The Curse of Lawlessness


I could have named this post differently – in fact, I debated it before settling on “lawlessness”. What I wanted to mention was different – it was “rape”.

India has been plagued by serious incidents of rape for the past many years, with global coverage after the 2012 rape and assault on a Delhi girl who died later. It was a totally heartless killing by hardened criminals with no sympathy or remorse. The world was shocked on the atrocity meted out to a simple woman taking a bus ride in Delhi, and Delhi was awarded the unceremonious title of “the rape capital” of the world.

The incidents of rape continued to mount even after the public disgust against the 2012 Delhi rape. India is a vast country which is of course, difficult to manage and run, but lawlessness is apparently on the rise. The society does not help as it is very conservative and old-fashioned, mostly accusing women for the incidents. However, things changed after 2012. Public anger has been on the rise when every case of rape is reported in the media, seeking to push the government and police into remedial action very quickly.

India has a serious problem in its ability to deliver justice quickly, as its judicial system is handicapped with lots of vacancies, and moves ever so slowly. The prosecution of offenders sometimes lack objectivity and seriousness, especially when politics rears its ugly head and interferes with the police or judicial system.

The recent cases of rape have further exacerbated an already strained public mood. The gang-rape and murder of a veterinarian in Hyderabad around 10 days ago brought the public mood to a boil, demanding swift justice. Four suspects were arrested but then killed in what the police called as “encounter killings”, stating that the suspects tried to escape.

Very complicated scenario – no one knows for sure if these folks were the real rapists, but then the public appeared to be praising the police for the killings of the suspects. The fundamental issue of women safety in India is still not addressed by any of the state governments or the central government. Women fear for their safety when they venture out especially in the evenings or nights – the lawlessness on the roads is clearly the result of lack of policing and the lack of involvement by the community as such in safety matters.

Women are victims in rape incidents and cannot be condemned for their dress, behaviour, or timing – they might have genuine reason, as much as any man, to be on the street or in a mall at any time; or they might be working as a nurse in a hospital during the nights. They can never be accused by society for doing what they wish to do, or for the vocation they choose.

The real culprits are the criminal men corrupted by criminal mindset, and the police which need to be tracking all criminals and ensure safety on the streets. Governments should ultimately own the responsibility of ensuring peace, security and safety for the citizens. If they cannot do so, they should resign. There has to be a punishment for dereliction of duty, even in a democracy.

Unfortunately, the incidents of rape continue to rise in India, and India’s claims that women are akin to goddesses sound very hollow and untrue. The reality on the ground is very different. A society which does not tolerate wrongdoing and crimes against women will elect leaders who are true to their commitments, not just anyone who pays the electorate for a win. A judicial system needs to demand more allocation of judicial resources from the government. A law enforcement agency should demand for more allocation of policing resources from the government, and should not turn away women who come into a police station for lodging a complaint. Reporting a rape should be taken on par with a murder report, nothing less. Women cannot be ridiculed or challenged by the police.

India has a very long way to go before it can claim the exalted status for its women that it has always claimed for them. The world is viewing India from the perspective of a “rape” lens, with potential travel advisories against travel to specific locations. Not at all good for the image of India. Not good for the women of India.

Think about it without a bias.

Cheers,

Vijay Srinivasan

8th December 2019

The NATO mess


NATO has outlived its utility in today’s scenario. Is that a right kind of statement to make? Probably that is what President Trump thinks of NATO and its ineffectiveness as a military treaty amongst the Western Allies.

NATO is wrongly targeting Russia as its common enemy. Russia has a million problems to deal with and is not that worried about NATO. Its main concern is its flagging economy and sanctions imposed by the Western nations against its takeover of Crimea in 2014. Russia was declining in economy and population, but has now found a saviour in China. Despite many differences clouding their past history as neighbours, China and Russia have now joined together against the West.

The scenario of NATO forces taking over Kaliningrad, a Russian outpost in the middle of Europe in just 48 hours once orders are given, elicited a comment from someone in Russia that it would not take 48 hours – the matter will be over in 45 minutes as Russia will launch its strategic nuclear weapon against NATO, and NATO knows full well that Russia is capable of retaliating with nuclear weapons for a conventional assault on its territory. It will never happen, so that is why nuclear deterrence is so important and critical to maintain a balance and peace around the world. It is also the reason why Russia is not bothered about NATO, except for one thing – the steady expansion of NATO borders towards Russian land borders.

I agree with Emmanuel Macron, the President of France, who stated that NATO was “brain dead”. His comment initiated a firestorm of criticism, especially from Angela Merkel of Germany. But he is right. The heavy focus on increasing military expenditure to 2% of national GDP for each one of the NATO member countries is nothing short of stupid in the face of the overall declining economies of the EU nations. President Trump has consistently and strongly pushed the NATO countries towards the 2% target, and has reduced the U.S. allocation to NATO budget. Thats all fine, but NATO countries have to think for themselves. How can they fight a nuclear war against Russia which also sits on the European continent? It is inconceivable. NATO’s fears of Russia swallowing Latvia, Lithuania, Poland, etc., are unfounded.

The best outcome would be to enter into a mutual alliance with Russia for the safety and security of Europe. They have a better chance of achieving this outcome with President Putin of Russia, than with any other future leader of Russia. Crimea, let us not forget, once belonged to the Soviet Union as part of Russia, and was ceded to Ukraine. Further, all major countries spy on each other, and it is nothing new. Blaming Russia for every spying incident in the West without proof is not a good idea, and ejecting Russian diplomats to retaliate against purported Russian spying is not a good idea either. Russia can easily retaliate, and then what?

The management of NATO has not been in proper hands. NATO needs to do a thorough introspection, not under pressure from Trump, but for its own benefit. At some stage, the Western European countries should be able to defend themselves at least against conventional assault by any enemy. They should not have to depend on U.S. forces helping them out in such situations.

The other major problem for NATO is Turkey whose headstrong President, Erdogan, has now allied with Russia for critical missile hardware which are not compliant with U.S. and NATO specifications. The West fears that Russia can now easily spy on the latest hardware that they deploy using the powerful radars that Russia will supply to Turkey. The issue for NATO is that Turkey is a large country with the largest U.S. airbase (Incirlik) in Europe and also having the largest standing army in NATO. Antagonism is brewing, and no one knows where it will head to, as things can get worse between NATO and Turkey.

So, as you can see, NATO is in some serious mess, requiring deft political manoeuvering, and it is hard to find a capable leader to do that in the midst of infighting between various folks. Britain is in the throes of elections and Brexit. France does not view NATO favourably. Germany is far short of the 2% target, despite being the largest economy in all of Europe. Turkey has a different vision and is not even a member of the EU. Russia is intent on collaborating with China and thinks that NATO is focused on warmongering against Russia all the time.

And, Trump is having a field day with a growing economy and the lowest unemployment in 50 years in the U.S. People may laugh at him for his peccadillos, but does he care? In all likelihood, he will be impeached by the U.S. House of Representatives before end of December, will be exonerated by the U.S. Senate, and will return as President for a second term in 2021!!!

NATO has to rethink its strategies, align with Russia on key principles of security, and bring Turkey into its fold.

Have a great weekend,

Cheers,

Vijay Srinivasan

7th December 2019

Killing for Peace


I am just finishing up the Netflix serial on “The Vietnam War”. I am not sure if I had written about this topic in my blog in the past. I have visited Vietnam both for business and holiday. I have also visited Cambodia which played a big role in the Vietnam War.

The Vietnam War was a totally unnecessary war, justified by successive American presidents as a moral fight against the spread of Communism. American history changed as a result of this particular war, it being the only war that the U.S. lost in its entire modern history which spans over three centuries. The American government and several presidents blatantly lied to the American people about the inevitability of the war in Vietnam and the absolute necessity to win it. Specious arguments were laid out which were mostly false. Even when America lost battles, it was portrayed as success in the media back home. The U.S. supported the corrupt and incompetent South Vietnam government, which was no match for the disciplined cadres of Ho Chi Minh’s army from North Vietnam.

More than a million Vietnamese perished in the Vietnam war. Most of the agricultural fields were parched and destroyed totally by chemical weapons such as Agent Orange unleashed by immoral and unconscionable acts of U.S. presidents who could not be absolved of crimes against innocent civilians as their responsibility was mainly as Commander-in-Chief of all U.S. military.

I visited the War Museum in Ho Chi Minh City, and was appalled by the atrocities committed by American soldiers who were mostly draftees – most of them less than 20 years old when drafted for the war. Of course, the Communists were no saints, they carried out merciless acts against South Vietnamese in what can only be termed as a civil war.

The war went on and on with no end in sight for many years, destroying the whole of Vietnam and parts of Cambodia. Finally, the Communists won as we all know – the “democratic” South Vietnam government was overthrown and the Americans had to acknowledge defeat and run away.

Over 58,000 young Americans were sacrificed by the U.S. government in this senseless war. The anti-war movement caused big headache to the government, but made the American public aware of the truth regarding the war.

There should have been no justification for killing people – America called it “killing for peace”. America collaborated with the wrong people in Vietnam, instead of Ho Chi Minh who had approached the U.S. offering a partnership before he turned to China. His famous letter was suppressed and the addressee (the president) never got to see it. Ho Chi Minh was a true leader of the masses and had always wanted to unify Vietnam. America could have had a wonderful chance to partner with him and change the course of history, but it missed the chance.

In a nutshell, I want to say that peace cannot be achieved by killing more people – the American generals in Vietnam were measuring their success by the enemy body count which is a horrifying way to prosecute a war. The incessant need to win the war blinded the American president(s) and the army generals, who even let some of their military units engage in war crimes – the most horrendous one was the My Lai massacre, which became a symbol of war crimes. The United Nations and other powerful countries could hardly do anything to stop the war and achieve the much needed peace.

The “Vietnam War” documentary has tried to achieve a balance in its portrayal of the war, but treads very cautiously when it comes to showing the atrocities committed by American soldiers. Quite understandable, given its American pedigree, but truth will always remains as truth. Just the mention of this infamous war leaves a bad taste in most Americans, whether they were directly impacted by it or not.

Given this background, it is no wonder that any visitor to Vietnam will be somewhat impacted if he or she embarks on a historical tour. My family was affected by what we saw in Vietnam. We also saw that Vietnam is now a friend of the U.S. with an increasing trade partnership.

War causes misery and human loss. Ideology can never be the reason to start a war. Also false pretexts can never be used to start bombing – it happened in Vietnam War.

History teaches us powerful and invaluable lessons. It is upto us to elect leaders who respect history.

Cheers,

Vijay Srinivasan

1st December 2019

Experience vs. Baggage


As I write this blog post, I am embarking on the next phase of my career, something totally new, which I haven’t tried before. It is risky to say the least. It could be ultimately rewarding, but one doesn’t know that yet.

The past baggage of all my corporate experiences sometimes pulls me down, as I have always known how to execute a specific thing in the corporate world and am generally unwilling to try to do the same thing in a different manner. Most of us are hobbled by what I call the “baggage” of past experiences. It generates a mindset which is not willing to be challenged in general. This is why we call the older generation as people who are mired in their beliefs and mannerisms, unable to engage in experimentation in something novel. This is why progressive governments worry a lot about longevity of their population which could bring down productivity and efficiency.

However, I would also argue that past experiences sometimes help in navigating the unknown. Unfortunately, we do not listen much to the new ways of thinking adopted by the younger generation. While wisdom is helpful, maturity in thought processes may no longer play an important role in modern startup businesses. The new generation expects alacrity, quick solutions, thinking totally out of the box, proximity, and innovation. It does not wish to be embroiled in bureaucracy and elaborate meetings where nothing gets done.

In my new venture, I am already experiencing the weight of my baggage. I have always considered the variety of experiences that I have had over the past three decades or so as something invaluable, with many lessons learnt the hard way over the years in multiple countries. But, those experiences may no longer be relevant in the fast emerging marketplace for skills and talent. Businesses and countries need fresh talent and totally new thinking.

The only folks from the older generation who can succeed in this new milieu are those prepared to totally adapt themselves to this new paradigm. Constant and advanced learning and listening skills are the most important way to progress and continue to make some impact in this new modern digital world. Are we ready to embark on such a journey?

If you are, then you also need to be prepared to adjust to fast pace of thinking and execution; to drop the corporate accessories that you are used to – there is no longer an executive assistant for you; to focus on key issues everyday with the intent to resolve those issues by the end of the day; to work with talented young people who do not respect hierarchy; to learn to build something extraordinary along with a team – a new kind of organization whose mission could be constantly changing.

Drop your baggage and get on to the new bandwagon. Nobody respects the importance of your baggage, except you; there is no need to “show off” your baggage. People may not want you irrespective of your capabilities. You might be forced to turn to your corporate world for the next job if you do not quickly adapt to the emerging scenario of start-up culture.

When you walk into a hall full of 20 somethings working on their computers late in the evening, won’t you feel disconnected? One, because you are more than twice their average age. Second, you are better dressed than any of them; third, you do not have the skillset to create something new on your own, unlike those youngsters. How would you feel? Be honest!

Now you understand what I am talking about. It requires big effort and total change of mindset on your part. Once you fall in the small setup culture mindset, you begin to understand what drives these young folks. Join them for a quick bite, or in the gym at the office. Show that you are involved along with them in whatever they do. It is going to be hard, but at the end of the day it is going to be totally rewarding.

I am personally going through this transition. It has been great till now. I am transforming myself into a new person. I am trying to contribute to the team every minute that I am in the office and beyond. I am trying to understand what they are executing. I am trying to link the business mission with what they are planning to deliver. In my old corporate world, it was an easier task to establish the linkages. In the new small setup culture, it is sometimes hard to establish the linkages. Everything is so nebulous, so new, so novel.

Well, that is the new phase I am embarking on. Wish me well!!!

Have a wonderful weekend, folks.

Cheers,

Vijay Srinivasan

30th November 2019

When government lies, children learn


Kids learn by observing others. We always say that we ought to be careful in front of our own children, the reason being that we are observed all the time by our children. They learn from what we say and more importantly, from what we do. If what we say is all good and we do only good deeds, then it may be fine to say things and do things in front of our kids. But unfortunately, that is not always the case, right?

We either tend to be careless oftentimes, or we get angry, and utter words that we would like to take back. We also do bad things occasionally. When we say and do such things, it becomes extremely difficult to correct the damage that we cause to our own children though unintentionally.

This is on the personal family front.

What happens when we have children who can read stuff like newspapers and understand world affairs from TV news channels? What happens then if our government lies to the people and acts funny with irrational behaviour?

Chikdren who follow such affairs might indeed get negatively influenced. Their world views get shaped up based on what they hear from global leaders of governments. We could try to mitigate and contain the damage, but then parents are always viewed as “mitigators” by children, and so our impact comes down. We are seen as folks who would try to right any wrongs in society or government, rather than highlighting the negative influence of bad government and political leaders whoever they may be, and stating firmly that they are clearly on the wrong side of things. Our views and judgement are keenly sought after by our own children but we have the inconsiderate habit of denying them those key takeaways. We may not realize it, but we are a critical component of our children’s formation of their world view.

So, when I hear President Trump’s blatant lies, see his cover-up of misdeeds, and witness his disrespect of other individuals on national TV, I am embarrassed to say the least. His disregard of diplomatic niceties and proper behaviour as a head of state has caused enormous harm to the global standing of the U.S. Unfortunately, he dominates world news in a manner which is totally outlandish that it is impossible to shield our children from his bad behaviour, words and actions.

We discuss President Trump at our home like most other people do world over. The conclusion is always this: “how did the American people elect such a bad leader to be their President?”. We do not know or understand what transpired in the minds of the U.S. electorate, nor do we comprehend how the U.S. electoral college system works. While I never supported Hillary Clinton’s policies, I have now come to the conclusion that she would have been a better president than Donald Trump, notwithstanding all her shortcomings.

Currently it appears that the entire White House Administration is lying and trying to obfuscate the impeachment proceedings at the House of Representatives. Four-letter and three-letter words are being hinted upon involving President Trump, an obnoxious display of depravity at the highest levels of the U.S. government. It is simply sickening that someone of the President’s stature (I am referring here to the position, not to Trump per se) could literally stoop down to such levels on international phone calls.

In a nutshell, two things – we have to be open with our kids and explain the impactful happenings around the world, especially one such as the impeachment proceedings in the U.S.; we also have to reduce the negative influences and impact of bad words and bad behaviours of powerful people, irrespective of who they are. If we as parents do not move aggressively and take a decisive stand with our children, we would be letting them under bad and negative influences, which should never be the case. Further, a proactive discussion at home would lead to even more closeness with your children, and I am sure you would welcome it. Our trust levels with our children go up. Who would not wish for it?

Have a great week ahead folks,

Cheers,

Vijay Srinivasan

24th November 2019

Brokers for Religions


Not a brand new topic for my blog, as I have referenced the unnecessary intermediary that religions have established between Man/Woman and God in one of my past blog posts.

That someone is even needed for facilitating an interface to your own faith or God shows the inherent weakness of people in dealing with their faith. Religion is something very personal in my opinion, not requiring a demonstration to others that you are religious or not. There is absolutely no necessity to show off that you are indeed a very religious person, who somehow possess the largesse of God by virtue of prayers and diligence in adhering to your faith, performing the rituals regularly, and donating to the temple or church or mosque or synagogue.

There are two primary issues in following a religion: the necessary (established) interface between yourself and the religion/God/rituals and the compulsion that you feel to adhere diligently to the dictates of your religion. I have no concern if you choose to follow your religion in the above prescribed manner, as probably communicated by your family elders. But when I choose not to adhere the dictates, then there are frowns all around, because I am not expected to deviate the ordained path of the religious followers, even if I do not always agree with its prescriptions.

Godmen in India especially are known for scandals, corruption, sexual exploits of followers, child molesting, politicisation of religion, and a free-wheeling drug culture. There are, of course, some saintly Godmen who are involved in social service. But whatever it is, I believe that there is no need for Godmen of any kind, and the word itself is an oxymoron. God is distant from men, there is no such thing as “Godmen”.

Temples (and other religious venues) need to be run and managed, and so we do have people like priests who perform certain vital work. These priests do not claim to be Godmen, they are akin to logistics operators for the temple. My anti-Godmen views do not apply to these priests. Being affiliated to Hinduism, I do appreciate the essential tasks performed by priests, but detest the depravities of Godmen who are on the run from the long arms of law enforcement. There are several ongoing court cases against Godmen in progress in India, and one Godman is serving a long prison sentence for atrocities and murders.

Notwithstanding all this, people still believe in the powers and capabilities of Godmen. I pity these folks who are probably not well educated to be able to decipher what is wrong and what is right.

As I move away from the negative influences of religions and Godmen horror stories, I am placing an emphasis on the ability of man and woman to choose a path to spirituality that is right and harmless. There is absolutely no need to copy from anyone else. You have to chart your own path. It may not take you to salvation and heaven, but it will lead you to peace. After all, we want to live and lead a peaceful life, correct?

We have repeatedly seen that with the adoption of technology, the need for brokers for any transaction is vanishing rapidly (not slowly and surely!). We have seen this from ordering groceries, food, transport, household services, etc., Brokers for any transaction are vanishing and the sooner they all go away, better it is for mankind (it will be a huge challenge to eliminate house brokers – the folks who facilitate a purchase or a sale of house property, but we will see in due course!).

I believe that eventually technology will enable even the spiritual life of people. How so you might ask. Technology is a key enabler and a leveller, as we all have come to know over the past couple of decades. It will facilitate the drawing up of one’s spiritual journey given the profile of the individual concerned – come one day in the future. May be this is a good startup idea!

In a nutshell, brokers are not needed for running religions. They are not going to prolong the life of any religion. They are not dependable. They are dangerous to society. Each individual is endowed with the ability to draw up his own faith plan as per his profile and circumstances, and it does not need to be based on any one religion. It could be a personal faith based on the planet earth and the solar system, for instance. Nothing wrong about having your own version of faith and religion. No one else in the world can question your adaptation or version of faith.

Think about it. A very important topic for self-analysis and introspection. Have a wonderful weekend,

Cheers,

Vijay Srinivasan

23rd November 2019

The next President


The U.S. dominates the world news so much that people forget that there is any other news worthy of their attention. Even people in large countries such as India want to know “what happened today in Washington” – at least those people who follow global affairs and financial folks and economists who are constantly bothered about the impact of adverse news developments on equity market or the overall economy.

There has been an ongoing reality show in Washington which has been impacting global markets and trade matters. This is the issue of the impeachment of President Trump by the U.S. House of Representatives, in which the Democratic Party holds the current majority. While the House might get to the impeachment decision by January 2020 or so, the U.S. Senate holds the key as it is dominated by the Republicans, who are unlikely to agree to the impeachment of President Trump.

In my considered opinion, the case for impeaching Trump is rather weak. Many of us would like him to simply go away after finishing his current term, by losing his re-election bid in the peoples’ court. Some of us would like him to win a second term! However, impeach him?

Probably not.

You may ask me why not? Has he not committed some quite abnoxious acts? Has he not threatened the Ukrainian President on military aid? Has he not unnecessarily fired the U.S. Ambassador to Ukraine? Has he not used lousy tweets to annoy people and threaten witnesses?

I do agree that he has been a bad President – I guess that there is no one like him in the past and it is highly unlikely that someone like him will become President in the future. But that does not mean he can be impeached as per the U.S. Constitution.

President Trump can only be impeached if it can be unambiguously proven that he has committed high treason, bribery or high misdemeanours as per the U.S. Constitution. For any observer it is apparent that he has not indulged in any such activity against the national interests of the U.S.

While there is circumstantial data available to establish a quid pro quo in the Ukraine military aid case, the “favour” sought by Trump was not given by Ukraine. This means that there was no undue favour exercised by Ukraine to aid Trump for his political benefit. Ukraine did not start an official investigation of Joe Biden or his son Hunter Biden.

The Democrats have not given up and have launched impeachment proceedings in the House of Representatives, and some significant witnesses have already deposed publicly. The pace of depositions should accelerate by next week and the House should proceed towards crafting articles of impeachment as per the Constitution by December.

Notwithstanding such efforts, it is clear that the country is divided as per party lines, and Trump is likely to position the impeachment as unnecessary harassment caused to him as an elected leader, thereby earning some sympathy across the electorate. The Democrats are pursuing impeachment just to cause public embarrassment to Trump on the moot point of quid pro quo in the absence of stronger articles of impeachment.

They are unlikely to succeed overall, except to achieve an House impeachment.

Since Trump won’t be impeached by the Republican-dominated Senate, he will not be removed from office, and the entire thing will become a sideshow to cater to political biases, rather than an actual win against Trump.

The U.S. is wasting time, instead of focusing on more substantive issues.

But then, politics is political science and political theatre, right?

Cheers, and have a good week ahead,

Vijay Srinivasan

17th November 2019