Wednesday, December 27, 2006

Terrific Verdicts – Will They be Ever Implemented?

Kerala High Court has done it again. Few years back it banned smoking in public places. Few months back it quashed the hastily made decision of Kerala Government to ban soft drink giants – Coca Cola and Pepsi from Kerala.

Recently the Kerala High Court gave a verdict - that bans organizational activities in college campuses for political parties. The Kerala High Court has held that student unions have no right to set up units on the college campuses. The people who studied in Kerala know how bad these student unions are and what they have done for the welfare of the student community. These student unions and leaders are just pawns in the hands of political parties to achieve their various goals. Kerala High Court by passing this verdict was doing justice to millions of students who go to college to study. I am planning to write another blog on the kind of student politics I have seen in 6 years of my college life.

Another verdict everyone should welcome is the ban on spitting, spitting of pan, blowing of the nose, sneezing without covering the nose. This decision to ban spitting in public places was taken by the Kerala Government following the Kerala High Court directive to the state government. It is good that the High Court is coming forward to implement civic sense among Malayalis. The worst form of spitting I have seen is spitting from the running bus. It is the most horrible thing if you are driving a bike/scooter.

Now all these verdicts are good. But does the administration ever implement these effectively? Smoking in public places is banned - Don’t we still see people smoking freely outside in public places?

Politicians cutting across political parties have come out against the verdict on ban on political parties in colleges. The political parties are benefited a lot by these student organizations and they will go to any extend to see that this verdict is never implemented.

Now coming to spitting ban on public places – one must be living in a fool’s paradise to believe that this verdict is going to be implemented. Do you think a person who has the habit of spitting will stop just because the High Court has passed a verdict? These are habits that have to be cultivated from childhood. Is the police machinery capable to implement this order?

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Thursday, December 14, 2006

Some Thoughts On Movie Piracy

Last few days we saw a lot of drama in Kerala about anti piracy raids conducted by Kerala Police. The main actors in the drama were Kerala Chief Minister, Home Minister, DIG and 2 Inspector Generals of Kerala Police. But do these political dramas and raids put an end to piracy?

Now most of the Indian movies are available in Internet. For example I watched the latest Malayalam super hit movie “Classmates” online. It is there as five parts (Part 1, Part 2, Part 3, Part 4, Part 5). Any one having a broadband connection can watch it without downloading anything. What raid is going to stop this? Then there are peer-to-peer websites (1,2,3) where you can download almost any Indian movie ever released.

Same is the case with film music. The day the music is released you get that online. In this age of wireless Internet, most people prefer to listen to music online rather than taking pains to buy it.

Let me come to the point - I am no way justifying any one downloading the movies and watching (I have seen a lot like this). That is wrong but why does piracy happen at the first place?

I feel the Indian movie industry has not changed with time. They are still trying to follow the business model developed few decades ago, which is completely outdated.

When the music piracy was at its peak in US, along with strict laws, most American music companies allowed people to legally download music for small fees. Why can’t we do the same for Indian movies and music? This will reduce piracy to a certain extent especially amongst NRI’s.

Next comes decent price, if some one can download music/ movies with high quality and decent price, most people would prefer that. I stress decent price because most of the time the original CDs are highly over priced. Most of the Indian music CD’s you get in the US are priced around $20. Who is going to pay $20 for 6 to 8 songs? He will prefer to download his favorite songs from some website or hear online. If the same CD was sold for say $5, many may buy it.

I remember something worth mentioning about piracy. I think this happened few months back. Indian cricket team was touring West Indies and Willow TV was streaming the 6 match one-day series for $200! Before this series they were streaming the matches for a reasonable amount and we all bought Willow TV. When they increased the price of 6 matches to $200 all of us went to the pirated streaming which cost us only $10 per match. If Willow TV had streamed the match at a reasonable rate all of us could have subscribed to it.

Another reason why piracy of movies is so rampant in India – rising cost of movie tickets. About 15 years back a balcony ticket for a movie in Kerala would cost something around Rs.10. Now it costs around Rs.50. So for a family of four to watch a movie it would cost about Rs.200. Most Indian families cannot afford to spend Rs.200 for a movie. Instead they borrow a CD for Rs.10 and watch it. So what is the solution for such a situation?

Obviously solution is to reduce the price of the movie ticket. But how can we reduce the price of movie tickets when production cost of movies increases? Wait a minute and think why production cost went up in the last decade? Main reason is that all major stars of Indian movies increased their rates exponentially in the last decade. The income of common man never increased even at one-tenth of that rate. The net result being - common man cannot afford a movie ticket and preferred pirated CDs/Cassettes.

The point I would like to make here is, we need to overall change the culture of filmmaking and distribution in order to curb piracy. The actions by police and other agencies can only help to destroy few drops from an ocean of movie piracy going on.

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Tuesday, December 05, 2006

Other Side of the Rosy Picture

An annual survey by Hewitt Associates found that India has the highest salary hikes in Asia followed by Philippines. The study showed that salaries rose at an average of 13.8% in 2006. The survey covered workers of 169 companies in India. Another good news for Indian economy is that, it is growing at a rate of 9.2% and only China has a growth rate more than India.

This news is good for India. A person’s salary will be almost doubled in 5 years if the salary is hiked at a rate of 13.8%. Growth in economy is sure to improve the standard of living of the people.

But just think for a moment. What percentage of Indian population is getting these benefits? About 10 to 20 % of the Indian population I would say. But what about the rest of the 80% of the population?

When I read 13.8% salary increase, I remember the farmer who uses to come to my house to buy coconut during harvest. Twenty years back a coconut costs Rs.4. Now also the price of the coconut is almost same. The farmer who use to buy coconut (they make oil out of it and sell) is no longer in business. In 20 years the increase in the price of coconut is almost negligible. This is the case with most of the agricultural products.

When salary of 20% Indians are increasing at almost 100% in 5 years there are about 50% of the population whose income remains stagnant. With the price of all the essential commodities increasing like anything how can average farmers survive in India?

What is the effect of this imbalanced growth? Rich become richer and poor become poorer. The end result of this widening gap - More farmers end up committing suicide. Over 100 farmers committed suicide in Vidarbha alone last month. This is even after Indian Prime Minister Dr Manmohan Singh announced Rs.3750 crore-relief package for distressed farmers. Hundreds of other farmers are committing suicides in other parts of the country.

I am not advocating that 13.8% increase in salary hike should not be given to 20% of the Indians. What I am for is improving the condition of the poor farmers. Relief packages are only temporary solutions and we must look into permanent solutions.

With the opening of Indian economy, things have changed. The globalization has reduced the gap between nations. Now Indian farmers have to compete with farmers across the world. If some country can produce say coconut at a lower price it is going to come to the Indian market. It is something very similar to outsourcing happening in software field from US to India.

I believe the first thing we should do to improve the plight of the farmers is that we should accept the fact that doing agriculture in a small scale is not profitable any more. Twenty years ago if someone had a one-acre of paddy field that was sufficient to feed a family for the whole year. Now can a family of four survive from an income from one-acre paddy field? I don’t think so.

One-way to revive agriculture/farmers is that we should open our agriculture sector to the big corporate companies. The corporate companies should be allowed to lease the land of all small-scale farmers. They can afford to use the most modern methods to improve production which an ordinary farmer cannot afford to do. The company in turn can give a part of the profit and monthly lease amount to the farmer. The farmers who give land to the company should get priority in getting jobs in that company. Thus now he has a share in the profit, monthly income from lease and a chance of monthly income as an employee of that company.

To save agriculture/ farmers, we have to think outside the box. No gimmick is going to help them.

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