Thursday, December 1, 2016

Castro – The last great revolutionary

The twentieth century has been a big turning point in modern human history. Three factors moulded it – First, the continued colonialism since the 18th century, which was itself influenced by mercantilism (accumulation of gold and silver by nations); Second, the miraculous success of industrial revolution in some countries and Third, the social disparities that arose as a result of the two – socialism and its extreme form, communism.

The results of complete success of industrial revolution were evident in some countries. Nations were divided into two groups – modern-industrialized and backward. Those countries which surged ahead went on to develop massive and dangerous military capabilities, and its result manifested in the form of World War I (1914-1919). The result of this devastating war was the ultra-nationalism of some countries, and finally the military expansion by Hitler culminated in the beginning of World War II (1939-1945).

When Germany and Japan were comprehensively defeated, America emerged as the undisputed and insuperable victor. America made relentless efforts to avoid the occurrence of a Third World War, for which it was proposed to constitute an international framework to institutionally help various nations and the focus remained on development and not on militarization. This resulted in the formation of institutions like IMF and the World Bank (WB) in 1945, and for once it was felt that humanity would indeed reach an era of persistent development and peace.

But a consensus on fundamental key issues was never reached – these issues being – which was better, Capitalism or Socialism, Mercantilism or Humanitarianism of the Welfare State, and whether it is right to interfere with sovereign states or not. These three key issues defined the entire twentieth century (from 1945 till the end). And ever since 1950 it was quite clear that the ideological conflict between communism of the Soviet Union and the “unrestrained” capitalism of the US could any time transform into a devastating nuclear battle of the Third World War.

Countries like India, Yugoslavia and Egypt kept themselves away from this tangle and formed a non-aligned group of the Third World countries and categorically conveyed to the first world (US and West) and second world (the Communist bloc) that they would remain out of this conflict. But the conflict between Capitalism (US) and Communism (USSR) flared up so much that the blazing flame of Cold War engulfed the whole world in different ways right from 1950 to 1991. The Cold War – no bullets fired but a nuclear war would loom large, meet at a forum but be prepared for backstabbing – a war of that kind!

Amidst all this a leader emerged in politics right in the backyard of the US who, despite all dangers and assassination attempts, would continue to challenge the mighty US for the next five decades. The message was straight and clear – do not interfere in the affairs of others, do not depict the omnipotence of market-mechanism as Godlike, and do not allow the international institutionalization of the robbing the deprived classes. It was a scary dream which would haunt the US year after year at all international forums that the all-powerful could also commit blunders and that they must be shown a mirror.

Five primary elements of Fidel Castro’s politics and personality defined him. Let us see the magical charisma of this personality.

First – Not losing any opportunity of reminding the US of its blunders despite the constant grave dangers to his own life (the CIA had official sanction to eliminate him!), and boldly raising his assertive voice for hours on end at the UN as well as at all other international fora. This provided a moral support to the poor nations that in a bi-polar world (until 1991), and thereafter in a uni-polar world a lot could be achieved provided one had the courage to speak the truth. Although, most other countries did nothing more than genuflecting their financial knees before global agencies, but still, symbolically Castro continued to shine like the proverbial Pole-Star.

Second – Castro repeatedly cautioned the world that the dangers of global financial systems had converted the entire system into a gambler’s den. In the blazing storm of liberalization and globalization post-1980, these dangers had spread across the world, and Castro's foresight was visible after the 2007 collapse of the US housing sector which prompted a global recession. He had also predicted that the current form of consumerism would finish off all resources. Isn't this not what's precisely happening presently?

Third – Fidel Castro had cautioned that the capitalism that we have embraced, would take social inequality to such a dangerous level – and the 2015 report of Oxfam made it clear when it highlighted the fact that the wealth of top 62 people today is equal to that of half of the global population! This equation (62 = 350,00,00,000) apparently seems to be the most dreadful aspect of the lopsided global economy! And why even recall Castro – remember the words of Mahatma Gandhi “This world has everything for the requirements of all of us, but it does not have anything for the greed of any one of us”.

Fourth – Quite different from the alleged communists of many nations, Castro’s Cuba tried to help and support local revolutionaries of various countries who revolted against the colonial powers. And this was not secret but bold and open, which Cuba had openly declared. So the designs of the power and wealth-hungry colonial powers (mostly European) came in an open and honest manner, and the results were usually pleasant – in Congo, Mozambique and particularly in Angola, where the racist South African army got such a humiliating beating that finally the white regime had to abandon apartheid in 1993! But Castro’s fighters never tried to reap the fruits – they always returned to Cuba after accomplishing their mission. Such honesty in words and deeds is rarely seen in the world.

Fifth and the last was Castro’s never surrendering to mercantilism despite almost the entire world bowing before it! It is now that one realizes that he could envision the power of unlimited greed to plunge humanity into a deep morass.

Despite all the criticism, it would not be wrong to salute Castro for his honesty and his steadfastness towards the goal. This great and last revolutionary of the twentieth century could never be bent, and who gave a firm voice to millions of oppressed communities against mercantilism.

Here is my editorial on the topic published in a Hindi newspaper. Enjoy!,


Thursday, November 17, 2016

Demonetisation and nation-building - a multifarious exercise

Post the major & bold decision on currency demonetisation, many aspects of governance and nation-building are in sharp focus. In the middle of the inconvenience caused to the masses at the banks and ATMs, there are many other serious points to ponder. I wrote an Editorial Article in Hindi, published recently and excerpted below, the English version of which is here. Do let me know your views. Let the Mahayagna begin.

And don't forget to check out our comprehensive analyses on demonetisation, here!

Jai Hind!

An open letter to the Prime Minister

Hon’ble Modiji,

The country is struggling with many grave challenges, and all true Indians are striving to transform these challenges in to opportunities. I am trying to understand all aspects of this intricate subject of modern nation-building. May I attract your attention to seven issues. Despite all the hardships that the common Indians are facing today, crores of citizens feel that a genuine crucial action seems to have been initiated.

First – Entrepreneurship and nation-building - After your important announcement of November 8, an honest entrepreneur who could only weep in despair, has started feeling a sense of relief.  He was compelled to part with his hard, lawfully earned “white” money to gain his lawful rights, by various government officials who would want payment in black. If one did not oblige, it was impossible to go even one step forward. This meant months of further problems.  It seems that out of fear, this menace can be curbed to an extent. Yes, now possibly the number of job seekers in the government sector is likely to go down because a major attraction for these jobs seems to be evaporating!

Sunday, November 6, 2016

न्यायपालिका - कार्यकारी गतिरोध सुलझना आवश्यक

Here is an editorial I wrote for a leading Hindi newspaper. Enjoy, and the link to original image is at the end.

भारतीय राज्य व्यवस्था की सबसे बड़ी खूबी है उसका संतुलन। हमने 1950 से ही, संविधान को अपना सर्वस्व माना, और राज्य के हर अंग को उसके अधीन करते हुए, ऐसी व्यवस्था बनाई जिसने इतने विशाल और विविध देश को 70 सालों से संभाल रखा है।

हमारी राज्य व्यवस्था तीन स्तरों पर कार्य करती है - केंद्र सरकार और उसके संस्थान व निकाय, राज्य सरकारें और उनके संस्थान/निकाय, एवं स्थानीय प्रशासन निकाय (शहरी और ग्रामीण) जो जड़ों तक फैले हुए हैं। चूंकि ये एक वृहद् व्यवस्था है जो विभिन्न सरकारें मिलकर चलाती हैं, अतः संविधान में अनेकों संतुलन बनाये रखने वाले सूत्र दिए गए हैं, मसलन केंद्र-राज्य-स्थानीय निकाय संबंधों को परिभाषित करना और एक निरपेक्ष भाव से उनको चलाते रहने हेतु अनेकों स्वायत्त निकाय भी बनाना।

किन्तु सत्ता का एक श्याम पक्ष होता है - सत्ता भ्रष्ट बनाने की ताकत रखती है, और पूर्ण सत्ता पूर्ण रूप से भ्रष्ट बनाने की ताकत रखती है। इसीलिए, हमारे लोकतंत्र को तीन स्तंभों पर खड़ा किया गया है, एक पर नहीं। पहला - विधायिका (लेजिस्लेटिव) अर्थात संसद व विधानसभाएं, जो कानूनों को बनाती हैं और इन्हीं में से बनती है सरकारें (राजनीतिक कार्यकारी), दूसरा - कार्यपालिका अर्थात प्रशासनिक व्यवस्था जो चुन कर नहीं वरन परीक्षा से चयन होकर आये लोगों से बनती है, और तीसरा - न्यायपालिका जिसका मुख्य कार्य है संविधान की संरक्षा करना, कानूनी विवाद निपटाना और कानून की व्याख्या करना (बनाना नहीं)।

Saturday, November 5, 2016

Detailed Editorial Analyses - Bodhi Prabodhan - a Premium service

I am happy to present to you a Bodhi Prabodhan session - detailed editorial analyses - in which we cover multiple editorials/articles from leading newspapers and magazines, and then present all possible interpretations and insights that students and professionals can directly use. This is part of our Premium service, in the Bodhi Booster platform.

This project was in the making for long, and it was rolled out this week! Here is the complimentary session we uploaded on YouTube, for you!

Bodhi Prabodhan - sample playlist

Some useful information -

Do let me know what you think of this initiative. Thanks for reading, and watching!

Monday, October 31, 2016

The Iron Man who united modern India - a salute

Today is India's Iron Man - Sardar Vallabhbhai Patel's - birth anniversary, and his amazing achievements need to be understood in the context of the complex background he was working in.

The Britishers came into south Asia as traders, became our rulers, looted us for 200 years with all enthusiasm and sowed seeds of discontent and struggle that we are forced to live with till date. The central pillar of their rule over such a huge land with massive diversity was simple - break Indian unity by nurturing selfish kings and princes, while defanging their military strength systematically and giving them a dream of a bright future. Today's Rajya Sabha itself came into being as a Council for such Princes, where they would meet together under British supervision.

As the fires of independence struggle started burning bright, the British were sure of one thing - once they left, India would simply balkanise (break apart) into hundreds of pieces. They knew it as they saw no single Party or individual capable enough of tying the huge land into one thread of unity. The rulers had no idea that a man whose vision was broader than Bismarck and skills sharper than Robert Clive and Warren Hastings combined, was waiting in the wings.

Here is one of the many maps of the India when Britishers left in 1947. The complexity of the situation and immensity of the task of unification could have driven anyone crazy.,

(this is one of the many maps available)

Sunday, October 30, 2016

Festive season of Diwali - a time to reassess India's priorities

The entire nation is drenched in the festive and colourful spirit of Diwali - the festival of lights. It is wonderful to see how over hundreds of years, this festival has taken on contemporary hues while retaining its ancient structure, alive with legends still relevant.

So before moving ahead - here's wishing all my readers a wonderful Diwali!

The key message from Diwali is - arrival of Good, destruction of Bad, cleaning of the clutter and mess, & a renewed vigour for prosperity!

In fact, there's this amazing article on Diwali you must read!

Let me apply Diwali's lessons in a national context. As we near the end of 2016, it is a good time to see the direction our national priorities are taking, and how far we still have to go to ensure a decent quality of life to all Indians.

From the experiences gained in 25 years as an education entrepreneur working at the grassroot levels, I feel that an India aspiring for superpower status needs to urgently work on the seven priorities listed below, and Diwali is the best time to list these!

  1. Rapid economic growth - India needs tonnes of investment, both internal and external, to speed up the industrial sector and overall economy and absorb the huge pool of emerging youth. Many initiatives are being pushed by the Government, with Make-in-India leading the march. Unfortunately, the speed still needs much acceleration. This single priority, if successfully achieved, can put renewed vigour in India's rejuvenation. We have a long way to go.

Tuesday, October 25, 2016

Leadership lessons from Tata Group's latest ordeal

So it happened finally on the 24th October, 2016.

What was simmering below the surface, popping up occasionally through news reports and the rare interviews, rare enough to be brushed under the carpet, exploded into full public view. 

Barely four years into the job, Cyrus Mistry lost his job as the top gun at the huge Tata industrial and services empire in India., Tata sacks Cyrus Mistry,

For the group, it is a rare thing to happen. In fact, in its nearly 150 years of existence, the group has seen only six individuals heading it. That puts it in a league that even the hallowed General Electric can't compete with - GE has had 12 CEOs over 124 years (of course, GE is a single legal entity running multiple businesses, and the Tata Sons holding company is controlling multiple legal entities (separate companies), but that's just a legal difference. For practical purposes, group Chairman is the boss and his word is final). Also, since Mr Mistry belongs to the family that holds the largest chunk of shareholding in Tata Sons (the holding company of the entire group), something must have gone terribly wrong for the Board to resort to such a desperate measure. I try to analyse it from a leadership - management perspective, and hopefully we all have some lessons to learn here.

  1. Times change, Systems usually do not. Well, times had changed in 1991 when the prime minister of India Mr P V Narsimha Rao had thrust an unprepared India into the fires of economic liberalisation. Most corporate groups, accustomed to greasing their way to prosperity, simply fell by the wayside in the raging and unfamiliar storm of global competition. A young Ratan Tata, newly minted Chairman of the Tata Group, set upon radically restructuring the group to stay relevant. He succeeded big time. We have covered that story at length in this Bodhi for our site here. It was the sheer force of Ratan Tata's vision and personality that he carried the group through the most difficult time imaginable. However, Mr Cyrus Mistry was not allowed the same freedom this time round. He was simply removed, as major transformations were afoot. Cyrus was facing the heat of a global slowdown just when the Tata Group had truly globalised itself (65% revenues coming from 100 countries). Was the system not able to cope up with rapid change this time? Obviously not. Was Mr Mistry not able to take the system into confidence? It seems not. For a visionary leader in an important position of power, the quality of communication can mean the difference between pulling it through, and losing it.

Thursday, October 20, 2016

An amazing set of learning resources, for you!

What a fortnight it has been! Full of excitement, new resource launches, and solid innovation. So let me tell you all about it!

First of all, we have launched the Open beta version of a fantastic knowledge portal for learners and achievers, and we passionately call it the - Bodhi Booster!

We are creating amazing Bodhis (articles), Bodhi Prashns (Quizzes on those articles) and bilingual learning content - Hindi Bodhi Booster!

The whole idea came from the constant and pressing need for students across south Asia, and especially India, to have a dedicated portal for GK and current affairs, but one that would be tastefully done, refined and with adequate depth. And yes, one that would do justice to both Hindi and English medium students. We have attempted precisely that.

Just visit Bodhi Booster, and take a taste of this solid resource! Don't forget to spend some quality time knowing the nitty-gritty of it by visiting About Us, FAQs and Bodhi Soochi.

And while you are at it, don't forget to subscribe to the Free weekly newsletter - Bodhi Prakash, here!

And of course, all this is available in Hindi as well, in parallel, here!,,

This has taken tremendous passion and perseverance for the whole team, and we are happy with the beta that's out for you to enjoy.

Sunday, October 2, 2016

What would happen if everyone on the planet was a billionaire?

The concept of ‘Money’ is the most fantastic creation of the human mind. It is artificial, and holds up only because we all allow it to.

It has helped speed up a lot of our daily lives, due to easy understanding of transactions. This much we all know, agree with, and love, as none would like to prefer using the alternative - bartering.

So what this amazing invention called ‘money’ has done is to reduce every product, experience, service and interaction to a common scale - the value scale - measured through a certain currency (convertible to another, or most of the rest). That this ‘money’ is physical or virtual, convertible or non-convertible, means little in the bigger scheme of things (unless, of course, you are a crook or a cyber-thief siphoning off central banks’ monies! Or North Korea.)

Value” is what underlies everything. It defines how much money we are willing to part with, or earn through hard labour, and also why shining objects called the iPhones can keep commanding ridiculous sums of money to get owned, despite equally good or even better products available at much lower ‘prices’.

Value is, because you have more of what can measure it, and I have less of it (or vice versa). Value (created through human effort) and the dissimilar amounts of moneys that can exchange it, creates the required ‘potential difference’ that keeps economies moving.

brightsparks, sandeep manudhane, money, inflation, hyperinflation, value

So, when you give a sum of, say, $ 1 billion to every human on Earth,

Sums of money with everyone = Equal, huge, equally huge!
Potential Difference needed to create meaningful flows of value = Nil
Value of the “money” we hold = Equal, hence very low!
Worth of what we hold = drastically down
Prices of nearly all products and services = sky high (worth down)
Welcome to hyperinflation, and the breakdown of monetary systems.
Government’s response? Reset the monetary system. Create new potential differences.

As an extension of this thought, it is amazing to visualise mankind’s future. If machine-use speeds up drastically and possible infinite energy sources like cold fusion etc. really come into being, we have a perennial and super-abundant future. Money will become meaningless in the glut-economy, and bingo! We would have created a truly communist society! Ha, ha.

I have tried to analyse the whole idea of money is a series of lectures, the first of which can be viewed by clicking below.

The Concept of Money

Thank you for reading.

Friday, September 23, 2016

The need for ambitious self-teaching

internet economy, Bright Sparks blog, Sandeep Manudhane, PT education, PT's IAS Academy, ecommerceIn today's competitive age, millions of young Indians are trying to achieve their life-goals, either through the job market or by pursuing an entrepreneurial dream. More than 10 million new faces join the race each year! Indeed, that makes it a very tough race, and old methods that worked in an age gone by, can neither ensure victory nor any solid destination. And we keep coming across depressing news items in media regarding our degree-holders being unemployable. Many of our colleges and universities, assuming outdated and obsolete methods of imparting education and skills as relevant to the present day tsunamis, are delivering something that has little practical value. No one in particular is responsible, yet everyone actually is! We hear passionate cries promising system-repair, but little turns up on the ground. The youth understands that she/he needs to do something, but is usually clueless regarding the nitty-gritty.

A common refrain is - there are no opportunities, and the markets have little to offer educated people.

All this is having a telling effect on our social and political situation as well. Tensions keep mounting, and immediate solutions elude us. The choice before most of us is clear - either we give us and stop dreaming, or decide to go after it and find a solution. If you are young by age or attitude, then the latter option is always preferable! The good news is that in these difficult and changing times, there are many resources available that can easily impart skills which will not only develop your self-esteem and confidence, but even your market value. Let us try and understand how using simple and easy tools, we can learn something of value each day. These could mean the difference between success and failure. Seen as a whole, these can help our Indian society remain much more optimistic and positive.

First and foremost, we need to understand that the very internet that has revolutionsed most sectors, and has created huge problems for conventional methods, has simultaneously created a wonderful opportunity as well - it has brought the best teachers and learning resources right on your computer screen, available on a click. Many of them will do it free for you (on, say, Youtube), and the rest will do it at a price (on personal teaching sites). Try getting the gist of this argument. If you really want to crack it, then you have an option of getting help from the most skilled professionals in the world on a one-to-one basis, and this can help you deliver more in your job and race forward. Not only this, you can become an internet entrepreneur yourself, without any major investment. Excited? Let's see some milestones you're likely to face in this exciting journey.

First milestone - Make three things a part of your daily life. (a) Read the blogs and articles by experts of your chosen field (on the internet), (b) Keep digging deep into the multiple aspects of emerging technologies (on relevant technology websites and forums), and (c) Keep saving relevant and useful content in a notebook (or a webtool like Evernote). Just keep at this for six months at least, and realise how the techniques of learning and skilling have truly transformed. As an example - many engineering related courses are available for free. Immense resources are available related to technologies being used on the internet to create various tools. Multiple marketplaces abount (like Envato), where skilled graphic and web designers can sell their wares, without even stepping out of their homes. And if you have the teacher-talent in you, then why not start your own course academy to teach others (using platforms like Ruzuku, Kajabi, Udemy etc.), and earn in dollars!

Second milestone - When you will start spending your time (and datapack) on these skill-focussed areas rather than mostly useless chatting and video-watching, then you'll surely face three questions. Whom to follow daily (Google to the rescue, followed by Alexa ranking like tools), which paid programmes are really useful (check out various review and comparison sites), and how to really turn your entrepreneurial dreams into reality (check out teaching, blogging and hosting sites). You'll surely face problems with English. So you'll begin searching the right language teachers. The plethora of options will make your mind spin! I strongly feel that the millions of educated ladies who often utilise their talents only in cooking food for their families - they can (with some effort) become a micro-entrepreneur leveraging the internet and empower themselves and their families. If the family elders happen to be hyper-conservative, they can be told that this would not necessarily entail action outside the home.

Third milestone - To prepare oneself, one's organisation, and the nation too, for the coming decades. It surely is not an exaggeration to say that the internet-enabled storm of easily available yet powerful technologies has totally transformed most sectors. We witness the changes in many areas like taxi services, shopping platforms, medical diagnosis and freelancing. Sadly, the Indian brands are not at the forefront of this unique race (surprising, given the dominance Indians display in services and in running some of these very global leader brands!). I have often spoken of this issue, calling it 'Digital Sovereignty' or 'Digital Independence'. Why has this happened? A simple answer is - we have spent our energies in cramming stuff, and acing exams. We lost the art of learning. The three key skills duly adapted to a new world - ability to read & comprehend fast, expressing ourselves through the written word beautifully, and basic arithmetic - were not developed. Net result? The easy methods by which one can try to cater to a global market despite being a micro-entrepreneur are not in our radar.

The choice is ours - keep cursing the system, and wait for a messiah who will transform the entire scenario. Or begin the journey of our individual success today, and start creating innovative products and services using modern technologies. We may not succeed always, but when we do, it may be spectacular.

My Hindi editorial article on this theme was published recently. Can check here!

Internet economy, Indian education, technologies, e-commerce, Sandeep Manudhane Hindi articles


Monday, August 29, 2016

The Balochistan issue 2016

A common question doing the rounds in India is the possible manner in which reactions to the reference to Balochistan (by the Indian PM in the 15th August independence day speech) will play itself out. As everyone knows, the constant meddling by Pakistan in creating unrest in Kashmir, and the handlers of Mumbai terror attack (and many more attacks) openly operating from its soil has worsened relations between the two South Asian neighbours. 

It is very unlikely that the chain of events will immediately lead to any violent skirmishes, but there is little doubt that a process to balance out perceptions has been started by India. Let us take a look at the issue in totality now.

Here is the Indian tricolour in the hands of Baloch activists in Germany. They have seized the moment to voice their concerns worldwide.
Human rights violation, Balochistan, India, Pakistan, Germany, China, Kashmir unrest, BrightSparks blog

We all know the strategic importance of both Balochistan as well as the CPEC passing through it and the PoK, which is an integral part of India. The debate heated up in past 5 years due to the two ports coming into limelight, and the recent trouble in Kashmir, fomented by Pakistan. The Baloch fear more oppression and resource-grabbing than earlier.

Wednesday, August 24, 2016

Olympics Success – our Soft-Power ladder

Olympics, India at the Olympics, Olympics medals tally, Excellence, hard power, soft power, India, PT education, PT's IAS Academy, BrightSparks blog, Sandeep Manudhane
Excellence all the way
In the interconnected world of today, a nation can display its might in two ways – Hard Power and Soft Power. For example, in the digital world of the internet, approximately 80 percent leading brands are American, and the common man (user) unquestioningly accepts that country’s supremacy. India, similarly, has become a big brand in information technology. In military power (hard), Indian definitely figures in the top 5, and even China hesistates to take it head-on in several matters. Likewise, in manufacturing (hard power), even America finds it tough to compete with China. Many strategic global marathons like these are incessantly being run, and a huge nation weaving the dream of emerging a superpower, cannot stay aloof.

In this background, let us attempt an unbiased and neutral analysis of India’s Olympics performance.

In India, the common population stays indifferent to what happens at the Olympics, normally. Several reasons account for it – Olympics’ not being in the governments’ priorities, the expensive nature of many games and sports, and the youth being involved in studies or livelihood activities rather than making games the aim of their lives. Every four years, when this mega global competition happens, the national media suddenly changes focus to issues like national glory and priorities. This year was special – a society that habitually carries out female foeticide and burns its brides for dowries, wan in rapture when girls won many medals at Rio. Suddenly, slogans like Beti Bachao, Beti Padhao, Beti Khilao (Save the girl child, educate her, let her play) became the rage. It will be worth seeing if those raising such slogans and updating their social media status accordingly, will celebrate if a girl child arrives in their families!

Sunday, August 21, 2016

Why are well-planned Indian cities so rare?

As urbanisation picks up pace across India, albeit not matching global levels, this is one question that we are forced to confront frequently.

In my opinion, India is so bad at planning cities because we have no ‘one’ effective, central urbanisation plan at all. We do not have state-level urbanisation plans either. And till recently, we did not even have effective, functional district level comprehensive urbanisation plans. Though there have been ministries and departments, but their power to make deep dents in the system was negligible.

Sounds shocking, right? The only plans we have had so far have been after random, haphazard growth in Indian cities has already happened. Then, authorities would scramble to make it work, turn it revenue-positive and make it look less dis-organised. This story repeated itself countlessly over and over, time and again. It was only post 1991–92, after the 73rd and 74th constitutional amendments were carried out, that Rural local bodies and Urban local bodies gained prominence.

But why is there such a mess? Three prime reasons - basically a rural nation + no effectively funded centralised plan + huge regional variations.

. . . . .

REASON 1. Primarily a Rural nation - In 1951, India had only 5 cities with a population more than 10 lacs, and only 41 cities with more than 1 lac people. Villages were more than 5.6 lacs. Today in 2016–17, more than 65 percent of our people live in rural areas, or just-above rural towns. These are the prime focus of all governments, due to sheer numbers, and the political meaning it carries. The fact that rural folks are primarily agriculturists makes it simpler for the policy-makers to focus largely on them. The figures are tell-tale.

Urbanisation in India, Rural India, Ministry of Urban Development, AMRUT, Housing for All, Government of India, Smart Cities, PT education, PT's IAS Academy, Sandeep Manudhane, BrightSparks blog, Indore, India
Indian urbanisation has a long way to go yet

Saturday, August 20, 2016

Our unhealthy GDP (an article in Hindi)

चकित न हों - मुझे पता है भारत की जीडीपी वृद्धि दर विश्व में फिलहाल सर्वाधिक है (चीन से भी अधिक) और अनेक अंतर्राष्ट्रीय निकाय हमें शाबाशी दे रहे हैं. हमारे आर्थिक सर्वेक्षण 2016 एवं बजट 2016-17 में भी इस आधार पर अनेक योजनागत विश्लेषण व अनुमान लगाये गए हैं. अच्छा है, जीडीपी का परिमाण बढ़ना ही चाहिए अन्यथा हर साल सुरसा के मुंह की भांति बढ़ रही हमारी आबादी खपेगी कहाँ, नौकरियां आएँगी कहाँ से और प्रति व्यक्ति आय बढ़ेगी कैसे. ये सब तो ठीक है, किन्तु हमारी पूरी व्यवस्था 5  ऐसी बीमारियों से ग्रसित हो गई है जिनका इलाज नहीं हुआ तो वृद्धि के लाभ केवल कागज़ों पर रह जायेंगे.

प्रसिद्ध चिंतक प्रोफेसर एंगस मेडिसन ने अपने अध्ययन से ये सिद्ध किया कि ऐतिहासिक रूप से भारत और चीन विश्व के सर्वाधिक समृद्ध देश रहे हैं. इन दोनों का जीडीपी विश्व के कुल का साठ प्रतिशत से अधिक हुआ करता था. प्रसिद्ध पत्रिका द इकोनॉमिस्ट ने इस चित्र के ज़रिये इस सच्चाई को बताया -

Angus Madisson, The Economist, India, China, GDP, Economy
विश्व इतिहास का अदभुत सच 

किन्तु जैसा हम जानते हैं, और जी रहे हैं, आज की स्थिति बिलकुल उलट है.

How can I stop being average in life?

How can I stop being average? A great answer is possible for “How can I be excellent at anything?”
~ A practical guide to creating excellence in daily life ~
  • Do work you love to do. That is the indispensable first condition.
  • If you are stuck in a profile you hate, leave. Or, begin loving it. No third way.
  • Everyday, try to be a bit faster and more efficient that the earlier day.Consciously. Don’t ask your boss, do it on your own.
  • Constantly imagine what you desire others should say of your work - “average”, “chalta hai”, “professional”, “wow!”, “reliable”, …
  • Make formats (small and big) that you can replicate the next time - for everything possible. It saves amazing amounts of time and makes you very fast.
    Excellence, Work culture, Success, Professional, Happy, Prosperity, Sandeep Manudhane, PT education, PT's IAS Academy
  • Organize your stuff. Files, papers, software, hardware, everything. Acid test - how much time you take to retrieve anything.
  • Read about your area of work regularly. It keeps you alarmed enough to never lose the incentive to learn new things.
  • New skills take time to learn and master. Be very patient, but aggressive all the while. Find an accomplished guru who’s willing to mentor you (fastest and surest way, but very difficult to find)
  • Inquisitiveness killed the cat, but it’ll build your excellence. Ask, inquire, search, sift, collate, reject, edit, absorb.
  • Keep your silliness at bay - don’t smirk when someone points out your shortcomings, don’t laugh when someone fails, be willing to dish out money on great books/literature (of immediate use), etc.
  • Don’t envy the accomplished. Praise them whole-heartedly.
And if you find all this tedious and useless, there’s no compulsion at all. Just don’t complain the next time you miss the pay hike or bonus, and are unable to achieve your material goals. Settle at a lower orbit, and if you can be happy with it, perfect.
Life does not expect excellence for survival. It is stuff dreams are made of.

Friday, August 19, 2016

How would Indian civilisation be different today had Nalanda not been destroyed?

Indians often wonder how things would be, had the great centres of learning like Nalanda, Takshashila and Vikramshila would still be around, flourishing. These and more fell to the invaders from time to time, and only a small part of the glory exists today.
How would Indian civilization be different today had Nalanda University not been destroyed?
A simple, straight, innocent but incomplete answer would be -
Muhammad bin Bakhtiyar Khilji was a warrior with weapons, who upon encountering the mighty Nalanda, saw thousands of savants who intellectually were centuries ahead of anything he had experienced. Nalanda was using the formal Vedic systems of learning since 5th c. A.D., like Takshashila and Vikramshila. Khilji had two choices - bow his head, learn from them, exceed them in knowledge. Or, burn them down. In ca.1193 AD, he chose to end Nalanda. And had this monster not done so, this University would be better and bigger than the Harvards and Stanfords of this world. India would have had a big education brand to flaunt globally, and so on and so forth.
Modern day ruins of Nalanda, and a reconstruction of the University seal -

Khilji and the end of the Buddhist monks -

BUT Such an answer will be not only superficial, it will be a grave injustice to the ancient Indians who built a magnificent civilization second to none.

Wednesday, August 17, 2016

Thinking of Independence Day 2016, and more!

Every independence day is special. It's a reminder for both Pakistan and India that entire generations were swallowed by the monster called colonialism, and a hard-earned freedom was achieved after grit and determination paid off in 1947.
Unfortunately, the subcontinent's history took rather unsavoury turns after that, and demons of poverty, hunger, malnutrition and under-development still roam free. Our people who deserve the best, make do with poor per capita incomes in challenging circumstances.
What a united approach to development could have achieved for everyone in south Asia, is marred by acrimony and discord. In light of this historical reality, and the present day troubles at the border, the speech of PM Narendra Modi from Red Fort on 15-August 2016 was an important one. Modi is trying to make governance more responsive and quick, against all prevailing odds. In a boisterous democracy with a free press and a multitude of opinions that disagree with anything a PM (any PM) may try to do, the task of leading India is not easy!
I know that India is facing many problems that affect citizens' quality of life. We have to find solutions together.
In addition to tens of regularly important points made by the prime minister in an energetic Independence Day speech 2016, the following three struck me hard -
  1. Reminding Indians of something called “Work Culture” - We Indians are proud of our ancient culture and legacy. PM Modi made it a point to repeatedly mention “work culture” to remind us that unless we work to improve our present through productivity and decisiveness, we won’t have a justified claim on a glorious future. His references to the countless (and some already successful) new schemes and initiatives was interlaced with the work culture dna. In my study of the past 25 years, he is the first PM to speak thus. Indira Gandhi - the iron lady - had used it earlier through a famous slogan “Baatein kum, kaam zyada” meaning talk less, do more. But that had fizzled out. Modi must have learnt his lessons, and his trying to ensure that IT can be used to ensure transparency in delivery.

Monday, August 15, 2016

This independence day, a call for Digital Independence

With tremendous grit, determination and zeal, millions of Indians led by some of the finest leaders struggled for, and were able to, freeing the Indian subcontinent from the clutches of one of the most rapacious colonial masters ever, 70 years ago.

Jai Hind, Vande Mataram, Indian independence, 1947, 15th August, Freedom, Democracy
Vande Mataram
India was free, on 15th of August, exactly 69 years ago. The biggest, bulkiest and the most promising democracy of 130 crore citizens is now entering its 70th year of freedom.

These seven decades have been tumultuous for India, which has swerved through the highways of disorder, confusion, conflicts, evolution but definite progress on all fronts. All, but one that's defining global discourse and power today.

Times have changed dramatically in the last few years, however. From a purely brick-and-mortar model of economy dominating the discourse on what freedom and achievement could mean, we are now witnessing a profound shift towards click-and-mortar or pure-click models dominating not just individual national economies, but spanning the oceans at literally the click of a mouse.

Today, digital assets define some crucial aspects of a national economy like
  • Ability to share information (email, messengers, chat tools, social media)
  • Ability to transact commercially online (marketplaces, payment gateways)
  • Ability to connect to the world and showcase one's work (social media)
  • Project national power through platforms everyone uses daily (Apps, Software)
  • Running parts of the real, hard economy (giant digital corporations)

And in the middle of this profound change, India has emerged as with many natural advantages. A growing nation of 1.3 billion individuals where the per capita income can only improve with time represents the biggest commercial and strategic opportunity for any brand or company. That is the reason for almost every large global brand to make a beeline for starting operations in India where they need to be physically present here in a large way, or to operate with minimum physical presence where the nature of things do not require them to.

Saturday, August 13, 2016

How to maximise scores in UPSC Prelims exam - detailed analysis

As I do each year, here is the comprehensive solution to both papers of UPSC Civil Services exam 2016. Each session is of 2 hours.

What you should learn from these sessions 

  1. Macro approach to tackling a tough test like this
  2. How to budget your time across the 100 or 80 questions
  3. Basic test-taking-techniques (TTT)
  4. Scan - Search - Select - Solve techniques to maximise your score
  5. Staying positive throughout till the last moment
  6. Tricks and Test-smarts e.g. using options to quickly get the answer

UPSC Prelims 2016 - Paper I (GS) 
Here is the complete questionwise analysis

UPSC Prelims 2016 - Paper II (GS - CSAT) 
Here is the complete questionwise analysis 

To read detailed analysis, go to this page.

Thursday, August 11, 2016

UPSC exam - a mirror to the Nation

Recently, the preliminary stage of renowned civil services exam of Union Public Services Commission was held across India. Lacs of young women and men, desirous of getting into the topmost services like IAS and others, participated enthusiastically. These youngsters, full of passion and hopes, have a heartfelt desire to contribute positively to a transformation of the nation.The number of aspirants is growing by the year, and it is interesting to observe that in an era of rapid privatisation of economy, the longing for government jobs is growing! I analyse this exam each year, and try to decipher and learn/explain the trends behind the questions.

UPSC, IAS exams, Civil Services, Narendra Modi, transparency, UDAY scheme, Aadhar card, PT's IAS Academy, PT education, Sandeep ManudhaneWe will now focus on a special aspect of this, which is the fact that the flavour of questions included this year in the examination clearly reflected the changing parameters of administrative services in the country. The manner in which the present government, in keeping with a changing world, is trying to inculcate a completely new paradigm, was visible through the questions. A sincere student, and every citizen for that matter, should try to understand this.

Five aspects related to this become clear.

First : Environment and ecology has not only become a sensitive issue, to keep pace with the various global treaties and institutions has become essential for India. A nation that would always listen to other, proposed the creation of an "International Solar Alliance" headquartered in India, and this was quite stunning for not only the common people, but also world powers. The manner in which India, bound by various complex treaties and conventions of the United Nations, is having to modify its laws, is interesting to watch. Many questions reflected the complex nature of the environmental issues confronting the Western Ghats in India.

Second : The government is connecting administration with technology to enable faster processes, and this has become a ground reality now. The multiple elements of Digital India are not just showcased in reports, they are entering our lives. An example is "Digilocker". Who could have imagined just 10 years ago that school certificates of students would be stored in authenticated digital lockers which they'd be able to use anytime, anywhere? The manner in which neem-coated Urea (fertilizer) will reduce corruption and increase productivity, is interesting to watch. Core-banking is now an established technique, and students were reminded of Payment Banks also. It is clear that the government wants future civil servants to not only be sensitive towards grassroot realities, but also have the courage to accept technology to deliver quick governance processes.

Third : The Modi government, on one hand gave a huge platform to Aadhar authentication services, and at the same time launched a list of Schemes (Yojanas) with the potential to transform India's administrative and current framework. Questions were asked pertaining to many schemes, indicating the UPSC's desire to select students aware of them. Examples include the "UDAY" scheme for power distribution companies, "SWAYAM" scheme for large scale online courses, Stand-up India scheme for the backward classes and women, crop insurance scheme for farmers, Rashtriya Garima scheme for Dalit-dignity, etc. That India's administrative discourse will revolve around these schemes in the coming future, is certain.

Fourth : It was clear that global developments are leaving their sure marks on India, and we have no choice but to engage with them. How the "Project Loon" of Google could deliver 4G-internet through balloons was visible, how China's renminbi made it to the IMF's SDR, what are the controversial subsidy 'boxes' of WTO, how does the European stability mechanism work; what's the relationship between RCEP, ASEAN and India, India and the Ease of Doing Business Index, China's One Belt One Road prohject, etc. - were enough for us to understand that the coming years will be quite different from the decades gone by. Indians, and civil servants, will have to be ready to tackle these issues.

Fifth : We cannot afford to forget out roots, in the midst of all these changes. Our history, world history, our cultural legacy, our our democratic and parliamentary framework and rules, procedures to make new laws - all these hint at the fact that Indians can never turn away from their roots. More so for UPSC IAS exam aspirants!

In addition, the reading comprehension passage and basic aptitude questions in the second paper ascertained the ability to successfully battle with numbers. Hindi medium students had, through protests in 2014, ensured that the second paper was made qualifying, rather than scoring. The allegation was that the English reading comprehension passages being asked (not the bilingual ones), were doing injustice. Also that the logical reasoning and mathematics questions were favouring students from the engineering background. If you observe the working style of top administration officials today, you'll find that preparing Schemes based on facts/numbers and logically argued reports, and getting them executed using technology has become the government norm now. The numbers of all departments are being fed into online dashboards, for transparent public scrutiny. It is important to love one's own languages, but we should not deprive ourselves from learning English. Youth desirous of making a career in any field should not try to escape maths and logical reasoning. Sooner or later, they'll confront you for sure.

So we see how an exam can judge not only students' static knowledge and bookish insights, but also their grip on national developments and the intense desire to contribute to nation-building. One hopes that these talented students will, in the coming years, avoid being victims of corruption and longing for favourable postings, and will contribute to making India a great nation in the 21st century.

I have prepared a comprehensive question-wise analyses of both papers. Check here!

My Hindi article on the same here -

IAS exams, IAS coaching, PT's IAS Academy, PT education, Civil Services in India, Sandeep Manudhane, IAS articles, UPSC

Jai Hind!