India Update

Urban India Shining, Common Man Suffering, BJP Reeling, Cong Surviving And Some Trivia

Urban India Shining: Its a hot job market in the IT sector, call centers and other areas driven by the sharp influx of multinational companies. Employee turn over is as high as 50% and salaries are growing by the day. Large Western Style malls have started to appear in the big cities. Forum and Bangalore Central are two such examples based in Bangalore. Large US style apartment complexes, packed with US returned families is common place, particularly in Bangalore. Unlike in the past, you can now see a number of foreigners (not tourists) on the roads of Bangalore. Almost everyone carries a cell phone these days and this market is here to grow. City roads are full of flyovers almost like going over speed breakers in school zone. Traffic congestion is a nightmare in most leading cities, particularly Banglore and Bombay. Kolkata was congested even before the IT boom. 🙂 Internet connection in India now easily available. Dial-up connection takes less than 5 minutes to setup and costs about Rs. 20 per hour. There are hordes of Internet cafes and cable/DSL is readily available in most leading cities.

Common Man Suffering: The general cost of living has gone up quite a bit, leaving the common man in the midst of a severe cash crunch. Rents have more than doubled in the past few years, cost of power, labor, travel etc has all gone up. On the one hand you find restaurants that charge hundreds of rupees for a single dish, packed with people, on the other you have farmers committing suicide because they are unable to meet their expenses and the monsoons have failed to turn up.

BJP Reeling: The former ruling party is in the midst of serious crisis. The party is acting like it was hit by a “fierce Jeff Thompson bouncer”. In other words, its wobbling around looking for something to hang on to. Vajpayee wanted to fire Modi and lead the party overall into a more moderate persona. However, the threats from RSS, VHP and other hardliners within the party forced the leadership to sway more towards its roots — the so called Hindutva platform. Given Vajpayee’s inability to dump Modi and to prevent the push for a hardline hindutva platform, the aging Vajpayee seems to clearly be on his way out. If the current govt. lasts beyond 6-8 months it might be curtains for the veteran BJP leader and former PM.

Congress Surviving: The Congress led by Manmohan Singh from the outside and Sonia from the inside, is managing to survive. This inside-outside formula, if this govt. survives, could actually develop into a new dynamic in Indian politics. An ideal arrangement is one were the party President is extremely powerful and deals primarily with other coalition partners, while govt. and public policy is set and executed by more knowledgeable individuals (a la Manmohan Singh, Chidambaram, Natwar Singh etc.)

The next BIG thing for the govt. is the new budget which is due to be announced this month. The contradictions within the coalition are yet to create any major tensions. Ironically, what is likely to keep these coalition members together is not so much their love for one another but their dislike for their common enemy — BJP. Most people I talked to seemed to think that this govt. is unlikely to last not more than 6 months to a year!

Lastly, our cricketers are everywhere from the TV to the billboards, you can’t miss them. Tendulkar, Dravid and Sehwag being the most commonly seen faces. A new season and the associated craze is scheduled to begin later this month. Euro cup was actively followed and with cable TV this telecast is reaching out to more people in India than ever before.

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