Reality Check India

Paging Kiran Karnik ! Realitycheck is here

Posted in Uncategorized by realitycheck on November 29, 2006

Unemployable students


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Kiran Karnik is the president of NASSCOM, which is the premier body that represents the Indian IT Software Services companies.He recently slammed the students for their unemployability by IT service companies.

Check out this quote (source TOI):

The only team work our students know of is when they play cricket or football,”he added. Karnik said most companies had to spend a lot of time training fresh graduates.

Reality Check for Mr Karnik

Please dont ridicule our students in this manner. Trained or not, well groomed or shabby, articulate or babbling, they are the footsoldiers of the India IT story. He points to a lack of presentation skills, technical knowledge, and other soft skills. He should first ask himself if the Indian IT industry really requires these skills from the average Joe Schmoe coder. If not, that explains why these skills do not exist. Where is the requirement for folks with presentation skills when most of them just need to be able to communicate enough to get their work done ?

The massive IT Czars are in reality mere giant human resource management companies. The average Mr Suresh Palanivel from KKRR College, shipped to an unknown country on a dubious visa, to nervously perform work on some Fortune 50s graying mainframes is the unsung hero of the Indian IT industry. The IT industry to a large extent counts on getting a cut out of Mr Palanivels hourly billing.  Let us not lose perspective of this.

Do not ignore 3 year BA / BSc / BCom students

Mr Karnik should instead introspect and figure out the true nature of the work performed by the IT industry and the employee profile it requires.  If a Civil Engineer can work on an reporting program – then so can a literature, physics, literature, or arts student. I dont think systems like SAP, Peoplesoft, mainframes, QA, and even development is outside the reach of BA/BSc/BCom students. 

By ignoring the BA/BSc programs – the IT industry has itself contributed to the crisis. The educational entrepreneurs have just fulfilled what they see is a gap. This is economics at work. The IT industry went “Hey gives us a 4 year BE dude – even if he is not good. We just want the B.E  letters. Do you hear ?”. The educational entrepreneurs went, “Cool – here you go “.

There are thousands of jobless people from 3 year programs, who are equally capable. What makes the IT industry think that a BA or BSc or BCA from Loyola or Vivekananda cannot participate in the IT dance. Surely, there must be a reason for the aversion to the three year degrees.

Yes, there is a big reason why the IT folks are anti-three year degree grads. Read on.  

Since the IT industry is heavily dependent on visa regimes of various countries (I know!), the BA/BSc/BCom students are seriously affected. Getting a visa such as a H1 B1 or Europe Shengen is very difficult and in some cases (H1) impossible for a person with only a 3 year degree.  This is it baby. There is no other reason. I know this sounds silly, but in my view and talking to many folks this is it.

The HRD must immediately convert all BA/BSc/BCom into 4 year program – with sufficient electives to help them choose careers in the IT field. Adapt with the times.

These are the kinds of policies that count on the ground.

The never ending holiday

Karnik should really argue for the withdrawal of all IT Tax Benefits, especially for the large IT companies.  Maybe the government can use the billions of dollars to upgrade the labs of its colleges or provide grants to private colleges. Cool idea, huh ?

Currently, Infosys, TCS and Wipro come in the top 16-17 companies globally in terms of market capitalisation. We are growing three times faster than our foreign counterparts, so in the next 2-3 years, the difference will be very less, we will be in the league of top 10 companies

Nice. If someone could answer the following questions ?

  • Does the above fit the  profile of a industry in its infancy ?
  • Are they involved in work that requires massive investments in research and development ? They just keey huge cash reserves or invest in so called “land banks”.
  • If tax holidays are withdrawn to them, where is the data to show that the growth of these industries will be impacted ? Sure there will be lower margins, but will it impact their growth.

No more holidays ! Contribute to the nation instead of building enclaves for yourself.

Quote of the year

Posted in Uncategorized by realitycheck on November 26, 2006

Sorry for the lack of updates during the past week. I could not get even a few minutes of blog time.

Anyway – I present you with the quote of the year from our PM.

‘One cannot wish away differences merely by refusing to measure them’ 

PM Manmohan Singh

The context was the Sachar report. Manmohan Singh emphasised that the data given in the report was necessary for planning, formulating and implementing specific programmes to address issues relating to the socio-economic backwardness of any disadvantaged group. See link here

So, on one hand the government is pooh-poohing (is that right) the need to collect even rudimentary data about OBCs – on the other it insists on measurement for Muslims.

Does anyone remember, the single point demand of the agitating students back in May was to conduct a socio-economic study of OBCs ? We had PC and others insist that a study was not necessary because life stories are sufficient for quotas for OBCs.

Is this a change in attitude ? The government must realize it cant get away without data, because if you indulge the OBCs – there are plenty of others who will demand quota without data too ! Recently there have been bloggers who cite a sample survey with 135 (thats right !) respondents in a single city to suggest that IT companies discriminate against OBCs. Is this kind of rigor sufficient for national policy ? Is it unthinkable ? No ! When you push through a massive social program costing without any data, you have lowered the bar for everyone.

To reiterate:

  • What is the clear definition of Social and Educational Backwardness ? Is it relative to the national average or to the top most community (eg the Parsees) ?
  • What is the caste distribution of benefits accrued until now via the quota system? Has any caste progressed at all in the past 80-100 years to even be a candidate for removal from the backward list ?
  • Some one needs to explain the Bengal / TN anomaly. If you carry this policy forward without closing this question, it might lead to protests in WB and Assam – who will not be getting a fair share of AIIMS/IIT seats.

This blog has said it before, the time for the third backward classes commission has arrived. It is time to take a pulse check, remove forward castes from the list, and convince the country that benefits are reaching the really needy.

An early census count ?

Posted in Uncategorized by realitycheck on November 19, 2006

The 100th post of Reality Check India has some positive news.

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It seems the Indian Express has access to a draft of a parliamentary panel on OBC quotas.

The parliamentary standing committee on education is set to recommend a survey of Backward Castes in order to ascertain the “relative backwardness of BCs,” and subsequently ensure that the benefits of reservation go to the “genuinely deserving, who would be handicapped without it.”

. . .  

Observing that there is “major limitation on historical data about the socio-economic position of OBCs,” the committee said a “comprehensive survey of population to bring out the social, educational and economic profile of each caste/community,” is required. The report says one such survey should be done immediately and should be part of the Census.

Full story here

Way back in August, this blog said that among all the alternatives, Karnataka had the best system. It looks like we might be headed towards a Karnataka style quota system where the OBC quota is split into 5,6, or even larger sub groups.  

This committee is recommending a comprehensive survey of population to bring out the social, educational, and economic profile of each caste or community. This would provide us access to not just OBC data but data on individual castes within the OBC group (Yadavs, Vokkaligas, Ezhavas, Gounders, Mudalis, Chetties, etc).  The committee goes further and says this survey must be done immediately. This is good news, there is no harm advancing the census by 3-4 years to collect this data because we are on the verge of a dramatic quota regime.  The bad aspect of caste census is that our dream of a casteless society may go out the window for now, but that has already happened due to caste quotas.

The only thing worse than caste quotas is caste quotas without data.

So, in a perverse way, let us welcome being compulsorily counted on our caste.

Applause please.

Clap clap !

Vote Bank (I) Private Limited

Posted in Uncategorized by realitycheck on November 16, 2006

The quota snowball is growing and is gathering speed. Many newspapers have given up coverage altogether (TOI for example is headlining that Mallika Sherawat has got a 2 cr contract to be a TV show judge). Most opinion makers, have said whatever they had to say in May itself.  They just want to know what contest can possibly offer 2 crore for Ms Sherawat to judge! Dont worry, Reality Check India will be on top until the endgame (which isnt going to be pretty).

We will consider “Legal Options”

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Commerce Minister Kamal Nath is ready to consider legal options to impose quotas in the private sector after top business leaders told a government panel on Wednesday that they don’t want reservations .

Reality Check to Kamal Nath :  Small problem Mr Nath. You do not have any legal options whatsoever at the moment. This requires a fundamental constitutional amendment. If you can get such an amendment past the supreme court, then you have a legal option.  Not now.

Breaking News  : Minister for Minorities Affairs Mr A.R. Antulay has opened a new can of worms. Quotas for minorities and OBCs. Actually, this is not a new can of worms, everyone knew this “can of worms” existed. He just popped it prematurely ( no pun intended ).

AR Antulay suggested setting up a commission on the lines of UPSC to provide jobs for minorities, SC, ST, and OBCs.  Reported in print media, this link may or may not work.

Reality Check to Industry Leaders  (esp IT czars) : Please come clean with the government. Dont wheel deal with this issue for petty things like tax holidays or land deals. Remember quotas in hiring without quotas in promotion are worthless. Quotas are at all levels, not merely at entry level positions.

Thankfully we have old world industry leaders like JJ Irani, Seshasayee (Leyland), and Godrej. They are men of integrity and I think they wont compromise.

Sachar report – the perils of group quotas

Posted in Uncategorized by realitycheck on November 14, 2006

The Sachar Committee is going to submit its report to the PMO by the end of this month. There is enough being leaked out to the media to cushion the shock value when it is made public. Who is responsible for these leaks ? Lets not go there.

Based purely on media reports, the Sachar Committee seems to look at under representation, while ignoring over representation of Muslims in the most coveted areas. This might be politically convenient, but will build extreme resentment in the rest of society. Will the committee tell us who are the richest communities in the states of Kerala, Karnataka, and TN ? Muslims are over represented in gulf jobs, which drive the rural economies of TN and KE. Entire villages look upon them with envy as they see mansions and luxury cars sprout. Now, if you do not factor these things in while creating a PD policy. Get ready for a backlash from all communities – hindu and christian – backward, forward, and dalit.

I heard the BJP leader Arif Mohammed Khan on a TV program (CNN-IBN) saying that the urdu press is already reporting that there will be a 15% reservation for muslims. This will most likely be a subquota because of the 50% cap.

Whats the big deal ?

It is a really big deal because it affects the OBC quota. In most states like TN/KE/KA most muslims are already classified as OBCs. They are already ahead of hindu OBCs because they have special access to minority institutions. Creating a separate subquota for them will open the floodgates for similar demands from Christians. That cannot be refused under any grounds because a larger percentage of Christians are converts from Dalits.

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From what has been leaked so far, it seems that,

  • Some Muslim groups will be recommended for SC status.
  • A subquota for Muslims within the OBC quota.

The first one is constitutionally invalid and will likely need yet another constitutional amendment. SC status is only for hindu untouchables, the list cannot be modified at will. The caste system does not exist among Muslims and Christians. Even among Hindus, only those castes who were untouchable at the time the lists were drawn are eligible for SC status. If you open that Pandoras box (of adding to the SC list) – there are thousands of castes waiting to be added in too. If you include millions more from casteless religions into SC status, it will be extremely unjust to the real Dalits – such as the ones shown in various “shocking videos”. I cant see anyone standing up for them when it really matters.

The second one might work as long as only muslim OBC castes are treated separately. If all muslims (minus creamy layer) are sought to given privileges, it will also require a constitutional amendment. If all muslims (minus creamy layer) are given reservations – it is tantamount to having economic criteria for Muslims alone while having social and educational criteria for the rest of India.

More later, when this report is made public. This has the potential to tear Indian society apart. This will lead to the worst fear of our founding fathers coming true 60 years after independence – the communal award.

I am Ram Jethmalani, superstar counsel

Posted in Uncategorized by realitycheck on November 12, 2006

Quiz : See the end of the post. Do you know the other case that keeps Ram Jethmalani busy today ? 

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Dont worry, I wont inflict my opinion about the Jessica Lall case on my hapless readers. There is plenty of coverage about that on the blogosphere, heres a couple.

I will focus on only one point. Why is everyone worked up over Ram Jethmalani representing Manu Sharma ? Lets say, if a certain Supreme Court advocate Krishna Singh had taken up this case, would we see the same outrage ? What if the said Krishna Singh had followed the same defence tactics ?

Lets step back a bit and address a more fundamental question. Does the presence of a superstar lawyer mean that the accused is more likely to be guilty ? Is Manu Sharma playing foul by shelling out crores and hiring this wizard of “legal points” ?

Now the quiz.

If you are so worked up over a single superstar lawyer representing a client, you might want to answer this quiz. 

Not just one but the top three supreme court superstar lawyers Ram Jethmalani, Soli Sorabjee, and TR Andhyarujina were all hired recently to defend a single case , can you tell us which one ?

Soli Sorabjee and Ram Jethmalani have fought countless legendary legal battles in the Supreme Court against each other, what is the case that puts them on the same team ?

Answer in the comments section later.

Tehelka – SC creamy layer and Bengali grace marks

Posted in Uncategorized by realitycheck on November 11, 2006

Saw this Tehelka article by PS Krishnan (a member of the Mandal Commission).

It seems he is advising the Arjun Singh led HRD ministry on the reservations issues.

http://www.tehelka.com/story_main22.asp?filename=op111806The_creamy.asp

First of all – I dont disagree with him per-se about SC creamy layer issue. If it can be proven or even measured that most, if not all SC communities get an fair share of the quota, then we can do away with the creamy layer criteria. If the SC quota is purely caste based, then you cannot have the Mahars, the Chamars, the Paraiars, and a few better off castes  getting repeat benefits for multiple generations while others are left high and dry. Yes, the others include the shit-lifters, sweepers, nomadic gypsies, the brick breakers, the rag pickers, scavengers, the raw hide beaters, and every other caste. Since we have no qualms about using their heart breaking stories, we must be prepared to give them their due share – no ? If we do not carry everyone along in education and jobs, be prepared for either a Naxalite/Maoist wave or buy more film for your cameras.

Do we have data that the caste wise distribution of benefits is uniform ? No, that is politically sensitive. Fine, then the only check left against charges of abuse is to give preference to poor SCs or to first time beneficiaries.

  • As far as I can see (I am no constitutional expert), the ruling does not preclude the government from coming up with a scheme that would use the creamy layer as a tie breaker.
  • Another option is to only provide access to unfilled seats after application of the creamy layer filter  to the non-creamy layer.
  • Under no circumstances are creamy layer vacancies for SCs transferred to OBCs or to the open competition. Where is the scope for taking away of resources ?
  • Between two SCs competing for a single position, does anyone actually oppose favoring the more deprived candidate ? Or is it open competition among unequals in a social justice system designed to prevent exactly that ?

Consider this statement by Mr Krishnan ,

Attracted by the prospect of employment under the British, the upper castes began to avail themselves of English education from the mid-19th Century. Their standards of education then were nowhere near their standards today. The first two Indian graduates, including Bankim Chandra Chatterjee, had to be given grace marks to enable them to pass.

. . .

Simultaneously, by collective force they prevented/delayed the entry of lower castes into even primary schools. The caste-based monopoly thus built up was dented when, from 1902 to 1935, reservations were introduced in the Presidencies and princely states for Backward Classes and SCs, and later on all-India basis in the Constitution in 1950.

This is a typical argument put forth by almost all Dravidian leaders.  Quotas are interpreted as some kind of revenge for benefits enjoyed in the past by some selected castes. Unfortunately this time, Mr Krishnan has chosen to talk about a great Bengali (Mr Bankim Chandra Chatterjee). If the extra benefits (grace marks) enjoyed by the Chatterjees and Banerjees during the British rule is the reason for quotas in todays day and age, you have the following problem. You need to tell us why does West Bengal have 10 times fewer backward castes than Tamilnadu (which has had quotas for 85+ years) ? 

Out of 100 Bengalis only 6 can access the OBC quota in AIIMS.

Out of 100 Tamils 65 will be able to access the new OBC quota.

Both NSSO and the Moily Committee Final report have pointed this out.

Anyone in India want to take a stab at answering this question ?

Panel for extending IT tax holiday to 2019

Posted in Uncategorized by realitycheck on November 9, 2006

UPDATE : Read the end of this post. 

I knew things would move fast, but not this fast.

A high-level committee constituted by the PM has recommended that income-tax sops for software technology parks (STPs) be extended beyond the March 31, 2009, deadline, by another 10 years.

. . .

According to the officials, the tax benefits beyond 2009 for units in STPs will be at par with SEZs: 100% I-T exemption for the first five years, followed by a 50% exemption over the subsequent five years.

 Source : Financial Express

It seems IT services companies have managed to get their existing tax holiday extended by another 10 years ! Unbelievable. Is this the scam of the century ?

Another bait and switch statement  (we Indians are getting really good at this).

The move to block more infotech SEZ approvals and extend the STP scheme will greatly benefit small and medium enterprises (with a turnover under Rs 10 crore), which constitute over 70% of STP companies

Commerce Secy GK Pillai

Wow! Really. In that case why not extend these benefits only to companies with turnover of less than Rs 10 crore ? Like in other spheres, you show us some intended beneficiary and then proceed to ignore them and switch benefits to someone else.

Remember, Infosys/TCS/Wipro/Satyam for example are not babies. Infy celebrated its 20th birthday recently. These are cash rich companies rolling in money with very little investments required for in-house research. If they continue to the kept out of the tax net, let us hear some solid arguments in favour of it. Do not point fingers at “small and medium companies” and claim you are actually helping them.

UPDATE

It appears the wheeling dealing for caste quotas in private sector employment is in full swing. We are not so naive to believe that private industry will oppose this forever. Everything is negotiable in India. Most (but not all) industry bigwigs are roving bandits and not stationary bandits.

Check it out:

Step 1:

What will it take for affirmative action ? Governement asks India Inc (read bigwigs not the small scare or new ventures)

Step 2:

Uhh, lets see. 1. We want SEZs so we can move there to get around all your rules.  2. We want to crush competition in our industry by forcing even small players to enforce quotas 3. We want you to create such an environment of harassment by government caste quota enforcement officials that it would be impossible for future competition or multinationals to emerge. 4. And yeah, we want tax holidays for 10 – 20 years.

Step 3:

Government: Cool we have a deal !

  • Realitycheck to private players. Please do not pretend like the end of the world is upon you. Employment quotas are worthless unless, they apply to all levels – dont think you can escape quotas at senior management or even at the board level. You cannot hire maintenance or janitorial staff based on quotas and get away with it.
  • Realitycheck to private players. Employment quotas are worthless without quotas in promotion. Dont worry these will come later. You cant hire a bunch of SC/ST/or OBC (will come later) at entry levels and get away with it. Every promotion, every onsite contract, every assigment must have quotas.
  • Realitycheck to IT bigwigs. It is true that your smaller competition will be shattered and you can enjoy unprecendented monopoly, tax breaks, and cash  flows. You may think that caste quotas dont affect you because you have an unproductive (bench) force of 15-25% anyway. Not! Think again. It is only a matter of time before the caste composition of your “bench workforce” is called into question. Baby, we are talking a regime not a solitary act.

SEZ Blog

Posted in Uncategorized by realitycheck on November 9, 2006

Found a new blog focused on the new SEZ policy called the Reliance SEZ Blog.

Check it out : http://reliancesez.blogspot.com/

Somethings for us bloggers to take up.

  • Collect details of SEZs in China and Middle East (especially Jebel Ali in Dubai)
  • Scan the SEZ appovals granted so far.  See http://www.sezindia.nic.in/ Interesting to see that Wipro can got an approval for a 6 hectare (thats right 6 hectare SEZ) in Hyderabad and two SEZs of 5 hectare and 6 hectare each in Sarjapur Bangalore. Hexaware (Software) and Syntel (Software) have approval for two 11 acre SEZs in Chennai. Note these are SEZs not mere units within an SEZ. You cant blame them because they will take advantage of any policy to maximise their profits. The government must not allow such tiny SEZs to come up. It will spell disaster for existing infrastructure around these SEZs.

While the entire nation is focused on divisive policies such as unmonitored quotas based on caste / religion / or gender. We cant allow such a land scam to go unnoticed.

PIO university to be set up in a SEZ

Posted in Uncategorized by realitycheck on November 8, 2006

A sign of things to come ,

”We want to make education in India affordable for our overseas students,”

Overseas Indian Affairs Minister Vayalar Ravi said at the two-day Economic Editors’ Conference that began Tuesday in New Delhi.

The full story is here  India to extend affordable education to diaspora.

In the meantime, a project that NRIs can look forward to is the setting up of the PIO (persons of Indian origin) university—fully funded by NRIs and PIOs. According to ministry officials, the government has already okayed the proposal in principal. Ravi said the new policy for the proposed PIO university is in the final stages.

The university, spread over 100 hectares, is likely to be set up in a special economic zone, which would give the investors tax exemptions.

The SEZ policy itself is atrocious, this just takes the cake. Does anyone actually know the meaning of the word “NRI” ? It is someone who has said goodbye to India for greener pastures. There is nothing wrong with that, but it must be remembered that they have factored into account the education conditions in their adopted country.

We all know that all incompetent desi kids who fail to make it to pre-med state schools in USA or Carribean would now flock to this PIO university established on the soil of an impoverished country. Of course, our government would lobby with the appropriate US Justice department to get the coursework approved. There is absolutely no way a US NRI kid will come to India if he has an admission from a med school in the USA.

NRI students have always faced discrimination in India where education was concerned. There are huge disparities in fee structures in private professional colleges—overseas students oftentimes have to pay five times more than the general category.

However, there is hope of justice. According to Overseas Indian Affairs Minister Vayalar Ravi, India will take the necessary steps to extend affordable education for NRI students.

Yes Mr Ravi, NRIs are charged more than locals because their daddy and mommy are earning in dollars , pounds and dirhams.

Note to NRIs / Diaspora : Please be loyal to your adopted country that has given you everything.  Let your kids join the US Marines, law enforcement,  rock bands, get season tickets to baseball games, celebrate thanksgiving,  integrate into american society. The PIO card can be used to reduce visa hassles. Please do not lobby for special universitites, schools, parks, or zones for you and your kids to play around.  There are others in this poor country that need attention.

( I had to document this story)