When it comes to Indian Politics or Government Policies, I am worse than a Armchair critic. If not doing anything is bad, I am not even theoretically qualified on these subjects. That’s why you won’t find me writing in this blog on these topics that often. But this recent announcement by Indian Government cried out to be talked that I decided to write about it and expose my ignorance.
Yesterday Hon’ble Finance Minister of India announced the ban of import of flat panel TVs as part of free baggage allowance for returning India’s from abroad trips. As of Budget 2012 (Guide from Indian Customs), after a trip exceeding 3 days returning Indian’s can bring Duty Free Items worth up to Rs.35,000 (~$550). Though this amount is not lavish, its OK for doing gift & souvenir shopping. Last year, I had availed this concession while returning from Dubai after a vacation. I purchased for my sister a 40″ Samsung LCD TV costing about Rs.32,000 in UAE which I was able to bring in hassle free through Green Channel as it was within limits.
Till about a decade back when latest Electronics like Mobile or Laptops were not available in India I used to buy them abroad and bring them. Nowadays these are in fact cheaper in India and they come with local warranty, saving the trouble of Forex conversions and exceeding your baggage weight limits. As someone travelling abroad for more than 15 years, I found in 1990s the last leg of your journey was the most tiring – which was landing in India and doing your baggage collection & customs clearance at Indian Airports. As Indian Economy opened up and Government liberalized, import of items became easier. This had a big indirect benefit of reduced crime by almost eliminating Illegal imports/smuggling. As a result in recent years Customs officials in India won’t even look your way unless they have any intelligence or suspicion against you.
Now with Government bringing back restrictions on import of Gold & TVs, the experience of Air travelers returning home are set to take a turn for worse. India gets about 24 Million International Passengers per year (including returning citizens), assuming 5% (generous estimate) of them bring a US$600 TV with them, at 20% tax (loosely any form of tax – Excise Duty or VAT doesn’t exceed this) this mean a revenue to exchequer of only $144 Million/Year. This is miniscule compared to the CAD (Current Account Deficit) of $89 Billion.
Instead of benefitting Government with increased revenue through import taxes & reduced Forex outflows, this policy reversal will push the imports underground. This will have an unintended (I like to believe when I say this) consequence of benefitting the crime networks and lining the pockets of corrupt officials at Airports.
The medicine Indian Economy needs now is not more Red Tapes but super speed liberalization and economical reforms. Reforms across sectors will simulate the economy, reverse the sentiment of foreign investors towards India and convince Indian Enterprises to spend the huge cash they have been hoarding in their balance sheets. If anything the years after 1991 has taught it is that nothing improves Growth, lifts millions out of poverty for sure than cutting Bureaucracy and eliminating Red Tapes. Unfortunately both the Hon’ble Finance Minister and Hon’ble Prime Minister both seem to be going back with a “vengeance” on their own same policies of 1990s which got them famous.
He continues that for some of them them language is the issue-the language of business; Unless a transaction benefits both the parties, it will not be sustainable, whether it’s marriage or market place; how to train businesses to be sure of themselves to take the next big jump for growth (its like in a trapeze bar, unless you are sure you can catch the other bar you won’t leave this one); a leader should understand that he must have something to contribute to everybody’s lives.
Watch the Bloomberg TV interview for an insight into the subject:
If you are wondering what is the above photo of water bottles mean?
They have water from Kaveri river brought to our house in Chennai by my uncle after his visit to Trichy this week. It is believed bathing in Kaveri river during this month washes your sins and brings you divine blessings. In Tamil calendar, this month is called as Aypasi (ஐப்பசி) alias Thula Month (துலா மாதம்). In this month it is believed by Hindus that all rivers in India including Ganges, Yamuna, Narmada, Sindhu come to South, to Kaveri to cleanse themselves of the sins people bath away in them. Interesting legend!
We all have read Jim Collins’ Built to Last: Successful Habits of Visionary Companies, learning about companies in USA which are truly exceptional and have been running for over one hundred years. But how much we know about Indian Companies that have lasted that long or more, especially the small and regional companies. Apart from general curiosity my interest is enhanced due to my family business at LIFCO Books (Little Flower Company). Founded in 1929, LIFCO publishes its famous Dictionaries and Religious books on Tamil.
I was happy to see Hindustan Times’ Mint newspaper address this need. Today’s Mint section “Lounge” carries this report on small, regional pre-independence companies which braved liberalization and have left an imprint on our local, collective memory. Read Survivors from the 1800s to Now. Companies featured include Higginbothams, DuckPack, Kalimark, Nilgris, HMV and more.
After our visits to must go places in Tanjore – the Palace and Museum the next day after the wedding we went to another popular destination which is the PunnaiNallur Mariamman temple which is 5Kms from Tanjore. It is always crowded, we could get darshan in about 1 hour or so.
Just like in every other temple in India you have shops selling everything for Pooja (Coconuts, Flowers, Turmeric, Kumkum, BeetleNuts, Banana), Pictures of the main deity, cool drinks and biscuits.
Our final destination was to shopping area in Tanjore around Anna Salai.
The below photos were taken near shops in Burma Bazaar, near Abraham Pandither Road & Jupiter theatre in Thanjavur.
When we went there was a book fair happening in the historic Sri Besant Lodge in Tanjore.
Inside the Tanjore palace apart from the main Art Musuem you can see few other places of interest. There is Saraswathi Mahal Library, Serfoji’s Memorial Hall Musuem, Mahratta Dharbar Hall & Royal Museum. Each of these are maintained by different parties – ASI / Tamil Nadu Government, The Descendants of Serfoji and so you need to buy over half-a-dozen tickets. Each of these tickets costs between Re.1 to Re.20, if they combine it and make it a single entry it will make it easy for tourists.
Saraswathi Mahal Library is one of the main attractions here. The Library contains books collected from the period of Nayaks in 1535 A.D. and enhanced during King Serfoji II during 1798 A.D. The books collection exceeds over 60,000 and many rare European language books are present here. I found it interesting to find on display pages from a book titled Chinese prisoner tortures – unbelievable and inhuman.
The next stop was the Royal Museum which houses some utensils, elephant bells, turbans (head gear) and weapons used in the olden days.
The next was Serfoji’s Memorial Hall Musuem. The path to the place is poorly maintained, vegetation’s grown all around threatening the survival of the palace.
Inside the museum there is not much of interest in display, other than old furniture’s, coins and daily use items.
There was a sign saying path to secret passage subway, we walked down few steps and found the place to be not lit at all with all kinds of sounds coming from beneath. Not wishing to go further and encounter bats or rats we retraced our path back.
The last stop was the Mahratta Dharbar Hall (assembly hall). I couldn’t help comparing with the Dharbar Hall I have seen in Mysore Palace or Jaipur palace – both being maintained in fine condition compared to this.
On the first day of our visit to Tanjore after morning breakfast we went to Thanjavur Palace. It was good we had over half-a-day to spend in the palace visit, for you to appreciate the artefacts and history you need to go around without rush. And for us taking photographs took quite a bit of time as well.
After you enter the main courtyard of the palace which is now an Art Musuem maintained by Archaeological society of India you are welcomed by hundreds of statues and sculptures which were unearthed by researches over the centuries in this part of Tamil Nadu. Most of them had names plates for you to understand but there was no guide or information to explain more about the palace and the displayed artefacts.
Just like in Chennai’s Egmore Museum I saw many fine bronze statues of Nataraja and other gods in display at the museum here.
There were many winding steps you can take to climb the tower to the top (about six levels I think)
And from the top you get wonderful view of the surroundings and city, you can see the Big Temple as well:
There were many boards warning not to damage or write on walls of the tower insides, but few seem to care about it. I felt pain seeing many scribbling’s all across the walls of what is a national historic treasure. It is believed that growth in Literacy and Economy will make a population and culture respect and protect its history but that seems to be not true in India. We seem to have a blatant disregard in preserving.
See the sorry state of maintenance of the walls and structures (see in the right of the picture below) in many places around the palace.
At the first level they have kept a display of skeleton of a 92 feet Whale that washed ashore near tranquebar in 1955. It is displayed in poor condition. Other than occupying an empty hall it doesn’t fit into the theme of the other displays and the place.
Government of India recently introduced a dedicated symbol for its currency (Rupee). Rupee (Rs.) is being used by several other countries including our neighbours Nepal, Pakistan, Sri Lanka & others. So having a dedicated symbol for India becomes necessitated for it to be differentiated from others. Initially I was sceptical about this symbol, considered this to be a publicity effort by the central government and that the symbol has to be accepted by all language speakers in the country. In the last few weeks as I see the growing usage of this in Media and elsewhere, I am convinced that this is a welcome move and it is needed to reinforce India’s growing Economy and its importance in the World stage.
Now the question is how do you start using this in PCs.
- Some companies immediately on government announcement shipped font files containing this character. Two of them (Foradian, Artech) have mapped this symbol to ~ (Tilde character above the Tab key in your keyboard). This is nothing but a Quick ‘n’ Dirty temporary fix. I will not recommend this as it doesn’t provide any interoperability. At the worst it can be used on Presentations and Brochures for display only.
- The proper process for using this character is that Unicode consortium & then ISO have to give it a unique number (location ID in the code-chart), which they have done tentatively in their recent meeting in USA. Department of Information Technology announced that Unicode has allocated U+20B9 location for the new Rupee Symbol unique to India. The existing location of U+20A8 (that displays Rs) will still continue for use by others. Now this has to ratified and published in their upcoming standards document and then Software vendors (Operating System mainly) have to implement this by shipping this Glyph in their default fonts and enabling typing of this character in their Keyboard Inputs. This is the only route to ensure that your documents (Word files, Excel spread sheets or even a webpage) having this character will show up the same in someone else PC.
A company called Foradian Technologies have released here, a free software to type the new Rupee Symbol and display it according to the proposed Unicode location, making this symbol available before it gets Operating System vendor official support.
இன்று தமிழ் ஆசிரியர் திரு.பெ.கி.பிரபாகரன் ஐயா அவர்களைப் பார்த்தப் போது தான் அவரின் தூண்டுதலில் நாங்கள் பதினொன்றாம் வகுப்பில் எடுத்தப் பேட்டி பள்ளி இதழில் வந்தது நினைவிற்கு வந்தது. அதை தேடி எடுத்தேன்.
இப்போது தான் மத்திய அரசில் பெண்கள் இட ஒதுக்கீடு என்று பேசுகிறார்கள், ஆனால் சார்க் நாடுகள் 1991ம் ஆண்டே பெண் குழங்தைகள் ஆண்டாக அறிவித்திருந்தது. இதைப் பற்றி மக்கள் சமுதாயத்திற்காகப் பாடுபடும் நல்லோர்களின் கருத்தையறிய முற்பட்டோம். எங்கள் பள்ளி செயலாளர், முதல்வர், கவிஞர் பொன்னடியான், தாமரைத் திரு ஜெயா அருணாசலம், எழுத்தாளர் அனுராதா ரமணன் ஆகியப்பலரை நாங்கள் நேரில் சென்று பேட்டி எடுத்தோம். அத்தொகுப்பு அந்த ஆண்டு (1991) எங்கள் பள்ளியின் இதழில் (Voice of Vailankanni) வெளிவந்தது. இப்படி ஒரு வலுவான தலைப்பை கொடுத்து கவிஞர்களை, எழுத்தாளர்களை நாங்கள் பயப்படாமல் கேள்விகள் கேட்கவும், அதைத் தெளிவாக எழுதவும் வைத்தவர் ஆசிரியர் திரு.பெ.கி.பிரபாகரன் அவர்கள் தான். எங்களிடம் கொடுத்துவிட்டு அவரே எல்லாவற்றையும் செய்யவில்லை, பேட்டியெடுக்கும் போது எங்களை நம்பி தனியாக தான் விட்டார், நாங்கள் தான் கடைசிவரைக் கட்டுரையை எழுதி முடித்தோம் – இது எல்லாம் இப்போது நினைத்துப் பார்க்கையில் எவ்வளவு சிறந்த வாய்ப்பு, பயிற்சி என்று விளங்குகிறது. அத்தொகுப்பை சுமார் இருபது ஆண்டுகள் கழித்து உங்களுக்காக இப்போது வருடியில்(Scanner) வருடி இங்கே தந்துள்ளேன்.