“Food (or Sadya) for Thought” during this Onam!

kerala under massive debtKerala is one of the most gifted states in terms of natural resources, most educated manpower, high health standards, highest life expectancy, women empowerment, rich art & literature heritage and what not? Unfortunately, the state of affairs in “God’s own country” right now is not as green as it looks from 10000ft above the ground reality.

Today, the state is more known for serious issues such as alcohol addiction, high number of suicides, frequent hartals / bandhs, ‘quotation” gangs who commit political murders etc. Most of these problems are caused by frustration among the educated but unemployed youth while the expectation around consumerism and quality life style is quite high for most of these people. Even worse, it has been a borrower state for decades now (no self-reliance) and has a massive debt of 1.15 Lakh Crores (internal + external) at the moment which is said to be at 30% of its GDP! Unfortunately the state’s revenue is not really coming from core sectors such as manufacturing or agriculture but primarily via tax revenues, tourism and money transfer from abroad. Some haste decisions such as the recent alcohol ban – which was taken purely for political gains – is going to aggravate financial trouble for the state with guaranteed spike in unemployment rate as well (The unemployment rate already hovers around 16% – for people below 60 – which is highest among all states in India despite lakhs of people migrating and working in the gulf countries).

So, where did all these problems in Kerala arise? How come each child born here has a high debt burden along with something good numbers such as great high life expectancy and other health indices?

The causes are mostly known to all. Kerala has been a Communist state for many years now and one of the most liberated states due to the same reason where people are more or less equal in terms of their social status, rights to everything in life. I must say that the communism initially was very successful in combating social imbalance and injustice but things changed after a couple of decades of progressive work by the communists and similar revolutionary establishments. Currently, the same passion with which people fight for their rights, is not shown when giving back to the state by showing and committing to their responsibilities. This is exactly why there’re numerous trade union driven strikes, hartals and hence none of the industries would survive in Kerala. Well, trade unions are rampant in many other states too but then their agricultural sector wasn’t affected as badly as it did in God’s own state. In Kerala, even the farmer community wouldn’t be able to do agriculture due to shortage of manpower and those labour class who suddenly decided that they wouldn’t do any job for ‘bourgeois’ in that key sector. At the same time, the same average labour class is willing to do any kind of construction or agriculture related job for much cheaper wages (considering the cost of living) and poor conditions abroad – I am talking about that section of the Malayalees in Gulf countries.

Where does Kerala head from here?

Well, mounting debts may not be a big issue for many other states (some may have even higher debts) in India that have proven track record of agricultural and manufacturing output. But a state like Kerala where the money comes from very limited sectors and tax routes; it is a very serious issue. Soon, the government wouldn’t be able to provide salaries to its employees, repair roads or complete basic (survival) development projects. The state is already in doldrums and it can only get worse from here if corrective actions are not taken immediately by some strong governance, ruthless law making and strict action against offenders.

So, what is the need of the hour?

A few immediate changes are required in the mindset of people as well as the government so that the state can get back on track. The state is entering a point of no return when it comes to its finances and such a situation can result in severe law and order situation and many social issues.

To begin with, for heaven’s (i.e. God’s own country) sake please stop Hartals and Bandhs immediately by force or the right law making. There is no point in observing a state-wide bandh or hartal for the death of a local leader (of any party for that matter) or when Saddam Hussein is executed. Keralites cannot afford to inject huge losses to the state’s exchequer by these forced shut downs several days every year.

Next, it’s high time the state modernized its agriculture sector. In the history of this state, most of the communist revolutions and strikes happened around agriculture sector and farmers. Due to this reason, it was never allowed to grow in terms of implementing modern technologies to fight manpower issues hence resulting in poor outputs except in some crops and spices. Kerala now has reached such a bad state where the basic labour has to come from Bihar, Bengal and UP but at the same time output is not optimal either. Modernizing the agriculture sector with the right technologies is the only way forward for this state as there is not a lot of scope for big things in the manufacturing sector. Self-reliance in food matters is the most important aspect for any state!

Another big issue to tackle is the dangerous consumerist traits that most Keralites exhibit. Most of the visible issues such as alcoholism and suicides are related to high expectations from life and ridiculous levels of consumerist attitude while the money just doesn’t exist. It’s common in Kerala that, those people who can’t even afford a 1-bedroom home always dream of and tend to build a two-storied 3000sqft home. Wedding would be extravagant with tons of gold that the bride wears – no matter how much her father had borrowed. As a highly-literate state, it is high time Kerala bid good bye to such show-off life style. Things wouldn’t change with awareness campaigns alone but enforced harsh laws to address this issue (e.g. very heavy taxes and penalties on big houses etc)

Then there are these very dangerous evils called campus politics and religion based politics. Both these things have drooped to such a bad state where campus elections are fought with vengeance whereas the religious politics is sure to hamper the development ideas that a coalition government might have. Hence the bad politics has to come to an immediate end in Kerala. If any state in India can achieve it, it’s Kerala and it’s time to say ‘NO’ to (bad influence of) campus politics and all religious parties – be it Muslim League, SNDP, NSS or Kerala Congress.

While large scale manufacturing and heavy industries may not be easily possible in such a dense and small state, the manufacturing and industrialization definitely need to leap forward with some big drastic steps. Kerala needs to prove to the outside world that no company will be closed down due to petty strikes called by trade unions and hence a new revolution is realistically possible here. Without having some new industries – other than fisheries, tourism and spice exports – there is no future for this state. Well, it has the bad history of closing down many companies in the 1970s and 80s due to union strikes, but with that part already taken care of (from my first point), it can be a new beginning for Kerala.

Finally, the government should first take measures to improve the financial situation of the state even before deciding to discontinue revenue generating businesses. I am referring to the recent alcohol ban policy here. It may sound unethical to expect that the state should make revenue at the cost of its citizens’ and families’ health and peace (which what the politicians are tapping into), but it’s better than everyone dying out of hunger, right?

Dear country men and political leaders of Kerala, As you celebrate the Onam festival this year, please spare some time to realize where you are heading! Most of the things are in your hand while the new central government definitely can be of good help if some good planning and change of attitude is guaranteed from your end.

(The writer is a Keralite too although living outside the state for quite a few years now)

Lok Sabha Election 2014 – My Prediction

Just like most educated Indians, I have been avidly following all those election news, TV opinion polls, analysis on sentiments, geo-political changes etc. One thing I realized is that even those famous psephologists and some of my past idols – like Psephologist Prannoy Roy – aren’t doing a good job with respect to impartially airing their views. There’s a lot of mess on TV and Social media these days that we get to hear/read only twisted facts.

Finally, I decided to do my own state-wise analysis of the current (15th Lok Sabha) positions, changed geographical and political sentiments and analysis on newer parties. I am transferring the final outcome from Excel sheet to this blog post on what I see as the election results of Lok Sabha 2014 from the perspective of only the top 10 parties.

Please note that, I haven’t spent a lot of time on very small states and a change of +/- 5% is likely.

Top 12 Winning Parties of Lok Sabha Election 2014 (Predicted Results)


BJP – 145 – 150
INC – 90 – 95
BSP – ~30
Trinamool Congress – ~22
SP – ~20
AIADMK – ~20
JDU – ~20
CPM – ~18
BJD – ~15
Shivsena – ~10
YSR – ~10
DMK – ~ 8

These parties are likely to be followed by NCP, TDP, TRS etc. In my opinion, AAP is likely to get 4 seats in Delhi and nothing in other states. I was tempted to think about AAP’s chances in Haryana but it is a complicated situation whereby a major shift in vote share may not necessarily get converted into a seat. In other states, I believe AAP will not do any magic and Kejriwal himself may lose on a huge margin.

Big States for BJP and Congress

The biggest state for BJP, in my opinion, would be Madhya Pradesh where the sentiments are very strong following the recent Assembly elections. This should be followed by Rajasthan, Gujarat, Maharashtra, UP and Karnataka in that order.

For Congress, it is pretty evenly distributed among Maharashtra, UP, Karnataka, Kerala, Andhra Pradesh, Haryana, Tamil Nadu and other smaller states.

Hung Parliament?

Now that, the BJP is likely to be single largest party and with their allies (NDA) they could get around 200 seats, it is highly likely to be a bad situation post this elections. Further, even after securing 200+ seats on their own, the current UPA II government couldn’t do much. So what would be the state of the next government if BJP doesn’t get at least 200 on their own?

Unfortunately, things don’t look all that good for India. It’s time we embraced a Two-Party political system with all regional parties forced to dismantle and align to two major national parties.

Disclaimer

I am not a Modi, Kejriwal or Rahul fan nor do I belong to any of the above parties. Further, I was raised in a Marxist family and have been influenced by socialist principles. However, I never voted based on the party flag but went with individuals whom I thought are good and capable. I will be doing the same for this election as well.

(I wouldn’t be encouraging a discussion on this post. It is maintained only to assess myself in terms of my analytical capabilities. Further, I am doing it more as a pastime post my retirement 🙂 )

Anti-Nepotism Online Campaign for Loksabha Election 2014

Friends,
We are living in a Democratic country. Democracy provides you the freedom and power to elect the representatives who can make decisions on our behalf in order to take this country forward.

Today, the eligibility of candidates contesting for parliament or state assembly elections is decided based on too basic parameters such as citizenship status, minimum age, criminal conviction status etc. From time to time, the educated citizens in this country have asked for stricter norms such as minimum educational qualifications, upper age bar and so on. However, going by the constitutional rights of the citizens of India, it may not be practical to implement such amendments in the near future.

nepotism in india

Yet another virus that is affecting the democratic process and progress of this country is Nepotism in politics. Favourism granted to the relatives of family members of politicians has reached such a pathetic state where several members of the same family get to contest a particular election (E.g. Three members of the Paswan family contest the forthcoming Loksabha elections). This is so easily done and manipulated by the crooked politicians because the people have no say in deciding who can contest even before deciding whom to vote for. Further, Nepotism is one of the reasons why most of these politicians and their families turn corrupt.

While constitutional changes or even an Anti-Nepotism bill may be close to impossible, we as voters always have the chance to vote out those who run politics as a family business. We have to decide whether 20 or 30 families out of the millions in this country can continue to play with our future, just because they get to contest and win elections by playing vote bank politics, caste-regional politics and other inherited means.

So during the forthcoming Loksabha election, let me request my fellow citizens to do the following.

1. First, enroll yourself in the Voters list and please Do vote on the election day.

2. If you know of any candidate who got a ticket by Nepotistic means, please alert voters and fellow citizens by word of mouth, social media shares etc to spread awareness. There are already many familiar names out there ( Gandhis, Gowdas, Yadavs, Paswans, Karnunanidhis etc) but there may be a lot more that we don’t know; So let us spread awareness by all possible means.

3. Do not vote for Nepotists – especially who haven’t done anything at all for the social well-being or progress of the nation even at his/her lowest capacities prior to this election. Even if they have done something in the past, if you believe that there could have been a better candidate, reject them outright. Please think beyond your political views for once.

4. If you don’t find a suitable candidate in your constituency, please use the ‘Reject all candidates’ button. Let us hope this new mechanism introduced this year is going to work and make things better in the future.

Please share this note with your friends and contacts. Let us send this message loud and clear and work towards a cleaner and truly democratic election process. While for every election, we try to vote and elect people based on our best judgment, let us try to make Anti-Nepotism as the theme for this Loksabha election. Because, uprooting nepotism is one of the key steps towards fighting corruption!

The link to the Facebook Online Campaign is below:
Anti-Nepotism Online Campaign for Loksabha Election 2014 – Facebook link

Thank you,
An Indian Citizen

Should Andhra Pradesh be divided at all?

A disclaimer to begin with. I am not a big authority when it comes to politics. I have learned a few things from school and college and read a bit on politics from the dailies – that’s all. However, being born and brought up in one of the most politically spoiled states in India, I thought, I should comment on the ongoing Telengana issue as well.

Federal system

India is a proud democratic country which follows the federal system. The federal government enjoys good enough control over the states, much better control than the federal systems in many other countries may be. The individual states, however, were formed based on the languages (thankfully not castes) and as we all know, we have no dearth for languages in India. At that time (1956) the population of India was around 35 Crores (350 million) and 20 odd states meant that every state had ‘manageable’ number of people. Was dividing India based on language was the best thing? I am not sure, probably it was the easiest thing to do to keep our country going then.

Over the past 50 years, our population has tripled. Obviously, the land’s not growing but more and more people are moving to the cities in search of jobs and better living standards. However, the bigger challenge out here is to have states that are well run with manageable number of people and resources.

The BIG states in India

The following are the biggest five states in India as of today.

  1. Uttar Pradesh (20 crores)
  2. Bihar (11 crores)
  3. Maharashtra (11 crores)
  4. Andhra Pradesh (9 crores)
  5. West Bengal (9 crores)

The top two states in India are known for corruption, poverty, vote bank politics and lower living standards as compared to the other states in India. In my opinion, they are the first two states that need to be split into two or three individual states. However, the split should not be based on what some of those stupid regional parties think but should be in the interest of the federal government (didn’t mean Congress of UPA government)’s strategy influenced by the planning and growth needs.

As a second step, one needs to think about splitting Maharashtra, Andhra Pradesh and West Bengal as well. The idea should be to have more manageable, self-sufficient, growth oriented (not population) states than suffering big federal entities.

Divide based on what and how do we develop them?

Well, now there’s no chance that we can divide a state based on a language anymore. That will only add more oil to the fire and fuel more differences. When you split a big state that speaks Hindi, obviously the resulting smaller states should speak the same and so is the case with Andhra or Maharashtra as well.

The development of these new states can be accelerated if they build new cities and infrastructure, revamp the educational and public distribution systems. I am sure that states like UP and Bihar can improve their public distribution mechanism to reach out to more people, if the population is less and educational standards go up. I would like to stress once more on building new cities – it’s absolutely necessary for a country like India to create big man made cities over the next 15 years or so. That way we can do a lot more load balancing on the population front.

Now, coming back to Telengana.

I said, Andhra could be split. But as I stressed, it shouldn’t be based on what some of those local politicians think. It should be purely based on the federal system needs and nobody should pick himself as the potential Chief Minister or leader of that state already. If needed, the split states could be even under the central rule until the situation stabilizes with respect to those off springs. In short, the idea should not be to impress certain category of the people or politicians but to promote growth.

Conclusion

Having said that, do we keep doing this splitting process for ever? Absolutely not! There’s no way, we could allow the population to grow at this pace and in 20-25 years it should come to an optimal level. Looking at India’s current population and where India want itself to be in 15 years from now, I personally believe that it can have around 35 federal states already. Makes sense?

Let me know what you think about it.

Gandhian satyagraha v/s modern fasting by politicians

Former Andhra Pradesh chief minister Mr. Chadrababu Naidu has been fasting for almost a week now for the rights of his farmer friends who according to him should get a reasonable compensation for their lost crops. After a few days into his fasting, Mr. Jagan Mohan Reddy, who believes he could be the Andhra CM one day, has entered the fasting game as well. The fasting trick played by these politicians, as everyone probably knows, is not really in the interest of any farmer or citizen but for their own vested interest around their political career.

Satyagraha as defined by Gandhi

Satyagraha – or a practice of disciplined fasting – was defined and spread by Gandhiji under the following conditions:

1. harbour no anger

2. suffer the anger of the opponent

3. never retaliate to assaults or punishment; but do not submit, out of fear of punishment or assault, to an order given in anger

4. voluntarily submit to arrest or confiscation of your own property

5. if you are a trustee of property, defend that property (non-violently) from confiscation with your life

6. do not curse or swear

7. do not insult the opponent

8. neither salute nor insult the flag of your opponent or your opponent’s leaders

9. if anyone attempts to insult or assault your opponent, defend your opponent (non-violently) with your life

10. as a prisoner, behave courteously and obey prison regulations (except any that are contrary to self-respect)

11. as a prisoner, do not ask for special favourable treatment

12. as a prisoner, do not fast in an attempt to gain conveniences whose deprivation does not involve any injury to your self-respect

13. joyfully obey the orders of the leaders of the civil disobedience action

14. do not pick and choose amongst the orders you obey; if you find the action as a whole improper or immoral, sever your connection with the action entirely

15. do not make your participation conditional on your comrades taking care of your dependents while you are engaging in the campaign or are in prison; do not expect them to provide such support

16. do not become a cause of communal quarrels

17. do not take sides in such quarrels, but assist only that party which is demonstrably in the right; in the case of inter-religious conflict, give your life to protect (non-violently) those in danger on either side

18. avoid occasions that may give rise to communal quarrels
19. do not take part in processions that would wound the religious sensibilities of any community

Though I still do not believe that Satyagraha was/is the right mechanism to protest, Gandhiji, at least had a genuine goal to achieve and it wasn’t any vested interest for himself. Moreover, he lived a clean life underlined by truth which none of the modern Indian citizens would be able to live – forget alone the politicians.

The modern fasting on the other hand, is almost always with vested interest. Moreover, I think it’s about time the Goverment of India prohibited such practices (along with Hartals, Bandhs etc) to keep the dirty side of politics away from our system.

In my opinion, fasting for days together is an attempt to kill self and such people should be even booked for their attempts to commit suicide which is prohibited by law in India and hence is a punishable crime.

For years together we Indians have developed this attitude of succumbing to the pressure built by those who fast. Let’s not do that any more. Fasting, self immolation etc are things of the past and we do not want such things in India. What say?

Diesel – Petrol Price Deregulation in India – Good or Bad?

Yesterday, the Government of India has taken a bold decision and Diesel and Petrol price Deregulation came into effect – of course, clubbed with a price hike. petrol price deregulation indiaAs usual the vote bank politicians on the UPA alliance, opposition leaders and the left have voiced their protest. They claim that they are ‘with the people of India’ and whole lot of other crap. Two of the most politically spoiled states in India – The West Bengal and Kerala – have readily jumped on to ‘celebrate’ the situation with a ‘Hartal’ (strike). But do they even know how pampered the people of India already are how much they are misusing one of the most limited natural resources such as petrol (LPG and diesel as well)?

What does deregulation means?

Decontrolling or deregulating the petrol prices mean that, the government will no longer be subsidizing petrol prices and the prices will be purely linked to the international crude prices. In the case of diesel, though, it will be only partially regulated – the reason being an attempt to avoid sudden spike in inflation.

Why should Petrol cost more?

As all of us know, petrol (or Gasoline) is produced out of crude oil which is a natural resource that’s available in limited quantity. It is a matter of a few years before the crude gets totally exhausted. Although, there have been several crude discoveries in India, we are still dependent on the OPEC (Oil Producing and Exporting Countries) to import crude and refine it to produce petrol, LPG, diesel, aviation fuel, kerosene etc.

Petrol production cost

As of today (26 June 2010), the crude oil costs $79 a barrel (159 Litres). Since this has to be transported to India via the marine route, there is a shipping cost. Let’s say it’s something like 10%. Since the import duty on crude oil was waived sometime back, let us not count that part. Hence by the time the crude arrives in India, it is already costing something like $85 per 159L.

So the petrol refining calculation goes as follows:

Cost of 1 barrel crude: $85 or Rs. 3910.00 (exchange rate of 46)
Quantity of petrol produced from 1 barrel crude: 72L (45.4%)

Since almost 100% of the crude is refined into some product or other, we can calculate the raw material cost of producing 72L or petrol as 45.4% of the price of crude barrel.

Hence 72L petrol’s material cost alone is 3910 * 45.4 / 100 = Rs. 1775.00

Raw material cost of 1L of Petrol = 1775.00 / 72 = ~25 rupees

Obviously, the raw materials alone do not contribute to a product. You need electric power, thousands of paid employees, machinery, maintenance etc to finally produce petrol. So finally when it’s of consumable form, it is costing around 30 rupees in the oil refining spot itself.

Taxes, marketing and distribution cost

The following are the other additional expense before you can consume the petrol at your favorite gas station:

Excise duty
Education tax
VAT
Distribution and transportation cost
Dealer commission

As I understand, all the above added up comes to around 27 rupees per litre of petrol the majority of the cost is towards excise duty, transportation cost and VAT (Isn’t it a pity you have to spend more petrol or diesel to distribute petrol?)

Essentially, one litre of petrol, by the time it reaches the petrol filling stations, is costing you already Rs. 57/- without any profit added to the petroleum marketing companies. Obviously most of these companies are state run companies and hence cannot afford to reap 100% profit. Let’s turn our back on them and tell them that you can make say 20% profit. And if you add that your 1L of petrol should actually cost you around Rs. 68/-

Now, aren’t you really lucky that it’s available below Rs.60/- even with the latest hike in petrol prices?

Subsidy woes

The story is not over yet. One needs to do similar calculations for other products such as diesel, aviation fuel, kerosene and LPG. Unfortunately diesel is the primary thing that fuel public transport and distribution system in India and kerosene – LPG are house hold lifesavers when it comes to cooking purposes. In order to curb the inflation and protect the below poverty line people, the government has to subsidize it big time. A part of this subsidy cost is absorbed by the government while the oil marketing companies bear the other half. This puts some pressure on the government to increase taxes on luxury consumption sectors such as airlines by increasing aviation or jet fuel prices. They are also taxed heavily which is mainly borne by the rich or upper middle class people in India.

Why deregulation of petrol prices is good?

The deregulation of petrol prices will definitely increase the rate of inflation in short term. Virtually there will be immediate price rise in commodities and other consumables. However, for long term I think it is a good move because at the end it will definitely reduce our long term debt and fiscal deficit. Our overall economy will get stabler in this case.

Secondly, this measure will be a boost to the oil producing and marketing companies to recover their losses immediately. Remember, lakhs of people work in these huge companies and they need a life too. Moreover, the government run oil companies will be candidates for disinvestment which means that the government can lower their fiscal deficits further with additional income.

The other advantage is that the inflation, at the moment, is a fake figure. You will get to know the actual inflation and variation of commodity prices only when the petrol prices move according to the international crude prices.

This will also bring in big private players (e.g. Reliance) into the petrol marketing game. Remember that companies like Shell and Reliance used to provide excellent quality of petrol and service until Reliance pumps were forced to close down due to government regulations. This kind of competition will eventually bring in good service, good quality and in the future competitive pricing as well. The immediate woes will be compensated in the mid term – that’s my strong belief.

The government, in the meantime, should try to reduce the excise duties and restructure the VAT to minimize the impact of immediate fuel price rise on inflation and the poor people.

Long term solutions to curb petrol prices

In the long term, there are several viable solutions that needs to be done from the sourcing point to distribution and consumption.

There are possibilities of under sea pipes (just like the one we were planning with Iran for gas sourcing) from the vendor nation to India to reduce shipping cost. This has a very good long term positive impact though initial cost of incorporation is high.

The oil refining companies sourcing and storing mechanism needs to be optimized in a way that when the crude prices are low, we are able to store more. I am not sure, how much of optimization is done in this regard. Since we keep getting new and new governments every few years, they may not go for a long term plan for the same. Please remember that not too long back, the crude prices were at $35 or so per barrel.

There is a scope for improving the internal distribution system as well. Though, India has a huge geographical region, we can still have oil distribution pipes from refineries directly to the regional distribution centers. This needs long term planning.

Final thoughts

I think our citizens (and even people from rest of the world) are misusing petroleum products and this kind of abuse needs to be first controlled via price hikes and then by introducing alternate energy options and technologies to optimize the usage. There is a lot of scope for India to take out those old, fuel inefficient vehicles from our roads. I think the taxation needs to be restructured so that people and families who own more than one vehicle should be taxed more. There can be several other long term steps to improve the overall situation but please remember that at the end of it the petrol will anyhow get exhausted.

And a request to our great politicians who always oppose what the government is trying to implement. If you are really with the people of India, please come up with real practical suggestions to improve the situation. It wouldn’t be too long before you will be stone-pelt by the younger generation for preventing them an opportunity to live in a developed country by 2020.

And my questions to my friends (not the poor) who are earning in thousands and lakhs. How dare you crib about a three rupees rise in petrol while you still prefer to drive to office alone in a 5, 10 or 15 lakh car?. More over I haven’t seen you cribbing while spending 1000 rupees for a dinner or while buying a shirt worth 1500 rupees.

Think long term friends!

European Union model for Asia?

The outgoing President of India, Dr. APJ Abdul Kalam, has been the first citizen with a difference in many ways. Due to his non-political, non-aligned attitude and being somebody from science & technology background, he was always keen on adopting workable technical, political governance models from all around the world for the benefit of the resurgent India. Some of his dreams included the national river-linking project, two-party political model in India and Asia adopting the European Union model. In the past, several intellectuals around the world have debated over the issue of EU model adoption in the Asian context. In this article, let us analyze how EU was evolved and the preparedness of Asia to adopt such a setup.

History of European Union

The present economic-political setup called the European Union, is the culmination of half a century long planning and consolidation of several trade agreements, treaties and alliances initiated by some of the greatest politicians and visionaries in modern Europe. The call for a ‘United States of Europe‘ was arised due to the huge loss of human resource and money during the World War II, that shook many of the European countries badly. However, due to the differences in cultures, medium of communication, differences in economic status and various alliances during the war, it was not possible for all front
runner countries to come together and arrive at common agreements easily. It took almost 40 years to consolidate European Economic Community, European Community, Euratom etc into one single strong community that promoted free trading and boasted the unity of a federal country that has its own currency, president, flag, national anthem and official languages. As a result the countries that fought each other few decades back became strategic trade partners in the new setup that stood for the common cause of strong economic development.

How EU was possible?

Europe had several political, cultural and geographical advantages that made EU practically possible. First of all, most of the countries that were to be part of European Union already had reasonably stabilized economies and living standards. The disparity between member countries were not too obvious which allowed them to take a leap together for faster economic growth.

Secondly, most of the Europe has similar culture when it comes to religious practices etc. Christianity is more or less the only religion there – with one or two countries as exceptions – and hence practically the religion related issues across the board and within the boundaries are minimal (One may remember that, religion has been the single most catastrophic cause behind almost all troubles that human beings are facing in the earth right now).

The third biggest advantage for the Europe was the geographic similarities such as climate and terrain across almost all nations. Also land transportation across national boundaries was so easily possible with well-connected road and rail (Eurorail) networks.

Is Asia ready for similar model?

Coming back to the original topic, let me analyze the key issues that Asia is facing right now due to which an Asian Union is far away from realization.

Economy

Most of the Asian countries were colonies of European nations midway thorough the 20th century. Many of these countries were looted and were destabilized due to the divide-and-conquer policies of the smarter aliens. Due to the same reasons, with one or two exceptions, none of them really scaled up economically even after 30 or 40 years of achieving their freedom. To make things worse, cultural and religious priorities were took prominence over economical independence.

Cultural differences

Asia hosts the largest number of religions and caste system among its countries. There are countries that call themselves as Islamic nations, Hindustans (Hindu prominent nations), Buddhist prominent provinces and Christian countries. There are a lot more religions that play the second roles in each of these countries. Due to these huge cultural differences within the country as well as across the border, maintaining common rules, regulations and peace is relatively a costly affair. To make things worse, reservation systems, separatist movements and terrorism plays its bad roles – that mainly sprouted out of inequality.

Population

Two of the most populous countries are from Asia (To be precise six of the ten most populous nations are in Asia). The challenges thrown up by almost half the population of the world is far from manageable for India and China. Case is not different with other big countries such as Indonesia and Pakistan. Population explosion has put additional burden on the planning process of these nations, that otherwise are doing extremely good with respect to agricultural production, manufacturing and educational/health reforms.

Uneven geography

The Asian terrain is not exactly the best suited for land or sea transportation. Historically we did not have great relationships with our neighbouring countries that road and rail networks building was never given the due priority. Even the sea transportation is not at its best here. However, this is a minor point compared to others and can be worked upon if required.

Unions for different causes

There are several treaties and unions such as ASEAN, SAARC, OPEC etc in the region that stands for cooperation among selected set of countries that are ‘united’ (if you can say so) for a common cause. However, none of them are really pushing towards achieving that accelerated growth and helping each other to solve similar issues.

What’re the possible models?


I strongly believe that a single Asian Union can never become a reality in the near future. However, what can work is two or three unions that are geographically, economically and culturally similar. For example, a West-Asian union and East-Asian union are very much possible. The west Asian countries are mostly oil producing nations that are also culturally similar Islamic nations. It may be good to have a trade union among them that stands for more than oil. Similarly an East or South-East Asian Union between countries like Singapore, Japan, Malaysia, China, South Korea etc would definitely make Asia a strong player such as European Union. However, what is not practically workable at the moment is any association between the spin-offs from old USSR and its neighbouring nations. The case is not different with South Asian (SAARC) countries – there never seems to be any smooth relationship between these nations.

So dearest Kalam, your dream – of uniting Asia for free trading and economic growth – has to wait for a decade or two before it can become a reality. Hopefully by then anti-social activities such as terrorism will come down, huge disparities will cease to exist, economies will surge ahead, and public health/education systems get better throughout Asia.