Tuesday, December 26, 2006

The REL saga continues ...

This is like a bottomless pit !!
It just keeps getting deeper and deeper ... read on ...

1. Reliance's DTH business, BlueMagic, is a subsidiary of REL

By now you all know that the Electricity company needs permission to do other businesses – I wonder if
MERC has granted them permission for this.

Here are the weblinks:

2. REL is also into construction of Highways in Tamil Nadu
Again, permission taken from

Here is the weblink:

3. REL has TWO Certificates of Incorporation !
When the name was changed from “Bombay Suburban Electric Supply Limited” to “BSES Limited” on Dec 23, 1992, no separate Certificate of Incorporation was sought from the Registrar of Companies.

But when name was changed from “BSES Limited” to “Reliance Energy Limited” on
Feb 24, 2004, a fresh Certificate of Incorporation was sought for - and granted/received.

Why does REL need TWO concurrent Certificates of Incorporation ? Is it allowed by law ?

This information about having two certificates, appears in the Notice of the Court Convened AGM of
April 26, 2006 for the Scheme of Amalgamation of REL and Reliance Energy Ventures Ltd.

The pdf file is available here:

So, probably, when it suits them, they say they are incorporated in 1929, and at other times they can say they were incorporated in 2004 - something seems to be really fishy here !

4. Interest Cost on Borrowings is 10% or 0% ?
In the Revenue statement (ARR) submitted by REL, MERC has approved an interest rate of 10% as cost of funds, for funding capital expenditure.

Interestingly, in Nov 2006, REL has completed a ZERO-rate FCCB (Foreign Currency Convertible Bonds) arrangement of US$ 150 million (Rs 750 cr). An FCCB is a Bond (something like a term borrowing) which can be converted into equity after a specified period. ABN AMRO arranged for this and it was placed with 8 US-based financial institutions.

So tell me ... should the interest rate be taken as 10% or 0% ?? If cost of funds is zero, then the ARR submitted to
MERC should be revised and the interest should be written back.

In which case, the revenue gap will be lower and REL should charge lower rates for electricity. On one hand, REL is claiming a higher 10% cost of funds and getting electricity rates approved - and on the other, the actual borrowing is at lower rates. Now, I could be wrong here - but then again, think for yourself ...

REL's announcement of this appears on the BSE website here:

MERC is still not confirming that REL has a Licence !

We have asked MERC (on Nov 30, 2006) to confirm whether REL had a Licence in their own name - either a fresh one - or the old "Bombay Suburban.." one duly assigned ..

In their reply dated Dec 19, 2006, MERC is silent on both counts .... WHY ?? If REL indeed HAS a Licence, why is MERC not saying so clearly - and putting all speculation to rest ??

REL Group's Double Standards
Interestingly, this same Reliance group is opposing exclusivity in City Gas distribution, yet it is enjoying the benefits of exclusivity in the City Electricity business !!

See that news item here:
What to do ??
Well, I think this has gone too far .. and its high time we, consumers, became aware of such transgressions.

My suggestions still remain the same .. let's NOT pay the Bills, which I hope will make all concerned, sit up and rectify these issues.
In any case, since REL does not have the Licence for Mumbai in their own name, they are not empowered by law to disconnect the electricity supply.

I know of one consumer who has NOT paid the REL electricity bill on these very grounds ... for 2 1/2 years .. and REL has not disconnected the supply!!

However, in the long run, its best if this monopoly goes once and for all ..

Please endorse the online petition to remove exclusivity at:

In which case, even REL will get an opportunity to do more business in Mumbai - they can sell into Tata, BEST and MSEDCL areas (and vice versa) .. so this is all in the spirit of fair enterprise!

Does anyone have any other ideas on what we should do about this ?? Sign up at NEMESIS-Forum and lets keep this discussion going, till we arrive at something sensible. Send an email to NEMESIS-FORUM-subscribe@yahoogroups.com

Don't become a victim of this injustice !

Well ... and that's how I feel ...

Tuesday, December 19, 2006

Words of Wisdom - 2

It has often been said that the way we feel is reflected in the words we use .. and vice versa.

By the same logic, can we actually change the way we feel, merely by changing the words we use ? Did I hear someone say, "impossible" ?? ...or is it just "difficult" ?? .. or "worth-a-shot" ??

Anthony Robbins in "Awaken The Giant Within" has this theory of breaking one's pattern of negative thinking by using different words constantly. By using a less strong word for a negative emotion/expression, we can actually lessen the degree of negativity.

For instance change "I’m feeling ANGRY" .. to "I'm feeling DISENCHANTED" .. and the negativity is instantly lowered.

Here, go ahead and try some more of these word substitutions ….

Negative Emotion
Transforms into

anxious........to........a little concerned
depressed... to...... not on top of it
depressed......to......on the road to a turn-around
destroyed.......to.......set back
that stinks......to.......that’s a little aromatic
pissed off........to .......ticked off
disappointed..... to......underwhelmed
exhausted.......to........ stimulated
failure..........to..........getting educated
hurt ...........to........bothered
I hate...........to ........I prefer
insecure..........to .......questioning
jealous.........to .......over-loving
lost............to .........searching
overwhelmed.......to........ some imbalance
overwhelmed .......to.......challenged
rejected ........ to .......overlooked
rejected ..........to........ underappreciated
sad ................ to.......... sorting my thoughts
scared ..........to.............excited
oh, shit ......... to....... oh, no
stupid.......... to.........unresourceful
terrible........to........ different

As an exercise, you must come up with three of the (negative and disempowering) words that you use in your daily vocabulary - and replace them with lower degree negative words .. or different positive and empowering words.


Try this for a few days and see .. it WILL make a difference - not only to how you feel but also to how you make others feel !

Incidentally, all copyrights belong to Mr. Anthony Robbins .. and he deserves it !

Well … and that's how I feel …

Please let me know which words did you switch … and we could compile our own list right here at blogspot .. ok, so who's first ?

Thursday, December 14, 2006

The "AEC" part ...

You & I are going to pay for the discounts given to TOI, L&T, M&M ...

Shocked ?? .. you would be ... Angry ?? .. you should be !!

You must have all heard of the “Additional Energy Charge” (AEC) of Rs. 350 crore that REL wants to charge its consumers, over a period of 6 months, (Oct 06 - Mar 07).

These were for the “incorrect discounts/rebates” that were given by BSES, to “certain categories” of consumers.

Initially, MERC had allowed this, as per their Oct 2006 Tariff Order - but the public outcry forced MERC to ask REL to defer implementation of this AEC and to spread it over 18 months.

Go ahead, check your bill, it says “AEC not included in this bill.”

Incidentally, REL has gone to the Appellate Tribunal to appeal AGAINST MERC, so that it can “recover” this sooner !

Now here’s the fun part (there always is, isn’t there ?) …

It seems these discounts/rebates, were not given to ALL consumers - they were given only to a few consumers – I’ll bet everyone is dying to know WHO were the beneficiaries of BSES’s largesse, well here’s the truth….

1) It seems that from 1992 to Feb 1998, BSES had been selling electricity to the “Western Grid” (areas out of Mumbai) for a lesser rate than their cost of production (at Dahanu). WHY ?? No one knows – in fact, as per terms of Licence to supply, I don’t think they were even supposed to supply electricity outside the Mumbai area.

2) Also, from Feb 1998 to Jun 2004, it seems discounts have been given to many industrial users like Times of India, Larsen & Toubro, Mahindra & Mahindra, ICICI Bank, etc. – just to compete with Tata Power and to gain that additional business.

Consequently, BSES ran up a loss of Rs. 350 crores – which REL wants to recover from you and me and the rest of Mumbai’s unsuspecting, gullible, citizens !!

Sounds pretty unfair, doesn’t it ?? Give discounts to industrial houses - and then recover that from individual users …Ha ! ... "Robbing Paul to pay Peter" ... !!!

If you don't wake up ... very soon you (and I) WILL be paying REL for those discounts ...

Let’s put an END to this injustice …sign the online petition for Removal of Exclusivity in the Supply of Electricity to Mumbai.

Visit http://www.petitiononline.com/oct2006/petition.html ...

No exclusivity …No injustice … na rahega baans, na bajegi baansuri !!

Well … and that’s how I feel …

Friday, December 08, 2006

Inter(net)working Rocks !!

Well, that's the power of the Internet for you ... less than 10 days and 400 "signatures" for the online petition to remove exclusivity in the supply of electricity to Mumbai !!

For those who still want to sign in, here's the URL: http://www.petitiononline.com/oct2006/petition.html

Read the comments, people really seem to be disgusted with REL and the injustice.

As Osho says, if there is no AWARENESS, its like you are "sleep-walking" through life !

The awareness process has begun .. a small step has been taken .. more action will eventually follow ... "karam kar, fal ke na soch"...

Well ... and that's how I feel ..

Wednesday, November 29, 2006

Finally .. The TRUTH !!

Tamasoma jyotir gamaya (from darkness unto light).

Pretty ironic, since the issue is about light itself ! After struggling for 2 weeks .. here's the truth .. REL does not have the Licence to distribute electricity in Mumbai, in their own name !!

So technically, they are NOT the "Licencee" as per the law. I think they need to be SUED ..

Read on ..it's lengthy, but I have tried to keep it simple..

The LAW:
1. Amongst other things, the distribution of electricity is governed by the Electricity Act 2003, which superceded the earlier Acts of 1910 and 1948.

2. This Licence cannot be transferred, sold, assigned, mortgaged, leased or otherwise given to any other company without express, prior, written permission of the authorities.

3. This Licence is always granted for a period of 25 years and then needs to be renewed, by formally applying to the authorities.

4. The electricity company CANNOT make a profit of more than 14% in the distribution of electricity.

5. The electricity company CANNOT enter OTHER BUSINESSES without PRIOR WRITTEN approval of the authorities.

6. The electricity company can only enter other businesses ONLY to leverage EXISTING assets.

7. Only a LICENCEE can disconnect supply to the user, after giving 15-days' notice in writing (VERY IMPORTANT, as you will see later).

8. In case of a dispute, Licencee will have to wait for 24-months before disconnecting supply to the consumer.

9. A change of name in a company generally implies that all rights automatically flow to the new company, as per the Companies Act.

10. The Companies Act also specifies that if there is any inconsistency with any other "Special" Acts, the sections of the "Special" Acts will prevail.

11. The Companies Act lists out Banking, Insurance and Electricity, being governed by "Special" Acts. Hence, provisions of Electricity Act prevail over Companies Act. Meaning, a mere change of user name cannot facilitate automatic transfer of Licence (MOST IMPORTANT).

12. The Electricity Act 1910 had granted the Mumbai distribution Licence to Killick Nixon for distributing electricity to Mumbai.

13. Later, the Licence was transferred by Killick Nixon, after due approval, in the name of The Bombay Suburban Electric Supply Limited.

14. The Bombay Suburban Electric Supply Limited last renewed their Licence on 15-8-1986 and this Licence is due to expire in 25 years, on 15-8-2011 (also admitted by REL, and which also means the Licence was in the name of Bombay Suburban Electric Supply Ltd, as neither BSES Ltd, nor REL were in existence in 1986).

15. The Bombay Suburban Electric Supply Limited officially changes its name to BSES Ltd in 1990s.

16. The BSES Ltd DOES NOT apply to either the Maharashtra Government or the MERC for change of user name of the Licence. (Yes, I have copies of the official letters !). Implying that the new company, BSES Ltd, does not own the Licence, as per Law.

17. The new company, BSES Ltd, is sold to REL in 2004.

18. REL does not apply for transfer of Licence. In any case they can't because even BSES Ltd is, technically, not the owner of the Licence.

19. The original Licence has been LOST (Ha!). REL failed to produce this in the Appellate Tribunal hearings in 2004. (I challenge REL to display it on its website).

20. REL's profits are more than 14% from electricity business (check its financials).

21. REL is into other businesses, without prior permission from the authorities (?).

22. REL has been BUYING fresh assets for its Mumbai Metro Rail projects, which it is legally not supposed to, if it has a Licence for distributing electricity - but since it doesn't, it is eating with both hands !

23. REL cannot disconnect supply as it is NOT the Licencee, in Law. (The earlier Bombay Suburban Electric Supply Ltd could disconnect the supply, as Licence existed in its OWN name, but not REL).

24. REL has unfair practices. Discount given for Prompt Payment is 1% only on ENERGY Consumed, while Delayed Payment Charges is on almost the WHOLE Bill. Look at your own bill and figure out what would be discount and what would be penal interest. Unilaterally, categories have been changed (50HP threshold has been brought down to 15HP). Arbitrarily, 300 units per month has been fixed as "higher consumption" users.

25. MERC and REL claim that rates for electricity is not more than Rs. 4-5 per unit. Bogus claim. Please check your own electricity bills and see the rate per unit (including all charges) for Sept 06 and for Oct 06 and divide by the number of units consumed in each month. That's the average rate per unit. Also, in subsequent bills, you will also be charged "Additional Energy Charge" (ALL users) and/or any "Time Of Day" charges (commercial/industrial users) !

Proposed Action:
# If we STOP paying our bills, REL cannot disconnect supply. Out of the lakhs of REL consumers, if even 5% people stop paying the bills, the Government will have to take cognizance of this injustice.

# If we write to MERC, enclosing copies of Sept 06 and Oct 06 bills (with average rate calculation), they will be forced to review the Tariff Order.

# PIL, anyone ?

# Today it is REL, tomorrow it will be someone else. Let's get the Government to remove this exclusivity/monopoly in the supply of electricity. Let's garner support for this by signing the online petition at http://www.petitiononline.com/oct2006/petition.html

# Forward this information to as many, to create awareness.

Vidya param balam (knowledge is strength supreme) ... was my school's motto ...

Well ... and that's how I feel ...

Saturday, November 25, 2006

More SHOCKing - Online Petition created

(The update is at the end of this post)

While the heated discussion on MERC/REL’s unjustified tariff hike in Mumbai, continues .. here’s more food for thought.

Technically, REL may not even be the owner of the "licence" for distributing electricity to Mumbai !!

If this is true, Boy, … what a FRAUD !

Here’s how, read on …

Point 2.5 (Page 24) of the MERC Tariff Order dated 3-10-2006 mentions this issue of actual validity of REL’s "ownership" of the licence.

It seems that the original licencee was the "Bombay Suburban Electric Supply Ltd" This later changed its name to "BSES Ltd" as it probably entered into some broadband / telephony business also.

Now there is a small, but important, technicality here – the old company (Bombay Suburban Electric Supply Ltd) needs to formally apply to the Government for transfer of licence to the new entity (BSES Ltd) – which apparently, DID NOT happen.

REL, please correct me here, if I’m wrong !

Meanwhile, the Reliance group bought over the new entity, BSES Ltd and changed its name to REL – and thereby has claimed that the licence of Mumbai distribution is now automatically with them !

Interestingly, an objection had been raised even in 2004 on this issue, which was dismissed by at that time, as REL had submitted that a "…mere change in name in terms of the provisions of the Companies Act, 1956 has no other legal implication and that, the entity remaining otherwise the same, no fresh issue of the licensee by the Commission is required."

However, this was NOT verified or ratified by MERC.

Now, there are three main points in REL's stand:
1. Mere change in name
2. Provision of the Companies Act
3. Entity otherwise remaining the same

However, a detailed reading of the provisions of the Companies Act, 1956 will tell you that the Act applies to all companies EXCEPT Electricity, Insurance and Banking Companies. Section 616 (c) mentions that in case of any inconsistencies, the provisions of the Electricity Act will prevail.

The Electricity Act has clearly laid down that licence once granted cannot be transferred or sold, without permission.

Also, maybe in 2004, what REL stated may have well been true as it was probably not involved in other businesses.

Today, however, the scenario is very different. REL is admittedly, not a mere distributor of electricity in Mumbai. It has several other interests also, extending to beyond supply of electricity – Mumbai Metro rail, etc.

In view of this the MERC should probably review the situation in a new light and again deliberate whether REL’s status as licencee is really valid or not !!

The reason I am raising this issue is just simple – since REL is trying to show all of us the rule book, someone needs to slam the same book into their face.

After all they are a public entity supplying a basic utility and cannot be expected to be above the purview of the law.

Let us Mumbai consumers benefit from fair competition by ending REL's MONOPOLY.

I have created an online petition at http://www.petitiononline.com/oct2006/petition.html

This (I hope) will help us address the much larger issue of removal of exclusivity for supply of electricity to Mumbai.

Today it is REL, tomorrow it may be someone else, the issue remains that if EXCLUSIVITY continues, consumers WILL be arm-twisted, so the long term solution lies in removing the exclusivity !

Trust you will agree and sign the petition.

Well ... and that's how I feel !

Thursday, November 16, 2006

Electric SHOCK - The Full Story !!

The whole of Mumbai is reeling under the REL Billing Shock ! I thought I'd make the picture a little more clearer and explain exactly how these smart (?) guys have done us in!

Mumbai gets electricity from these suppliers:

1. Reliance Energy Limited (REL), which controls more than half of Mumbai, especially the growing suburbs. The Reliance group bought out Bombay Suburban Electric Supply Ltd (BSES) and renamed this as REL. Incidentally, REL has also got the contract for the Metro Rail, in

2. Tata Power Company Limited (TPC), whose supply is limited to some parts of the main city area and a few "bulk" consumers.

3. Maharashtra State Electricity Distribution Company Ltd (MSEDCL), part of the erstwhile MSEB, supplies electricity to a few extended suburban areas.

4. Bombay Electric Supply & Transport (BEST), supplies to parts of city centre.

All electricity supply in Maharashtra State is monitored and regulated by the Maharashtra Electricity Regulatory Commission (MERC).

The rates are determined by MERC for each individual provider after taking into consideration a detailed analysis of the costs, expenses and investments of each supplier - as these may be different for different suppliers. So actually, there is an "approved" inequality of electricity
rates across the city and suburbs.

These rates are set for each year and then reviewed with actual expenses (whose details are subsequently submitted by the suppliers). MERC can then actually grant rebates to consumers or, alternately, allow suppliers to recover certain discounts/benefits given earlier !

As per the latest MERC order of October 2006, new rates for 2006-07 were finally frozen for all these suppliers.

Now, this would be pretty much a routine affair, except that REL wants to lynch the public and hence they have managed to get a few more things "approved" by MERC.

As a matter of routine, the rates were upped slightly to adjust for rising costs (of fuel, etc.) and capital expenditure.

Also MERC has redefined the types of consumers and re-categorised them - this is what has caused part of the problem. Now there has been no explanation or logical or practical reason (there never is, is there ?) for doing this.

As of now these are the main categories of consumers:
1. Domestic / Residential low usage (LF-1) - these are home users who have a single-phase or three-phase meter.
2. Light Commercial users (LF-2) - shops, etc.
3. Low Tension / Commercial / Industrial low usage (LTP-1) - users who have a sanctioned load of less than 15HP (down from 50 HP).
4. Low Tension / Commercial / Industrial high usage (LTP-2) - where the sanctioned load is greater than 15HP (down from 50 HP).

For the current discussion, I have ignored the other categories of High Tension (HT) users, Large Industries, Housing Societies, Streetlamps and Agriculture.

Now, because of the MERC Order, each consumer NOW needs to pay the following:

1. Energy Charge - based on actual units consumed. (This was constant in my bill as I was averaging 11 units per month.)

2. Time Of Day Charge penalty - this is for LTP-2 consumers only. REL has installed meters that can record the usage at a particular time. To prevent higher usage between 6pm and 10pm it will levy a penalty of 17% higher on the basic Energy Charge. (I was lucky here as the place was shut anyway.)

3. Fixed Demand Charge - this is a fixed amount that all users have to pay every month, irrespective of how much electricity they use. This is based on the category and/or depending on the sanctioned load, whether used or not ! The actual figure is a complex "higher of three figures" calculation that works in favour of REL. Also, if anyone exceeds the "contracted demand / sanctioned load" then there is a penalty at the rate of 150% of the Demand Charge ! Here's where most consumers in the 15-50HP category got hammered. (I fall in LTP-2 now and this part of my bill went from Rs. 150 to Rs. 7,441, even though my actual consumption
was still 14 units.)

4. Fuel Adjustment Charge - magnanimously at ZERO now - but this is subject to revision anytime based on the cost of fuel .. or even if REL pays a higher purchase price for power !!

5. Power Factor Charge - (This is brilliant) There is a non-transparent methodology of calculating "Power Factor" - and if the average power factor is less than 92%, then there is a charge @ 2% of the Demand Charge for EVERY 1% fall lower than 92% !!! (Here's where my bill went from ZERO to Rs. 2,827 !!)

6. Load Management Charge - In view of the acute power shortage across the State, consumers are now being forced to reduce consumption. High consumption users have been defined as those consuming more than 300 units in a month. These users have to reduce their consumption by 20% (over the same period in the previous year) failing which they would
face a "penalty" in the form of an increased charge @ 100% of the highest rate chargeable. (Here's where my bill went from ZERO to Rs. 39 just because the annual average has been constant across the 12 month period).

7. Additional Energy Charge - This is great ! The erstwhile BSES apparently had given some incorrect rebates to certain consumers about 3-4 years back and the Courts have now decreed that REL can "recover" these amounts from its subscribers ? which means you and me !! This additional charge is at the rate of additional 27% of the energy charge, irrespective of category, to be charged from Oct 06 to Mar 07. But, because of public outcry this has now been "deferred" - not cancelled, mind you !

8. Taxes - The State Govt levies a tax @ 6% which hasn't changed. However, since the basic bill itself has gone up, the Govt stands to gain as is apparent from my bill. (My bill went from Rs. 14 to Rs. 454, so obviously the Government?s coffers are also being filled !!)

All of this leaves a lot of unanswered questions. Here they are:

~ Why was this new categorization done ?
~ Why was LTP-1 threshold reduced from 50HP to 15HP ?
~ Why were the consumers falling in this severely affected category of 15-50 HP not told in advance that they could end up paying close to 100 times more ? (My own bill has gone from Rs. 200 to Rs. 10,800)
~ How did the figure of 20% reduction come up ?
~ What if some users tried to reduce and managed only 15% ? Still they would be penalized ?
~ How did MERC determine that high usage consumers are those that use at least 300 units ? Why don't they make this calculation public ? (In terms of consumption of an average urban household: 3 fans, 7 lights, 1 geyser, 1 fridge, 1 TV, 1 stereo, 1 VCD player and so on.)
~ Was the overall impact of rate hike seen before approving these various changes ?
~ Why is the 1% "rebate for prompt payment" only on the Energy Charge ? In my case the Energy Charge is Rs. 49 while the total bill is Rs. 10,810 !

The Additional Energy Charge allowed by MERC, is a sum of Rs. 350 crore that BSES has "wrongly" paid out as rebates to "certain consumers."

There seems to be a lot of mischief here, which becomes apparent when you consider the facts:
1. If BSES has given greater / incorrect rebates in the past to certain consumers - shouldn't REL have paid a lower amount for BSES (since it was entitled to collect this back) ? Oh sure, REL will argue that the matter was undecided at that point ! And if REL would have bid a lower value, it would not have even managed to buy BSES in the first place !!

2. Why should ALL consumers be made to pay for this incorrect rebate ? Let it be made public as to WHICH consumers were given this incorrect rebate and let REL collect this from those consumers only. I'm sure data is available to identify these consumers.

There are numerous other issues - why is REL's cost of purchase higher than TPC's - why is REL's increase in rates higher than TPC's - REL's Sales projections are dependant on TPC staying out else it will raise the rates again - why is TPC not being allowed to sell to REL's consumers - why is REL getting this preferential treatment - why is the government
allowing this kind of blatant non-transparency ...

All of this smacks of a lot of hand-in-glove public hood-winking and I hope the above information will enable those in power (or maybe some more of us ??) to stop this fraud being committed on the people of Mumbai.

Well ... and that's how I feel ...

Monday, November 13, 2006

Electric SHOCK !!

If you live in Mumbai and have Reliance Energy Ltd (REL) as your electricity supplier .. be ready for a SHOCKing Bill !!

This is what happened to me yesterday .....

I have a small factory area, which remains closed most of the time and is used only for storage of material. The usual electricity bill I get is, generally, less than Rs. 200 (annual average units consumed is less than ELEVEN units).

This month's bill is Rs. 10,810 - for just 14 units consumption !!

As per REL, there's no mistake ... see the calculations given below .. REL has connived with the Maharashtra Electricity Regulatory Commission (MERC) and is hood-winking the people of Mumbai, BIG TIME...

Month..Units..Bill..Fxd Demand..Energy Chg..FAC..Taxes..PFC..LMC
Mar 06...12.....213........150.............48...............1......14.........0.......0
Apr 06...12.....213........150..............48...............1......14........0.......0
May 06...10.....206.......150.............40...............3......13........0.......0
Jun 06...13.....220.......150...............52...............3......15........0.......0
Jul 06...10.....206........150...............40...............3......13........0.......0
Aug 06...14.....225.......150...............56..............4......15........0........0
Sep 06...11.....211........150..............44...............3......14........0.......0
Oct 06...14...10,810...7,441.............49..............0.....454...2,827...39

FAC = Fuel Adjustment Charge
Taxes = Govt. Duties + Mah. Govt. tax
PFC = Power Factor Surcharge
LMC = Load Management Charge

While REL seems to have "appeased" the general public by (apparently) NOT increasing the rates in the Residential areas, but under the garb of two new "approved by MERC" charges, it is lynching the Industrial and Commercial consumers.

Very sneakily, these two new charges have been included - Power Factor Surcharge (PFC) and Load Management Charge (LMC), which are applicable to ALL consumers (irrespective of type)... which means that, shortly, even Residential users will also be affected.

A detailed study of the 124 page MERC report belies all claims that REL has been making about how it will NOT increase the rates in Mumbai.

In fact, be prepared for an increase over and above these rates, starting from whenever they decide to collect back the (incorrect) rebate given in earlier years, under the garb of a new "Additional Energy Charge."

Somewhere in the lengthy report I read that there is also some clause to the effect that REL's competitor, Tata Power Company, is actually prohibited from supplying electricity to existing consumers of REL !!

I think somebody should haul up REL under the MRTP Act (if it is still in force).

With increasing consumer-awareness about one's rights, the fact that such things can be allowed to take place .. is a cruel joke on all of us !

Well ... and that's how I feel ...

Thursday, October 26, 2006

Demystifying Food Labels

In this age of increased awareness and information explosion – we want to know everything about anything – and so it is with the food we buy/eat.

It’s good to know that food labeling laws are becoming stricter and packaged food manufacturers now must declare everything (well, almost everything) that they add to the food.

When I examined the food labels of the products that were lying around at home, I noticed that, in addition to the obvious ingredients that were mentioned by name, there were also some numbers like “E330”, “211”, etc. that were mentioned.

I was very curious as to what these numbers meant – and it really started bothering me a lot – so I decided to dig deeper and find out a little more about what we are eating.

Thanks to these few days of Diwali, I finally got that time – so, while most people were out visiting others and exchanging sweets, etc. (loaded with these very additives!!), I set about trying to demystify our food labels… and here’s what I found out (thanks to Google).

1. Packaged food contains certain additives that make it necessary for manufacturers to actually “package” the product. These are necessary and beneficial (to stop food decay, prevent bacteria formation, etc.) and are required for increasing shelf-life and maintaining product consistency.
2. Some of these are just for “cosmetic” appeal. Here’s where the “added flavours and colours” comes in.
3. There is an “approved” list of “permitted” additives & colours, put out by various governments. In India we have our own Food & Drug Administration (FDA) authority and abroad, the USFDA lays down guidelines.
4. Labels are allowed to refer to these additives by just referring to their serial numbers.

Ok, so far so good … but, here’s the clincher … (you knew there was one, didn’t you?)

Though these are “approved” – which means they are safe for consumption in the specified amounts, no where is it mentioned that these additives have NO SIDE EFFECTS, when consumed in larger quantities – or when combined with other “permitted” additives!!

So, if you’re having, say, a Cola with Salted Wafers – Boy, are you in trouble!!! Which means, even these so-called “permitted” additives/colours can cause havoc to our health!

And, yes, I also found out what those numbers meant – and was not very happy about it!!

So it would mean that now we REALLY know what we’re eating, right? WRONG!

Here are a few of the products that kids love to eat (and amongst other things, these are the additives that are present in these products)…

Product A - Sodium Hydrogen Carbonate, Ammonium Hydrogen Carbonate, Lecithins, Tertiary Butylhydroquinone, Caramel I-Plain, Ponceau 4R.

Product B - Calcium Carbonate (Chalk), Citric Acid, Caramel IV-Ammonia Sulphite Process, Disodium 5'-Guanylate and Sodium Hydrogen Carbonate.

Product C - Pectins, Citric Acid, Sodium Benzoate, Sodium Metabisulphite, Azorubine/Carmoisine, Brilliant Blue FCF.

Could you guess which products are these? ….. No? OK, here are the answers …

Product A = Britannia Treat Bourbon Cream Biscuit
Product B = Maggi 2 Minute Noodles
Product C = Kissan Mixed Fruit Jam

I bet you’re surprised! Yeah, this is the stuff we are feeding our kids!!

The permitted Food Additive numbers are grouped together based on their “properties” and what they are used for. Here is the full classification:

100-199 = Colours
200-299 = Preservatives and Food Acids
300-399 = Antioxidants, Mineral Salts and Food Acids
400-499 = Emulsifiers, Humectants, Vegetable Gums & Processing Aids
500-599 = Anti Caking Agents, Firming Agents, Stabilisers & Processing Aids
600-899 = Flavour Enhancers
900-1201 = Sweetening Agents, Bleaching Agents, Propellants, Antifoaming Agents
1400-1450 = Thickeners
1505-1521 = Sequestrants and Solvents

The media has ensured that we are well aware of the usual suspects: Aspartame and Saccharin (Sugar substitutes), MSG (Mono Sodium Glutamate), BVO (Brominated Vegetable Oil) and, more recently, the pesticide content in Soft Drinks.

Now here is a list I compiled from my kitchen – which has everyday products like Biscuit, Soup, Pasta, Noodles, Jam, Juice, Crush, Colas, Soda! (The ones in BOLD are best avoided – especially by young children and those suffering from Asthma)
122 = Azorubine / Carmoisine
124 = Ponceau 4R
127 = Erythrosine
133 = Brilliant blue FCF

150 = Caramel I-plain
150c = Caramel III – ammonia process
150d = Caramel IV-ammonia sulphite process
160a = Carotenes
160b = Annatto extracts
170(i) = Calcium carbonate
211 = Sodium benzoate
223 = Sodium metabisulphite
260 = Acetic acid, glacial
300 = Ascorbic acid (L)
319 = Tertiary butylhydroquinone
322 = Lecithins
327 = Calcium lactate
330 = Citric acid
331 = Sodium citrates
338 = Orthophosphoric acid
341(i) = Monocalcium orthophosphate
415 = Xanthan Gum
440(i) = Pectins
471 = Mono-and di-glycerides of fatty acids
481(i) = Sodium stearoyl lactylates
500 = Sodium carbonates
500(ii) = Sodium hydrogen carbonate
503(ii) = Ammonium hydrogen carbonate
509 = Calcium chloride (Chalk)
627 = Disodium 5'-guanylate
631 = Disodium 5'-inosinate
1101(i) = Protease
1422 = Acetylated distarch adipate

Well, now that you are better informed, please rummage through your kitchen cabinet and fridge and decode what you’re eating … and what you're feeding your loved ones !!!

Seems like the best thing to do is stick to as many natural and fresh foods, as is possible.

Well ... and that's how I feel ...

Monday, October 02, 2006

Words of Wisdom - 1

Very few thinkers, writers or philosophers (I would prefer calling them personal-motivators) have been able to really strike a chord within me .. Robin Sharma, Swami Ramdev, Osho Rajneesh, Steven Covey, Anthony Robbins, Robert J. Ringer, Richard P. Feynman are those that I would put ahead of the rest.

Yeah, I know .. a lot of you will be aghast at the fact that these names from very diverse fields and backgrounds appear side by side .. well .. it’s MY life .. and MY blog .. so that settles it ... I guess !

In my own way, I would like to pay Obeisance (wow, I don’t know if that’s going to be possible) to them, by reproducing a few really hard-hitting ideas that have made an impression on me.

Its possible that a few of these may reach out and touch you … stir you .. motivate you .. into getting the most out of yourself.

Go ahead … discover your true calling ...
....Discover your Dharma ... and set yourself free !

Here's Part 1 .. from ....
Robin Sharma's The Monk Who Sold His Ferrari...

1. Your vision will become clear only when you can look into your heart. Who looks outside dreams; who looks inside, awakens.

2. There are no absolutes. What really separates people who are habitually upbeat and optimistic, from those who are consistently miserable, is how the circumstances of life are interpreted and processed.

3. There are no mistakes in life. Only lessons. There is no such thing as a negative experience, only opportunities to grow, learn, advance along the road of self-mastery. From struggle comes strength.

4. Most people have grown the most from their most challenging experiences.

5. The mind is a wonderful servant but a terrible master.

6. The secret of happiness is simple: find out what you truly love to do and then direct all of your energy towards doing it.

7. Success like happiness cannot be pursued. It must ensue – Victor Frankl.

8. Saying that you don’t have time to improve your thoughts and your life is like saying you don’t have time to stop for gas because you are too busy driving. Eventually it will catch up with you.

9. Weak minds lead to weak actions.

10. Never be ashamed of doing that which is right; decide on what you think is good and then stick to it.

11. Every second you spend thinking about someone else’s dreams you take time away from your own.

12. Fatigue is a creation of the mind.

13. He who serves the most, reaps the most, emotionally, physically, mentally and spiritually.

14. The purpose of life is a life of purpose.

15. Anyone can revolutionize their lives once they revolutionize the direction in which they are moving. But if you don’t know where you are going, how will you ever know when you get there.

16. You will never be able to hit a target you cannot see.

17. Every experience offers lessons. Stop majoring in the minor things. Enjoy your life.

18. Here, in our society we have lost our passion. We do not do things because we love to do them. We do things because we feel we have to do them. This is a formula for misery.

19. Change is the most powerful force in our society today. Most people fear it, the wise embrace it.

20. No man is free who is not a master of himself – Epictetus.

21. The only limits on your life are those that you set yourself.

22. When you are doing what you truly love to do you are bound to find deep contentment.

23. Pain is a precursor to personal growth. Don’t dread it. Instead, embrace it.

24. You sow a thought, you reap an action. Reap an action, you sow a habit. Sow a habit, you reap a character. Sow a character, you reap your destiny.

25. To build a will of iron, it is essential to take small, tiny acts in tribute to the virtue of personal discipline.

26. Self-discipline will provide you with the mental reserves required to persevere when life throws you one of its little curves.

27. Truly enlightened people never seek to be like others. Rather, they seek to be superior to their former selves. Don’t race against others. Race against yourself.

28. People have liberty but lack freedom. They lack a key ingredient to a meaningful, enlightened life: the freedom to see the forest beyond the trees, the freedom to choose what is right over what seems pressing.

29. Positive always overcomes negative.

30. Wage war against the weaker thoughts that have crept into the palace of your mind. They will see that they are unwanted and leave like unwelcome visitors.

31. When you control your thoughts, you control your mind. When you control your mind, you control your life. And once you reach the stage of being in total control of your life, you become the master of your destiny.

32. Small victories lead to large victories. You must build on the small to achieve the great.

33. What separates those who build exceptional lives from the “also rans” is the way they use their time.

34. Time mastery leads to life mastery. Guard time well. It’s a non-renewable resource.

35. Failing to plan, is planning to fail.

36. Stop living your life in compartments and understand once and for all that all you do forms one indivisible whole. The way you act at home affects the way you act at work. The way you treat your people at the office affects the way you will treat your family and friends.

37. Enlightened people are priority driven.

38. Don’t let others steal your time. Be wary of time thieves.

39. Learn to say no. Having the courage to say no to the little things in life will give you the power to say yes to the big things.

40. Laughter opens your heart and soothes your soul. No one should take life so seriously that they forget to laugh at themselves.

41. Imagine waking up every day and asking yourself the simple question; “What would I do today if it was my last?”

42. You will start focusing on all the meaningful things that you have been putting off, and stop squandering time on all those petty things that have dragged you down into the quagmire of crisis and chaos.

43. Act as if failure is impossible, and your success will be assured.

44. The quality of your life will come down to the quality of your contribution.

45. A little bit of fragrance always clings to the hand that gives you roses. When you work to improve the lives of others, you indirectly elevate your own life in the process.

46. Every dawn is a new day to the one who is enlightened.

47. The most important moment is now. Learn to live in it and savor it fully.

48. Being engaged in a pursuit that truly challenges you is the surest route to personal satisfaction.

49. Happiness is a journey, not a destination.

50. Goals energize your life. Never put off happiness for the sake of achievement.

51. Live your children’s childhood. What is the point of climbing the steps of success if you have missed the first steps of your own kids ?

52. What good is owning the biggest house on the block if you have not taken the time to create a home?

53. The best gift you can ever give your children is your love. Pretty soon they will be off, building lives and families of their own. Then it will be too late, the time will be gone.

54. Happiness is a journey. It is also a choice you make.

55. The size of your bank account and the size of your house has nothing to do with living life with a sense of joy and wonder. The world is full of unhappy millionaires.

56. We all have something that we are meant to do. Your genius will shine through, and happiness will fill your life, the instant you discover your higher purpose and then direct all your energies towards it.

57. Let this new day be the defining moment of your life, the day that you make the decision once and for all to focus on what is truly important to you.

58. Stop putting off your happiness for the sake of achievement. Instead why not enjoy the process? Revive your spirit and start tending to your soul. This is the way to Nirvana.

59. We are all here for some special reason. Meditate on what your true calling is, and how you can give yourself to others.

60. Today, light your spark of life and let it blaze brightly. Stop being a prisoner of your past. Become the architect of your future.

BTW, all the copyrights belong to Mr. Robin Sharma .. and he deserves it !

Which one(s) connected with you, the most ? Please let me know ...

Well ... and that's how I feel ...

Saturday, September 30, 2006

Right Here Right Now (The Sensex Mix)

With the resurgence in the Bull market ... those who had been sitting on the sidelines for that much awaited "correction" - have given in to the lure of the market and have finally entered the fray ...

I was "inspired" (Ha!) by the song from BluffMaster (so appropriate !) and thought what if the words were actually sung by a Miss Sen-sex, who is luring the retail investors to Come into the Market .. well here goes ...

(Sung to the tune of "Right Here Right Now" ... the words in Italics belong to the extended Hip-Hop version)

I wanna say heya to my market player Ramesh J
Large Caps to Small Caps and some Caps Middy
My crew the fundmaster movie
And those SENSEX fakers – loosers and shakers

Here we go!

Come to me bhool jaaye sara Hisaab
Come to me hum banale sirf apni Kitaab

Come to me bhool jaaye sara Hisaab
Come to me hum banale sirf apni Kitaab

Listen up Bull

Ek main aur ek tu hai, aur Market mein Rumour hai
Brokers bekabu hai, samjho saare Reports jaali
Funds ka kya bharosa, Basket-sell kar jaaye
Kal agar na mil paaye, reh na jaaye Target baaki

Right here right now, hain Futures ka samaa
Book your Profit one time
Right here right now, kum hai Margin yaha
Book your Profit two time
Bhool jaao, Maallaao, reh na jaaye, Profit saari

Ek main aur ek tu hai, Mutual Fund mein golmaal hai
Managers bekabu hai, samjho saare NAV jaali
FED ka kya bharosa, Rates upar le jaaye
Kal Nikkei neeche khul jaaye, reh na jaaye haath khaali

Come to me
Come to me

F-U-N to the big D masta let’s push it up this Stocks’ too sasta
Yeah its a Short call ..
But im a Big Bull ..
Buy in the club, or in your car, or in your bar, Bull
Fund Manajah rides a Maybach, while u don’t get no pay back
SEBI inquires and finds all those kick backs
They fine, a small fine, and Manajah keeps on smiling
Tells nice lies for short trading

Aao mil jaayen hum tum, aur Price ko yu giraye
Never gonna let it rise, Bull
Never gonna let it rise no no no no
Na koi Support bane, na ho stop loss
Never gonna let it rise, Bull
Never gonna let it rise no no no no

Right here right now, hain Support ka nishaan
Call your Broker one time
Right here right now, arre woh hai kahaan
Call your Broker two time
Bhool jaao, ‘net kholo, direct karo, apni kharidi

I’m the Manajah of the Fund stuff,
I take it smooth but put u thru the ruff stuff
The oldies just cant be getting enuff of the SIP stuff
Now I can be easy or I can be givin yea junk stuff

Ek main aur ek tu hai, aur sab Charts bekaar hai
NIFTY bekabu hai, samjho naye Highs baaki
Trend ka kya bharosa, hum Traders phas jaaye
Market crash kar jaaye, reh na jaaye Margin khaali

Come to me bhool jaaye sara Hisaab
Come to me hum banale sirf apni Kitaab

Come to me bhool jaaye sara Hisaab
Come to me hum banale sirf apni Kitaab


My apologies to all those whose sensibilities have been offended.. but ..

Well ... and that's how I feel ...

Sunday, September 24, 2006

Why the ban on Coke is a real Joke !

We, as consumers, today are a lot more conscious about what we buy and what we eat - which is a good sign. The increasing alertness about our eating habits and our lifestyle has led to a series of changes that have happened all around us.

- Food manufacturing companies are giving more nutritional information on the packs.
- Fitness Equipment Manufacturing companies have increased their visibility.
- Healthy Food alternatives have "mushroomed".

Overall, we are more aware about how, what we do, affects our health.

Gone are the usual suspects .. drugs, tobacco and alcohol. The latest entrants to our "hit list" are .. Sugar, Trans Fat, Carbohydrates, Caffeine, Calories and even Sodium and Calcium ! Its Ironic, that till some time back most of these were considered to be actually healthy for us. Well, no more !

It is now an acknowledged fact that "lactose intolerance" is a valid reason for excusing someone from drinking milk. My kids would love to use that one !

Fast Food is now synonymous with Junk Food and the two phrases are often (mis)used for each other. Pizzas, Burgers, French Fries, Hot Dogs - are all viewed with a jaundiced eye - and so are Colas. It's surprising how Colas have got automatically connected with Junk Food - speaks volumes for the marketing prowess of Fast Food proponents like McDonalds, Burger King, Pizza Hut and Wimpeys. Their combo deals of Burgers+Fries+Cola have ensured that all these food categories now enjoy (?) the same fate.

Corporate marketing genius notwithstanding, personally, I'd stay away from a Cola. Yes, that stuff dissolves teeth - and I've seen it happen. I put my daughter's (broken, milk) tooth in a cup of Cola and it actually dissolved in 2 days' time.

Probably nothing to do with the Pesticide content, but more to do with the Phosphoric Acid (or some such component, they'll never tell us, will they ?) inherent in Cola drinks.

This new found awareness has also led the consumer movement to "move" the Government and it has risen to the occasion. It's one of those rare times that the Government has actually reacted - even though it has done so in its typical bureaucratic, knee-jerk, haphazard, unthinking, tunnel-visioned way !

Which brings me to the recent "ban" on Colas .. and the even more recent "lifting" of the ban. The big ruckus started with one Lab report that there was a high content of Pesticide found in the Colas.

Now this is not something new. A few years back, there was a Joint Parliamentary Committee (JPC) Report that spoke volumes (literally) about the harmful effects of Colas. and surprisingly, the Government chose to do nothing till now.

In fact, this matter came to the fore again when Swami Ramdev (who in his own inimitable style) raised the issue repeatedly in his yoga discourses .. his catch phrase was "thanda matlab toilet cleaner". I'm sure when the cat is out of the bag, he may well be proved right !

Anyway, in spite of the JPC Report it seems we still don't have a law for Cola companies to adhere to, which I believe was their legal defence. They probably said, "Tell us clearly what the law specific to Cola manufacturing is and prosecute us if we don't comply".

Much as I do not like the stuff myself, I'm willing to grant them this concession. Sounds pretty fair to me !

Incidentally, while Aamir Khan actually put his mouth where his money is ... did you notice that the Pepsi CEO didn't actually "drink" the stuff !

I would have really loved to see Pepsi's entire Board of Directors' families drink the stuff ... kids and grand kids, included. And don't try and tell me that the Advertising Standard Council of India has banned the depiction of children in Ads, etc. etc. If they can be shown consuming Horlicks, Maggi, Real Juice and Boomer gum, well they can be shown drinking Coke and Pepsi.

So whether it contains Pesticides or not, I'm not going to let my kids drink that stuff and I don't care if Aamir Khan and the CEO of Pepsi run their Ads every 5 minutes.

There are still a few misguided people whose actions are, well .. misguided to say the least ! Other than sensational political mileage, what good can come out of raiding the warehouses and godowns of the Cola manufacturing companies ? It’s just a cheap publicity gimmick - just like saying, "Don't write us off, we're alive!"

If they're really interested in the common good, they should get their own "experts" to draft a policy and submit that to their partners in the UPA Government, and force the Government into approving it. Once it becomes a law, then get the Cola companies to tow the line.

But, our Government has a sense of humour - and it just loves to be ambiguous. They have recently passed a "Food Safety and Standards Act (FSSA), 2006".

The FSSA supercedes (and repeals) at least SEVEN different current laws including The Prevention of Food Adulteration (PFA) Act 1954, The Milk and Milk Products Order (MPO) 1992, The Fruit Products Order (FPO) 1955, The Meat Food Products Order 1973, The Vegetable Oil Products (Control) Order 1947, The Edible Oil Packaging (Regulation) Order 1998, The Solvent Extracted Oil, DeOiled Meal and Edible Flour (Control) Order 1967.

What is really very amusing is that the FSSA is dated August 23, 2006, while there has been a PFA (Seventh) Amendment Rules passed on August 21, 2006 !!

The PFA Amendment lays down strict guidelines for labelling instructions, including the mention of and two days later another law is enacted that repeals the PFA Act completely ! So what are the food manufacturing companies going to do ? Do they follow the labelling requirements .. or not ?

It is this ambiguity that permits ridiculous things to happen. For instance, pick up a bottle of Coke .. and check the label. You will find some Nutritional Information like Carbohydrates and Proteins mentioned per 100 ML (millilitre). It’s easy to figure out how much does the whole bottle contain, as the product sold is by volume, i.e. 500 ML, 1 Litre, etc.

But, here's the catch .... (you knew there was one, didn't you ?). "Added Sugar" is mentioned very prominently, as "10.2g/100gm" ... !!!!!!

Now how in God's name are we to figure out how many ML of Coke weighs how many GMS ?? Who is the person responsible for this rule and who cleared it ? I want to know (RTI et al) and I want him accountable for the agony it has caused me trying to calculate ! I want it changed so that we don't have to become mathematical geniuses to figure out what to eat !

This is one of the main reasons why I feel that any talk of a ban on Pepsi and Coke .. is .. well .. a cruel joke, on the common man. The Kerala State Government banned the manufacture and sale of Colas under the Kerala State PFA Act and the High Court reversed it saying that the Government has no authority to ban the manufacture and sale of a product under this Act !

Now didn't the Kerala State Government know this ? What with the highest literacy in the country .. these smart guys didn't know it ?? Or was there an ulterior motive of the ruling political party of that State in gaining some mileage ?

But seriously, if this happens in the State with the highest literacy in the country ... where does that leave us commoners ??

... And what was that about common sense being so uncommon .... ?

Well ... and that's how I feel ...

Sunday, September 10, 2006

"Adult Content" on TV

Over the past few weeks, there has been a big hue and cry over "adult content" on television, leading to suspension of services by certain Cable Operators ONLY in Mumbai (Ha!)

Apparently a PIL (Public Interest Litigation, for the uninitiated) had been filed by a concerned citizen over the nature of "adult content" being shown on TV and the High Courts promptly ruled (surprising how they can make decisions on some issues much faster) that Cable operators have to discontinue showing films with "Adult" certification.

As usual, the general fracas followed ... public outrage, self-appointed moralists going on a rampage, police being authorised to seize equipment of defaulting operators, operators in turn accusing channels for being responsible for content ... etc, etc.

Definition of Adult Content
From the Press reports it seems that only foreign films with an "A" certification are "adult content."

Hindi films like "Gangajal" (*ing Ajay Devgan) continue to be broadcast. So do Reality shows like "America's Top Model", warped soaps like "Kasauti Zindagi..." and lifestyle channels like FTV and VH1 continue, while ONLY HBO and Star Movies are still off the air !

With due respect, I don't think the issue has really been addressed by the PIL. I don't think we have gotten to the root of what is adult content.

Not that I am an expert at this ... but in a very layman way ... I would define adult content as that which is unsuitable for children to watch for the reason that they may not comprehend the intracacies, nuances or implications. I would rather prefer the term "mature content."

Children, and maybe even preteens, are not really able to grasp or understand certain issues ... like maybe Gay marriages ... but yet are "exposed" to these. Short-sighted people (and I'm not talking about the ones who are literally short-sighted), would like to generalise .. that all "mature content" = PORNOGRAPHY ! The truth couldn't be further away !!

In my opinion, it would have been more appropriate for the Courts to rope in educationists, psychologists and counsellors to first define what constitues "mature content" .. and could then have referred this issue to the already existing Censor Board to take appropriate steps in implementing some kind of compliance.

This typical knee-jerk reaction to populist issues should be avoided.

The Courts have enough on their plate ... the Mumbai Bomb Blast case decision is still pending (inspite of being put on a fast-track special court).

Shooting the Messenger for the Message !
Also, why are Cable Operators responsible? They are merely transporting the signal to end customers.

It's like saying VSNL and MTNL and other ISPs should have their equipment confiscated as there is pornographic material available on various websites !!

Cellphone operators like Hutch, BPL, Airtel should have their towers pulled down ... as they can also carry "unsuitable" material.

Also, I don't see the ASCI (Advertisements Council of india) suspending the newspaper publications for inappropriate or misleading advertisements ...

And while we're on bashing the messengers ... how come DTH operators like Dish TV and Tata Sky ... were excluded from the witch-hunt ? ... Maybe because the police (and/or the Courts) didn't know how to take action against them !!

Individual Rights
Why can't an adult individual be able to go and watch whatever he/she pleases ?

I'm not advocating free uncontrolled public broadcast of mature content ! But yes, just like an adult individual has the right (?) to access mature content over the internet, he/she must be allowed access to mature programming ... and as I mentioned, mature programming DOES NOT always mean pornographic material !

Maybe the implementation of the CAS could actually be hastened, as this would mean that adults could "password protect" certain inappropriate channels and thereby control the access of their children to certain channels that they deem inappropriate for their own children.

Put the control in the hands of the parents themselves. We need to have enough faith in the parenting system and the institution of the family to "self-regulate" what the children of the house watch.

Once a generic law has been laid down and general guidelines given to the Censor Boards ... why do we need the self-appointed moralists, the Courts, the Cable Operators or the Channels to separately regulate our viewing options?

Having put a sensible system in place, let the market forces determine who will watch what - and put a NGO-type autonomous watchdog in place - where the public can refer such issues to ... very much like the ASCI or the CGSI (Consumer Guidance Society of India).

In any case, most advertisements brazenly target children when they really shouldn't be doing that either.

Of all the places .. off-air in Mumbai !
This is a real joke .. only Cable operators in Mumbai faced the brunt ! So according to the learned courts and implementation authorities .. only the children in Mumbai city need to kept away from "adult content."

And the rest of Maharashtra .. and the rest of India can continue to watch all this uninterrupted ! Ha !

Speaks volumes for what the courts think about the quality of parenting in Mumbai ... and I object to this as it is a personal attack on even my parenting skills !

The parents in Orissa, Jharkhand and even Solapur are apparently doing a better job than the parents in Mumbai city ... for the courts to have banned HBO and Star Movies only here .. and left things open for the rest of the country !

Maybe we parents of Mumbai city need to get together and give them a piece of our mind!

Well ... and that's how I feel ...

Wednesday, September 06, 2006

Retro or Remixed and Rotten !

The music scene nowadays has exploded with a vengeance of its own. For those who are not from this blessed land, let me make this clear .. I'm talking about the music scene here in India (and Mumbai, in particular).

Just last night I heard the radio, as I was falling asleep .. and was rudely shaken up by a hindi film song, sung to the tune of "My Way."

Now this is a beautiful English song, sung by many ... popular versions rendered by Frank (Ol' Blue Eyes) Sinatra and Paul Anka ... also Engelbert (?).

It was ghastly, to say the least ! I was shocked .. and angry .. but then spent the rest of the night thinking that well, I guess, creativity gives you the right (?) to do as you please.

Plagarism .. or Inspiration ??? .... a very thin line lies between them ... the same thin line between genius and insanity ???

Well ... and that's how I feel ...

Saturday, September 02, 2006

Vulgar Celebrations & Fundamental Rights !

There is just one word to describe the way we celebrate our festivals ... VULGAR !

Over the years, we have seen how our celebrations have been degraded into a vulgar display of money, power, clout and attitude. And we have spared no festival, right from Ganesh Chaturthi ... to Janmashtami .... to Christmas ... to Eid .. to Holi.. to Diwali .. to Ambedkar Jayanti (Ha!) to Mahavir Jayanti .. to Navratri .. the list is endless.

I guess only the Parsis have not yet succumbed to this yet .. I have yet to see the friendly "Bawas" make a vulgar display at Pateti ! Kudos to them !!

Each such "celebration" has spawned some new Fundamental Rights:
1. The Right To Use The Loudspeaker Whenever (and Wherever) I Want
2. The Right To Erect A Pandal Wherever I Want
3. The Right To Collect Money And Not Be Accountable For Expenses
4. The Right To Block The Road During Processions
5. The Right To Use (and Abuse) The Law In The Name Of My Festival
6. The Right To Use A Political Plank (or Politician) To Further My Religion

I resent the fact that we have allowed these "Rights" to become automatically "enforceable" by those who want them !

What I'd really like to see .. is another set of Rights ... for the common man:
1. The Right To Stop A Procession From Obstructing Traffic
2. The Right To Stop An Offensive Loudspeaker
3. The Right To Remove A Pandal From The Middle Of The Road
4. The Right To Prevent Any Politician or Political Party From Endorsing/Supporting (or Otherwise Participating) In Any Religious Festival

If the first list is a given .. why is it so hard for the second list to become a reality ?

Needs a lot more gumption to do that I guess, but the day we are able to do it, is the day we will truly enjoy an Independent India.

Well ... and that's how I feel ...

Mutual Fund Manager under scanner

I hate to tell you .. but "I told you so" ...

Just days after I wrote about Mutual Fund investments being more subject to Fund Managers' inadequacies ... we have the CBI reportedly zeroing on on a few Fund Managers' for their alleged nexus with the head-honchos of a private company in an IPO placement. This apparently resulted in loss of approx Rs.63 crores to the Fund itself.

Ha .. now we have the rest of them on the run ! CNBC recently reported that quite a few Fund Mangers have switched jobs and have moved into "private equity management" .. whatever that means !

The point being, is there no agency that can really hold these guys accountable for the things that they do ?

Yeah sure .. a caveat emptor is fine .. but what about basic ethics ??? Have we become such doormats that MFs can actually turn around and show us the (middle) finger and there is nothing one can do ?

I DO believe that the longer one stays invested in the market, the more certain is the return going to be .. which is exactly what one needs to do .. and one doesn't need a fund manager to do that.

As I said, pick the sensex, nifty and nifty junior stocks, invest equally in all three .. and sit back for three years and enjoy your money doubling ! This is not rocket science !

The Fund managers need to be able to perform much better, at least better than the market - and they need to reward their customers. Failing which, they should be unceremoniously be sacked .. maybe even penalised !

Well .. and that's how I feel ...

Sunday, August 20, 2006

Mutual Fund Investments and the Sensex

Very often we see and hear the statutory byline .. Mutual Fund investments are subject to market risks ...

Its only a half-truth (the Ardh Satya) .. Mutual Fund investments are NOT subject to market risks ... they are subject to FUND MANAGER inadequacies !!!

They tell us that the Mutual Fund (MF) Net Asset Values (NAVs) will go up along with the markets (Sensex/Nifty) and come down also alongwith the markets .. but that these are relatively safer and one should invest in these rather than equities .. yeah, sure !

Yeah ?? Sure ??

Consider this ...the BSE Sensex made crazy highs in the month of April-May 2006, before the infamous "correction" took place. From dizzy heights of 12,500+ the Sensex crashed to 8,500 levels .. and now has crawled its way back up to 11,500 levels.

To be more precise, here's what happened over the past 4 months...
On April 18th 2006, the Sensex closed at 11,821.57
On August 18th 2006, the Sensex closed at 11,465.72

This is now, down just 3% from that April 18th closing.

So if I'm not mistaken, what these MF guys were (are?) trying to tell us is that if anyone has put money in MFs, well .. the value of that investment is also going to come down ... ok .. fair enough .. caveat emptor .. we've been warned !

The flip side being that since these MFs have well-educated and well-trained fund managers with loads of money (yours and mine!) at their disposal, in addition to a battery of experts working for them round the clock, our money is better off handled by them.

Cool, sounds very good.

Now, any "expert" will tell you that its next to impossible to "time the market" .. but it figures that if one has given himself (or herself) up to a multi-crore MF (Reliance, ICICI and SBI are by no mean small) they are probably better equipped to try to time the market, than say .... you or me !

Ok .. we're still cool ..

But, now brace yourselves for the crunch...

Given below is a brief summary of the performance of a few top ranking MFs (rankings given by www.moneycontrol.com in parentheses).

The first figure is the NAV on April 18th and then the NAV on August 18th ... and the difference.
Magnum Tax Gain (No.1) .... 47.98 .... 44.39 .... -7.5%
Magnum Global (No.2) .... 37.47 ... 33.89 .... -9.6%
Magnum Balanced (No.2) .... 32.6.3 .... 30.43 .... -6.7%
HDFC Tax Saver (No.3) .... 123.71 .... 140.34 .... -11.9%
Magnum Contra (No.3) .... 34.33 .... 30.91 .... -10%
Kotak Balance (No.4) ... 23.736 .... 22.17 .... -6.6%
Birla Buy India (No.4) ..... 17.66 .... 16.55 .... -6.3%
Magnum Multiplier Plus (No.4) .... 44.24 .... 40.62 .... -8.2%

I bet you're surprised, eh ?

If the Sensex is now, down by only 3%, how come the MFs are still down by 6-10% ???

Incidentally, if I'm not mistaken, none of these schemes had declared any dividends during this period either ! Atleast if one would have invested in equity directly, he would have received some dividends .. or some rights .. and maybe, even a bonus ! But here, zilch !

If you're a fund manager, you've already set sail with a barrage of reasons .. ok .. may be you DO have a reason .. but hey, isn't there a sucker born every minute !

Now, here's my question: If MFs are subject to market risks, then why don't they recover equally well ?

Investors in MFs are generally for retired persons with a low appetite for risk and the above data bares the great fraud being committed to them.

SEBI & AMFI should seriously consider taking strict action against MFs who are not able to "manage" OUR "funds."

In case you are really looking for increasing the value of your investment, over the long term, you should invest half the money in front-line (Sensex/Nifty) stocks and the other half in Nifty Junior stocks .. and forget about it for 4-5 years. You WILL make money !

But I also have a suggestion for anyone trying to invest in Mutual Funds for the long term. Be your own funds manager. It's simple ! Here's what you do...
1. Open an online Demat account that allows you to purchase MFs online (www.icicidirect.com is a good one).
2. Identify which MFs are the ones you want to invest in (Visit www.valueresearchonline.com and www.moneycontrol.com for a good run down on these).
3. Decide how much you would like to invest in a calendar year, in each MF. Divide that amount by 52 and every week invest these amounts in the MF of your choice.

This is my own variant of the Systematic Investment Plan (SIP). The upside being that SIP does this once a month on a specific date - but by doing this 4 times a month .. you can get an even better "average" cost of purchase.

Unless, of course, you're just looking for someone to place the blame on !

Well ... and that's how I feel ...

Saturday, August 19, 2006

Have you ever wondered ...

Have you ever wondered .. whatever happened to ...

... Jennifer Grey (that young girl in the movie, Dirty Dancin')
... Macaulay Culkin (the Home Alone lad)
... Harold Faltermeyer (the guy who did Axel F, the theme of Beverly Hills Cop)

For more answers ... please visit www.weht.net (great site ... for those nostalgia buffs) trying to come to terms with what happened to the yesteryears' stars. Be ready for some rude shocks though !

We need to build a similar one here to quench our local thirst for knowledge (and trivia) ... for starters I have a few (and please feel free to grow this list).

Whatever happened to ...

... the first Liril girl (Carol Lunel, I think ?)
... the guy in the Lifebuoy soap Ad
... Amin Sayani
... the girl in the Nirma Ad
... IK Gujral (ex-PM)
... the baby on the Parle-G biscuit pack
... Lalitaji (of the Surf Ad)
... Lajoji (Anita Kanwar) of Hum Log

Quite a varied list.. anyone having answers to the above, please post them to "comments."

In any case, as I mentioned once earlier, public memory is very shortlived, we tend to forget things pretty soon ... but then I guess that's how we are supposed to be.

Just think, if we were to carry around with us .. all the baggage (that we've seen and/or heard throughout our lives).. forever ! Woah ! That's more than a brainfull of unnecessary stuff.

Well ... and thats' how I feel ...

Shorter memories and growing resilience

Despite what all the psychoanalysts (and psychologists, in case they are a different set) say .. I am firmly of the belief, that public memory is generally shortlived ...

There are innumerable examples, right before our eyes ... issues that had taken us all by storm- made front page news for days together - taken up valuable (ha !) Parliament time ... just gone .. POOF .... vanished into thin air !

Whether it is the scams, the rackets, the burning social issues, the natural disasters, the infrastructural failures, exposed corruption ... whatever the issue, sooner or later, we have forgotten them, moved on and claim to have become "wiser" and more "resilient" with the experience !

I think there's more to it than just that. I feel it's a way of insulating ourselves from the "bad" things that have happened. Much like having an attitude of "Let's put all this behind us and look ahead and move forward ..."

Sure, one must always keep looking forward - but as it has been wisely said, "Those who forget History, are condemned to repeat it !" Not that we need to keep looking over our shoulder, but what amazes me is the way in which we "bounce back"(pretty much like the Sensex, that crashed to sub-9000 levels and then is back at 11500 levels to smash the Cassandras).

Look at what we've been through .. and honestly, ask yourselves ... do you really know what eventually happened to .... the Harshad Mehta Stock scam ... the Fodder scam ... the Telgi Stamp paper scam ... the Tehelka scam ... the Kargil Coffin scam ... the Diesel adulteration scam ... the Milk adulteration racket ... the post-26/7 Disaster management plan ... the actual benefits of the plastic ban ... the great Bombay First plan ... the Dance Bar-girl rehab plan ... the Ghatkopar Bomb blast case ... the call-center girls' security issue .... the list is endless !

I wonder if any one of us even remembers (as far back as) the 1984 riots ! ... and I don't even want to venture further back ... into investigating Subhash Chandra Bose's and Lal Bahadur Shastri's deaths !

Another thing I have noticed is that the moment we have a scam that breaks out into the open - we immediately, as an official response, get a "committee" to investigate into it !

Answer me these ...
- How many conclusive (or for that mater, inconclusive) reports do you recall having seen or read ???
- Why aren't these reports made public - after all it IS in the Public Interest, right ?
- Why doesn't the Government post these on the Internet ?

There is just no accountability ... we have had 7 blasts less than a month back across the city, great big brouhaha .. big noise .. VIP visits (which upset the administrative framework even more) and then what ?? ... an investigative committee (or ATS, whatever), which is still struggling to get leads !

Look at the British intelligence ... Hat's off to them !

They caught the guys BEFORE they blew up the airplanes .. and here we are .. 6 weeks later .. and still sifting for clues ! It's probably no wonder, why James Bond is such a cult figure - after all he was (is ?) a British agent !

I read Shobha De mention that the less said about Mumbai's spirit of resilience and ability to bounce back, the better. She's right ! We need to be really angry at what has happened to us ... and not sleepwalk around saying .. "Well, this is life .. and we need to get on with it !"

The general public likes to get over things quickly especially if they are negative thoughts (a good thing in a twisted way, though). But it seems to be more of a question of "mind over matter" ... if you don't mind, well .. it doesn't matter !

Well ... and that's how I feel ...

Wednesday, August 16, 2006

Independence Day - just another holiday ??

India celebrated it's 60th Independence Day on August 15, 2006.

For most people, it was just another holiday, a chance to spend time with friends and family. I guess the only people really busy were those involved in education and politics (including the government agencies). They are the only ones (barring a few NGOs, Corporates and Housing Societies) who unfurl the National Flag.

Which brings up a few questions ...

1. Do we really understand the relevance that Independence Day has today ?
2. Why do we celebrate it the way we do ?
3. Why do we celebrate 2 national days (Republic Day is on January 26th) ?
4. Is it just another holiday ?

Honestly, I don't have any answers to this .. just more questions ... and a few thoughts.

I wasn't around when Independence happened, but yet, when in school, we attended the celebrations (though, reluctantly, I must admit) and sang the usual patriotic songs, heard a variety of patriotic speeches (in English, Hindi and Marathi) .. and generally waited for it to get over !

The sad thing was that while we were in school doing this, we usually missed the fun part - watching the Nation celebrate it on TV. Of course, this is nothing compared to the show we get to see on Republic Day ... and that was always the trade off ... miss school and get to see the Parade. Once college started, it was up to us whether to attend or not, and the choice was pretty clear !

Those of us who read the newspapers and watched TV must've noticed nothing new this year around ... the same "forced" carmaderie .. the forced patriotism .. the forced nationalism ...

Even the PM's address to the nation echoed of the same run-of-the-mill threats to anti-national forces, infrastructural development and the call for upliftment of the poor. Sounded much like Nehru's speech ... and if we haven't got it right for 59 years ... we better start doing this differently or hey, even maybe different things (with apologies to Mr. Shiv Khera).

Coming back .. it makes me wonder why do we even celebrate the two days separately ... in my opinion (and I could be terribly wrong here !) ... I believe that Independence Day has a whole lot more relevance than Republic Day .. and yet we do a much better job on Republic Day - what with the grand parade, show of military strength, etc.

The common man on the street may be able to point out the difference between the two days very easily (for those who are still guessing .. Independence Day is the day the British stopped ruling over India ... and Republic Day is the day India adopted its Constitution). Now do we really need to put the nation through TWO days of Nationalism ? Why don't we celebrate just one day .. and go the whole hog on that day ?

I don't believe that a grand show of (forced?) nationalism twice can get us to be a better nation .. and we can definitely do without the extra holiday. I don't really think we can afford to have even one more holiday !

Our country has, possibly, the highest number of Public Holidays in a calendar year ... The official Central Government list puts it at 13 (Ha !) .. but being the "secular" country that we are ... we are benevolent enough to allow the State Governments to add their own special days ... and then there are the Banks .. who have their own list, which may or may not synchronise with either of the Government lists !!

In addition to this, we celebrate birth anniversaries and death anniversaries of various Gods, Goddesses and National personalities .. and that's not all .. we also have a few "observed" days .. like National Integration Day .. Communal Harmony day ...

For a sample list of festivals, one can visit http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Holidays_in_India

If I'm not mistaken, this year (2006), the banks have a total list of 50 (yup, that's right) Bank Holidays, spread across various States !

One such list is available at http://www.bankofbaroda.com/holidays.asp (no offence intended to the particular Bank).

The actual number of non-working days increases a lot more .. taking into account the various other problems that we face ... Strikes ... Bandhs ... Floods ... Terrorist Attacks ...

Which brings me back to the real relevance of celebrating Independence Day. The common man is happy (and even grateful) to enjoy the Independence he has ... but I don't think that THIS is what our fore-fathers had in mind when they laid down their lives.

We definitely have the independence to rule ourselves ... no outsiders involved now .. right on ! But do we really enjoy the quality of life that we were supposed to get out of this foreign rule oppression ? The way in which the Government functions sometimes makes you feel that we need to have another war of Independence ! We seem to have merely replaced one set of oppressors, with another !

Yesterday, I saw Rajdeep Sardesai say on TV that in a survey taken, a majority of the youth-respondents actually were aspiring to earn just about Rs. 5,000 a month ... while less than a third were aiming for Rs. 20,000 ! Our sights are set so low for the majority, and yet we are unable to fulfill these aspirations .. and we wonder why so many take to unscrupulous activities.

These (misguided ?) youths don't really care for the fight for Independence ... One dialogue in a recent movie, Dus, probably summed it up for these guys ... when asked by the main protagonist as to why a member of the protection squad had betrayed his team members (and country) he said ... something to this effect .... "My father retired at Rs. 18,000 .. I probably will at Rs. 22,000 ... they (meaning the "enemy") named a sum of money that I couldn't even dream of .. and my scruples and principles just crumbled before it."

I think we need to do a lot more ... not by merely increasing awareness of the relevance of the Independence Day, not by having more cultural programs, not by unfurling more flags, not by singing more songs, not by making/delivering more speeches .. but by actually instilling a sense of belonging and ownership in the common man. Yeah, right .. I know .. easier said than done !

Each one of us needs to believe that we have a responsibility towards giving ourselves and our neighbours a better life .. and that we CAN do it.

I believe its this sense of helplessness, this futility of effort, this "chalta hai" attitude, this fatalistic view of life, that really needs to be overcome first, before we can really begin to see some changes ...

Well ... and that's how I feel ...

Monday, August 07, 2006

Pathetic State of Mumbai Roads

Another rainy day ... and another tryst with the Mumbai roads !

I get the distinct feeling that one of the two things have happened:
1) Vehicles plying in Mumbai City have wheels which "erode" the roads
2) Road Construction companies have started using infinitely substandard construction material

Any which way, its the road traveller who suffers .. . giving a new dimension to the Hindi word for journey ... "safar" ... which till now just bore its similarity to the pronounciation !

For those who speak the new variant mix of Hindi-English ... called Hinglish ... "I'm going on a safar" could very well mean that they'd be making a road trip in Mumbai city !

With technology improving and with manufactuers getting more innovative, one would have thought that something as basic as building roads for a coastal, tropical city would not be equal to rocket science ! But our guys have made it out to be just as difficult !

Well, actually, maybe not ... maybe they'd just like the roads to be reconstructed every other year or how else would they stay in business ... oops, how else would they ensure everyone else stays in business !

A win-win for all ... constant employment for road construction workers, stable demand for material ... and something easy for the Municipal Corporators to keep themselves busy with ... what with preparing Tender specifictaions and vendor shortlisting and reading reports and having interminable committee meetings ...

Here, in Mumbai, we often hear these politicians tout phrases about how they'd like Mumbai to be like Shanghai ... yeah sure, that's one plan that's going to get Shanghaied ... and the less said about the tout-ing, the better !

Well ... and that's how I feel ...

Sunday, August 06, 2006

Accurate Mumbai Weather Forecast !

I have noticed that the weather reports that appear in our newspapers .. are invariably at least 24-36 hours LATE !!

After having poured and poured for 24-48 hours the reports will wake up and forecast another 24-48 hours of Heavy to Very Heavy rainfall ... and more often than not, those are just about the brightest days of the week !

Well .. okay .. I may be exaggerating just a bit !

When questioned on the inaccuracy, the main reason being cited is that ... the "poor" BMC .. the "poor" cash-strapped State Government and the "poor" Central Government cannot afford to have a Doppler Radar for Mumbai .. so that they can keep the country's Financial capital "afloat" !

.. and guess what .. now the latest in the line of excuses (oops, reasons) is that they have the funds .. but have not found the ideal location to install this Radar !!!

For crying out loud .. we have enough of the sea that is being reclaimed - some of it, even unauthorisedly .. so I'm sure the CRZ authorities can make a concession for something as critical as this !!!

So I decided to try and find out on my own .. about when will it rain and when it won't ... and I came across a site which had fairly accurate weather reporting for Mumbai city ... here it is for those of you who are also struggling ...


(Disclaimer: I have no financial interest in this website !)

Meanwhile, the authorities (and maybe even the media) can refer to this website and publish, relatively more or less, accurate info !

Well ... and that's how I feel ...