Friday, April 25, 2008

When Nature helps

Ever wondered, why do the trees seem so barren in the winter? Or why do some trees litter the ground with flowers during summer? It so happens that some trees cannot withstand the winter winds, so they try to stay as barren as possible. This reduces the torque exerted by the wind force on the trunk of the tree, thus saving it from being possibly uprooted. The season of winter also brings in a lot of dryness in the weather with it. This causes the soil to lose its moisture content. The soil which was held together with the moisture, now becomes loose and has a chance of being eroded away with the winds. How does nature prevent the erosion of the fertile top layer of the soil?

Remember the fall season? In the fall season, many trees begin to shed their leaves slowly and become bare by the beginning of winter. Once the winter winds start blowing, these fallen leaves, that have covered the earth, prevent the loose top soil from being eroded, thus protecting its fertility. The soil, which benefits the tree by providing various nutrients, water, etc. is benefited by the act of trees in the winter.

Come spring-time, the trees blossom and bear new leaves and attractive flowers. During the summer, these leaves protect the earth below from getting overheated and provide passers-by a relief from the oppressive heat. By maintaining the shade, the leaves slow-down further loss of moisture. Some trees shed their flowers onto the soil below, thus protecting it from any further erosion. Thus, during summer time too, the soil is protected by the trees in return for the help provided by the soil.

What do we have to learn from this? Is there a lesson in there? Yes, I believe, there is an important lesson to be learnt. Even as the tree fights for its survival (as in the winter), it does so without harming the soil. Instead, it helps the soil survive by shedding leaves. If the top soil is lost, the fertile nutrients are lost. Also, dust flying around causes various health problems to other living species. The trees, therefore not only ensures their survival (by shedding leaves and by protecting the top layer of the soil) but also help the other species by not allowing the top soil to fly around. In their happier times too, (spring and summer) the trees maintain their helping hand. They provide shade, protect the earth from overheating and provide a visual treat in the form of blossoming flowers. Isn't this the very basic form of inclusive growth, where every stakeholder benefits from the other and every stake holder tries to protect the other by helping in every possible form?

When Nature helpsSocialTwist Tell-a-Friend

Sunday, April 20, 2008

Unfair competition

With the government being lawmaker, it can decide the rules of the game and make the others play according to those rules. Many times, these rules are in favour of the minority stake holders of the government. For e.g. government employees form a minuscule percentage of the entire workforce. But most of the employment and labour rules are in favour of these minuscule minorities, thus stifling many business plans.

Off-late, the government wants greater participation of private industries in the non-core areas of the government operated institutes, businesses, etc. But, here too, it is not ready to give the private sector a fair chance for competition. One glaring example is the case of fuel retailing. While the government has offered oil bonds to state-run oil industries in order to offset their losses, it has not provided any help to Reliance and Essar, who have to dig in their own pockets to absorb the loss due to under pricing of petrol and diesel. As a result, Reliance announced the closure of several of its petrol pumps, resulting in job loss to all those directly and indirectly employed in those pumps.

In IIT Bombay, which is a government run institute, the government slowly wants to pull out of non-core areas and instead deploy private companies to take care of those works. The institute's house keeping staff is being replaced with people from private professional house-keeping companies. The messes in new hostels are being operated by private caterers instead of government employees. But, here comes the hypocrisy in the government's intentions of privatisation. While the institute authorities have permission from the Petroleum Ministry to use domestic gas cylinders (cost = approx. Rs. 320) in the government operated messes, the private messes are asked to operate on commercial gas cylinders (cost = approx. Rs 1000). The messes require around 10 cylinders everyday (for inmate strength of around 400). In spite of this, the private mess operators are able to provide food to the hostel residents at cost that is lower than government operated messes, with better service, of course. But the private messes have to operate with a lot of constraints. For e.g., while in government operated messes, sweet, in dinner, is served with no restriction on the amount, in the private mess there is a strict restriction. The caterers running these messes themselves acknowledge that if permitted to use domestic cylinders for cooking, they could further reduce the costs. This move is beneficial to the students as it reduces the expenses on food by some extent. It also provides a fair platform for comparison of the government run messes and privatised messes. But the institute authorities have done nothing to take up this case with the Petroleum Ministry authorities. As a result, one of the most important inputs in cooking is available to the private caterer at thrice the price at which it is available to the government run messes. This is nothing but bullying by the government authorities. So, while the institute-run messes get a lot of subsidy (approx. 600*20 = Rs. 12000 per day for every mess), the privately run messes have to live with the ever fluctuating (read increasing for the past 1 year) prices of commercial cylinder. This is unfair, both, on the caterer as well as the students who are members of these messes. The students have to pay more because of the use of commercial cylinders and the caterer loses his margin because he can't go beyond a particular price he charges for the food.
Unfair competitionSocialTwist Tell-a-Friend