Four Stray Thoughts : November 21, 2009

Here are my Four Stray Thoughts for the day:

1. Nobel Prize for Filth: Our environment minister Mr. Jairam Ramesh has said that if there was ever a Nobel prize for filth, India would win it hands on. Read about it over here. I agree with the minister on this point. And there is nothing earth shattering that he has said. All of us know that our cities are probably among the dirtiest due to our own apathy and the administration. But what Mr. Ramesh has conveniently forgot to add is that we if there was a Nobel Prize for the dirtiest, most corrupt and may I add “filthy” politicians, then India would win that award too. Mr. Ramesh is speaking about the effect and not the cause. In the above link too, they talk about the same things like a certain majority of the population not having safe water, etc. We have been hearing that for the last several years without any plan in place to start addressing it. And filth is not going to go away with one big ‘sweeping’ act of reforms. It will take years, patience and a commitment from all of us to do something about it. So let us stop talking about the obvious and do something instead.

2.  Mobile Number portability: After years of having promised all cellular subscribers in India a “mobile number portability”, some action is seeing the light of the day. We know how this important legislation has taken years to get going. And it is pretty obvious that if implemented well, it would force the cellular service providers to get some of the act right. So finally we have some news over here, where it mentions that mobile number portability will be rolled out across most metros by December and the rest of the country by March 2010. But the devil is in the details. At a high level, they mention that you can do it for just Rs. 19 but it pays to look at the finer details and easily conclude for yourself, what a hassle it is going to be to actually change your provider. Here are the some of the finer points:

  • You can only change your mobile service provider after 90 days of signing up for the service. So no matter how unhappy you are, you better wait for 90 days.
  • I quote the draft legislation here “The users who wish to change their operator will have to give a written undertaking to their existing service provider for switching to a new operator. Trai has fixed a four-day window for operators to process an application.” A written undertaking, are you serious? And where does one submit it ? And what is the guarantee it will get processed in 4 days when simple requests to change plans take more that time.

This process clearly shows what ails our country today. We take years to get any decent legislation going. Then we finally get there, we discover that the fine print has clearly derailed the success of the legislation due to vested interests of the companies and the bureaucracy. This legislation unless implemented correctly is a classical case of a “Wrong Number”.

3. Football World Cup qualifiers: The last round of world cup qualifiers are done. This brings me to the question of whether India will ever qualify in my lifetime for the FIFA World Cup. I am 35 years old and at best if I remain healthy might still be around for at least another 35 years. Would that be enough to get India. What needs to be done, I have no idea. There are several suggestions from bringing in coaches, sending players abroad, starting football academies. To be frank, all of this has been tried out to a certain extent either with passion or just for the sake of doing it. It has not worked. A couple of years back, the World Cup winning coach of Brazil was asked how much time would India need to be focused if it had to make it to the World cup and his answer was  about 30 years. Just imagine 30 years of sustained efforts in the hope of qualifying. I am usually not a pessimist but at least in this regard I am convinced that we will never make it. And my explanation is broken down into the basics: a) We do not have the physique to play this tough game b) We do not have the skills c) We need team management and tactics that are taught over years to ingrain a sense of total football. Sadly, I will be left to watching a world cup, once every 4 years and imagining what would the excitement be like if we had qualified.

4. The National UID Project: The project that will get all Indians a unique identifier has been in the news due to its high profile nature. It seems that the project is not going to be easy considering that we have so many ID’s already in existence and linking them all up is an undertaking of mammoth proportions. Anything of this scale has not been attempted before. And we are also beginning to see leaks of the UID Project details. Read about it here. The article also provides a lot of other information that is worth looking at to understand the challenges facing the implementation and if they get it right, what a proud moment it will be for our country. There is also a bee line of IT firms that want a chunk of the pie in providing their services. Intense lobbying is going on by all the big names like Microsoft, Yahoo, Google, TCS, etc. Unisys is the latest to join the fray in offering its services. I have a suggestion for the UID Project. We should force all these companies to work together for the project by allocating them different regions of the country. This way they will be forced to work with each other, inter operate their software and use standards that are agreeable to all. These companies sadly do not do any of these things in the real world where they are intensely at battle with each other and hate each others products. Our National UID Project is a great opportunity now for them to join hands and work together. India has shown the world several times where in spite of so many differences among its local people, we continue to still survive as a single nation. It is time we show and force these big IT companies to work together too.




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