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Shirish Agarwal: I need to speak up now X – Economics

Dear all,

This would be a longish blog post (as most of mine are) compiled over days but as there is so short a time and so much to share.

I had previously thought to share beautiful photographs of Ganesh mandals taking out the procession at time of immersion of the idol or the last day of Durga Puja recent events around do not make my mood to share photos at this point in time. I may share some of them in a future blog post or two .

Before going further, I would like to offer my sympathies and condolences to people hurt and dislocated in Hurricane Irma , the 2017 Central Mexico Earthquake and lastly the most recent Las Vegas shooting as well as Hurricane Maria in Puerto Rico . I am somewhat nonplussed as to why Americans always want to name, especially hurricanes which destroy people’s lives and livelihood built over generations and why most of the hurricanes are named after women. A look at weather.com site unveiled the answer to the mystery.

Ironically (or not) I saw some of the best science coverage about Earthquakes or anything scientific reporting and analysis after a long time in mainstream newspapers in India.

On another note, I don’t understand or even expect to understand why the gunman did what he did 2 days back. Country music AFAIK is one of the most chilled-out kind of music, in some ways very similar to classical Indian singing although they are worlds apart in style of singing, renditions, artists, the way they emote etc. I seriously wish that the gunman had not been shot but caught and reasons were sought about what he did, he did. While this is certainly armchair thinking as was not at the scene of crime, but if a Mumbai Police constable could do it around a decade ago armed only with a lathi could do it, why couldn’t the American cops who probably are trained in innumerable ways to subdue people without killing them, did. While investigations are on, I suspect if he were caught just like Ajmal Kasab was caught then lot of revelations might have come up. From what is known, the gentleman was upwardly mobile i.e. he was white, rich and apparently had no reason to have beef with anybody especially a crowd swaying to some nice music, all of which makes absolutely no sense.

Indian Economy ‘Slowdown’

Anyways, back to one of the main reasons of writing this blog post. Few days back, an ex-finance Minister of India Yashwant Sinha wrote what was felt by probably millions of Indians, an Indian Express article called ‘I need to speak up now

While there have been many, many arguments made since then by various people. A simple search of ‘I need to speak up’ would lead to lead to many a result besides the one I have shared above. The only exception I have with the article is the line “Forty leading companies of the country are already facing bankruptcy proceedings. Many more are likely to follow suit.” I would not bore you but you ask any entrepreneur trying to set up shop in India i.e. ones who actually go through the processes of getting all the licenses for setting up even a small businesses as to the numerous hurdles they have to overcome and laid-back corrupt bureaucracy which they have to overcome. I could have interviewed some of my friends who had the conviction and the courage to set up shop and spent more than half a decade getting all the necessary licenses and approval to set up but it probably would be too specific for one industry or the other and would lead to the same result.

Co-incidentally, a new restaurant, leaf opened in my vicinity few weeks before. From the looks it looked like a high-brow, high-priced restaurant hence like many others I did not venture in. After a few days, they introduced south-Indian delicacies like Masala Dosa, Uttapam at prices similar to other restaurants around. So I ventured in and bought some south Indian food to consume between mum and me.

Few days later, I became friends with the owner/franchisee and I suggested (in a friendly tone) that why he doesn’t make it like a CCD play where many people including yours truly use the service to share, strategize and meet with clients.

The CCD joints usually serve coffee and snacks (which are over-priced but still run out pretty fast) but people come as they have chilled-out atmosphere and Wi-Fi access which people need for their smartphones, although the Wi-Fi part may soon become redundant With Reliance Jio making a big play.

I also shared why he doesn’t add more variety and time (the south Indian items are time-limited) as I see/saw many empty chairs there.

Anyways, the shop-owner/franchisee shared his gross costs including salary, stocking, electricity, rent and it doesn’t pan out to be serving Rs.80/- dish (roughly a 1US dollar and 25 cents) then serving INR Rs. 400/- a dish (around 6 $USD). One round of INR 400/- + dishes make his costs for the day, around 12 tables were there. It’s when they have two full rounds of dishes costing INR 400/- or more that he actually has profits and he is predicting loss for at least 6 months to a year before he makes a rebound. He needs steady customers rather than just walk-ins that will make his business work/click. Currently his family is bearing the costs. He didn’t mention the taxes although I know apart from GST there are still some local body taxes that they will have to pay and comply with.

There are a multitude of problems for shutting a shop legally as well as they have to again renavigate the bureaucracy for the same. I have seen more than a few retailers downing their shutters for 6-8 months and then either sell it to new management, let go of the lease or simply sell the property to a competitor. The Insolvency and Bankruptcy Code is probably the first proper exit policy for large companies. So the 40 odd companies that Mr. Sinha were talking about were probably sick for a long time.

In India, there is also an additional shame of being a failed entrepreneur unlike in the west where Entrepreneurs start on their next venture. As seen from Retailing In India only 3.3% of the population or at the most 4% of the population is directly or indirectly linked with the retail trade. Most of the economy still derives its wealth from the agrarian sector which is still reeling under the pressure from demonetization which happened last year. Al jazeera surprisingly portrayed a truer picture of the effects demonetization had on common citizen than many Indian newspapers did at the time. Because of the South African Debconf, I had to resort to debit cards and hence was able to escape standing in long lines in which many an old and women perished.

It is only yesterday that the Government has acknowledged which many prominent Indians have been saying for months now, that we are in a ‘slowdown‘. Be aware of the terms being used for effect by the Prime Minister. There are two articles which outlines the troubles India is in atm. The only bright spot has been e-commerce which so far has eluded GST although the Govt. has claimed regulations to put it in check.

Indian Education System

Interestingly, Ravish Kumar has started a series on NDTV where he is showcasing how Indian education sector, especially public colleges have been left to teachers on contract basis, see the first four episodes on NDTV channel starting with the first one I have shared as a hyperlink. I apologize as the series is in Hindi as the channel is meant for Indians and is mostly limited to Northern areas of the Country (mostly) although he has been honest that it is because they lack resources to tackle the amount of information flowing to them. Ravish started the series with sharing information about the U.S. where the things are similar with some teachers needing to sleep in cars because of high-cost of living to some needing to turn to sex-work . I was shocked when I read the guardian article, that is no way to treat our teachers.I went on to read ‘How the American University was Killed‘ following the breadcrumbs along the way. Reading that it seems Indians have been following the American system playbook from the 1980’s itself. The article talks about HMO as well and that seems to have followed here as well with my own experience of hospital fees and drugs which I had to entail a few weeks/month ago.

Few years ago, when me and some of my friends had the teaching bug and we started teaching in a nearby municipal school, couple of teachers had shared that they were doing 2-3 jobs to make ends meet. I don’t know about others in my group, at least I was cynical because I thought all the teachers were permanent and they make good money only to realize now that the person was probably speaking the truth. When you have to do three jobs to make ends meet from where do you bring the passion to teach young people and that too outside the syllabus ?

Also, with this new knowledge in hindsight, I take back all my comments I made last year and the year before for the pathetic education being put up by the State. With teachers being paid pathetically/underpaid and almost 60% teachers being ad-hoc/adjunct teachers they have to find ways to have some sense of security. Most teachers are bachelors as they are poor and cannot offer any security (either male or female) and for women, after marriage it actually makes no sense for them to continue in this profession. I salute all the professors who are ad-hoc in nature and probably will never get a permanent position in their life.

I think in some way, thanx to him, that the government has chosen to give 7th pay commisson salary to teachers. While the numbers may appear be large, there are a lot of questions as to how many people will actually get paid. There needs to be lot of vacancies which need to be filled quickly but don’t see any solution in the next 2-3 years as well. The Government has taken a position to use/re-hire retired teachers rather than have new young teachers as an unwritten policy. In this Digital India context how are retired teachers supposed to understand and then pass on digital concepts is beyond me when at few teacher trainings I have seen they lack even the most basic knowledge that I learnt at least a decade or two ago, the difference is that vast. I just don’t know what to say to that. My own experience with my own mother who had pretty good education in her time and probably would have made a fine business-woman if she knew that she will have a child that she would have to raise by herself alone (along with maternal grand-parents) is testimonial to the fact how hard it is for older people to grasp technology and here I’m talking just using the interface as a consumer rather than a producer or someone in-between who has the idea of how companies and governments profit from whatever data is shared one way or the other.

After watching the series/episodes and discussing the issue with my mother it was revealed that both her and my late maternal grandfather were on casual/ad-hoc basis till 20-25 years in their service in the defense sector. If Ravish were to do a series on the defense sector he probably would find the same thing there. To add to that, the defense sector is a vital component to a country’s security. If 60% of the defense staff in all defense establishments have temporary staff how do you ensure the loyalty of the people working therein. That brings to my mind ‘Ignorance is bliss’.

Software development and deployment

There is another worry that all are skirting around, the present dispensation/government’s mantra is ‘minimum government-maximum governance’ with digital technologies having all solutions which is leading to massive unemployment. Also from most of the stories/incidents I read in the newspapers, mainstream media and elsewhere it seems most software deployments done in India are done without having any system of internal checks and balances. There is no ‘lintian‘ for software to be implemented. Contracts seem to be given to big companies and there is no mention of what prerequisites or conditions were laid down by the Government for software development and deployment and if any checks were done to ensure that the software being developed was in according to government specifications or not. Ideally this should all be in public domain so that questions can be asked and responsibility fixed if things go haywire, as currently they do not.

Software issues

As my health been not that great, I have been taking a bit more time and depth while filing bugs. #877638 is a good example. I suspect though that part of the problem might be that mate has moved to gtk3 while guake still has gtk-2 bindings. I also reported the issue upstream both in mate-panel as well as guake . I haven’t received any response from either or/and upstreams .

I also have been fiddling around with gdb to better understand the tool so I can exploit/use this tool in a better way. There are some commands within the gdb interface which seem to be interesting and hopefully I’ll try how the commands perform over days, weeks to a month. I hope we see more action on the mate-panel/guake bug as well as move of guake to gtk+3 but that what seemingly seemed like wait for eternity seems to have done by somebody in last couple of days. As shared in the ticket there are lots of things still to do but it seems the heavy lifting has been done but seems merging will be tricky as two developers have been trying to update to gtk+3 although aichingm seems to have a leg up with his 3! branch.

Another interesting thing I saw is the below picture.

Firefox is out of date on wordpress.com

The firefox version I was using to test the site/wordpress-wp-admin was Mozilla Firefox 52.4.0 which AFAIK is a pretty recentish one and people using Debian stretch would probably be using the same version (firefox stable/LTS) rather than the more recent versions. I went to the link it linked to and it gave no indication as to why it thought my browser is out-of-date and what functionality was/is missing. I have found that wordpress support has declined quite a bit and people don’t seem to use the forums as much as they used to before.

I also filed a few bugs for qalculate. #877716 where a supposedly transitional package removes the actual application, #877717 as the software has moved its repo. to github.com as well as tickets and other things in process and lastly #877733. I had been searching for a calculator which can do currency calculations on the fly (say for e.g. doing personal budgeting for Taiwan debconf) without needing to manually enter the conversion rates and losing something in the middle. While the current version has support for some limited currencies, the new versions promise more as other people probably have more diverse needs for currency conversions (people who do long or short on oil, stocks overseas is just one example, I am sure there are many others) than simplistic mine.

Filed under: Miscellenous Tagged: #American Education System, #bug-filing, #Climate change, #Dignity, #e-commerce, #gtk+3, #gtk2, #Indian Economy ‘Slowdown’, #Indian Education System, #Insolvency and Bankruptcy Code, #Las Vegas shooting, #Modern Retail in India, #planet-debian, #qalculate, Ad-hoc and Adjunct Professors, wordpress.com
Source: Debian Planet

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