Country of conflicts – The latest spat Prof N Natarajan

India is fast becoming a country of conflicts. Conflicts among political parties are par for the course and are being witnessed daily in Parliament, paralyzing its proceedings. Likewise the Executive has its differences with the Judiciary and there are running conflicts between them. Judiciary recently had an extraordinary internal conflict between the CJI and a Senior Judge of the Supreme Court collegium  responsible for recommending names of judges for appointment.

Now the infection has spread to the Corporate world where intra-company board level wars have broken out in two of the largest, bluest of blue chip companies, the Tatas and Infosys. The Tata Mahabarath war has been well publicized and the conflict is reaching the courts for a resolution. The Tata business group was seen as a highly professional and ethical Corporate till recently. Suddenly its reputation has snow dived and the public is disillusioned.

However the current open spat between the founder group of shareholders and the present board of Directors of Infosys has come as a rude shock to the general public. Narayana Murthi, the founder and ex-Chairman of the Board, has alleged some serious mal-governance against the current Board of the Bangalore behemoth. He has questioned the Board of Management on the unconscionable quantum of severance packages sanctioned by the Board for two of their very senior executives, nomination of the wife of a Central Finance Minister as an Independent Director, and astronomical compensation approved by the Board at the highest level. As an Independent Director on the Board of a listed company, I can appreciate the seriousness of his criticism.

It is surprising Narayana Murthy’s criticism has not been met squarely. Instead an Independent Director of the company, Ms Kiran Mazumdar Shaw (a stalwart corporate leader  in her  own right), has spoken out of turn and issued a public statement, misinterpreting Murthy’s criticism by unfairly accusing him of being against current CEO and MD, Vishal Sikka. She has praised Sikka’s technical competence and innovative skills as if Murthi had questioned these qualities in Sikka. She has made a flippant remark “What worked for the last 20 years will not work for the next 20 years…there will always be disgruntled voices”. In the context of Narayanamurthy’s personal standing as a practitioner of corporate governance these insulting remarks are unpardonable, even more so given Ms. Shaw’s own stature. Most importantly as an Independent Director she should not have acted as a mouthpiece of the Management. Ms. Shaw says, “If shareholders voted in favour of the proposals, I do not think there is a Governance issue. Governance means following due processes and the Infosys board has followed it. Whatever processes needed to be passed – be it Punita Sinha’s appointment, Sikka’s salary or even Jeffrey Lehman’s extension- all have been passed through shareholder vote”. This is at best an uninformed statement and at worst, an alibi for a patently indefensible position.

Coming as it does from an Independent director of a highly reputed corporate, these statements raise a serious doubt on the functioning of the Board. I believe that she has not spoken impromptu. As a prudent person she would have certainly consulted some bright minds before rushing to make this controversial public statement. Quite possibly the entire Board thought of her as the best face to present an untenable excuse accompanied by character assassination of Murthy. By allowing herself to be used in this manner, she has unwittingly failed to discharge her obligations as an Independent Director.

Murthy’s observations should have alerted her. She should have taken his reservations to the Board and requested the Board to give a convincing response by inviting Murthy and other large minority share holders to a meeting. This episode demonstrates the sorry state of the general level of corporate governance in India even in the topmost corporates.

SEBI should strengthen its listing agreement to empower groups of minority shareholders with a sizeable holding to raise questions a corresponding obligation of the management to provide satisfactory answers and resolve issues in a transparent manner.

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An Experiment in Living

It was not a romance of a conventional relationship between a man and a woman. It was not an arranged marriage either. It was not love at first sight or blind date that established an understanding. It just happened.

Sara was an only child. She was bright and an intellectual who loved her job teaching in a college. Her interest was literature and she was good at inspiring her students to fall in love with the written word, writers and characters who lived in the imagination. The years flew by and her status as a single woman was soon being spoken off in her family circles as being stranded on a shelf…very Victoriana indeed. In fact, many started using the term spinster along with her name Sara Menon. Her dedication to her parents and their welfare was total.

“If I were a son, people would say with pride that I was there for my aging parents. But because I am a daughter, everyone thinks that my parents have not fulfilled their duty and got me married. They say that Daddy is clinging to me for selfish reasons”.

“So why have you not got married,” asked Rajeev. “Are they dependant on your salary?”

Sara chuckled, “…..far from it. They are supporting me. My Mum inherited money, my Dad earned a great deal and continues to receive a handsome pension after retirement as a top official from the Central Government. Actually, I simply haven’t found anybody who is in sync with me….that is all!”

Rajeev looked deep into his cup of latte as if it contained the secrets to the universe. Sara and he were sitting in a restaurant, sharing coffee and croissants. They had met at a workshop arranged by the university to introduce the staff to a new software that helped them track their lectures, students’ progress and their grades. Rajeev was the techie who had come in with his team of instructors to break in the lecturers and professors into the new system. Rajeev had been impressed with the quick grasp of Sara and her positive and hands on approach to new technology.

They began to meet regularly on Saturday afternoons, to share coffee and a chat before going off to do their own stuff. After a couple of meetings Sara asked Rajeev, “ So…do you have kids, are you married…oops..wrong order of sentences…need to edit that…are you married, do you have kids”, she asked with a grin.

Rajeev beamed back and said, “No kids, no wife”. He took a deep breath and murmured, “But….my life is a cliché. I have two sisters to be married off. My mother is no more…she died in an accident”.

“I am sorry to hear this…what about your Dad?” Sara enquired.

“He has been in a wheelchair since the accident. He depends on me for all his morning chores. I take him into the bathroom and give him his shave, bath etc.. He has so much pain in his body that he will not allow anybody else to handle him physically. That is why I have my own business and work from home. I rarely go out as my kid sisters are still studying. We have an elderly lady staying with us who cooks and acts as a housekeeper. Another girl comes in for the cleaning and washing up jobs”.

“And…” Sara started.

Rajeev broke in, “I have not met a modern woman who will take on all these burdens. So marriage is out. It is going to be another 7 to ten years before Kanchana and Kavitha find their own moorings”.

“Hmmmm….and what kind of life do you want for them”, Sara asked.

“A happy, contented, fulfilling life. Kanchana has been a topper and is in IIT in Mumbai. She is taking her GRE exams and will surely go off to do her MS in the US”, he said and looked into his latte.

“What does Kavitha do?” Sara asked.

“She is in medical college and it is going to be three more years to her MBBS….then another three to four, maybe even five for her to take a PG qualification or speciality. Then where her life will take her is in the laps of the Gods”, he murmured. “Saturday is the only day I get to myself. The girls take turns to care for my father and I get to go out”.

“Now I understand our Saturday rendezvous” said Sara as she looked at Rajeev. “I hope you don’t mind my asking…do you ever resent being tied up with others interests ahead of your own?”

“Not now! Initially I used to be morose and angry at my situation. However, over the years…five plus to be exact…I have accepted the fact that I consciously made this choice. I have grown used to the routine and I know no other. So, it is okay, I guess!”

A few Saturdays later Rajeev said, “Can I come and meet your parents?”

“Why not? But I must warn you that my mother has Dementia. She is diabetic and cannot remember much” said Sara.

Rajeev met Mr Menon and they clicked immediately. They shared a passion for world affairs and political discussions and they had a lot to talk about. The Saturday afternoon coffee session was often held in Sara’s home. Some days Rajeev met her after work if one of his sisters was home. A year went by and Mr Menon opened up to Rajeev about his wish to see Sara married. Rajeev said that he would be honoured to have her as ahis wife but his role as a husband had to be on Saturdays only. Sara thought about it and with her own commitment to her parents, she agreed.

The wedding was a quiet one. Their married life too was a no frills, no drama relationship. Rajeev came on Saturdays to Sara’s home and she went with him on Sundays to his home. She went to work from there on Monday mornings and went back to her parents that evening. They both showered affection and attention on each other in the forty odd hours that they spent together.

The sands in the hour glass flowed freely. Sadly, her father suddenly passed away in his sleep after a heart attack. Her mother was all but lost to the world with the dementia ruling her mind and body. This restricted Sara’s movements even more until one day her mother just walked out into the road escaping the firm grip of her caregiver and was hit by a car. Her end came two days later.

Sara was free but was soon catapulted into a different role in her academic world. She began to be recognized as a brilliant speaker. She was called to interview luminaries in the literary world. From there it was a short hop to hobnobbing with political luminaries who had ghost written biographies and memoirs. Then she was cast on as an anchor on the small screen and her travels all across the country and world took off.

Meanwhile Rajeev’s father passed away. His sisters found their own moorings and sailed across to seas to USA and Australia and Rajeev found time on his hands. Everybody in their family and friends circle were now convinced that this couple would be able to set up a life together after all these years of living separate lives in their own establishments. Rajeev accompanied Sara on some of her trips abroad.

parisOn their trip to Paris, they sat down to discuss their lives and how it was going to shape up now that both were alone without other responsibilities. Sara sat across the table on the pavement in the city of love. She had an espresso in front of her while Rajeev was trying out a café noir. “Where is our life going, Sara”, Rajeev asked.

“I have been thinking about this Rajeev….it is not simple. I have grown used to being on my own for the most part. I enjoy the brief time that we spend together immensely….but….”

“I don’t think we can sustain it….”, said Rajeev regretfully, stopping to catch his breath.

“24×7”, Sara completed the thought with a firm voice that brooked no further discussion.

It was business, love and marriage for them as usual.

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Life – Living

Life

The clock is ticking away

The seconds of living

We have only one life

A life to live, love, be, die

How many deaths

In a life do we live

How many heart stopping

Stomach curdling

Blood freezing moments

When we stop living

Until that final breath

Is drawn and exhaled

But not breathed in again

When we totally stop

LivingLife.jpg

 

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Demonetisation..Suggestions for improving ease of doing business

Demonetisation: Suggestions for improving ease of doing business

Prof N Natarajan

2000

It is a fact that there are long queues in front of banks and ATMs. Thousands of ATMs are still being configured to dispense new 2000 rupee notes. This job is in the domain of private parties. It is taking considerable time. Banks are doing a splendid job. Barring a few excited customers who are easily provoked by mindless opposition by political parties and those with an axe to grind, the general population has also shown admirable patience and understanding in this hour of difficulty. They appreciate that the demonetisation proposal had to be handled in extreme secrecy and hence advance preparation beyond what has been done was just not possible. Hopefully things will vastly improve in the coming weeks. However in the meanwhile here are a few suggestions for improving the ease of currency exchange and cash withdrawal:

1. Banks should make more counters operational.

2. Separate counters should be set up for deposit of cash, exchange of old notes for new and withdrawal of cash.

3. Every branch should have one exclusive counter for senior citizens.old

4. No photocopy of any identity card should be required for withdrawal of cash by a customer of the bank when submitting cheques. Any third party should be allowed to take cash upto Rs2000/- against cheques issued by the bank’s customer without being harassed to prove his identity. It is the responsibility of the customer whose cheque is being cashed.

5. There should be no need for a payee to submit both the original and a photocopy of his identity. Verification of the original and Xerox results is avoidable wastage of time at the counter. A self attested photocopy should suffice as pointed out by our PM himself.

6. Banks should deal sensitively with the tired waiting customers especially where there are serpentine queues. A good idea will be to have a volunteer to distribute drinking water on demand. At least water can and a glass should be placed in a conspicuous location. A few chairs to sit down temporarily will also help.

7. Indians tend to push and try to get ahead of their positions when standing in queues, creating unnecessary tension for themselves and others. Hence a system of issuing tokens, as is customary in most banks for daily transactions, and calling out numbers will remove this tension.

8. Some frustrated customers do lose their temper. Bank staff should keep their cool in those trying circumstances and not engage in a slanging or shouting match. It will only increase the ire of the waiting person.

9. Banks should temporarily engage retired staff to cope with the new temporary demand. Responsible citizens can also volunteer.

10. Government should appeal to all shops which accept debit cards to remove the self imposed lower monetary limit for acceptance of cards to increase cashless transactions. Govt can consider reimbursing transaction fee if any. Currently, many shops have a lower limit of Rs 250 per transaction.

Epilogue: One is reminded of an old joke in banking circles when automation was first introduced. The top management of a bank sent circulars to managers of all upcountry branches under the caption ‘Change Management’. The circular explained the revolutionary changes in the pipeline. It pointed out the new work environment in which a lot of manually performed back office work was going to be substituted by computers and how there would be a realignment of human resources. It sought to prepare the existing staff mentally for re-training to handle the new processes.

One overworked branch manager responded immediately after just reading the caption: “This branch has no change management problem. We have lined up a large inventory of change of all denominations. We can even assist other branches that are facing a deficiency in this regard.” His response would have been music to the ears of big bank bosses in the current scenario

Prof N Natarajan

It is a fact that there are long queues in front of banks and ATMs. Thousands of ATMs are still being configured to dispense new 2000 rupee notes. This job is in the domain of private parties. It is taking considerable time. Banks are doing a splendid job. Barring a few excited customers who are easily provoked by mindless opposition by political parties and those with an axe to grind, the general population has also shown admirable patience and understanding in this hour of difficulty. They appreciate that the demonetisation proposal had to be handled in extreme secrecy and hence advance preparation beyond what has been done was just not possible. Hopefully things will vastly improve in the coming weeks. However in the meanwhile here are a few suggestions for improving the ease of currency exchange and cash withdrawal:

1. Banks should make more counters operational.

2. Separate counters should be set up for deposit of cash, exchange of old notes for new and withdrawal of cash.

3. Every branch should have one exclusive counter for senior citizens.

4. No photocopy of any identity card should be required for withdrawal of cash by a customer of the bank when submitting cheques. Any third party should be allowed to take cash upto Rs2000/- against cheques issued by the bank’s customer without being harassed to prove his identity. It is the responsibility of the customer whose cheque is being cashed.

5. There should be no need for a payee to submit both the original and a photocopy of his identity. Verification of the original and Xerox results is avoidable wastage of time at the counter. A self attested photocopy should suffice as pointed out by our PM himself.

6. Banks should deal sensitively with the tired waiting customers especially where there are serpentine queues. A good idea will be to have a volunteer to distribute drinking water on demand. At least water can and a glass should be placed in a conspicuous location. A few chairs to sit down temporarily will also help.

7. Indians tend to push and try to get ahead of their positions when standing in queues, creating unnecessary tension for themselves and others. Hence a system of issuing tokens, as is customary in most banks for daily transactions, and calling out numbers will remove this tension.

8. Some frustrated customers do lose their temper. Bank staff should keep their cool in those trying circumstances and not engage in a slanging or shouting match. It will only increase the ire of the waiting person.

9. Banks should temporarily engage retired staff to cope with the new temporary demand. Responsible citizens can also volunteer.

10. Government should appeal to all shops which accept debit cards to remove the self imposed lower monetary limit for acceptance of cards to increase cashless transactions. Govt can consider reimbursing transaction fee if any. Currently, many shops have a lower limit of Rs 250 per transaction.

Epilogue: One is reminded of an old joke in banking circles when automation was first introduced. The top management of a bank sent circulars to managers of all upcountry branches under the caption ‘Change Management’. The circular explained the revolutionary changes in the pipeline. It pointed out the new work environment in which a lot of manually performed back office work was going to be substituted by computers and how there would be a realignment of human resources. It sought to prepare the existing staff mentally for re-training to handle the new processes.

One overworked branch manager responded immediately after just reading the caption: “This branch has no change management problem. We have lined up a large inventory of change of all denominations. We can even assist other branches that are facing a deficiency in this regard.” His response would have been music to the ears of big bank bosses in the current scenario

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ATMs–Then and Now

atm

ATMs–Then and Now

Prof N Natarajan

The latest news is that nearly 95000 ATM’s across the country are yet to be configured to accept and dispense the new notes. This exercise may take weeks. Another piece of news is that Canara Bank has deployed mobile vans to exchange notes.

My memory takes me to 1987 when my bank decided to install the first ATM. There were numerous problems. The first was to obtain a licence from RBI which treated an offsite ATM as a new branch. Foreign banks were not allowed to open new branches or even shift an existing branch to a new area without clearing a whole lot of red tape. Every ATM, even in the branch premises, had to be sanctioned by RBI. Further the Government and RBI’s permission had to be obtained for importing the machine which necessarily involved foreign exchange. RBI preferred foreign banks to pay for the machine in foreign exchange using their accumulations abroad. This was a hurdle too. Finally, an ATM that cost Rs 34 lakhs, a fortune in those days, was procured. Another factor was our overseas Head office’s concern about the justification of the huge capital expenditure. We were unable to ‘prove’ beyond reasonable doubt the viability of a business that did not exist. Our HO reluctantly took our word for it.

Our bank crossed all these hurdles successfully over a period of 12months. Then we were advised that ATMs were akin to human beings in many ways. They could work only in a highly efficient dedicated air-conditioned environment. The ATM’S had to have a pace maker called UPS to maintain regular supply and orderly shutdown when the electricity went off. A standby generator was required for the ATM’s to function if there was extended power failure.  They had to be erected on anchor bolts buried deep in concrete to ensure that they were not stolen in the night. The ATM machines had to be on a perfect level and would not tolerate any tilt, right or left. Fire protection was another mandatory requirement. Even with all these addons, the machines would catch cold now and then. Specialist doctors from the supplying firms had to be summoned to diagnose the infection. Our internal quality compliances demanded 24/7/365 operation and 99% uptime.

These requirements meant an even more initial investment and a lot of running costs. Our General Manager Operations was losing his sleep with nightmares. During a siesta, after beer and lunch,  he ‘had a dream’ . He knew it was a mirage, yet he wanted to lift his team’s sunken spirits  by describing his super- vision. He said the solution was for the bank to set up a widow type ATM. Customers could insert their cards and key in their currency requirements. These would be received by an invisible human teller in a secure room who would then verify the veracity of the demand and pass on the cash to the customer through the money dispensing slit in the window. No explanation had to be given for rejecting a request. This arrangement would not need fail safe clean power or 22 degrees air conditioning.  The capital expenditure would be negligible and operating costs only a small fraction of operating an ATM. No special permissions, RBI nods and budgetary compliances would be required. The team had a good laugh and went back to their arduous tasks cheerfully.

Looking back, I get the feeling that the 1978 dream of our General Manager can be translated into action in the present ATM crisis.

The bank branches could have a human ‘hand’ behind every ATM and the size or shape or colour or denomination of the Rupee would simply not matter!

What do you say to a semi-automated teller machine SATM?

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Demonetisation 2016–PC and his doubts

The Government’s decision to demonetize the 1000 and 500 rupee notes has been criticized by the former FM Mr. Chidambaram (PC).

notes.jpg

The sudden and swift move has caught all hoarders of black money unawares providing no major loophole to protect their holdings. Their opposition to the Government’s deft move is understandable. However PC is no ordinary person. He is a Harvard alumnus, top Supreme Court lawyer, former distinguished Finance Minister whose views and advice are sought by top business houses. He has an impressive following. His criticism of the Government’s demonetization move is surprising, in view of his intimate knowledge and hands on experience. He says he is perplexed. It is not clear why he has chosen to echo the seemingly inane arguments of his fellow politicians on this occasion. It is necessary to examine the arguments and assertions of this legal luminary.

PC, like his party men, is shedding tears for the long queues of the common man to exchange their meagre holdings. He pretends that he has never witnessed long queues in India. Queues are a common feature of life in India, whether they are in front of a ration shop, or for school admission, voting in elections or for rail or cinema tickets. This is the mildest form of suffering that a common man has got used to, thanks to Congress party’s long innings as rulers of this country. The present temporary queues are for a superior national cause and the country men will gladly suffer it. Of course privileged VIPs have never been subjected to queues and it is but natural that many of them are suddenly observing them and hurriedly using the phenomenon as a weapon to attack the Government.

The next question in PC’s mind is why the Government has put into circulation note of Rs 2000 denomination. The answer is that these notes have half the production cost and occupy half the space of Rs1000 notes, quarter of the space and cost of Rs 500 notes and 5% of the space and cost of Rs 100 notes. Correspondingly they also require less time to transport and dispense, thereby cutting the queuing time. Thus there are strong logistical and scientific reasons that the learned former FM cannot be unaware of. The Government had to keep the preparatory time minimal to minimise the  risk of a fatal leak of information that would have defeated the very purpose of the exercise.

2000.jpg

His next objection is that it is even easier to hoard Rs 2000 notes. According to him since the new notes will simply replace the old ones, they would be hoarded the same way as before, even more easily as they are of double the earlier denomination. He cannot see how black money will be reduced. This logic would have been valid if the environment of the past few decades that had actively encouraged the amassing of black money had remained unchanged (including the Congress Government and its FM and the PM).

Fortunately 2016 is not the same as 2006. We have a determined government with a strong spine. It is pushing for cashless transactions and a cashless economy very hard on the back of digitization. The GST bill has been passed which promises to end multiple stations of tax collection accompanied by extortion. Already the income taxman is breathing down the necks of black money hoarders. The Government is aiming to put a cap on cash payments. Technology, E-commerce and secure payment systems and E-commerce (Plastic cards, NEFT, RTGS, POS payments, transparent web sites, Mobile Wallet, cloud computing, reverse auctioning etc) are enabling this at an exponentially increasing pace. Moreover governments all over the world are now promising to cooperate with the honest Indian Government to prevent bribery, terror funding, and rupee round tripping. Corruption will no more be a low risk business. Hawala and benami transactions would be curbed. Accumulation of black money will be simply far too difficult. The new notes are a new beginning on a clean slate. PM has already indicated that the number of Rs2000 notes will be limited and demand for high denomination notes will be curtailed by prohibiting large value payments in cash. Under the circumstances a new baby of black money has no chance of survival to become a grown up monster as in the previous Congress regime. The present successful operation will teach a lesson to black money holders. They will fear that a repeat of demonetization vis-a-vis the new 2000 rupee notes will ground them again. Hoardings on the previous scale can never happen again. Moreover once the current holdings are brought into the white banking system it will be difficult to suck them out of the system.

Historically there was no black money. Successive Congress governments parented it, nurtured it and helped it grow to the present monstrous dimensions through the regimes of ‘Licence Permit’ Raj. At one time the Income tax rate was hiked to a preposterous high of 95% making black money the logical solution to avoid the penal rate. Once the generation of black money commenced it became unstoppable. The reward/risk ratio became enormously high. The Governments made a killing by protecting black money holders and exacting a heavy price. Mock IT and customs raids were conducted after giving sufficient warning to the raided parties to hide their holdings. Do you remember a senior Central minister called Sukh Ram with sacks of currency notes and Jimmy Nagarwalla who managed to flee with Rs 60 lakhs from the Parliament Street Branch of SBI in broad day light in Indira Gandhi’s regime?

PC and his colleagues’ simplistic specious argument sounds like the last straw of a desperate drowning man. You can kill a vermin only by bringing it into the open. That is what the Government has done as a sequence to the scheme of voluntary disclosures that has just concluded by unearthing Rs 60,000 crores. All the 1000 and 500 rupee notes now being exchanged will not be given as cash. Beyond a small limit it will go into a bank accounts mount as white money that will be scrutinised and taxed. If no justification or explanation is offered for a fat increase in any bank account, heavy penalties will be levied. That is how the black money will be tracked and destroyed.

Let PC and the Congress party wait and watch before jumping the gun and shooting off their mouth!

 

 

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The Guy of Bad Time(s) Now

The second article by my husband Prof N Natarajan in the ‘affaire VM’!!

‘I don’t think that the time to return is right’ is the quote from Vijay Mallya (VM) in The Hindu’s front page top headlines (Monday 14th March). VM may not have been the King of good times or bad times or any other time. One thing is sure. He is ruling all Times. He has been in command this time and every time.  In his history of business and personal decision making, he has always landed on his feet, except perhaps when he was born. He would have been born a Google baby, cut his mom’s umbilical cord, walked from the delivery table and eyed every nurse (remember the Google ad?)  if that brand had been in existence at that time!

In the brewing business handed down to him by his father he was the bubbly star, foam at the top. From beer maker he turned into a deal maker winning a heady cocktail of brands by sleight of hand. He made deep inroads into the most celebrated international liquor businesses through a series of timely strategic decisions and became almost world’s number one in that field. He timed his dramatic entry into the Aviation sector launching and incorporating his own unique brand called Kingfisher.

Mallya became a high flyer by concentrating on the quality of service for which every air passenger was pining. There was none who did not admire his ability to feel the pulse of the passenger. He treated passengers as guests, served great meals, provided on board entertainment gifted a pen and a few other things to every passenger and abolished the class distinction between executive class and economy class. For a while his airline was the first choice. In retrospect you may say that KF lived beyond its means, but the fact is that it might have survived if aviation fuel costs had not simultaneously hit the sky.

His foray into the sports arena was also a streak of success. Formula 1 was definitely not for the common man. However even in that sport he put India on the world map and won kudos from those for whom it mattered. His innings in the IPL was also impressive.

VM entered the Indian Parliament in style and stayed there for close to 10 years with the help of all political parties. No political party had any differences with him even though they were otherwise at each other’s throat.

An entire consortium of SEVEN banks backed him to the hilt and queued to lend him money. Again, in retrospect, banks may cry foul, but they were in a dreamland when they yielded to political bosses and lent unwisely. They were in a trance when they released each tranche of credit.

VM timed all his moves in a deft manner. His final move to London was the master stroke, in between ‘look out’ and ‘don’t look out’ notices by our number one sleuths. His departure was not an undercover move but he openly travelled first class with his ‘bag and baggage’. He had seven pieces of luggage and a companion to boot.

The common man knows that it is the lousy banking system which has cheated him by throwing caution all regulations to the winds and lending VM recklessly and failing to recover even the most easily recoverable money. It is difficult to believe that all this was done without any quid pro quo. God and the beneficiaries alone know the details of this sordid affair.

Our concentrated wrath on VM is unwarranted. Even in the present mindless tirade against VM there are unintended beneficiaries in the media. They gained when he was doing well and splashing money for publicity and they are again prospering with high TRPs while taking pot shots at him. I call them news brokers, not news breakers since it is the broker who makes money whether the market is going up or going down.

We the people need a hot topic to discuss in our armchairs in the cosy comfort of our drawing rooms. It was Bofors and Quattorachi  once, then it was Harshad Mehta. Then came 2G and CWG  nextscam followed by the Coal scam. It is now the VM season. Sit back and enjoy before the next scam makes it the Breaking News!! Nothing has happened to any of the protagonists of these scams. Nothing will happen to VM or his associate bankers. He can choose his time and return if he likes. He is the Captain of all times!!

Prof N Natarajan

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