Dial K for Money. Not H, Stupid!

The Business Standard reported on Aug 20 that media baron Rupert Murdoch's News Corporation is planning to launch 6 Indian language channels, including one in Kannada. The company is going to invest $100 million in starting these television channels within a year. That's not all buddy, even Reliance is entering the Karnataka market with a Kannada movie channel.

So what's up with the Murdochs and the Ambanis? Why are they defocusing from Hindi which the world was once made to think of as the only language in India? Why are they focusing on languages such as Kannada instead? What happened to the champions of the old-school teaching that India = Hindi? The answer is a straightforward one: people have finally realized the fact that India is a multilingual market. Big conglomerates are pumping in huge money into India's multilingual markets purely based on the simple fact that advertising revenue from non-Hindi channels outweighs that from Hindi channels by far.

The doomsayers are wrong.

Time and again, pure business decisions (not emotional ones) are proving the doomsayers wrong. They were proven wrong when claims that Kannada movies can't spin money and are just fit for the front-benchers went for a toss and Kannada movies started making tens of crores of rupees and creating world records. The final nails into the coffin of the doomsayers were struck when the myth that Kannada Radio in Bengaluru has no takers was busted, and busted badly. The radio episode even put a full stop to media bullshit which once claimed that Kannadigas are a minority in Bengaluru.

A truely untapped business potential

Until now, businessmen were under the false impression that if they want to make money out of television ad revenue, the default language of choice is Hindi. Even for advertisers, Hindi was unduly and falsely marketed as the sole language, marketing in which will guarantee a return on investment. Although late, they have realized the business potential of tapping India's multilingual market.

The Kannada television ad market is estimated to be worth Rs. 200 crore and the battle for grabbing a bigger pie of this sum is hotting up with lots of new entrants on the scene. People now see sense in jettisoning old-school adherence to Hindi. Says Ashish Kaul, executive vice-president, Essel Group, the parent of the Zee network of channels:
It's all about keeping viewers within your broadcast family. Whether the viewer wants sport, news, entertainment or content in her mother tongue, she should get all she wants within your umbrella and shouldn't feel the need to look out.
It is imperative for businessmen to understand and monetize socio-cultural and socio-linguistic factors in any soceity. The strong interleaving of language with the culture of a society makes success in a market crucially dependent on how well businesses understand and align with cultural and linguistic roots of the market. And yes, the Murdochs and Ambanis of the corporate world have understood it better than anyone else! Murdoch probably knew this from day 1, but Ambani (because of decades of Hindi imposition) probably needed investment experience outside India to understand the true India and its multilingual peoples.

Kannada means business

In the last couple of years alone,
large corporations which have entered the television, radio & print media have felt the strong need to hire Kannadigas who are not just extremely talented, but also are well-versed in Kannada and understand the pulse of the local market. Businessmen have to fully understand the importance of Kannada in the Karnataka market and give up the utter stupid practice of airing hindi ads on Kannada media. They must understand that it is Kannada and only Kannada which can bring rich returns to their investement in ad space. There is no other go. The old-school is dead.

A Classical Problem

There has been a delay in awarding of classical status to Kannada, and this inspite of the fact that Kannada satisfies all the criteria required for the classical language tag. A language is classified as a classical language based on four criteria: the language should possess antiquity, have an independent literary tradition, should not be an offshoot from another tradition, and should have a rich body of ancient literature.

When Tamil was awarded classical status in 2004, this decision was apparently made in the absence of any expert panel to check for it's fulfillment of the four criteria required for classical status tag. In the meanwhile when other Indian languages put forward their claim for classical status, fresh guidelines such as 1000 year antiquity was set as a prerequisite for classical language tag. When it was realized that some of the languages fit the 1000 year criterion, it was quickly amended to 1500 years, thereby trying to insulate, intentionally or otherwise, some of those candidate languages from getting the classical status. But the matter of fact is Kannada has an antiquity of more than 1500 years and hence still qualifies for the classical language tag.

Why did the Union Government see a need to award classical status to Tamil in a hurry and only later visualize need for an expert committee to strictly control identification of classical languages? What made the Union Government handle this affair of sorts in haste?

The criteria for qualifying for classical status have either been amended or re-phrased on all such occasions where languages other than Tamil have shown conformance with such conditions and demanded classical status. Why has this happened?

If India is indeed a federation of states in true spirit, the Union Government should ensure that it is fair and reasonable in all its transactions with its constituent states, be it the allocation of resources or funds or projects; distribution of distress funds during the times of calamities; allocation of ministries; settling river water & border disputes; or in cases like according of classical language status. But if we have Union Governments succumbing to the bullying tactics of a few states & accept their unreasonable demands (for political survival) at the cost of other states of the federation; the federal structure of India comes under severe strain.

Why the Koreans and Israelis are Twenty Times More Productive

SIXTY ONE LONG YEARS have ticked after India obtained freedom from British rule, and we have wasted every one of them in having failed to erect correct systems to free Indians from the clutches of poverty, malnutrition, ignorance and unemployment. Even to this day India remains economically, politically and socially challenged. Freedom from the British seems to have morphed into a license for languishing in darkness. Even to this day, the only thing worth telling foreigners about India remains stories of the glory of our past and the great spiritual philosophies of this part of the world.

Caught in the habit of celebrating our past ad nauseum, we have long forgotten the need for continuous improvement, continuous global benchmarking, and continuous marching towards perfection. As India celebrates independence from Britain this week, Indians blissfully ignore the fact that they’re slaves of a flawed system of governance erected by Indians themselves, a system which is preventing Indians from becoming productive.

Against this background, KARNATIQUE examines the true India and enquires into the reasons for India’s unproductiveness. We cannot, just cannot reconcile with India having only a past and no future.

While the world awoke to life and freedom, India slept

In these sixty one years, while countries such as Israel and Korea which were reborn around the same time as India have brought themselves out of misery and established themselves as major global players, India at best portrays itself as the maternal home of unproductiveness. This fact is illustrated by the following per-capita nominal GDP statistics as of last year:

India: $978
Indonesia: $1925
South Korea: $19,751
Israel: $22,475.

The above statistics is not just shocking, but outright demeaning. What this means is that on average one South Korean produces approximately 20.2 times more than an Indian, and one Israeli produces 22.9 times more than an Indian. Even an Indonesian produces nearly twice as much as an Indian. And all these are countries which either obtained independence or were formed around 1947, give or take a few years.

One wrong assumption

Many thinkers, economists, analysts and politicians who have tried to understand why Indians are so unproductive have failed bitterly in their attempt because of one wrong assumption underlying their approach: the assumption that India’s existing system of governance needs no reform, and that it is the population of India which needs to be reformed to fit the system.

In the rest of this article, we will show how our system of governance is making it impossible for India to become productive. We argue that India can never be cured of its chronic unproductiveness if we do not reform our system of governance.

How India’s system of governance breeds unproductiveness

While the world has realized the benefits of decentralized systems of governance, India remains predominantly a centralized polity, with the central government poking its nose into issues which are best handled by the states themselves. Subjects such as education and even city traffic which are impossible to be handled from thousands of kilometers away still remain in the central-list or the joint-list. Institutions of the central government follow the undemocratic practice of imposing Hindi on non-Hindi states. The government of India shies away from telling the world the truth that India is a union of linguistic states. Instead, it paints both inside and outside India the wrong picture that all Indians either ought to speak or already do speak Hindi in preference to inferior “regional languages”.

The result of all this is that Indians, who are basically made up of linguistic peoples such as Kannadigas, Bengalis and Telugus, have been confused to eternity when it comes to understanding themselves and the nature of their relationship with the entity called India. Are we Kannadigas or Indians first? Does our own language have what it takes to propel us out of our pitiable state, or not? Do we have to forego our own language in favor of a foreign language such as Hindi or not? Is Hindi the language of bread as opposed to Kannada? Should we, or should we not strive for the unity of Kannadigas? Are cooperation and teamwork the main ingredients of economic success or not? If they are, should Kannadigas and Bengalis cooperate first or Kannadigas cooperate among themselves first? Should our system of governance build a strong India on the shoulders of weak Karnatakas and Tamil Nadus? Can Kannadigas cooperate with each other in a foreign language? Should Kannadigas give up their jobs in favour of Biharis because they are also Indians? Can Kannada be to Kannadigas what Hebrew is to Israelis and what the Korean language is to Koreans – instruments of economic success? Or is it that we and our language are both too inferior to fit the bill?

In short, the undue importance of anything related to the central government or the Hindi language and the utter neglect of anything their own is the cause of utter confusion in Indians, as well as the seed of a feeling of disunity among Indians. It’s a pity that Hindiwallas who set out to unite India with one language, have only ended up fueling disunity inside every linguistic group. Kannadigas stand disunited today because of this flawed system of governance. Whereas our systems need to reinforce everything that unites Kannadigas (of which first and foremost is our language), our systems neglect every one of them.

Once unity vanishes, the possibility of Kannadigas (or any other linguistic people) doing anything together as one people vanishes. Kannadigas (as well as every other linguistic people and thereby Indians) have lost the ability to come together and indulge in any sort of economic activity. How can we build the Samsungs, the Hyundais of Karnataka after removing the first thing that unites us – our language? How can four Kannadigas come together when everything that is common to them is killed?

Because of this basic flaw in India’s system of governance, we, unlike the Koreans, Israelis and Indonesians, have not focused our attention on building institutions which educate Kannadigas and build a sense of unity among them. Instead, we have focused on building institutions for a trivial percentage of India’s population which migrates from one state to other. While our systems focus on making life easy for migrants from North India and a small percentage which speaks English, the people who stay put in their own states (who form the majority) are neglected, and their dormant skills remain untapped. This is how India’s system of governance kills productivity of Indians at its root.

It's high time we reform our system

India’s system of governance needs to be reformed to grant more powers to the states themselves. Each state must be allowed to fully sustain and develop its people by way of forging unity within each linguistic people and erecting the correct systems of governance, education and employment. The migrating minority cannot dictate the systems for the non-migrating majority. The concept of a joint-list must be declared obsolete and subjects in the joint-list must be transferred to the state-list. The central government must basically take charge of issues such as Defense and stop wasting time in things such as vehicular traffic. India must be declared as a multi-lingual state which protects and respects the different linguistic identities.

Linguistic peoples such as the Kannadigas must take up economic reforms on a war footing, keeping their own language central to the reforms. We should realize that unless we Kannadigas build institutions which teach management in Kannada, the Kannadiga people cannot be declared as possessing the skill of management. The same is true for every field of learning. Unless we can discuss Engineering with each other in our own language, we-the-people cannot be considered as a people who possess engineering skills. The state may be likened to the “sahasra sheershaa purushah sahasraakshah sahasrapaat” or a Being with a thousand heads, eyes and legs. How can that Being become productive and sell his wares in the market if his only means of knowledge – his tongue – has been cut?

It’s high time Indians realize this. It’s high time we stop the festivities for a moment and think of the grave problems facing the Indian people. It’s high time we reform our system of governance. It’s high time we started becoming productive and stopped forming the laughing stock of the world when we preach about our glorious past.

Delhi Cannot Catch Traffic Defaulters In Bengaluru. Period.

If you are a Bengalurian, you would have definitely seen people getting caught violating traffic rules repeatedly. How many times haven't you felt that the fine is too small for creating the fear of law ? Have you ever wondered why the Traffic Police can't levy a heavier fine on those violators to bring some order into the chaotic scene on Bengaluru's roads? Sorry mate, you need to go to Delhi to ask for a change in the law!

That's right, Karnataka Traffic Police can't even raise the fine for traffic violations from say Rs 100 to say Rs 200, as the fine amounts are decided by the Central Government's Motor Vehicle Act. So, to even bring a small change in Traffic laws in Bengaluru, you need an amendment to the law in the Parliament at Delhi! This begs the question "Is this the way to truly practice federalism? "

The correct definition of Federalism

Federalism is a system in which power is shared between the central and state governments, creating what is often called a federation. India is a multi-lingual federation where stake holders have come together in a federation of states called the Indian Union. The states subscribing to any federation of states do so for personal material gain and for not any spiritual reasons. It's as simple as that, and India is no exception. What good a federal setup is India, if a subscribing state doesn't have the power to effect even a simple change to a local law?

Restructuring Centre-State relations

The Constitution of India appropriates the subjects on which each tier of government (State or Centre) has executive powers. The central government has the powers to enact laws on subjects under the union list, while the state governments have the powers to enact laws on subjects under the state list. Laws like the Motor Vehicles Act are under the Centre's control. How effectively a state can work in an administrative capacity if, even a basic matter of governance like traffic regulation is not under it's control? Is it not the time to relook at the subjects under the union list and possibly move those subjects which a state can manage more effectively than the Centre to the state government itself? On one hand, this will enable an effective administration and on the other reduce the amount of bureaucracy and amount of time that goes in getting consensus and approval between states and the Centre on such subjects.

Time for a Dialogue

India is a quasi-federal democracy where the federal dialogue with the states is more often than not predicated by the Union Government's administrative/policy-level decisions; i.e. the Centre decides on a particular course and only thereafter seeks input from the states. This must change. The time is ripe now for a dialogue to establish a true federal system that will strengthen the bonds of mutual cooperation, unity, and cordiality between the Centre and the States. The whole dialogue needs to consider that every state is in the federation expecting a win-win. Keeping in view the sea-changes that have been taking place in the polity and economy of India since the Sarkaria Commission has last looked at the issue of Centre-State relations over two decades ago, the Centre must examine and review the working of the existing arrangements between the Union and States and amend necessary laws to enable a more effective and efficient administration.

It's plain stupidity to have our system require approval from two thousand kilometers away for a matter worth two hundred rupees. Goddamn stupid.

Collaborating for Success

Vijaya Karnataka, a Kannada daily, recently reported top rank ministers of the newly formed Karnataka government meeting the heads of some of the leading IT/BT companies based in Karnataka. This meeting was planned to discuss avenues of corporate-government collaboration to chalk out plans for both government and corporates to work towards mutual benefit.

This is a good step taken by the government in the interest of rural population of Karnataka. Further, the government should strive to make this public-private collaboration work towards increasing employability among the rural youth of Karnataka. In today's liberalized and globalized world, goals of governments to increase employment opportunities can be achieved only by partnering with private hands.

While the agenda made by the Karnataka government and corporates seems good at the outset, the government needs to categorically state the importance of employment in the rural society, and press for the private sector to play active role in increasing employability among such sections of the state. On closer observation this agenda will have to bear some points in mind to make the entire exercise successful for both sides of the deal:
  1. The trainings curriculum needs to be current and effective in preparing youth to win jobs in their respective fields. The youth may also have to be trained on some non-technical aspects that play a significant role in success in industry. As a common factor, all curriculum will have to be constantly monitored for upgradation so as to not become obsolete in the industry.

  2. The training programmes may also need comprehensive counselling for candidates to ensure the youth choose a profession that best matches his/her likes and abilities.

  3. The programme must be managed such that the infrastructural and man-power needs for training masses of youth are always met, and constantly improved to match the quality levels expected in industries.

When implemented in this fashion programmes of such kind will soon set standards for establishing a structure behind successful corporate-government collaborations for attracting talent, enriching skills and encouraging the wider youth base of Karnataka to participate in shaping the state's economy. It will also set the right example for more corporate houses to follow and benefit from and in the process do their bit to serve the community they exist in.

The success of this kind of partnership should help not just the IT & BT industries, but go beyond them and find success in various other industries. In future these programs can as well spin off effective nodal centers for vocational training and pave way to building valuable pools of diverse employment resources for corporates of all kinds. This should also go beyond state boundaries and get adopted by all states so that each one of them succeeds in ensuring better employment of their youth in their own state.

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