Modi in US – Beware of terror trap

As Modi visits US to meet President Trump domestic media has been highlighting well known issues like the H1-B visa, Possible conflicts between “Make American Great Again” & “Make in India”, Paris accord etc. Expectations are lowered given the mercurial temperament of Trump and his past comments and policy decisions and the need for Modi to build a new relationship all over again.

Not much attention is being paid to one key agenda item – terror.

Terror may become a low hanging fruit, a good filler, convenient topic to discuss and forget other contentious issues, given the current global situation. Lofty press releases can be issued without much real work or progress and everyone feels good. So the temptation would be to spend too much time focusing on “terror”

That is where the danger lies! Why?

Because our terror problems are vastly different from USA’s.

  1. Even if you don’t agree with left loonies & their self flagellation anyone that has been following news over last 10,20 years should by now know this: West has paid for and purchased this current set of problems. Iraq, Libya, Iran, Syria, Afghanistan, the list is endless.
  2. Regime changes enforced with brutal violence, often bombing from high up in the air with guaranteed civilian casualties, overthrow of secular, liberal dictatorships, endorsement of rabid fanatics of Muslim Brotherhood type, arming and funding dangerous jihadis with 7th century world views have all contributed to the terror problem that European cities and communities are facing today. If mainland America is somewhat more immune it is because of the Atlantic and Pacific oceans – an accident of geography.
  3. We cannot also close our eyes to the grim reality of USA funding jihadi terrorist generals of Pakistan with cash and arms worth “billions and billions and billions”, to borrow Donald Trump’s language, much of it used to spread terror against India and ironically against America itself!
  4. Despite decades of being cuckolded, American policymakers refuse to wake up as proven by recent articles in media seeking surrender to Pakistani “interests” in Afghanistan. One never knows, Trump may prove to be no different given past track record of American Presidents from Reagan to Obama.
  5. We can be proud that India has more than 100 million Muslims and despite this we don’t really have a serious genuine Islamic terror problem other than those created by Pakistan and its jihadi generals. This is the real truth.
  6. Like almost every other Indian of all colors, sizes and shapes, yes, Muslims have grievances but barring a microscopic minority they have not used terror to get them solved. (We have some concerns and suggestions to Modi government on this front but that is topic for another day).

Given this background, spending too much time on terror (which almost exclusively has come to mean Islamist terror) in discussions with US President will do more harm than good. Because it will be about THEIR problem not OURS. It will simply serve to further American interests which keep shifting like flavours of Ben & Jerry even if there is no regime change in America itself.  Simple example – is Qatar a terrorist state or an American base? Can it be both? Why are they sold armaments worth hundreds of billions?

The Americans will happy to sing song, hear us sing in perfect sync with their tunes on their terror problems but do zilch, zero to solve our problem which is Pakistan. That is one problem we have to solve ourselves.

Instead what we will get is lectures on human rights, democracy and what not. This, incidentally applies to Western Europe too.

Any discussion with Trump on terror should be private, low key, proportionate to its weight in the overall agenda and not talked about much in press conferences or public information releases. And the focus should be on OUR terror problem whose proximate cause is American funding of Wahhabi fanaticism in Pakistan.

West has enough money and muscle to solve their terror problem which, in case you missed it earlier, was caused by their own misadventures in Middle East and Africa.

Modi beware!

 

The hit job on IT job losses

Of late we have been flooded with grim news predicting gloom and doom for India’s IT industry. Robots, automation, Donald Trump you name it, a variety of forces working together to devastate the bottom lines, destroy growth and render thousands jobless. Or so we were told. As usual our clever journalists can always find “anonymous” sources or perhaps even the odd genuine geek given the pink slip. In an industry that employs hundreds of thousands (TCS alone has almost 400k), coming across a few should not be that difficult.

But the key questions are:

  1. Are the job losses much more severe this year as compared to earlier years?
  2. Are they really due to the reasons mentioned in these scary reports?
  3. Is the paranoia warranted? Or is there a deeper agenda behind it?

Based on statements, articles and interviews by knowledgeable people in the industry (not our corrupt know-all “journalists” many of whom do their research inside envelopes) we can gleam the following facts:

  1. Technology changes all the time and workforce skills have to evolve, adapt and change. This is nothing new in the IT industry or for that matter any industry these days. After all, our industry has survived various other doomsday prophecies – end of Y2K boom, dotcom bust, 2008 crisis and so on.
  2. Of course, some unfortunately need more time or may may have missed the bus this time around.
  3. This requires action by every stakeholder – the academia (syllabus revisions, industry interactions etc), the industry (re-training, proactive counseling, partially paid sabbaticals for re-boot of skills etc.), Government (fiscal incentives, create learning infrastructure, particularly in smaller towns where skill gap and thus job losses can be higher)  and most importantly the individual (constantly learn, adapt and never feel secure)
  4. Net net the industry is hiring, not firing.  TCS has added more than 20,000 this year, not reduced. Same goes for many other tech firms. NASSCOM says Indian IT hired about 117k jobs in 2016-17. Cognizant also plans to continue to hire and its “firings” are nothing abnormal this year (Link 8).
  5. There is no denying that focus on low end, repetitive tasks and wage arbitrage is bad. Industry’s profits should come from innovation and intellectual property not cheap programmers and flogged workers. On this front there is a genuine case for gripe.
  6. As Mihir Sharma points out (Link 7), changes proposed by Trump administrators may not necessarily be bad for Indian IT professionals. After all, US companies are much better employers! This may force Indian IT firms to change their behavior too.
  7. A country our size cannot depend on the visa policies of another country to ensure its prosperity. Reforms to H1B visa in the US which is long overdue or other advanced Western countries are eminently sensible from their perspective and should be seen as an opportunity, not crisis.

Modi Government – be more proactive

Just as he did with Indian Bank chiefs, perhaps Narendra Modi should initiate a round table discussion with the IT industry heads. Agenda should be pointed, focused and simple:

  1. What specific short and medium term steps can the government take to help? Here focus should be on clearly identified, do-able tasks, not pie in the sky wish lists. What is NOT needed is funding schemes that go nowhere and take years to produce results. India cannot afford that.
  2. Why are we not producing Google’s and thousands of small startups in big data, analytics, cloud etc etc. that US produces week after week, year after year, ironically many of which have Indian talent at the very top? Target here should be identify specific red tapes, speed bumps and cut them down.
  3. Instead of hiring “unemployable” graduates and spending money training them (often at site to the chagrin of the customers) what can Government, industry and Education ministry do to quickly re-tool our colleges? It is not as if nothing is being done but surely results are disappointing so it is worth a re-look.

Somewhere a beginning has to be made to usher in a new future for our IT Industry and keep its powder dry for endless battles in the tech arena. Whining, scare mongering and senseless headlines to score web hits is not the answer.

Links

(may disappear or change over time, valid at the time of posting)

  1. http://www.thehindubusinessline.com/info-tech/chatter-over-layoffs-in-it-industry-highly-exaggerated-tcs-president/article9718629.ece
  2. http://profit.ndtv.com/news/tech-media-telecom/article-why-6-lakh-it-professionals-are-at-risk-of-losing-jobs-1693403
  3. http://profit.ndtv.com/news/tech-media-telecom/article-infosys-defers-pay-hikes-says-no-planned-layoffs-read-letter-to-staff-1692632
  4. http://economictimes.indiatimes.com/tech/ites/indian-it-in-the-sweet-spot-industry-to-double-its-jobs-by-2025/articleshow/58885691.cms
  5. As TCS Chief (now Tata Group honcho) Chandrasekaran points out, global IT spending is growing and that too more in services. This puts India in a “sweet spot”.
  6. http://www.hindustantimes.com/business-news/indian-it-industry-still-hiring-reports-of-layoffs-wrong-nasscom/story-ZlQ8RATcuKshdnc19X9m5L.html
  7. http://www.rediff.com/business/column/column-indian-it-is-dead/20170417.htm
  8. http://www.business-standard.com/article/companies/local-hiring-to-go-on-cognizant-president-tells-techies-fearing-layoffs-117052501075_1.html

 

 

Cattle trade notification controversy

Once again Modi Government finds itself amidst a media storm caused by the so-called “beef ban circular”. No amount of protestations that it is a animal welfare move and not against beef consumption is going to convince our liberal brigades who rush from beef eating contests to TV studio debates without a pause for thought.

Naturally as with all other such controversies, overseas (that is, Western) media will lap it all up & project India (and Hindus) as intolerant and backward. Never mind that horse meat and other such delicacies are banned in several of their states.

Now we are hearing that center has “open mind” on the issue and it is not a prestige issue for the BJP. That begs a question- what was done prior to this notification?

Amending the notification or even cancelling it now will not bring any relief because not only is the damage done, any rollback will be seen as “victory” to the barbarians of Sonia Gandhi’s Congress Party that brutally slaughtered a calf in full public view, including several young children in Kerala.

In most matters, be it Corporate, Legal, Academic or cultural our bureaucrats have developed this “shoot first and ask questions later” culture. Ministers and political parties invariably fall victim to this syndrome.

But then, it does seem (as per this article) the notification was posted in draft form in public domain but then no one took notice.  Interestingly, the original source quoted by the article not only makes no mention of the “beef ban” aspect, it also includes a quote from a NGO representative praising it! We are not clear if the original draft is exactly same as the one notified or if it was amended later without full debate.

But then our babus and their bosses in the government should be smart enough (by now at least) to the inherent controversy potential of this notification? Should they not have given it much wider publicity or done something to float trial balloons? After all we have TV channels ready to trade favors with the party in power to help in such matters?! In fact even a rumor can be planted & floated that beef consumption is likely to be banned triggering a lot of pseudo liberal outrage before “clarification” about the draft issued, saving everyone a lot of face! Babus, learn to be smart!

Simply publishing in a website may be OK for some cases but there is no harm in sending email notifications to trade associations and their members such as Leather exporters etc. Does it cost a lot? After all the importance of this to their business is no secret.

This is also where proactive communication by senior ministers could have helped. If Dr. Harsh Vardhan had given some media interviews about the draft, invited comments (and brickbats) BEFORE it was made final, may be we could have avoided this?

One hopes the BJP government has learned valuable lessons in PR from this episode.