Swacch Bharat Campaign

Gandhi ji Gandhi ji said cleanliness is next to godliness. He inspired his followers by picking up the broom and leading the cleanliness effort. Prime Minister Modi is taking the same course of action. In this day and age where Indians have started thinking getting their hands dirty to do basic cleanliness chores  is beneath their dignity, here is a Prime Minister who is not hesitating to do it himself.

It is a shame that a country that is aiming to become a global power, the citizens are not willing to do their bit for keeping the country clean. When each citizen in the country is messing it up, then it becomes each citizen’s duty to maintain civic sense and keep the country clean.

Government schemes itself are insufficient and government can only do so much. For all the funding provided for various social welfare schemes, 50% of it did not reach the entitled beneficiaries. In respect to sanitation, the schemes effectiveness was just 36%. Hence, the public has to ensure that funds are not wasted, and are utilized effectively. They have to take ownership of the areas in their neighbourhood to ensure cleanliness.

Clean public areas reduce environmental and health risks. With cleaner environments, the likelihood of various viruses and diseases transmitting through air and water reduce. Hence, everyone gains by ensuring cleanliness.

Here are a few suggestions on organizing cleanliness drives in public areas:

  • Choose a road, park, or field that requires cleaning and is a complete eyesore.
  • Form a group on the social networks for your neighbourhood and societies.
  • Contact your local government municipal authorities to find out about their plans and efforts, and seek their cooperation.
  • Select a weekend morning; organize brooms, garbage bags, and cleaning gloves for everyone.
  • Intimate everyone, reach the allotted location, and collect all the garbage.
  • Get the local municipality garbage truck to pick up the garbage bags.

You can also talk to your organization’s Corporate Social Responsibility team  to start these efforts near the office areas, markets and customers. You can take sponsorship from organizations to lead the effort. If you are a young employee, this is a good way to learn project management and leadership skills.

Now cleaning up a locality might not sound the best way to spend a Sunday morning. But trust me, I have done it and it is a great way to meet new people. When one meets new people in conferences and restaurants, one is always putting up an appearance. However, when one is picking up garbage, one can actually understand the person fast because the conversations are real and down to earth. It is a good way to make some real friends.

Another plus is that after a couple of hours of hard work, one has burnt a few calories without going to the gym and can have a good breakfast without the guilt. If you start early, you will also see the sunrise.

Above all, you have done a great service to the nation and contributed your bit to keep India clean.  From all angles, it has a whole lot of positives.

Indians, make India the cleanest country in the world. As Prime Minister Modi said, if we contribute a couple of hours each week, we can do it. Make India Proud.

Wishing all my readers a very happy

Gandhi Jayanti. Let us support our

Prime Minister to make Swacch

Bharat Campaign successful


The LGBT Sandwich

Lettuce, grated cheese, bread, and turkey make a delicious sandwich. Unfortunately, Supreme Court of India has ordered LGBTs to cold turkey their sexual activities; else, they will face criminal prosecution. The poor souls are sandwiched between the Delhi High Court order that liberated them four years back and the Supreme Court latest order banishing them into dark ages. Maybe banning judges from issuing judgments on the last day of service that impact nearly 10% of the nation’s population would benefit. Can India in this day and age declare 12 million Indians as potential criminals because of sexual preferences?

1.  Is it a Sin?

If God created humans, then why did he create LGBTs if they are supposedly immoral? Do we say a person is evil because he has one blue eye and one black eye? Are differently abled people born criminals? In the worst-case scenario, one can say LGBTs are sexually differently abled. No, I am not propagating this viewpoint. There is nothing wrong with LGBTs physically, morally or intellectually. They are as normal as heterosexuals are. Heterosexuals’ intolerant attitude towards homosexuals is wrong.

Heterosexuals must stop blaming the victim under the guise of religion. In ancient India LGBTs were part of the mainstream population and respected. For instance, in Mahabharata, Arjun dresses up as a woman for one year to disguise himself. Amba, whom Bhishma refused to marry, is reborn as Shikhandini. She exchanged her sex with a Yaksha who wanted to be a female, to punish Bhishma for rejecting her in the previous birth. Lord Shiva’s one form is of Ardhanarishvara – meaning the lord who is half woman. In one story, Lord Vishnu becomes Mohini, has sexual relationship with Lord Shiva and has children from him.

The Ottoman Empire funded Islam propagation in Middle East from the 13th century. It decriminalized homosexuality during Tanzimat period (1839-76). In Persia, homosexuality and homoerotic expressions were accepted in public places. Male houses of prostitution were legally recognized and paid taxes. (1501-1723)

Hence, how can it be possible when the same religions are being followed from middle ages, previously homosexuality was an acceptable act, and now in 21st century it becomes a criminal act?

Section 377 was imposed by the British Raj in India in 1857 to stop the British homosexuals fleeing to India. Now the western world has accepted homosexuality and Indian politicians are propagating repressive policy to meet their political ambitions. As usual, they have got it backwards.

2.  It is torture?

In my teens, I turned rather precocious. When my father and I went out, I checked out guys on the road.

When dad noticed my behaviour, he was horrified. Here is the conversation that followed:

Dad: What are you doing Sonia?

Irrepressible me: My eyes turn sore from studying, I am checking out eye candies to relax them.

Aghast dad: Your sister would never do such a thing.

Brazen me: Yeah, isn’t she a duh. What a waste of good looks!

Horrified dad: Your mom….

Unfazed me: If I had mom’s looks, I could get into so much trouble.

After a few weeks, dad found a practical solution to my problem. Whenever we went out, I was driving and he sat in the front seat, looking around. When I asked him why, he responded – “Health issues, heart problem, doctors told me to reduce stress.” Meow!

Every heterosexual child has a similar story to tell. As the child becomes an adolescent, parents try to gear their emotions, desires, and social behaviour according to the cultural norms of the society. The heterosexual adolescent runs to his/her parents for solace when facing the first heartbreak and rejection.

In contrast, see the nightmare an adolescent faces when s/he realizes that they are attracted to the same sex and not the customary opposite sex. Erik Erikson, the world-renowned psychologist developed the eight stages of psychological identity development model. According to him, between the age of 13-19 years, adolescents address the questions – “Who am I? What can I be?” through social relationships. This is the stage of developing one’s own identity and if a person is unable to do so, they live with role confusion during adult age. Between 20-39 years, an adult addresses the question – “Can I love?” through romantic relationships. During this stage, a person forms intimate relationships or if s/he is unable to answer the question, lives an isolated life.

An LGBT teenager learns to attach shame and guilt for their sexual desires. The teenagers realize that if they confide in their parents, they might reject them. Their friends will socially isolate and ridicule them, their teachers will rusticate them from school, and outsiders will exploit them. The intolerant society gives them a gag order for life. The children have no adult or peer to talk to and have to live through this nightmare all alone.

As an adult, LGBTs realize that they are capable of becoming celebrated artists, musicians, philosophers, scientists, corporate leaders and sports person as long as they are willing to live a lie. With their capabilities and talent, they can earn power, fame, and money. However, they don’t have the right to hold hands of a person they love. The heterosexuals have taken their right to live a happy and fulfilling life.

Heterosexuals don’t need to put homosexuals behind bars as criminals. They have already chained them for life and prescribed them extreme psychological torture. In desperation, they join social groups, religious orders and change countries to get social acceptance and a well-defined identity. Some fervently pray to God for mercy, some turn atheists. Others in anger wish to punish heterosexuals in the same way. They want to hurt the opposite gender for making them feel inadequate. The ultimate revengeful desire would be to make heterosexuals face social rejection and isolation, to show them the torturous lives homosexuals have to live.

Unfortunately, humans are geared towards blaming the victim. In rape cases, the woman is blamed – why did she go out, why was she walking alone of the road, why was she wearing a revealing dress? Humans tend to blame others for their misfortunes, because they wish to live in a predictable world and protect themselves from feeling personally threatened. The idea behind is to tell ourselves that if we take care of ourselves, things will work out reasonably well and our world will be safe. Another woman can’t accept the fact that she escaped being a rape victim by sheer luck and she has no control on the external threat. Similarly, heterosexuals can’t accept that they are so because of sheer luck, and they could easily be homosexuals. There is still no concrete evidence that nature or nurture turns a person into a homosexual.

As we say in case of women equality, that we need men to come forward and change the thinking of other men, women alone can’t fight for equality. We need to take a similar stance for LGBTs. Heterosexuals need to come forward and embrace the cause of LGBTs equality. All that LGBTs are looking for is social acceptance. Why not give it to them?

3.   Organizations role

A decade back, I was working in Intel. One day my boss asked me to check LGBT policies as she needed to find a solution to a small issue. Stunned, I asked – “Which policies?” I had never read an organization’s LGBT policies in my career. Amused at my cluelessness, she gave me the intranet site name.

I was impressed with the site. Intel as usual had dealt with a difficult topic humanely, sensitively, openly and constructively. The introduction of the site was written by one of the heads of chip design division, a lesbian lady. She narrated her story of coming out, the stigma and social rejection she faced in her life, and what heterosexuals need to do the make LGBTs feel part of the organization. There were other similar mind-blowing stories. Additionally, a lot of reading material, policies, and guidance notes were available on the site to educate the employees.

Think would a customer refuse to purchase an Intel laptop because a division headed by a lesbian developed the processing speed. Our response would be – “Who cares, we want fast machines”. Exactly, we shouldn’t be concerned!

Closing thoughts

Indian Government and politicians need to move out of the bedroom of consenting adults. The Indian police are unable to manage and solve rape cases, and now it wishes to deal with the whole LGBT population as criminals. Hitler and Stalin ordered the death of millions to cleanse the population. Is the stance of government to treat LGBTs as criminals any better? Intolerance and disrespect are the main reasons for anger, hatred, and violence in the world. Heterosexuals show intolerance and disrespect every day to LGBTs. Let us collectively weave them in the social fabric of our lives and culture.

Role of Cheering Crowd in Unethical Activities


A circus joker does crazy acts with the crowd laughing and cheering him on. When a person breaks the social norms on the streets, the public considers him crazy. If he is sane and rational he will get back to normal socially acceptable behavior in no time. The response of the crowd gives feedback on the appropriateness of the act.

Similarly, when a person behaves unethically or inappropriately, the encouragement and support he receives from the crowd determines how far he will go. The crowd’s reaction decides the extent of the crime, however, the crowd is never held responsible, and the individual is.

Notice the current trend. Pop divas dance nude in videos. It is naked dance of vulgarity and obscenity, passed off as art. Obviously, singers don’t sound melodious with their clothes on! Audiences react in three ways. Some relish it and indulge their baser instincts. Most have become desensitized to it and stopped questioning it. Lastly, a few consider it vulgar and avoid it. If the last category diminishes, soon only the so-called unsophisticated will sing and dance clothed. So how does one affix responsibility of the crowd?

Let us consider another example. A man is standing on the top of a cliff, planning to jump into a river flowing 100 feet below. There is a group spurring him on, saying – “Bravo man, do it.” Two of his friends hold on two his sleeve and say – “Man, don’t do it, not worth the risk.” The man thinks his two friends were spoil sports, while others were actually his friends. He never thought that there might be people in the supporting group, wishing him dead or laughing at him. The man in the heightened state of excitement, with adrenaline flowing high leaps into the river and dies. Now will the legal system define this as murder?

It applies in the business scenario too. CEOs get top billings for churning out high growth numbers. The media praises them sky-high without delving deeply into the methods used to achieve the numbers. The employees, investors and public drive the CEOs to take bigger and bigger risks, bend more rules, be more inhuman. The CEOs see the crowds rooting for another and want the same accolade. Cheating, breaking the law, doing unethical activities seem a small price to pay to get public honour and acknowledgement. . No one stops him, tells him that he is doing something wrong; he only sees ardent admiration. Then the bubble bursts, the CEO is caught and the public vanishes overnight. The employees, media, public, and investors escape with no responsibility for motivating a person to behave unethically. The CEO spends time in prison. Should the legal system prosecute the crowd?

The power of the crowd is incredible. The support of the crowd decides the course of history, good and bad, be it Indian independence struggle or the holocaust.  The decision of the crowd is based on culture and values of the society or organization. The crowd without good cultural and ethical values will probably support wrong things. As Confucius says: –

“Guide them with policies and align them with punishments and the people will evade them and have no shame. Guide them with virtue (de) and align them with culture and the people will have a sense of shame and fulfill their roles.”

From industrial age, organizations focus on the western concept of putting processes and procedures in place. The mechanism for compliance is reward and punishment systems. Just a few organizations have invested in building a good organization culture on ethical values. It holds true for families. Parents manipulate a child’s behavior through reward and punishment, without teaching core values. Without the education to build the moral compass within the organization and in the society, people cannot be expected to support the right causes and actions. Hence, one can opine that the crowd is blameless because they know no better.

This argument can be further propagated by the current state of social values. Every person is striving to be recognized, by whatever means possible. Paris Hilton gets more coverage in media than all sages in India. The problem is that people cannot recognize true merit in others and are obsessed about others acknowledging their merit. It is a situation of ‘garbage in, garbage out’ in human thoughts. Hence, education becomes the key to change the voice of the crowd.

Closing Thoughts

Replace obedience as a virtue with critical thinking in raising children, establishing cultural values in society and organizations. Obedience hampers the ability to differentiate between right and wrong. It develops traits to go along with the crowd rather than stand apart and hold ground. Critical thinking must become a mandatory course in schools, colleges, and organizations. Focus on it, and the crowd will start making better decisions in all aspects of life.

India Inc. – Say Hello to Corporate Social Responsibility

The Lok Shabha approved the new Companies Bill and now it is pending with Rajya Sabha. After approval, companies will need to implement the new Sec 135 on Corporate Social Responsibility. The section applies to companies having:

a)     A net worth of Rs 500 crore or more, or

b)      A turnover of Rs 1000 crore or more, or

c)      A net profit of Rs 5 crore or more, during the financial year.

The company needs to form a Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) Committee at board level of three or more directors, of which at least one should be independent. The board has to ensure that the company spends at least 2% of net profits on CSR. The clause specifies the requirement of “comply or explain”. If the company does not adhere to the requirement, it has to explain the reason for doing so.

With the last quarter of the Indian companies, they need to plan the activities for the next financial year. Here are a few of the things that they can do now:

1.     Hire a dedicated team

 Most Indian corporates do CSR activities in an arbitrary manner with responsibility either falling in Communications department or Administration department. CSR is a specialised line that requires people with altruistic temperament well versed with the problems of the society.

2.     Develop a CSR policy

 The organization requires a CSR policy approved by the board along with the budgets. Reports suggest that social responsibility adds to the brand value of the company and improves customer perceptions about the products. In view of this, the CSR policy should be long-term and aligned to the business objectives. For example, financial services sector has high risk of fraud. Hence, it can think of sponsoring fraud prevention and business ethics training, which is in short supply in India.

3.     Identify the right partners

 Corruption has influenced non-profit organizations also. As per media reports, a number of organizations opened prima facie for doing social work are actually acting as fronts to collect illicit money and route it into different areas. Hence, choosing the right partners who are actually committed to doing social good is important.

Closing thoughts

 Besides the external benefits, CSR improves employee engagements. Employees feel good when their companies act in a socially responsible manner. Moreover, with the mad rush to achieve targets this acts as a great stress buster while giving meaning to live. Getting a bigger pay packet can be an objective but never the purpose of life. Hence, this law is a win-win situation for all involved – the customers, employees and public. It is up to us how we leverage it.

A Book Review: Bullshit Quotient

Enter the competition below to win the book.

Ranjeev Dubey’s recently published book “Bullshit Quotient” (I am literary correct, and haven’t resorted to swearing on my blog) pulls the wool from the eyes. The lines in the introduction pages are – “Absurdly, in our cultural fabric, spotting the little lie is a skill called wisdom; spotting the big one is a sin called cynicism”. Hopeful idealists, who believe the world will become a better place to live, will be disillusioned and disheartened reading this book. The jaded cynics will find it provocative, amusing and ruthless. If you are willing to get your rose-tinted glasses peeled off, then read this book.

Ranjeev, an attorney by profession, wrote this diatribe on Indian corporate, legal and social world to call a spade a spade. It is rare in India, that an author chooses brutal honesty over the delicate footwork of political correctness and diplomacy. Below are my three main takeaways from the book.

1.      The Cost of Economic Growth

Fittingly, Ranjeev has narrated the excessive cost of industrialization paid by economically backward and tribal communities (Adivasis) of India. Government on the pretext of acquiring land for development, irrigation etc. has made millions homeless. Without farming land and an education, these poor people have become slum dwellers in cities, and do menial tasks to make a meagre living. Those outraged by the injustice meted out to them, have joined Naxalite groups and terrorist organizations. Their anger has led them to a path of self-destruction, as after a couple of years they are either shot down in a police encounter or spend their life in prison. The urban class is completely apathetic to their plight,  as they are focused on catering to their latest self-indulgence.

Nearly one-third of Indians live below poverty line, and India cannot become a powerful nation unless these poor people start earning  a reasonable standard of living. Two big ones are required to change the situation. The anarchic land acquisition act needs to modified to give a fair price to land owners. Political will has to be strong to re-locate the displaced people.

2.      Dependence of Independent Directors

Ranjeev has raised the same question as I did before – Are the independent directors really independent. Ranjeev’s strong opinion  is – “In truth, independent directors are wall flowers, perching uneasily on the tenuous board seat, good to topple any time the promoter choses. They can’t protect themselves, leave alone the small shareholder”.

Aptly described; the independent directors appointment and continuance is dependent on the good will of the promoters.  They are not in a position to take a strong stance, as they will be labelled troublesome and jeopardize other appointments. Even well-reputed industrialists sitting on other company boards restrain from rocking the boat. In the elite club, no one wishes to spoil the business equations. Hence, it is just a mirage that independent directors are the bastions of corporate governance and will defend small investor interests.

3.      Auditor Role in Fraud

Objection, my lord; here, I beg to differ. Ranjeev has rightly pointed out auditors primarily responsibility is not to detect frauds. Auditors cannot be held responsible if a fraud remains undetected. But there are two statements, where my readers will have to defend the auditor’s reputation. Below are the extracts:

“It is not the auditor’s job to get into the details of books, records and documents. It follows that the auditor’s only job is to take a leisurely glance at the papers of the company puts before the auditor while daintily picking the sumptuous kebabs over the working lunch at the company’s office.” The lunch dig is true, it happens in India but auditors have to bury their noses in the books of accounts of the company.

The second one is more disparaging –

“He does not understand the company or its business, does not understand the environment in which the company operates and does not understand what is going on in it. His job is to look at the books and create more papers. Auditing is about reconciling paper trails, not truths.” Whoa, if an auditor hasn’t got his fundamentals right, then most probably he is delivering this poor quality work. Auditors need to figure out how to break these negative stereotype images and get appreciated for the value they offer.

Closing Thoughts

As we are given a choice between being an optimistic idealist and pessimistic cynic, I choose the former. Idealists are happy, cynics’ worldview is miserable. Nonetheless, we can’t ignore the atrocities, injustices and differences in our world. An idealist is better equipped to bring about a change, when the plans are grounded in reality. If reality stinks, we have to acknowledge and accept it before we devise a strategy for change.

This book describes the smelly portions of our society, which we want to close our eyes, ears and nose to. Besides it, the book has amusing wordplay. Here is line I liked – “Of all the bibulous ballyhoo that emerges from the loquacious lips of corporate kookaburras, the weirdest is the idea that the business of a company is delivery of value to its customers.”

Win the Book – Enter the Competition

Share your opinion here. If you agree or disagree with Ranjeev, come forward. You can win. Ranjeev will select the best comment and the book will be yours. Ranjeev has also offered to give a response to your comments. His response and the best comment will be posted on 17 October. Mind you, you will get a good defense; he is an attorney by profession.

You can visit Ranjeev’s website at www.ranjeevdubey.com

Indian Social Values – Root of Corruption

Page three newspapers are full of celebrities’ rave parties, fist fights, sex scandals, botox treatments, etceteras. The not so rich idealize these celebrities and mimic all, to be the in-crowd. With these social values, can Indian’s consider it cool to be good?

The west puts India on the pulpit for its values. From Beatles to Julia Roberts, western celebrities talk about Indian culture of prayers, the land of discovering one’s spirit and sense of being. When majority of the middle class Indians themselves are lost, the crown of leader of spiritual world appears  somewhat misplaced. Indians in the present world, from birth, get to understand that all human emotions come at a price. This may sound as a harsh statement, but is reality. Let us walk through the different phases of life of a middle class Indian to discover the spiritual compromises they make.

1. Indian Childhood

India post-independence from a land of leaders propagating good values  has turned into a land people indulging in  unscrupulous behavior in the name of social values. It starts with birth. From the 1960’s the desire to have a son grew among parents. Educated parents get female fetus aborted  since the son has more value in the marriage market. The sex ratio is 109.4 males to 100 females in 2011. According to reports nearly 50,000 female fetus are aborted every month.

The reason for abortions is financial. According to the Indian system, a girl’s father in arranged marriages pays dowry for getting a husband for his daughter. Secondly, in the conservative families daughters aren’t allowed to work. Hence, the cost of raising a daughter, educating her, is lost while a son earns back the money for parents from working and getting a dowry. Therefore, sons get a better treatment from parents from birth. From food, clothes, education and hobbies the girl is forced to sacrifice for the brother. Basically, from the day a child is conceived, Indian parents put a value on the child. There is a profit and loss motive in child upbringing.

With these values apparent in the household from childhood, is it surprising that Indians ethical values are confused? Can a child raised on the basis of returns s/he will bring to the parents on becoming an adult, consider emotions and principles above money? Are parents raising kids or cattle for sale?

2. Indian Youth

Indian parents tom-tom about their love for their children and their dedication to keep the children with them. They look down on their western counterparts, who let the kids leave home between the age of 16-20 years to live on their own. In India, 30 year old unmarried sons and daughters can also be found living with their parents. It arises from an attempt to control who the youngster marries, specially for sons, so that a big fat dowry can be earned.

In respect to daughters, it is a need to keep their image unsullied. A daughter having an affair is a no-no among conservative families. Good girls don’t have relationship with boys. While the boys can have relationships with girls, and any girl who has a sexual relationship with a boy is of loose moral character. It it surprising that with this culture, Indian youth does not have normal relationships with the opposite gender.

India is the 4th most unsafe place in the world. Eve teasing or sexual harassment is rampant and young Indian women endure comments from men even when walking to office at 9 a.m. According to a survey of developing nations, Indian men are the most sexually violent, with 24% having committed a sexual crime. Another survey states 65% men believe sometimes a women deserves to be beaten. With these results and mindset, can one ensure gender equality at work?

An Indian’s professional mentor/buddy in the first job is the person who teaches them to fudge the reimbursement bills of their salary. For instance, employees are entitled to medical reimbursements. The friendly mentor will share information of a medical store from where fraudulent medical bills can be obtained by giving a cut.

After being raised in this culture, can Indian youth have independent thinking, proper adult relationships and professional values? Most lip sync their parents’ desires for them, rather than discovering and understanding their own being. Abnormal behavior – living with one’s parents in adulthood, harassing opposite gender – is socially considered normal. Normal behavior of having adult relationships, independent living and maintaining professional ethics, may make the youth a social outcast. After being raised in this social climate, can Indian youth make India the next superpower?

3. Indian Marriage

The biggest trade in India, is of arranged marriages. Marriages aren’t made in heaven, they are negotiated for the best deal. The sons are put up for sale and the daughters’ fathers attempts to purchase the best available husband for her, according to their financial position.

If one sees it from an economic angle, the husband to provide for the wife lifelong, takes upfront payment from his wife’s father. Looking from another angle, the woman gets a man to have sex with her for life after being paid by her father. Prostitution is illegal in India, and prostitutes are looked down upon. But sale and purchase of husband and wife is a socially accepted norm.

In rural areas, the situation is worse. If a couple belonging to different castes falls in love, the male members of the girl’s family do honor killing, they kill the couple. It is a crime to fall in love, and humiliating for the parents. From all this one can conclude that Indian rational of honor, esteem and self-respect is quite contrary to human race.

Even divorce involves social stigma. In reality, 90% of urban husbands have had extra marital affairs. Most of the urban wives are educated but don’t leave their marriages even after being aware of the affair, as their standard of living will become lower. India has one of the lowest divorce rates with just one in a hundred marriages collapsing. There are just around 10,000 or so divorce cases filed each year. Despite the fact that there were 8391 dowry deaths in 2010 and 90,000 cases of torture and cruelty towards women by their husbands. This is when most women don’t report to police due to sense of social shame. Aren’t the numbers ironical. Abusing women is considered a social privilege of the Indian male. Moreover, educated women prefer to take abuse rather than stand on their own two feet and earn their living.

Closing Thoughts

Can Indian marriages teach valuing human emotions when they are nothing more than a financial transaction? After parent-child relationship, the second most precious relationship is of husband-wife. In India, both have monetary values attached to it. When critical relationships are not based on ethics, what is the probability of the society respecting professional ethics?

Indian ideas of honor, respect, ethics and principles are bunkum. A thief steals a women’s purse, he is a criminal. A  husband steals his wife’s dignity and her father’s retirement saving, he is respectable. It is a case of sacrificing rational thinking to camouflage social ills.

Last week, the government issued a “White paper on black money”. The paper describes ways and methods to curb corruption and reduce black money. However, with this social environment, the best efforts are likely to fail. Can an average Indian be considered as having a fully developed “Conscience”? Anywhere close to spiritual awakening? What do you think?


  1. Disappearing Daughters: Women pregnant with Girls pressured into abortion
  2. Divorce Rate High Among Indian Techies
  3. Dowry murders in India result in few convictions
  4. Indian men most sexually violent, says survey of six developing nations
  5. International Center for Research on Women

A Women’s Day Special – Play with Colors of Life

“How wrong is it for a woman to expect the man to build the world she wants, rather than to create it herself?”   ― Anaïs Nin

Women are smart. They demand equality and have a special day for women. Men claim superiority and have no men’s day. One can say the rest of the days are of them, but are they? The male gender suffers; poor chaps can’t even protest as it isn’t a masculine trait to show weakness. Women can complain, shed tears, howl their heart out and it reflects feminine traits. Mothers teach sons – boys don’t cry. Wives complain – Husbands are unemotional. Haven’t women successfully shackled men in a stereotypical image from birth?

Shouldn’t women be fighting for the male cause to bring in some emotional gender equality? Shall we start by being a bit more honest ? Lets discuss some of the things that women should do for themselves and the male gender on this women’s day.

1. Miss Goody Two Shoes

Men are convinced women are more principled, honest and virtuous than them. Women have done a wonderful job of personal brand building. Most haven’t got their hands dirty publicly. However, surveys say women participate equally in sexual harassment in offices and are showing increasing propensity to commit white collar crime as their ratios improve in the workforce. Moreover, they backbite, rumor monger, tattletale and indirectly bully more than men in offices. Women are more likely to use sex to get a promotion. Yes, some strategically decide to sleep with the boss to boost their careers.

Women play an equal role in making destructive management practices flourish in an organization and do not hesitate to use them for personal gain. Let us stop playing the blame game and take ownership to improve the work climate within our organizations.

2. Women’s Worst Enemies

Women undercut women. They make loud claims that male gender does not support them. However, women make bad bosses to junior women. Women ruin careers of aspiring young women to remove competition. They feel insecure if men give attention to a younger woman, hence damage the youngsters chances of succeeding. If a senior male wishes to harass a young female, he uses her female colleagues to do so to avoid sexual harassment charges.

While women target the men’s club for all the negative events happening to them, they fail to collaborate to form a women’s club. With 20-50% female workforce in offices, female leaders need to push for reforms in their offices that benefit the gender. Laying the blame on male CXOs door doesn’t absolve women leaders of their responsibilities.

3. The Sacrificing Souls

Women undersell themselves by portraying the picture of sacrificing souls. At every opportunity they lament about the difficulties of being a mother and a career women. Yes, they have to make sacrifices but so do men, specially single dads. It is difficult but stop crying about it all the time. As Gloria Steimen said– “I have yet to hear a man ask for advice on how to combine marriage and a career.” 

Being successful is about managing different priorities effectively. Have you seen successful men or women incessantly talking about the same universal issue? Husband, kids and career are a woman’s personal choice, hence its an individual decision. No man or woman is going to get all three handed on a silver platter for all times. There is no point in attempting to win the corporate battle using these tactics.

Closing Thoughts

Fight the battle of equality on ethical and principled grounds, without playing the victim. Successful women don’t enact the damsel in distress routines while pointing fingers at others. Quit complaining and enjoy the colors of life. Be fair, be just and give both genders an equal chance of succeeding on merit and talent.

I know, women will be mad at me for writing this post.  But what to do, 90% of my readers are men :).

Wishing all my readers a special women’s day and a happy Holi.

Does Age Impact Ethics?

Michael Douglas’s movie “The Solitary Man” depicts a story of a high-profile businessman becoming a criminal. It is riches to rags story, where Ben, the character played by Douglas is reduced to asking his daughter home rent. The movie makes one contemplate – does age impact ethics? Watch these last scenes of the movie first.

The crucial point in the conversation is when Michael Douglas says – “No one noticed”. He changed from being a faithful husband to sleeping around with young women, because his wife didn’t notice. He shifted from being an honest businessman to a fraudster because no one noticed. The crux of crime – opportunity, reward and rationalization. When no one notices or stops you, it became easy to rationalize criminal behavior.

In another scene of the movie, he says to his friend Jimmy – “In the highest moments and lowest moments of life, you are all alone. On the cover of Forbes magazine, I am by myself. In business magazine cover with handcuffs, I am by myself.” As is the cliché it is lonely at the top. Does the isolation at senior level positions impact psychology and behavior?

Since very few juniors will confront a senior or CEO on unethical behavior, it becomes easier to rationalize. As seniors do not receive negative feedback they remain unaware of the impact of their behavior on juniors and the organization. Social intelligence antenna works on receiving direct and honest information. With diplomatic responses, some miss the signals.

One more critical comment that describes his psychology on ageing was – “I was becoming invisible. Thirty years ago the room changed when I entered. I was a lion.” With age no one noticed him and his ego couldn’t take it. He compensated it by chasing young women.

Douglas couldn’t transition from the sense of invincibility that comes with success and youth, to being just another mortal, whose significance diminished with age. Hence, he broke all social and ethical norms to delude himself into feeling powerful.

In all careers the change is significant. Before retirement, one is generally at the highest level of their career, and suddenly on retirement, the people whom one was working with don’t have time for the person. A person deals with loss of self-esteem, insecurities and feelings of vulnerability. Each retiring person treads this uncertain path; however huge the savings and retirement plans he/she has kept.

Moreover, statistical data shows that old people are subjected to extensive verbal and emotional abuse at home. A survey by Helpage India indicates Bangalore as the number one city in India for mistreating elders. Previously Bangalore was known as pensioners paradise, and now 44% elders say they face abuse at home. In upper strata of society sons mistreat, and in the lower-income group, daughter-in-laws abuse. India, a country where youngsters respected elders by touching their feet, is fast becoming a nation that abuses elders. Further, as India does not have a social security system, if elders do not have sufficient savings, they are financially dependent on the younger generation, mostly sons. As India has a huge young population, a second job after retirement is difficult. Hence, living separately is not an alternative available to many retired people.

The sense of financial insecurity increases propensity of fraud of  employees near retirement age.  Various surveys state that the frauds conducted by older and senior employees are much larger in value than junior employees. The focus on training senior employees on business ethics is low, as organizations assume that old hands are aware of the norms and culture. However, since outward behavior is normal, colleagues don’t realize when the person has snapped inside. Therefore, this group requires more focus than normally given.

Ideas for Action

1.  Organizations can handhold older employees prepare transition plans for retirement. Coaching employees on developing second source of income through developing different talents and hobbies will benefit. An active alumni group for retired employees helps in keeping their social circle intact. If organization provides pension benefits, including medical insurance generates confidence.

2. Employees themselves may develop supplementary business ventures near retirement. For instance, civil engineers in India generally buy residential properties and farmlands. After retirement they venture into real estate and farming.

3. Relationships with family and friends matter. Irrespective of the amount of money available after retirement, without family support one leads an unhappy life. Hence, employees must keep up work-life balance and focus on relationships outside office.

4. Organizations need to train employees that frauds do not contribute positively to retirement funds. The probability of legal penalties and miserable old age are high. With rising inflation and government targeting black money, illicit money put away in lockers is not a viable option. To mitigate this risk give refresher business ethics courses to older employees annually.

5.  Companies to detect fraud propensities must periodically conduct a background verification and credit check of old employees to confirm their financial position. For instance, in a few cases employees develop gambling, drugs or alcohol addictions. They conduct frauds to fund these addictions. A background verification discloses these deviations.

6. India socially has two challenges – lack of old age homes and a social stigma if any person seeks psychological help. Psychological abuse remains an unmentionable issue.Hence, abused elders don’t have any alternatives. They cannot seek outside medical or other help as they attempt to protect family reputation. Organizations in their corporate social responsibility programs can  build awareness about these two aspects.

Closing Thoughts

India’s transition from a developing country to global powerhouse has eroded Indian culture and social values. Adoption of western culture has benefited is some aspects. However, western societies challenges of lack of family support system are ignored. This has resulted in creating a number of social problems in Indian society. Balancing the advantages of western and Indian culture and addressing the negatives will benefit the society. Achieving economic growth at the expense of certain sections of society will harm the social fabric and destroy moral values. This old story says it all :

Devil appeared before a middle-aged man. The man was worried that his career wasn’t doing well and he  won’t have any retirement funds. The devil said – “I will ensure that you and your future generations will never have any financial problems, if you give me your soul.” The man agreed. Devil continued – “And the souls of your children, their children and all future generations.” The man again agreed and asked – “What’s the catch?”


Daughters-in-law emerge as major abuser of elderly: Study

Corporate Social Responsibility The Dalai Lama Way

The new Companies Bill 2011, section 135 on Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR), has raised a lot of debate about the merits of holding companies responsible for social responsibility. Some have stoically  refuted that companies are any way liable for social responsibility as their objective is to earn profits. According to this view, earning profits and social responsibility are not complimentary goals. Another view presented, to which I subscribe, is that companies owe it to the society and must meet social responsibilities. Profitability and social responsibility are not divergent goals and are mutually beneficial.

Hence, I thought of sharing His Holiness The Dalai Lama’s ideas on social responsibility expressed in his book “My Spiritual Autobiography”. He epitomizes a socially responsible life. While the act is the dry subject, below are some deeper philosophical musings on social responsibility. Read on, and tell me, do you agree with it?

Section 135, Companies Bill 2011

The section stipulates that select Indian companies form a Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) Committee with three or more directors of which one must be independent. The Committee will report to the board, formulate a CSR policy and recommend expenditure. The board is expected to approve the policy, make it available on the company website and ensure that at least 2% of average net profits of preceding three years is spent on CSR activities. If the CSR budget is not spent in a particular year, the same shall be disclosed with reasons for not doing so in the annual report. The section is applicable to companies that meet either of the following three criteria. That is, have a:

  • net worth of Rs 500 crore or more or
  • turnover of Rs 1000 crore or more or
  • net profit of Rs 5 crore or more.

The big question is – should companies be asked to spend 2% of average net profits on CSR? Let me share the financial logic and the spiritual reasoning for doing so.

The Spiritual Reason

In the modern world we believe spirituality has no place in business. This is more of a western concept rather than an Indian one. In India, even a small shopkeeper will have a photograph of their god and start work after offering prayers. In my view, spirituality promotes ethical thinking and behavior. Organizations are in dire need of building an ethical culture. In the present world organization behavior and culture impacts society, hence one cannot dissociate the two. I am impressed with Dalai Lama’s story in his book. He said :-

 “I remember an Indian politician who invited me to discuss this point with him. He said to me, with sincere humility, “Oh, but we’re politicians, not monks!” To which I replied: “Politicians need religion even more than a hermit in retreat. If a hermit acts inspired by bad motivation, he’ll harm only himself. But if a politician, who can directly influence an entire society, acts with bad motivation, a large number of people will experience the negative consequences.”

He has then further described spirituality as :

Spirituality, in my view, consists of transforming the mind. The best way to transform it is to get used to thinking in a more altruistic way. So ethics is the basis for a secular spirituality for everyone, one that is not limited to a group of believers in one religion or another.

The same logic applies to business also. A CEO’s decisions impacts thousands of employees, customers, suppliers, shareholders and the public. Can we afford a CEO not to be spiritually aware? Wouldn’t promoting secular ethics help organizations build an ethical culture? Studies indicate that major frauds in organizations – Enron, Satyam, Olympus – occurred when senior management stopped differentiating between right and wrong business practices and was governed by greed.

The Social Reason

Backbiting, backstabbing and bitching are thought of as normal in corporate world. Employees show surprise when a fellow colleague shows compassion, consideration and empathy. Fear, insecurity, ruthlessness and competitiveness have led to deterioration in human values and humanity . The paradox is that with these value systems and emotions prevailing in organizations, we want to create winning teams. A near impossibility, and then we wonder on reasons of failure.

The problem arises because of the thinking that emotions have no place in business. How is it possible to segregate emotions during business hours when we base 70-80% of decisions on emotions? Should one view it that good emotions have no place in business, only negative emotions are allowed? Dalai Lama   hit the nail on the head and identified the core problem in the following words:

“Unfortunately, love and compassion have been excluded from too many areas of social interaction, for too long a time.”

He further identified the impact of positive emotions on a human being. He aptly points out:

“A mind dedicated to compassion is like an overflowing reservoir: it is a constant source of energy, determination, and goodness. You could compare compassion to a seed. If you cultivate it, it makes an abundance of other excellent qualities blossom, such as forgiveness, tolerance, inner strength, and confidence, allowing us to conquer fear and anxiety. The compassionate mind is like an elixir: it has the strength to turn adverse situations into beneficial circumstances.”

Studies show that corporate philanthropy programs not only attract talent but retain employees. Employees at all level appreciate organizations that have a humane culture and are dedicated to the welfare of society. Although managements believe that numbers and targets drive achievement of profits, CSR activities contribute to the bottom line by improving ethics, culture, commitment and engagement levels within the organization.

Secondly, companies are linking CSR activities with their brands. Results show that customers view organizations better and are more loyal to products when they consider the company socially responsible.

Lastly, India really lags behind in charity. As per the Worlds Giving Index 2011, India ranks 91st among 153 countries assessed. India was ranked as the most uncharitable nation in South Asia, Pakistan, Bangladesh, Sri Lanka etc. all rank better than India. With India’s poverty levels and discrepancy in incomes, this status is really sad. 

The Financial Reason

Presently in Indian media there is a debate going on The National Food Security Bill ( NFSB). The objective of the bill is to eradicate hunger and malnutrition in the country. For 2011-12 financial year the food subsidy budget is  Rs 60,572 crore. The NFSB plans to provide subsidized food grains to 64% of the population with a budget of approximately Rs 95,000 crore. The debate is that should government be providing such a large subsidy to the poor?

Professor Bardhan rightly pointed out in Economic Times interview saying “About 9 % of GDP is being given to the relatively rich in the form of subsidies, why should the government then mind giving 1-2% of GDP to the poor.” Indian organizations receive benefit in the form of direct tax, excise duty and sales tax subsidies for building the industrial sector and exports. Should these be withdrawn to give the whole amount to the poor? Asking organizations to invest 2% of their average net profits in society seems a small price, when public money is being used to subsidize business. Of course some naysayers are saying that government is being financially irresponsible by giving this huge subsidy. Question remains, do they hold the same view on subsidies given to business sector?

This gets me back to Dalai Lama’s thinking – “Everyone must assume his own share of universal responsibility.” Unless the corporate sector gets committed to fulfilling social responsibilities, the country will deteriorate. Besides economic power, the society needs a lot more to flourish and be healthy.

Closing Thoughts

I found Dali Lama’s description of his morning rituals enchanting. He narrates – “As a practicing Buddhist monk, as soon as I wake up I pay homage to the Buddha, and I try to prepare my mind to be more altruistic, more compassionate, during the day to come so that I can be of benefit of beings. Then I do physical exercise – I walk on a treadmill.” World’s most influential and renowned monk happily adopts modern day gadgets into his daily life. He talks of ethics of genetic engineering, global warming, environment risks etc. with complete ease and knowledge. However, we the management experts, the technical geniuses, the advocates of change hesitate to incorporate spirituality, compassion and social responsibility in business. Ironical isn’t it. Can we leave our hearts at home when we come to work?

I want to share the prayer Dalai Lama read on receiving the Nobel Peace Prize. He wishes that this prayer is on his lips when he dies. Very few people in the world can have this level of generosity of spirit, but maybe in 2012 we can think of new beginnings.

May I Remain In Order to Relieve the Suffering of the World

May I be the protector of the abandoned,
The guide for those who wander the path,
And for those who yearn for the other shore,
May I be the vessel, the ferry, the bridge;
May I be an island for those who need an island,
The lamp for those who need a lamp,
The bed for those who need a bed;
May I be the wish-fulling gem, the vase
With great treasure, a powerful mantra, the healing plant,
The wish granting tree, the cow of abundance.
As long as space remains,
As long as beings remain,
May I too remain
To relieve the sufferings of the world.

Indian saint Shantideva’s prayer read by Dalai Lama on accepting Nobel Peace Prize in 1989.


  1. My Spiritual Autobiography by His Holiness The Dalai Lama
  2. New Companies Bill – Ministry of Corporate Affairs
  3. India should cut wasteful expenditure on subsidies: US prof Pranab Bardhan

Corporate Governance in Private Limited Companies

Transparency is often just as effective as a rigidly applied rule book and is usually more flexible and less expensive to administer. – By Gary Hamel

 Corporate governance in private limited companies is an often-ignored topic as it is not mandatory by law. The Companies Act and SEBI Listing Agreement focus on corporate governance aspects of public listed companies. The reason for excluding private limited companies is that they do not have numerous shareholders hence the risk is minimal. I beg to differ. Corporate governance encompasses much more than shareholder rights. Corporate governance includes rights of investors, financial institutions, customers, suppliers, employees and society.  

Let us first cover the backdrop of the problem briefly. In India, 90% of the companies are either unlisted public companies or private limited companies Private limited companies fall under three groups – 1) private companies belonging to business families; 2) private companies as subsidiaries of listed Indian public companies; and 3) private companies as subsidiaries of foreign companies.  

The corporate governance is limited in 1st and 3rd categories as in the 2nd category the provisions of listed companies apply to quite an extent. In the second category, it is dependent on the owners to take the initiative. The biggest challenge is for 3rd category as holding companies provisions may not be applicable in India. However, they are applicable in the country of the holding company. If the holding company is listed then corporate governance aspects apply of the relevant country. Though, quite frequently the focus in the subsidiary company is not the same as holding company. These companies sometimes have turnover and employees more than the listed organizations. Still these are not covered in the regulatory ambit.

The Institute of Companies Secretary of India has issued recommendatory guidelines for it. The Companies Bill, presently awaiting parliamentary approval does cover the same. This definitely is a step in the right direction. Organizations must take first mover advantage to incorporate the provisions in their governance, risk management and compliance programs.  I am giving below five areas that they can focus on:

1.     Corporate Social Responsibility

In 2009, Ministry of Corporate Affairs (MCA) issued voluntary guidelines for Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR). The guidelines discuss key aspects of governance practices that business organizations need to focus on. The policy covers six aspects- 1) Care of all stakeholders; 2) Ethical functioning; 3) Respect for workers’ rights and welfare; 4) Respect for human rights; 5) Respect for environment; and 6) Activities of social and inclusive development. The policy requires that business entities should provide an implementation strategy covering projects, timelines, resource allocation etc.

Organizations to communicate their commitment to CSR can put the policy on their website with each locations implementation strategy. This will help communicate organizations ethical stance to all third parties wishing to do business with it.

2.    Appointment of Board of Directors

In public listed companies, independent board of directors is appointed to ensure better governance. Family owned listed companies and private limited companies are remarkably cagey about appointment of external independent directors as they consider it as interference and sharing of power.

The private companies owned by foreign companies generally appoint directors from within the subsidiary organization. Friends and colleagues are appointed and they form a coterie. Although, this is legal it does influence governance as Chairman/ CEO lose the benefit of independent viewpoints and unbiased opinions. Boards have two purposes – 1) Act as trustees for the organization 2) Provide strategic insight to CEO. However, CEOs of private limited companies are disadvantageous position in comparison to listed companies CEOs

In such cases, it is a good practice to appoint directors from other group organizations. Secondly, if the holding company management permits, appoint exceptionally qualified independent directors. Here, management gurus, ethics leaders, financial experts and other professionals can be appointed. A right balance must be maintained to have an effective board.

3.    Rules and Performance of Board of Directors

 Unfortunately, the board meetings in private limited companies are sometimes held for namesake. It is more to complete the paperwork to meet the regulatory requirements can have an engaged discussion and chart out business strategies.

To ensure the board members are engaged the first step is to formulate and implement rules for the directors and define their area of responsibility.  Roles and responsibilities should be given according the qualifications and skill sets of the member. If the board skills are not sufficiently diversified, additional members must be appointed. Board members should commit sufficient time to the company. On a periodic basis, their performance against the targets should be evaluated by other board members. The mandate must be to add business value to the organization. It is a good practice to early audit the participation of board members in meetings and their respective performance.

4.    Risk Management & Internal Controls

 Indian Company Law mandates all companies private and public limited, over specified turnovers and capital to have proper internal control systems. The external auditors are required to report on the status of internal controls.

However, it does not mandate audit committees or risk committees for private limited companies at board level. It is a good practice to formulate one and ensure it provides relevant information to the audit. Financial and risk management experts can be appointed from within the organization or outside to give an independent view.

 5.    Appointment of Auditors

 Auditors in family owned companies are sometimes appointed based on old business relationships. This practice in India, significantly affects the independence of the auditors.

In respect to subsidiary companies, Indian and foreign companies, auditors are chosen by the holding company’s management. In most cases, the holding company’s auditors are appointed for confidence in consolidation of financial statements. Although this is a good practice, in Indian context there is a small snag. Local relationships with the auditors might circumvent the independence. Hence, if local management is involved in frauds, the auditors may compromise in ethical reporting. It is a good practice to frequently call on the holding companies audit partner and advise him/her on the issues. Direct relationships with international partners put a check on local auditors.

 Closing thoughts

In India, corporate governance practices are just a little over a decade old and mostly focused on listed public companies. In private limited companies, it is still in nascent stage. Organizations however can voluntarily take the initiative to adopt best practices. This improves confidence of third parties and brand reputation. It also benefits if the organization in a few years is planning to turn public limited or plans to sell the company.



Ministry of Corporate Affairs (MCA) – Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR)  Voluntary Guidelines.