Archive for the 'General' Category

India needs you! – An introduction to the Freedom Team of India, 27 February New Delhi

India FNF Alumni Network (IFAN)

in partnership with

Friedrich Naumann Stiftung für die Freiheit

Invites you to a discussion on

India needs you! – An introduction to the Freedom Team of India

27 February 2010, New Delhi


Resource Person: Sanjeev Sabhlok, Freedom Team of India
Moderator: Barun Mitra, Liberty Institute


Registration: 1530 hrs onwards
Discussion: 1600 hrs – 1800 hrs
Hi-Tea: 1800 hrs –1900 hrs

Venue: DLF Room, ASSOCHAM House, 47 Prithviraj Road, New Delhi 110 003

RSVP: India FNF Alumni Network, New Delhi
Mobile nos.: 9899258440 (Dipinder Sekhon, FTI Delhi) &
9818499293 (Nupur Hasija, FNF New Delhi)

The Freedom Team of India (FTI), a not-for-profit trust created in 2009, is a forum for policy, strategy, and leadership development to promote freedom in India. Members of FTI are committed in principle to contest elections in India with appropriate preparation. They will offer their leadership to India along with a platform of world-best policies, hoping to directly reform India’s governance. FTI is not a political party. Proposed electoral activity will be conducted under a separate banner or platform. For more information on FTI visit

Sanjeev Sabhlok has a doctorate in economics from the University of Southern California. He joined the Indian Administrative Service in 1982 and resigned in January 2001to pursue possible political and other goals. Presently he works in Victoria (Australia) in regulatory policy. His 2008 book, “Breaking Free of Nehru” (Anthem Press) highlighted India’s expensive but disastrous experiment with socialism. It also offered a way forward for India to become a great nation with freedom and ethical governance. The Freedom Team of India is a major step forward in the proposed solution

Sanjeev is visiting India after a gap of two and a half years primarily to attend FTI’s first conference (in Mumbai) and to extend his search for leaders. He is keen to get meet those who believe in the principles and policies of liberty and have contemplated the possibility of participating in electoral politics to reform India’s governance.

Post about Davos

I was at the World Economic Forum annual meeting in Davos last week and wanted to share some thoughts with the group.

The 40th annual meeting of the World Economic Forum had a bold theme for the event, ‘Improve the State of the World: Rethink, Redesign, Rebuild.’  In the aftermath of the 2008 financial crisis and the global economic slowdown of 2009, this year’s meeting was expected to conceive of a new global architecture in which not only would such financial meltdowns would be prevented, but also would create a more inclusive and equitable world for all sections of the population.

Several world leaders from public and private sectors led the discussions, and over 2500 participants from around the world were present for the five day event.  After intense discussions both in the formal panels and on the sidelines of the event, there are three broad takeaways that can be teased out.

The first broad issue focused on the economy and financial sector regulation.  It was felt that the financial sector that caused the most recent economic mess needs to be tightly regulated.  Nicholas Sarkozy in his inaugural address raised the bigger themes around this issue, and left it to the experts over the next couple of days to come up with the answers.  The discussion was not whether the world should have capitalism, but rather what form of capitalism should prevail in the years ahead.  There were several specific suggestions that emerged in the panel discussions, but there was an underlying tension that one could sense between what government representatives, central bank regulators wanted and what the financial institutions were willing to give in to.

The economic stimulus packages that were created as a response to the crisis in several countries seem to have averted any major economic disaster in most countries.  Governments invested hundreds of billions of dollars to shore up capital and liquidity of private financial institutions, thereby preventing further catastrophic impacts on their respective economies.  This has somewhat taken away the pressure on the governments and private players to press ahead with any serious reform.  So it leaves the nagging question as to whether the crisis will at all result in any kind of major overhaul of the global financial system.

The second big theme that recurred in various ways through out the conference is that of climate change.  A number of governments were concerned about the issue, and even though the Copenhagen talks did not achieve major progress, there was still much hope and desire for concerted action.  It appeared quit clear that in the US, China, and Europe there would be large scale private investments in developing new green technologies in the next few years, quite independent of whether the governments take any concrete action on this issue.

For India, this was one more year in which the Davos platform was used to showcase our growing capabilities.  There were almost one hundred participants from India, and a significant Press contingent.  Many from India spoke on panels and made a mark on the discussions.  There were two separate panel discussions in which India was the theme.  On the financial sector, India will have to tread the path cautiously, as we have done in the past.  On climate change, India will need to take up the matter in a way that is relevant to Indian realities, but also develop a conscious strategy to promote the sector just as the IT sector was promoted about 15 years ago.  The green economy worldwide is likely to be the next big revolution and could present significant opportunities for countries and companies that are ahead on the curve.

Forty years of the World Economic Forum seems like a long time, and it is quite impossible for one to quantify the exact impact of this initiative.  In this year’s meeting did the participants ‘Rethink, Redesign, Rebuild’ the world order, one cannot say. But there are a few things that make it obviously useful.  A number of world leaders both in the public and private sectors share cutting edge ideas on a range of issues such as the economy, education, health care, regulation, the arts, etc.  The second high point is that in addition to these world leaders bringing out new ideas, there are a number of opportunities for them to meet and understand each others views better, and explore ways in which they can work together where required. And lastly, there are several opportunities for informal interaction with a range of actors across sectors, which provide very useful insights for participants most of whom are leaders in their respective spheres.

And what to say of the ‘Davos moment’ which so many people experience, as in my case, when on two occasions I turned around to find Bill Gates standing right next to me!  All of this makes Davos simply worth it.

Improving Accountability – Science Ministry posts its Targets online

Mint has an interesting report on 14th Jan that Science and Technology Ministry has posted its targets online. While the targets have been set internally, the performance will be evaluated by an independent panel of experts.

Check it out

Innovations in Services for Urban Poor Awards

Dear All,

Greetings for the New Year 2010, from India Urban Space Foundation!!

Social entrepreneurs are taking on new challenges in leading path-breaking social innovations. As a befitting tribute to the spirit of such leadership, India Urban Space Foundation launches ‘Innovations in Services for Urban Poor Awards Program’. If your organisation is one amongst these pioneers, this program seeks out for you!

With support from The World Bank – SIDA Partnership, and a host of other Government and non-Government apex and network organisations, we embark on this program to identify, recognise, and reward the best innovations in reaching out and impacting the lives of the burgeoning mass of urban poor.

We seek nominations from Government, entrepreneurs – small and large, NGOs and CBOs; of successful experiments in dealing with problems confronted by the urban poor in – Water and Sanitation; Housing; Urban Mobility; Livelihoods; Primary Education and Preventive Healthcare.

Sustainability; Linkage with mandate of civic agencies; and Integrating individual and community interest – are the three cornerstones of innovation; around which our eminent Jury panel will evaluate the nominations.

Apart from national recognition, the Awardees will receive a citation and a handsome cash reward. The program will also open new doors to the awardees – linkages with funders, financial institutions and venture funds; opportunities to impact policies and large urban programs; linkages with market players for upstream / downstream activities; access to panel of expert mentors; et al.

For more information on this program, and guidance to submit your nomination, please see enclosed e-brochure and visit –

We look forward to your active participation and support in this initiative.

Yours truly

Shrinivas Kowligi
Chief Executive Officer
India Urban Space Foundation

Coup in India

What if there was a coup in India – not by armed forces but by administration. Chief Secretary takes charge and all politicians are removed. Will the governance suffer? For better or worse? All that the coup shall do is eliminate top layer of policy making. A layer that is superfluous in any case. Politicians are nor portfolio experts neither experienced in matters of governance. They rely totally on inputs from the administration & advisers. One thing is for sure that the country will save lacs of crores of rupees that is spent on upkeep of politicians. Corruption would be less if only due to the sheer reduction in number of takers.

One could argue that the IAS brigade might be no better. True. Could they be any worse? Unlikely. Atleast they have the qualifications & experience & hopefully values that better resonate with middle classes – the backbone of the civil society.

Let’s discuss this. Put forth your point of view. Dont be silent.

One could improve on this model by introducing a thin political layer. Let’s say we elect only the PMs & CMs who in turn choose their teams not from politicians but administrators supplemented by external subject matter expert advisors.

My first post on this forum was entitled “Govt needs an OD overhaul”. By & large, the consensus is that we have a large government machinery that is ineffective. It is elephantine & slow to respond. We the citizens are paying for sustenance of this governance without getting bang for the buck. If we were to analyse how to maximise value, we will seek to eliminate the most expensive & least bothered layer. We instinctively know that is the political layer. Lets dig in & find out if our instinct is backed by the facts or not. Pl contribute to this discussion.

Who’s the boss

Indian express has an interesting article here on instances where the legislature exercised control on the executive. Perhaps we need more of this.

East vs. West

The prime difference between cultures of East (most of Asia) & West (most of Caucasia) is how the age is viewed & treated.

East respects its elders as a fundamental cultural axiom. This deep inculcation extrapolates to valuing traditions & finding solace in ancient glories, real or imagined. Myth & history merge. Bottomline is that a skewed focus on past dominates and even the current or future is interpreted in a framework of bygone references.

West, in contrast, is forward looking. Rather than simply hand down the cultural baton from one  generation to next, it expects each generation to renew its culture whether in arts, technology, lifestyle &/or sciences.

Western culture thus is always work in progress. That makes it unstable & tumultuous but keeps it fresh & alive. East, in contrast, may stagnate. River roars while the lake is calm & serene. The difference is between flow & relative stillness. 

Cultures get passed on via parenting. When the teenager rebels, East tends to induce conformity by labelling the act as disrespectful. West may get worried that the child might be a wimp if upon attaining adolsecence he/she does not challenge authority. In such a case, the child is goaded to assert, to not be afraid to throw his best punch even if that invites a harder blow in return.

In East, children are provided a secure, warm, comforting environment right at the onset.  West does not mollycoddle as much and lets the child experience his aloneness & bears the discomfort of the child’s initial pain that is thus caused.

My brevity is due to non-interactivity on this blog…I could go on…the reason this subject is important is because it has a major impact on the nature of leadership that a society produces.

The simple fact is that in the past 500 years, almost all that can be bracketed under “progress” has been created / invented / discovered by West. East consoles itself  by digging out what its societies did thousands years ago.

We have had a long run of being mere spectators in a world that is not being created by us. To turn the tide, we got to look ahead. To prepare generations that could do so, we ought to shift focus from past to future. From old to young. From ancestors to inheritors. And it all starts with how we rear our offspring.

More, should you comment….

Are we a Just society…rather Can we be a Just society?

Prima facie, India has a strong independent judiciary. In practice, getting justice is rare. Conviction rate is low. Procedures outweigh the objectives. The system is convoluted & defies principles of natural justice. One would think it is quantum physics the way it is counter-intuitive and against common sense. We all know of lakhs of undertrials in prisons for periods much longer than the maximum sentence for the laws that they allegedly violated. We all know ‘open & shut’ cases which take eons with shifting goal posts with ever evolving theories. Then again there are relatively simple crimes that never get cracked and no one is ever held responsible.

There are so many cases that never will be concluded in one’s lifetime. By the time they do, it hardly matters. Deed is done, damage is done. Time heals and people reconcile. How’s that any different than the total absence of any judicial system? Prime purpose of the system ought to be deterrence by escalating the costs of crime. For that Justice ought to be Swift, Sure and Seen & not forgotten as is the case in our nation more often than not.

With all of our intellectual prowess, we cannot get simple things like rent act in place. Who is responsible for this? Do we need a law minister to come out with gems like “shady character should not become judges”. We all know the “shoulds”-what is needed is to devise systems to ensure that they happen rather than muse over them as wishful thinking.

Laws are broken with impunity all around us and none of us know what to do? Who to report to? The beat constable neither knows the laws nor is empowered to “challan” or arrest. He is mostly a meek figure amenable to bribes rather than an officer who can challenge or chase a criminal. Chor Sipahi game that we all play as kids would be hilarious were it to reflect realty?

We have laws against dowry, child marriages, child labour, corruption & what not…and politicians cite them as evidence that such ills do not exist in the society while the law enforcement is almost nil. The science of evidence gathering as practised is dismal, crime scenes are treated as a show with hordes of onlookers & dozens of cops lounging around without a clue as to what to do.

Effective law formulation, enforcement & speedy justice are basic building blocks of a society. We are not even at 101. Naxals, Maos & such movements are a natural outcome of an unjust society. It is mere vanity which makes us aspire for a permanent seat on UN Security Council, worthy of it, as a nation, we are not, although as individuals, our contribution to world bodies are significant.

I had a long interchange with an American colleague, both of us in International sales & thereby travelling the world, who wondered why Indians do so well outside India and not in India. He concluded that the reason is laissez faire, rahter lack of it in India. As an ambassador, I defended my country. My argument was when india was born in 1947, it inherited a large populace that was very poor & disadvantaged. To throw them to wolves would be genocide. Just like as parents, we protect our children till they can be on their own, India needed to be socialist in early years and shall gradually move towards the capitalist end of the spectrum as its population becomes strong & competitive.

Regretfully, it was evident even in early 80s that India couldnot carry all its people, it might as well have thrown them to the vagaries of a dog eat dog world in its earliest years  rather than create a hugely expensive pretence of a just society. I wrote in a publication in ’89 that while China may kill its own people, India forces its people to kill themselves or simply let them wither away to die. China gets outrage & India pity + charity. The difference is in what crave as a nation from the world community. Affiliation or respect? Approval or hate? The tone for India was set by its first PM Nehru. His own psychology shaped the persona of the country.

So Can we be a Just society?? I await some comments before I expound.

P.S. I am surprised no one has proposed a single alternative to Taj Mahal as an icon of excellence. In ~500 years India has not created anything that can compete with Taj. Surely not. ….Or is it?

ICT in Development

Interesting dissertation on the topic from Dipinder.

Aesthetics & Excellence

All of the metro cities of India were built by ‘foreigners’. We native Indians upon attaining their charge ended up messing up each one of them. One hardly needs to expound on this as perhaps every reader lives in one of these high priced urban jungles characterised by incessant assault on senses, gridlocks, pollution, crime and a glaring lack of aesthetics. Portuguese Bombay, British Delhi, French Pondicherry are distinctive & highly prized while North Mumbai is hardly any different from any other crowded, dirty town of india with the ugly shutters and grimy dust lined main streets. The so called Silicon valley of India was already bursting on its seams in early 90s and yet we kept on founding new businesses in there. The original Silicon valley would be justified in suing for defamation.

At a talk at REC Kurukshetra, I pointed out that one reason South Mumbai has retained a bit of liveability is because the 3 wheeler auto-rickshaws are banned there. At the same forum, an industry colleague in his talk on pursuit of excellence used “taj” as an icon of excellence 27 times in an hour. As the next speaker, I abandoned my prepared talk on “Moving up the value chain” and instead challenged the ~400 members of the audience to collectively come up with alternative icons of excellence other than Taj. We struggled but could not come up with anything that could be credited to post colonial india. Perhaps, the reader of this post could respond with some ideas.

Once again, I shall stop here & wait for interactivity on the subject