In the extremely high profile visit of Prime Minister Narendra Modi to the USA, the personal highlight for many Indians across the world seemed to be the speech at Madison Square Garden. In a departure from the Team Netapedia tradition, this edition of the blog is presented as a personal view of yet another Indian who just moved to the USA.

The visit has been scheduled for a while now and is a great example of how even a strong and powerful nation such as USA has to reverse its decision. In this case, more specifically, granting a US visa to PM Modi. The timing of the visit coincided with many important events primarily the success of the Mangalayaan mission and one of the most important Indian festival of Navaratri. It was a series of proud moments for Indians as we saw our country’s standing go up in a virtually high fliers club. Personally, I had to control myself from gloating when I heard local students discuss the Mars orbiter. ISRO made not only India proud but became the latest decision changer to all those Non-resident Indians whose one feet continues to remain in India and are experiencing their own variants of to be or not to be in America.

As a new graduate student in a new country, all of us were dealing with cultural shocks and an intensive study load. With very less to look forward to apart from checking facebook for those who were enjoying Navaratri in India, Modi’s speech served as a reminder of not only my current purpose but also of the greater picture I need to keep in mind. Although I missed the live version of the speech, watching the recorded version did make me feel I was at Madison Garden Square and not really in a small city located diagonally opposite, 2,400 miles away from New York City.

The most striking thing I felt while listening to the speech was the perfect combination of content and delivery. Not only was the content designed to touch the cord with the Indians in America but the speech itself was delivered with the right mix of soberness and melodrama which was the real reason of the impact it had. Coming from IT background made me cheer as well just the way all those who watched the speech live. He had the attention right at the start with the little anecdote. Despite everything Indians have achieved in US, one continues to need a reassurance and who better than the PM himself to say ‘good job people.’ As a rookie graduate student questioning the decision to come to foreign country in the hope of better jobs and career ahead, it did calm me briefly into believing it will all be fine.

Being a part of the 65% Indian population under 35, did scare me about the cusp our country stands on in employment and skill development. However, his strong pitch for asking the NRIs and NRIs-in-making such as me and most of my friends at graduate school, is a hope and a plea to give back to the country which made us good enough to come and compete successfully in a foreign land. Like a master businessman selling his strengths, he pointed to the high points and anecdotes pertaining to the general elections, changes in FDI norms to persuade and reach out to more people on improving manufacturing in India. It was designed and delivered not just to inspire but also to attract investment. His references and citations about the cost effectiveness of Mangalayaan points subtly hinted at India as a possible cost effective investment destination.

By highlighting and encouraging the use of portals such as MyGov, he appealed to the increasingly technology savvy Indians all across the world who could give their suggestions no matter which ever country they currently reside in. He went on to project the atmosphere of hope and clamour for change back home. In talking about the Clean Ganga Initiative, he touches upon the perils that await us if climate change and environment is ignored. He appealed further to NRIs and Indian-American citizens by providing solutions for the visa issues related to the Persons of Indian Origin (PIO) and Overseas Citizens of India (OCI).

Overall, he knew his audience well not just in terms of their emotional levels but also their intellectual and investment capabilities. Given the mood of Indians in America due to Mangalayaan success and the Navaratri festival, the timing of the visit and the speech were perfectly leveraged to deliver maximum impact to the audience. I count myself lucky that I had the whole day to follow the news on general elections results day. It was heartening to know that my friends and relatives here in America showed the same enthusiasm and were up at midnight tracking the news as well. Given the number of Indians at workplaces here, it was the top conversation at water coolers here as well. What he did at Madison Square garden was to connect to both sets of audience with the hope that someday we all come together and make the India of our dreams.

Srinidhi Govindarajan
Team Netapedia

The 64th Republic Day of India

As we have just set up the New Year calendar of 2013 neatly on the tabletop, it’s already the time of the year when we look forward to celebrate the 64th Republic Day of India. Of course, the routine celebrations at the Rajpath would be the highlight of the day, but a concerned crowd would expect a meaningful speech from the President of India. With the end of an eventful year in the world of finances, business and politics it was also a year full of social turbulences causing resentment and deepening anxieties in the people. This year will seek answers, settlements, overhauling of the system, above all, a clear conscience of the gigantic political establishment.

This feature of Netapedia would take you through the pages of 2012, deduce the implications and gradually forecast 2013 through the binoculars.

The Highlights of 2012:

1. The Triumphs: In the last year, Pranab Mukherjee walked the red carpet to India’s highest office on 25th July, 2012 as he was crowned the 13th President of India. In Uttar Pradesh, Akhilesh Yadav of Samajwadi Party carried the chief ministerial baton in March 2012 who is largely seen as the game changer in UP politics. An exuberant Narendra Modi proved that he rules the hearts of Gujratis by his historical win in the Gujarat election polls for the third time in a row. When Vijay Bahuguna was sworn in as the Chief Minister of Uttarakhand on March 13, 2012 he became the first ex-high court judge to be sworn in as a Chief Minister. Prakash Singh Badal sworn in as the Chief Minister of Punjab and Virbhadra Singh as the Chief Minister of Himachal Pradesh for the fifth time. Manohar Parrikar was sworn in as the Chief Minister of the smallest state of India, Goa.

2. FDI In Retail: The government has managed to successfully navigate the most recent crisis created over allowing foreign direct investment (FDI) in multi-brand retail trade. On 7 December 2012, the Federal Government of India allowed 51% FDI in multi-brand retail subject to approvals by individual states, confronting a massive repercussion from the opposition lawmakers who had kept the Parliament paralyzed for days till the Speaker agreed to admit the motion to discuss the issue, demanding the government to roll back its decision on allowing FDI in retail. Even the Trinamool Congress pulled out of the UPA in September 2012 opposing the decision to give the green signal to FDI in multi-brand retail, reduction of subsidy in cooking gas and rise in diesel prices.

3. Hike in Fuel prices: With pressure from global rating agencies such as Fitch and Moody’s and to tackle the 5.3 percent fiscal deficit which has been looming large the prices of both petrol and diesel were raised significantly over the year. Experts had varied reactions to this move. While some were of the opinion that it will put too much pressure on the economically underprivileged sections of the society others felt that giving subsidies on the non renewable fuels is just not right for the country in the long run. It is still to be seen that whether there would be further rise in fuel prices in 2013 and what impact do these current rises have on the country!!

4. Railways Passenger Fare hikes: The railways witnessed a hike in fares after a decade. Dinesh Trivedi, who presented the railway budget proposing the hike, in March 2012 had to resign following backlash from his party. After the resignation the hike was rolled back for all except for those travelers who travelled in ac compartments. Mr Trivedi’s party finally left the UPA Government in Sep 2012. Subsequently Pawan Bansal, the current railway minister effected the across the board hike in passenger fares in Jan 2013 citing the fiscal condition of the railways as was cited by Mr Trivedi.

5. The Coalgate Scam: CAG alleged that the government should have auctioned the coal blocks to the private and public sector companies, which would have brought more money to the government coffers than the process they actually adopted of constituting a screening committee who would pass or reject proposal on the basis of a set criteria. There were both opinions and counter opinions for the CAG claim. It can be said that though the Government may not have made an actual loss of 1.86 lac crore in the grand scheme of things but there can be no denying the fact that a more transparent and stringent process should have been followed in allocating this important natural resource. (More can be read about this here http://www.netapedia.in/blog/?p=62)

6. Aam Aadmi Party: Activist Arvind Kejriwal opened several cans of allegations against Nitin Gadkari, Robert Vadra, Salman Khurshid blaming them of being involved in corrupt malpractices. In his political feat, he launched political party in Delhi naming it Aam Aadmi Party 26 November 2012, a decision which led to a parting of ways with his mentor, Anna Hazare. The party’s vision is to realize a dream of Swaraj that Gandhiji had envisaged for a free India — where the power of governance and rights of democracy will be in the hands of the people of India.

7. Direct Cash Transfer Scheme: The Government of India pushed for its ambitious direct benefits transfer (DBT) scheme throughout 2012 rolled out in 20 districts on January1,2013 is said to be a ‘game-changer’ with regard to governance and the way the government provides subsidy to people. The mandatory pre-requisites for the beneficiaries to avail the cash transfer scheme are to have an Aadhar number and a bank account. However there are still concerns left over the full proof preparedness of the government functionaries for launching this scheme. (The details about the scheme can be read here http://www.netapedia.in/blog/?p=97)

8. The Delhi Gang rape: The gang rape that took place in Delhi on 16 December 2012 of a 23-year-old female in a bus, shocked India and lead to public outcry against the convict. This horrific incident galvanized an entire nation into a flurry of protests and demands for justice. The victim succumbed to injuries on 29 December, 2012 in a hospital in Singapore. It has become the wakeup call for the whole society as it has thrown a socio-cultural question, questioning everything from our collective mindsets, law and order situation, safety measures etc. The government is in the process of formulating regulations to make India a safer place for women.

What to look forward to in 2013:

1. Union Budget 2013-14: As the Government begins to prepare for the upcoming elections next year, with formulating the Union budget, the FM has been instilling a lot of confidence in not just the markets but investors as well. Adding that this year’s Budget will be a responsible one, the FM is positive that next year’s fiscal deficit target will be lowered to 4.8%. While keeping a firm focus on economic revival, fiscal consolidation and boosting India’s allure as an attractive investment destination we expect P Chidambaram’s first budget (in the current government) will see a stable tax regime, more reforms, and better fiscal management in the budget for 2013-14. It is also left to be seen that whether UPA’s last budget before the 2014 elections would be a populist budget or will the Government’s primary focus be on continuing with the reforms measures it has initiated. Overall the country will be looking forward to a budget which would be able to achieve the golden double of bringing the economy back on track and being popular with the masses.

2. Assembly Elections 2013: A total of 9 states (Meghalaya, Tripura, Nagaland, Karnataka, Madhya Pradesh, Mizoram, NCT Delhi, Rajasthan, Chhattisgarh) are going to polls in 2013. The parties of these states are toiling hard, as it would be a precursor for the 2014 general elections and whosoever wins these will have stronger chance of winning the 2014 Lok Sabha elections.

3. The Prime Ministerial Candidate for 2014 elections: By the end of 2013 it will be amply clear who all will be vying for the position of the Prime Minister of this great country in the 2014 elections. Will it be the recently appointed vice president of the Congress party, the current leader of the opposition in the Lok Sabha, the current Chief Minister of Bihar, the Chief Minister who won the Gujarat Assembly Elections third time in a row, the current Finance Minister of India or someone else altogether whose name might not be making the rounds as of now, this only time will tell!

One factor which is worth a remark is the way we have stood against the odds wearing different colours of skin, caste and creed. A wave of awareness has touched upon the crowd of the country that shows we are now, a concerned lot. We care for the way we are being treated, having a better understanding of ourselves, we are empowered to make changes and to build on the areas of strength as well as identify areas where we would like to make improvements. But isn’t it for us to think why we need multi billion dollar scams, gruesome incidents to unite and why 6000 year old civilization still need shows like Satyameva Jayate!

The year 2013 will be a significant year where the vital assessment and bold resolutions are expected which would determine the India’s future for the rest of the decade. Keeping the spirits high let’s welcome this year with stronger hearts and hope to have a prosperous economy, fine governance and peaceful times.

Wishing you all a Very Happy Republic Day and let us make the largest Democracy in the world, the Democracy of our dreams!!

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