Wednesday, July 22, 2009

NATIONAL BENCH for the next three months

Reproduced from

Nandan Nilekani's first day in Parliament

The House was in pin drop silence. I was brimming with anticipation and excitement!! !! Manmohan had informed me that my introduction was one of the important points of the agenda. I hoped that I will be able to make my speech properly. After so many interviews and conferences, I was nervous today!!!! After the Speaker indicated that the proceedings of the House could begin, Manmohan formally introduced me to the entire House. He mentioned that as the head of the Unique Identification Authority of India, I was responsible to ensure that each and every Indian had a digital smart card as a proof of his existence.

Manmohan spoke about why I was selected and also some references to the various projects executed by me in Infosys were mentioned. The House listened with rapt attention. I was asked to say a few words and I did exactly the same!!! I thanked the Government of India for having given me this opportunity and I assured the House that I would strive to successfully deliver this project. The Speaker then formally inducted me into the House and before the proceedings could move any forward, there was a small commotion on the other side of the hall.
It was Minister of Textiles who had a comment to make before the next point on the agenda. He made a request that I should be attired in a more austere way instead of a flashy suit. It did not go well with the image of a minister who should live to serve the common man and should be less ostentatious in his habits. I stood up to reply. I offered my apologies to the Honourable Minister and assured that I shall be in a more acceptable dress next time. I felt that he was right. We also used to have corporate dress code in Infosys. So it's here as well!!!!
I sat down and felt somebody nudging me. I turned around and to my surprise; it was the former Indian skipper and one of my favourite batsman Mohd. Azharuddin. I remembered that he had recently won the elections. I smiled at him and mentioned to him that I used to like his game very much, shaking his hand. No Rolex, I noticed. Azhar told me that he would “fix” me an appointment with an Italian designer who had designed his dapper Kurta suit. An Italian designer in Milan doing Kurtas!!!!! I made a note of this and reminded myself to give this example to Friedman for his next book,” The World Markets are flattened”.

Since there was no doubt about the “Fixational” capacities of Azhar, I told him to give me the details and I would consider. The proceedings of the House went on with numerous bills being debated and passed as I sat as a passive audience waiting for my project’s turn to come up. After the lunch break, it was the moment for me!!!!


I was at sea. My laptop did not have any reserve power. I went to Manmohan and apprised him of the situation. I was sweating. He calmly replied that this would not be a cause of concern. I was flummoxed!!! ! The Speaker asked me to explain to the House on what were my plans for the Unique Identity Project. I replied that I have a plan prepared for 30-60-90-120 days’ milestones and I have presentation to make for which I need a power socket, a projector and a screen. I had no idea what was going to happen after this.

The next couple of minutes were a complete jolt for me. I was completely in a tizzy. Let me just summarize what happened. A Joint Cabinet Secretary Committee was set up to judge the feasibility of my request. The Under Secretaries for the Ministries of Power, IT and Broadcasting will prepare a Viability Report after scrutinizing National Security threats to my request. This was because the power socket comes under Power, laptop comes under IT and projector comes under Broadcasting. I have also been told to reconsider my timelines of 30-60-90 days and start thinking in terms of years. Probably, they are right. I did not have the foresight in this matter.

The summary of the issue is that I need to come up with a more inclusive, democratic, comprehensive long term plan for this project to be executed over the next five years. I have also been given a presentation slot 3 months from now (by which the issues related to the power cord etc will also be resolved). I am filled with mixed reactions. I was planning for a quick resolution; the management wants a strategic solution.

I come out of the House and text Murthy.
“You won’t believe it but these guys work just like us. I am on a NATIONAL BENCH for the next three months!!!!!! !!”

Wednesday, July 15, 2009

Memoirs of Noida: Tera Saal Baad (After 13 years)

It's not very far when we'd be 'Bees Saal Baad' from the time we'd graduated. Today is the day when many of us started our career some thirteen years back. Thirteen years..... wow, and it seems to be just a wink. I remember almost every gory details of the day when so many of us joined a company called Duet Technologies (which was later bought by Motorola and which finally exist as Freescale in Noida).

Almost all of us, who had been recruited from IIT KGP, took the Delhi Rajdhani on 12th July, 1996, also my birthday, and reached Delhi on 13th, a Saturday. A guest house was arranged for us by the company in Sector 25 in Noida. The same evening we ventured out into finding rental accommodation. That's when I teamed up with Avra, Samit and Tanujoy. The first attempt was rather quite shocking. For the first time in life we came to know that being bachelor is a crime. The landlord, an old Sardar and a retired army personnel, told us very frankly that bachelors like us, who work in 'Compootar' are the biggest nuisance in the society, that we spoil the sanctity of the neighborhood, we watch girls (well, what else did he expect us to do, specially when we're coming directly to a place infested with so many girls from a girls-starved place like IIT?), we don't use curtains in our rooms (what's the use of curtains - did we have anything to hide from others?), we played music at high volume (wow, music is life, isn't it? and what's the use of music if others are not able to hear?), we booze a lot (as if no one else drinks in Delhi!!), we bring girls at homes (who told him that we had girls? wasn't that what we'd been starving for, for the past so many years? Getting girls is a matter of pride, isn't it?) and many more, none of which I could relate to bad character or bad manners. None of these were at all any issue in our hostel life. On the contrary if we could get a girl to our room during a Hall Day, it used to be a matter of great pride. If I used curtains, people in the wing would have surely torn them apart thinking that I was hiding something from them. Not everyone had the music system with a pitcher-sound-box (an indigenous gadget for amplification, where an earthen pitcher was used as the sound box), and the one who had a one had to play it on full volume for the entertainment of the whole wing. We used to believe in the philosophy that music and knowledge should be shared with all.

Anyway, after the futile effort of getting rental accommodation in the first evening we, dejected and disappointed, went to the Brahmaputra Shopping Complex and did exactly one of the things for which we're not getting rent - see girls. That's when the term 'Punju-chicks' became a very respected and sought after one. Unfortunately each girl had a hutta-khatta boy friend. Nevertheless, we could make out that the ratio of boys-to-girls was not as bad as that in IIT. So, at least some of us held some chance, provided we did well!!

The next morning, Sunday, was spent completely in house hunting. After being kicked out from many places, we finally got one with a premium on the rent. The land lady stayed at Pune. It was 1450, Park View Apartments, Sector 25, Noida. We're quite lucky to get the house, though the agent, through whom we got it, made us agree to a number of rules and regulations - all of which we couldn't but violate.

Then came the 15th morning. We're still staying in the guest house. We took the office bus at around 8am and reached the NEPZ (Noida Export Processing Zone) after 30-40 mins. The journey was through many villages, typical of UP. At some point of time I really had a concern about where exactly would the office be located. I still remember the name of one of the villages that we had to cross - Dadri. That was also our first hand experience at typical UP style buses with more people on the top than inside.

At office the HR manager, Harsha Menon (she is still there in Freescale Noida) greeted all of us - close to some 40-50 people from various colleges of across India. Very soon we're told that from the next day we'd be having training sessions in the night and we won't have to come during the day time. Well that was way before the call centers started in India and night shifts were associated with only factory workers!! We found out the reason behind this. In nineties generally 40% people would turn up for job. The other 60% would go for higher studies. All companies used to follow this thumb rule and recruit accordingly. The 96 batch throughout India turned out to be quite different. Almost 100% people turned up on 15th July at Duet Tech and they didn't have any provision to accommodate so many. Declining offers were not in practice. That's why someone came up with the innovative idea of asking people to come in the nights when there won't be any problem to accommodate us. The management also thought that seeing such things 60% people would anyway quit and finally they would be left with 40%. But then that was not to happen. I'll talk about that some other day.....

Tuesday, July 7, 2009

There's a hole in the bucket

There’s a children’s song which goes like this:

There's a hole in the bucket,
Dear Liza, dear Liza
There's a hole in the bucket,
Dear Liza, there's a hole.

Then fix it, dear Henry,
Dear Henry, dear Henry
Then fix it, dear Henry,
Dear Henry, fix it.

Hary Belafonte and his wife used to often enact the roles of Henry and Liza live on stage. I’d first heard this song as a small kid in our old gramophone on one of those 78 RPM discs. Little did I know that a bucket with a hole is indeed a very important thing. Within a few years the bucket with a hole came back in the maths book. I used to really dread those maths problems where we’re asked to calculate how long it would take to fill a bucket which has a hole. I used to always wonder who on the earth would like to fill a bucket with hole? Isn’t it much more efficient to first fix the hole, as told by Henry, and then fill it? There were certain sums where the bucket wouldn’t be filled at all because the rate at which the water drained out of the hole used to be higher than that of filling.

Times have passed. Gone are the days of those gramophones and Hary Belafonte and the maths of ‘hole in the bucket’. But the bucket never sank into oblivion. It’s there everywhere around me. And very much like the tougher problems where the bucket would drain out totally, the buckets around me also seem to be in a state of perpetual drain-out. More interesting is the fact that people are ready to pour more and more water in the bucket, but not ready to fix the hole.

According to
reports, a fresh estimate from the ministry of food processing says a whopping Rs 58,000 crore (close to USD 1.5billion) worth of agriculture food items get wasted in the country every year.

In 2008 India produced 230 million tonnes of food grain and converted itself from a net importer to net exporter in the sector. Even though India is second in tropical fruit production after Brazil and in vegetable after China, the farmers over here do not get proper price for their produce. “The reason is we cannot process and preserve more than 10-15 percent of our production. It perishes. Else farmers sell it at throw-away prices” – that’s what Pranab Mukherjee has
reportedly told very recently.

The government has issued a total of 223 million ration cards against a total estimated 180 million households. In other words, there are at least 43 million ghost cards.

According to published reports, The Planning Commission says, adding that “leakages” are common – higher than 75 per cent in Bihar and Punjab. During 2003-04, it estimates that eight million tonnes of food grains out of 14 million allotted to BPL families never reached them. “For every 1kilogram that was delivered to the poor, Government of India had to issue 2.23 kilograms” of food grains.

There is no comprehensive estimate about the exact figures of the leakages. But there’s no doubt that much of the food problem and poverty can be tackled if some Liza fixes these leaks. The recent budget presented in the Lok Sabha yesterday has gone gung ho over the various bucket filling strategies like National Rural Employment Guarantee Scheme and Antyodaya Anna Yajona. Many populist measures like Rs 3/kg rice to BPL families, free power and loan waiver are also in the plate - all these at a point when the fiscal deficit of our country is close to 10% (including the deficit of the states) of our GDP. No one is saying that filling the bucket is a bad thing. But isn’t it more efficient to first fix the hole in the bucket and then fill it with what ever you like?

To fix the 'hole' small NGOs may not be the solution because it would take ages to cover the full country. Government alone has to do this with the help of private partnerships. Things that we need immediately are:
  • Much better food storage facility so that bulk of the perishable fruits and flowers and vegetables are not wasted daily. Our Finance Minister Mr. Pranab Mukherjee has recently pointed out that we need a revolution in Food Processing. Yes, we need that more than many other things.
  • Much better retail chain that gets rid of the innumerable middle-men. The gap between the farmers and the end buyers should come down so that farmers can get higher sale price and buyers lower retail price. This has a positive effect on the standard of living of the farmers because they are also buyers of farm products produced by other farmers. Multi nationals like Metro Cash and Carry, Reliance etc should be encouraged in this area. The story of millions losing jobs due to these multi nationals is a political myth propagated by people with vested interests. Detailed studies have shown that the people who would be mostly impacted are the middle men, who have been exploting the poor farmers since ages. The small grocery store owners can be absorbed into the big retail chains in various roles. Even the middle men can also be absorbed - but they can't exploit the poor farmers any more.
  • Much better infrastructure - good roads across the width and breadth of the country so that perishable farm products can reach markets in much faster time.
  • Better yield of farming through corporate farming of large tracts of unfragmented lands. Swaminathan Anklesaria Aiyar had once pointed out that even with their full throttle Reliance and its likes can cover only 2% of the existing farm lands of our country. There's space for hundred more Reliances and ITCs.
  • Better delivery of government aids. Using Smart Cards like National ID has a great role to play in. As pointed out earlier, leakages” are common in this respect– higher than 75 per cent in Bihar and Punjab.
The public expenditure required in all these can be used for schemes like NREGS. Each of these activities will save government from the wasteful gimmicks like Rs3/kg rice. Similar thought process can really help us in this moment when our fiscal deficit is touching 10% of GDP.

My Relatives

The term relative is quite a misnomer. Lexically a relative is someone who is related to us. But practically the term is used only in reference to people who have a blood relation with us. The Sanskrit term 'Atmiya' for 'relative' is more philosophic. Literally it means 'of soul' or rather someone who has a relation with our soul. I'm not sure of the origin of this word. But it would have surely meant something more than just people linked through a common blood line, even though theroritically it's always possible to find a common blood link between any two people in the world, specially if they are staying in the same geographical region and having a common culture and tradition. Often persons without any blood relations can be the best soul mates, and in truest sense they are indeed Atmiya.

Our extended family is a large one with the blood lines flowing in quite diverse directions. Though we all are related to each other, but still not all of us are soul mates, as many of us rarely meet due to practical reasons. Just consider this. My grand mother had six children with my grand father. Of these six siblings, of which my father is fifth, the eldest one, my eldest uncle, has five children, the next one, my eldest aunt, has four, the third one has two, the fourth one four, the last one three and I've a brother of my own. Barring just one, all of my cousins are married and each of them have one or two children. Well, that's not all. My grand father had four children from an earlier marriage with his first wife, who had an untimely death. So technically my father has a total of ten siblings. The subsequent mathematics is quite trivial. In any of our marriage ceremonies, even if we discount our neighbors and friends and the innumerable in-laws of our cousins and nephews and nieces, just we ourselves, who are all direct successors of my grand father, make close to a few hundreds. By the way, did I say that my grand father had four siblings, out of which three were married and had kids, if not as many as my grand father. If you count my father's cousins and their families, that would add another hundred. Next there are all those people, who may not have any blood relations with us, but were part of our parents' growing up in Calcutta after they all had fled Bangladesh during the partition. Those many years of staying together in a small room - sharing everything, whatever was left with them, learning to be happy with the simplest things, struggling everyday for everything from food to shelter to education to entertainment, learning to take life as it came, learning to accept that conventional happiness is just a fantasy, coping up with all the hardships at tender ages devoid of motherly affection and fatherly controls, and finally knowing that a relative is not just a blood relation - created many more Atmiyas, who are also inseparable portions of our extended family. This would add to another hundred. Well, I haven't yet mentioned anyone from my mother's side!!

There are quite a few interesting things. I became a grand father at a tender age of ten when the eldest daughter of the eldest child of my grand father, from his first marriage, had her first grand kid. My own brother was not yet born then. I have plenty of nephews and nieces older than me.

So that's about our extended family. It's not possible to be in touch with all of them. But few people are really very important to me and my parents. My father had to flee Bangladesh during the peak of communal riots during partition. He was just seven years old then. He and his two year elder sister were accompanied by his seven year elder brother in a long and arduous journey that lasted for weeks. The three kids, the eldest fourteen years and the other two seven and nine years, reached Calcutta just by sheer luck, because millions were just lost or killed in the way. In Calcutta my father stayed for the next two decades, till he had a job, with his eldest sister, who was married to a clerk with the Calcutta Port Trust. My father didn't see his mother for the next seventeen years and never ever saw his father. He grew up at his sister's place along with so many other people who had also, just by sheer luck, landed up in Calcutta and were given shelter by the very extra ordinarily unusual and struggling couple - his sister and the clerk brother-in-law. That's when and where all those people staying in that dilapidated house in a south Calcutta suburb became the closest relatives, and my father's eldest sister and her husband became the parents of a bunch of orphans. Time has moved on. So did the people. But that place remained a very sacred thing for all those who stayed there.

Later my father built his house just beside his sister's place. His sister has four children, all girls - my cousins whom I call my own sisters, all of whom are married and well settled in their lives. Their kids, my nephews and nieces, are my most adorable ones. My father's elder brother, who had brought him from Bangladesh, also stays near by. I grew up with the stories of my parents' lives. Their lives had just struggles. But very strangely, till I grew up quite big, I never understood the reality. The way they grew up - all in a small place, sharing everything, and trying all ways to be oblivious of the sorrows and pains - appeared to me as a fantasy. Perhaps that was the biggest lesson we learnt from their lives - nothing is bad and nothing is the end, every new day is a beginning.

Thursday, July 2, 2009

Prayer of ‘Aam Aadmi’

You’ll Protect Me in Distress, That’s Not My Prayer - I Shouldn’t Lack Courage in Distress.

You’ll Rescue Me, That’s Not My Prayer - I Should Have the Strength to Swim.

That’s what Rabindranath Tagore had prayed for in
Gitanjali. It’s a prayer that each of us perhaps sings in our hearts. There’s nothing like sailing through a storm all with my own courage and zeal. There’s nothing like keeping my head high without bowing in front of anyone for mercy or help. There’s nothing like having faith in my own self and being confident. What I want is just the courage and the zeal and the confidence in myself. That’s what I pray for to the Almighty.

Well, that’s all what I want for me and my countrymen. I want my country to be a land of courageous people Where the mind is without fear and the head is held high, Where the world has not been broken up into fragments by narrow domestic walls.

But alas, my government doesn’t allow us to hold our head high. It doesn’t want to see us standing on our own feet. It wants to cripple our self confidence and make them believe that the only way for them to survive is to wait for mercies thrown out to us. We’re never provided with the right amenities that can help us procure our own food and shelter. Instead, we’re converted into beggars at the hands of the governments. We’re crippled to the extent that we can do nothing than wait for the free food and shelter thrown on us.

My government has broken my land into innumerable fragments of castes and creeds. The land no longer belongs to Indians of Bharatiyas or Hindustanis. Fragments of it belongs to the Upper Class, some belong to the Dalits, some to the Scheduled Tribes and some to Scheduled Castes, some to Hindus, some to Muslim, some to Jats, some to Yadavs, some to Bengalis, some to Dravidians, some to North Indians, some to South Indians........ There are reservations for each of these fragments.

Tagore would be pulling his beards apart in heaven to see this. He would be scratching off his own lines which he had written some hundred years ago:

No one knows whence and at whose call
Come pouring endless inundation of men
Rushing madly along to lose themselves
In this vast sea of humanity that is India.
Aryans and Non-Aryans, Dravidians and Chinese
Scythians, Huns, Pathans and Mogols -
All are mixed, merged and lost in one body.

Today the main effort of the government is to tear apart this body and segregate the Aryans and Non-Aryans, Dravidians, Scynthians, Huns and the Mongols and restrict them to reserved ghettos.

Let’s raise our voice and say, No, we don’t need rice at Rs 3/kg, but we need the right education, health care and infrastructure so that we can earn enough to buy rice at the normal rate. We don’t want to live on the mercy of the government, but with the cooperation of the government. We don’t want to be crippled by the government, but we want to stand on our own and make our own living.

Let’s raise our voice and say, No we don’t need reservation. We all are one and we’ll stay happily at the same place and earn our position with our own credentials.

The government may not listen to our voice. Because if there is no poor, if everyone has self esteem then who will it fool in the name of ‘Aam Aadmi’?

Why so much fuss about a Mole when there’s a Mountain ahead?

It’s quite encouraging that the present HRD minister at the center is really trying to solve some real issues. Compared to his predecessor Mr. Arjun Singh, Mr. Kapil Sibal is no doubt a MUCH better option. At least, for Madam’s sake, he is trying to see real leaks in the pipe rather than being in a utopian world of hypothetical leaks. But now the point is whether Mr Sibal is running after the right leaks or whether he is devoting all energy to fix microscopic holes in the pipe when several portions of the pipe line are totally non exisent? Isn’t it like talking about cakes when people don’t even have the bread to eat?

Yes, there’s no doubt that examinations, in their present forms, need to be changed. Mr. Sibal has all the right to do that. Similar things have been done in many Western countries. I’m sure any educationist of repute would agree with Mr. Sibal about the necessity of changes required in our present system of education, specially the way the examinations are held. But how many kids actually reach the stage of giving the secondary examinations?

Let’s consider the following facts.

According to
reports while 96% of India's children enroll in primary school, by the age of 10 about 40% drop out.

The government's education expenditure as a percentage of GDP has never ever risen above 4.3% of GDP, despite the target of 6% having been set as far back as 1968 by the Kothari Commission.

A closer
look shows that GDP seems to be rising at a much much faster pace than the government's education expenditure to be able to reach the 6% target.

Though the Common Minimm Program of the previous UPA government included the target set by Kothari Commission, the public expenditure on education has actually declined from around 3.23 percent of GDP in 2000-2001 to 2.88 percent in the recent times. As a proportion of total government expenditure, it has declined from around 11.1 percent in 2000-2001 to around 9.98 percent during the previous UPA rule.

The quality of education imparted in the free government run schools is very dismal. Even if it’s free, still many people from the lower income group go out of their way and send their kids to private schools or tutions. Absteeism of teachers in government run schools is one of the major reasons for the poor quality of education in the government schools.

In this respect it’s noteworthy to see what Mr. Santosh K Mehrotra has
mentioned in his book “The Economics of Elementary Education in India”: Amartya Sen's introduction to the Pratichi Education report (Pratichi India Trust, 2002) notes: We encountered some disturbing evidence that primary school teachers often show much less regard for the interests of children from pooer and lower caste backgrounds. We observed much greater teacher absenteeism in schools with a majority of children from scheduled castes and scheduled tribes (75%), compared with other schools (33%).

Why the problem of absenteeism is never brought under limelight is also a well know fact. The teachers of the elementary schools provide a strong cadre base for most of the cadre based parties like Congress and many others. The scene nationwide might not be as bad as that in Left ruled West Bengal, but still it’s at a quite alarming state and should be tackled ass soon as possible.

The teachers of the government schools are perhaps the least accountable in the entitre government machinery. If your neighborhood roads become pathetic the local PWD enginner is accountable for that. Even if he doesn’t do his job throughout the year, still at least before the election the roads are repaired. Water connections, electricity connections, gas connections are all made in haste before the election. But have you ever heard of the standard of education or the behavior of the teachers of the schools changing before the elections? On the contrary the teachers are busier with their ‘party work’ during elections and are seldom seen at schools.

Mr. Swaminathan Anklesaria Aiyar and Gurucharan Das have been writing in the columns of Times of India for quite some time that a very simple way to improve the quality of the education in the government run schools is to give coupons to the families of the kids. These coupons should be redeemable either at the government schools or at any private schools which are ready to provide education at the same rate. Given the salaries of the school teachers, the monetary value of the coupons would be quite attractive and many private schools would be interested to admit kids against them. The salary of the school teachers would be directly linked with the amount a school draws from the collection of coupons. This system has worked quite well in many countries and it shouldn’t be hard to implement such things in India.

Now doesn’t it look like there are many more important things to be taken care of by Mr. Sibal? Isn’t it like thinking too much about a small mole when a big mountain is ahead?

Wednesday, July 1, 2009

Who are the Educated Middle Class People?

Till some time back (might be a decade) the ‘Educated Middle Class’ was a secluded minority with only BJP to its side. In the nineties no political party other than BJP used to think of the people belonging to this minority community.

Things have changed since the days of nineties. The sample space of polulation which constituted the ‘middle class’ has also changed drastically over the decade. The vivacious and change-thirsty younger generation of the middle class, mostly urbanized, of the nineties, then in their twenties or early thirties, is now middle aged and many of them have moved to the upper middle class category. Their ideas and ideologies are no doubt important even in today’s political scenario. But they no longer command the strength in terms of critical mass. There have been innumerable new entrats in the category of middle class, thanks to the trememdous economic growth that the country has seen over the past one decade.

No doubt education is still an important distinguishing factor for people entering into ‘middle class’, but its form has changed a lot. Education has perhaps taken the real form only in recent past when it’s no longer restricted only to books and examinations. Lots of hitherto unexplored avenues have opened up innumerable options for people. Vocational training has become very important along side conventional education, of schools and colleges and examsm, for most of these new avenues.

The surge in business in areas of BPO, textiles, travel, tourism, hospitality, entertainment, communication and many others has triggered the requirement of huge resources all of whom may not be highly educated in conventional terms, but surely trained adequately. This entire new group of people and their families have slowly marched into the middle class.

The driver who drove me around in my recent trip to Uttarakhand, the petty vendior who supplies mid-day lunch in front of the Wipro Corporate office on Sarjapur Road in Bangalore, my previous driver who now runs his own real estate agency at a suburban Bangalore locality, the milkman, the lady who has been selling flowers to us since the past many years and recently setup a decent sized flower stall in front of our apartment, the plumber who now has his own hardware shop and many people around me are no longer struggling lower class people. Almost all of them have two wheelers and every one of them has a mobile. All of them are the new entrants to middle class. Are they educated? I would say, yes. They do read news papers, may not be in English, watch televisions, are aware of the recent economic downturn and all of them have the same ambition and vision as mine - to achieve more in life. It would have been really a ridiculous day-dreaming even a decade back to think of the sort of improvement that these people have made in their life. But it’s a reality now. They are now in the same category that I belong to and have been belonging to for the past many decades.

It’s very important to acknowledge this drastic change in the membership to the club of Middle Class. No longer is this club a neglected one. Suddenly the whole political class has understood the strength of this class and has started ‘appeasing’ them, if at all I should use the word ‘appease’ which is generally used in some other context. But is this context different? No. All political parties want to woe this newly visible and prospective powerful class in all possible ways. It’s no longer a class that matters only to BJP. But it’s something that matters to all because it has attained a critical mass, which is impossible to ignore.

It would be foolish to assume that this entire class watches the so called English Language Media and are swayed away by some sort of pro UPA and anti BJP propaganda of Rajdeep Sardesai and Barkha Dutt. Yes, a part of this class is indeed influenced by the media, specially the English, but the majority of this class still watches vernacular channels.

My aunt, more than seventy years of old, regularly watches local Bengali channels in Calcutta and reads regularly Bengali periodicals and novels. Even my mother, though a doctorate and would be retiring from a central government job this year, prefers to watch Bengali channels than NDTV or CNN IBN. Same is the case with many of my Kakimas (aunties) and Kakus (uncles) and dadas and didis across the country. Same is the case with the driver Prakash who drove me around for fourteen days across Uttarakhand in April just before the polls. All of them belong to different parts of India and all belong to the middle class and all of them don’t create their own views based on the English Language Media. But still they didn’t vote for BJP this time.

Prakash told me in the first week of April that BJP won’t get a single seat in Delhi. Now it’s like a prophecy, but then I just laughed and thought he was being partial to Congress, which I finally found out he was not. He himself adores BJP for all the work it has done. He showed me enthusiastically the development in Uttarakhand that the BJP governemtn has done. But still he told me very clearly that people have the ‘perception’ that BJP may make things ‘unstable’. That was exactly the same thing that I heard even from many of my Kakus and Kakimas later. So we can’t rule out this perception as being created by the English Language Media.

I feel BJP has to take a stock of this new much-aware and off-course-not-fool Middle Class. It would be foolish to blame the English Language Media totally for creating a perception. This would be again under estimating the intelligence level of the Middle Class people. They are more aware than what others can think of. If my seventy plus aunty can know about Amartya Sen as the person who can eradicate hunger and famine in years if given a chance, why can’t someone else know about, say, Nandan Nilekani?

If Middle Class could do the right thing in nineties in bringing BJP to power, why should we assume that they have created a wrong and biased perception of the same party now? So the bottom-line is that, Middle Class was intelligent ten years back. They are no less intelligent now. If their perception changes they will again bring back BJP to power.