftists within the Congress and their disdain for businessmen. When Gandhi inaugurated the annual meeting of the Federation of Indian Chambers of Commerce and Industry, or Ficci, in 1931, Lala Shri Ram said in plain words that he felt let down by the party. “We would suggest you a sort of convention for the future that in all matters pertaining to the realm of economics, the Congress before making up its mind will allow us to offer it our suggestions and if necessary have discussions with our members.”

This is hardly the stuff today’s industrialists would dare to tell their leaders.

Gandhi accepted the suggestion graciously; in fact, he suggested that Ficci should go a step further. “I want you to make the Congress your own and we would willingly surrender the reins to you. The work can be better done by you.” But he imposed his terms. “If you decide to assume the reins, you can do so only on one condition. You should regard yourself as trustees and servants of the poor. Your commerce must be regulated for the benefit of the toiling millions and you must be satisfied with earning an honest penny.”

After that, Gandhi allayed the fears of the businessmen by saying that he did not agree with the Leftist worldview of them. “I do not for a moment believe that commercial prosperity is incompatible with strict honesty. I know businessmen who are absolutely honest and scrupulous in their dealings. It is, thus, easily open to you to take charge of the Congress.”

Gandhi and Birla, in spite of their well-publicised closeness, too differed – frequently and strongly. While both were nationalists, Birla, being a pragmatic businessman, felt uncomfortable about Gandhi’s confrontationist agenda. According to business historian Gita Piramal, Birla begged Gandhi to attend the Round Table Conference (1930), questioned his support for the hardliner Swaraj party (1931), advised him against a second civil disobedience movement (1932) and pleaded with him for the Congress to contest the provincial elections (1935). “By the mid-1930s, the wedge between Birla and Gandhi had jammed into place,” she wrote in her 1998 book,Business Legends.

To leverage the differences between the tallest leader of the day and his principal financier, the imperial government in 1932 offered knighthood to Birla, which he declined. So much so, in 1942, when it was time to launch the Quit India Movement, Gandhi, who was living at Birla House, moved out to the Congress office, lest it embarrass his host who had been making windfall profits in World War II. Birla, according to one account, had to cajole Gandhi to return to his house.

There is nothing in all this to suggest Gandhi worked like an agent of his businessmen friends.

Historically, politics, business and money have been really close friends and foes. Both have needed each other to prosper. It will be actually interesting to see the relation between these two actors – politicians and businesspersons – from a historical perspective. In the early years of Indian independence it was fashionable for politicos to remain distant from businesses. As times passed, the bridges were built and bridge distance also got shorter. Now, some might say the relations have become too close for comfort.

How has One Day cricket changed?

March 27, 2015

Kumar Sangakkara is not just about exceptional batting but also really good with expressing his views.

In this detailed interview he points what all has changed in one day cricket:

How have demands on one-day batsmen changed since you began?
Roles of batsmen have changed. When I started, for a long time they told me my job was to bat 40 overs and let everyone else bat around me. It was a case of just holding the fort and playing, playing, playing. That was basically my job at No. 3. But when the sides changed, when your role changed from being a guy who bats 40 overs to someone who could score quickly and bat for only 20 overs, and that’s still good enough for the side. Everyone is thinking about making an impact with their run-making.

Now when I go in to bat, if the situation calls for it, I’ve tried to keep my strike rate at around 100. I know that if I’m anywhere between 85 to 100 when the Powerplay comes, I know I can kick that up to 120-130 or even further. The mindsets have all changed. You don’t hold the fort for the rest of the guys anymore. The rest of the guys are capable of doing that.

How is your technique and mindset different now, compared to the start of your career?
With technique, I bat differently each game, probably. Sometimes I don’t tap the bat. Other times I change my set-up. What I realised is that in one-day cricket you can do all of that and sometimes need to do all of that to get yourself momentum, create pressure or get a better rhythm, depending on the stage of the innings. For example, I’d tap the bat and I’d keep it up if there’s a bit of pace around, and look for other areas to score singles.

“I admired the way Mahela Jayawardene manipulates spin, or the way Tillakaratne Dilshan hits the short ball, but I had to figure out what works for me”

More importantly, if there’s a weak link in a bowling attack, you’ve got to take advantage of it. If they are bowling a part-timer and you’ve had a good start, you take them on because that creates a lot of pressure. That attitude has been there for a long time from other sides, but for us it’s been a case where now, consciously, we’ve made the change to go after them.

Spinners also now have the extra fielder up because of the new rules. So you try and create pressure on the spinner by taking the boundaries on. It’s just a case of trying to reverse pressure. More often than not, it works.

If we see history of cricket from the different forms played, test matches have remained more or less the same. Test matches are only about the sport and hence players know its true value.

It is one dayers and T-20s which have posed questions as they try and balance entertainment with sport. Earlier it was ODIS which brought spectators to grounds and now T-20s. As T-20s have mushroomed and become popular, ODIs are struggling to fight for relevance. Infact, what ODIs did to test matches, T20s are doing to ODIs.

End result has been to make ODIs like T20s with flatter pitches, smaller boundaries, 4 fielder restriction and so on. The whole thing has been to make the game more and more batter friendly. To hell with bowlers who have to keep looking at ways to control batters with latter having all licences to kill. The shorter boundaries, flatter pitches have followed with broader bats, powerful bats and so on.

Any game balance is important. Just to draw more crowds, one cannot just make the game so one sided as cricket has become. The game is not just about hitting 4s and 6s but should test the overall skill level. I mean the thrill you get to see Wahab Riasz type spells has become such a rare thing..

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