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Power Packed Introduction Part II

Power Packed Introduction Part I

Honesty - Will or Lack of Opportunity? 24 Lac coveted seats - Will or Lack of Choice?

Author: Prof. Nituj Gupta
The more one sees around, the feeling grows that few people seem to be honest by choice and will. The others have either already got the opportunity to be dishonest or are waiting and maybe planning for one.
24 Lacs Indians file a tax return of over 10 Lacs per Annum. Very very difficult to digest but as the Prime Minister himself reiterated it number of times, surely it has been crosschecked several times. This is when we say that salaried people have tax deducted at source (TDS). It is very unlikely that anyone whose TDS is against an annual income of over 10 Lacs does not file their IT return accordingly.
Interestingly my wife and myself both find ourselves in this small group and when we talk to our acquaintances, on this, who are working in the corporate world or in the teaching fraternity like us, we can identify many who are part of this. So, on the one hand, there is a joke now that if we start connecting dots to finding out who are these 24 lacs we will identify them pretty soon. On the other hand, when I look around in the Society I live in, having 700 apartments, I am seriously doubtful of how many of these people file an income return of over 10 Lacs per Annum. For reference, this is a visibly affluent society, much above the city average.
Even more interesting is that there are many Government officials in our Society and when I compare our purchasing power vis - a - vis any of them, we are miles apart. Being in the select group and yet, after taxes having to think before spending is how we function, while these people do not even flinch at anything however expensive. I heard another interesting story. I was told that a couple, both from an IIM educated background and both being part of this select group, found that to purchase one upmarket apartment they would have to shell out 10 years of their savings. The interesting part is that their neighbour is a clerical level government official who actually has several such properties as investments.
When we talk of these premier institutions, the IIT's and the IIM's, and the media tells us that almost every pass out makes at least 10 lacs per annum, the figure of 24 lac tax payees filing a return of over 10 Lacs per annum looks highly improbable or ridiculous. These are returns of the entire population spanning at least 35 years of working people and more i.e. the majority of those who passed in the last 35 years from the IITs and IIMs and are in India are all part of this 24 Lacs only. From these numbers it would be very interesting to see how many of these 24 Lacs have a Graduation or Post Graduation from an IIT / IIM. If the math is right, the percentage should be very large. We have not even considered the NIT's, IIITs, premier Government and Private Institutions and Universities who all stake their claim to similar placement results.
Coming to the corporate sector, the big ones of the IT sector should be contributing probably 20% of people to this select group of 24 Lacs and then there are such biggies in every sector specially the consulting ones where salaries are even higher. So assuming that they employ a lot of non IIT / IIM passouts who also get substantial salary, if there are any seats left in this 24 Lacs, they would probably be accounted here. The only other explanation can be that package versus actual money has an abnormal level of variation.
A colleague, who is a decorated retired colonel, has a pension above a Lac p.m. From what we further gather, almost all colonels and above, across the defence forces and paramilitary, serving or retired, must be having this kind of monthly income. Surely they all are filing their returns. Similarly, would be the large number of bureaucrats and Government personnel who at senior levels would be taking home 6 figure salaries and filing their return. So those employed by the Government also seem to be occupying a majority of these 24 Lac seats.
Till now we are talking of those whose tax is deducted at source and are salaried people. Now come the real numbers, all the self practicing doctors, CA's, lawyers, consultants and then businessmen. The rush to be a doctor is much governed by the fact that in the rarest of rare cases will you hear "POOR" doctor and poor in terms of money alone is the context here. From sheer experience and visibility around, there is little doubt that a majority of these practicing doctors easily make over a lac a month. An ultrasound recently at a very small outlet of a doctor - hardly 100 sq.ft at best and with no rush - when payment was done through paytm what we got to hear was that paytm was a temporary solution due to cash crunch as it had a transaction limit which could hardly cover for the revenue of a single day. No further comment on this is necessary, except that the group of 24L people in this country should be covering all this class also of across the country. Somewhere the math just doesn't work right.
We have not even touched the celebrities of films, televisions, and the declared super rich who must obviously be eating away a lot of positions in these 24 lac coveted seats.
A very interesting conversation I just had and which I could not resist sharing. When this topic was being discussed, I was told your bias is of an educated class which you seem to know more. Have you heard of a position called "Patwari"? The literal definition is "a government official who keeps records regarding the ownership of land". If you google this word you will truly be amazed. The eligibility for this position is not even a simple graduation. And yet I am told that a Patwari has exhibited and visual affluence far greater than all those educated ones put together. In fact if you are finding a match for marriage for someone who is a Graduate or even a Post graduate and working as a junior manager in a company versus a Patwari, you will be truly truly amazed. The Patwari would be a role model of the family probably, revered for their affluence and their access to such affluence. A recent article says that while 24Lac people in India file income tax returns of over 10 Lacs per annum, 25 Lac cars are sold in India every year. This person jokingly tells me a logical answer would be found if we calculate the number of patwaris and the number of cars each one owns. After all companies doing their market sizing for further entry into Indias auto sector must be getting the right numbers from somewhere.
A statement - who will apply for a Government Job if corruption is curtailed - is heard in many ways since demonetization and tells a lot of our psyche. 
Well, demonetization has at least made us all aware of what we really are. Hard facts are now out and we can view people around us in a different light. People who own farmhouses, bungalows, acres and acres of land, buildings, factories, hospitals, hotels, institutes and so on. The 24 Lac seats as explained above are obviously overbooked already and therefore, on paper, barring exceptions, these owners are the needy hand to mouth survivors as far as their income tax returns are concerned.
The business man is already a branded generator of black money. The agents, consultants and officials who eat a major share for the cover up remain the obtrusive ones. Eventually everyone is eating from the same kitty. The businessman generates but saves the tax and those who help him take a good part of the saved tax. This has already been discussed from time immemorial in India. Have you considered the economics of a scam? Lets say a 70000 crore commonwealth games scam. The money actually went to different businesses which were given orders. If these businesses made little or reasonable profit, then there is no scam really which implies they made an abnormally huge profit. If this profit was actually reported and the tax on the same paid the effect of the scam would again reduce considerably but obviously that is also not the case.
Now after two months of the announcement of demonetization, reports suggest almost all the officially accounted discarded currency is back in the bank. Hushed but strong rumours suggest that the actual notes printed from official mints were more than those accounted in the books. The highest form of black money or legalized fake money so to say. Although supposedly improbable, still has people wondering about the possibility given the blatant levels of corruption that we have witnessed. One thing is for certain though, the money which has now got routed through the banks has a paper trail. Rise of the "bankster", a new term we saw in this period. Someone who has a chance to be part of that group which helps save the tax. The major difference though, that exists now, is that a trail exists however much it may be complicated. One thing is definitely easier, find the bankster and a lot of things will come in the open.
Well, Round 1 to Mr. Modi who has at least created a trail for all the accounted cash in India i.e. a banker / bankster is now a common link in each transaction. The task now seems to be finding the willfully honest people in this country. Only then can the direct tax to GDP ratio really grow and the country prosper. Any developed country in the world currently is known by their high direct tax to GDP ratio i.e. they have far more taxpayers in the country. Sounds logical too - when a majority of the people contribute to the development of their country, positive impact is bound to reflect.
Astrological predictions are that India will be a superpower. So either Mr. Modi will find steps now to take us on that known path, or India will need to create another first, to be a developed superpower and yet have a miniscule (less than 0.2%) population who declare an annual income commensurate to probably an upper middle class or lets say adequately affluent but not mindlessly luxurious.
Anybody who is somebody, including the ones in the group of 24 Lacs, has been impacted adversely even if it is a fall in their mutual fund nav's. Anybody who is nobody, despite media, despite the somebodys hue and cry, despite being volatile to even small instigation and events, have endured the queues. Right now the reason simply looks like they are happy to see the pain of the somebodys.

The stage has been set. The game begins now! Good, bad or ugly - time will tell.

DEMONETIZATION – Ghandhian Perspective

Author: Prof. Nituj Gupta
Besides reading the above article, I had a first hand experience standing in the queue at a bank for withdrawal and could witness many labourers, daily wagers and students actually standing in queue for a commission.
Yesterday, I also happened to be teaching, in my class, the Gandhian Philosophy as part of the “Business Ethics” course and something which had become just mundane learning for an examination seems to come alive.
Some of the deadly sins propounded by Gandhiji understood in relation to the contemporary reality of our society, specially, with respect to students of Graduation and Post-Graduation. After all, these students are the future of our society, for the benefit of whom, everything seems to be done.
1)    Commerce Without Morality – What is being done by the students is in some sense, a business.
An opportunity seized without even knowing whether it is legal and whether they are inadvertently laundering black money. When business has come in, obviously it is disregarding the fact that many genuine account holders are not getting a turn because of them and they are probably queueing up multiple times on the same day to make that extra buck.

Question is does the student even understand the commerce.
a)    They bunked classes which is a cost borne by parents or by the taxpayer if they are studying in the highly subsidized DU system. Which means they wasted someone’s hard earned money to get something in their own pocket.
b)    Even if we keep the monetary cost of getting education aside, has education become so cheap or worthless in this country that getting attendance somehow is the only concern of the student and the value of attending a lecture of a faculty is totally lost.

2)    Pleasure Without Conscience – The money being earned, so to say, through this is miniscule, surely a few thousands for any of these students is nothing more than money for some pleasure. Does this future, educated leader of our society have such a self centered short term approach?

3)    Knowledge Without Character – It is getting easier to understand why multitude of Institutes and a large student population, aspiring for a job, is largely unemployable. Yet, organizations have a severe shortage of manpower. The disconnect is here. Without work ethics any kind of knowledge is useless.

In this same duration, I also heard a statement that If corruption is curtailed, who will apply for a Government job. Does it imply a Government job is now synonymous with corruption and only a handful of people are honest there? Does it also imply that it is a matter of pride to be corrupt as the importance is only of having money whatever be the means? Does is imply that anyone who is complaining about rampant corruption and scams like in the commonwealth games, the actual complaint is not that it should stop but why I could not get the opportunity to be part of that ill gotten money?

4)    Wealth Without Work – The crux lies here. Everyone seems to be looking for a shortcut to big money with the least effort. There is also no shame in this with names and identities also being easily divulged.
The bigger question? Are these students responsible for this behavior or it is our education system, parents, teachers, including myself who have by action or behavior (direct or indirect) shown this path to the coming generation.
Could this have looked different?
YES – the same action if done with permission and support of teachers could have made a marked difference. If commission was not involved, most likely honest citizens would have been helped, queues would have been much shorter and the country would come back to normal far more quickly.
Analysts say that black money hoarders have little in cash, but it is also true that black money is largely generated at the first instance in cash only. Any cashless transaction always has a track which is much easier to trace. The educated students armed with smartphones and in a country where a very large population has smartphones could have easily utilized their time and energy in educating honest citizens towards cashless transactions and helping them through the process.
While the big fish would definitely not be largely impacted if we go by statistics, like the ones having Swiss bank accounts, are we not concerned with the percolation to the lowest levels. A recent, ‘Satyamev Jayate Episode’, also cited that we have hit the ceiling on corruption and the opportunity to the new generation is that they can only make it better. Take for example, a police constable who owns many flats, cars, etc. Obviously, the known source of income does not generate enough money to even sustain all the maintenance expenses of all this. Does it not imply that corruption is not a means to just build hidden assets but is blatant enough now to be treated as part of monthly income used openly in a lavish lifestyle. Cashless transactions will definitely ensure that going forward such incomes cannot be generated easily.
A win-win situation where honest citizens are helped, students utilize their energy and time towards the benefit of society and nation, short term loss of classes is covered later with extra classes and above all a sense of pride for doing what is right, exhibiting the right ethics. Result – such students would definitely be remembered by many when recommending for jobs. The gain would be so much higher than a few thousands earned now.

Finally, this sort of experience will happen once in a lifetime. Going ahead would anyone like to say we contributed positively whatever be the outcome or we acted like leeches and grabbed the opportunity to make a quick buck from someone else’s troubles. Shallow seems to be the word describing all these students who are blatantly indulging in this. Is this the legacy we are creating, a shallow generation?

Prof. Nituj Gupta

An Intolerant India?

I am amazed at the amount of media attention, mind space and conversational footage the topic is attracting. I wonder - is it so easy for VIP's and celebrities to pass statements, which have far reaching influence, without giving it a second thought? A recent comment by aamir khan, stating that his wife feared for the safety of their child in India, as such, should they plan for relocating to another country?, made me pay attention to the topic which otherwise I was choosing to ignore, considering it to be politically driven. Can comments by a few political leaders make someone as educated and socially aware as Kiran Rao Khan feel unsafe? A lady, who has produced and directed socially relevant movies like Peepli live (which plays out the media drama of a farmer willing to commit suicide) can be so naive to be fearful of her safety based on few comments by politicians. Besides, she is herself a Hindu married to a Muslim as such should fully understand these hateful sentiments are not of the majority of Hindus.

Intolerance: Some Facts

Facts Speak Another Language
The facts show a different perspective. Recently, Times of India reported that the number of deaths due to communal riots is less in the year 2015 compared to 2014, a report, which occupies miniscule space in the corner. While, the Aamir comment and counter comments hog the majority of space.

Another news in the same paper on 27 November 2015, bestowed the same fate, is that Muslims arranged Rs. 50,000 bail amount to secure release of Hindus jailed for petty crimes.

Thriving Stars
Can the three Khans thrive, flourish, be respected, regarded and loved in an intolerant Hindu dominant country? How can such a star feel unsafe? Does he not possess the sensibilities to recognize that most of the comments and incidents are politically driven? Has he suddenly stopped feeling the over whelming love bestowed by his fans? Has he forgotten the box office record-breaking results of his movie PK that questioned religious fundamentalism, illogical religious practices and beliefs including Hinduism? Was it the intolerant India, which was going in hordes and watching the movie, making it the biggest commercial success of its time? 

Give me another such example, from any other country, where the general populace loves and adores the cinema stars of a minority community, the way India does. Can this love really come out of intolerance?

Returning the Awards
Started by Nayantara Sahgal, the act of returning of awards has been emulated by other literati as well. Incidentally, she is Pandit Nehru's niece, obviously with a soft corner for congress. However, the returning the award is no longer confined to India, a Pakistani director Khalid Hassan awarded by Delhi International Film Festival (DIFF) has also decided to do so. Quite ironical, isn't it? Countries populated by those who issue fatwa, it appears are safe and tolerant. Each and every country of the world has seen hate crimes, in the name of race, caste, creed, religion, belief, gender, or even sexual orientation, take place. It doesn't prompt the people to return national awards or contemplate of leaving the country. It raises the question then, what is intolerance? Are we using the word correctly? Or are we just flowing in the wave of some politically motivated agenda. 

No doubt some of the events cited as reasons for returning of the awards are deplorable and should be condemned. No amount of justification can condone them. At the same time, they cannot be allowed to remain unnoticed and a mechanism to draw attention and a proper recourse, such that future such occurrence can be prevented, is required.  However, I fail to appreciate, such extreme steps like the returning of National awards and issuing of statements as mentioned above, as a measure of showing ones protest or drawing attention. A signature campaign by prominent personalities itself could have had the desired impact without the controversy or politicizing it. In fact, these actions seem to take the limelight away from the main issues.
Food for Thought
Is the issue really intolerance or is just a function of the current proliferation of social media and the ability to exaggerate things exponentially in no time.
Are we witnessing a manifestation of viral marketing where quick publicity can be derived from whatever hot topic is running at the time and the more people delve into it, the longer it lingers? It is almost giving a feeling that we are evolving and experimenting with the power of internet and social media connectivity and we do not understand to what limit we can go and how damaging and detrimental it can get.
Is this something like a nuclear bomb to think of it as an extreme where once a chain reaction starts it is difficult to stop and one does not know the extent of damage?
Let's look at some events in the past, where, I can remember "Ice Bucket Challenge", a social cause which went quite viral across the world but was designed to stop somewhere as interest or impact reduced with time. The social policing issues, the recent women menstruation issue. Maybe when it gets politically motivated, on time-tested hot domains including religion, the impact would be far greater and far longer, and that is what we are witnessing today.

The article was penned when Aamir Khan's issue triggered this thought. Is it a possibility that there is a movie round the corner and this is a test of new marketing and publicity? If it pans out positively, as envisioned, the impact on the business bottom-line of the movie would be large. If it doesn’t, Indians are actually extremely tolerant, a simple sorry or a justifiably acceptable answer, of which some indications have already started coming, would be enough for everyone to forgive and forget. Though still being top of mind in terms of marketing, generate a huge response again, for an Aamir Khan movie.

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