23 January 2011


I usually don't review movies. I try to enjoy them.. and forget about them. I am not interested in the acting prowess of the actors, nor am I interested in the director's ability to capture life's nuances on camera.

I am interested in the dish, not in the cook nor the recipe.

Dhobhi-ghat is boring.. well..thats the way most of the audience felt for most of the time. There were some laughs.. but mostly these were a let-out from the extreme boredom & detachment of the movie.

Plot: Four dysfunctional people.. trying to find sex and solace from another. The protagonists are jobless, watch others and sometimes wash dirty linen in public.
Background: Mumbai.. The usual. Rain.. Lots of poor people hurrying around in their lives.. Ganesh immersion.. Local trains... [they forgot dabbawallas].
Climax: Nobody gets it.
Moral : Photographers chase designers who get inspired by a dead muse. Meanwhile, dhobhis generally help around.

Lesson: Marketing can create artists.. but not art.

06 August 2009

Right to Free and Compulsory Education

Two days ago, the "Right to Free and Compulsory Education" has been passed by parliament amid much fanfare. I know I have celebrate the law, which many say has come 60 years too late. Education must be a right of every citizen. How can any person have 2 thoughts about this? Lets examine the Right. Basically it says, every child between the ages of 6 and 14 years has a right to free and compulsory education.

Technically, any child between 6 an 14 years of age enjoys this Right. What about children with mental and physical disabilities? Should a child compulsorily get educated, despite being physically or mentally incapable of receiving education. What kind of Right is that which is "compulsory". Punishments are compulsory, Rights are volitional. And what education should the child learn in those 8 years? Does learning how to repair a bike or fix a puncture or make a Dosa get qualified as education? Does learning religious scriptures or customs in Religious schools count as education? Though the former has more real life value than the later. And what breaks the straw is that education also includes teaching a child about its Rights. A child without education cannot know its rights (ideally), and hence cannot fight for it.

Rights, as the definition goes, belong to a person. Right to freedom, Right to freedom of speech, Right to religious beliefs are activities a person can undertake by and of himself / herself. A Right assumes that the person is not dependent on any other person for enjoying it. Thus Rights do not demand a sacrifice or effort from others. Education on the other hand is an activity between two people, a tutor and a student. When we say a child has a Right to Education, the question is who is providing the education? Who is financing it? Who will provide for the child when the child is enjoying its right to Education?

A Right implies the State takes up the responsibility of safe-guarding it and hence if it is violated, the State should restore the Right and punish the offenders. If a child is not getting educated, in most cases due to the poverty of its parents, will the government punish the parents ? if so, which parent? Mother, father or both? What if the child is an orphan? Do we get to punish its immediate relatives or neighbors? What sort or gimmick is this. Put the parents in jail, because they don't have enough money to educate the child, which renders the child helpless, and in lesser chance of getting any education. If nobody is getting punished for not sending their children to school, then how does government plan to ensure this Right? What if the child is not interested in studies? Must the poor parents still suffer the economic loss by sending the child to school, even when they know the child is not inclined to learn anything? We all know that many of our state-sponsored schools do not really provide any real education to students. Should the parents still be forced to send their children, even if they know that the child is not learning anything? The point is not what is good, the point is who decides what is good for them? People are the best judges of their and their children's life, not the government.

Rights are the minimum guarantee a State must provide to the citizens. Rights are not boons which a State can bestow upon its subjects. The concept of Right itself is misunderstood by our policy makers. Education is not a Right. Although we all like to have every child educated, granting it as a Right is against the spirit of constitution.

22 March 2009

Cost And Subsidy

Indian government subsidies cooking gas (LPG) by almost 50%. Most of us hate subsidies given to others, but would we agree for the cooking gas subsidy to be lifted off? Most wouldn't. And, the irony of the situation is, many would not realize that whether the subsidy is given or not, our individual expenses on an average would not change.

First and foremost to understand is "Government revenue-expense is a zero-sum game". Means, it does not make money. What actually happens is government taxes you, so you become poorer and cannot afford, and since you cannot afford, it subsidises the cost, to make it affordable.  That sounds stupid, doesn't it.

Ofcourse, the government knows this too. But the reason it seems to work is,  government taxes a lot from a few people, but subsidises a little to a lot of us.  This only seems to work, but in reality, it doesn't

Cost of an item is the market valuation of a good's value. An apple costs 10/- per piece and an banana costs 2/- per piece. It means people prefer an apple 5 times to 1 banana. You may talk about cost of production, supply, transport etc. But, the fundamental economic theory is that "Price discounts everything".

Hypothetically, lets say our government, on the behest of some nutritional experts, decides that apples are more beneficial to the population, and have to be subsidized. Every apple from now on will cost only Rs.2/-. The 8/- will be borne by the government.  That doesn't effect anything that causes the price (like cost of production, supply etc), which means people would still value apple 5 times to 1 banana. Since apples have become cheap, everybody buys apples and bananas lose demand and its price slips to 1/5 times that of an apple, i.e 0.40 ps.  This essentially means the currency has depreciated. The fact is government action did nothing but change the value of currency. The relative prices of commodities remain the same.

The above example is over-simplification. It assumes a lot, and hence the not-so-real treatment. In real life,  currency doesn't always get depreciated.  It usually gets appreciated., i.e it results in inflation. Subsidy in one item usually means lower demand of alternatives and hence lower production in them. Such an economy  is producing/choosing a costlier item in preference to cheaper alternatives. This results in value of currency adjusting to accommodate this anamoly.

All the government achieves due to its noble intention of subsidy is changing the math from 1:2 to 3:6.