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Sunday, December 15, 2013


Brand watch :Eveready: The power of red

Eveready: The power of red
In a segment that wasn’t exactly known for dashing brands, Eveready became a game changer on the back of its sustained brand building efforts, a strength it now is leveraging to diversify.
Market leader
Eveready India Limited (EIL) was set up in 1905. It has been a glorious century where the flagship brand has gone from strength to strength. After the initial dry cell batteries were imported from the United States, the first plant in India was set up in 1939 at Kolkata and another in 1952 at Chennai. EIL then forayed into flashlights in 1958 with a factory in Lucknow. Commanding close to 45 per cent market share in the dry cell segment as revealed by AC Nielsen survey in 2009-2010, the brand is a leader in the Indian market. Eveready’s distribution betters probably anyone’s in the FMCG category. From departmental stores to paan and cigarette shops across the country, it is to be found. Powered by great products and quality campaigns, Eveready has always managed to be at the very top for years.
Eveready’s strength is the result of a continuous and well-orchestrated brand development strategy that maximises the value from each consumer touch point.
Product portfolio
Innovative products at reasonable prices are what have made Eveready a brand that has touched the lives of millions of Indians.
Eveready has a portfolio comprising dry cell batteries (carbon zinc batteries, rechargeable batteries and alkaline batteries), flashlights (torches), CFLs and packet tea (Tez).  Recently it has also forayed into the mosquito repellant business with Poweron brand.
Eveready should no longer be considered just a battery maker. In fact the company’s new mantra is “to light up people’s lives”. The lighting solutions focus on the light emitting diode (LED) technology-based lamp which is being touted as the next big thing. The new Eveready digiLED Lantern is an example. These lanterns bring to you the convenience of keeping your home lit up even when there’s a power cut. Alternatively, the digiLED lanterns can be a welcome device for all those who have no access to power and need other sources of light.
Brand communication
‘Give me red’. These three iconic words for a whole generation of Indians brought up in the 90’s meant only one thing – Eveready.
Great distribution network spread across the length and breadth of the country, quality products at reasonable prices and its incessant brand development processes have ensured the best consumer solution for the brand. Van campaigns have been in existence for long but it is Eveready that has taken it as a serious tool to market itself, especially in the rural parts of India. A big chunk of Eveready’s success comes from its armada of sales cum promotional vans – 1,000 exclusive vans servicing retailers across the country. Signing of star Akshay Kumar as brand ambassador has boosted the already high brand recognition even further.
The continuous leadership status of the brand owes much to the consistent brand building efforts that have always kept the brand relevant to the urban and semi-rural consumers, the genesis of which was the multiple award winning ‘Give me Red’ campaign. The original, path-breaking campaign won as many as 11 advertising awards. Eveready’s new logo is forward-looking, contemporary and dynamic. The tag line, ‘Next Century of Power’, says a thousand things about the brand. Eveready and Give me Red have become synonyms with the image of power and endurance. Its batteries, flashlights and various other products touch every Indian’s life in one way or the other.
The brand signifies quality with affordability. Eveready’s incredible power of reaching out to most Indians has made them one of the most powerful and enduring FMCG brands in the country. It has powered India for years and with constant innovations and creative advertising campaigns making it the brand leader in its category.

Brand Watch : Bombay Dyeing: Bring Style Home

Bombay Dyeing: Bring Style Home
One of the India’s largest producers of textile since 1879, Bombay Dyeing is also one of the oldest companies in the country
Bombay Dyeing is one of India’s largest producers of textiles. The daily production at Bombay Dyeing exceeds 300,000 meters of fabrics and it has a distribution chain consisting of 600 plus exclusive shops spread all over the country. Bombay. Apart from the textiles, Bombay Dyeing also deals in the chemicals.

Group heritage
Bombay Dyeing is part of the Wadia Group, which is more than 250 years old. Wadia Group initially ventured into the area of ship building, and more than 355 ships were designed and built by the Group, including men-of-war for the British Navy. As the industrialization grew in the 19th century, so did the trading, and new opportunities for business. In the late 19th century, Bombay was one of the major cotton ports of the world.
Nowrosjee Wadia sensed an opportunity in India’s mushrooming textile industry and on August 23, 1879, Bombay Dyeing was founded in a humble redbrick shed. Since then, Bombay Dyeing has grown into one of India’s largest producer of textiles. The company also diversified and pioneered the manufacturing of various chemicals.
Along the path of growth and diversification, Bombay Dyeing has spawned dozens of other companies. In technical and financial collaboration with world leaders, such companies have pioneered the manufacture of various chemicals and have grown to be leaders in their new fields.
With the wave of industrialization in the 19th century, trading grew, and with it, opportunities for new areas of business. In 1879, Bombay was next only to New Orleans as the world’s largest cotton port. It was at this time that Nowrosjee Wadia set his sights on India’s mushrooming textile industry. On August 23rd, in a humble redbrick shed, he began a small operation. Here, cotton yarn spun in India was dip dyed by hand in three colours-turkey red, green and orange-and laid out in the sun to dry.
The 19th century witnessed a new wave in industrialization. Trading grew, and with it opportunities for new areas of business. The craft of spinning and weaving fine cloth had historically been associated with India. In 1879, Bombay was the second largest cotton port in the world. The country’s textile industry was mushrooming and Nowrosjee, was the right man in the right place at the right time.
On August 23, of that year, in a humble red-brick shed Nowrosjee, began a small dye works, the first of its kind in India. Here, cotton yarn spun in India was dip-dyed by hand in three colours – turkey red, green and orange and laid out in the sun to dry. It was history in the making. The Bombay Dyeing and Manufacturing Company Ltd. had been born. Throughout the 116 years that allowed, the company has successfully grown into one of India’s largest producers of textiles.
Along the path of growth, the Wadias have diversified into various fields of industry and commerce. The diversification was multidirectional (Chemicals, agro-products, light engineering, electronics, consultancy and architecture) in technical and financial collaboration with world leaders. The new companies under the Wadia banner have been pioneers and are now leaders in their respective fields.

It was more than just a company, Bombay Dyeing that was born, in 1879, it was a legacy. A legacy that would give rise to one of India’s most respected business houses – The Wadia Group.
The Wadia Group today
With 132 years at the forefront of industry in India, the Wadia Group is today broadly diversified in several growth industries that cover airlines, textiles, chemicals, petrochemicals, plantations, foods, electronics, light engineering, health, laminates, real estate and consultancy. Consistently, the Group companies have emerged as market leaders in fields they have entered. And over the years the Group has developed an enviable record of successfully managing diverse technologies.
For the year ended March 31, 2011, the Bombay Dyeing posted a net profit of Rs 21.39 crore, compared to Rs 18.42 crore in the same period last fiscal. Net sales of the firm rose to Rs 1,886.47 crore for the year ended March 31, 2011, as against Rs 1,642.76 crore in the previous fiscal.

Brand watch SOTC: Taking places

SOTC: Taking places
SOTC’s advantage lies in the fact that it provides its customers affordable but enjoyable travel solutions from a wide array of packages and deals at attractive prices.
Kuoni India’s key outbound travel subsidiary, SOTC – is India’s largest outbound tour operator. Kuoni Travels, the world’s leading tour operator, took over the brand in 1996. Since then it has become a leader in all sections including escorted tours, free individual travel, special interest tours and domestic holidays. Its wide variety of holiday packages has taken the concept of holidaying to a whole new level. It has definitely redefined the concept of organised leisure travel in India. Till date, SOTC has escorted over 4 lakh passengers across the globe to various destinations such as Europe, the USA, Australia, New Zealand, the Far East, Africa and so on.

Founded by Alfred Kuoni in 1906, the Kuoni Group is one of the world’s leading travel corporations with an annual turnover of over CHF 4 billion. With its corporate headquarters located in Zurich, Switzerland, Kuoni has a worldwide workforce of over 7,502 employees. The brand’s core focus is leisure travel and destination management businesses.
Scoring high on customer service
The strength of SOTC lies in the fact that the travel brand has empathised with budget travellers and came up with packages like cost saver tours, which have been designed keeping in mind the budget of the tourist without compromising on holiday prerequisites. SOTC offers its customers the chance to experience Europe and Southeast Asia at prices that one could only have dreamt of earlier. With SOTC’s cost saver tours, budget travellers enjoy the same inclusions as on a regular tour.
Products & services
As one of the leading service providers, it offers various travel packages for individuals, corporate and groups. SOTC’s outbound business operations include packaged group tours as well as individual holidays. SOTC World Famous Tours caters to those who seek comfort in group travel. Cost Saver Tours by SOTC have been designed keeping in mind the budget traveller. SOTC Do It Yourself Holidays caters to seasoned travellers who want to travel the world at their own pace. The holidays are tailored according to the traveller’s personal requirements. SOTC Holidays of India has a wide variety of choices for every kind of traveller – be it families, youth, students, honeymooners, groups or individual for a vacation in India. SOTC Holidays of India has a variety of holiday choices like: Classic Holidays of India, Fun-filled Beaches of India, Hill Stations & Quick Getaways and Spiritual Retreats. It has sorted all holiday packages into Standard, First and Deluxe Class categories. SOTC Corporate Tours provide personalised solutions for various MICE (Meetings, Incentives, Conferences and Events) related travel needs.

SOTC has not only fully utilised the existing market potential but has also created new markets through innovative packaging. Realising the significance of different segments across India, SOTC also pioneered tours conducted in Marathi and Gujarati under its SOTC brand extensions namely, ‘Bhraman Mandal’ and SOTC ‘Gurjar Vishwadarshan’. Such custom-built products go a long way in making it the number one travel brand in the country. An example of its customised tours would be the SOTC Durga Puja Holiday Bazaar. Customers who booked the tour got the opportunity to meet and greet Sourav Ganguly, former skipper of the Indian cricket team. Booking with SOTC earned the customers an exclusive evening with their favourite cricketer and they also received special souvenirs autographed by him.
Another example would be that of the SOTC Sports and Premium Ticket Hub’s tie-up that offers sports tours around the world. This innovative and path breaking partnership offers great deals, discounts, exciting offers to various sports events exclusively for the SOTC customers. These extraordinary sports events include European Football, UEFA Champions League, FIFA 2010 World Cup, ATP Grand Slam Tennis Tournaments (Australian Open, French Open, Wimbledon and US Open). SOTC has also launched a one-of-its-kind tour called ‘Monalisa’ – all-women tours to Europe and the Far East. Such tours are a boon for women who would love to travel alone but often hold back for security concerns.

Brand Watch: Yash Raj Films: Films forever

Brand Watch: Yash Raj Films: Films forever

The great legacy of Yash Chopra makes the brand stand out in a film industry bustling with creative talent and formidable competitors

Movie making is a very speculative business. With the same ingredients some of the films click with the audience while the others don’t. Filmmakers cater to a very eclectic and fickle taste of an ever-changing audience. An audience is always transient in its taste and will remain so in future too. In today’s India, a movie cannot hope to rake in never-before heard profits unless viewers see the same movie not once, but twice (or even thrice!).
If any movie banner has a truly strong positioning inside the Indian moviegoer’s mind it is Yash Raj Films (YRF). It’s a blend of romance, style, elegance, music composition and utmost panache with which their films captivate the Hindi movie lovers. International locations were made famous in India by YRF.

YRF was one of the first filmmakers in Indian cinema to realise the impact that the commercial mainstream cinema has on the audience in our country coupled with its spillover on the NRI audience that has a very strong market in the movie space today. No wonder, the typical Yash Raj kind of film began to give way at the turn of the new millennium with the emergence of Aditya Chopra, first as a director, then as the creative head of Yash Raj Films. Most films masterminded by Aditya cater to the multiplex audience.
YRF has successfully moved away from the formula-film trend prevalent in Bollywood in the 80s and 90s and experimented with diverse themes and with considerable success. The innovative storylines in ‘Hum Turn’, ‘Kabul Express’, ‘Chak De! India’ or ‘Rocket Singh: Salesman of the Year’ are great proof of YRF’s diverse range of films. Though some of these movies have not set the cash registers ringing, still almost all of them have been high on entertainment value. YRF has given birth to the most talented actors, new composers and new singers, most of who have become the biggest shining stars in the industry. It is a dream for anyone to be working with YRF.
From directing all of their movies themselves, Yash and Aditya, in recent times, have started tapping upcoming talent for directing movies under the YRF banner. This strategy has had mixed results for banner.
Between 1973 and 1982, YRF made 9 films, out of which all the films directed by Yash Chopra himself – ‘Daag’, ‘Kabhi Kabhie’, ‘Trishul’, ‘Kaala Patthar’, ‘Silsila’ – were very highly acclaimed. Between 1983 and 1997, YRF again produced nine films, out of which Yash Chopra-directed ‘Chandni’, ‘Darr’ and ‘Dil To Pagal Hai’ and his son Aditya Chopra-directed ‘Dilwale Dulhaniya Le Jaayenge’ were outstanding box-office successes.
Between 1998 and 2005, YRF again gave many successful movies. But this time around, the films were mostly directed by outsiders-albeit tightly supervised by the father-son duo. The successful among them include ‘Dhoom’ by Sanjay Gadhvi, ‘Hum Tum’ and ‘Fanaa’ by Kunal Kohli, ‘Salaam Namaste’ by Siddharth Anand and ‘Bunti Aur Babli’ by Shaad Ali.
Riding on that confidence perhaps, in the last seven years, YRF has released ten more films. Out of them, only ‘Rab Ne Bana Di Jodi’ (2008) by Aditya Chopra and ‘Rocket Singh: Salesman of the Year’ (2009) by Shimit Amin are the only ones that have done well. Some of the recent releases such as like ‘Ishaqzaade’ (2011) directed by Habib Faisal, ‘Ladies vs Ricky Bahl’ by Maneesh Sharma, ‘Mere Brother Ki Dulhan’ (2011) by Ali Abbas Zafar, ‘Band Baaja Baaraat’ (2010) by Maneesh Sharma, ‘Lafangey Parindey’ (2010) by Pradeep Sarkar have been forgettable ones.
Yash Chopra’s YRF Studios (the only privately owned Studio in India) has expanded to distribution of films all over the world – its own as well as films made by other well-known Indian names. In recent times, the Studio has also forayed in to production of television software, ad films, music videos, and documentaries – with its enviable creative team always at the fore. YRF launched a youth films studio, Y-Films in 2011 with a vision of being a platform for new talent. Y-Films has aggressive line up of releases for 2012 and will be a launch pad for new directors and stars.

Brand watch :Blue Dart: Always on Time

Blue Dart: Always on Time
One of the most reliable courier and package distribution companies in the country, through its relentless efforts Blue Dart has been able to establish for itself a name that is trusted in the market
Reputation built on trust
For more than 25 years, Blue Dart has maintained its position as the fastest and the most reliable door-to-door delivery service for small packages and documents. Khushroo Dubash, Clyde Cooper, and Tushar Jani established Blue Dart Courier Services with a capital base of Rs 30,000 in 1983. The same year it forged ties with Gelco Express International U.K., and introduced India’s first international air package express service.
Since then it has been serving customers by delivering packages across more than 25,000 locations domestically and more than 200 countries and territories across the globe. Blue Dart’s sales alliance with DHL, the leading global brand in express distribution services has helped it with the international part of its business.
Blue Dart’s leadership in the sector is a testimony to the strong marketing and distribution strategies that it has employed over the years. Its success to a large extent depends upon the infrastructure that it has developed to help in smoothening out the wrinkles in the whole process i.e. from the time the customer delivers the package to the time it gets delivered.
The offerings that Blue Dart has on its platter range from the Domestic Priority to the International Services, thereby making it one of the widely covering courier service providers in the country. The Domestic priority is the fastest, highly reliable, door-to-door day-definite delivery service within India. This is, as may be called the flagship service of the company, delivering packages to over 25,000 locations in India. The facility of real time tracking of the package through the net and the free computerised proof of delivery makes it all the more attractive service.
International services are what make Blue Dart a truly wide networked courier and package Distribution Company. The international services follow the guidelines laid down by DHL. The services being offered under International Services are DHL Document Express (DOX), DHL Worldwide Package Express (WPX) and the Jumbo Box (Jumbo Box – 25 kgs. and Jumbo Junior -10 kgs.), a one-stop shipping process for consistent, time-definite, door to door delivery of international documents and packages.
Customer connect
As a brand Blue Dart hardly requires any bandwagon advertisements and promotions as the trust and confidence as well as the brand recall that it enjoys among its customers is a clear indication of how well Blue Dart has serviced its customers. Blue Dart has created a unique way of communicating its excellence in the courier and package distribution industry by being conferred with numerous international and national awards that speak volumes about the care that Blue dart takes in making sure that its customers are satisfied.
In 2009 Blue Dart DHL together made sure that the ‘Rakhi’ was delivered on time at the time of ‘Raksha Bandhan’ festival. This was called the ‘Rakhi Express’ and it helped Indian women to send their love and wishes to their brothers on time, even as the country was experiencing uncertain monsoons. This service was also provided at a reasonable price ranging between Rs 150 and Rs 200. Through this and many other related services Blue Dart has consistently maintained a loving and fruitful relationship with its customers.
Every endeavour that Blue Dart makes is based on providing its customers with great, timely services at affordable prices. To achieve these goals, Blue Dart has developed a state-of-the-art infrastructure that is supplemented with the enthusiasm and efficiency of its people. It also has started Blue Dart aviation which is the air network of Blue dart to keep everything running smoothly and delivering on time.
Blue Dart’s brand equity has been earned by keeping its customers at the focal point of all its strategies and services. Great service, speed, value have ensured in making Blue Dart clearly stand out for setting the benchmark in the logistics industry.

Monday, December 9, 2013

Brand watch :Kurlon: In the lap of comfort

Kurlon: In the lap of comfort
Innovative products, high quality and affordable pricing have made Kurlon India’s most well-known mattress brand
Established in 1962, Kurlon has garnered a heritage for itself, which the Indian consumer can relate to easily. From drawing to dining rooms, Kurlon’s offerings include a multitude of products including mattresses, pillows, sofas to even bed spreads and home furniture. Kurlon Limited, a Manipal Group Company, was founded by T. Ramesh Upendra Pai as ‘Karnataka Consumer Products Ltd’. The company was renamed as Kurlon Limited in 1995.

Kurlon is one of the oldest mattress makers of India. About one third of our life is spent sleeping – it is therefore vital ensure that we choose the right mattress. This is where the proficiency of India’s largest mattress maker comes to the forefront. Kurlon takes pride in saying that it has a mattress for almost every Indian. From the middle class to the hi-end customers – there is a mattress available that matches their need and pocket. For people with back problems, for instance, there is Spinekare – an exceptional permutation of coir & memory foam. There are numerous varieties of Spring & Foam mattresses as well for the astute consumer. The latest in the series is the super hi-end Healthcare Mattresses which, apart from the comfort that it provides, are turning into lifestyle statements as well – a fact endorsed by the number of celebrities that have purchased them.
Novelty and innovation continues to be Kurlon’s forte as a brand. It is the only brand that works its way through the market through an extensive network of direct dealers. Adhering to the proposition ‘Comfort wrapped in Trust’, Kurlon has now branched out into producing Healthcare mattresses ranging worth upto Rs. 2 lakh.
Kurlon has also started tapping the global expertise for creating innovative products. The brand recently tied-up with the famous Italian designer Cesare Giacomuzzo to embellish its brand with an international flavour. The design inputs, which are procured from Italy, are manufactured in India under the brand name of Kurlon Cesare Ltd. Kurlon has successfully tapped export markets in Middle East, Sri Lanka, Mauritius and Europe.
From mattresses to bedsheets, Kurlon has been repositioning itself from sleep comfort to a home comfort brand. Nevertheless the company has lined up an envious range for its mattresses and bedsheets that has led to the branding of a highly fragmented market. Its range of bedsheets includes Kurlon Cricket series bed linens. Then, there are the Kurlon Teenz series bed linens which are exclusively designed for the new generation. Also popular is Kurlon’s Kids’s series bed linens with various cartoon and sporty prints for kids to enjoy while they sleep. Kurlon’s day and night bed linens – Bonita Collection, the range is coordinated with two extra large bed sheets and four pillow covers. Also selling well is the latest stain free bed linens, ERASIO, introduced for the first time in India. These are stain resistant bed sheets. Just one easy wipe will take care of beverage spills, oil stains, and ketchup trails etc.
In mattresses, another highly fragmented & unorganised market, Kurlon has come out with eco friendly mattresses – Ecobana, which is luxurious rubberised coir mattresses with the top layer made of Latex. Kurlon’s dual season mattress – Triazo is a premium spring mattress with Latex on one side and memory foam on the other. Another addition to the Kurlon healthcare mattress product portfolio is SpineKare which is the only one of its kind therapeutic mattress with memory foam.
Kurlon’s advertising campaigns have emphasised on the quality, lasting sophistication and the value its range brings to its customers. Its communication has focused on the comfort of its product range and the importance of good sleep. The brand also introduced a sequence of advertisements educating customers about the significance of sleep and the way it affects the quality of life. Most people don’t even think about replacing their mattresses. Kurlon has expansively invested in creating an in-depth understanding of its products explaining how its mattresses actually ‘breathe’ and the reason they feel warm during winters and cool during summers.
Its array of furnishings was promoted on the guarantee of ‘Makaan Ban Jaye Ghar (Dream house to Dream Home). In a bid to increase its point of sale, Kurlon has ventured into organised retail all over India with Kurlon Nest stores, which sell everything from mattresses to bed linen.

Monday, December 2, 2013

Man does not work for bread alone

Man does not work for bread alone
Those in favour say attainment of knowledge should be the major goal of the human race which differentiates it from other creatures while those against say food is the most basic requirement. Let’s hear both sides and form our own opinions.
  • It is only because man is superior to all other animals in this world that his mental and spiritual qualities occupy a pride of place as against mere physical qualities that he has with other creatures.
  • It is the satisfaction of his intellectual, emotional and spiritual needs that imparts any meaning to a man’s life. His ambitions and a will to be famous drive him to adventure and discoveries. This ultimately kindles a passion for power in him—a primordial instinct that has led to the establishment of great kingdoms and empires.
  • The beautiful art pieces, architectural marvels, soul stirring melodies, awe-inspiring scientific discoveries and all the joys and comforts of modern living were made possible because of the basic urge in man to follow intellectual pursuits. Devoid of this urge, man would become a mere animal—without any charm in life, leading a monotonous life.
  • Were mere physical strength the sole criterion for a man’s status, he would not be constantly striving for further improving his quality of life in all aspects. It is his intellectual contribution to society that is evaluated and respected by others. Therefore, he has brought about an incentive-oriented society where he is suitably awarded for his performances in diverse fields of human knowledge and endeavour was such as literature, science, economics, culture, sports, films entertainment, etc. Thus, we find that bread alone is not motivating factor for a man’s multifarious undertakings.
  • Man can forgo even his bread for higher purposes of life. He is known to have resorted to hunger strikes as a form of agitation and protest. He would willingly embrace death through starvation but not give up his ideology or freedom of action. Scientists, philosophers and saints do not much bother about food when set upon their goals.
  • All food and no love or entertainment will turn a child into a negative personality—without mental or athletic development. Society is not run or maintained by such lifeless souls. It instead comprises people bubbling with enthusiasm, culture and creativity.
  • The very survival of man on Earth depends upon food. Unless and until this basic necessity is fulfilled, a man cannot think of any thing else. It has been scientifically proved now that it is the type of food one eats that determines one’s quality or temperament. We can get better food only if we have better capability and resources. Therefore, the primary aim of our work is to earn food—of better quality—not for mere subsistence but for upliftment.
  • Food is so basic to us that it is used as a weapon in war against enemies or hostile regions. If their food supplies are cut off, they are left with no option but to surrender.
  • All art, music, games, sports, etc. have any meaning for the well-off only whose bellies are full, and, therefore, they can indulge in such pursuits. But a vast majority, particularly in a poor country like ours, which does not get even two square meals a day, cannot dream of such indulgences. If we accept that man does not work for bread alone, we must admit that he can neither survive by working for intellectual or spiritual satisfaction alone.
  • Even without facilities for intellectual pursuits, an intellectual can survive. Inspite of his physical comforts being reduced to zero, he can still somehow be alive. But withdraw his food and first his mental faculties will cease to function and ultimately he will lose his life. Thus, we find that it is bread alone that sustains us physically, mentally and spiritually, and must, therefore, he given priority over other things.
  • Food is the sole purpose of work in a poor country like ours. Unlike developed countries where people don’t have to worry about basic necessities of life, we have not reached a stage of human development where we can devote time to intellectual pursuits. Time spent in such activities is unproductive.
  • Neglect of food has a negative impact on human health. An ill-fed person is unlikely to have the mental ability to give expression to his creative instincts. On the other hand a well-fed population will have the physical strength to produce more food to make our country self-sufficient in foodgrain production.

“None of the above” option for voters is a significant electoral reform

“None of the above” option for voters is a significant electoral reform
The decision by the Supreme Court to allow voters the option to indicate a preference for none of the candidates featuring on a ballot paper by clicking on a “none of the above” (NOTA) button can be seen as a step forward towards an ever more legitimate and accountable electoral system.
In a vibrant democracy, the voter must be given an opportunity to choose ‘none of the above’ (NOTA) button, which will indeed compel the political parties to nominate a sound candidate. According to the Supreme Court “Such an option gives the voter the right to express his disapproval with the kind of candidates that are being put up by the political parties. When political parties will realise that a large number of people are expressing their disapproval with the candidates being put up by them, gradually there will be a systemic change and the political parties will be forced to accept the will of the people and field candidates who are known for their integrity.”
No candidate should be declared elected if ‘NOTA’ gets most votes and a fresh election should be organised.
The “right to reject” political candidates has long been a desired objective of elements in civil society, and was a major secondary ambition of the anti-corruption agitation led by Anna Hazare and Arvind Kejriwal.
The ‘NOTA’ verdict also addresses an inconsistency in the previous set-up. For a voter, the secrecy of her action is guaranteed by the Constitution. Currently, if a voter wishes to reject all the candidates, then she is required to ask for a form and fill it up. This is not only cumbersome but also constrains the right to a secret ballot. In urban areas, secrecy doesn’t matter but in rural areas it does.
NOTA is surely a better option than the more stringent ‘right to recall’ practiced in a few small countries such as Switzerland where citizens can force a parliamentarian to face recall vote if a minimum percentage of voters’ support is obtained in a signature campaign. In India, the right to recall could prove even more counter-productive. Mustering the minimum support in a signature campaign to trigger the referendum would not be difficult. But then, the election calendar which is already fairly packed would become a day-to-day event: A signature campaign in some constituency or the other, on top of by-elections on the death or resignation of candidates, would always be going on, keeping the Election Commission more than busy.
The The ‘NOTA’ judgment is not going to result in any substantial electoral reform. Also, it will not affect the selection of candidates by political parties. It is nothing more than a fashionable suggestion emanating from armchair intellectuals.
Elections are held to elect the representatives of the people. The process of NOTA goes contrary to the electoral process of the country. In the current climate, where people say all the candidates are tainted, if the suggestion of NOTA is accepted by all the voters all over the country, then the result will be that no one will get elected. It defeats the purpose of holding elections. It may make democracy impossible to function and we may face a situation of anarchy.
‘NOTA’ does not serve any purpose but needlessly complicates the task of Election Commission. Those not wanting to vote for any candidate are unlikely to visiting a polling booth, stand in a queue and then vote NOTA. They would rather stay at home. Also, even in the current system, a form can be filled with the returning officer if a voter wants to put on record that he wishes to vote for no one. Why then ‘NOTA’?
The Court believes that the right to vote is meaningless unless voters are allowed to say they aren’t enamoured of any of the candidates in the fray. As a result, their selection of candidates will reflect more seriousness. This is because voters who do not bestir themselves to vote would now exercise their franchise, albeit negative. Impressive though this logic may be, it is not as if we are going to see a sudden surge of voters coming out in droves and thronging the voting booths, enamoured by the new power in their hands. The current voter apathy is not necessarily out of disillusionment with candidates; it is also born of laziness. Compulsory voting could be a better way of improving voter participation in the polling process.
At present, under the Representation of the People Act, the returning officer is duty-bound to declare the candidate who secures the maximum number of votes as the winner. ‘NOTA’ is not a candidate. Under the present law there can be no re-poll. This issue would have to go back to Parliament.
There are other difficulties that might also arise. For instance, in Naxalite-dominated areas people could be forced to exercise the NOTA option. They could be coerced into pressing the NOTA button by those who are ideologically opposed to democracy. This is an issue that needs to be carefully debated and discussed.
There are other complex issues generated by ‘NOTA’. How many times will elections be held if NOTA is always more than the dominant candidate? How long will the Election Commission keep the model code of conduct (MCC) in operation? If a candidate is defeated by NOTA, can he or she contest again?
Studies have shown that voters are paid money before the election, the sale of liquor increases, etc. Then, in spite of the election laws, voters are ferried to the polling booth by political parties. Most often, voters end up voting for caste or community vote banks. Under such circumstances, it is naive to believe that voting is based on ideology, principles or merit of the candidate. ‘NOTA’ is unlikely to make any difference to the current state of elections in this country.
A recent study of poll results of Parliament and state Assemblies found that on an average, 70 per cent of all those elected had more votes cast against them, than for them. NOTA will further worsen voter cynicism about elections.
‘NOTA’ is another instance of the judiciary trespassing into the domain of the executive. Parliament makes laws and courts to examine them for their constitutional validity. Both have to remain within their jurisdictional limit, otherwise, a conflict arises. If the court starts taking over legislative work then, it is overreaching its powers.

GD: The third front is a viable alternative to Congress & BJP

While those in favour say the coalitions led by the two national parties as a failure; those against say the idea of third front is nothing but an opportunistic alliance that has never done the country any good in the past
A viable third alternative seems more and more feasible today as the people have realised that the Congress and the BJP are at best a substitute for one another.
The Congress-led United Progressive Alliance (UPA)-2 government has exhausted its mandate without living up to it. Its previous term (2004-09) and that of BJP-led National Democratic Alliance (NDA) in 1999-2003 was no better. There is unprecedented political, economic and moral crisis in the country. The value of Indian rupee has declined to its lowest level ever. The prices of essential commodities are spiralling and we have near doubledigit inflation. The government makes no effort to contain it.
On the other hand, the government is brazenly in favour of multinational companies and has no compunction about subjecting the aam aadmi to suffering, and burdening the people through indirect taxes of different kinds. Tax exemptions are doled out to corporate houses.
While the country’s economy has clocked impressive growth rates in recent years, the condition of the poor and the underprivileged has worsened. Corruption has grown by leaps and bounds. The common man has seen through the game. The government is suffering from a loss of credibility and moral authority. It has failed to deliver and is in power by default.
The BJP-led NDA is little different from the UPA. Both are two faces of the same coin. Their economic policy, outlook on fiscal and monetary matters, and leanings on foreign policy are near-identical. Moreover, the BJP is in complete disarray. If the Congress is in power today, it is because the BJP is at sixes and sevens.
51In the emerging situation, we do not visualise either the Congress-led UPA or the BJP-led NDA coming to power in the next general election. There is strong likelihood of a realignment of political forces which can lead to change in the balance of forces in the country.
The CPI and other Left parties are striving to project a viable third alternative. Such an alternative seems more and more real as it is being realised that the Congress and the BJP are at best a substitute for one another. The policies they pursue are the same. They cannot offer change that would better the lives of ordinary people.
There is definitely a possibility of a third alternative emerging in 2014 as an alternative to both the Congress and the BJP. It is evident that the days of one-party rule have ended. Today no political party can win the election on its own or form a government on its own.
The Left and regional forces have a role to play here and do have space in such a scenario. Regional parties have become a force to reckon with because of the failure of both BJP and Congress led coalitions. They understand the aspirations and concerns of people better than national ones.
People have already seen governments led by the Congress as well as the BJP, and know from experience that such governments do not work in their interest. What people want to see now is a government with an alternative outlook which is not led by the Congress or the BJP. Such a coalition is on the cards.
The idea of the so-called third front as a vaible alternative is not new and keeps up propping from time to time especially by parties such as the Left that can’t cohabit with both the Congress and the BJP. The futility of this idea has been amply demonstrated by their failure in the past.
One only needs to go into their history to look at their future. They have come together before and even formed governments, but the personal ambitions of their leaders have let them down. The country has been denied stability under their rule. Their governments have crashed within months of their formation. The first third front experiment in recent times started when Janata Dal leader and former Congressman Vishwanath Pratap Singh became the Prime Minister in December 1989. Internal bickering between collation leaders saw the fall of his government in November 1990. The second third front government led by HD Deve Gowda lasted from June 1996 to April 1997. The third and the last third front government led by Inder Kumar Gujral (April 1997 – March 1998) again fell before completing one year in office.
Reasons for their failure are not difficult to find. These parties are diverse and do not share a national perspective.
If regional parties come together, it will be for the sake of power alone. These parties are diverse and do not share a common ideology or grand perspective which is important in pursuing a goal. The regional parties have failed to serve the people when given a chance. The so-called ‘third front’ which has regional parties and the leftists as its constituents, has no agenda other than opposition to the Congress and the BJP. They lack a national perspective and are led by leaders whose provincial mindset hinders them from looking beyond the needs of their respective states. The prime objective is to grab as much of central funds as possible for wasteful expenditure in the name of development. The present situation is even more precarious for the regional forces and the state parties lack a leader who enjoys national acceptability and can knit them together. Even if they get the numbers after 2014 Lok Sabha elections, the regional satraps will fight one another for leadership. Any compromise is likely to be short-lived as shown by the tenures of V. P Singh, H. D. Deve Gowda and I. K. Gujral. In contrast, coalitions led by national parties have given stability at the centre. The BJP-led NDA completed its full term in 2003 followed by another two full terms by Congress-led UPA (2004-2014).

Voters must have the right to remove incompetent MPs & MLAs

Voters must have the right to remove incompetent MPs & MLAs
The move will instil accountability in the political class.
In simple words right to recall is a kind of mechanism designed to enable voters not satisfied with an elected representative to remove one before completion of fixed period of office initiated when sufficient voters sign a petition.
The electorate is quite helpless when it finds elected representatives do not rise to expectations, and that is why there is this demand for the right to recall such representatives.
It is in the interest of the nation to remove the incompetent, inefficient and dishonest legislators, who once elected by hook or by crook, continue to bleed the state exchequer for the fixed term.
The experience of the last couple of decades, particularly since the advent of coalition governments, has clearly demonstrated that the elected representatives’ urge to stick to their positions for five years seems to overpower everything else. The opposition’s main objective seems to be to embarrass the government and not to topple it in case a fresh election is held. The thought of toppling is entertained only when the opposition has a reasonably strong belief that it can cobble up an alternative government. This actually is avoidance of accountability.
It has also become clear that the period of five years between elections, with no real check on the performance, is too long. The disdain for public opinion and even overlooking the national interest, in the interest of maintaining their seats in the legislature, along with the fractured polity and confrontationist politics have brought governance to a grinding halt. The arrogance of the elected seems to have reached dysfunctional levels.
The right to recall is an antidote to this arrogance. The major objections to the right to recall are of two types. One is the fierce opposition by the political class. The other arises from the concerns about its practicability and what some people assume to be insurmountable complications. Let us look at the latter.
What should be this “significant proportion” of the electorate that can demand a recall election? To confound public opinion, the figure of six per cent specified in Switzerland is being bandied about. There is nothing on earth that says the figure should be the same in India. Given our specific situation, we can and should make our own determination. Whether we fix it at 50 or even 60 per cent, we will also take into consideration whether it will be the percentage of the votes polled or the registered votes.
Once a recall proposal passes the acceptance tests, a recall election will be held on the single issue whether the legislator should be recalled or not. The percentage of votes required for the recall to go through is also a matter of determination. Only when the votes polled in favour of recall cross that threshold will the recall become effective. If the recall election rejects the motion of recall, no recall motion is permitted for a specified period.
The right to recall is only one mechanism for instilling accountability. There are several other issues that require urgent attention for reforming the election system, the critical ones being internal democracy and financial transparency in political parties. Because it might take us time to implement those is no reason to reject the right to recall..
It is neither viable nor a solution to the problem of non-performance, incompetence or misuse of office
If you want a right to recall you would first have to fix a threshold as to how many people should be enough to decide that a particular representative should be recalled. Besides, how do you decide whether someone should be subjected to a right to recall process? How many should be enough to decide that the MLA should be recalled?
Should it be 20,000 or should it be 75,000? As is evident, it is an absurd exercise. It is much better to say that a person to be elected should have 50 per cent plus one vote out of the total votes polled.
It is not for nothing that countries around the world have steered clear of the right to recall.
Plus it is an extremely messy affair. Allegations would be raised about someone doing campaigns against a candidate and so on. It is especially messy in huge electorates like ours. You will then need another election each time a candidate is recalled. That would mean more expenses without a guarantee of the new winner being any better.
The right to recall is a total non-starter and it would create more chaos than it seeks to remove.
It is futile to look for success stories in the right to recall for there aren’t any that can fit in Indian conditions. It is equally futile and counter productive to push fancy ideas when simpler solutions are available to solve our electoral problems.
One must realize that in India, civil society, which is a vocal advocate of radical measures like ‘Right to Recall’ forms a limited part of the population. Most of the voters are still not adequately educated and can hence be easily influenced. False promises, powerful speeches and muscle power can be used as tools against them to force them recall elected representatives. A Right to Recall may be used to strengthen a democracy only when every citizen is a politically aware citizen and the society works in coordination with the government. This has yet to happen and hence the idea of ‘Right to Recall’ should be postponed for the time being.
‘Right to Recall’ will also hamper leaders to take unpopular decisions that may not be liked by the electorate but are essential for the future of the country. Sometimes, good leaders must take certain unpopular decisions, policies and measures. There can be certain immediate perils of the new policies. However, they benefit the society and the state in future. For example, the introduction of certain tax laws. They may disappoint the middle class initially. But, in the long run, they shall only help the society at large. Leaders have to be given a minimum time to prove their calibre.
The right to recall enforces a trust deficit between the state and the society. It is important to realize that a state cannot function without the faith of the people in it. Hence, every second day, the representatives would be recalled and continuous elections would hamper governance.

UPA’s poverty reduction claim rings hollow

UPA’s poverty reduction claim rings hollow
Congress-led UPA 2 is suffering from a severe dearth of achievements. The National Food Security Bill is an attempt to cover up the failure of close to a decade. It has furthered this gimmick with the propaganda on poverty reduction.
The Food Security Bill is to provide — on paper — food to 67 per cent of India’s population. Rahul Gandhi says the measure is “historic”, considering it is aimed to bring votes to his party.
Questions have been raised about the purpose of the Bill, identification of the beneficiaries, the infrastructure to deliver and the subsidy burden on the rising fiscal deficit.
The masterstroke came from Narendra Modi, who pointed out, “People were not getting two square meals a day. So they have brought a law, irrespective of whether it is possible to give food to the poor… to give people a piece of paper containing a law that they will get food as a matter of right.”
The Congress first successfully carried out this gimmick in the early 1970s when the then Prime Minister Indira Gandhi coined the catchy slogan of “Garibi Hatao” and won the Lok Sabha elections. It wants to fool the electorate once more on the same plank. The very fact that 67 per cent of India needs food security is a betrayal of their earlier promise.
To overcome the probing questions over the performance of its numerous anti-poverty programmes since independence, the UPA has now sought to use the Planning Commission and has used a rejected formula to measure poverty. The Planning Commission’s poverty figures of 21.9 per cent set off a furious debate in the country where malnutrition affects 46 per cent of the population. If only 21.9 per cent people are poor, what is the rationale for the Food Security Bill? The new criteria adopted by the Plan panel — of Rs. 27 per day for rural and Rs. 33 per day for urban areas — has been challenged and called a fraud on the poor by the government. The panic-driven UPA is still trying to justify the data, insisting that the figures are quite rational.
The lead defence came from actor-turned politician Raj Babbar who said, “Even today in Mumbai I can have a full meal for Rs. 12.” Another Congress leader came up with a more bizarre statement: “You can eat well for Rs. 5.” Faced with national outrage, the Congress tried to distance itself from such enthusiastic observations.
Questions are now being raised about the Planning Commission’s propaganda on poverty reduction. The methodology is questionable. The government needs to answer few straight questions — if the poverty levels have come down, why subsidise foodgrains for 67 per cent of the population? If the government’s poverty figures are correct, why burden the taxpayer by increasing the fiscal deficit by bringing in the Food Security Bill?
Let us not forget that in 1977 the poverty levels were pegged at Rs. 49 per day for rural areas and Rs. 56 per day for urban. After 36 years, and with high inflation, the poverty line norms have come down instead of moving up. The Plan panel poverty data is nothing but an attempt to rescue the government.
It is unfair to doubt the objectivity of the Planning Commission data on poverty reduction or the methodology used in computing it.
Being a BPL person is not a qualification. The poverty line is drawn to ascertain how many of our people continue to languish in the last row as far as the capacity to buy basic food is concerned, food that will give them a basic minimum calories a day, as per the World Bank’s calculation that is applicable throughout the world.
The opposition is fudging data to further their propaganda against UPA’s achievements in this regard. What was the BPL criterion in 2000, when the National Democratic Alliance (NDA) was in power at the Centre, and in 2004, when they left? What was the number of poor people in the country then? What was the poverty line? It was Rs. 368 per person per month in 2004.This comes to Rs. 12 per person per day. The total BPL population (even under that lower earning data) was 37.2 per cent in 2004-2005. This figure has dropped to 20.9 per cent in 2011-2012. Thus, we can say for sure that poverty is gradually coming down, and that the BPL criterion fixed by the United Progressive Alliance (UPA) government, in money terms, is three times more than it was under BJP-led NDA.
The Planning Commission does this exercise on a regular basis in order to ascertain the trend of poverty reduction and its credibility has never been disputed.
The UPA has not been stuck with old methodology for computing poverty reduction figures and has set up the C. Rangarajan Committee to come up with a formula that reflects the consumption patterns of today. It will replace the currently used Tendulkar committee formula.
The criterion of Rs. 816 per person per month for rural areas and Rs. 1,000 per person per month for urban areas does not mean that a person spending Rs. 1,100 is not poor. It is also not a question of whether Rs. 1,000 is sufficient to fill the stomach. The important question is how much resources the country has to support the most needy citizens, and what is it ready to spend on, on behalf of the poor who are standing in the last row.
They surely have the first right over our resources. It also needs to be clarified that 67 per cent coverage under the Food Security Bill indicates that the coverage is for the poor who are above the basic BPL line also.
The number of poor people in India has come down, whatever the claims made by the doubters to the contrary. In the nine years of UPA’s rule, the percentage of decrease is considerable on account of anti-poverty schemes such as the MGNREGA, and other pro-poor programmes. This is not to the liking of UPA’s detractors.