While it is indeed delightful to read that Iskcon (International Society for Krishna Consciousness) is taking a lead in providing nutritious meals for children, Mint, 11 January, there has been some criticism about the religious views of Iskcon and how these are reflected in the Akshaya Patra scheme. Given its Gaudiya Vaishnava leanings, eggs are a forbidden meal according to the sect’s teachings. But not many Kannadigas whose children study in such schools are vegetarian by religion. The government must also take help from other private charitable organizations that can serve boiled eggs and some fish—both excellent sources of protein. To combat malnutrition, food can be packed for the children to have after school hours.
There have been many comments about the Tata Nano. I am sure this car will be a huge success. India has been concerned about the growing disparity between the rich and the poor and ministers talk about “inclusive growth”— and yet do little about it. Tata has addressed this boldly with this car. Since independence, “the car” has been a huge status symbol in India. Babus had it with a “lal batti” and corporate honchos knew they had arrived when their company gave them one. The lower middle class has always had to contend with poor public transport, unsafe two-wheelers or second-hand cars. With the Tata Nano, every youngster in semi-urban and rural sectors can at least dream of owning a car. Having a dream is important for them. As long as they are convinced they can go into a showroom one day and buy a “new” car, they will believe in the process of economic reform and experience the “trickle down” effect of the growth which has hitherto been restricted to the cities and the upper middle class.
As a regular middle-class person I know how my wife and I dreamt about our first car—a Morris we bought for Rs5,000. My young son couldn’t stop beaming when we first took him for a ride in it, although it had holes in the floor, so toys that fell from his hand dropped onto the road. This car marked my family’s graduation from the lower-income to the middle class. I think Ratan Tata has made this dream come true for millions like me.
I also think people such as R.K. Pachauri, who criticize the Tata Nano as an environmental disaster, are completely wrong. What is bad for the environment and India’s oil bill are the huge fuel-guzzling SUVs such as the Toyota Landcruiser, Honda CRV, Mercedes M Class, Porsche Cayenne and Ford Endeavour. India can actually ban the import of such vehicles under the “harmful to environment” clause under the WTO. In fact, if all fuel-inefficient cars are banned or are penalized heavily, the Tata Nano will have a negligible impact on the environment and the oil bill.
Incidentally, I wonder how many miles Pachauri flew around the globe in pursuit of the climate change report? How does he commute to work? How many cars does Teri have?
Recent media reports, including your story, “The dark side of India’s retail loan boom”, Mint, 10 January, are highly biased against banks. I am happy to note that your report acknowledged the turgid legal system responsible for the hesitation of banks in approaching courts for initiating the recovery process.
It’s easy to advise banks not to use force or street-smart measures for recoveries. Why doesn’t RBI take up the issue of much-needed legal reforms with the Central government with the same enthusiasm? Alas, the banks’ top management has not been able to present their case objectively. Besides, banks should realize that usurious interest rates on loans (especially taken on credit cards) are also to blame.
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