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Worrisome aspects of Modi Sarkar's functioning

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Governance

While I had some reservations about Narendra Modi, largely from the perspective of his not having followed "Raj Dharma" post the Gujarat riots, I was welcoming of his government coming to power, or more specifically the defeat of the corrupt and ineffective Congress government. My other apprehension was whether the government will pay enough attention to environmental issues in its pursuit of GDP growth, even while appreciating the fact that growth will necessarily impact the environment, the challenge essentially being to keep the damage to the minimum.

While it may be too early yet to pass judgements on these aspects, my assessment at this stage will allow for a 4 out of 10 rating for the government's performance.

But, what I had not quite bargained for is its sluggishness (may not be the best of words to describe it) with regard to economic issues, brought out in the following excerpts (with the latest being listed first, and in that order, and the emphasis addition being mine) from columns/ articles, published in news-papers of fair standing, which overall compelled me to start this blog, for whatever it's worth:

1) Article in Business Standard (for the full text, click here):
The Centre looks set to seek a compensation of around Rs 426 crore from Swiss food major Nestle over the alleged damages caused by Maggi noodles to Indian consumers.

At a time when Nestle India is awaiting a verdict from the Bombay High Court in its case against the Food Safety and Standards Authority of India (FSSAI), it might now have to fight another legal battle.

- - - The development comes within days of Consumer Affairs Minister Ram Vilas Paswan telling the media that Prime Minister Narendra Modi had asked his Cabinet colleagues to "maintain decorum" on the Maggi issue. Also, some ministers in the government have been critical of FSSAI's Maggi recall order. While some have cited international investors' nervousness in the matter - without wanting to be named - Food Processing Minister Harsimrat Kaur Badal has been more open. She had earlier said the Maggi incident had led to an environment of fear.


Most strange attitude, even as the government is supposedly going all out to attract fresh investment.

2) Column by Shankkar Aiyar in the New Indian Express (for the full text, cick here):
The citizens’ quest is not a romantic notion but a response to the parade of inefficiency in public services and wastage/theft witnessed and paid for by taxpayers.

On Wednesday, the Lok Sabha voted to allow government to spend an additional Rs 40,821 crore. Of this, Rs 11,116.76 crore—four times the amount allocated for crop insurance—will be used to write off losses of Prasar Bharati. Rs 12,721 crore will be used to recapitalise banks. The fact that profits of private banks are higher than all PSU banks and that the market cap of top five private banks is more than that of all PSU banks is evidence of the magnitude of malaise. Add Rs 800 crore for loss-making Air India. Over half of Rs 40,821 crore is for bailouts. Wednesday also saw the government clear the restructuring of BSNL—which has not reported profits since 2009—and of loss-making MTNL. On Thursday, the PM reviewed the power sector. Over Rs 75,000 crore of bank depositors’ money lent to companies is in jeopardy as nearly 45,000 MW of power is at risk as SEBs are losing Rs 232 crore a day in leakage and theft. A bailout for SEBs is inevitable.

The unstated question that taxpayers and citizens are agitated about is what about corrective measures, a stop loss on losses? In a nutshell, the Government of India borrows around $250 million a day or Rs 1,600 crore/day to fund the gap between income and expenditure. It also loses nearly $70 million a day to wastage, leakage and theft.

- - - Modi Sarkar came to power promising minimum government, maximum governance. India continues to be detained. On Independence Day, Modi must reboot his campaign for minimum government to deliver maximum governance.


The author goes on to spell out the way forward too. But, the question that arises is how come the government, with all the expertise at its command, is continuing to perpetuate the public sector inefficiency and mediocrity.

3) Column by Mihir S Sharma, in the Business Standard (for the full text, click here):
Mr Modi is solidly and intelligently putting into place the structures that will change the nature of India’s liberal democracy forever, and make it something that he, his organisation, and many of his voters will be more comfortable with.
 
Consider this: which are the only two major administrative or institutional reforms that Mr Modi’s government is pushing? I’ll tell you: the judicial accountability law and the monetary policy committee. In other words, things they see as disempowering that pesky and uncontrollable Raghuram Rajan, and disempowering those irritating Teesta Setalvad- and Greenpeace-loving judges. On any of the dozen institutional reforms more urgent than the monetary policy committee, there’s complete silence. No greater independence for regulators. No independence for public-sector companies, no privatisation of PSU banks.


Doesn't need much elaboration, I guess - worrisome from both economic and Socio-political angle.

I'll keep adding my observations, as we go along. May be other Prajagalu (open to everyone) would like to add their comments too.

Muralidhar Rao

 

Comments

Abraham Kuruvilla's picture

Worrisome aspects of Modi Sarkar's functioning

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Valuable observations!

Keep at it Murli, you need to keep a close vigit to see that this sarkar does not slip trhrogh with dangerous ordinances.

warm regards

Kuruvilla

 

srinidhi's picture

2 out of 10 only

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2 is my score for the governament..from the many promises it initially started off with and where we have come to..

Crude is trading below 50$ but the fuel prices is still around 70 Rs (it was 80Rs when crude was 100$)..so this is the reaping time for the oil companies..a.k.a Reliance etc is it?

Everything seems to be fluff..and on charcha only!

xs400's picture

Now fight for freedom from Modi Sarkar? Quit India Movement?

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"I told you so..."

I prefer honest non-politicians anyday.  Willful misgovernance is a very serious issue.

No. Signore Rahul will do the same.

And the upcoming BBMP "elections" - I guess I'm the only clueless person here, there must be some good reason why all the honorable citizens of namma citi have not revolted against the same old corrupt candidates standing for elections. I expect that there will be more prose on the failing infrastructure in the coming years.

murali772's picture

lot more needed

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The conflict of interest in Swaraj’s case is a symbol of a clash breaking out now on many fronts, between old and new India. The old India is an India of connections, where who you are and how much you can get ahead depend on who you know. But the new India is one of aspiration and upward mobility, a meritocratic order where everyone has a chance and fairness and transparency are assumed.

The Vyapam scam in BJP-ruled Madhya Pradesh is a much more corrosive instance of this clash, as the undermining of a meritocratic order has been linked to a rash of mysterious deaths.

The dramatic elevation of the son of a tea-seller to India’s current PM was a major victory for the new India. But Prime Minister Narendra Modi must now transcend politics-as-usual to enable millions of young Indians to be upwardly mobile as well, instead of being choked by a corrupt system. Challenging the old order may be difficult. But that is the promise Modi made, enabling NDA to defeat UPA. It’s going to be the promise NDA will increasingly be assessed by. Taking potshots at UPA or being in permanent campaign mode is subject to the law of diminishing returns.

More so because it will be increasingly said that India under NDA is no different from India under UPA.

For the full text of  the editorial piece in the ToI, click here.

The people voted in the government with a lot of hope. Sadly, it's been a let down so far. But, yes, in certain areas like Railways, Defense, etc, there are indications that things are changing for the better. One lives on hope that the others too will pick up sooner than later.

Muralidhar Rao
idontspam's picture

Freedom? You have it? Where?

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The citizens of namma city can vote all they want but unless the rank and file of BBMP can be held accountable for performing their job change is going to be very little. The way work is distributed, the lack of merit & expertise, the value system, interference for benefit from politicians, division of labour which discourages accountability, old town planning and other acts governing them, non implementation of the 74th amendment and many more needs a long hard look. The fivefurcation recommended by the govt apointed committee has been diluted even while it was being made to favour the current dispensation and there is good chance the poiticians will ignore studied suggestions and make their own plan of 3 Bangalores. Its a long hard battle that needs to be fought. And what freedom are you guys celebrating? 

murali772's picture

wrong number

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IDS avare' - all of what you have talked about is for "Namma Karnataka governamentu" to do, or undo. Modi sarkar can help little in these matters.

Perhaps, you should have started another blog for that.

Muralidhar Rao
murali772's picture

lacking in focus on purposive governance

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Why visit foreign countries asking multinationals to “Make in India”, and then subject them to the sort of treatment meted out to Nestle? You are gaining a reputation for talking big about “minimum government, maximum governance” and then doing the opposite. You refuse to rein in over-hasty, arbitrary food inspectors and tax officials, apparently for fear of being called pro-multinational.

Foreign companies now want to buy insurance against arbitrary penalties for which your tax authorities are becoming famous. But Bloomberg reports that all top global insurance companies that offer such insurance in other countries have refused to do so in India, saying Indian tax behavior is too erratic and unpredictable.

Your new spectrum sharing and trading policy is replete with red tape. Why? Are you terrified that a liberal policy will be portrayed by opponents as another 2G scam? Have you no self-confidence or conviction?


For the full text of the open letter to NaMo by Swaminathan Aiyar in the Sunday ToI, click here.

Exactly as the author has exhorted, NaMo needs to focus on purposive governance to establish himself as a strong leader worthy of re-election in 2019, rather than be distracted by Bihar elections. The question is would he heed the exhortation?

Muralidhar Rao
idontspam's picture

I was responding to the

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I was responding to the question on upcoming BBMP elections... which was BJP BTW. So they havent exactly proven anything locally either.

kbsyed61's picture

Pseudo Nationalism!

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Murali Sir,

None of us even the worst baiter of PM would have thought the public opinion would take a 180 degree so soon. It is only 18 months, charge sheet is already filled with highest allegations of impropriety, scams and dithering on public policies. It only confirms the hollowness of vision and direction of BJP led govt at the center. 

It is the BJP that disappoints me more than any other party. Every time they come to power, people like me at least hoped that their declared nationalistic instincts would resurrect the institutions that would guide the nation in establishing the rule of law and equal opportunities/access to all the citizens. They squandered the opportunity in Vajpayee led govt center, then in Karnataka they were clueless against election funded by the ill-gotten money from mining barons of Bellary republic. Now with the brute majority in loksabha, they will have no excuse.

The most worrying part is the way govt is going after the citizens who used to stand up and ask questions. BJP doesn't understand that it was the hard work of ordinary citizens who exposed the mega scams in UPA regime. The RTI act, which the UPA had passed become their last nail in the coffin. You will agree with me that the prominence of this own PRAJA activities were result of the RTI queries that members file from time to time.

It is known in government circles that govt is collecting background information on all those who file these RTIs regularly. It seems they would like to go after these humble souls.

The story doesn't end there. You ask any RTI activist, since the new govt came to power, there is dramatic stoppage to flow of information from govt departments. Govt departments are not responding to RTI queries.

You will not believe that, it has been more than six months, PMO, ministry of railways, SWR Hubli and Urban Development Ministry, are yet to respond to our RTI queries.

If PM can not ensure a fair RTI regime, how can he ensure - NA KHAUOONGA, NA KISIKO KHANE DOONGA.

xs400's picture

Recall or Impeachment?

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I hope our founding fathers made provisions for recall or impeachment, since all they did was copy-paste from elsewhere. Amazingly, while everyone wants the latest cars and version of software, no one want  progressive laws or amendments, it seems.

murali772's picture

too little, too slow, and a lot of status quo

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In August 2013, Credit Suisse (CS), a global investor, reckoned that 10 large Indian conglomerates had borrowed a staggering Rs 6.4 lakh crore. This was nearly three times India’s defence budget at the time.

Each of these companies didn’t even generate enough cash to pay interest on what they’d borrowed. Nevertheless, CS hoped that by 2014-15, many of these companies, heavily invested in the power sector, would generate 15,000MW of electricity and pay back banks.

Well, tough love. Apart from Reliance ADA’s Sasan and a project by Tata Power, everything is stalled. Technically, groups like Lanco, GVK and GMR are bust: in the US, they’d have to apply for Chapter 11 protection, their managements ousted and assets sold off cheap.

Not so here, where state-owned banks continue to ‘restructure’ loans: “Oh, you’ve lost Rs 100 crore of our money? Here, take another Rs 200 crore.” And so it goes. Banks are riddled by graft, kickbacks are routine, and no promoter is ever broke. Meanwhile, their companies are bust and shareholders bereft of their chaddi-banians.


For the full text of the column by Abheek Barman in the Sunday ToI, click here.

Last week, talking to a senior manager of a nationalised bank (who had just retired), who I have been banking with from long, he told me about how many things have been going wrong with his bank in recent times. He specifically mentioned the case of a senior lady manager, with a brilliant track record, being asked for a bribe of a few crores to be inducted onto the bank board. Aparently, she was outraged, and quit the bank, to be readily absorbed by a private bank at a senior level.

Now, though all of it is heresay as far as I am concerned, there's no reason for me not to to believe the senior manager, either. And, going by the reports of the NPA's that our nationalised banks have been accumulating, the senior manager's talk begins to gain currency.

I'll still say that Lanco, GVK and GMR are fairly competent business houses. The problem they are facing apparently arose out of their tendency to go overboard with their projects, which is the impression one gets seeing the new New Delhi or Mumbai airport terminals, as compared to the largely functional ambience of the Bengaluru airport, which was originally built by the Siemens/ L&T led consortium. Apparently, the nationalised banks backing them were indulgent in such pursuits, whereas private banks in their place would have been a lot more prudent.

The moral of the story very simply is for the government to disinvest to the level of retaining just 26% equity holding, which is good enough to ensure that their conformity to overall policy directives. There have been some moves by the government of recent along these lines, more specifically in the matter of induction of talent at board level from private sector. But, they all seem to be too slow and too little.

Similar is the sense one gets from a reading of the column by Sadanand Dhume in today's ToI (accessible here), some excerpts from which are reproduced below:

Thus far, Modi’s approach to the economy has been timid and lacking in any obvious conviction. His over-reliance on the bureaucracy suggests a prime minister who has yet to outgrow a chief ministerial style of administration. His failure to privatise even perennially loss-making public sector companies such as Air India betrays a strange comfort with the status quo.

Muralidhar Rao
kbsyed61's picture

Murali Sir,The situation in

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Murali Sir,

The situation in infrastructure is far complex than just "Privatization" mantra that you keep chanting in every post. Privitization will happen in every sector, if not today, in next 5-10 yrs. If privatization was the panacea than ENRON project in Rantnagiri wouldn't have been a failure. Even in US, the privatization experiments are still in churning to produce a viable model. It failed in California in last decade. New experiment is govt service provider owns the transmission and distribution channels, private parties supply the energy. Let's see how successful they will be in after a decade.

i admire you for the spin you have given on the story quoted in your post - "Cant' pay 100 crs, Borrow 200 Crs.".

The story was about how the Corporate India who you never tired of hailing as the saviors of Indian economy, is dragging the country into a deep pit. The article was about how deep Corporate India is in debt? Article is about how worse the bank's NPA situation has become?

This is the essence of that article you quoted.

"...So, why did Moody’s downgrade India’s growth projection from 7.3% to 7% last week? Why is lending by banks, a proxy for growth, limping at 8.4%, the lowest in 20 years?

But let that pass. Folks who move billions of dollars across the globe in search of returns don’t buy countries; they buy shares in companies. And India’s corporate sector is up to its waist in, well, its own poop.."
 
If the numbers given in the article are correct, Steel Industry owes staggering Rs. 4.2 lakh Crorers, Infrastructure Sectors owes Rs. 3.2 lakh Crorers.
 
In the same article, you will find this paragraph - "...inn August 2013, Credit Suisse (CS), a global investor, reckoned that 10 large Indian conglomerates had borrowed a staggering Rs 6.4 lakh crore. This was nearly three times India’s defence budget at the time..."
 
You are right, this wouldn't have been possible without the govt's largesses, public sector banks becoming a willing partner in the crime and the politicians special interest. Latest was Pm's nudging SBI to help a industry house.
 
The point this article substantiates is, corporate India loves protection, never apologetic about govt's large hearted generosity (at the cost of small entrepreneurs) and are biggest supporters of flawed taxation regime. Did we ever wonder why corporate India won't lobby for progressive regimes like GST, AADHAR?
 
Did any corporate house ever asked their peers to clear the dues? Kingfisher owes about Rs. 7000 Crorers? Amount that can fully fund the "Namma Railu" project?
 
In contrast look at how our govt banks work for you and me.
 
In 2006 I purchased a house. None of the so called private banks ready to finance me. Finally Canfin financed it. Until last year I had paid each and every EMI, though at times I had delayed. For some reason, in 2014 I missed on 3 payments. In Dec 2014, they served me a notice that due to the non-payment of EMIs my house is being treated as NPA and is being listed for auction. Ordinary souls like me did what every humble souls do. Paid all the dues and got it removed from auction list. Till that notice I had paid back almost 90% of the loan amount along with interest.
 
Mallyas, Adanis, AMbanis can default on lakhs fo crorers, but you and me can't default on few thousands.
murali772's picture

government's role review long overdue

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Syedbhai - for the nth time, can I request you not to attribute the talk of "privatization as the panacea" to me, please? I too have a few fears about privatisation, and I have included them too in my listing accessible here. Whatever, as I have stated in the post itself, I believe that all of them are beginning to get addressed, or that they will get addressed, sooner than later. Besides, my fears over continuation of government as a producer of goods and provider of services is far greater.
 
Did we ever wonder why corporate India won't lobby for progressive regimes like GST, AADHAR?

Wherever did you get this impression? Last time when you brought up this too, I had pointed out to you that you were mistaken. But, you keep repeating the same thing, without any substantiation. A few days back, I had in fact come upon a statement by a known industry representative, lamenting the lack of resolve on the part of the government in moving the GST bill fast enough. Had I known that you were still harbouring the misconception, I'd have sent the link to the report to you. Google and check them out for yourselves if you so wish.

Latest was Pm's nudging SBI to help a industry house. - - Kingfisher owes about Rs 7000 Crorers

The fanciful ways of Lanco, GVK and GMR, as also KingFisher, were all funded by the PSU banks. And, that's also why the correction is not happening yet. And, all of these are traditional businessmen who believe in 'exploiting opportunities', unmindful of collateral damages their pursuits may cause. That's where correction is required. But, the correction will not happen through nationalisation, or retaining the status quo, because the PSU's were (and are) themselves bigger defaulters on these scores even.

The loss to the tax payer on account of KingFisher is a one-time Rs 7,000 cr. But, on account of Air-India (not a day passes without it being in the news for some wrong reason or the other), it is some Rs 10,000 cr per annum, in perpetuity. Also, if KingFisher had been funded by private banks, and it had closed down, the losses would have been to the account of the shareholders, and not the tax payer. In the first place, between the shareholders and private bankers, they wouldn't have allowed it to sink to such depths, even if it sank for whatever reasons.

Besides all of these, it should interest you to note that when the private players came into the picture in the distribution of power in Delhi, the Supreme court reversed its earlier order with a view to bring about financial discipline in the sector (check here). When DESU was in the picture earlier, the court obviously thought it was futile.

Moral of the story very plain is for the government to concentrate on its role as the facilitator, regulator, and controller (where essential), rather than continuing as a player. I am surprised I am having to go on repeating all of these time after time.

Muralidhar Rao
murali772's picture

disastrous route

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Delhi doubled subsidies to 234 centrally run public sector units (PSUs) over three years to about Rs 1.73 lakh crore ($30 billion), but a new analysis of their finances indicates a 4% fall in profits at constant prices and—with inflation factored in—zero growth.

The subsidies are enough to fund the Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee scheme (MGNREGA) for six financial years or pay for India’s defence purchases for three years.

- - - PSUs may sicken and lose out to private competitors, but they continue to be born—contrary to the general expectation that government should not be in businesses where existing private businesses are doing well: As many as 56 centrally run PSUs are being set up in different sectors, according to the survey.

Unlike its previous policy on disinvestment during its six-year regime beginning 1998, the 2014 poll manifesto of the BJP does not say anything about public-sector disinvestment or privatisation.

- - - Two companies—BSNL and Air India—account for more than 60% of the Rs 20,000-crore loss showed by 71 PSUs in 2013-14.


For the full text of the report in IndiaSpend, click here.

This is nothing short of disastrous

Muralidhar Rao
murali772's picture

need for re-inventing NaMo govt outlook

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By no way does this mean that the BJP is going to lose every election in the months ahead. But it does emphasise the fact that the old winning formula of 2014 is now on the wane, if not over. And the party, notwithstanding its old guard rebels, would be better served focusing on making Modi, the PM, more acceptable and successful than chase grandiose political visions of resurrecting a revisionist model of nationhood.

For the full text of the column by Mr Pranab Dhal Samanta, in the Economic Times, click here.

A well written column, indeed. Comparing with Congress mis-rule is long past the sell-by date.

Muralidhar Rao
amithpallavoor's picture

According to Bhakts who have

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According to Bhakts who have pecuniary interests in defending Namo, this is a canard and an attempt by Congress to defame Modi.  

The media is hand in glove as well! 

 

murali772's picture

more than disappointing; almost tragic

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It should be obvious to most that this government, contrary to the myth supporters had created, does not believe in disinvestment of state-owned companies. It has no intent of meeting even the disinvestment targets it had set itself for fiscal reasons. Quite the contrary, it seems to believe that with the right bureaucratic intervention, public-sector companies can be turned around. Certainly, some companies can. But it would take a peculiar obtuseness to argue that in some areas, disinvestment cannot be a good thing. The opportunity cost in terms of finances and human capital of the state running things that are unnecessary for it to run are still huge. Yet there remains an immense 1970s-style commitment to the public sector in areas of production.

On the other hand, the two areas where you would expect the public to take a lead role, health and education, are on a galloping privatisation trajectory. Much of this is due to state failure. But a lot of the failure was almost deliberately induced to create opportunities for politically connected education entrepreneurs. Just the list of politicians who run educational institutions will point to this fact. But whatever the political-economy story, we still have a curiously schizophrenic view of the private sector’s role in this area. On the one hand, we want it to bear the load of state failure: It should perform the public sector’s role.


- - - So all the things that a public system should ideally produce — law and order, basic social rights like health and education — are increasingly privatised but with ad hominem and corrupt regulation. It is a good thing that this government ideologically does not believe in defeatism about the state. But it has done little to restore clarity on the roles of the state and the market, the public and the private.

For the full text of the must read column (emphasis added by me) by the redoubtable Pratap Bhanu Mehta in the New Indian Express, click here.

If this is what we are seeing after one and a half years of policy charting by the likes of Arvind Panagaria, Arvind Subramaniam, etc, it is not just disappointing, but, I would even say, totally tragic. If the Modi sarkar is not prepared to take their advice, it'd be best they quit, rather than ruin their reputations.

Muralidhar Rao
murali772's picture

attempting the near impossible?

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He (NaMo) is an energetic and wise reformer of government processes, clearances, regulatory systems. But, he isn't a liberaliser in the sense of getting the government out of more aspects of businesses. To that extent, he is a Chinese-style statist and his promise of less government, more governance needs to be re-read as "more government, but better government."

Plenty of evidence is quoted to support this argument, the latest being his getting the state involved directly in the start-up economy by putting up a fund. Or his refusal to pick up the thread from Mr Vajpayee's NDA on privatisation. But most importantly, there is impatience with his government's approach to global trade agreements, seen as even more stridently protectionist than the UPA's. This is denying India opportunities offered by new global and regional alliances like the Trans Pacific Pact and Apac, both of which would have been within its reach in Barack Obama's last year. But, there is no movement, given that the new policy now seems to be to the left of JNU and the right of RSS. This is sobering down global enthusiasm for India.


For the full text (emphasis added is by me) of the column by Shekhar Gupta in the Business Standard, click here.

So, is he under some delusion that the Air-India's and BSNL's can be turned around, the way they are currently managed? That being a near impossible task, is he at least prepared to look at Singapore's Temasek kind of an arrangement, ensuring professional management, strongly advocated by a number of economists, including Mr Shankkar Aiyer (check his column in the Indian Express, accessible here)? If he doesn't, can the country continue to shoulder the enormous non-performing burden that our PSU's have largely become?

Muralidhar Rao
murali772's picture

Contradictions galore

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The following excerpts from a ToI editorial piece (full text - emphasis added by me -  accessible here)

NDA’s approach is characterised by energy but its instinct remains similar to that of its UPA predecessors. To illustrate, there is a distrust of market mechanisms which shows up in the form of price controls and interference in private contracts. To this, add the tendency to have blind faith in public sector companies which forces government to craft policy in a way that prioritises its companies rather than the economy as a whole. This shows up in the form of endless rounds of bank recapitalisations and airline bailouts when the nature of ownership is the root cause of the problem.

as also the following excerpts from a column by Sri P B Mehta in the New Indian Express (full text - emphasis added by me - accessible here)

Contradictions in the government are still muddying its identity. This is a government where swagger often overshadows truth. But it is difficult not to see the contradictions. On institutions, Modi ran on the slogan of minimum government; but the reigning ideology is that he is a big believer in government.

say it all.

Not many people seem to be able to read Modi-ji's mind. Well, we live on hope.

Muralidhar Rao
murali772's picture

Nehruvian Socialism here to stay?

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Nehruvianism can broadly be defined in terms of its four key pillars: hard secularism, social liberalism, socialism (more fairly, mixed economy), non-alignment and internationalism. Which ones of these does Mr Modi look at odds with?

- - - Now run your eye over Narendra Modi’s interview to The Wall Street Journal. It’s been almost four decades since we heard an Indian prime minister make such a strong case for a mixed economy and the public sector. And Mr Modi has a track record. Even when Mr Vajpayee was feverishly selling off public sector companies, Gujarat did not privatise any of its own PSUs. We know that Mr Modi spent a great deal of energy and used the state’s clout to support these companies — particularly in the oil and gas sector, notably Gujarat Gas Ltd and GSPC. Mr Vajpayee even tried to get rid of Air India, besides the big oil companies. But Mr Modi is letting even Hindustan Photo Films be.

- - - Narendra Modi’s loyalists say he has no personal issue with Nehru. It is just that his worldview is exactly to the contrary of Nehru’s. If so, we are still looking for evidence of it in his economic and foreign policies.

For the full text (emphasis added by me) of the column by Mr Shekhar Gupta, in the Business Standard, click here.

So, Nehruvian Socialism here to stay? Not quite a happy thought, as far as I am concerned.

Muralidhar Rao
murali772's picture

Squandering of an opportunity to usher in "acchae din"

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Things have never looked better for the ruling combine. The primary political opposition has been scattered, leaving no credible challenger on the national stage. The economy has never been better since 2011 or so, with a recovery clearly on the cards. It may be a weak recovery, but the combination of improved corporate results (if we set aside the banks, that is) and the prospect of a good monsoon have sent the stock market soaring — though still not to the levels that prevailed a year ago. If the government wanted to seize the moment and push for the changes that would deliver faster growth, now would be a better time than any. The economy can bear the shocks of change, and there is enough political space for the government to take calculated risks. That is why it is so disappointing to read the comments by the prime minister — who seems to have turned his face away from the business of introducing serious reform.

- - - On state-owned companies too, Mr Modi has signalled that there will be no real change. One must ask why, when so many government companies have no financial, economic or other rationale. The example that stares everyone in the face is Air India, which if it were in the private sector would long ago have met the fate of Kingfisher Airlines. Ditto with the government-owned hotel chain. It is distressing to get such status quo views from a prime minister who is in the rare position of being able to lead change, but who argues instead that the experts have failed to tell him what ‘big bang’ reforms he should introduce.


- - - It has been said that India will do the right thing only after it has tried all the alternatives — and only when a crisis pushes the country to the realisation that there are no options. With the government expecting good times to return, the signals coming through are of a new complacency. In which case…Oh, for a crisis!

For the full text (emphasis added by me) of the column by Mr T N Ninan, in the Business Standard, click here.

On the one hand, you have economists/ columnists like T N Ninan, Swaminathan Aiyer, Surjit Bhalla, Sadanand Dhume, Shekhar Gupta, Ashok Malik etc, repeatedly advocating the liberalist route that the Vajpayee government had quite successfully followed to achieve a real "India Shining" (even if it lost the elections, on account of other factors), and on the other, you also have the likes of Arvind Panagariya, Arvind Subramanian, etc, within the government itself, and whose line of thinking was also supposed to be on similar lines. For all of that, when the PM continues with Nehruvian Socialism, as graphically brought out by Shekhar Gupta (read my post immediately above), and then goes on to say "experts have failed to tell him what ‘big bang’ reforms he should introduce", it's indeed puzzling. All in all, the PM appears to be squandering of an opportunity to usher in real "acchae din" - truly disappointing.

Muralidhar Rao
murali772's picture

oh, for big-bang reforms !

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By claiming that big-bang reforms did not exist, that they were impossible, and that he had already carried them out – all while expanding the reach of the state – the PM forces observers to take a critical and disbelieving stance. Two years in, Mr Modi is certainly working on improving India – but transforming India is not even on the horizon yet.

For the full text (emphasis added by me) of the column by Mihir S Sharma in the Business Standard, click here.

Further, the futility of attempting to turn around many of the PSU's has been brought out in the excellent Financial Express editorial accessible here, as also in all of the posts in the blog. As such, it is quite perplexing as to why NaMo, one of whose oft-repeated mantra's was "less government, more governance", is persisting with them.

Muralidhar Rao
murali772's picture

RBI too to become a caged parrot?

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The first repercussions of the impending departure of Raghuram Rajan from the Reserve Bank of India could now be visible -- and it looks like those who argued the independence of India’s central bank was under threat may have been right.

- - - The fact that the government has chosen to ignore the obvious means of recapitalizing banks is also revealing. The state-owned banking sector shouldn't be bailed out using RBI funds, of course -- but not by using tax money either. Instead, it should be guided towards privatization, and funds for recapitalizing the best banks should be raised from the markets. But movement on this is slow. Modi himself doesn’t seem too sympathetic to privatization.

India’s Prime Minister came into office promising “maximum governance, minimum government.” That’s what both the RBI and the banking sector need, not renewed state control.


For the full text (emphasis added by me) of the column by Mihir Sharma, in Bloomberg View, click here.

Says it all - doesn't give a comfortable feeling.

Muralidhar Rao
Sajith's picture

AAP style Praja

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Shri Murali,

Am logging in to this forum after many years and surprised to see that this has become a Kejriwal style attack Modi/BJP forum. There are no suggestions for imprvement. If Modi apologies for 2002, the infra for Bangalore will not change magically.

 

amithpallavoor's picture

Modi's economic policies are

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Modi's economic policies are a departure from Vajpayee's thrust on privitization of public sector behemoths. I do not want get into the details of  A la Damaad affair as regards privitization during Vajapayee's regime. I would not want digress and discuss Ranjan Bhattacharya's faffing around with PSU assets or Vadra's shenanigans. We could maybe do it on a different post.

In fac,t this government has  been more Nehruvian than UPA two with their regressive indirect taxation measures such as Swach Bharath cess and Krishi Kalyan. Indirect taxes are regressive and fuel inflation. This is a basic priniciple of Economics.

This is pretty much against Modi's pre poll adage of Maximum Governance and Minimum Government.

There has been no attempt to bite the bullet on bringing in more people under the direct tax net. Public sector divestment and spectrum auction would help bridge the fiscal deficit in the short to medium term. I would ignore people who build citadels around their favourite political czars. and digress to castigating someone who genuinely wishes to critique Modi Sarkar as an AAP minion. 

This post on FB would enable such people gain some knowlegde around Economics from two very erduite individuals. This was written by Govind Rao an authority on public finance in response to a post from one Mr. Vasudevan. I wish, I was as learned as these two individuals.

This is with reference to the flip flop that GOI had around Raghurajan issue.

"Dear Mr. Vasudevan, I do not think sensible people will raise anyone to a "citadel"as you describe. We are concerned with issues, not people. Nor is it appropriate to describe some as an output from Lucas- Sargent factory. Raghu is not. He did not do his Ph. D in Chicago. He does not work in the "Chicago School"" but in the Booth School of Finance. I my view (which will come out in a column in Financial Express on Tuesday) he did some outstanding tasks as the Governor for the people of India. Targeting consumer prices instead of wholesale prices is important. At a time when the household sector's financial savings is just about 7.7 per cent of GDP and the public sector preempts more than 9 per cent for its spending, reduction in interest rates would only result in monetising the deficits. The second important contribution is asking to commercial banks to undertake asset quality review which brought out the extent of bad loan problem and cronyism in the system. I have worked with Dr. Rangarajan closely for over 10 years. (He was the Chairman of NIPFP where I was the Director and I was a member of the Economic Advisory Council to the PM for 8 years where he was the Chairman). Perhaps, many would not know that it was Rangarajan and the PM who brought Raghu and his views on the interest rate policy are similar to Raghu's. It is true, Raghu need not have spoken oin matters which are not in the RBI's remit, but I will not brand him as a Friedmaniac or a Lucasist."

This was in response to another post by Rajendran Vasudevan, which went as follows:

"Dear sir that is very pertinent in so far as India's practice of appointing people in critical finance bodies goes too...Relevant updated skill sets is certainly at a premium!! There are only two sides to the RRR supporting or opposing crowd: sanghis and others. That is a pity...There indeed was plenty in RRR's approach to monetary policy that needed much deeper appreciation--some of them critically so. The "crowd" from the fiance fraternity for instance was out to raise to him a "citadel" beyond any reproach.. On this back drop I would like to look at the positions take by the other stalwarts, namely IG Patel,MMS and C Rangarajan. RRR on this backdrop surely comes across as a died in the wool Lucas-Sargent factory output all decked up with his newly minted DSGE??? The older men on the contrary were exemplars of sublime balance...This surely is not an attempt to take credit away from RRR for all the initiatives --even though some of them are totally flawed, which we realize from recent international experiences...The revision of fiscal-multipliers by Summers, Fatas and Blanchard through their recent bouquet of published material on this score is a case in point.. That we suffer from an acute lack of appropriate skill sets in the ambit of financial-- macro is a national shame, can not be gainsaid.."

Apart from the substantive content of what both individuals have written, I would like to emphasise to the esteemed members of the online Modi sena out there, to take a leaf out of the book of my friends, as to how to politely conduct an argument.

 

 

 

 

murali772's picture

bouquets and brick-bats in equal measure :)))

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@Sajith - Where NaMo govt has been performing well (in my view of course), like Piyush Goyal-ji offering grid power to all states as much as they want at below Rs 2.50 pu (check here), and in a few other cases too, I have complimented them.

Even for AAP govt in Delhi, there have been both bouquets and brick-bats from - check here.

I have largely tried to remain impartial.

Muralidhar Rao
murali772's picture

Can't understand this at all

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“Reform, perform and transform” was an inspiring slogan delivered from the ramparts of Red Fort in the course of Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s Independence Day speech. However, that expectation was belied in a key area of the very same speech, when the PM spoke up for a few ailing public sector units that recorded improvements in their financial performance in the recent past. Modi’s observations on Air India, Shipping Corporation and BSNL – three companies mentioned in his speech – are unconvincing.

- - - It is not as if these companies cannot be turned around. But under government ownership, managements are unlikely to have the freedom to do so. Therefore, we have a double whammy of public companies’ value declining and government’s continued investment in them depriving it of resources in other areas. The only way out is to revive the strategic disinvestment of the Vajpayee government. Hopefully, Modi will revisit his PSU strategy. He has shown boldness in other areas, he should abandon status quo on PSUs.

For the full text of the editorial in the ToI, click here.

Can't understand this at all.

Muralidhar Rao
murali772's picture

NaMo sarcar's self-goals

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“It was well within the knowledge of the of the IO [Investigative Officer] that the accused Gulab Singh has been looking at the campaign work of Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) in the coming election in Gujarat and that the rally as convened on 16.10.016. But, the police, for the reasons best known to them, rushed to Gujarat by flight and arrested the accused Gulab Singh from Gujarat.

This was an observation made by Metropolitan Magistrate Kishore Kumar while sending AAP legislator Gulab Singh to 14 days of judicial custody. A day later, on October 19, he was granted bail.

On October 16, Gulab was arrested in relation to an extortion case on the basis of a statement given by co-accused people in the case. The complainant had not named the Matiala legislator in his complaint, yet the Delhi police claimed Gulab was the kingpin behind the extortion racket. The court also observed that, nowhere in the First Information Report (FIR) or during the investigation had the complainant alleged that money was given to Gulab.


Last year, on August 22, Metropolitan Magistrate Gomati Manocha observed, while granting bail to AAP MLA Commando Surinder Singh, that “it has been averred that this case is actuated by Political vendetta ... Hence, the application seeking judicial custody of the accused persons hereby dismissed and the application of seeking bail of the accused Surinder Singh ... are hereby allowed.” Commando had been arrested the previous day for passing casteist remarks about an NDMC employee and was booked under eight sections of the SC and the ST (Prevention Of Atrocities) Act, 1989.

For the full text of the report (emphasis added by me) in the NewsLaundry, click here.

And, as brought out in the report, this clearly follows a pattern (rather than a few cases in isolation), obviously dictated by the NaMo sarcar. While this has been quite evident to the discerning follower of the goings on, NewsLaundry's documenting it would hopefully take it to the attention of some of the well-wishers of the Sarcar too, whom one believes the Sarcar would bother to listen to.

The Sarcar has been doing a fair amount of good work, more particularly in areas like power (under Piyush Goyal), Railways (under Suresh Prabhu), and, elsewhere too, there are indications of fresh thinking, though there's lot ways to go. But, the positive image emerging out of all of that is getting negated, and badly too, by the police-raaj let loose on the AAP lot.

Participating in a debate on the lessons that could be derived from the outstanding movie "Pink", I had commented (for the full text, click here) - "A question I have is "shouldn't the court have proceeded against the lady police officer too for filing a false complaint?" The easy pliability of the low level police officials is clearly the weakest link in our policing system, and that perhaps needs immediate attention. The question arises here once again, and fairly starkly too.

Also, we have been witnessing the rampant misuse of the SC, ST Act, across many states, some of which have come to my notice, I have commented upon here. Well, its misuse by the Police force under the Central government is plainly a new low. Perhaps, time then to take up the matter with the Law Commission.

When an AAP sympathiser brought these to my notice, I responded saying "perhaps, you could give it back to them in the same coin after gaining power in Punjab". Indeed because of all of such doings, apart from the misdeeds of its ghat-bandhan with the notorious Baadals, at least Punjab seems a goner as far as they are concerened. And, then the boots will be on AAP's feet.

All in all, the way the NaMo sarcar is going about all of these, is equivalent to losing 10-0 in a penlty shoot-out, including 5 self-goals.

Muralidhar Rao
murali772's picture

all for another Mallya to spirit away?

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Public sector banks have seen nearly Rs 80,000 crore increase in gross non-performing assets (NPAs) in the three months ended September 2016. As on September 30, gross NPAs of public sector banks rose to Rs 6,30,323 crore as against Rs 5,50,346 crore by June end, an increase of Rs 79,977 crore on quarter-on-quarter basis.

For the full text of the report in the ToI, click here.

The question that arises is "Is the government going to be using the windfall gains out of the demonetisation exercise to recapitalise the PSU banks?"

Now, the noted economist, Ruchir Sharma, had, in his column in the ToI (for the full text, click here), a few days back, commented as "If India wanted to do something radical it should have taken on privatisation of a banking system in which government ownership is higher than in any other democratic nation".

As such, for all the recapitalisation of the PSU banks that the government may undertake, without the checks and balances that government divestment (I am deliberately avoiding the P-word, because of this) can bring about, what guarantee is there that, a few years down the line, another Mallya doesn't come along and scoots away with all of the money?

Demonetisation has caused immense pain, particularly to the aam aadmi, from which many may not recover even. On top of it all, if the gains are going to be squandered away by the lax ways of the PSU banks, then not only would it all not have been worth the effort, but the it would be seen as most unpardonable. Yesterday's tweet by Jayant Sinha-ji that "Air-India is on an expansion mode" is an indicator that the government still believes in the PSU's, for all of the noises to the contrary coming from the Niti Ayog (check here). All in all, it's total confusion all around.

Muralidhar Rao
MaheshK's picture

this will continue

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Every political party wants PSUs so that the netas can use them for their gains. PSU banks are there for crony capitalism. Cooperative banks are no different as many are there to turn black to white for the management and their crones and giving out bad loans again to the management and their cronies. In the end they are unable to get back most of the loans leading to high NPAs. The latest episode that some PSU banks supplied huge sums of new currency to the senior gvot officials in the city who are now caught by the IT. Thank god IT is from the centre, else it would have been hushed up. PSUs like Air India should have been privatized long back. Every political party has made use of AI to the maximum. No wonder AI suffers. Can it make profit continuously without govt infusing funds?

As Murali sir pointed out "Is the government going to be using the windfall gains out of the demonetisation exercise to recapitalise the PSU banks?”. In fact Kejriwal pointed out that this may be adjusted to the budget and show that the economy is doing very well. He may be right to some extent. When u see the interest rates are being cut, that shows economy is in a bad shape. We have a FM who is totally out of touch with the reality. He is a rich man, does not know how things are outside. RBI governor is a Gujju and out of touch and is a close confidant of the PM. What else u need. 

murali772's picture

time to dump wannabe messiah's?

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It is true that demonetisation is a big bang — in the sense that it is accompanied by a terrific amount of noise, and nobody is sure for a while exactly what the explosion has destroyed. It is false, however, that demonetisation is any kind of transformational reform. In fact, given that it is statist in orientation, reduces choices for market participants, depends enormously on inefficient government machinery, and increases the costs of doing business for the foreseeable future, it is on pretty much every count the opposite of “reform”.

- - -  In one stroke, demonetisation has rendered that argument specious. Narendra Modi has shown that if he has chosen so far to avoid transformational economic reform, it is not because he is worried about the disruption it would cause or the political opposition it would create — no, it is because he simply is not interested in doing it. Who now can claim that privatisation of big public-sector monopolies or administrative reform or labour law reform was off the table because Mr Modi was forced towards incrementalism? If you decide to plunge the world’s third-largest economy into a liquidity crisis overnight, then you cannot be described as being too cautious for shock therapy.

And as for what it reveals about the policy-making in this government — well, the less said, the better. Demonetisation cannot be defended as a good idea, poorly implemented. The first rule of governing India is that you only make the policies you can implement. If we ignore implementation, then no doubt the Licence Raj was a brilliant idea, too. No, demonetisation has to be either a good idea or a bad idea to begin with, with a clear-eyed estimation of the implementation difficulties being an integral part of the decision-making process.

And that is where the government’s weaknesses have been thrown into sharp relief. Not only is this the extreme example of a general problem — that this government is absurdly top-heavy, with all major initiatives coming from the prime minister’s office. But it is also emblematic of all the government’s other policy-making weaknesses: A tendency to think in terms of headlines, not of effects; a pernicious distrust of expertise; and a tendency towards statism.

- - - I do not deny that demonetisation is currently politically popular. It may remain so — only in long-suffering India, perhaps, will already trodden-on people accept additional inconvenience if assured that everyone else is suffering too. Given that, immediate political popularity is not how this decision should be judged. Its implementation shows that, far from being an efficient manager, Mr Modi fails comprehensively when it comes to thinking at scale. Its nature proves that, far from being a reformer constrained by politics, Mr Modi is simply a statist who thinks only in terms of politics. And its conception demonstrates that this government is simply too amateurish in terms of economic policy-making to properly address India’s deep, deep problems. Politically popular or not, the reputation of this government and its leaders should not survive this disastrous experiment.

To read the full text (emphasis added by me) of this brilliant column by Mihir S Sharma, in the Business Standard, click here.

I can't but agree with all of what the author has stated. It's such a pity. The country had laid so much hope in NaMo and elected him as the PM with such majority, quite like Delhi citizenry reposing their faith in Arvind Kejriwal (on him, check out here) and electing him as the CM, again with vast majority. Sadly, both now seem to be letting down their electorate, rather the country itself.

The problem apparently is that we are all looking for messiah's, when, in fact, there can't be any.

Shobha De in her column in the ToI (for the full text, click here) has written "This move is going to cost. Big time. Cost whom? Well — just one man. Narendra Modi. Not the BJP? Nope. Him! PM Modi. Why? Simple, my dear Bharatwaasis — this demonetisation move is seen as his brainchild. A solo act. A solitary decision taken without consulting colleagues. Or thinking about consequences. From all accounts, his cabinet buddies are far from amused. In fact, some are said to be livid".

May be time to dump wannabe messiah's and look for genuine leaders.

Muralidhar Rao
murali772's picture

Govern the clean way

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The Delhi government should have some powers. Otherwise, it cannot function, the Supreme Court on Wednesday observed, while listing for final disposal the appeal of the AAP government against the high court verdict which had held that the L-G was the administrative head of national capital.

- - - Senior advocate Gopal Subramanium, appearing for the Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) government, said they are challenging the order of the high court which has ruled that the Lieutenant Governor (L-G) was the administrative head and whose prior consent is needed in all administrative decisions. He said the high court had held the aid and advice of council of ministers are not binding upon the L-G. "The elected government in Delhi cannot appoint the chief secretary or cannot even appoint a class-IV officer by itself," Subramanium said, noting that under the constitutional scheme of things the council of ministers is required to give aid and advice to the L-G. He said the Constitution mandates that when there is difference of opinion on any issue, the matter could be referred to the President.


For the full text of the report (emphasis added by me) in the Business Standard, click here.

Compared to the many peculiar observations coming from the SC, of recent, this one will be seen as most welcome by all impartial observers of the goings on. And, the Modi Sarkar will do well to accept them positively, even from a political angle, particularly considering the rather vulnerable position it has got itself into through its demonetisation experiment.

One hopes that that at least now it learns that it was voted to power by a large majority to govern the 'clean' way, and not through crooked means (see my post, captioned "Namo Sarkar's self goals", of the 30th Oct, scrolling above). In it lies its path to success in future, particularly considering the increased deepening of the democratic process in the country today, thanks to the media, including the social media. 

Muralidhar Rao
murali772's picture

statism worse than of the Marxist kind!!!

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If banks are the heart of an economy, India has a hole in the heart. Up to 20% of public sector bank loans are impaired. Chief economic advisor Arvind Subramanian says India is being held back by a “twin balance sheet problem”— dodgy balance sheets of banks as well as its borrowers, burdened with huge, unrepayable debts.

This can be resolved only by the banks taking a big “haircut’ — writing off a big chunk of unrepayable loans. But this will spur accusations of cronyism, which Narendra Modi seeks to avoid at any cost.

Subramanian says only political courage can cut through the Gordian knot. He suggests creating a “bad bank” to take over the impaired loans and dispose of them at whatever discount the market requires. Finance minister Jaitley is very wary of financing a “bad bank”, and the private sector won’t. The impasse continues.

Two-third of impaired loans relate to 24 big companies, mainly in infrastructure and steel. India needs most of them for its proposed infrastructure push, but they will remain hobbled unless they get a haircut.


For the full text (emphasis added by me) of the column by the redoubtable Swaminathan Aiyar, in the SToI, click here.

Now, this precarious state of the Public Sector banks was quite well known even as the NaMo government took charge over three years back. In fact, the matter was an election issue too, using which BJP got the better of the UPA govt. Dr Raghuran Rajan, as the RBI Governor, very clearly pointed to the need to correct the situation, and, given his overall standing, the government could very easily have got away "bailing out" the banks, and even claiming credit for it. But, unfortunately, the opportunity was squandered, and instead we saw the demonetisation experiment being played out, the outcomes of which appear more hurtful than helpful, to the economy in general, and the aam aadmi, in particular.

And, as if all of that was not enough, the government now appears headed to make things worse, going by a reading of the following excerpts from a column by Shankkar Aiyar, in the New Indian Express (for the full text, click here):

The national carrier (Air India) is yet again on the “rescue me” queue. This time—after sinking public monies and staking sovereign guarantees—the government is looking at an “innovative” bailout. The innovation: conversion of Rs 28,000 crore, out of the Rs 46,570 crore the airline owes 31 institutions, into equity, induct professionals with proven skills and  listing of the airline.

Simplicity can be seductive. Effectively, lenders are expected to forsake interest earnings for a slice of ownership and the promise of dividend—ownership in a flailing enterprise ranked third worst-performing in 2016, and returns from an airline that has reported net losses of Rs 6,279 crore, Rs 5,859 crore and Rs 3,836 crore in the past three years.

Who takes the hit? The price will be borne by the depositors and shareholders of the 31 banks, the Life Insurance Corporation and the Employees Provident Fund Organisation. Remember that the banks are already reeling under gross NPAs of around Rs 7 trillion (roughly over $100 billion), and public sector banks desperately need capital infusion of around Rs 1.10 lakh crore. Embedded in the idea is a moral hazard—would this munificence be a precedent for other public sector enterprises (PSEs) that are ailing?


Forget talk of reforms, what we are seeing is "statism" worse than of the Marxist kind.

Muralidhar Rao

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