Friday, January 26, 2007

What a Coconut taught me

I walked by the lane in front of my apartments early during the evening and Coffee Day was inviting me for a cup.

"But come on, you just went to Pizza Hut instead of the much cheaper and not-so-bad quality Arya Tiffins." rebelled my saner side.

Just as I turned away from my temptation I found a cart full of tender coconuts (wo)manned by a lady not older than 30 years. She looked at me with expectation of making some sale.

"Kitna hai?" I enquired.

"Che rupiya, bhaiya!" she said in a subdued voice.

"Ek dejiyae!"

She dexterously sliced the cocunut, inserted the straw and handed it over to me.

"Khaan se aate hai yeh sub?"

"Gaon se bhaiya, Yellore!", she answered with an amused smile, probably glad that some one actually cared to know.

As I started sipping into the sweet nectar, I mentally weighed the worth of a 50-rupee flavoured cappuccino from Coffee Day or, for that matter, a 15-rupee Coke against a 6-rupee tender coconut. The difference in value for money was glaring. There is not a match to the feel-good factor one would get at the realisation of making a right choice!

Little did I realise that more was about to come. Right at that moment, two well-groomed girls with all the typical looks of the middle-class youth riding the wave of IT industry's gift walked by, and took interest at the coconut cart (or I would hope, me!) just as I did minutes ago. After a quick eye-lock with mine, they turned to business!

"kitna hai?", asked one of them

"Che rupiyah"

She considered that for a moment and replied,

"Dus ka Do karke do"

The seller remained mute implying a half-hearted agreement. That got me thinking. This is one instance where people like us who are habitual bargainers "save" some money, without really saving much. If one thinks about it, people especially in our strata of the society squander so much money on totally worthless expenditures for no better reason than because we can afford it. Or worse, even if we can't!

Here is a common example. When we buy Coke or Pepsi, we pay a large portion of the money to cover the beverage company's cost for wooing movie and non-performing cricket stars into advertising their products and buy a diuretic (which makes us lose water) to quench our thirst. Yup, this is what we use our freedom-to-choose for. And do we know to identify the real ones from fake? To get back to the point, we don't even have an option to bargain!

What do I gain from this small episode?

- In general, for our own good, we need to interpret the freedom of choice as "responsibility of choice". That way, we would tend to be more progressive, like, say, knowing that soft drinks are diuretics or to check a fake Coke from the real one.

- Specific to this case, I think the buyer has already saved when she chose a tender coconut over a cappuccino from Coffee Day or Coke. She could have been more philanthropic in just letting that two rupees go.

I felt like treating myself.
"Ek aur Naariyal deejiye!", I said with smile as she looked at me puzzled.

Monday, January 22, 2007

Demographic Dividend

India has a "Demographic Dividend" says the Economic Times

What is Demographic Dividend?
The presence of a large number of citizens in the employable age group (15-59 ). Currently about 54% of them are under 24. But such a large pool is an edge over competing Asian countries (most importantly China) only if they are skilled and hence are capable of contributing to the productivity of the labour work force.

Is the employable age group a "dividend" now?


- 70% of the current labour force is either illiterate or educated below primary levels.
- 5 million college graduates each year are not skilled for direct employment.
- Outdated curriculum in most of the engnieering and other technical (diploma, ITI) educational institutions and poor quality teachers
- Low skill level among women causing increase in unemployment rates among women.

How does it affect to have people of employable age with little to no skills?

It backfires! A large pool of skilled and employable labour means adequate supply in terms of quantity and quality for meeting the rising demand of labour due to expanding economic activities like manufacturing. Large pool of unskilled youth, not only decrease productivity, but also tend to consume without contribution, thus pulling the ends apart rather than converging.

What the government has to do?

Explore all avenues of skill development.

- Massively improve literacy for long-term benefits, identify sectors where currently illeterate can be employed for short-term benefits.
- Improve quality of education (update curriculum etc) at all levels, most importantly at the mid-level - those who complete higher secondary education, but do not enroll for graduate-level courses - by increasing visibility and quality of vocational education. (this initiative helped post war USA and Japan and a lot of asian countries that do better than India today!)

Other interesting points to note:

A figure to corroborate the low skill-level in India compared to other developing countries.

- 5.06% of Indian Youth are single-skilled (vocationally) trained. The number is 95.86% in Korea, 36.08 Mauritius, 27.58 in Mexico.
- BIMARU states, which lack most of the facilities to realise the dividend, will contribute about 150 million (about half) to the population of working age in the next 20 years.

source The Economic Times

- What do I think?
If the governement is serious (and there is no question it isn't), instead of lowering the cut-off and reserve seats in engineering colleges and medical colleges, it can upgrade its vocational courses, make them more accessible to the inner regions of the country and accomodate all those "low-scoring socially-backward" and "low scoring but socially forward" at the mid-level. Afterall these graduate-level courses are over-heated, but offer little to nothing in terms of employable skill. This move will give more importance to vocational courses, reserve the professional courses for the high-scorers, hence shutting down useless colleges and evince skill-development in the true sense.

Sunday, January 07, 2007

Simran's ..ummm

All right, I do agree that Simran is the hottest and the only answer South Indian answer to all those hotties of the rest of the world. But it seems something is wrong somewhere! I don't know if it is with the costume designers, dance masters, directors or just the "super-sensible" movie-goers. If you want to know what I mean, take a goooood look at all these pictures!

What's common about them (Apart from Simran herself)? If you answered "Her Belly Button", look again (at the last one!). What makes her arm-pit the such a sought-after commodity? I am sure it stinks as much as mine. Any answers?