Unprofessional

“I am not saying that at all. It is a responsible role. Sometimes he raises interest rates to control inflation and sometimes he lowers it to control inflation. Sometimes he raises interest rates to promote employment and sometimes he lowers it to promote employment. Sometimes he raises interest rates to improve the Foreign Exchange reserves and sometimes he lowers it to improve Foreign Exchange reserves.

At any given point of time, half the people are in favour of raising interest rates and the other half, as you might already have calculated, are in favour of reducing them. For achieving the same goals.

Once the action has been taken, either reducing or increasing rates, half the people, irrespective of what they were advocating before the decision was taken, are of the opinion that the situation has improved and the other half, as you might again have calculated, irrespective of what they were advocating before the decision was taken, hold the opinion that the situation has deteriorated.”

The recently appointed ruling-party member of the Rajya Sabha, who, for the sake of brevity we will call SS, was at pains to explain the importance of the role of the Governor of the Reserve Bank of India (RBI). He had been cornered by a section of the media wanting to know the reasons behind the letter he had written to the Prime Minister asking for the removal of the RBI Governor, who, for the sake of brevity again, we will call RR. But, having studies and taught Economics at a leading American University, he was on home ground in this discussion.

SS had begun the discussion on a bellicose note, stating in no uncertain terms, “Unprofessional conduct will not be tolerated. Senior jobs are only for professionals. We owe it to the common man who has voted for professionalism in public affairs. We need a thorough professional for the position of RBI Governor.”

The gathered mediapersons cast accusing glances around the room at the other mediapersons, as if asking “Did you vote for professionalism in public affairs? Coz it wasn’t me.”

Schooled by their profession to be unfazed by political belligerence, they had shot back at SS with, “Can you explain what you mean by professional? Does RR not come with the highest professional qualifications, having studied at the most renowned educational institutions in India, thereafter continuing studies at a leading American University where he has also been teaching”?

“Unfortunately professional has become a loosely used term. I don’t think you people understand the meaning of the word professional,” SS had shot back with equal energy, which quickly transformed into a masterclass of what professional really means, for the gathered mediapersons. “Do you know who is a professional? A professional is one who toes the party-line; of the party in power. A professional is one who is unable to make eye contact with a passing politician, of whatever rank the politician be. A professional is one who speaks in the voice of his employer and can explain away frequent missteps of his employers, politicians in this case, with arcane theories. A professional is who has little independent standing in the world and is forever beholden to the political establishment for his job.

Look at the legendary RBI governors we have had in the past. Thorough professionals. Very few people would have even suspected the existence of the post of RBI Governor, let alone heard their name. And almost nobody knew how their job impacted anyone’s life. Oh, how we wish for such men in today’s times.”

The gathered mediapersons looked at each other. It was as if a weight had been lifted off their chest. They finally knew who a professional was. But they were mediapersons. It was not in their JD to let go. They persisted: “But surely that cannot be reason enough for asking for his removal.”

SS, seeing that the mediapersons were getting it, mellowed down: “You are right. Everyone knows we are fair people. We are fair to everyone who agrees with us. There is another charge against RR. Do you know that he is mentally not fully Indian and has wilfully wrecked the economy.”

Media: “But how did you measure his mental Indianness?”

SS: “I will tell you how. How many times have you heard him say that mythology, wherever it is Hindu, is equal to history?”

Mediapersons looked at each other. They had heard and seen leading politicians and religious leaders do it, but never RR. They shook their heads and said “never”.

SS smiled wryly and continued. “Have you heard him say ‘Bharat Mata ki jai’ without any reason, especially when someone senior in the political hierarchy is watching?”

Mediapersons looked at each other. They had seen and heard leading Bollywood actors and politicians do it, but never RR. The light of realisation was dawning. They shook their heads and said “never”.

SS: “Now do you see why he is not fully Indian?”

Mediapersons were quiet. Sensing his opportunity, SS moved in for the kill: “Moreover, he is also mentally not fully Indian because he has studied and taught Economics at a leading American University. How can you entrust the affairs of the RBI to such a person. We have more mentally fully Indian applicants for the position who have not studied or taught at any leading American University. Some of them have not even studied or taught at any leading, or even lagging, Indian University.

He is not a politician, after all. Only Indian politicians have the ability to study and teach at a leading American University and still be mentally fully Indian. Other than that, the only position open to Non-Resident Indians is a nomination to the Rajya Sabha, especially if they are rich and are likely to invest in unviable businesses by borrowing money from public sector banks.

Besides, he was appointed by the previous government.”

Mediapersons reeled. Logic was difficult to argue against at the best of times. Coming from a maverick leader with a penchant for shooting his mouth off at the slightest provocation, it became an insurmountable task. They struggled to regain some dignity and made a weak query: “But what about the position itself? Do you not think it is an important position for which we should seek out the best person?”

SS’ response is captured in the opening paragraphs of this story. He concluded that analysis with: “As there no clear evidence to say what really happens when interest rates are either reduced or increased, he must be operating against the interest of the country. QED.”

Refreshment trolleys being rolled in saved further embarrassment for the mediapersons. They could avoid looking into the searing eyes of SS with the excuse of picking up a cup of tea.

SS, sensing the need of the moment, climbed down from the dais and mingled with the group. Placing his arm around the shoulders of one, he said, “These are dark days indeed. If RBI governors start opening their mouths and voicing opinions, what will politicians do? Do we want thousands of politicians to lose their jobs just because we have a transparent RBI governor? It will lead to anarchy. Whose utterances will people make fun of? How will we waste the billions we collect as taxes? Senior people need to be careful.”

Picking up a cup of tea and moving onto another scribe, he continued, “Look at toxic debts of public sector banks. Which RBI governor in the past has pushed public sector banks to sever relationships with leading industrial houses by asking for borrowings to be paid back? How will the country finance the next elections if we make recovery claims against industrialists? On whose money will industrialists make merry?”

Moving onto a third scribe, he said, “Have you heard of an RBI governor saying ‘in the land of the blind, one-eyed is king’? Which country’s Central Bank does he think he manage that he has to speak the truth? Norway? Canada? The common man in India is mature. He can handle lies. Again and again. The same ones.”

Meanwhile, at another event, the RBI governor has expressed views. Once again. On the Licence raj and Permit raj. On regulations for small and medium enterprises. On smooth availability of finance. On access to input and output market. On healthy competition. And many other areas that planners and governments need to focus on.

Some people never learn, it seems.

Game Of The Name

Because it is a myth, silly boy!

The event was a meeting of the town council to select a new name for their town where the “silly boy”, one of the younger prticipants, had been chastised for asking a logical question. At important events logical questions have only one logical response, round chastisement of the “asker”.

A new name for the town had become a necessity after it was realised that there was no earthly reason to change it.

Tempers at the council meeting had been frayed as finding a suitable name had been an uphill task. Council members had read and re-read all known epics, and some unknown ones as well, to locate a suitable name. The elders knew that if the name did not emerge from a myth, there was no way it would be recognised as a historical fact by the central government.

Not finding a name to their liking, the town council had finally decided to invent a name. And not wishing to leave a job only half done, they had also commissioned a set of popular writers to conjure up a new epic, flowing with the valour and wisdom of the ancestors of the current ruling dispensation so that the text could soon be recognised as historical fact.

There was no time to lose. Who was to say that the criteria for granting “Smart” status to a city would not be the number of times the city had changed its name without reason. Or its name being drawn from a popular myth.

It was under these extraordinary circumstances the “silly boy” had displayed the effrontery of asking for the logic behind the selection of the new name, and had been roundly chastised.

The floodgates had opened on 12th April, when the Haryana government took the decision of renaming Gurgaon to Gurugram.

The last couple of decades have sped past as our leaders have methodically gone about the task of uplifting our collective esteem by changing colonial-era names to, well, non-colonial-era names. Time flies when one is having fun.

But, as Bombay made way for Mumbai, Bangalore for Bengaluru, Calcutta for Kolkata and Madras for Chennai, there was an increasing sense of disquiet in the common man.

Would the good times soon come to an end? Are we running out of colonial-era names to change? Would we have to go back to the days when political leaders had to at least try to govern instead of changing names? What would they do once these names had been changed?

But we need not have worried.

In corporate circles they say a capable employee will always deliver value to the organisation.

So it is with able politicians, as has been my learning these past few weeks. Elect a capable leader and leave the worrying to him. He will always deliver value.

As we have perhaps seen in the case of great corporations, each business has evolved from a human need. But once that need has been satisfied, they have kept on creating unneeded needs and the common man has kept responding, by desperately needing those unneeded needs, and buying.

So is the case with the government of Haryana, that has found ways of delivering value, as is expected of able governments working for the welfare of the common man. If changing of colonial-era names is done, what stops us from changing non-colonial-era names to, well, different non-colonial-era names? Which other state government had the foresight to offer this welfare scheme to the common man of their state? Separates the men from the boys, doesn’t it?

And it is no ordinary change. It is a change dripping with historical significance. Because it is based on a mythological fact. In Mahabharat, one of the great Hindu epics, Yudhishtir, the eldest of the Pandav princes, had gifted this site to their teacher, Guru Dronacharya. Hence its original name was Gurugram, which, translated, means Village of the Teacher, to which it has been rightfully restored. We know this since it is a mythological fact. Case closed.

Delving a little deeper into the story, sorry historical fact, Guru Dronacharya was the one who refused martial arts education to Eklavya, a child of low birth. The guru who, a few years later, astounded by the prowess of the child who he had once refused to teach, asks for his thumb as guru-dakshina (offering for the teacher) so that he could never compete with the princes he was instructing. How was the guru to know that democratic and fair winds would be blowing in the 21st century, calling upon all human beings to be treated equal. How could he have envisaged that? Hence it is important that we name it after the guru and not after Eklavya.

The sigh of relief across the nation is palpable. Yes we can. We can change the names of places. Whether colonial or non-colonial.

It follows, therefore, that we will be able to dodge nuclear missiles and hydrogen bombs from hostile states.

Bareilley to Barasat and Mandu to Meerut, each self-respecting village, taluka and town is voraciously reading up historical myths to find a suitable name that will lead them to everlasting happiness. They don’t want to be left behind.

The Haryana government, it appears, even after taking this momentous decision, was humble enough to acknowledge the role the common man has played. “This has been done because of a demand from the people”, they have graciously acknowledged.

Now we know why potholes in roads have not been filled. Why electricity supply is erratic. Why there is no street lighting. Why loudspeakers are allowed to operate beyond 10 PM at night. Simply because there has been no demand from people. What other reason can there be?

But this humble acknowledgment has confused the common man. If it was a demand from the people, how many were killed and how many billions worth of property destroyed, they have demanded to know. After all, the last demand from the people in the state was for reservation by the Jat community a couple of months back in which several were killed and property worth billions destroyed, and rape allegations pertaining to which are still being investigated. When did this, the name-change, demand come from the people?

The government has clarified that for a demand from the people to be accepted by the government, it needs to be made on the night preceding the night of the full moon, at a time that is neither prior to 7 PM nor later than 8 PM, on a day when an earthquake of an intensity of at least 6.5 on the Richter scale has struck with an epicentre that is not more than a thousand miles away, the Chief Minister is wearing a pink kurta and had consumed three idlis for breakfast alongwith cold milk, and within 24 hours of the 75-year old Governor having run 100 metres in under 10 seconds.

If the above conditions are not met, then, to be successful, the demand from the people, whether made or not, will be for an ideology based decision the government has been dying to take.

“A rose by any other name would smell as sweet”, argued Juliet in William Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet. But that was her opinion. We have ours.

Cause and Effect

On 15th April, the Delhi government took the decision to introduce the odd-even scheme for another fifteen days. Once again, private vehicles with an odd-numbered licence plate can run only on odd days and, even-numbered ones only on even days.

It appears the scheme has been reintroduced at the first available opportunity because the original odd-even scheme, introduced in January for fifteen days, was a resounding failure and did nothing to solve the problem it was introduced for, that of reducing atmospheric pollution in Delhi.

But what it did do during those fifteen days in January, as our leaders have discovered, is that it seemed to have resulted in some reduction in traffic on the roads. Quite against the run of play, it seems. Now who would have guessed that if you prohibit half the cars from coming onto the roads, the number of cars on the road will reduce.

At least not the Delhi CM, alumnus of the prestigious Indian Institute of Technology (IIT). How, then, can one blame the Delhi government for not knowing?

Displaying maturity and foresight far beyond any political mandate, Delhi’s political leadership has decided that atmospheric pollution, a raging issue just three months back, does not need to be solved any more. Till, of course, it becomes an unsolvable issue once again next winter, requiring drastic measures that don’t work. Which gets solved once again by the onset of the following summer, creating bigger problems to solve.

As is the case this year. Freed from the yoke of solving the pollution issue, as summer is now raging in Delhi, the government has reintroduced the odd-even scheme, this time to reduce traffic on the roads. Like atmospheric pollution, traffic needs to be reduced only for fifteen days. Of course, as with all good schemes, it has been reintroduced because of pressure from the public.

Quite a handy scheme this odd-even is turning out to be. First it is introduced to reduce atmospheric pollution which it does not. Now it is introduced to reduce traffic on the roads. Wonder what else it can be introduced for? For solving the issue of the plunging water table? For providing food to the poor? Poor performance of Delhi Daredevils in IPL? European refugee crisis?

One wonders if any other scheme will ever be required…

The big question everyone is asking is; what will the scheme solve this time. Last time it was introduced to solve the pollution issue and ended up reducing traffic on the roads. As this time it has been introduced for reducing traffic on the roads, it cannot be expected to reduce traffic on the roads. One wonders what it will really solve. At every corner tea-shop, in every metro coach, people are busy guessing the problem that the odd-even scheme will solve this time. Radio jockeys are having a field day running contests for people to guess the problem the odd-even scheme of April 2016 will solve.

There is really no saying what a decision of the government might end up solving.

A senior minister in the AAP government in Delhi, who had taken it upon himself to treat all women of visibly foreign looks as being of questionable character and personally led police teams to raid their homes, is preparing to start these raids once again.

“We don’t know what we might end up solving,” he looked somberly into the horizon and stated, while putting on his helmet in preparation for the raid later in the night.

In Gurgaon, or Gurugram now, always eager to copy from Delhi, transport authorities are busy breaching medians on busy roads, contrary to the once popular belief of reducing criss-crossing traffic to smoothen the flow.

Their response to enquiries from the media is, “We know it will solve something. As of now we don’t know what. But we will tell you as soon as we find out. Meanwhile, expect more central medians to be breached.”

The political will to take decisions without thought and logic is back.

“I have no idea what, but I might have solved something today,” is the new war-cry of members of the Delhi cabinet.

For more details of the odd-even scheme, go to post titled ODDities and EVENtualities.

Face to Face

ECS (name changed), one of India’s largest IT companies, probably the largest, engineered a coup of sorts a few years back when they setup a female-only BPO unit in a country in the Middle East, well known for its treatment of women.

They engineered another coup when they got the Indian PM, during his recent visit to the country, to visit this Centre.

As we all know, conditions and regulations in a host country need to be respected. Even if you are the PM of a big nation. The Indian PM, full marks to him, has never been known to be non-accommodating, especially where uninterrupted oil supplies are at stake.

Though it was a secretive visit, with no coverage in the media, for obvious reasons, some photos of the PM’s visit to the centre seem to be emerging.  We bring these images to the readers of darkofficehumour for their reading and watching pleasure.

Remember, you saw them here first.

The PM walking in with the CEO of ECS and Chairman of Mata Sons, the majority owner of ECS

The PM walking in with the CEO of ECS and Chairman of Mata Sons (name changed), the holding company of ECS

PM having High Tea with staff, alongwith serious discussions

PM having High Tea with staff, alongwith serious discussions

A worried CEO of ECS and Chairman of Mata Sons wondering how to locate the PM in the crowd

A worried CEO of ECS and Chairman of Mata Sons wondering how to locate the PM in the crowd

The PM in the crowd

The PM somewhere in the crowd

 

Moment of alarm as an unidentifiable object sighted in the background; subsequent investigations revealing it to be a male of the species

Moment of alarm as an unidentifiable object sighted in the background; subsequent investigations revealing it to be a male of the species

 

Management team of the Centre standing separate from the staff, like in any self-respecting organisation

Management team of the Centre standing separate from the staff, like in any self-respecting organization. These people are quick learners!

Posing with the PM. Looks like an amateur photographer!

Posing with the PM at the end of the visit. Looks like an amateur photographer!

 

These images underscore the importance of this visit. From the expressions on the faces of the participants it is clear that historical changes are afoot.

Remember, you saw it here first!

Party Hall

My favourite people are at it again.

No, I am not talking about politicians.

I am not talking about business-people either.

And, neither am I talking about spiritual leaders.

I am talking about the faithful; the followers of the spiritual leaders.

They were there when a geriatric spiritual leader was accused of rape and forced confinement by two young women.

They were there, with their infirm and frail, thronging to the retreat of the spiritual leader who saw visions of some 15th century mystics, raised a private army and used children hostage as he kept law-enforcement agencies at bay with firearms.

And they are there, in thousands, at every townhall meeting held by another spiritual leader, popular on TV, who randomly imagines objects associated with a memory or experience a suffering devotee has shared; it could be a tree, a stone, a cow, or anything else. Anything. If the devotee is able to see the object imagined by this guru, the cure involves him doing an act suggested by the leader that he has not done before. If he has done that already, the cure requires him to stop doing it, or undoing it. In case he fails to see the object, which is rare, the burly security guards help him see the light.

I used to often lie awake at night, worrying for this leader. Since rape and firearm brandishing had already been taken, I would wonder if he had any means still at his disposal to distinguish himself in this crowded space.

But I needn’t have worried. Spiritual leaders will find a path.

The latest path laid out for my favourite people leads to the World Culture Festival being organised in Delhi. By yet another organisation run by yet another renowned spiritual leader. They will be there. In millions.

Because this is a private function, the army, funded by taxpayer money, has been called in to erect pontoon bridges over the Yamuna to make the venue accessible. And not without good reason. After all, as a ministry spokesperson has explained, do we want a rusty army to protect our borders? What better practice to keep them in shape than working like daily-wage labourers to construct a pontoon bridge for a private show. The shape that guarding the borders in frozen Siachen, the world’s highest battlefield, or working as part of a multinational Peace Keeping Force operating under the UN banner in Africa, and many others, could not give them.

In addition, of course, to “in public interest”, that most transparent and explicit of terms.

To do their bit for the highly respected forces, patriotic citizens are sending invitations to the army to come and fix their light-bulbs and mow their lawns. What if I cannot guard the nation’s borders. I can contribute by keeping the armed forces in good shape. And because it will be “in public interest”. Such patriotism never fails to move me.

And because doing so has been banned by the National Green Tribunal (NGT), the function is being held on the flood plains of the Yamuna, facilitated by No Objection certificates from several agencies. And because it is such a sensitive subject, the only other structure allowed to come up is an ancient temple constructed fifteen or so years back.

Apparently flood-plain destruction could lead to floods. But how is a spiritual leader, or anyone else, to know? Did anyone know that topography alteration and unchecked human activity on the riverside, could make the Uttarakhand floods a few years back so devastating, before the devastation happened? Could anyone know that haphazard construction along the banks of lakes, blocking channels which would have normally allowed rain water to drain out, would cause unprecedented floods in Chennai, before the floods happened? How is anyone to know that flood-plain destruction could lead to floods, before they actually happen?

The spiritual guru, himself, has spoken about how 100,000 volunteers had been releasing eco-enzymes into the Yamuna to improve the river’s water quality and the improvement could be gauged from the fact that water buffaloes, which had shunned the river in the past, had now come back to it. Since these enzymes have neither been tested by any scientific body for their efficacy, nor has the organisation asked for permission from the Central Board of Pollution Control before releasing them, what the guru is saying must be true. Moreover, these eco-enzymes are so effective that they do not appear to have been used for cleaning-up and other major river system.

Moreover, now the Central government has also given him a character certificate and clarified that his intentions cannot be doubted as he is committed to protecting the environment. They know.

In all fairness, the Delhi government has responded to the questions asked by NGT and washed its hands off the controversy, citing conflict of interest. They come into the picture only if there are floods, they have clarified. They have no role to play in preventing floods. And it is logical, they say. If they were to prevent floods from happening, how would they ever get to discharge their duty in the event of floods as there would be no floods.

Even Delhi Development Authority (DDA) has objected to being unfairly targeted by NGT. “We have only issued a No Objection certificate. It does not mean they start building. Where in our certificate does it say they can go ahead and build?”

Answer that.

The Prime Minister and President have been slated to participate as is a private function. Like they participate in private functions of the common man. The President, since, appears to have withdrawn.

An NGT bench has directed the organisers to pay Rupees 5 crores as environmental compensation, down from the 120 crores apparently being considered at one stage, and permitted the event to go ahead. As can be expected from a spiritual organisation, it does not appear to be facing any difficulty in paying this fairly substantial amount, even though it says it is considering an appeal in the Supreme Court against this order. So that my favourite people, with perhaps many political leaders, bureaucrats and business leaders in their ranks, can go and benefit from the spiritual experience that starts today.

A leading businessman, meanwhile, seeing an opportunity that only successful, seasoned businesspersons can, has applied to DDA for holding his daughter’s birthday party next month on the Yamuna flood-plains alongwith a request to the Army to serve drinks at the event, to keep them in shape and “in public interest”. At Rupees 5 crores (approx. USD 750,000) for 3 days for a space of 48 acres, that could be illegally expanded to cover a thousand acres, it sounds like a great bargain. The Yamuna flood-plains could become the most sought-after Party Hall yet.

Free Basics

Big business is at it again. Doing what they are best at. Making the world a better place. By telling us what is good for us.

According to some reports, Facebook has spent close to a hundred million US dollars in promoting Free Basics in India. How’s that for a start to altruism?

Free Basics, for the uninitiated, is a concept being promoted by Facebook, alongwith Reliance, one of India’s largest business houses, who are about to launch their 4G enabled mobile telephony services, whereby a certain set of websites will be made available for free to all users. Accessing websites beyond this permitted list will attract charges.

As is always the case in India, the lesser the understanding about an issue, the more the number of people offering knowledgeable opinions, including yours truly. While some of the debate has been on the role of Telcos in a society, whether they should merely be the conduits of Voice and Data, charging on the basis of volume, or whether they should have a say, and interest, in what passes through their network, most of the uninformed knowledgeable voices have been on the role and interest of Facebook and its founder and primary shareholder, who we will refer to as MZ, which, clearly, is everyone’s business.

In order to cut through the dross of uninformed debate, and present the real picture to the public, MZ agreed to an interview with a prominent reporter of a leading daily. Here are some extracts from the freewheeling interaction.

Reporter: Thank you for joining us today MZ. I know you are a busy man. Let me come straight to the point. Why are you promoting Free Basics?

MZ: After creating a successful business, a lot of responsibility is thrust upon you. People look up to you. It becomes your responsibility to decide what others should do. We have decided that others should follow Free Basics.

Reporter: Thank you. That is very eloquently explained. Tell me, why is Free Basics important?

MZ: That is the wrong question. The question we should be asking is “what will happen if there is no Free Basics?”

Reporter, sheepishly: OK, what will happen if there is no Free Basics?

MZ: Nothing. Absolutely nothing will happen if there is no Free Basics. Hence all the more reason we introduce it without any delay. Before this realisation becomes common knowledge.

Reporter, mentally clicking another “Like” for the answer: You have decided on a Free Basics model where you define the websites that a User will get access to. How did you decide on these websites?

MZ: All our decisions are guided by one mission; of helping people. The websites included are the ones which people really need for their day to day activities. Like Facebook. Isn’t that what a poor farmer in Cuddapah district of Andhra Pradesh, praying for rain while sowing seeds in the searing heat, really need? Isn’t that what a hard-working miner in Dhanbad district of Jharkhand, while working underground in the peat mines, where he cannot even access the net, really need?

Reporter, clearly impressed with MZ’s passion for helping people: What about the other sites?

MZ, without noticing the interruption by the Reporter: …and the list has been rounded off by adding other popular websites in each category, which nobody has heard of; like Jagran Josh for Career and Jobs, instead of Naukri and Monster. It was a lot of hard work, unearthing sites that nobody has ever used. But I am thankful to our dedicated team that we have filled all categories.

Reporter: There is some research you have quoted that in 50% of the cases, after a User has tasted the Internet, within 30 days he starts accessing it on a paid basis. Does that not defeat the purpose of providing Internet for free?

MZ: Don’t you want to see development in this country? If the poor farmer in Andhra Pradesh, or the hard-working miner in Jharkhand, cannot contribute to making Facebook shares rise year after year, how will you call them developed?

Reporter: Would it not have been better to give a certain amount of data free of cost? That way, they could visit the sites that are useful to them, and also limit the time spent on surfing.

MZ, displaying signs of exasperation: Did you grow up in a socialist state? Looks like you don’t understand the meaning of freedom and democracy. In a democratic society, freedom is the right to choose from the list that big business and government have dished up for your own good. Do you want to create anarchy? Everyone accessing websites that are useful to them. Unthinkable!

MZ, while waiting for the Reporter to recover from this outburst: Besides, if he got what he wanted for free, why would he ever graduate to become a paying user of the Net and become developed?

Reporter, a little defensively, having no words to counter that iron-clad logic: One hears that none among what we call developed countries have opted for Free Basics. The only countries which have permitted some form of Free Basics are Uganda, Tanzania and Philippines and a few others.

MZ: There are many reasonable nations in the world. They see reason as soon as I offer to buy out their country with Facebook shares.

Reporter: You have spent a hundred million dollars in promoting FB. Would the money not have been better spent if you had used it to create Internet accounts for a million people.

MZ: You need to get your facts right. We have not spent a single cent on promoting Free Basics. We have run a campaign to educate people so that they understand what is good for them. Are you questioning the value of education?

Reporter, side-stepping the question: It appears that you are trying to bring about a change in the functioning of Telcos. Though run by private corporations in many countries, Telcos are still primarily viewed as utilities providing a basic service.

MZ: Look, you can only do so much. If Telcos don’t understand that complicating an existing, working model, without adding any value to the ecosystem, is what is good for them, there is not much that I can do.

MZ, suddenly becoming agitated: Your Prime Minister promised unfettered access to the Indian market when he hugged me in Menlo Park a couple of months back. Indian Telcos better agree!

And, on that conciliatory note, the interview ended.

We are all better informed and better placed to decide what big business and government have decided for us.