Monday, October 19, 2015

Idolatory - Muslims and Christians Too are Idolators !!!!!


The Doubt : (received through Whatsapp  Msg.
"[8/10/2015, 3:38 PM] Bahadurbhai: Heara Enakku oru doubtu. You said there is only One God who is the Supreme Truth. Then why are there so many temples for various gods. Somewhere I read there are more than million gods from trees, various animals and human beings and legendary gods with wives and children and gods specific for Tamil speaking Hindus etc. There are also many many arakkans and devathais.  Could you please shed some light on this. I am pretty confused."

ANSWER given  in  the background of current events.

Quran Verse 2:44 , TO THINK .
This verse exhorts to read and think. Now most people do not read their own religious texts. And those who read, the majority of them do not try to evaluate and understand its contents. Most read the scriptures mechanically , thinking  in their mind that it is just another religious obligation. Just read to earn 'Sawaab' for the hereafter.


I can say with surety, majority Hindus in India do not read own   scriptures. Many do not have even the 'basic' texts in their homes. A devotee(of Swamy Chinmayananda)   remembers  that Swami Chinmayananda used to say that 'He has got regular professional listeners.' What he meant was that  during each Gita Yajna(discourse) in a particular place, he sees the same set of listeners, and he felt that they listen without proper understanding. He would have judged them while interacting with  them before and after the Yajna.

If ignorance of  religious texts  is common amongst the Hindus, one can imagine about their political leaders. They are having scant knowledge of their texts. .

In  the great epic Mahabharatha you come across  events, involving meat as sacrificial offeing, a no of times. Meat was distributed as 'prasada' , ie.left-over of sacrificial offerings  and distributed to those who participated in the ancient ritualistic Yajnas.
But finally the Mbh gives the message that if one wants to liberate oneself from the bondage of this world, it is essential that he  abstains from meat-eating. And further, refining of oneself,  means  abstaining from all food, and depend only on water and air. One may make this choice.(the free-will is limited to this extent.)

Further in the Apad-Dharma Parava of MBh, (Chapter 121)a story is told that  the great Sage Viswamithra, ate dog- meat and that too as per the prescribed rituals. Well this action is contextual.(We must use discretionary/discriminative thinking when reading this story). He had done so in the time of extreme adversity in the kingdom. The dog-meat he had tried to steal from the house of a Chandala/Paraya, when the latter was asleep.But the Paraya wakes up, and there is a very interesting conversation between the Paraya and the sage.All these stories point to a time,when learned and thinking men were in charge of our society, and those times our society had prospered well.

NOW consider the   English versions of Quranic verse(cited above) from two translators.

(1)Version Sahih International: "Do you order righteousness of the people and forget yourselves while you recite the Scripture? Then will you not reason?"

(2)Version Muhammad Sarwar: "Would you order people to do good deeds and forget to do them yourselves even though you read the Book? Why do you not think?"

The idea is more or less the same in the two translations. ie One must read (scripture) and  think. Maybe during those times, Scriptures(Jewish & Christian) might  have been the one and only reading source, in the deserts of Arabia, and that too in its urban centres.


Now one must consider how  this valuable bit  of advice was overlooked or  ignored during the time of Prophet Muhammed (PUBH) itself. Is it because of  the competition existing between various groups/communities during that period in that place? (Arabia/Middle-East). Consider Verse 2:213 "Mankind was a single community, then God sent prophets to bring good news and warning (ie good and bad news), and with them He sent the Scripture with the Truth, to judge between people in their disagreements. It was only those to whom  it was given who disagreed  about it after clear signs had come to them, because of rivalry  between them. So by His leave God guided  the believers  to the truth  they had differed about: God guides whoever He will to a straight path."

The Prophet was keen to win  in this competitive environment. And the competing groups consisted of various tribes, eg: Desert Arabs (Verse 9.97), and the Jews, the Christians, and the Sabians.(Verse 9.62). To win over the competition, one copies various ideas and strategies  adopted by the rivals, especially of  those  that are winning or have won. This explains most of the commonalities of  Jewish, Christian and Islamic religions. The second chapter of  Quran  shows that it has borrowed heavily from  Jewish and Christian religious thinking. At the same time leaders also try to highlight  the differences in ideology and conduct, to stress the distinguishing characteristics between various groups. All  these group dynamics had been played out in the Middle-East. It is played out in modern India too. All political parties irrespective of ideology  stress  'development' as their goal. To differentiate themselves, one  talks about a common civil code, the other stress about  secularism & privatization and the third talks about nationalisation of productive assets of the nation.


One amongst the core tenets , which is common to  Jews , Christians and Muslims is the abhorrence of idol worship.How this thinking came to them is steeped in mystery !!!? Was  the Patriarch Abraham or the men(Prophets)after him, trying to distinguish themselves  from the Pagan tribes around them? The wikipedia article about idolatory gives a fairly good 'picture'  of Middle-Eastern thinking  on this matter.


Mixing  Indian version of idolatory with that of  Middle-East is akin to mixing oil and water. First consider the etymology of the word  idolatory as given in wikipedia. . It is related to "image, figure" etc. So the idea and understanding connected with the word in the Middle-East & Europe deteriorates to  image and figure worship. The Sanskrit terms for  "image and figure" is, "bimba, pratima, roopa, chitra" etc. The Sanskrit term for worship is 'aradhana'. And 'idol worship' in Sanskrit is 'Vigraha-aradhana', which is not at all equal or equivalent to  idolatory or idol-worship. One does not use the words Krishna-bimba, Krishna-pratima or Krishna-roopa when refering to figurines used for worship. One only says 'Krishna-vigraha'. The act of worshiping God is called 'Vigraha-aradhana' or 'Vigraha-pooja'  and NOT 'bimba-pooja'  or 'pratima-pooja' or 'roopa-pooja'.

And one of  the meanings (which is prominent )of the term    'Vigraha' is- that which is not easily understood or difficult to understand or conceive. Therefore to aid in our conceptualisation  or imagination or picturization  which develops and advances our learning and understanding,(of any subject) a symbol or figure is made and it initially becomes the object of our contemplation and respectful worship. The inconceivable cannot be worshipped by none, and some reference point(eg. facing the Kaaba) or place is absolutely essential  for worship, thereby showing our reverence to that humanly unimaginable Being. A story illustrating this idea is given in the Brahma Purana, which is considered to be the first out of the eighteen Puranas.


Situations similar to the  conceptual difficulty in imagining the unimaginable (ie. GOD) are encountered during  learning of various subjects , which is solved with the help of scaled down models and drawings. Those who had learned Geography in their school days , must be aware of this. When we hear the word earth, the  picture or image that is most likely to come to our mind will be that of  the miniature globe  on its slanting axis held in  a C-shape bracket on  the staff-table. The continents with nations marked on it in different colors along with the oceans painted in blue  -this image also will spring to the mind. Further to learn and understand  about the earth in a more refined way we draw lines ie. longitudes and lattitudes on it.(the model). This is to learn about time, seasons , etc. And now those who are using Google Maps  will know how this kind of learning and understanding is helping car-taxi drivers in cities.

When we mature in our thinking, if we further dwell on the topic, it strikes us immediately that, in reality the earth is not having any lines drawn on it, it is impossible to draw any such lines on its surface. And we do not consider as having fooled ourselves when we see NASA pictures  of our earth. We know that such practical studies(using the model of the earth) only had helped NASA  in taking the pictures.


We  have heard about the proverb 'that a picture is worth a thousand words'. It also means that picture and words are interchangeable. One may draw a picture using pencil or brush on paper or on a wall. The artist is copying the picture on his mental wall (??)  on to paper or other medium. Similarly  an author is trasferring the picture in his mind to paper or parchment  through words. Thus God is picturised through words in the Sacred Scriptures. Is this not akin to constructing graven images through words ? Thus the Religious Texts thesmselves are forms/idols crafted out of words !!!!  (Why everyone graduated from plain sms to whatsapp ??? Because it can transmit images and videos.  Imagine the same picture or video,  one  conveying through words? The volume of words required will be very huge. ) Images or figurines thus are a great means to convey spiritual and religious ideas. Eg. The cross, the crescent moon, Arabic caligraphy, picture of Kaaba. While constructing a place of worship , say a  Church or Mosque, certain rules  apply. Similarly, well-defined rules are there for the carving or casting of Vigrahas.(eg. stone vigrahas and panchaloka vigrahas) This also serves to express artistic talents of many and also livelihoods to many.

How can anyone deny fundamental human characteristics.? Can anyone insist that human beings should not be hungry , or try to  delibrately snuff out thirst without giving  water ? Can any creed  be obstinate enough to say that men should not sing or dance ? These are all natural to human beings . Mental imaginining is a similar  process in humans which cannot be prevented by any means.  One must consider the image conjured up in the mind when each verse of the Quran is read.

Based on  the Indian thinking on this subject, all Religions practice 'Vigraha-aradhana'. (Buddha had said not to make his statue, but finally Buddhists could not do without it.)

The corollary to  the above idea of  mental imagery,  is that ,'MONOTHEISM' is an untenable idea. The crores of gods in the Hindu pantheon, is the mental image of as many no of people, all trying to reach out and experience God. And thus the infinite  Almighty is conceived/grasped through infinite images/idols. Finally trying to reach the one and only God in their own ways. Who are we to stop them reaching God in their own ways?

My appeal to all,especially youngsters, when you read scriptures read critically and above all
READ  &  THINK !!!!!

Sunday, August 9, 2015

Abandoning The Gold Standard and Printing Currency as they wish (by US and EU) !!!- Another bane of the world.

The widening vortex of global finance

It is fairly well established that the past three decades have witnessed a worldwide growth in inequality. This phenomenon is often evoked in the same breath as the extraordinary salaries and bonuses that financiers pay themselves.

Clearly, financial institutions such as hedge funds and investment banks are able to generate huge profits, which is why they can afford humongous compensation packages. But what exactly is the source of financial profit? And what is the link between rising financial profits and growing inequality of wealth/income?

Before we can answer these questions, it is necessary to contextualise this phenomenon.

First, rising inequality and sky-rocketing financial profits have paralleled the rise of global finance, or “financialization”, which also denotes the growing penetration of real economic activity (to do with generating surplus value) by finance capital.

In his book, T he Everyday Life of Global Finance , the economic geographer, Paul Langley, explains how the common view of global finance as something “out there somewhere” — timeless, spaceless, identified with 24X7 global markets — is fallacious. It is simply not true that finance operates primarily in a rarefied realm of super-specialists far removed from the world of everyday economic activity such as earning, saving and borrowing.

On the contrary, Langley argues, global finance has fundamentally reengineered the ordinary ways we think about and manage money.

Where risk enjoys a good press

Till the generation of say up to the 1980s, the future was conceived as a realm of uncertainty, one that held possible harm, for which one provisioned through savings and insurance. Financialisation is born when uncertainty is quantified into risk. How we frame risk decides what we do with our money.

In Langley’s formulation, if risk is calculated and managed as a future harm that requires prudence in the present, it makes for an approach of thrift. But if it is framed as an opportunity that holds the possibility of immense rewards, it mandates an approach where the most rational form of saving becomes investment.

Therefore, at the ideological level, financialisation entails two manoeuvres: one, the transformation of nebulous uncertainty into quantifiable risk, which is then managed through an array of calculative technologies; two, a shift in the common-sense understanding of risk as something potentially harmful, to something potentially rewarding.

Given that risk is essentially a financial category, the current civilisational obsession with data is another testament to the growing supremacy of finance capital (in alliance with technology), which wants every piece of the world’s data on anything and everything in order to be able to manage risk optimally for maximum returns.

Your PF is not a saving anymore

We are all financial investors today — either directly or via mutual funds or through insurance or pension funds.

The recent move to allow the investment of Employees’ Provident Fund Organisation (EPFO) money in the stock market basically takes the matter out of the individual’s hands. So, it is not just the rich and the middle classes, but the poor too who must become investors, which is why it’s vital to substitute the provision of essential survival goods with cash transfers. It is the logic behind the neo-liberal state’s enthusiasm for so-called financial inclusion through schemes such as the Jan Dhan Yojana, whose bank accounts would presumably channel portions of personal income (wages/cash transfers) to financial markets via schemes such as the Pradhan Mantri Suraksha Bima Yojana and Atal Pension Yojana.

The objective of these so-called social insurance schemes is less to serve as savings to be drawn upon when needed, than as another source of liquidity for the financial markets. Why else would one want to cap premature withdrawals of PF — all too often the only savings for many — at 75 per cent? But it makes perfect sense in the context of the move to invest PF savings in the capital market.

The flipside of ensuring that one cannot save without investing is that one cannot spend without borrowing.

As one of the largest corpuses of workers’ savings, the EPFO is again a good case study: another government proposal — this time to use the future stream of EPFO contributions for housing loan interest payments — heralds the arrival of the already indebted Indian worker as a tradable “security” in the global financial market.

The engine of financialisation

Saving is not the same as investing. Savings are income that is not consumed. Investment is savings converted into capital with the objective of producing profit.

When the aam aadmi ’s saved income, say, in the EPFO, is invested in equity, or when your bank manager asks you to put your savings in a mutual fund rather than in a fixed deposit, or when you take a home loan not because you need shelter but as an investment, you are willy-nilly participating in the logic of global finance — profiting without producing, purely by managing risk.

In plain terms, what financialisation does is to transfer (or spread) the burden of risk from bearers of investment (therefore risky) capital such as banks, or the state, onto the individual worker or household. Even so, when big banks — whose job is risk assessment — mess up, prevailing wisdom mandates that they be bailed out. However, there is no such luck for the common man who will typically have to pay for the mistakes of private financial institutions through higher taxes and less of public amenities.

The extraction of financial profit

In his book, Profiting Without Producing: How Finance Exploits Us All , the Greek economist, Costas Lapavitsas, lists three defining features of a financialising economy: one, a growing distance between non-financial enterprises and banks; two, banks seeking revenue more from financial markets and lending to households than from lending to industry; and three, an increasing interpenetration between streams of personal income and networks of global finance.

All three are evident in India. The business journalist, Vivek Kaul, has written about how, even as overall lending by banks in India has slowed down, home loans have continued to grow at the same pace. Home loans formed 11 per cent of total bank loans given out during the period of one year ending May 2013. For the one-year period ending May 2015, this had jumped to 19.6 per cent of the overall portfolio.

This single phenomenon confirms all of Lapavitsas’s three criteria. An expanding home loan portfolio means banks in India are increasingly looking to future streams of personal income for profits. It also means companies are relying less on bank loans for raising capital, and preferring capital markets. In fact, in the April-June quarter of 2015, fund-raising from the markets by Indian companies stood at Rs.1.73 lakh crore — more than double the corresponding figure for last year. Finally, given that banks raise loanable capital from money markets, a growing inter-connection between financial profit and future earnings of individuals is inevitable.

Given that financialisation is not just an abstract economic phenomenon but has real social consequences, the next question is the one we began with: what is the source of financial profit?

We also know that the source of profit for productive capital is the surplus value created. The source of profit for banking capital is interest, based on the time value of money. But financial profit, such as the millions earned instantly by founders from an initial public offering, or capital gains earned from trading in securities, have nothing to do with value creation. So, where does the profit come from?

Lapavitsas’s answer is that financial profit is ultimately derived from two channels: expropriation of a portion of surplus value generated by productive capital, and expropriation of a portion of personal income earned by workers (as they turn investors/borrowers).

What does this mean for the aam aadmi ? To begin with, a future of rising indebtedness. Faced with an expropriation of profit by finance capital, productive capital can be choosy about investment. But labour does not have the option of desisting indefinitely from employment, which is why in a capitalist society, financial expropriation will ultimately be at the cost of the wage-earning classes, leading to indebtedness.

The debt could take the form of direct, household debt. Figures from the National Sample Survey Office (NSSO) reveal that during 2002-2012, household debt grew by seven times in urban India and by four times in rural India, the bulk of this debt being incurred for essentials such as housing and education.

The debt burden could also be indirect. Here, servicing sovereign debt will take precedence over public investment for development, as is happening with Greece. These debt payments will come from future streams of tax revenue extracted from the working population through a multitude of income-indifferent indirect taxes such as Value Added Tax and Goods and Service Tax.

So, is it at all possible for a lifelong wage-earner to secure, or feel secure about, her post-employment future in a financialised world where savings lose value unless they become finance capital? And, which in turn, holds the ever-present threat of losses on account of the risks inherent in investment? Perhaps not. This may explain why our age is often described as “the risk society”.

The flipside of ensuring that one cannot save without investing is that one cannot spend without borrowing.

The recent move to allow the investment of provident fund money in the stock market basically takes the matter out of the individual’s hands. So, it is not just the rich and the middle classes, but the poor too who must become investors

Monday, August 3, 2015


A good article about what ails the world. But Christian ideology offers no solutions.

Valerian Rodrigues
In the short span of two years of his papacy, Pope Francis has attempted to reform the archaic institutional layout of the Catholic Church that he heads, has striven to promote inter-religious dialogue, and has taken a stand on a set of key social concerns. What is likely to be the impact of these initiatives, and how will they affect the different constituencies they are addressed to?

Among the social issues addressed by him, these could be considered significant: the treatment meted out to gay and lesbian members of the Church, the role that money and profit-seeking have come to play in human relations, growing income inequalities in societies, environmental degradation and climate change, urban growth and the marginalisation it begets in its wake, the approach of the developed world to the refugee problem, the rise of youth unemployment, poverty and exclusion, ideological ghettoes and corruption in public life. The relationships among LGBTQ groups had no place within the Catholic Church, and, socially, they suffered much ostracism. While the Church has not come forward to formally accord sanction to such relations, the Pope has called for respecting, on grounds of human dignity, the choice that persons belonging to these groups make.

Subjection and dignity

The near collapse of all human urges to consumer culture, he feels, tends to undermine all human values. The economic system in place has eroded economic opportunities to the poor and their life chances. The Pope has tended to link environmental degradation with migration, new modes of slavery, human trafficking and shanty urban growth. As a result, millions of people have been forced to leave their hearth and home for crowded inhuman peri-urban growth. The uncurtailed growth of cities is leading to shanty towns and slums on their peripheries. Conspicuous consumption has led to the depletion of fossil fuels and resulting in adverse climate change. He has denounced the measly treatment extended by the developed world to refugees fleeing their land due to natural and human tragedies. It is not uncommon that boats that transport such asylum seekers are being pushed back into the sea, and all such exodus being subjected to intense surveillance.

The Pope feels that some of the ideological frames advanced in certain parts of the world in the name of freedom beget new modes of subjection. Corruption in public life is a widespread malaise particularly in the non-European world that denies people what is rightly their due. Rampant youth unemployment is a mode of humiliation heaped on them, and the kind of labour that a large number of people are being subjected to make their lives meaningless. On the other hand, there is a massive concentration of wealth in a few hands and conspicuous consumption which the Pope has described as “immoral”. There is one intimate link across all these issues. They are an affront to human dignity. According to him, “putting bread on the table, putting a roof over the heads of one’s children, giving them health and education, these are essential for human dignity”. But he also sees these concerns as being deeply bound with man’s relation to nature, and merely to the here and now.

Significance of religion

The Pope has felt that faith is an integral element of human striving expressed through several religious persuasions. This emphasis on the larger significance of religion in human life has drawn much support personally to this Pope from diverse religious denominations. In Lumen Fidei , his first encyclical, he speaks of the loss of meaning and purpose that a person suffers from in a consumer society. There is not much to strive for after beyond the humdrum of day-to-day life.

Given the role that religions play as bridgeheads to the beyond, paying insult to a religion is a way of humiliating the followers of that religion. One does not have the right to offend and ridicule the faith of others in the name of freedom of religion. Along with Muslim religious leaders he has condemned the satirical depiction of the prophet in the Charlie Hebdo case. At the same time he has denounced the killing of people in the name of religion, and called upon other religious leaders to condemn the same. He has argued that Islam is a religion of peace, compatible with a respect for human rights and peaceful coexistence, and has declared as unacceptable, attempts to isolate Muslims by suspecting them for inciting terror and violence. At the same time he has felt that religious belief should not be abused in the cause of violence and war. In his public appearances, inter-religious dialogue has been a recurrent theme.

In January 2015, when he spoke at the Inter-religious and Ecumenical Gathering at the Bandaranaike Memorial International Conference Hall in Colombo, he argued for “full and forthright presentation” of the convictions of different faiths. While there will necessarily be a variety of religious convictions, honest and transparent expression of the same would bring out what unites and divides the believers. He feels that there are adequate resources in each religion in favour of peace and coexistence. While defending religious freedom, he has denounced fanaticism and religious fundamentalism.

Reforms as challenge

It is over the institutional reforms within the Church that he faces some of his biggest challenges. The labyrinthine corridors of Church offices and Papal bureaucracy are replete with vested interests of all kind, and such has been the case for long. The monarchical design of papal administration has little built-in transparency and accountability. Patronage and clientelism are widespread under the sacral canopy. There have been recurrent financial scandals at the Vatican. Recruits from Italy have dominated offices and positions that govern the Church worldwide. The vow of celibacy that binds the Catholic clergy has led to much abuse including child abuse. The Pope has taken some initiatives on this front, by bringing in new personnel, by convening the College of Cardinals as a body to oversee and elicit accountability, and by taking a few measures to strengthen the synod system. But the institutional leviathan side of the Church is little geared yet to imbibe the exhortation of the Pope two years ago at the conclave that elected him: “The Church is sick and it is closed on itself. It needs to go to the peripheries and risk everything for the shunned and marginalized.”

Behind the initiatives

How does one explain these initiatives? Where is the motivation and justification for these initiatives drawn from? The Pope is not a votary of the liberation theology as it is understood generally. While he has admitted even before he became the Pope, as Cardinal Jorge Mario Bergoglio, that many Marxists display exemplary commitment, he has publicly said that Marxist ideology is wrong. He has not favoured the socialist upsurge in Latin American countries in recent years while condemning authoritarianism and dictatorships. In fact he feels that Marxists have stolen the flag of Christianity, the poor.

Some of the initiatives of the Pope can be explained from his own personal experiences — the situation the Church confronts in Argentina where he was a church functionary for decades, and particularly the legacy of the Society of Jesus of which he is a member. He has the reputation of opposing dictatorial rule resolutely in his own country. Even as a Cardinal, he is supposed to have opted for public transport, lived in a small apartment, and cooked his own food. As Pope, he opted to stay at a guesthouse, ‘Domus Sanctae Marthae’, at the Vatican, than at the Apostolic Palace. The anointed ring that he wears is made of silver rather than gold.

These symbolic options can be explained through certain resources available in Christian teaching, i.e., option for the poor, as exemplified in such exhortations as the Sermon on the Mount, which appealed to Mahatma Gandhi immensely. When, as Pope, Cardinal Bergoglio assumed the name of Francis, such partisanship is reflected. Francis of Assisi, a 12th century saint, is known to have dedicated himself to the poor, the sick and the afflicted.

A place for the Church

But the wider context which calls for these initiatives is not less noteworthy. More and more people have deserted the Church in recent decades. In fact, today, church attendance in Europe is at its lowest ebb. There have been new and rival churches on the rise such as the Pentecostals. Very few people look up to a Catholic priest as an exemplar. At the most his role is confined to certain rituals. The intellectual role that the Church once played as well as the academic discipline of theology is increasingly dominated by lay scholars. The Catholic churches generally possess abundant resources in land, buildings and antiques as part of their inheritance. In fact one of the first steps that Pope Francis took after assuming papacy was to sell the shares of banks held by the Vatican and make it a mere account holder.

However, there is a much more serious reason for this initiative. While the developed world can still offer avenues for scientific, literary and humanistic pursuits, and has room for entrepreneurship, questions are being raised increasingly whether it is all there worth striving for. The kind of consumer citizenship that the market promotes leaves little room to pursue dreams and objectives other than commodities. Human concerns come to be narrowly circumscribed. Competitive politics generally revolves around the mundane and the here and now. In this context, there are many who feel that there is a dimension of the human to seek the beyond that has been wholly set aside by the existing state of affairs. Seeking the beyond could also be linking oneself with the other, particularly the deprived other. Pope Francis seeks to insert the Church into this new-found ethical and religious craving. He also probably feels that religious persuasions and particularly the Church should play this role. But can they?

The social issues the Pope has raised are already a part of public reason worldwide. Whether policymakers are going to take the concerns expressed by the Pope seriously or not depends on several factors. Being persuaded by his concern may not be a significant factor in this regard.

The Church enjoys little moral status in many societies today where it was once the dominant voice. There are other voices in society which can claim to play this role, and rightly so. The papal bureaucracy, with its 800-year history, is little prepared to loosen its grip over significant issues, short of a radical overall. Church interests have been caught with capital, power and order for far too long, and there is already a conservative backslide against many of the initiatives of the Pope. Therefore, will he just end up being “the voice crying in the wilderness”?

(Valerian Rodrigues is ICSSR National Fellow at Mangalore University and formerly Professor of Political Science at Jawaharlal Nehru University, New Delhi.)

The Pope has argued that Islam is a religion of peace, compatible with a respect for human rights and peaceful coexistence, and declared as unacceptable, attempts to isolate Muslims suspecting them for terror and violence.

Pope Francis is seeking to find a place for the Church in a materialistic and market-oriented world where there is a new-found ethical and religious craving

Monday, June 29, 2015

Concerns over risk in Algorithm trading - Technology Boon or Bane ?

Financial regulators are alarmed by the increasing clout of algorithm trading or high frequency trading (HFT) and fear that it could result in a systemic failure.

 The Financial Stability Report (FSR) June 2015, released last week, aired serious concerns on algorithm trading or algo trading leading to stock price manipulation as well as alienate retail or small investor from stock markets.

 The report is a collective assessment of a sub-committee of the Financial Stability and Development Council, which includes all financial market regulators. Interestingly, the reports in the past have also emphasised the risks involved with HFT.

 While volumes have increased sharply in the cash segment of stock markets in India, there is a concern whether markets could be rigged through these trades. Algo trading has undergone a substantial change with the development in information processing and communications technologies over the last two to three decades.

 Algo trading was introduced in India in April 2008 with the advent of direct market access (DMA).

Though these trades are monitored by the Securities and Exchange Board of India (SEBI), which is mandated to protect the interests of small investors, the FSR report expressed apprehensions that they could result in market manipulation.

 “The increased complexities of algorithm coding and reduction in latency due to faster communication platforms needs focussed monitoring as they may pose risks in the form of increased possibilities of error trades and market manipulation,” FSR report released this week noted.

The report also pointed fingers at certain instances of abnormal market movements in Indian stocks which have been attributed, by market experts, to algo trading/HFT.

Close watch

SEBI keeps a close watch on the developments to formulate appropriate policies based on recommendation by the Senior Supervisors Group (SSG), a group of 10 supervisors which issued a report on April 30, 2015 that assesses risks associated with algorithmic trading.

The increasing volume of algo trades/HFT and their attendant risks have forced regulators the world over to have a closer look at gaps in the existing regulations and explore ways of strengthening them.

The global debate on this issue was triggered by Michael Lewis’s best-selling book,  Flash boys: A Wall Street Revolt,  published in March last year, which discusses the rise of high frequency trading in U.S. equity markets and argues that the U.S. equity markets are rigged by the HFT traders.

“The debate over whether algo trading is good or intrinsically bad is a philosophical divide that is now becoming universal.

“The key is to check whether the system is being abused as a manipulative device or an innovation. The truth lies in between,” says Somasekhar Sundaresan, Partner, J. Sagar Associates, advocates & solicitors. According to him “every system is capable of manipulation.”

 The algo trading system too has the capacity of being harnessed for the betterment of the market with greater liquidity, finer spreads and less volatility, says Mr. Sundaresan, adding, “the new technology needs to be embraced and harnessed for prevention of abuse rather than be shunned for fear of the unknown.”

 However, the moot question remains whether Indian markets are matured enough to embrace algo or high frequency trades?

While huge institutional investors will be able to take advantage of arbitrage of micro and nano-seconds, by engaging in high frequency trades, the interest of retail investors could be jeopardised.

While huge institutional investors will be able to take advantage of arbitrage of micro and nano-seconds, by engaging in high frequency trades, the interest of retail investors could be jeopardised

Friday, June 26, 2015

WORK -When too much is not enough


"I recently had a telephone call from the CEO of a $5 billion company who has travelled four to five days a week for many years. She sounded exhausted.

“When times get tough,” she told me, “the only way I’ve ever known is to muscle through. I just can’t do it anymore. I’ve hit bottom. The problem is that I’ve been numb for so long, I’m honestly not sure if I can find my way back to a sane life.”

A week before that I had led a session in Europe at a large multinational company for a senior team whose members were eager to find a solution to the sense of being overwhelmed that they and their employees were feeling. The session began at 7:30 a.m., at their request.

One week before that I spent a day shadowing a senior leader at a Fortune 150 company. It began with a business review that he conducted with one of his subordinates and two other colleagues. The meeting ran for four hours without a single break, even to go the bathroom. That wasn’t unusual – it’s simply the way this leader works.

I could go on. The demands of work for employees, at multiple levels and across multiple industries, have become untenable.

Several recent reports in The New York Times have called attention to this, including one about the effects of long hours on Wall Street. Another described a recent study of the insidious effects of a 24/7 work culture on families and especially on women’s career prospects.

There is a simple word for this way of working: It’s inhumane.

White-collar employees working at higher-salary jobs plainly have it better, but that’s grading on a curve. They’re being paid six-figure or seven-figure incomes – but, if they are working 60, 70, 80 or even 90 hours a week, what is the toll on their quality of life – and, ultimately, on the quality of their work?

It isn’t realistic to attempt to build sustainably high-performing companies by way of unsustainable work practices. Meeting people’s core needs, rather than simply trying to squeeze more out of them, is what makes it possible for them to work more effectively.

When people work an excessive number of hours, they devolve from a higher state of capability and consciousness to a more primitive, reactive one. Fatigue, as Vince Lombardi so accurately observed, makes cowards of us all.

Fear is the primary driver of this crisis. Public companies are terrified of being outflanked by competitors, failing to meet their quarterly targets and watching helplessly as their stocks are pummeled by impatient investors. Leaders and managers live in fear of not delivering their numbers and losing their jobs, and as a result constantly look for ways to cut expenses and head counts, which puts ever more pressure on their employees to do more with fewer resources.

It’s a vicious, accelerating cycle that serves no one well.

None of this is new. What has changed is the intensity and relentlessness of the pressure, supercharged by digital life and a global economy that extends the once-finite working day to all hours of the day and night.

Employees have their rhythms set by the same technology that was invented to make their lives easier and free their time. Computers not only operate at high speeds for hours on end, but also run multiple programs at the same time. We try gamely to keep up, but it’s a Sisyphean challenge and we’re doomed to fall behind.

Human beings are designed to pulse between expending and renewing energy, and neither is sufficient by itself. In a culture of overwork, we fear that any time off will be seen as evidence that we’re slacking – and that we’ll fall further behind in our work.

Slack, I learned while attending a “Conscious Capitalism” conference in New York, actually is a potential competitive advantage. Zeynep Ton, a professor at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology in Cambridge, shared her fascinating research into high-performing retailers. The single most important factor, she concluded, was “slack” – the degree to which companies put more employees, rather than fewer ones, on the floor at any given time.

Employees operating with some slack, Ton explained, add value that those pushed to the limit cannot. They feel better, have more time to spend with customers, keep closer track of inventory, make fewer mistakes and feel more highly engaged and committed at work.

Instead, too many fear-driven employers operate from a perspective that is narrow, shallow and short term. They fail to see that encouraging employees to renew intermittently during the day not only helps them to rest and refuel, but also lets them step back, reflect and prioritize.

After years of studying great performers across a wide range of fields, the researcher K. Anders Ericsson concluded that the optimal amount of time to devote to highly focused work is no more than 4.5 hours a day. He also found that any given period of work should be limited to no more than 90 minutes, followed by a period of rest.

In short, we perform better when we’re truly rested, whether that means by getting a sufficient night’s sleep or by renewing throughout a day. Great athletes consciously manage their work-rest ratios to ensure that they are at their best when they are actually performing. It’s called periodisation. We must do the same to perform at our best.

The culture of overwork is slowly killing us. What will it take for companies to recognise that humanity, simply caring about people, is a huge competitive advantage? "

(Tony Schwartz is the chief executive of The Energy Project.)

© 2015 The New York Times

Employees operating with some slack add value that those pushed to the limit cannot. They feel better, have more time to spend with customers, keep closer track of inventory, make fewer mistakes and feel more highly engaged and committed at work.

Friday, June 19, 2015

Uncovered: Pandyas-Romans trade link

An excavation in Keezhadi, Sivaganga district, has thrown up a wealth of information on the floruishing Pandya trade with the west.

An ongoing excavation of a Sangam period habitation by the Archaeological Survey of India (ASI) is poised to throw more light on the flourishing trade of the Pandyas with the west and their rich culture, which was the envy of the Romans.

The Bengaluru-based Excavation Branch VI of the ASI has taken up the excavation at Keezhadi village, 12 km south east of Madurai, in Sivaganga district.

Into the third month, the exercise has already thrown up very interesting antiquities – glass/pearl/terracotta beads; terracotta figurines; grooved roof tiles and early historic pottery.

“This is the ASI’s major excavation in Tamil Nadu after Adichanallur,” says K. Amarnath Ramakrishnan, Superintending Archaeologist and director of the current excavation.

It was found to possess archaeological wealth “that may provide crucial evidence to understand the missing links of Iron Age to early historic period and subsequent cultural developments.”

The excavation area, a mound, referred to as ‘Pallichandai Thidal,’ has a circumference of 3.5 km and spans 80 acres. It is contiguous to ancient settlements like Konthagai and Manalur. “We chose the mound raising about one to 2.5 metres above the ground level as it is relatively undisturbed,” says Mr. Amarnath. “We have found the finest variety of black and red ware bowls at the site,” says M. Rajesh, assistant archaeologist.

The most interesting findings in the 32 quadrants dug up so far are the damaged brick structures, including walls. The bricks are unique to early historic period and they measure 33 cm in length, 21 cm in breadth and five cm in height.

Noted epigraphist and domain expert for the excavation, V. Vedachalam, attributes the age of the remains to third century BCE to third CE. “The earthenware contains Tamil Brahmi script. The black and red pottery belongs to the Sangam period. The bricks belong to early historic period and similar ones were found in Kaviripoompattinam, Woriyur, Alagankulam and Korkai,” he says.

The Roman ware found at the site supplement the historical references to a flourishing trade between the Pandya kingdom and the Roman Empire. Historically, these settlements would have been part of Kuntidevi Chaturvedimangalam, named after a Pandya queen.

The first major excavation of a habitation undertaken by the ASI in south Tamil Nadu will go into 2016. “The Director (Exploration and Excavation), ASI, Syed Jamal Hasan, who visited the site on May 15, was impressed with the findings,” says Mr. Amarnath.

The ASI is likely to extend the period of excavation by a year. The final report will be released after corroborating the antiquities with existing evidence and conducting various scientific analyses.

Research scholars from the University of Madras and Government Arts College, Krishnagiri, assist the ASI team in the excavation.