Thursday, July 21, 2016

Why India should change its fiscal year

When I was in school, I heard that India’s fiscal year start’s on 1 April because India is a agrarian economy and the harvesting season happens in April. But now I think it could be 1 April because UK has it’s fiscal year on 1 April, and after Independence, we might have preferred to simply keep it that way.

But I think we should change the fiscal year to either 1 January or 1 October. Or we could keep start our fiscal year on Diwali, the way Stock market begins it’s new year.

But why should we change it? Because majority of development work at center, state and municipality level happens between January to March, the last quarter. That is when everyone wakes up and decides that it’s time work needs to be done. This is how the fiscal planning and execution goes  at all 3 levels  –

By February or March, a budget is allocated by the elected representatives.
The new budget is enforced from 1 April. First quarter starts. But not much work is initiated in the first quarter because  June to September is a rainy season in India. And rainfalls interrupt all infrastructure work. So 4 months, no work. 2nd quarter just goes by waiting for rains to end. As soon as rainy season  ends, the festival season starts in India. It starts with Navratri, Dusshera and ends with Diwali. Everyone is in a festive mood so labor goes back to their villages to spend time with family. Bureaucrats don’t want to spend much time at office.  By November/December, everyone is back at work and then decide what needs to be done. Third quarter also goes by. The development work starts in January, 4th Quarter.

Also, many government agencies don’t use the funds allocated to them till November. They start using the funds in January, 4th quarter, because unless they can show they have used their old funds, they can’t apply for more funds in next fiscal year. So they initiate lot of projects in January, which might or might not finish by May. If they don’t finish by June, there is a 4 month break after which work resumes in November.

So basically the execution work happens in 4th quarter. Just like students wait till January to study properly for their final exams in April.

So what if the fiscal year starts on 1 January, lets evaluate:
  1. The budget will need to be presented in the assembly by November, which means everyone in the government is busy from October. Bad timing for festival season.
  2. Budget is enforced on 1 January. Government has 2 quarters to finish the work. They have 6 months to use the funds.
  3. Majority of the nations have fiscal year on 1 January.
What if fiscal year starts on 1 October:
  1. Budget to be presented by September. Government is busy preparing the budget in August September.
  2. By September we already know the rainfall which has a major impact on stock markets and budgeting, since India is a agrarian economy. This might be positive for budget planning
  3. Budget is enforced on 1 October, which coincides almost with Diwali.
  4. Our financial year will start with US fiscal year.
  5. Departments have 9 months (from October to May) or the first 3 quarters to use the funds without any interruption from rains.
  6. When development work stops in June, we can take stock of the situation and start planning from June to September, in 4th quarter.
What if fiscal year starts on 1 July:
  1. Budget to be presented by June.
  2. Budget enforced on 1 July.
  3. Many countries including Australia have their financial year starting on 1 July.
  4. Departments cannot start infrastructure work in July, but they can start making purchases in the first quarter. We would still have 9 months or 3 quarters to finish the work.
I am saying this purely from the point of view to implement infrastructure and development works. I am sure corporate sector will also benefit in this age of globalization and aligning their fiscal year with their counterparts in other countries.  This might not work well for agriculture.

Other option could be that states should be allowed to choose their own fiscal year. But I think that is highly impossible.

Book Review of Being Hindu

Being Hindu is a book written by Hindol Sengupta. The author has put forward his ideas properly with a solid research. He also expresses his personal life honestly which engages the reader from time to time.

On a personal note, I agree to most or all of the views expressed by the author in the book. In fact, I had similar observations that Hindol has mentioned in one of his chapters. Example: I never understood why there would ever be a conflict between Hinduism and Science. I know that the Church did not like Galileo for his views but I don’t think that our temples would ever deny the statements made by the scientist.

I also don’t think Hindu’s  view of creation would ever conflict with the Big bang theory or evolution. In fact the 10 avatars of Vishnu are in line with the evolution of the world (fish, tortoise, boar, lion-human, human).

It could be more than coincidence that earth was formed 4.6 billion years ago and a day of Brahma is 4.32 billion years.

As Hindol mentioned in the book, Hinduism would in fact welcome new scientific discoveries as these will strengthen what was written in Hindu scriptures ages ago.
I have read Vamsee Juluri’s Rearming Hinduism and Being Hindu reminds a lot about that book. Its good to see lot of content by authors young and old on the rich history of Hinduism. Would definitely recommend Being Hindu for a light reading on the topic.
I am have observed that many books published recently look more like a collection of articles or blogs written by the author. This book also reminds me of that. I think that’s how the reader  prefers reading a book these days because we are used to reading short essays or blogs online. I still have nothing to complaint about this format. But I prefer the start and end to be connected and a flow from one chapter to another. My next book is India: A Sacred Geography by Diane L. Eck and I think this book will exceed my expectations.

References:

Tuesday, November 03, 2015

Why writers are returning their awards

What will you do when your job is threatened and you can no longer do your work freely that you have been enjoying for your whole life?
What if you are threatened of dire consequences just because you were doing your work the way you want to do it?
What if you cannot roam freely because of your vocation? Do you sit at home or change your vocation?
What if your views are disagreeable to others and that prevents you from doing your job properly, and sometimes even threaten your existence?

I am sure many of us can't even imagine these situations because of the mediocre boring jobs that we are doing daily. Who will really threaten us with our life at our plush air conditioned offices? So what if I have pressure from my manager to do the task his way, I will obey his command. Worst case, I will leave my job and find another company where things are more creative and liberal. 

But there are many others who are doing something different - writers, film makers, scientists, professors. These people are noticing the change in the society for past few years. I think these writers who are returning awards are concerned that if things continue the way they are, they won't be able to write as they want, or make films as they like to. They would like to continue their vocation, their work, freely without any physical or mental pressure from the evil with no face.

Then there are social workers and activists who are still trying to bring social change by doing their bit, sometimes without the help of government. These activists are offered police protection when they receive threats. But why should someone not roam freely just because he is trying to bring a change in the society for the good.

I am not saying that these intellectuals or liberals are scared. They are only trying to protect their job. Everyone does. Chetan Bhagat says in this article that even politicians are defending their jobs. I think the writers, film makers, scientists, social workers are also defending their jobs by returning their awards.

They want their peers, groups, institutions, academies, society and the world to take notice of what is happening. They want to tell everyone that we cannot continue working if people like us are threatened or killed for our work. And it is obvious that they can't change their vocation and do jobs in cubicles like others. Neither do they want to join the system, become politicians and become CM. Hence the only non-violent way to get everyone's attention is to return the awards. They are returning the awards to defend their job, lives and most importantly, their belief.

And they have been successful till now in their efforts within a span of one month. Mahatma Gandhi said:
First they ignore you, then they laugh at you, then they fight you, then you win.
I think we are now at the second stage in this whole turn of events. Writers, historians, professors, scientists, social workers are always the ignored profession in India. When few writers initially returned their awards, not many people from other side took notice. They laughed at them and tried to classify or categorize them into leftist, opposition, elitist, intellectuals, liberals etc. But now even Members of Parliament are taking notice of them and inviting them for a "constructive" discussion. Hope the best side wins!

Tuesday, March 10, 2015

Uber awesomeness!

I am using Uber for this whole week and not using my personal car at all. I want to see the benefits of using Uber vs. driving your own car. It has been fairly established that  Uber is more cost effective than  buying a new car. But this blog is intended for those who already own a car and are driving it just because they own the car. I will do a cost comparison for that later. But I wanted to first highlight advantages of using UberX.

Note: These observations are from India and some of these might not work elsewhere. Also, these views are based on current rates of Uber. Not sure if they will hold true when their rates fluctuate. But again, petrol rates also fluctuate a lot in India hence that can also affect the decision.

  • Lifestyle change - The decision to switch to Uber permanently than driving your own car involves a lifestyle change. Your car is not there with you anymore; not there outside your office waiting for you. You start walking a bit more.  You start depending on public transport more. There is no baggage of ensuring that your car is safe somewhere. 
  • Parking - You don't  waste time finding parking in mall or office. You don't worry whether you will get parking space and you can focus on getting the work done. 
  • Time utilization - You don't drive your car. Hence you utilize the time in the taxi to read a blog you always wanted, connect with your friends, send mails. By the time you reach office, you have already caught up with your day's work. 
  • Conversations - If you have someone with you in the taxi, you can easily talk or discuss with them. Even if you are alone, you get to make great conversations with drivers. I have found most of the drivers cheerful and happy till now. 
  • I don't have to worry if I am stuck in traffic now, because even though I am in traffic, I can utilize the time to read up something. It costs me only Re. 1 per minute (based on current wait charges) if I stuck  in traffic. But I utilize my time a lot more for Re. 1. Totally worth it! 
  • More cheerful - Since you are not driving the car in traffic, you are more cheerful when you reach office or when you reach home. Your legs/hands/back don't pain from driving a car. You are mentally and physically better.
The way I see it, Uber is not providing you a car, it is providing you a driver. Everyone owns a car but very few people have their own driver. Hence Uber's tag line in their app 'Your private driver'. You get to share a driver for a month at 1/4th the salary of driver on your payroll. I think that's the value addition that Uber gives. It's not about the car, its about the driver. All the above things are possible because Uber is giving me an on-demand driver.

Now, coming back to the cost of owning a car vs. taking Uber.  

Few notes for calculation - I read this blog by Sam Altman and have referred his calculation.  I own Hyundai Santro, 2007 model. It gives me mileage of 11 km per litre of petrol and the current fuel cost is Rs. 68/litre in India. I would value my Santro at Rs. 1,50,000/- running in good condition. And I would apply a depreciation rate of 15% to my car in India. Also, my office is only 5 km away from  my home hence the cost of UberGo per km is Rs. 16.5. For longer trips in Uber, the cost would come down to Rs. 14 or even lower. 

Based on these facts, here are the figures: 

km  traveled per year 6000
insurance per year Rs. 6000
maintenance cost per year Rs. 6000
depreciation per year Rs 22500
parking per year Rs. 9000
petrol  cost per km Rs. 6 UberGo Rs 16.5
Total  Rs.79500 Rs 99000









So based on these figures, I am paying around Rs. 19,500 a year more for using Uber's on-demand drivers. 

I changed these numbers above for Honda City, 2005 model, and compared UberX at rate of 18 per km. And the usage cost per year for Honda City is Rs. 112500 and using UberX for a year was Rs. 108000. I think Uber will be more cost effective if the distance traveled is more and it will be cheaper  if you are driving a mid size sedan like Dzire, Amaze etc. 

You can change the values above according to your vehicle. You could be running diesel, you could have more distance traveled per year, you could catch a different depreciation rate (even 10%). I compared UberGo because I drive a Santro. You could compare UberX. In any case, even if you have a small car like Santro or Alto in India, Uber would make more financial sense. If you want higher end cars, they have UberBlack too. 

So, you don't need to own a car, no need to pay any EMI and yet  roam around the whole town. You don't have to pay monthly salary to the driver and enjoy all the benefits mentioned earlier.  That's good enough reason to switch to Uber.  





Wednesday, March 04, 2015

Connect Mobile Phone headphones to mac mini for using microphone

Mac mini has only two ports - one for headphones and other for Line In. If we connect the generic headphone to Line In port, Mac does not detect it as a headphone. Hence lot of people have suggested online to use a battery powered headphone or a usb mic or a connection from preamp to use a mic.

Another alternative is to use the headphones that come with your mobile phone handset. You use these headphones to listen songs and also to answer voice calls. Connect this headphone to the headphone port of Mac mini and your headphone and microphone, both will work on mac.


Predictions for hardware devices for 2016-2017

When I wanted to buy my first laptop in 2010, two screen sizes were popular during that time - 11" and 14". I really wanted to buy a Dell 13" Vostro laptop as it was the perfect size for portability and office use though I felt it was bit small for software development. But 13" laptops were very very expensive in 2010 and I bought  a 15.6" for more screen space than 14". But today, 13.3" laptops have become mainstream, thanks to Apple Macbook Air, and lot of companies are launching laptops with 13.3" size.

When I bought my Samsung Galaxy Note 2 in December 2012, almost everyone went aghast at the 5.5" screen size of the Android phone. iPhone fans obviously revolted at the phone and many thought it was insensible to walk with such a huge phone in your pocket. Before Note 2 I had Sony Xperia X10 Mini Pro - a 2.5" phone. I was convinced that we could do a lot with Android or iOS Having used Sony for 2 years  and hence more screen space was required to get basic tasks done like typing, viewing videos and use the phone throughout the day (good battery life). Plus I didn't want to carry a phone and tablet everywhere so I bought a phablet. After 2014, almost every phone is more than 4.8". Even Apple launched iPhone 6 and 6 plus. Currently phablet has become a phone now.

Having been successful twice in the past in selecting devices, I write this blog to make my current selection and the prediction for next two years. I might be wrong, but I sincerely feel that these are the devices I would like to own for the next two years:

1. Laptop - I would definitely buy  a 13.3" laptop now. 11" Macbook is still very small and 15.6" are too heavy. We are now used to getting lot of stuff done in tablets and phones and we need a laptop which can start quickly and get the job done. In past 5 years, there was lot of innovation happening in tablets and mobiles but now laptops are fast catching up. Intel has launched 5th Generation Core-i processors and also Core M processors for Chromebooks. Companies have figured out to reduce the weight of the laptop by using good alloys for the body. Lenovo is launching a laptop in May which will weigh only 800 gms! You don't really need 500 GB space as most of the stuff today can be put on Google drive, Dropbox, S3 etc. Hence a  laptop that is 13.3" screen, 128 GB SSD, 4-8 GB RAM, weight of less than 4 pounds is perfect to buy at a price of around USD 800 to 1000. I don't care if its touch screen or the 2-in-1 types (laptop + tablet).

2. Mobile -  I would use a 4" to 5" mobile phone now instead of my current 5.5" phone. I would only use it for calling, whatsapp and doing a quick search on Google. I don't really play many games and I am not very active on social media now. Hence I think that 5 to 6" phones are good for daily use and many companies are pushing boundaries to make it thinner and more usable in your hands. A phone with less than USD 500 (unlocked) will be good enough. I would also consider  Firefox OS or Blackberry, apart from Android/iOS/Windows.

3. Tablet - I don't own a tablet yet and would not buy one. I think tablets are of little use today unless you are a kid under 10 or senior citizen above 60. Other age groups can use a good ultraportable laptop for reasons mentioned above. No one wants to carry a laptop, tablet and mobile with them everywhere. Lets face it, you can't really type documents or make presentations or do programming on a tablet.  If you only want to access content - watch videos, read news, check mails, play games, learn something - tablet is perfect for you. But creating content isn't easy on tablets. The hardware for tablet is ready but the software still isn't. Hence the need for laptops. And since laptops are becoming fast and ultra portable, then you can access and create content on laptop  better than you would do on tablet. Plus most of the content can be accessed on a good 5" mobile phone too - play games, watch videos, check mails, be connected etc.

I see less innovation happening in tablets in next two years. Apple launched iPad mini 3 with only one small feature upgrade. Or probably companies could come up with a new OS for tablets and not keep the same OS for mobiles and tablets.

Buy a 11-13.3" laptop and a 5" phone. Tablet if you have kids or elder people at home. I would also buy a Kindle e-reader to read books if you love reading.

So, in short - these are my predictions for next two years - return of the laptop, mobile phones getting thinner and better, and tablets being just tablets!

Thursday, February 12, 2015

How Internet teaches us to be more responsible

 Man has always wanted to be part of group since the beginning of time. That is how civilizations grew. But to be part of a group you have to adhere to some rules and regulations. Only then you could be admitted in the group. The group could be a society, town, village, city or country. But if you had to be part of the group you need to adhere to the rules, whether you like it or not.

Man also has responsibility not to do wrong actions towards others. There are different type of people in the world and some people want to help others and some people want to hurt others. That is where religions came in. They provided a context so that each man tries his best to be good to others and to himself in the benefit of the group (described above). Every religion professes to do good towards others (humanity) so that You  (the individual) would also benefit with it.

But with the internet, the boundaries that define a group are fading away. Man is no longer grouped on the basis of his location, age, gender, race etc. For once he feels he has complete freedom to commit actions that he likes. The society or groups are not well prepared to enforce the rules. In this situation, what should the Man do? Should he indulge in activities which he likes but which he knows that are not according to the rules laid down? Shall he commit actions which are legal but which he knows goes against the context of humanity? Do you always need to be governed by the rules and laws or can you think for yourself whether your actions are right or wrong?   Internet teaches us to be more responsible about what we write, say, show to others till these groups don't figure out a way to govern.

Monday, August 11, 2014

Vaishnava Jana To

This bhajan by Narsinh Mehta was the favourite bhajan by Mahatma Gandhi. It is in Gujarati and describes the qualities of an ideal Vaishnava (Vishnu bhakta).

The translation of the bhajan in Hindi and English is given very well at this link: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Vaishnava_Jana_To#Lyrics

The Original Hymn

Vaishnav Jan to taynay kahyeeye,
Jay peerh paraayee janney ray
Par dukkhey upkar karey,
Toyey man abhiman na anney ray.
Sakal lokma sahuney vandey,
Ninda na karey kainee ray
Vaach kaach, man nischal raakhey,
Dhan-dhan jananee tainee ray.
Samdristhi nay trishna tyagee,
Par-stree jaynay mat ray
Jivaah thaki asatya na bolay,
Par-dhan nav jhaley haath ray.
Moh maya vyaapey nahin jeyney,
Drud vairagya jeyna manma ray
Ram-naam-shoon taalee laagee,
Sakal teerth teyna tanma ray.
Vanalobhee ney kapatrahith chey,
Kaam, krodh nivarya ray
Bhane Narsaiyon tainoo darshan kartan,
Kul ekotair taryaa ray

Translation

A godlike man is one,
Who feels another’s pain
Who shares another’s sorrow,
And pride does disdain.
Who regards himself as the lowliest of the low,
Speaks not a word of evil against any one
One who keeps himself steadfast in words, body and mind,
Blessed is the mother who gives birth to such a son.
Who looks upon everyone as his equal and has renounced lust, And who honours women like he honours his mother
Whose tongue knows not the taste of falsehood till his last breath, Nor covets another’s worldly goods.
He does not desire worldly things,
For he treads the path of renunciation
Ever on his lips is Rama’s holy name,
All places of pilgrimage are within him.
One who is not greedy and deceitful,
And has conquered lust and anger
Through such a man Saint Narsaiyon has a godly vision,
Generations to come, of such a man, will attain salvation

And the video (sung by Lata Mangeshkar)  can be found here: 

Friday, July 25, 2014

Review of Book - Talks on The Gita by Acharya Vinoba Bhave

Link for the book (HTML online): http://www.mkgandhi.org/talksongita/talk_gita.htm
E-Book (PDF): http://www.mkgandhi.org/ebks/talks_on_the_gita.pdf

'Talks on The Gita' or 'Gita Pravachane' are a series of talks delivered by Acharya Vinoba Bhave in 1932 in Dhule jail where Vinoba had been incarcerated by the British for his participation in the freedom movement. In the note from the publisher of this book:
Vinoba agreed to give a talk every Sunday and delivered 18 talks on the 18 Chapters. P.S. Sane alias Sane Guruji, a great writer and freedom-fighter, wrote them down in long hand. There was no question of their being taped and their publication was also not thought of. In fact, Vinoba had given talks on the Gita many times in the past, but none of them had been published. However, Sane Guruji preserved the notebooks and the talks were published first in his weekly newspaper, and then in the form of a book in 1940 when Vinoba was in jail even before he could find time to go through them for necessary editing.
It is not an academic treatise on the Gita. These are the talks given before ordinary individuals from different walks of life. It was Vinoba’s firm conviction that the Gita is meant to spiritualize human life; to transform and make it divine. That is exactly what these talks too are meant to bring about. 

As mentioned in the publisher's note, Talks on the Gita is different from other books or discourses available on Bhagavad Gita. In this book, there is no verse to verse translation, neither there is any explanation of every verse in detail. Hence the lectures or talks given by Vinoba Bhave on Gita are very simple and easy to understand for even those who haven't read Bhagavad Gita earlier.

Vinoba Bhave played a very important role in Indian Freedom struggle and was a follower of Mahatma Gandhi. In these talks in 1932, he inspired the residents of the jail and his fellowmen to fight for the nation and motherland.


His explanation of Karma and Vikarma in 5th chapter, how to obtain focus of mind in 6th chapter, meaning of Bhakti in chapters 7-12 are easy to follow. He explains these concepts by showing us practical day to day life scenarios. He has also tried to convey his points through stories of Hindu Gods and Godesses. For example, Pundalik was serving his parents and Lord Vitthal came to his home to grant him a boon for his devotion to his parents. When Lord Vitthal knocked on Pundalik's door, Pundalik was busy serving his parents and hence threw a brick at Vitthal to offer him a place to stand. Lord Vitthal was pleased with his devotion and henceforth remained at Pandharpur. This story explained by Vinoba explains the concept of dharma - Pundalik's dharma  was to serve his parents and hence Lord Vitthal (Vishnu) wasn't offended.


Vinoba explains that Lord is everywhere around us in nature, animals, human beings. Chapter 7 and 9 of Bhagavad Gita give his manifestations in the world, but the Lord is not limited to those manifestations and his everywhere and in everything. But the best message that I could get from this book was in the second chapter itself when Vinoba Bhave explains the Sankya system in very simple language. He says -

Three cardinal principles have been enunciated in the Second Chapter—
        (i) The atman (the Self) is deathless and indivisible.
        (ii) The body is insignificant and transient.
        (iii) Swadharma must be followed.
Out of these, Swadharma is in the nature of duty to be performed while the other two principles are those that need to be understood.

 He further explains after this what is Swadharma, how to realize the atman and how we cherish the body even though the body is insignificant and full of dirt.


I would highly recommend this book to everyone, specially if you haven't read Bhagavad Gita till now and are looking for a book that could explain the message of Bhagavad Gita in simple manner.