Notes to Myself



Demonetization anniversary

Today is the first anniversary of #Demonetization in India. And the nation is divided vertically on whether it was a disaster or it was a divine act. You cannot be in the middle, you have to have a position. And based on that you will be labelled and attacked/trolled/criticized or revered/hailed/saluted.

Here are few articles I am reading currently:

The Economist Article

Demonetisation’s Economic Impact: $15 Billion On 3 Vital Sectors

A year after demonetisation, its effects have still not been quantified

But black money is not kept under the pillow: Pronab Sen of IGC India

An Account Of India’s Attempts To Curb The Black Economy, And Why They Don’t Work

The stated objectives of #Demonetization were:

  1. To curb black money – unsuccessful. Because all cash is not black money. And black cash is a flow and not stock. We should have focused on Black Wealth.
  2. To stop terrorist funding – unsuccessful. It may have reduced terror funding for a while; but during last one year new currency notes were seized from terrorists
  3. To move India towards less-cash economy – only partially successful. Because of very low base, there was initial jump in Digital transactions (when expressed as %, it looked even bigger), but that has stabilized or is slowly declining.
  4. Ravi Shankar Prasad, the union minister has invented another illogical and nonsense “benefit” of demonetization yesterday. Check below news reportDemo5


On downside, there was tremendous chaos. Almost 150 people died while standing in queues. Standing in queues was hailed as a badge of patriotism. This caricature summarizes that thought well.


Economy contracted drastically – this was further accentuated by poorly executed GST implementation. The cash is back at the previous levels. Instead of 500/1000, we have 2000 rupee notes – so black cash can be stashed even more conveniently. And yes, there is no chip in 2000 rupee note!

Government is going all out and deploying several ministers, MPs and media agents to “celebrate” this day as “Anti Black Money Day”. This is like adding insult to injury. Nobody is favoring black money. But that cannot justify the illogical and ill-planned step that Demonetization was.

And there were rumors that today the PM might announce another “masterstroke” move – against Benami property (illegal/unaccounted property). Well, you can only keep calm and wait till 8 PM today for another “Mitron…” moment. Till then, happy Demonetization anniversary – in whichever way you choose to observe it…

P.S.: Don’t forget that today is also birthday of BJP Marga Darshak L. K. Advani! Born on 8th Nov 1927.

P.P.S: For Marathi people, आज पु ल देशपांडे यांचा देखील जन्मदिवस आहे (८-नोव्हेंबर-१९१९)






Demonetization anniversary eve


This is what Dr. Manmohan Singh had said about Demonetization in Rajya Sabha – monumental mismanagement! A case of organized loot and legalized plunder…!

He had predicted a fall of 2% GDP and he was largely right!


Rs. 2000 currency note was supposed to have a chip, according to this Aaj Tak report!


Here is the latest interview of Dr. Manmohan Singh on the anniversary of #Demonetization


If you want to see how the “brain behind demonetization” Mr Anil Bokil spoke a different tune before and after demonetization watch these two interviews (in Marathi).

Anil Bokil interview just after Demonetization was announced

Anil Bokil interview after Demonetization was confirmed to have failed, after RBI statistics

नोटाबंदी खरेच फसली का? अनिल बोकील यांची एक्स्क्लुझिव्ह मुलाखत

See difference in his body language and confidence; how defensive he gets in the second interview.

More than 100 people died standing in queues. Huge visible/tangible negative impact on Economy. What was achieved? How much of it is sustainable? Was Demonetization worth it? Who takes the responsibility and accountability for this monumental blunder?

Critical Thinking and Analysis Case Study: Mumbai-Ahmedabad Bullet Train Project

shinzo-abe-narendra-modi_1d5b3072-990d-11e7-baba-4acd69b87684Bullet Train

I have had the privilege (or curse?) of pursuing full-time MBA two times. And if I had enough wealth, I would pursue it again, or maybe some other higher studies such as Ph D or Masters in Economics, Masters in Policy Making etc. I enjoyed the process of learning about Critical Thinking and Analysis and honing ability to study various subjects, evaluate opinions, data, facts and form a view.

And MBA is all about “application” – through Case studies. So, let’s pick the most recent and most interesting case study – that of Mumbai-Ahmedabad Bullet Train.

As I write this post, the Indian Prime Minister Modi and Japanese Prime Minister Abe laid the foundation stone of the 508 Km long Mumbai-Ahmedabad High Speed Bullet Train project, a few minutes ago.

Here are key details of the project (Case facts):

  • India’s first Bullet train is being built in partnership with Japan
  • The government has set an ambitious deadline of starting the bullet train on August 15, 2022 – the day that India marks its 75th year of India’s Independence.
  • The gigantic infrastructure project that is going to cost India approximately Rs 1,10,000 crore (~17 Billion USD)
  • he Japanese government is providing a loan of Rs 88,000 crore at a “miniscule” interest rate of 0.1%.
  • The loan can be repaid over a time span of 50 years, with the repayment beginning 15 years after disbursement. The loan interest ranges between Rs 7-8 crore a month and the government claims it will not put any strain on existing financial resources.
  • The bullet train will run at an operating speed of 320 Km/hour and a maximum speed of 350 Km/hour! The 508-Km journey will be completed in 2 hours and 7 minutes and cover 12 stations
  • Japan’s Shinkansen E5 series of bullet trains have been identified for the project.
  • The bullet train – with executive and economy-class seats – will have 10 coaches that will be able to seat as many as 750 passengers.
  • Later, Indian Railways proposes to add 6 more coaches to take the seating capacity to 1,250 passengers. Initially, 35 bullet trains will be operated.
  • By 2053 this number is likely to go up to 105. The bullet trains are expected to do 70 Ahmedabad-Mumbai sorties in a day. While 24 bullet trains will be imported from Japan, the rest will be manufactured in India
  • According to the government, the project is likely to generate employment for about 20,000 workers during the construction phase.
  • Safety: The train delay record of Shinkansen is less than a minute with zero fatality, says Japan. Not only that, the technology for disaster predictions and preventions will also be acquired.
  • This would make sure safety is maintained in case of any natural calamity such as an earthquake etc. Modi government hopes that with this technology, India will leapfrog to the cutting edge of latest train developments.
  • One of the biggest benefits of the bullet train project will come from the fact that Indian engineers and labour will gain knowledge and skills to ‘Make in India’ the parts and rolling stock. This, in turn, would be beneficial for future high-speed rail projects that are being planned for other routes in the country – and as Railways Minister Piyush Goyal said – we may even start exporting!
  • The Maharashtra government is still undecided on where the bullet train will end in Mumbai. The state government this week agreed to spare 9,000 sq metres plot for the station at the Bandra-Kurla Complex on the condition that the railways assess suitability of an alternative site.
  • At their summit talks today PM Modi and Mr Abe are expected to focus on bolstering defence and security ties. They are also expected to discuss cooperation in the nuclear energy sector. The recent nuclear test by North Korea will come up during the talks, officials said.
  • Benefit for Gujarat: An agreement between the Japan International Cooperation Agency and the Gujarat Maritime Board for developing the Alang shipbuilding yard, besides the establishment of two industrial parks, will be on the table during Abe’s visit. According to Gujarat Chief Secretary, JN Singh, 15 Japanese companies are keen to invest in Gujarat and will be signing agreements with the state government. Some of these companies include Moresco, Toyoda Gosei, Topre and Murakami.

Here is a good 2015 article about Economics of Bullet Train written in connect of Mumbai-A’bad Bullet Train proposal then.

Now you must keep in mind “What’s In It For Me” (Link: ) question and apply it for different stakeholder groups.

For example, WIIFM from Japan’s perspective. Why would they provide loan at such low interest rates of 0.1% and provide technology? What do they get?

Think about WIIFM from different stakeholder perspectives – some of the key ones are: PM Narendra Modi (the individual), BJP Government at the Center, BJP Government in the state of Gujarat (remember, Gujarat state elections are due in few months), BJP-Siv Sena state government in Maharashtra, the commuters (who can take slow and cheap train or a fast and expensive flight, as of now, to travel Mumbai-Ahmedabad), business communities in Gujarat (Surat, Ahmedabad etc) and business communities in Mumbai (again Gujaratis?), the Indian Railways (getting technology know-how, developing skills in operating High-speed trains), the social and environmental groups (massive displacement due to land acquisition and some part of the route is submarine), the new commercial opportunities along the train route/stations (malls at and around the train stations), the public at large (tax burden, cess, toll?).

The more you start thinking, the more you can identify stakeholder groups. And different aspects how they are linked such as – Economic, political, sociological, environmental, international relations (Japan as an investor and ally – to counter China threat).

For now, I leave it up to you to think about this case study from various angles. Will write a follow-up post on this in due course. Maybe my analysis, or just updates about the project.


What’s Your Favorite “Game Changer”?

I am from Pune. Praising someone doesn’t come naturally to me. By the way, the first and the second line had no connection. I did not use “And hence…” or “So”. So don’t jump to conclusion about Punekars based on my second line.

“Praise, like gold and diamonds, owes its value only to its scarcity” said Samuel Johnson. So I praise sparingly 🙂

The reason I am writing this blog is my recent banter with a friend who quote a possible Government decision on direct fertilizer subsidy a “game changer” (the Government would deposit fertilizer subsidy amount in the bank accounts of farmers directly). We got into not-so-healthy debate on use of word “game changer”. Here is my point.

We use the word “Game Changer” too loosely and the word has lost the importance or significance. This has been the case since many years; however, of late the deterioration in value has really accelerated. Here are few headlines I compiled:



Crackdown on black money: Is Govt’s bold decision a real game-changer?

Anti-corruption game-changer


GST, currency change to be game changers for economy: Jaitley

GST – A game changer for Indian economy

GST won’t be a game-changer, only a name changer

Creation of New Districts in Manipur State:

Creation of new districts could be game-changer in Manipur polls

Cash Transfers/Direct Benefit Transfers:

Cash transfers, a potential game-changer

Liberalization of FDI:

Liberalization of FDI – A game changer for the Indian Economy

Aviation Policy:

‘Game changer aviation policy’: Airlines, flyers to get fare deal now


Aadhaar-based payments will be a game changer in digital banking

Jan Dhan Yojana:

Jan Dhan Yojana is a game changer, says YES Bank’s Radha Singh

Make In India:

Make in India theme is a game-changer for economy: Baba Kalyani

Surgical Strikes Against Pakistan:

Surgical Strikes – Game changer

National Health Insurance Scheme:

PM National Health Insurance scheme will be a game changer

How many more Game Changers? Is Swachh Bharat Abhiyan a game changer. Is India’s win in World Cup Cricket a game changer? Is India’s first individual Gold/Silver/Bronze Medal a game changer? An Indian composer winning 2 Academy Awards (Oscars) – is that a game changer?

Is Game Changer the only word we have to describe significant things?

How about “path breaking” (movie) or “trend setter” (person) or a “milestone” (event/achievement) or a “landmark” (decision). Or other such adjectives?

I looked up the Oxford Dictionary for meaning of Game Changer:


I think every decision or event has (or supposed to have) some influence and causes some change. Merely because of that it should not be called a game changer. The key point is “significant shift in current way of doing or thinking”.

Let me try to explain how I see it.

Invention of electricity, as a form of energy, was a game changer. Invention of a more power efficient variant of a light bulb (which saves say 30% power) is not a game changer. It is a significant improvement, or a milestone. But it is not a game changer.

Wait. Even the improved light bulb can be a game changer – for an ailing company that manufactures some outdated bulbs and that comes up with this R&D breakthrough which changes fortune of that company.

So it is contextual. Baba Kalyani saying that “Make in India is a game changer” should be taken in context. For his business the initiative opened up lucrative opportunities and hence it could be a game changer for him. But not for a tea stall owner in some remote Indian village.

However, the analysts and observers are too eager to term everything as a “game changer”. I wonder if they ever keep track of what happened to previous game changers. In short Game Changer is equivalent of “Breaking News” for media journalists.

And the obsession is not just India-specific phenomenon. Check this:

Why President Trump Could Be a Game-Changer for Stocks

So what’s your favorite Game Changer?

My favorites is the following:

Successful implementation of schemes to be a game changer: Arun Jaitley

What a revelation! So mere announcements won’t change the game. Implementation will. That’s something new and not very convenient…


Lies, damned lies, and statistics – and Modi App Survey

Former British Prime Minister Benjamin Disraeli once said: “There are three kinds of lies: lies, damned lies, and statistics.”

This is so true about Statistics, and the recent survey by Narendra Modi App on Government’s #Demonetisation decision is a classic example of how one can lie with statistics. Selective Amnesia is a virtue, big gift in Politics. Similarly selectively cherry picking few data points and jumping to conclusion is a big quality politicians must have (and which most of them possess). And Statistics is the best tool which helps them do it effectively.

Since PM Modi’s announcement to ban Rs. 500/1000 currency notes on 8th of November 2016 the entire nation is in turmoil. Even after 15 days there is tremendous disruption in the economy . And it seems the Government is feeling the heat. Hence they came up with what they do best – using Social Media tools and publicity mechanism to convey a message that “the entire nation is behind PM Modi in supporting the note ban”. So “Narendra Modi App” – a mobile app through which PM supposedly connects with the “entire nation” – conducted a survey and it was announced that 90-95% people support PM Modi on note ban.

Since the news broke the Twitter is abuzz with “” trend which is trying to expose the “damn lies” of the Survey result. The argument is simple – the survey is “managed” and not representative.

Here are few statistics: There have been ~70 lakh (7 million) downloads of “Narendra Modi App”. Of these half i.e. 35 lakh have been active users (users who access App regularly). Govt announced that total 5 lakh users responded to survey. And 92% people supported PMs decision. Let’s analyze why the Twitter is trolling the survey.

  1. People who downloaded Apps are mostly “Bhakts” or government supporters. Not a representative population of “entire nation”
  2. Of them only 5 lakh (7%) responded. So even “Bhakts” didn’t come out in support of their Boss. Probably that reveals the fake app users
  3. What’s most glaring is how the survey was loaded to lead to only one outcome. There was no option of “No” in responding to the survey. See below

Modi App Survey.png

And that’s why people are trolling Government after they published the survey results.

How to lie with statistics.jpg

This reminded me of Darrell Huff’s book  “How To Lie With Statistics?” which he wrote way back in 1954. Huff  would be very proud of “Namo App Survey” developer! 🙂

The media is also openly criticizing the survey gimmicks. The Financial Express wrote this:

What is alarming is the way Govt is trying to defend this decision. Maharashtra CM said that anybody who opposes PM’s decision is “anti-national”. That is adding insult to injury. We do not need this kind of test to prove our nationalism.

I don’t know what this event will lead to – in terms of Economic prosperity or otherwise, and in terms of Political mileage. But this is certainly creating a divided society…but then it is a hallmark of the ruling party’s politics.

To end it on a lighter note, here is how BBC’s “Yes Minister” TV Series captured how leading questions can lead to a survey outcome you want:

“Narendra Modi App” Survey designer must be a huge fan of Yes Minister, and in particular the above scene 🙂

मिर्झा गालिब on स्वच्छ भारत

मिर्झा गालिब  to PM नरेंद्र मोदी:
तेरी हुकूमत मे
अजीब कश्मकश मे गुजर रही जिंदगी गालिब
दाल खा नहीं सकते और गोश्त खाने नहीं देते
उपर से शौचालय पर शौचालय बनवाये जा रहे है
जब खायेगा इंडिया, तभी तो जायेगा इंडिया…
आलम ये है की
ना खा रहे है, ना जा रहे है…
बस स्वच्छ भारत टॆक्स भरे जा रहे है
– गरीब गालिब

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