Manike Mage Hithe vs Nishita Barua song

Manike Mage Hithe : Recently I called up a friend of mine to discuss ordinary business issues. In reply he kept singing “Manike Mage Hithe” in original Sinhala. My friend is not a professional singer and in fact it sounded too bad. I realized that there must be something in the song and I searched the Youtube. With millions of viewers the song was an internet sensation by then. Yohani’s beautiful rendition attracted me so much and I kept listening to the song again and again. There are so many versions of the song in so many languages. I have listened to multiple versions including Assamese. The song has proved that through music language can cross political and geographical boundaries.


Honodin Honodin: Due to some curiosity about various dialects spoken in Bangladesh, I came across this wonderful song in the local language of Chittagong, Bangladesh. The singer is Nishita Barua. But Nishita is not from Ulubari, Chandmari or Noonmati or even Jorhat, Tezpur or Nagaon. She is from Chittagong, Bangladesh.
The rendition is simple, powerful and magnetic. To understand the meaning of the song I consulted my Bengali friends and colleagues who have some grasp of the Chittagong dialect. One of them has clarified to me that “Honodin Honodin “ is actually “Konodin Konodin”
Simply put the meaning of the song is “When I came to you in the past, there was so much love. But now the love is missing…if you don’t want me , I will never come again……………..” I have listened to just one song of Nishita Barua and now pretty sure that she is exceptionally talented.
I realized that there can be great music even in dialects. In Assam there are so many dialects. But I can’t see similar efforts.

The song is given in the link below.


https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=suRmMs9-KxU

Kudos to government

I have made a conscious effort not to be critical and felt that the government has done many good jobs. The most impressive achievement of the government of India in the last couple of months is the way it has averted the coal/power crisis. The government proved the doomsayers wrong. There was no severe power crisis anywhere in the country. A learned critic of the government commented that Coal India Ltd senior officers are being given the responsibility of constructing toilets under the Swachh Bharat Mission. As a result coal production has dipped resulting in the unprecedented power crisis. But Coal India Ltd streamlined coal supplies in the shortest possible time.

Traffic Jam in GS Road area of Guwahati has been a frustrating experience. The situation was worsened by newly constructed foot bridges. But Assam government is successful in completing flyovers in Dispur area in record time and now traffic congestion is under control in GS Road.

Government of India’s vaccine drive has been commendable. It is for the Indian political leadership that we have an indigenous vaccine as well as made in India vaccine.

India has successfully asserted its stand on Jammu and Kashmir in the global forum. A direct collision with China is carefully averted.

We can applaud the government’s long term vision such as ” Atmanirbhar Bharat”, ” Swachh Bharat Yojana”, “Jan Dhan Yojana” and many others.

Air connectivity to places such as Lakhimpur, Tezu and Pasighat is a great achievement.

The Industrial Cooperative Bank

“It is matter of proud & privilege to announce that that The Industrial Cooperative Bank Ltd has created history by making a profit of Rs 8.61 crore during FY 2020-21. This is a record in Assam…………….I was being tortured by many vested interested groups of Assam. But with the values & moral induced by my village teacher parents along with the support of 55000 rural women of Assam…….I urge the young generation to take up livelihood through cooperatives”.. ……Managing Director

The above lines are from the online notice board of The Industrial Cooperative Bank Ltd.

The lines written are thought provoking. I have strong confidence in the cooperative movement. But the Managing Director who has put the notice board is currently under investigation for some alleged fraud act. I am not in a position to take sides as there is very limited information in the media about what had gone wrong in the bank.

” A cooperative is an autonomous association of persons united voluntarily to meet their common economic, social and cultural needs and aspirations through a jointly owned and democratically controlled enterprise”. It is the accepted definition of a cooperative globally.

I don’t feel confident to what extent the The Industrial Cooperative Bank Ltd fits into the above definition. In the list of Board of Directors the first name is of a Member of Parliament. As per the list the M.P. has resigned but the name continues to appear.

Many names as appearing in the list appear to be from a NGO MFI organization which has re-structured itself now due to changes in regulatory policies of the Reserve Bank of India.

I am unable to find out who are the members of the co-operative bank and how they have reacted to the alleged fraud committed by their Managing Director.

“Amul” is a grand success story from India in the cooperative movement. I am not sure if there is a second such example in India.

Back home I am not sure if there is any any success story at all.

“Purabi” products by West Assam Milk Producers’ Cooperative Union Limited is actually run by National Dairy Development Board, which is a government entity.

Sitajakhala seems to be doing a better job on a limited scale without much government intervention. It has survived for decades and growing but yet to become a big success story. The Sitajakhala initiative is by people who are originally from Nepal and are traditional milk farmers.

Though the Managing Director has exhorted the young generation to take up livelihood through cooperatives, he needs to be more convincing. Tracking his career, I realized that he did a decent job in the Micro Finance sector. But there is no clear evidence of him contributing in the cooperative sector.

I wish him well and hope he would win his war against vested interests. At the same time he would also give us insights on how 55000 rural women of Assam made The Industrial Cooperative Bank profit making.

Complex Issues

Violation of social distancing guidelines

Matt Hancock kissed his female colleague Gina Coladangelo when he was the British health secretary. The kiss was construed as a violation of social distance guidelines. Matt Hancock had to resign.

When the incident happened there was no covid-19 vaccine. I presume that as they were in their workplace, they were tested negative for covid-19. Two consenting, negative tested adults kissed. Where is the violation then?

Perhaps it is a case of adultery. But Matt Hancock resigned conceding that he had violated social distancing norms.

How to maximize shareholder’s value

In the simplest language, business is done to make money. It is believed that you make money when you are profitable. It is not the case. You may be incurring big losses, still you will make money. Zomato is one simple example. Its market cap is over INR 1 lac crore. Zomato is consistently reporting losses but it has maximized shareholder’s value. The business manager says that maximization of shareholder’s value is the core business goal and not profit or cash flow.

Student leadership

Life is learning. Decades after leaving college, I still attempt to learn new things such as data science or blockchain technology. I have no audacity to say that I am a student. In our state Assam, one individual is a permanent student leader. Recently we celebrated his 60th birthday. The student organization has immense contribution to the state. It had signed an accord with the government in 1985. Since then it has been holding talks at regular intervals with the government on how to implement the clauses of the accord. It seems talks will remain for posterity.

These are a few thoughts I fail to grasp. Hope someone with artificial intelligence will be able to understand it better.

National Monetization Pipeline

I find no strong reasons to oppose the National Monetization Pipeline-NMP. I feel not much publicity on the topic is required as well. The concept is not new. Monetization of public asset is going on for long.

On Assan roads we see “under-ASTC ” buses. These “under -ASTC” buses use Assam State Transport Corporation -ASTC infrastructure and pay the corporation some money in return. This is a simple example of asset monetization.

Maharashtra government had monetized Mumbai-Pune Expressway decades ago. This magnificent road was conceptualized by a BJP -Shiv Sena government in the past. On the issue of monetization of this road there has been no political dissent. IRB Infrastructure, the company which operates the road is making good profit. We can call this monetization exercise a successful one. Therefore the learned Congressman’s statement that the BJP is monetizing assets created by the Congress does not seem to be valid.

National Highway Authority of India -NHAI is already monetizing its road network which the NMP proposes to expand. NHAI is authorised to monetize completed roads where toll collection practice is put in place for at least a year. As per reports published in different media, it planned to raise over 1 lac crore INR through monetization in January 2001. The NMP plans to raise 30 to 40000 INR in the next two years through National Highway monetization.

India’s major airports are already monetized. Since 2006 Delhi Airport is managed by the GMR group. Mumbai Airport was also operated by private entities for long. Despite protests and allegations of crony capitalism the government is going ahead monetizing more and more airports. The NMP only states the ongoing government policy once more.

In power distribution sector monetization is already taking place. Assets of Power Grid Corporation of India are already being monetized.

I am not sure about sectors such as railways, power generation, oil and gas pipelines, ports, real estates and the progress of asset monetization.

The approaches envisaged in the NMP such as Public Private Partnership, Infrastructure Investment Trust and Real Estate Investment Trust are not new.

The NMP is primarily a fund raising plan. But I am not confident about the achievement as success is not visible in similar Finance Ministry initiatives such as Air India and BPCL privatization.

My cup of tea

The Talk Show

I was paying attention to the talk show. The learned panellists were articulating their views. The subject was -Assam Tea.

Tea constitutes not so insignificant component of my monthly budget. Tea is vital for Assam’s economy and brand image. The brew is a must in our daily lives.

The panellists were not so optimistic about Assam Tea. The growers and the manufacturers are not getting the right price. There is concern about the quality. Domestic demand is shrinking. Export is highly competitive.

Suggestions came up that there should be strong brand building exercises. There should also be steps to increase demand. Other suggestions included things like minimum support price.

It sounded somewhat like the problem of rice and wheat. Both the items face demand and supply mismatch. Economists keep alerting that excess production of rice and wheat followed by government procurement support is not sustainable in the long run.

Rice, Wheat and Tea

If there is a demand and supply mismatch, seeking government help may not be a good idea. Brand building or quality improvement to explore international market seems to be the only way out. I am not sure how can we try to increase domestic demand of tea.

In the last two decades we have seen the emergence of small tea growers. Production volume by them is increasing. They have received good government attention. Many small tea growers are making decent money. But they are dependent on large companies for processing their tea leaves. Small tea growers are also blamed for not producing quality tea.

Where are the big companies

During the course of the talk show one panellist referred to the recent insolvency proceeding against Mcleod Russel India. Mcleod Russel used to be the largest tea company operating in Assam. The fall of such a big company should have been discussed in details. It is alarming that many big companies in tea industry have failed.

Tata group had exited the business. It operates through an “associate company” -Amalgamated Plantations Pvt. Ltd -APPL in Assam. I have not heard about APPL doing great financially.

Assam Company is perhaps the oldest tea company in Assam. Through insolvency processes , the company is now owned by BRS Ventures Investment Ltd. It is sad to find that the promoter of BRS Ventures is facing multiple charges of financial fraud in India and abroad. The irony is that the Assam government had hoped that BRS Ventures would bail out Nagaon and Cachar paper mills.

Tea business is capital intensive. If big companies are failing or running away, the state government can’t remain a silent spectator.

Perhaps the talk show skipped this core point.

Mizoram Assam Border Tension

After marriage I suggested to wife that Mizoram can be a good honeymoon destination. I could cite only one plausible reason –Mizoram is like a foreign territory. I have not been to Mizoram for nearly ten years now. I am not sure if the state changed significantly since then.

Twenty years ago when I visited the state first, a colleague of mine whispered to me that someone who has “Indian” features like me may get bashed up in Mizoram at any point of time. I was scared. But such an incident never happened to me.

In Mizoram I came across various persons who are good, bad, intelligent, corrupt etc. The same thing is applicable to other places as well. Unique things that I can recollect about Mizoram are

  1. Hilly terrain quite different from Khasi, Naga or Arunachal hills.
  2. Communication problem- by way of motor vehicles, aeroplane or even language.
  3. Common hairstyle and dress code.
  4. Uncertainty whether the flight will land at Lengpui or take off from there.
  5. Inner Line Pass (ILP) .But someone who has North East Tribal/ Chinese/Mongolian or even European features may sneak in Mizoram without the ILP. But it is strict for someone who looks like me.
  6. Large scale prevalence of tobacco.

The tragic 26th July 2021: I am amused to hear that Assam Police personnel reached “Variengte auto stand”.  If history can be rewritten, why can’t we rewrite geography? Due to weakness from Assam  side the hilly tract between Lailapur and Vairengte is incorporated into Vairengte proper by Mizoram authorities.

Mizoram must acknowledge the area as disputed and then only there can be any talks between two states.

I fail to understand why a big Assam Police team reached a disputed site. If they wanted to conduct an eviction drive, what happened was inevitable. It was purely poor planning.

But Assam has every right to fight for its land. In doing so it must mobilize public opinion, persuade the central government and adequately empower state forces.

Budgets by Ajanta Neog and Nirmala Sitharaman

Though I am just a learner of economics I have tried to understand both the budgets, one by Nirmala Sitharaman and the other by Ajanta Neog. I find the budgets similar. In both the budgets the finance ministers have spoken in first persons to indicate the amount of money they have allocated for various departments and schemes etc.

Nirmala Sitharaman used ” I am providing” or “I have allocated” more than twenty times in her budget speech. Ajanta Neog’s English translation of the speech indicates ” I have earmarked” was used twenty eight times.

Fiscal deficit is a major indicator of the economy. Nirmala Sitharaman has mentioned about fiscal deficit several times. In Ajanta Neog’s speech it’s missing completely.

Analytical statement published by Assam finance department gives some important insights. (https://finance.assam.gov.in/portlets/assam-budget-2021-22)

Revenue earned by the state is as follows:

Tax and Non Tax revenue share is 45%

Public debt and Grants in aid share is 55%

By no means the above are healthy figures.

Analytical statement indicates that budgeted Gross Fiscal Deficit as 9382 crore and the revised estimate is 22077 crore for 2021-22. Both the figures are very high.

Analytical statement also says that the state is consistently achieving FRMB target (Fiscal deficit as a percentage of GSDP target) of 3.5% except in 2019-20. For the year 2019-20 the “PA” figure is 4.22%. But in 2020-21 the state achieved 2.3% despite the covid induced situation. Why such a grand achievement was not mentioned by Ajanta Neog in her budget speech is not understood by me.

Economic Advisory Council for the state of Assam

Three politicians participated in a talk show in a business channel. They talked about the GST. What I found impressive was the way they articulated their views. The participants were:

Palanivel Thiagarajan:  He is the Finance Minister of Tamil Nadu. He obtained a degree in Chemical Engineering from NIT and then studied in University at Buffalo and MIT Sloan School of Management.

Haseeb Dabru: He served as a Finance Minster of Jammu and Kashmir. He went to JNU and Centre for Development Studies, Trivandrum. He served the Planning Commission of India. He was also a consultant to Prime Minister’s Economic Advisory Council. He was a consultant to Asian Development Bank as well.

T S Singh Deo:  A very senior Congress leader. He is the present Health Minister of Chhattisgarh state.  Perhaps he is a  product of Hindu College, Delhi.

I imagined the Assam Finance Minister in the talk show, but I was not very comfortable about the possible outcome.

I have no doubt that the Assam Chief Minister is an exceptionally talented individual. But a state must have a team of extremely talented professionals to plan the policies.

Tamil Nadu government has set up an Economic Advisory Council which includes eminent economists such as:

Raghuram Rajan: Former RBI Governor and a well known economist.

Arvind Subramanian: Former Chief Economic Adviser to the government of India.

Esther Duflo: Nobel laureate economist.

Tamil Nadu is an industrially developed state. Despite that Tamil Nadu government is keen on taking the services of such distinguished economists. The state is lucky that Raghuram Rajan and Arvind Subramanian are Tamilians and  they understand Tamil Nadu well.

I also visualize an Economic Advisory Council for the state of Assam, which will have:

Dipak C Jain: He is from Tezpur and a product of Gauhati University. He obtained PhD from University of Texas. He was a Dean of Kellog School of Management. He serves as a consultant and a board member of several multinational corporate houses.

Radha Binod Barman: An Assamese, who perhaps rose to the position of RBI Deputy Governor. He has sound understanding of payment system. I believe he can guide Assam government on the microfinance mess.

Hiranya Nath: A young Professor of Economics at Sam Houston State University. Perhaps he is from Thelamara in Sonitpur district, Assam. He has done research on Development Economics and it can be of great use for the state.

This is just my dream team. But even in my wildest dream I don’t think that Assam government will heed such unsolicited suggestion.

But it will be great to hear if anybody else has any other suggestion.

The QSQT girl does not know 5G technology

The cute QSQT girl Juli Chawla is now a successful businesswoman. I understand her acting career is also progressing well. I fee sorry that she has been penalized INR 20 lacs for taking her 5G concerns to court.

I am finding it difficult to accept that she took up the 5G concern for her own publicity given that she is a celebrity already. I also humbly submit that due to lack of knowledge on 5G technology, I am unable to take a stand. Perhaps the subject is complicated. If I get a chance, I would request her to pick simpler and positive subjects such as one horned rhino or adjutant stork. If possible I would also whisper to her that it is better to accept the fact that “I don’t know about it”.

The Assam Chief Minister is an extremely knowledgeable person. But no doubt he was wrong in promising micro finance loan waiver to all women. It is evident from the recent moderation of stand by the government of Assam. The Assam government has announced that it would form a committee to study the subject. The NBFC-MFI loan volume in Assam is over INR 2000 crore. The state finance is inadequate to take such a burden.

Assam government had great difficulty in investing INR 500 crore in Numaligarh Refineries Ltd (NRL). The investment is touted as a historic event. The centre has permitted Assam government to put money in this historic investment in instalments, a proposition which is beyond my comprehension.

Only time will tell if the NRL investment by the government of Assam is a historic event. But one thing here is again difficult to understand. Disinvestment is a clear agenda of the central government. Then how an investment by a state government in a PSU is so great.

In the meantime the micro finance loan waiver news has added to the miseries of NBFC MFIs, that are RBI regulated legal business entities. These entities are already struggling due to the pandemic.

The Assam government needs a knowledge management cell. But who will bell the cat ?