Archive for March 14th, 2017

Remembering Rakesh Sharma: India’s first person in space

March 14, 2017

One was really surprised to see Rakesh Sharma trending on Twitter today. It was thanks to this BBC article which does a profile and interview of the first space person from India.

There was a time when most children in India aspired to be a Rakesh Sharma:

Did you meet God? This was a question Rakesh Sharma, the first Indian to travel into space, often faced from admirers at home after he returned to Earth in 1984. “I would say, no, I hadn’t met God,” he says.

More than three decades later, fact and fiction blur easily with his modern-day fans when they meet Mr Sharma, 68.

“Now many young mothers introduce me to their kids and tell them, ‘this uncle has been to the Moon!'”.

But Mr Sharma can never forget the hysteria after he returned from space. He criss-crossed the country and lived in hotels and guest houses. He posed for pictures and gave speeches. Elderly women blessed him; fans tore his clothes and sought autographs. Politicians paraded him in their constituencies for votes; and authorities sent him on holiday to a national park in searing 45C (113F) temperatures.

“It was completely over the top. It left me irritated and tired. I had to keep a smile on my face all the time,” he recounts.

Superb stuff from BBC…

Pushing usage of Hindi language in Indian banks…killed local origins?

March 14, 2017

One just read this recent press release from RBI:

With a view to encourage Hindi in Bank’s publications, Reserve Bank of India conducts Bilingual/Hindi House Magazine Competition for Public Sector Banks and Financial Institutions every year. RBI has released the result of the competition for the year 2015-16.

As you click on the results, you get list of awarded banks.

It was interesting to see  names of Indian Overseas Bank, Canara Bank, Syndicate Bank win awards for Bilingual/Hindi Magazines. All these banks started from Southern India- Indian Overseas Bank from Madras and Canara Bank & Syndicate Bank from Coastal Karnataka.

It is highly unlikely that Hindi was the preferred medium for these banks during their inception. They would be conducting much of their business in local language and at most using English for interacting with regulator and government.  Much of their growth in that period was due to how they appealed for deposits and credit to the local people. There were hardly any NPAs as well as the banks pretty much knew the community in and out.

Post nationalisation, all this must have started to change and intensified following adoption of promotion of Hindi as Rajbhasha in central govt departments/organisations. The banks gradually lost touch with local reality and just became similar across functions. Earlier, they knew ground realities but it was hardly the requirement now.

Is it any surprise that how the highly successful banks of yesteryears have become just a pale shadow today? Do they even release similar magazines in local languages?

Indian ministers and CEOs flock to the US to report to the digital colonizers…

March 14, 2017

A slightly old piece (6 MAr 2017) by Norbert Haring (HT: Anantha Nageshwarn). Haring had earlier pointed to conspiracy theory links in demonetisation.

In his recent article, Haring points how an MIT India conference is being organised where all who’s who are going to talk about India going digital. In the process, they shall be reporting to their digital colonizers. And yes, isn’t Harvard close to MIT?

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Learning urban transport lessons from Mangalore’s bus services…

March 14, 2017

Most cities  in India do not have inter-city bus services. And those that have, most of them are appalling making people increasingly rely on their own vehicle. There is always this clamor to adapt lessons from some western city leading to endless official tours. But most of the time these end as failures as population factor is missing. We have a much larger population here compared to most western places and even contests are different. Instead, we should first look around the country. On bus transport (and auto too), Mangalore surely provides some lessons to learn.

One just visited the city of Mangalore recently and was amazed to see the quality of bus transport in the city. Infact the entire district of Dakshina Kannada (which included Udupi till 1997) is really well connected with buses. They actually give everything else a run for money including autos.

Even more interesting is that most of these buses are run by private transport companies unlike most other cities of India where State runs the bus services. This is important as we there are different experiences with respect to private vs public bus services. Private buses are cleaner etc but prefer to fill passengers and that wastes time. Public ones are not bothered about filling seats (you see several AC buses running empty in Bangalore wasting huge resources) but they are mostly dirty and unkempt.

In Mangalore, you get best of both worlds – private buses which hardly waste anytime. There is a long history which goes behind all this. Apparently Canara Public Conveyance (Dakshina Cannada was called as South Canara earlier) was one of the first bus transport companies in India:

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