How Long Can the US Dollar Remain World’s Reserve Currency

June 30th, 2018

How Long Can the US Dollar Remain Worlds Reserve Currency?


Col (Retd) Bhaskar Sarkar VSM

The other day my brother sent me a Whatsapp message titled “Death of the US Dollar”. The piece stated that the Chinese Yuan has been added to IMF’s basket of currencies and China is persuading countries to use the Yuan in place of the US dollar in bilateral or even multilateral trade. Some trade deals in Yuan have been signed. The US dollar has been the world’s reserve currency since 1946. It has thus ruled the world for 72 years. Is it time for it to be replaced? This article seeks to examine when, if at all, the US dollar may be replaced as worlds reserve currency.

Strong Currency VS Weak Currency

Strong currency makes imports cheaper. Thus countries who are net importers like the US, UK and EU like to have strong currencies where as export oriented countries like Japan, China, Asian Tigers like to have weak currencies so that their exports are more competitive in price sensitive markets. Strong currencies are great for governments giving aid to developing countries, military or project expenditure abroad and tourist going abroad. A strong dollar helps the US and UK government and consumers. But it makes US and UK wages and manpower costs in manufacturing uncompetitive.

To explain the effect of currency conversion, I would like to give a few examples. I had an uncle who was an UK citizen with a pension of 1000 British pound in 2002. That was barely liveable in UK. He used to stay six months a year in Goa, India. His 1000 Pounds converted to Rs 72,000. He lived comfortably and could afford a maid and a chauffeur. One radish in Singapore costs one Singapore dollar or Rs 50. In India the same radish would cost us Rs. 5 to 10.

Frankly, I do not understand why one US dollar is Rs 68. In 1992 it was just Rs 14.

If one US dollar ever became equal to one Chinese Yuan, the US manufacturing would be highly competitive. China would not be able to sell anything in the US market. If one US dollar could come down to Rs 34, the price we pay for crude oil in Indian rupees would be half of what we pay today.

Why is dollar over valued?

The United States had remained untouched by the ravages of World War II. Its industrial production in 1945 was more than double that of annual production between the prewar years of 1935 and 1939. In contrast, Europe and East Asia were economically shattered.  The United States held most of world’s investment capital, industrial production and exports. In 1945, it produced half the world’s coal, two-thirds of the oil, and more than half of the electricity power. It held 80 percent of the world’s gold reserves. The United States started with initial economic advantage, consolidated it during and after the war and assumed leadership of the capitalist world. The United States got what it wanted through the “Benton Wood” systems for the world economy. Its dollar replaced the British pound as the world’s trading currency.  President Franklin D. Roosevelt saw the creation of the postwar order with the US at the top as a way to ensure continuing prosperity for his country.

The situation has changed. 70 years of warmongering under the Marshall Plan, policing the world and corporate greed supported by US Presidents from Regan to Obama resulted in industrial activity and manufacturing moving to Japan, Asian Tigers and China and made the US the world’s largest debtor nation. Its Public debt is over $ 20 trillion and national debt over $ 32 trillion. The gold reserve vanished when Nixon was president and the US withdrew from the gold standard. The US dollar is certainly overvalued.

So what keeps the Dollar afloat? It is because those countries which hold large reserves of dollars, China, Japan, Germany and Saudi Arabia want it to be strong so that their exports to the US remain cheap, US manufacturing cannot compete and the value of their dollar holdings is not reduced. So they keep buying US dollars when it weakens to keep it strong.

Economic Stability of Nations

Before we examine the possibility of the dollar being replaced by a new reserve currency, I would like to touch upon a new concept, “economic stability of nations”. Stable economies are those economies which are least affected by turmoil in the world economy like rise of protectionism, collapse of globalization or WTO, trade wars and a major war. These economies produce adequate food, raw materials and energy for the needs of their population and industries. They are not export oriented economies. The US, Russia, Australia and Canada are the most stable economies where as China, Japan and the Asian Tigers are the most unstable economies. These countries import energy, raw materials and export commodities and manufactured goods and machinery to the world. They can have serious economic and law and order problems if supply of energy is disrupted due to war or sanctions, the supply of raw materials is disrupted due to similar reasons or because the producers of raw material decide not to export ores but want to export metals. For example India has reduced export of iron ore and seeks to export iron and steel.

Development and rate of growth needs to be sustainable. The rich nations, IMF, World Bank and private investors encourage developing countries to borrow money and grow fast. Repayment is difficult. A default suits the rich nations who then take away economic sovereignty, force devaluation and exploit them as much as possible. Sri Lanka borrowed from China to build its infrastructure and fight LTTE. Unable to payback, it has sold the strategic port of Hambantota. Male and Nepal are borrowing heavily from China and will soon be gobbled up. Papua New Guinea and Gabon are cutting their rain forests and exporting timber to find money for growth. What happens when the forests are finished? Who are benefitting? The people will not benefit. Corrupt politicians and multinationals will. How long are the Gulf States going to splurge and fund dictators like Al Sisi of Egypt, terrorists and Islamic fundamentalism with their oil and gas revenues? More and more countries are trying to develop their own energy sources and increase use of renewable enrgy. The US has become a crude and gas exporter rather than a major importer. The economies of Nigeria and Venezuela have collapsed along with their oil revenues. Yet tiny Cuba with a less than Hindu rate of growth (3%) is stable and has no serious economic problems. The new government of Malaysia has wisely cancelled its bullet train project between Kualalumpur and Singapore because it is not economically viable and Malaysia would not be able to pay back the debt. Unfortunately, India persists with its bullet train and highway projects with borrowed money.

If and When Can the US Dollar be Replaced

The main requirement of the reserve currency is universal acceptability. Governments, investors, bankers and traders in different countries must be willing to accept it and exchange it for local currency at laid down rates. The British Pound, the Euro and the Yen are accepted as payment for goods and services in many countries. When Iran was under US sanction, India paid for oil imports in Euros. The requirement of US dollar or any reserve currency can be dispensed with in bilateral trade. For example, Soviet Union and India traded in Rupees for about 20 years. China accepts payment in Yuan for its exports to boost sales in countries which do not earn enough dollars to buy goods and services they need. Some countries like Singapore accept currencies of most countries in the world and convert them into local currencies. The importance of a reserve currency is slowly reducing.

The second requirement of a reserve currency is that there must be enough of it to meet the needs of the world. In Dec 2016 there were over 1.5 trillion US dollar notes in circulation. Printing of the US dollar is no longer made public. In comparison on the same day about 1 trillion Euro, 100 billion British Pound and 900 billion US dollars worth of Japanese Yen were in circulation. The figures for Chinese Yuan could not be found. ( . It will be seen that the US dollar has the largest numbers in circulation with Euro a close second. The notes in circulation of any other country are not adequate to meet the needs of the world.


The US economy does not dominate the world anymore like it used to up to the sixties. Its gold reserves are gone. From the largest lender nation it has become the largest debtor nation. But it is still the world’s largest economy. Its main competitors, Europe and China have a long way to go before they can overtake the US. Both are unstable economies because they are heavily dependent on other countries for their energy and raw material needs and for markets to sell their products.

US and EU sanctions are forcing countries to trade without using the reserve currency. Bilateral trade in local currency is becoming more common. It is also a tool to increase export to countries with low dollar reserves. Thus the importance of holding foreign exchange reserves in US dollars is reducing. But the US dollar will remain strong and the reserve currency of the world as long as two out of EU, China and Japan want it to remain so.

(Col Sarkar has written two books on economics, “Economic Nationalism: The Strategy for Survival of Developing Nations” and “Growth and Decline of Economies of Europe and US:

Is There an Alternative to Mr. Modi as PM

June 23rd, 2018

Is There an Alternative to Mr. Modi as Prime Minister?


Col (Retd) Bhaskar Sarkar VSM

The bye election losses and the possibility of opposition unity in coming elections have unnerved BJP top brass, BJP supporters and supporting media. Out of 27 by elections held in the last two years, BJP has won only 5. Some of these 5 are in constituencies like Palghar where the opposition failed to unite. Unable to stem the tide, BJP and its supporters are trying to project that there is no alternative to Mr. Modi as PM. They are trying desperately to convince the public that the opposition has no viable leader. They argue that Mr. Rahul Gandhi and the regional Satraps like Mr. Mulayam Singh, Akhilesh Yadav, Mrs. Mayawati, Mrs. Mamta Bannerjee, Mr. Chandra Babu Naidu, etc will fall prey to their personal ambitions, fight amongst themselves after victory and like Mr. V P Singh, Mr. Chandra Sekhar, Mr. Raj Narain, Mr. I K Gujral and Mr. Deve Gowda, and will fail to provide a stable and effective government. The people of India should not therefore vote for the opposition coalition and vote BJP and Mr. Modi back to power.

2019 General Elections is about What Kind of India We Want

I want to submit to the wise voters of India that General Elections 2019 are not about who should be PM of India but what kind of India do we want.

Do we want an India where we live and work in harmony without distinguishing between religions, caste or ethnicity as the army does or are we going discriminate and divide people based on religion, caste and ethnicity, exploit minorities and lower castes and destroy India?

Do we want a atmosphere of fear, hate, intolerance and conflict in our universities and society or we want an atmosphere of amity, tolerance, peace and prosperity?

Do we want an India where we are free to eat and drink what we want; to wear dresses as per our choice; to party, cut cakes and celebrate Valentine’s Day or any other occasion as we want or do we want some half baked Hindutya cultural fanatics to lynch us, beat us up and extort money simply for doing what we have done since independence?

There are many such questions.

Has Modi Government Really Performed?

Let us start with Indian Railways.The entire focus of the Modi Government is on economically unviable bullet trains and superfast trains and Railway Minister taking social media calls from passengers and helping them. The reality is that the Railways are badly understaffed and mismanaged. 30% of trains are running late and in Northern Railway, almost 50% trains are running late.  People are so fed up that the passengers of a late train threw stones at a passing Rajdhani train at Gaya station injuring a number of passengers. Under the BJP, the railways have become so inefficient that the Army had to construct foot over bridges at railway stations for them in Mumbai to ensure passenger safety.

In the field of development entire focus of the Modi government is on building highways and expressways. It has no concern for ordinary people living in cities and villages who suffer from acute shortage of drinking water? The allocation for development of catchment areas and water sources is not even one tenth of allocation for roads. Do we want a government that is insensitive to the needs of the Aam Admi?

The fact is that our government is making a fool of us all the time. The Government fixes minimum prices for agricultural products but does not procure and the farmers are driven into bankruptcy. Demonetization further impoverished the poor who depend on cash for earnings. It has finished the resale property market, construction industry, the marble industry and thousands of small businesses leaving millions without work. The government has announced 90,000 vacancies in the railways but I am ready to bet that not one will be appointed during the tenure of the present government.

Implementation of GST is in a mess. Many revenue offices do not have the required hardware, software and trained personnel. One revenue department officer said that the claims for refund are more than the collection. Exporters are crying for refunds. Who knows the truth? The Government ensures that all adverse information is not available to public.

Modiji has been distributing gas cylinders to poor ladies. That is laudable. To do that he has stopped MNREGA and other subsidies. Many amongst the poorest cannot get rations because they do not have money or Aadhar Cards or the card readers in ration shops do not function. What use is cooking gas when you have nothing to cook?

Crores have been spent on building toilets but they cannot be used because there is no water.

The government wants a cashless society and a digital economy where 30% of the population is barely literate, 80% of the people do not know English or how to use a credit card, computer or ATM and most of India’s 600,000 villages do not have banks or ATMs. 30% of visits to ATMs are fruitless as there is no cash. Chairman SBI said that the shortfall is currency in circulation is over 40,000 crores. Only the Aam Admi suffers.

All institutions are in a mess. The Lokayukt has not been appointed in 4 years so that no one can complain. Courts are under staffed by 40 to 50% and vacancies of judges are not being filled up because non saffron judges are unacceptable. Vacancies of teachers are not filled up in government schools. We had an HRD minister who could not place her educational qualifications for public scrutiny. A C grade TV actor whose main qualification is that he acted as Shri Ram in a TV serial headed the Film Institute. The Dy CM of UP says Sita, wife of Shri Ram was a test tube baby. A BJP MLA in UP rapes a woman and has her father beaten to death by the police. It required intervention by the High Court or Supreme Court to get him arrested. None of the cow vigilantes who killed have been put on trial, let alone been convicted. Modiji is silent on the issues.

GDP growth is jobless and manipulated. Surgical strike on Pakistan did not reduce cease fire violations. These are actually on the increase. The hard line in Kashmir has not reduced the level of violence. Killing insurgents never ended insurgencies. When an insurgent dies, another takes his place. Peace comes only when the cause or outside support can be removed.

Modiji has made 81 foreign trips in 4 years. All foreign leaders including American, French and Chinese Presidents are his “hug-able” personal friends. Yet China provides unconditional support to Pakistan, refuses to allow Hafeez Sayeed to be branded an international terrorist and will never allow India into Nuclear Supplies Group or become a member of UN Security council. Border and trade issues remain unresolved, Modiji claims to be a personal friend of Mr. Donald Trump. Yet Trump has imposed duties on Indian steel and aluminium, forced India to reduce import duties on Hurley Davidson motorbikes, cut number of H1B visas and is likely to stop spouses of these visa holders from working in the US. What has India gained in real term from these visits?

Who Benefitted most from BJP Government?

The prime beneficiaries are old and unproductive cows, bulls and bullocks. They are being sheltered in Gaushalas at government cost in BJP ruled states or are roaming the streets, eating garbage and having fun. Two people have been gored to death in Alwar and many injured. Stray dogs are also beneficiaries. They are free to bite and have killed many children. Who cares?

Next to benefit are the “Gaushala owners”, who are mostly from the Hidutya Brigade. They get Rs 70 per day per animal. (Widows get only Rs 25 per day). How much do they spend? Your guess is as good as mine.

Next to benefit are the fringe groups of RSS and VHP who under police and government protection are extorting money and lynching people.

RSS members are also prospering. President, PM, all governors, male chief ministers, ministers and heads of institutions are from RSS or VHP. Being a member of RSS is like being an alumnus of Doon School in British days.

AVBP is also having a great time. With the support of BJP leaders and police, they beat up students of other unions and teachers whenever they feel like.

Last but not the least to benefit is the top 10% of India. The government is of the rich, by the rich and for the rich. Petrol prices are denting the budget of the lower middle class. The plight of farmers and tens of millions of educated unemployed are there to see by those who care. But the government certainly does not care.

It is for people to judge whether Modiji is a great PM or a great orator and dream seller. It is for the people to decide whether Modiji or Mr. Mohan Bhagwat decides the policies of the BJP government and who is the real ruler of India. Or have they divided the turf. Finance and foreign affairs seem to be under Modiji and the rest to RSS and the Hindutya Brigade.

Alternatives to Mr. Modi

Now I will suggest two names for PM in place of Mr. Modi. My first choice is Mr. Yashwant Sinha. He is an IAS with 26 years of service, politician and a former Finance Minister (1990–1991) under Mr. Chandra Sekhar and March 1998 – July 2002 under Mr. Atal Bihari Vajpayee and Minister of External Affairs (July 2002 – May 2004). He was a senior leader of the BJP before he quit BJP on 21st Apr 2018. He is a vociferous critic of Mr. Modi. A man of impeccable reputation, he is senior enough to command respect of all opposition leaders and unite them. To me he is like Mr. Mohatir Mohammad, former PM of Malaysia, who returned to politics at the ripe old age of 92 to fight his own party and protégée to save his country from ruin.

My second choice is Mr. Kamal Nath of Congress. He is the longest serving member of Indian Parliament. He has been elected 9 times from his constituency. An MP since 1980, he served as Minister for Environment and Forests from 1991 to 95, Minister for Textiles from 1995 to 96, Minister for Commerce and Industry from 2004 to 2009, Minister for Urban development from 2009 to 2011 and Minister for Highways and Road Transport from 2011 to 2014. A man of impeccable reputation, he is most experienced and senior enough to command respect of all opposition leaders and unite them. If Mr. Yashwant Sinha became PM, he would be my choice for Finance Minister.


To conclude I would say that I find it ridiculous for people to say that Modiji is irreplaceable. In a country of 1.25 billion, there are thousands of talented persons who are more educated, more capable, more visionary, more humble, more caring and more patriotic than Modiji. God and the hour will produce the man.

I also have no doubt that BJP will fail to split the opposition by raising silly question about the successor to Mr. Modi and the opposition being able to unite. Mr. Rahul Gandhi and other leaders of opposition parties are not selfish fools. They are not seeking personal power but a Secular, Socialist and Federal India. I have no doubt that they will make all sacrifices necessary to defeat the neo-liberal economists and Hindutya Brigade that seeks destroy the plurality, amity and diversity of India.

You have to decide whether you want a Saffron India with anti Aam Admi neo-liberal economic policies or a secular, socialist and pluralistic India where all are free to do their own thing and vote accordingly. The choice is yours.

Can Terrorism in Kashmir be Ended by Force

June 23rd, 2018

Can Terrorism in Kashmir be Ended by Force?


Col (Retd) Bhaskar Sarkar VSM

BJP has ended its three year alliance with PDP in Jammu & Kashmir. Governor’s Rule (sick BJP rule, BJP being in power at the Centre) has been imposed. The reason given is break down of law and order and PDP Government’s soft attitude to terror. As an example of the first is the murder of senior journalist and a soldier on leave in Kashmir. (Murder of journalists and lynching of Muslims on suspicion of cow slaughter in UP, Bihar and Jharkhand, gang rape of NGO women in Jharkhand all BJP ruled states, are not breakdown of law and order.) The example of the second is PDP’s insisting on a ceasefire during Ramadan and releasing about of 11,000 stone pelters. BJP hopes to defeat terrorism in the valley by an all out offensive by the entire Government machinery and bring peace and prosperity to the State.

This article is not intended to question BJP’s decision. It has a national security advisor, an Army Chief and a host of senior generals and police officers to advise it and implement its decisions. This article simply seeks to apprise my readers of possible pitfalls of this strategy.

Terrorism around the World

There is hardly any country in the developing world that has not faced insurgency or terrorism. Colonial powers were defeated in armed struggles for independence in Indo-China, Kenya, Cyprus, Zimbabwe, Algeria, Cuba etc. The insurgents could defeat first world powers like Britain, France and the US because they had a cause which had popular support of its people and economic and military assistance from the Soviet Union.  USSR withdrew from Afghanistan after 8 years of counter insurgency operations because they could not defeat the Afghan Mujahideen funded by the US and trained, armed and provided sanctuaries by Pakistan’s ISI and US CIA. USA, the world’s only superpower, has not been able to defeat the Taliban in Afghanistan in 16 years because Pakistan provides Taliban support and sanctuaries in its border areas. Turkey has been fighting Kurdish insurgents the PKK since 1984 with no end in sight. Israel has been fighting Palestine terrorists since 1967. It will be seen that military power has been unable to end any insurgency which enjoys popular support and external aid and sanctuary.

Insurgency and Terrorism in India

The Naga Insurgency started in 1947. Nagas did not want to be a part of India. Insurgency was active till 1973. The Nagas accepted the Indian Constitution by signing the Shillong Accord in 1975. Two factions did not accept the Accord. One faction is camped in Myanmar and occasionally ambushes Indian Army. The other has signed a secret agreement with the BJP Government and lives in a sanctuary in Nagaland with their arms on government dole.

Insurgency in Mizoram started in 1966 and ended with a negotiated settlement in 1987 when the Congress Party under Rajeev Gandhi agreed to make the rebel leader Mr. Laldenga the CM of Mizoram. Insurgency stared in Manipur in 1965 and continues to this day on a low key. Ulfa insurgency started in Assam in 1983. It is low key with its cadre are happy living on extortions from tea gardens and truck drivers. Its leader lives in exile in China. The insurgency groups of Northeast India received military and economic aid from East Pakistan and later Bangladesh under General Zia ur Rahaman and Begum Zia. They would have made peace if they had not received similar aid from China and sanctuaries in Bangladesh and Myanmar.

Insurgency started in Punjab in 1987 with assistance from secessionist Sikhs in Canada and military aid and shelter from Pakistan. Terrain in Punjab does not favour insurgency. Insurgents lost popular support with their excessive extortion and atrocities on women and were eliminated by the Army and Punjab police by 1997.

Maoist insurgency is the successor of the Naxalite movement which started with a peasant revolt in Naxalbari in North Bengal in 1967. The movement was crushed in Bengal by 1972 but spread to Bihar, Odisa and Andhra. At its peak in 2008, the Maoists were active in 11 states. They are being dealt with by state police and paramilitary forces. They are most active in Chattisgarh, Bihar, Jharkhand and Odisa. No end is in sight.

Terrorism in J&K

J&K was peaceful and a prime tourist destination till 1987. In fact when Pakistan parachuted its Special Forces into J&K during the 1965 War, the locals rounded up the Pakistanis and handed them over to the local police or army posts. In Jan 1987, when corruption and misrule was at its peak, 14 Muslim Parties came together to form a united front to contest elections. The elections were shamelessly rigged. On 15 August 1988 first anti India demonstrations erupted in Srinagar. Demonstrators were fired upon. Jammu and Kashmir Liberation Front, established in UK in 1977 and with presence in Pakistan and POK, led the armed insurgency. Yasim Malik was in charge of Indian Kashmir. The first batch of 300 Kashmir youth went to Pakistan in 1998. They returned in 1989 with arms and ammunition and engaged in raids on security forces. Pakistan was able to infiltrate over 2500 well trained and heavily armed battle hardened foreign militants who had become unemployed by the Russian withdrawal from Afghanistan. The Islamic terrorists began an ethnic cleansing campaign. Nearly 400,000 Pandits were either murdered or forced to leave their ancestral homes. But the foreign mercenaries alienated the local Kashmiris with forced marriages. Lack of tourists led to a drastic economic downturn. Yasim Mallik disbanded the military wing of JKLF in 1994. Level of violence began to decline with Mr. Vajpayee’s efforts to improve relations with Pakistan. Pakistani President Pervez Musharraf visited Delhi and Agra and put forward a peace plan. The Kargil War in mid 1999 further reduced the level of violence. A degree of normalcy returned and tourism revived.

Hizbul Mujahideen is currently the only active Kashmir based militant group. They are assisted by Lashkar-e-Taiba and Jaish-e-Mohammed from Pakistan. The number of Kashmiris joining militancy is linked to events that spark civilian anger in Kashmir. Hanging of Afzal Guru in 2014 became a rallying point for Kashmiri youth to take up arms. At least 54 Kashmiris joined the militants in 2014, a sharp rise from 16 the year before. Violence increased when the Hizbul Mujaheedin Commander Burhan Wani was killed by the Security Forces in 2016. 88 Kashmiris joined militancy in 2016, highest in six years. Violent clashes between stone-pelting protesters and security forces have increased. Almost 100 people including security forces have been killed during the months of protests which followed Wani’s death. Thousands of others have been injured. Over 6000 agitators have suffered eye injuries due to pellet gun fire. Cease fire violations, attempts at infiltration, attacks on Army and CRPF camps, grenade attacks and encounters between terrorists and security forces continue unabated.

Support from Pakistan

The primary reason why Indian Security Forces are not making much progress in dealing with terrorism in Kashmir are increasing local support, aid from Pakistan and safe sanctuaries in Pakistan. This lack of success is only to be expected.  External support is a very important requirement for successful separatist movements.

Terrorism in Kashmir is supported by Pakistan Army, Pakistan’s ISI and terrorist groups like Laskar-e-Taiba and Jaish-e-Mohammad. Many of the militants in Kashmir are from across the border. Infiltration and cease fire violations have not stopped after the valiant surgical strike by our armed forces which killed many militants and destroyed a number of camps. Those killed have been replaced by new recruits and the camps have been relocated and their security enhanced. Data shows that in 2016, at least 371 attempts were made by militants to infiltrate from across the border. It was the highest since 2010 when 489 infiltration bids were recorded. Pakistan is also paying the stone pelting mobs who try to disrupt operations against militants. Such Pakistani actions are only to be expected. During a visit to Kashmir recently, the Army Chief General Bipin Rawat had warned of strict action against protesters who attack security forces during anti-insurgency operations. The threat has not deterred the Kashmiri protesters.

Use of Counter Terror or the Hard Approach

To many theoreticians, the answer to separatist terror is state terror. The main followers of this doctrine are Israel, and Turkey. Over fifty years of this policy has not been able to subdue the Palestine people who have little external support and nothing but stones, small arms, improvised rockets and kites to fight back with. State terror includes the use of weapons like pellet guns, use of excessive force on demonstrating unarmed civilians and fake encounters. The main drawback of state terror is that it alienates the population. It violates human rights and creates unfavourable opinion both inside and outside the country. It is abhorred by intellectuals and the media. It increases the resolve of the population supporting the insurgency to continue the fight. Hanging of Mangal Pandey did not prevent the Sepoy Mutiny. The Jaliwana Bag Massacre did not stop the Indian freedom movement.

The Soft Approach

Mrs. Mehbooba Mufti, the outgoing CM, has said that hard approach will not work in Kashmir. Is there any other approach possible? There is. First is to accept that killing and capturing militants and hurting unarmed civilians is not going to solve the problem. Divide Kashmir into white, grey and black areas. White areas are those under government control. Grey areas are those where security forces and militants are both active and both have a degree of support of the population. Black areas are those where the militants have strong support of the population and security forces are at a disadvantage. The government and security forces must defend the white areas with adequate force; patiently try to make grey areas white and black areas grey. Kashmiris must be made to feel that they are cherished citizens of India and not a bunch of terrorists and anti-nationals. The role of the security forces should be to maintain law and order and protect loyal citizen.

Killing and capturing militants should never be the focus. When you kill one, another five will join. Try to get them to surrender. Have a practical surrender policy. The government and the security forces must focus on stopping the funding and arming of the militants by knocking out Hawala traders and effective monitoring of vehicles bringing arms and ammunition into Kashmir from outside the valley. Efforts must be made to win the hearts and minds of the people.


A fundamental fact about state terror is that it alienates the population and absolute terror alienates absolutely and permanently. The running of an administration based on terror requires an uncommonly high degree of ruthlessness. Leaders like Stalin, Idi Amin or Pol Pot who could kill millions of unarmed civilians are extinct.  The Kashmiri problem is unlikely to go away till either Pakistan or India give up. But the intensity of the conflict can die down and a degree of normalcy as in the North East or the Maoist belt can return.

History tends to repeat itself. But sometimes history is made. India made history when it it defeated Pakistan in just 17 days and liberated Bangladesh in 1971. It is possible that BJP and General Rawat will create history. I wish them success.

Every Kashmiri wants peace and prosperity. The BJP government wants the same. Only time will tell whether a military solution can be imposed on the people of Kashmir.

(Col Sarkar has authored five books on military matters; “Tackling Insurgency and Terrorism: A Blue Print for Action”, Vision Books New Delhi; “Outstanding Victories of the Indian Army” and “Kargil War: Past, Present and Future”, Lancer Publishers and Distributors, New Delhi; “Who is Afraid of the Chinese Dragon: I am” and “Tackling the Maoist Insurgency”, Atlantic Publishers and Distributors, New Delhi.)

In Defence of Our Public Sector

April 19th, 2018

In Defence of Our Public Sector


Col (Retd) Bhaskar Sarkar VSM

The statement “A government’s job is to govern and not to run businesses” is repeatedly heard on different forums all around the world. Is there any merit in this slogan? Or is it the usual strategy of billionaire investors, multinational corporations and the private sector to do away with competition from public sector and exploit the common people. The BJP Governments, under Vajpayeeji and Modiji has be disinvesting the Public Sector Companies and trying to sell Air India. This article seeks to examine the utility and importance of the Public Sector in the Indian economy and whether BJP Governments actions to disinvest profitable Public Sector units make any sense.

Public Sector in Developed Countries

Public Sector played a vital role in the reconstruction of Europe after the devastation of the World War II. Public sector played an important role in UK and France till the early 80s when neo-liberal economic policies of President Regan and Premier Margaret Thatcher led to large scale privatization of the public sector companies in Europe. Public sector continued to play a significant role only in France and some Scandinavian countries. Public Sector plays an important role in Singapore.

Public Sector in India

There were 217 Central Public Sector Enterprises (CPSEs) in India in 2010. These are engaged in a variety of commercial activities like operating banks, public transport systems, oil exploration and refining, mining, producing metals like steel, aluminum and medicines, vaccines etc. These companies are not government departments but limited companies run by professionals in which the government is the majority share holder. CPSEs are also engaged in healthcare, insurance, infrastructure development, operating harbors etc.

In 2010, the CPSEs were divided into five categories. The Maharatna category have a 3 year average turnover of Rs 20,000 crores and a net annual profit ofRs 5000 crore. They enjoy autonomy to invest upto Rs 1000 crores without government approval. Next come the Navaratna category. These must have a 3 year average turnover of 20000 crores and a net worth of 10,000 crores. Next come two categories of “Miniratnas”. They must have made profit for 3 continuous years or a profit of Rs 30 crores in one of the three years. They have less financial autonomy. The last category consist of others. There are 8 Maharatnas, 16 Navaratna, 59 Miniratna 1 and 15 Miniratna 2 and 129 others.

The government has invested Rs 3,57,849 crores in basic heavy industries (power, steel, coal, fertilizers, etc.), Rs. 75,300 crore were invested in the power generation, followed by Rs. 34,860 crore in petroleum, Rs. 22,932 crore in coal and lignite, Rs. 13,710 crore in fertilizers, and Rs. 21,608 crore in telecommunication services. On the other hand, the Central Government has made very little investment in textiles and consumer goods. It is important to note that a good number of Private Sector sick industrial units belonging to textiles and consumer goods were taken over by the Central Government to protect jobs. Unfortunately, this government is not paying adequate attention to rehabilitating these units by infusion of capital and new technology. At the end of financial year 2010-11, a total of 2.9 crore workers were employed in the organized sector. Of these public sector had 1.75 crore employees and private sector had 1.15 crore.

Financial Performance of CPSEs

The latest complete data could be found for FY 2009-10. The total investment in the 217 CPSEs was Rs 5,72,790 crores. (In comparison, the Private Sector has a bad debt of over 8,00,000 crores. In other words, the Private Sector has stolen or destroyed ove Rs 8,00,000 crores of tax payers money and public savings kept in banks). The net profit of the profit-making CPSEs (158) stood at Rs. 1,08,434.68 crore in 2009-10. The net loss of the loss-making CPSEs (59), on the other hand, stood at Rs. 15,842 crore during the same period. (Nirav Modi alone defrauded Punjab National Bank of over 12,000 crores). This was in spite of large financial under-recoveries by public sector oil marketing companies as they had to keep prices on sale of petroleum products low in the domestic market. The PSEs paid Rs 33,223 crores as dividend, 1,19,529 crores as corporate tax, 35,720 as interest on loans. Thus their net contribution to the Central Exchequer was Rs 1,39,000 crores. The foreign exchange earnings of the CPSEs amounted to Rs. 77,745 crore during 2009-10. It will be seen that the overall performance of the CPSEs is not bad keeping in mind that many public sector enterprises give greater emphasis to achieving non-financial social objectives like employment generation and environmental protection. The profitability of CPSEs has greatly improved beginning from 1994-95.

Necessity of Public Sector Companies

The main usefulness of public sector companies to a country’s economy lies in investing in areas of the economy and under developed regions which do not interest the private sector. Numaligarh Refinery at Guwahati and Barauni Refinery, Bhillai and Rourekella Steel Plants are examples of extending industries to underdeveloped areas.

The only toilets usable by gentle ladies and foreigners on the national highways passing through Rajasthan, Punjab and Haryana were at State Tourism hotels and restaurants till about 2010. Many other states did not have such roadside toilet facilities till recently. Would Airtel, Vodaphone or Reliance Jio set up mobile towers or lay broadband cables in unprofitable rural or insurgency affected areas. Will private banks like ICICI or Axis bank set up branches in large villages?

Public Sector also prevents exploitation of consumers. For example; without GAIL and Public Sector oil companies, Reliance and Essar could have charged our public any price for petroleum products. Without BSNL, mobile service providers could have formed cartels and charged any amount for their services.

Filling the Gaps in Availability of Capital

This situation arose in India immediately after independence. India did have a budding but vibrant private sector with groups like Tatas, Birlas, Munjals, Bajajs, Mahindras etc. But their resources were not enough to finance the rapid industrialization of the entire country that was necessary. Thus public sector companies like steel plants at Bhillai, Rourkella, Durgapur, ONGC, Bharat Heavy Electricals, Coal India to name a few were created.

Generate Employment

Public sector companies have created millions of jobs. The public sector accounts for about two-thirds of the total employment in the organized industrial sector in India. By taking over many sick units, the public sector has protected the employment of millions. Public sector has also contributed a lot towards the improvement of working and living conditions of workers by serving as a model employer and preventing exploitation of labor by private corporations. In the United States, the bailing out of General Motors, Chrysler and AGI saved thousands of jobs. Nationalization of the Royal Bank of Scotland in UK also saved thousands of jobs which would have been lost if the bank had been allowed to fail. Stressed companies can turn profitable with injection of capital and technology as we have seen in the case of General Motors and the Royal Bank of Scotland. They can be subsequently privatized by sale of shares and the taxpayer’s money recovered.

Reduce Concentration of Economic Power in the Private Sector

A vibrant public sector would reduce concentration of economic power in the hands of foreign and Indian multinational companies and investors. This could help make the economy more people and environment oriented. For example, India, with its nationalized banks can ensure that these banks lend at low interest rates to poor farmers, small scale industries and small businesses which private banks with their profit orientation and risk aversion may not be willing to do. This is why Neo-liberal economists, large investors and multi national corporations are always lobbying for privatization of the CPSEs.

Limitations and Abuses by the Private Sector

The behavior and attitude of the some private sector units itself is an important reason for the expansion of the public sector in India. In many cases the private sector does not take up infrastructure or manufacturing projects because of doubtful profitability. Some Private Sector Units resort to many unethical practices like degrading environment, diluting safe practices at the workplace, defrauding banks and investors and exploiting labour. They promote profitable carcigenous pesticides which are banned in developed countries, adulterate foodstuff, cosmetics and medicines and evade taxes.

Enable Governments to Intervene in Economy and Boost Growth

During the 2008 global economic downturn, the Government of India was able through public sector banks to infuse capital into the economy in order to boost economic activity. These initiatives of the Government helped contain serious after effects of the global economic meltdown of 2008 while keeping a tab on inflation. In the absence of Public Sector banks, the American government was not in a position to directly assist the economically weaker sections of the society. The governments and central banks of the developed world could only bailout private banks and financial institutions whose greed and unethical or fraudulent actions created the financial meltdown in the first place. The bailout funds did not produce any economic activity or generate employment. They were invested in speculative activities in search of profits.

Limitations of Public Sector Companies

Despite their impressive role, Public sector companies, the world over, suffer from several problems and shortcomings. Investment decisions in many public enterprises are not always based upon proper evaluation of demand and supply, cost benefit analysis and technical feasibility. Many projects in the public sector have time and cost over runs. Manpower planning is not always effective and many public sector companies have excess manpower. In some cases productivity is low on account of poor materials management or ineffective inventory control. Sometimes there is lack of cost-consciousness, quality consciousness, and effective control on waste and efficiency. But the private sector is not perfect. Corporate greed and fraud also causes considerable turmoil in the economy of a country. The answer is to ensure competent professional management of Public Sector companies. Privatization is not the answer.


Public sector companies are anathema to neo-liberal economists, multinational corporations of the developed world, our neoliberal economists, BJP and armchair intelligentsia. Public Sector Companies do not cheat banks or evade taxes. Since profit is not their primary motive, they do not exploit employees, cheat investors and degrade the environment. Most importantly, they generate employment. There are only 217 CPSEs against over a thousand private companies listed on the stock exchanges. Yet, The CPSEs employ about 60 percent of the workforce in the organized sector.

Public sector companies are essential to promote rapid economic activity through creation and expansion of infrastructure; to promote redistribution of income and wealth; to create employment opportunities in backward regions; to encourage the development of small-scale and ancillary industries and to act as an important instrument of self-reliance and economic sovereignty.

Public sector companies engaged in commercial activities have played a very important role in the growth of developing countries like China and India which enjoy the highest growth rates in the world today. Indian youth need jobs and PSEs create them in large numbers. Indian government should not disinvest CPSEs. They should create new public sector companies to set up cold chains, purchase and distribute agricultural products like Delhi’s Mother Dairy and food processing units to support agriculture and horticulture in the North East and other backward states Like J&K, Himachal and Uttarakhand.

It also needs to be stressed that all private sector companies are not greedy cheats. Many of them, big and small, pay all their taxes, look after the welfare of their employees and have played a vital role in the growth of the Indian economy. I acknowledge and salute their contribution.

India is a vast nation. It has space for people of all religions and ethnic groups. It has also space for Public Sector, Private Sector and Public Private Participation to complement each other and thrive.



Should Air India be Sold?

April 5th, 2018

Should Air India be Sold?


Col (Retd) Bhaskar Sarkar VSM

The Government of India has announced that it is ready to sell 76 percent stake in Air India and has called for “Expression of Interest” (EOI). The move has been welcomed by the neo-liberal economist lobby. Only Trina Mool Congress has protested the decision. Congress and the other opposition political parties seem to be sleeping on the issue. This article seeks to lay some facts regarding Air India before my learned readers so that they can decide for themselves if selling Air India is in the best interest of the country.

Some Facts about Air India

Air India is the flag carrier of India. It is owned by Air India Limited, a government-owned enterprise. It flies to 90 destinations including 60 international destinations all over the world. Air India is the largest Indian international carrier with about 18 percent market share. It is the third largest domestic airline in India in terms of passengers carried after Indigo and Jet Airways with a market share of about 14 percent as of July 2017. The airline became the 27th member of Star Alliance on 11 July 2014.

The airline was founded by the legendary Mr. JRD Tata as Tata Airlines in 1932. After World War II, it became a public limited company and was renamed as Air India. It was a profitable air line till 2006. Air India also operates flights to domestic and Asian destinations through its subsidiaries Alliance Air and Air India Express. Until 2007, Air India mainly operated on international long-haul routes while Indian Airlines operated on domestic and international short-haul routes. In 2007, Air India and Indian Airlines were merged under Air India Ltd.

The airline has 140 planes including 43 owned Airbus A320s and 15 owned Boeing 777s that can fly non-stop to the US and Europe. It also has nearly two dozen brand new Boeing 787 Dreamliner planes on favourable sale and lease-back terms. Air India and its subsidiaries have nearly 29,000 employees including about 2,000 pilots, 2000 engineers and 4000 cabin crew. Its $150 million aircraft maintenance and repair unit in Nagpur is the only such in the country. It’s the only airline in India that performs major aircraft checks including for rivals like Jet Airways Ltd. It has 33 hangars, compared with rival Jet Airways’ two. It is the only Indian Airline which has its own training facilities with Boeing 777 and 787 simulators.

Financial State and Assets

By March 2011, Air India had accumulated a debt of Rs 42,600 crores. As per report by the Comptroller and Auditor General of India, the decision to buy 111 new aircraft and the ill-timed merger with Indian Airlines was responsible for the poor financial situation. Neither decision was that of the Airline Management. They were taken by the ministry. The government gave Rs 32,000 crores to Air India in March 2012.

In March 2013, the airline posted its first positive EBITDA or operational surplus after almost six years. Its operating revenue grew 20% since the previous financial year. Air India Limited split its engineering and cargo businesses into two separate subsidiaries, Air India Engineering Services Limited (AIESL) and Air India Transport Services Limited (AITSL) in 2013. For financial year 2014–15, its revenue, operating loss and net loss were Rs 19,800 crores, Rs 2,170 crores and Rs 5,410 crores compared FY 2011–12, which were Rs 14,700 crores, Rs 5,138 crores and Rs 7,550 crores. It will be seen that the Airlines revenues are increasing and losses are decreasing.

Air India has lots of assets other than aircraft. It has four slots at Heath Row Airport, London. It sold one in 2014 for $75 million. Thus this asset is worth $ 300 million or Rs 2,100 crores. It has 8 percent share in Air Mauritius, and share in Orange, SITA travels, Cochin International Airport and Aeuronautical Communications of Thailand. It has two Centaur Hotels in Mumbai and Delhi. It has one of the largest collections of contemporary Indian modern art with paintings by M F Hussein and Anjolie Ela Menon. It has huge land holdings; 32 acres in Central Mumbai, a 30 acres housing colony in New Delhi’s Vasant Vihar, a headquarters valued at Rs 1600 crores and villas and apartments in London, Hong Kong, Tokyo and Mauritious.  (Authority Air India Annual Report 2014-15). Some of these assets can be sold to reduce its debt.


The first attempt at privatization was made in 2000-2001 by the BJP but failed. In 2012, a study commissioned by the Corporate Affairs Ministry recommended that Air India should be partly privatized. In 2013, the then-Civil Aviation Minister, Mr. Ajit Singh supported the move. However, the opposition led by the BJP and the CPI(M) opposed the move.

On 27 May 2017, finance minister Mr. Arun Jaitley said Air India, with a mere 14 percent market share, had debt of Rs50,000 crore. To run Air India Indian tax payers have invested Rs 50,000 crore which can be used for other purposes. So he has put a perfectly well run government enterprise for sale to make up for the present governments inefficient tax collection and fiscal management.

The decision to allow 76 percent foreign stake in it can lead to large scale retrenchment of its 29,000 employees. The fear of job losses has been one of the major reasons for various Air India unions to be opposed to the divestment plan. Even Centre of Indian Trade Unions (CITU) and RSS-affiliated Swadeshi Jagaran Manch have opposed the move.

Is Air India’s Debt Abnormal?

Air India’s accumulated debt that stands at about Rs 50,000 crores. Let us examine the debt record of our leading private sector business houses.

India’s largest debtor is Mukesh Ambani’s Reliance Industries (RIL), has a total debt of Rs 1,87,079 crore. It also has the best record of timely paying its interest. So banks are happy to offer RIL loans.

The Tata Group’s consolidated debt was $10.7 billion or about Rs 70,000 crores on September 30, 2015. They are not amongst defaulters.

The Anil Ambani led Reliance Group has a debt of Rs 1,21,000 crores and is a major defaulter. Reliance Communications (R Com), its flagship firm, has a debt of Rs 40,000 crore. It has posted a loss every year since FY 14-15. The company is valued at Rs 13,440 crore, less than a third of its total debt. Reliance Infrastructure (R-Infra) has Rs 25,000 crore of debt. Its market capitalisation is Rs 14,476 crore and is lower than its debt. Reliance Capital has debt of Rs 24,000 crore and in default. The group’s other firms like Reliance Infrastructure and Reliance Defence don’t earn enough to service the interest payment. The Essar group has gross debt of Rs 1,01,461 crore and in default. Its 10mtpa steel business that currently has a debt of Rs 40,000 crore is under the hammer. The Adani Group’s debt stands at Rs. 72,000 crore. Global lenders have backed out from funding the $10-billion coal mine development project in Australia. The Jaypee group’s debt is over Rs 75,000 crore. The group has defaulted on payment obligations worth $350 million and is on the verge of going bankrupt. The GMR group debt was at 47,738 crores at the end of FY 2014-15. The Lanco group has debts of Rs 47,102 crore. The Videocon group has a net debt of Rs 39,600 crore and in default. The GVK group has a debt of Rs 34,000 crore. Jindal Steel and Power Limited has a debts of Rs 46,000 crore. It will be seen that our great Private Sector is making merry with bank funds. Most do not have assets to cover their debts. So what is the problem if Air India has a Rs 50,000 crore debt? It is paying its creditors and cannot run away as Vijay Malaya did or Nirav Modi and thousands of others have done. Money in the banks in India whether equity, deposits or debt belongs mostly to Indians. If Private Sector can use this money with impunity for running their businesses and luxuries, why can public sector companies not do the same? What is the need for selling them?

Rs 11.5 lakh crores of Non Performing Assets (NPAs) are owed by the Private Sector companies to Indian banks. Rs 4.70 lakh crore worth of NPAs were due to loans extended to industry. The debt of Air India is normal for a company of its size. Why should a Public Sector Company be denied funds raised from the Indian public?


Vijay Mallaya loots banks of about Rs 7000 crores and makes merry in London. Diamond dealer Nirav Modi loots a bank of about Rs 12,000 crores and takes off to unknown location ruining thousands of employees and hundreds of franchise and investors.  Our government is not even blinking an eye. Every NPA of the public sector bank is tax payer’s money or money deposited or invested by the ordinary Indian public. Air India cannot run away abroad with its 140 aircraft and thousands of crores of immovable assets. Why target Air India? Why can the government not nationalize all defaulting industries without payment and sell them off and recover the money?

The flip flop by the BJP regarding Air India privatization is mysterious. It wanted it in 2000-01 but opposed it in 2013. It has again initiated it. The Government did not mind spending about Rs 72,000 crores on demonetization (Rs 36,000 crores on printing new notes and Rs 36,000 crores on reduced RBI dividend). Is the government out of money to spend and is desperately selling whatever it can? Or is the Government planning to gift it to a consortium of crony capitalists like Adani Group of Gujarat in return for generous political funding for the 2019 General Elections? Whatever be the reason behind the move, Air India belongs to the people of India and no government has the right to gift it away to a crony capitalist who will borrow from the same banks to finance the purchase and not return the money.

I rest my case. Oh Readers! Please decide whether Air India should be sold. If the answer is no, please do all you can to stop the sale.

Lastly, I would like to express my gratitude to Mrs. Mamta Bannerjee and Trina Mool Congress for opposing the move. I also request Mr. Rahul Gandhi and all other opposition leaders to oppose the proposal in and outside the Parliament. If Indian railways can have budgetary support, if state transport can have budgetary support, if “Gaushalas” for unproductive cows can have budgetary support, when BJP state governments can spend thousands of crores in preparing Unique Identity Cards for cows, bullocks and bulls, why should Air India not get budgetary support? Air India provides subsidized air travel to people of the North East, Andaman Nicobar and Lakhsha Deep Islands. It is available to the Indian Government for emergencies like evacuation of Indians from Kuwait and moving troops from one sector to another in time of war.

Air India is a national asset. It should be freed from political and bureaucratic interference and handed over to competent persons like Capt C D Gopinath. Then it will shine like the other “Navaratnas”.

Is Privatization the Solution to Public Sector Banks?

February 27th, 2018

Is Privatisation the Solution to Fraud in Public Sector Banks?


Col(Retd) Bhaskar Sarkar VSM

Smart unscrupulous businessmen Nirav Modi and Mehul Choksi have managed to defraud Punjab National Bank of about Rs 11,500 croes and flee abroad. The scam came to light on February 14, 2018 when the bank informed SEBI about it. This was followed by Allahabad and associated Banks reporting being defrauded to the tune of Rs 3,900 crores by Rotomac Ltd. Next, Dwarka Das Jwellers of Delhi defaulted on about Rs 390 crores loan to Oriental bank of Commerce and are absconding. The scams have expectedly created a big stir. Some are blaming the bank staff, some are blaming the auditors. Others are blaming RBI for lax supervision while the neo-liberals are blaming our socialist economic policies and clamouring for privatization of public sector banks. Not many are blaming the unscrupulous businessmen who seem to be able to bribe bankers and politicians and loot bank deposits at will and flee to foreign lands. This article seeks to examine whether private sector banks in India and around the world are run better than our public sector banks.

Bank Failures Around the Developed World

Bank failures are surprisingly common. Only recently, the “Sub-Prime” crisis in US in 2008 led to the failure of 456 banks in the United States between 2008 and 2012. ( ). The collapse of Washington Mutual Bank with total assets of US$307 billion, 2,239 retail branch offices operating in 15 states, with 4,932 ATMs and 43,198 employees was the largest bank failure in US history. Regulators sold the bank to JP Morgan Chase. The five largest U.S. investment banks with combined liabilities or debts of $4 trillion failed. Lehman Brothers went bankrupt. Bear Sterns and Merrill Lynch were taken over by other banks. Goldman Sachs and Morgan Staley were bailed out by the U.S. government. US government-sponsored enterprises Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac with nearly $5 trillion in mortgage obligations were placed into receivership. A total of about $9 trillion was lost. US banks received over $700 billion bailout. All of them were private sector banks.

The primary cause of bank failure is lack of liquidity which can be caused by fraud, greedy and risky investment decisions or loans and excessive leveraging which result in financial loss when bubbles burst. Public sector banks are not supposed to be profit motivated. But they also make bad investment decisions in search of profits.

There are some other bank failures are worth mentioning ( Bank of Credit and Commerce, USA, established in 1972, failed in July 1991 because of widespread fraud. It was once the 7th largest private bank in the world with over US$20 billion in assets. Regulators who investigated the collapse found that the Bank had deliberately setup operations to avoid detection of fraud committed on a massive scale. It was a US$20 billion (about Rs 130,000 Crore) swindle.

The Hokkaidu Takushuku Bank Ltd, Japan, went bankrupt in 1997, during the Asian Financial Crisis. It was set up to promote development on the island of Hokkaido in 1897. In 1939, the Japanese government deregulated the Bank. The Bank became involved in risky real estate investments during Japan’s 1980s real estate bubble and failed when the bubble burst.

Long Term Credit Bank (LTCB)  was one of Japan’s top banks. In 1989 it was considered the 9th largest bank in the world. When Japan’s asset bubble burst, LTCB was holding more than $19.2 billion in bad debt. In 1998, the Japanese government nationalized LTCB, and then restructured it as a commercial bank named Shinsei Bank.

Silverado Savings and Loan Bank, USA collapsed like Indian co-operative banks. Neil Bush, son of then Vice President George H.W. Bush, gave himself and his business partners loans of over $200 million US$ without notifying the Silverado Board. He was forced to pay a $50,000 fine and banned from banking activities for his role in collapse of Silverado Bank, which cost taxpayers $1.3 billion.

Northern Rock, a UK bank got into trouble in 2007 as a result of “Sub-Prime” meltdown. It could not get required funds from institutional lenders to tide over its liquidity crunch. The Bank of England lent the bank 3 billion pounds.  It was not enough. Depositors ran on the bank after the news broke. The UK government nationalized Northern Rock in February 2008.

Bank Frauds

Forgery and Altered cheques

In this type of fraud the fraudster alters cheques to change the name or the amount on the face of cheques and deposit it in some other account. Instead of tampering with a real cheque, fraudsters may forge a depositor’s signature on a blank cheque. They would subsequently cash the fraudulent cheque through another bank and withdraw the money before the banks realise that the cheque was a fraud. This type of fraud is common but petty and do not sink banks.

Accounting Fraud

In order to hide serious financial problems, some businesses have been known to use fraudulent bookkeeping to overstate sales and income, inflate the worth of the company’s assets, or state a profit when the company is operating at a loss. These tampered records are then used to make fraudulent loan applications in a final attempt to obtain more money and delay the inevitable collapse. These frauds can cause serious loss but do not sink banks. Examples of accounting frauds include the collapse of Enron, WorldCom, Satyam and the present Gitanjali Daimond scam.

Demand Draft Fraud

Demand Draft (DD) fraud typically involves one or more corrupt bank employees. The employees remove a few DD leaves or DD books from stock and write them like a regular DD. Since they are insiders, they know the coding and punching of a demand draft. Such fraudulent demand drafts are usually drawn payable at a distant city without debiting an account. The draft is cashed at the payable branch. The fraud is discovered only when the bank’s head office does the branch-wise reconciliation, which normally take six months. By that time the money is gone. These frauds are routine and hurts customers more than banks.

Rogue traders

A rogue trader is an authorized trader at an investment bank or financial institution who engages in unauthorized trading to recoup loss he incurred in earlier trades. Out of fear and desperation, he manipulates the internal controls to circumvent detection to buy more time. This kind of

unauthorized trading activities invariably produce more losses. A few working out of institutions with lax controls were not discovered until the loss had reached well over a billion dollars. Rogue traders may not have criminal intent to defraud their employer. He may be merely trying to recoup earlier loss and save his Job. This type of frauds have sunk banks like Baring Bank, UK, Daiwa Bank, Japan, Sumitomo Corporation, Japan. Other banks which lost billions but survived are Societe Generale, UBS and JP Morgan Chase.

Fraudulent loans

One way to swindle a bank is to take a loan and not pay back. The borrower is a business entity controlled by an unscrupulous businessman assisted by a corrupt bank officer or officers. The borrower simply flees abroad and the money is gone. The borrower may provide false information or forged documents to hide a credit history filled with financial problems and unpaid loans to corporations and may use accounting fraud to overstate profits in order to make a risky loan appear to be a sound investment for the bank. This kind of fraud can be prevented if the bank does proper due diligence before granting loans.

Wire transfer fraud

Wire transfer networks such as the international SWIFT interbank fund transfer system are tempting as targets as a transfer, once made, is difficult or impossible to reverse. These networks are used by banks to settle accounts with each other. Banks are expected to have checks and balances in place to prevent fraud. But insiders may use forged documents which allow money to be transferred to another bank, often an offshore account in some distant foreign country. A corrupt bank officer may approve the withdrawal. The bank or institution suffers a substantial monetary loss.

Bill discounting fraud

The fraudster gains the bank’s confidence, by posing as a genuine, profitable customer. Initially repayments are made on time. After the fraudster has gained the bank’s trust, he asks the bank to begin paying the company up front for bills. Bank management may agree or be bribed to agree. Finally, when the outstanding balance between the bank and the company is sufficiently large, the fraudster disappears with the money leaving no one to pay the bank. These frauds are rarely large and do not sink banks.

Money laundering

Money laundering is used to describe any scheme by which the true origin of funds is hidden or concealed. Money laundering is the process by which large amounts of illegally obtained money (from drug trafficking, terrorist activity or other serious crimes) is given the appearance of having originated from a legitimate source. (www.en, )

Bank Frauds in India

As per article “ICICI Bank, SBI, StanChart top bank frauds list: RBI” PTI, Mar 12, 2017, Times of India,

as many as 455 fraud cases involving Rs 1 lakh and above were detected during the first nine months of 2016 in ICICI Bank. The ICICI was followed by SBI (429), Standard Chartered Bank (244) and HDFC Bank (237). The other banks which reported large number of frauds to the apex bank during the period include Axis Bank (189), Bank of Baroda (176) and Citibank (150). In all, 450 employees were involved in fraud cases in different public and private sector banks during April-December 2016, in 3,870 cases involving a total value of Rs 17,750.27 crore. It will be seen that Private Sector banks are as prone to bank frauds as Public Sector Banks. These frauds mostly happen with the involvement of insiders, the bank staff. But the errant staffs are rarely punished if at all. Publicity is avoided.

Bank Failures in India

The Article “Of unsecured loans & bank failures” by Shenoy Karun | TNN | Dec 8, 2016, Times of India, discusses bank failures in India. All the failed banks were in the private sector and most were cooperative banks. Some banks in trouble in Kerala were merged with Public Sector Banks like State Bank of Travancore and Canara Bank. 18 Indian co-operative banks were liquidated during the economic year 2008-2009.


There are very few Public Sector Banks in the Developed World. Most of the major bank failures are in the US and all of them are private banks. The US government bailed out banks and financial institutions by over $800 billion. Two banks, Northen Rock in Uk and Long Term Credit Bank, Japan, were nationalized when they failed.

It will be clear that Privatization of Public Sector Banks is no solution to the fraud problem in the banking sector. RBI, the Finance Ministry and the banks themselves must take the matter far more seriously than what they are doing at present. There has to be a balance between effective regulation by banks and ease of doing business. Bank depositors must be protected. Laws must make bank frauds criminal offences. Errant Bank employees and auditors must be jailed. RBI must fine banks heavily whenever money laundering by a bank is detected. The Government must device ways to deal with unscrupulous businessmen who loot and scoot. Businesses of wilful defaulters must be immediately nationalized and sold. This will save jobs and enable the lenders to quickly recover their money. Cases will not linger for years.

Are We Indians More Corrupt than People of the Develope World?

February 25th, 2018

Are We Indians More Corrupt than People of the Developed World?


Col (Retd) Bhaskar Sarkar VSM

There was a category of elite, England educated or English speaking wealthy Indians in British India who believed that “West is Best” and Indian natives are incapable of governing the country. They wanted India to remain a British colony. These people who worshiped the British, loved all things foreign and criticized all things native over pink gin or whiskey sour at their favourite clubs were known as Westernized Oriental Gentlemen or WOGs. They along with the Hindu Mahasabha and RSS did not take part in the “Quit India Movement” or the independence struggle and drowned their sorrow in their liquor of choice on 15 August 1947. Though the British have left, there are many WOGs among us, particularly foreign returned, who find nothing right in today’s India. They naturally think that India is more corrupt than the developed world and “West is the Best”. This article seeks to look at corruption in the developed world so that my readers can assess the truth for themselves.

Corruption is essentially of two types, political corruption and government departmental corruption. Politicians have to fight elections which cost money. One way of raising this money is doing favours and accepting illegal gratification. Politicians think of this as acceptable. Soon the greed of getting rich overtakes need and corruption increases. Political corruption, as we shall soon see, is a worldwide phenomenon. Government departmental corruption is not as widespread. It is very widespread in India and needs to be tackled on war footing. Parties in power do little to curb it as the parties collect funds through these officials for party coffers and public functions attended by leaders. When political leaders of the ruling party hold huge election rallies, foundation stone laying or tape cutting ceremonies, someone has to pay for the stage, seating, auditorium, electricity, public address syste, conveyance and payment to muster crowds. This is a justification for ignoring departmental corruption.

Corruption in Japan

I was always under the impression that Japan was one of the most disciplined, ethical and honest country. I was surprised to see that corruption has been a fixture of Japanese politics for a long time. Japanese don’t seem to be upset or outraged by it. Much of the corruption revolves around construction companies trying to secure money for infrastructure projects. A common practice is for bureaucrats to award a contract to a construction company and for that company to reward the bureaucrat with a high-paying job when he retires from the government. Perhaps this is why there is a lot of emphasis in the BJP Government on road projects and very little on water supply, public health and education.

Small-scale corruption is common. Much like in India, businessmen give expensive gifts every year to the bureaucrats, and politicians. American businessmen doing business in Japan say that a little “grease” is necessary to quickly get through the bureaucracy.

Prime Minister Kakuei Tanaka was forced to resign in 1974 because of corruption allegations. He was arrested for taking bribes in 1976 when scandal came to light in which the aircraft maker Lockheed paid top officials in the Japanese government in return for their help in a deal to sell L-1011 Tri-Star jets to All Nippon Airways.

Prime Minister Noboru Takeshita was forced out of office in April 1989 after members of his party, the LDP, were implicated in the shares-for-favors Recruits scandal. LDP leader Shin Kanemaru was among those forced to resign. One of Takeshita’s top aides committed suicide. Does it sound like “Vyapam Scam” in MP.

Two Ministry of Finance officials were arrested for demanding that bankers take them to restaurants where waitresses in short skirts with no panties serve guests, and for a $100 tip will bend over for the customers. The bankers dished out over $100,000 to avoid investigations into bad loan scandals.

In April 1998, two former Finance Ministry were indicted for receiving $69,000 in bribes from five companies in the form nights out at restaurants and golf trips.

About 90 percent of the road contracts in 2006 was done without bidding. According to one tally nearly 60 percent of the 1,248 former bureaucrats involved in road work got jobs after they retired with one the top 10 companies that do road work.

In May 2007, Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries Minister Toshikatsi Matsuoka, committed suicide by hanging himself when faced with tough questions on the spending of $240,000 over five years on water, heating and other expenses that are provided free to lawmakers.

These are just a few examples. Those who are interested in knowing more about corruption in Japan are requested to visit .

Corruption in UK

The list of political corruption in UK is huge. I will list a few major ones that took place after 2010.

On 29 May 2010 Chief Secretary to the Treasury David Laws resigned from the Cabinet after the Daily Telegraph newspaper published details of his claiming around £40,000 in expenses on a second home owned by a secret partner between 2004 and 2009 which was illegal.

On 14 October 2011 Secretary of State for Defence Liam Fox resigned from the Cabinet after he allowed his personal interest and government activities to become blurred.

In April 2014 Maria Miller, the Culture Secretary resigned following an investigation into her past expenses claims.

For more on political corruption in UK please visit

Coming to departmental corruption one in 20 people in Britain say they have paid a bribe for services. One in five Britons said they had resorted to bribing people in the judicial system, while almost one in ten said they had paid a bribe while in contact with the police. Seven per cent said they had bribed education officials, while 11 per cent of people who had contact with the registry and permit services or land services said they bribed officials.

The UK has been a prime location for stashing away illicitly gained wealth and sanctuary for economic offenders from all over the Commonwealth. Its anti-money laundering systems are weak. Transparency International said that tens of billions of pounds of corrupt money are being laundered through the UK each year. But most Britons do not seem bothered by this. In 2012 HSBC, the UK’s biggest bank, paid a record $1.9bn fine to settle claims by the US authorities that it had allowed Mexican drugs traffickers to deposit thousands of dollars a day in HSBC accounts. For more details see

Corruption in the US

Some forms of corruption like lobbying are legal in the US. Here I present some cases of corruption which took place in Barack Obama administration (2009–2017).

Cornie Brown, a Congresswoman was convicted of 18 federal counts including tax evasion, fraud, wire and mail fraud and sentenced to five years in federal prison in 2017

Bob Menendez, an U.S. Senator, was indicted on charges of accepting bribes in 2015.

Congressman Chaka Fattah was found guilty on 23 charges which included racketeering, money laundering and fraud. He was sentenced to 10 years and resigned from Congress on June 23, 2016.

Congressman Aaron Schock resigned from office after evidence surfaced that he used campaign funds for travel and redecorated his office with taxpayer funds in 2015.

Congressman Rick Renzi was found guilty of wire fraud, conspiracy, extortion, racketeering, money laundering, and making false statements to insurance regulators in 2013.

Congressman Jesse L Jackson pleaded guilty of fraud for using $750,000 of campaign money to buy personal items such as stuffed animals, elk heads and fur capes.

Congressman Michael Grimm pleaded guilty to tax fraud on December 23, 2014, and was sentenced to eight months in federal prison.

Fred Pagan, Office Administrator to US Senator Thad Cochran was sentenced to 30 months in prison for possession of methamphetamine with intent to distribute in 2016.

Eastern Louisiana Federal Judge G Thomas Porteous was unanimously impeached by the US House of Representatives on charges of bribery and perjury in March 2010.

For more on corruption in the US see


I am not trying to condone corruption in India. Corruption, both political and departmental is bad for the country and needs to be rooted out. But it is not as big an issue as our beloved PM and his cronies would like us to believe. Neither is Congress Party the fountain head of corruption. It is just that they have been in power for most of the 70 years of independence. The other parties are equally corrupt and enrich themselves whenever they are in power.

There are more important issues facing the country like providing drinking water, creating jobs, stopping or taxing imports from China and other countries and creating a level playing field for our manufacturers, solving the problems of our farmers, filling up vacancies in government and judicial organization and setting up fast track courts for tackling corruption.

I also belive that communalism, caste based violence, and politics of hate are more damaging to the country than corruption. Mistakes will occur when work is done and some corruption is inevitable. But we cannot stop economic activity and development to stop corruption as demonetisation did.

I do not agree with some of my WOG friends and relatives that we need to hang our heads in shame because of corruption in India. What we need is zero tolerance to corruption. We need to appointment Lopkpal and Lok Ayukts with dedicated investigating resources, the Whistle Blowers Act, strengthening of RTI and fast track courts to deal with corruption. We also need to get tough with countries like UK and Switzerland which shelter our economic offenders and break off diplomatic and economic relations if they continue with their support to money laundering and economic offenders.

Has India Progresses Satisfactorily Since Independence?

February 25th, 2018

Has India Progressed Satisfactorily Since Independence?


Col (Retd) Bhaskar Sarkar

My cousin brother, aged about 65, a Modi admirer and Congress hater, is of the opinion that India has not made satisfactory progress since independence. I concede that every individual has the right to have and live by his own convictions. I believe that India has made remarkable progress compared other countries which became independent about the same time. The progress has to be seen in the background of its state of development, non availability of financial resources, trauma of a violent partition and the mass migration that followed and a huge illiterate, indisciplined  population fragmented by religion, caste, language and ideology. I would therefore like to lay before my learned audience the progress that I have seen during my working life which began in 1963 and leave it to them to decide whether we as a nation have made adequate progress and which political party made this development possible.

Progress I have Seen

As a young army officer undergoing training in College of Military Engineering, Pune in 1964, we used to ride bicycles to our classes and club. Today, about 20 lakh two wheelers are sold in India every month. 90% households in cities and 60 % in villages have two wheelers. School and college going children use two wheelers.

In 1964, it used to take 10 hours to go by meter gauge train from Siliguri to Banarhat in Dooars, about 200 kms. Now it , takes 3 to 4 hrs. There was no railway bridge over Ganga at Farakka or over Bramhaputra at Guwahati. Since then, meter gauge lines have mostly been converted to broad guage, steam engines have been replaced mostly by indigenously produced electric and diesel engines. Konkan Railways, about 600 km of new railway line across one of the most difficult terrain has been constructed. The railway network has been extended to Srinagar over the Pir Panjal range and into the forests of Madhya Pradesh, Jharkhand and Chattisgarh. Many amazing tunnels and bridges have been built using state of art technology.

In 1964, an illiterate person could become a jawan in the Army. Today matriculation is the minimum qualification. My non matriculate sevadar’s son is an IT professional working with a British company in Bangalore and earning Rs 1 lakh per month and having company car. The daughter of a daily labourer in my friends factory is an MBBS doctor. How many countries can boast of such upward mobility?

We fought the Pakistani Patton tanks in 1965 with World War II vintage Centurion and Sherman tanks whose rounds used to bounce off the Patton armour. By 1971, Indira Gandhi had modernized the Indian Army with Soviet equipment. We defied US, defeated Pakistan and liberated Bangladeh. No new artillery gun or fighter aircraft has been acquired since 1989.

My father could not afford a car in his life time. I bought mine in 1971 when I was 31. A car then cost 20 month’s salary. There were only 3 car makers. Maruti Udyog, the 4th, was started by Sanjay Gandhi in late eighties. Today, there are over a dozen companies selling about 6 million cars a year in India. A car costs 6 to 10 months salary.

Hundreds of dams have been built all over India to harness rivers for irrigation and power generation. The Bhakra Dam and the Indira Gandhi Canal from Fazilka in Punjab to Barmer in Rajasthan have converted many barren districts of Rajasthan into grain bowls. Millions of hectares have been irrigated. How many dams have been started since 1999?

I was Chief Engineer of a Border Roads Project in 1985. Road construction was mostly done manually. Today, road and bridge construction is completely mechanized with pavers, dumpers, bitumen plant, mass concreting etc.

The first computers made their appearance in government offices in 1985. No one knew how to use them. By 2000 almost all offices in public and private sector were using computers and e mails. Today, typewriters are obsolete. All communications and design calculations have been computerised. Indian IT companies and professional dominate the world.

After retirement from army I settled down at Alwar in Rajasthan in 1994. It is a district headquarters. The waiting time for a land line was three years. By 2000, you could get a broad band connection in days. At the time only 10% girls went to school. Today, the number is almost 100%. Agriculture is mostly mechanized. In 1994 the vegetable vendors had not heard of mushroom, baby corn or broccoli. Today these are locally grown and easily available. There wasn’t a single engineering college in the district in 1994. Today there are 4. My part time maid has TV with DTH, two refrigerators and two motor cycles in the family. In  1994, the cycle rikshaw was the main public transport. Today, in addition, we have six seater light commercial vehicles, auto rikshaws and battery operated rickshaws. Everyone from managers to maids have mobile phones.

Who should get Credit for the Progress?

A lot of the progress is individual driven. There is some complacency in the children of the top dogs many of whom rely on the wealth, family business or influence of their parents to get ahead in life. But there is a strong desire among the children of the underdogs to get ahead. It is for the governments to provide the opportunities and level playing fields for everyone to become prosperous.

Congress has been in power at the Centre from 1947 to 1999 when BJP under Mr. Vajpayee came to power and again from 2004 to 2014 when Modiji came to power. The short stints of coalitions governments under Mr. VP Singh, Mr. Chandra Sekhar, Mr. Raj Narain, Mr. Deve Gowda and Mr. Gujral could do little. Thus the progress made by India and Indians has been due to the vision and policies of Congress leaders like Pandit Nehru, Lal Bahadur Shastri, Indira Gandhi, Rajeev Gandhi, Narsimha Rao and Sonia Gandhi. Mr. Vajpayee also made a great contribution with his development of national highways and the Pradhan Mantri Grameen Sadak Yojna.

Modiji talks of “Make in India”. Pandit Jawarlal Nehru started “Make in India” even before Modiji was born. Modi talks of doubling farmer’s income. The “Green Revolution” which enabled India to transform from a grain importing nation to a grain exporting country was started by Lal Bahadur Shastri and actually doubled farm incomes.

Indira Gandhi persuaded Sikkim to join India and liberated Bangladesh in spite of US opposition and its 7th Fleet. Compare it with the “Surgical strikes by the Indian Army” which BJP leaders and the pro BJP media never tire of chest thumping and talking about.

Mr. Modi talks of acting against hoarders and black marketers. Mrs. Gandhi launched action against hoarders and black marketers and nationalized banks to prevent public money being used by hoarders and black marketers in the 70s. Now under BJP industrial houses have been allowed to open banks so that they can use public money for private business. Mrs. Sonia Gandhi legislated RTI so that corruption can be exposed while BJP governments of Maharashtra and Rajasthan have brought in gag orders to prevent exposure of corruption. The Law Ministry is working overtime to dilute RTI. Modiji has not appointed Lok Pal to prevent BJP corruption from being exposed. Now NIMO threatens the existence of NAMO.

Congress launched Indira Awas Yojna much before Modi launched PM Awas Yojna. Modiji talks of digital India. It was Rajeev Gandhi who brought in Sam Pitroda and launched the IT revolution and broad band communication network which we take for granted today. It was Manmohan Singh who launched the economic liberalization.

Amul was the start of large scale milk and milk product production that pushed India to be world’s second largest milk producer. It was launched during Congress rule in Gujarat. BJP has stopped sale of unproductive cows. This will damage the dairy industry.

GST was conceived by Congress but launched by Mr. Modi. Aadhar was launched by Congress and usurped by BJP. India’s longest road bridge and longest tunnel were started by Congress but inaugurated by Mr. Modi. Narmada Sagar Dam was started by Congress and credit usurped by Modiji.

How many young men and women know about Congress’s contribution to India’s development? Congress does not know how to project their achievements. Mr. Modi and BJP are experts at taking credits for other’s achievements and make small achievements seem earth shaking.

GDP as Yardstick of Progress

A lot of people measure progress in terms of GDP growth. I find it illogical. In calculation of GDP, producing 25 ltrs of milk costing Rs 40 per ltr is equal to consuming one bottle of whiskey costing Rs 1000. How can the two be equal? This method has been adopted by economists of the Western Economies to maximise the contribution of Capital and technology over which the Western Powers and their multinational companies have a strangle hold. The GDP method encourages conspicuous consumption and seeks to maximise corporate profit. It also makes developing countries borrow from IMF and lose economic sovereignty. Measurement of progress by measuring human development index will focus our progress to employment, food security, healthcare, education and preserving the environment.


Has India progressed? It is for my learned readers to decide. My grand children cannot even imagine what India was in the 1950s or 1960s. I wish they are keen to know the truth. Unfortunately, not many young people have time or desire to know to know the true story of India’s partition and progress.

Our leaders are humans. They make mistakes. Hitler attacked Soviet Union and led Germany to defeat. Japan attacked Pearl Harbour, forced the US to join World War II and surrendered after Hirosima and Nagasaki. President Kennedy got US into Vietnam and President Bush into Iraq and Afghanistan with disastrous consequences for the US. The list is endless.

Political corruption is universal and not a special trait of the Congress. President Lula of Brazil is in jail. President Zuma of South Africa and Prime Minister of Pakistan Mr. Nawaz Shareif have been forced to resign and could end up in jail. Ex President Clinton gets $750,000 and PM Blair a smaller sum for a lecture which is a cover for lobbying. The list is endless. NIMO is the first major scam to come to light during BJP Raj. We have to wait till BJP is out of power to know about corruption among their ranks. So please be fair in your judgement.

Mayhem in the Market

February 7th, 2018

Mayhem in the Market


Col (Retd) Bhaskar Sarkar VSM

Markets around the world have been jumping up and down, mostly down, since February 2, 2018. The reason for the slide in the Indian Markets could be due to the Indian budget. But what about the markets around the world? I see almost every English Channel around the world every day. I have seen no major upheaval anywhere. It is true that markets have been rising every day for years. At best a correction is due and desirable. At the worst, the bubble is beginning to burst and a collapse is around the corner.

Most analysts will have us believe that the downswing is just a normal correction. There is nothing to worry about market stability. The fundamentals are excellent. Just buy at the dips at the dips is what they advise.

The pessimists like me are not so sure. I believe that if there is smoke, there must be a fire somewhere. What could trigger a collapse of the market like in 2007/08?

Possible Reasons

Collapse of the UD dollar could be one reason for collapse. One of my friends had warned me about this about 3 months back. In my opinion the US dollar is overvalued. The US is the world’s biggest debtor with a debt of over $20 trillion. It printed the Greenback on as required basis since 2000. It has a large trade deficit and astronomical defence expenditure. The Quantitative Easing (QE) at $90 billion per month for about 8 years has created a huge liquidity in the market which has been pushing up share prices as unlimited money supply chases limited number of shares. The US dollar remains strong because most major economies of the world want it to remain high so that their products remain cheap and competitive on the US market. However, as the US tries to restrict imports from China, Japan, Korea, EU and Mexico by imposing import duties, the incentive to keep the dollar strong may be reducing. As China seeks to enhance its super power status, it would like to project the Chinese Yuan as the most stable currency. So it could decide to destabilize the dollar by selling some of its huge holdings of US bonds. Chinese rating agencies do not rate the US dollar very high. US do not have reserves to defend the dollar.

Stock valuations

I read somewhere that the price of a stock should be around 15 to 20 times the earning per share. Today, prices of most shares are above 30 times the earning per share. Thus a major correction becomes a distinct possibility.


There are many conflict zones in the world like North Korea, South China Sea, Iran, Syria, and Afghanistan. There is a possibility of a clash between the US and Turkey as Turkey tries to pushback the Kurds from its borders. There is also the possibility of a clash between Israel and Hezbollah over Israeli missile attacks on Hezbollah and Iranian bases in Syria. But these would not destabilize the world. Threat of war is least likely to be spooking the markets.

US Politics

US politics has turned ugly since Trump won the Presidency. There seems to be pathological hatred between the Republicans and the Democrats which is not good for the US and the world. Winning and losing elections is a part of democracy and the will of the people should be accepted gracefully. Unfortunately, that is not happening. Democrats want to discredit Trump. In his State of the Union speech, Trump claimed credit for the rise is US markets over the last year. Some Democrat moneybags may be trying to crash the market to discredit Trump. Republican moneybags could be trying to stabilize the market and hence the rebound. This could be the reason for the recent volatility.


The 10% tax proposed on Long Term Capital gains could have spooked the Indian stock market. Most Indians hate paying tax and will go to any length to avoid paying it. The withdrawal of tax on Long Term Capital gains has encouraged all and sundry to invest in mutual funds in the hope of tax free gains. I have never been able to understand why governments of all hues have tried to encourage speculative activity by making it tax free while making manufacturers, traders, service providers, salaried class and consultants pay tax through their noses. This not only totally unfair but diverts funds from productive activities which create employment and real wealth to speculative activity which does not create employment and generates virtual wealth which can disappear in a day. I congratulate Mr. Jaitly on introducing the tax and hope that the next budget will make tax on capital gains from shares at par with any other capital gains. This tax has no effect on the global market.


I am not an investor, financial advisor or fortune teller. I am an humble writer who is not being paid for this piece. So it is not even paid news. I have no idea as to how the markets will behave in the coming days. For all you know, by the time this is published, if at all, the Bulls may be charging up the mountain again. However, I am convinced that if there is danger to economic stability in the world it lies in the value of the US dollar and US politics. If you are an investor using your own money, please go ahead and do what you please. If you are playing the market with someone else’s money or borrowed money, you may like cash your holdings and wait on the sidelines for better times.

Old Guard vs Young Brigade: Can Rahul Prevail

December 19th, 2017

Old Guards Vs The Young Brigade: Can Rahul Prevail?


Col (Retd) Bhaskar Sarkar VSM

Website ; www.twitter@COLSARKAR

The fight between the old guards and the young brigade of the Congress is finally in the open. Like his father, Rajeev Gandhi (Mr. Clean of yester years), Rahul Gandhi has been keeping his instinctive aversion to the culture of corruption in the Congress in check. This was possibly due to biddings of his mother. It is always difficult for a young man to come out of his mother’s influence. But his patience seems to have burst when the Congress brought in an ordinance to save the membership of the parliament of convicted political leaders like Lalu Prasad Yadav. His going public with his views against the Ordinance forced the Congress to withdraw the Ordinance. But he immediately fell silent on other instances where the Congress Old Guard kept stalling attempts to investigate scams by denying the CBI permission to question senior bureaucrats or to prosecute tainted leaders without assigning any reason. He has remained silent over the Maharashtra Governor’s refusal to allow prosecution of ex chief minister Ashok Chavan and the Maharashtra Cabinet’s decision to reject the finding of a judicial commission on the Adarsh Housing Society Scam set up by the same Cabinet without assigning any reason. However, by design or otherwise, another member of the young brigade, central minister and Congressman  Milind Deora has taken up cudgels against corruption and gone public with his demand that the Adarsh Housing Society scam must be effectively investigated and the guilty punished. The other interesting development in the struggle between the Old Guard and the Young Brigade is the attempt by the old guard to reverse the decision of the Congress, possibly taken at the behest of Rahul Gandhi and the Young Brigade, to unconditionally support the AAP in forming a government in Delhi.

It is natural for the Old Guard in political parties, bureaucracy and the police to be alarmed by the anti corruption election plank of the AAP and its adoption by the Young Brigade in the Congress. For decades they have thrived from the Congress Party’s benign tolerance of corruption and amassed hundreds of millions, thousands of acres, tons of gold and lucrative benami properties. They hold esteemed position in society and have started political dynasties which they hope will last forever. They are aghast that their own scions are questioning their wisdom of turning a firm blind eye to corruption.  The fear of being exposed and being held accountable by the long arm of law have unnerved them to rebel against the party policies.

History of Struggle

The history of struggle between the Old Guard and the Young Brigade is nothing new. Indira Gandhi, in her early days as Prime Minister, faced opposition from the “Syndicate” of Old Guards to her policies. She was bold enough to take them on in selection of the presidential candidate, preferring V V Giri to Neelam Sanjiva Reddy, backed by the “Syndicate”. Her candidate won and she packed off the Old Guards and established a new order.

Rajeev Gandhi was confronted by the Old Guards (his mother’s confidants or new order) on his attempts to clean up corruption and to introduce the Muslim Women’s Maintenance Bill in line of the Supreme Court judgement on the “Shah Bano” case. But he lacked the guts and political acumen of his mother. He lamented that only 25 paise of each Rupee earmarked for development reached the poor but did nothing to check the leaks. The Old Guard made merry and ferried their spoils to undisclosed stashes and foreign tax havens. Only a few unfortunate ones like Sukh Ram were caught and convicted.


The battle between the Old Guards and the Young Brigade in the Congress has started again. The Young Brigade has rightly recognized that India and the Indian electorate are changing. One third of the Indian electorate is below 35 and in another five years, almost half of Indian electorate will be under 35, literate and social media savvy. An army of RTI activitists and investigating journalists are constantly unearthing instances of corruption. With media coverage of corruption reaching every corner of the country almost instantly, it is not possible to hide corruption the way it could be in the good old days. The stunning electoral victories of the poor man’s AAP and the Congress’s electoral rout in the Delhi state, Rajasthan and MP elections was proof enough for the sceptics to admit that honest politicians could win elections and that young India was fed up of the two timing dishonest and criminally oriented politicians and ready to throw them out. The Young Brigade therefore wants to opt for probity in public life to survive.

For the Old Guards, the stakes are too high. The Lok Pal Bill (whether adequate or inadequate) has been passed. Rahul Gandhi is pushing for four or five other anti corruption bills to be passed. AAP and BJP are promising to reinvestigate closed cases. The Old Guard will therefore employ every trick in the trade to stall investigations and prevent the Young Brigade of the Party to sideline them and take over the Congress Party.

It will be interesting to see whether Rahul Gandhi has the guts of his grandmother to take on the Old Guard and rid the grand old Congress of its corrupt and criminal elements, bring transparency and probity in functioning of Congress governments and take the wind out of the sails of AAP and BJP and win back the confidence of the electorate before the Lok Sabha elections. A lot will depend on whether he has the support of his mother in his endeavour. If he fails it is curtains for the Congress in the next election.