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Friday, January 4, 2019

Cityblog Feature: Nayakgiri: 2018 Review: Year of Crossroads

Two roads diverged in a wood, and I—
I took the one less traveled by,
And that has made all the difference.
----------Robert Frost

There is a time in everybody’s life when life offers two choices: One right and One Wrong. This is the time to trust your instincts, use available information and experience, assess your abilities, respect your spirit, follow your conscience and keep faith in universal scheme of things. Year 2018 has led us to this crossroad as an Individual, Punekar, Maharashtrian, Indian and as a Global Citizen. We need to take this call in 2019. And it has to be right else we will be going back in time and be labeled either unfortunately as people who took wrong decision or gloriously as people who made right choice.
As a Global Citizen, every country is at steps to take a call where one needs to think beyond Nationalism and think as a part of very closed, interlinked world sharing same concerns. 2018 has taken us close to disaster on environmental fronts. We saw floods, tsunamis, volcanoes, earthquakes, storms creating disasters. This is the gravest situation and humanity has to make very wise decisions in 2019.Paris turned into National muscle flexing completion. Some countries chose a path of extreme sense of Nationalism in Americas (US, Brazil), Brexit, Right wings all in Nato and erstwhile Warsaw pact countries. US politics was in turmoil throughout though economy did well. The slump is stocks have warned of global recession trends for 19 unless taken some wise decisions. US legislators and people have a choice although with very complex mechanisms. World also has to take wise decisions on trade, tariffs, visas to avoid actual and cold wars. There were many shooting incidences in US which needs good governance to avoid such human disasters. Iran sanctions pose great challenge in Middle East politics which saw turmoil in Yemen, Qatar and Saudi capital after killing of Khagosshi.  US pullout in Syria and Afghanistan will create a vacuum in the regions creating instability in 2019. Russia has gained much confidence and credibility after soccer WC 2018 will have more impact on world politics. China is also on crossroads on feasibility of its economic model and international domination.  India has had say in Srilanka, Maldives as well as has problems due to US pullout in Afghanistan. It should be vary of Himalayan countries of Nepal and Bhutan though especially Chinese influence (for whom border issues still need to dealt carefully). Pakistan saw Imran as puppet PM staged by Army, but there is no change in terrorism and outlook towards India. US cut in aid will hurt where it hurts most as well Chinese will claim their pound of flesh. 

Technology stocks battered in US. Facebook and Google had many controversies on all fronts as they try to encircle our day to day lives. The investment models will tweak for value adding companies and guidance are revised. But basic flaws in market as witnessed on 07 still remain to threaten markets   worldwide in 2019. Musk with all his issues in the governance bets on space travel and driverless cars. AI Machine Learning, Data Analytics, Cloud, DevOps have added new dimensions to technology. Intersteller travel, Mars missions have opened few new possibilities. Retail, food, entertainment, travel, healthare, hospitality are at crossroads, to make their choices of business model with new technologies and their possibilities, challenges. Unfortunately we did not see much happening in Digital Security front as we remiian still vulnerable. We need solid breakthrough in alternate and clean energy.  Social Media will have biggest say in every domain.
As an Indian, we are the people who have to decide in 2019 if we need take back development and reforms back by decade as in 2004 (though policies of NDA in early 2000s saw us at benefits of boom in late 2000 enjoyed by UPA1 which resulted in disaster in UPA2. Indian voters as shown in state election in Hindi belt don’t care about fiscal deficit, structural reforms, corruption.  The grass and roots want overnight results after years remaining detached from development. In 2014 they surely wanted a change resulting in BJP majority (technically NDA). We in last four and half years have not seen any major corruption happening though much is claimed by opposition in Rafale case. They even don’t trust courts. In fact every party reacts to court decision depending on which side it stood. But fact remains that courts have lost some credibility in some frivolous and arbitrary decisions as in Sabarimala. Ayodhya dispute is beyond courts as courts can treat them as property dispute. Judiciary under Justice Mishra saw some reforms but the existing collegium system needs to be reevaluated. They somehow are bound by rules which lose higher picture.  Opportunist opposition will go heavily on loan waivers and subsidies which will be disaster for economy. Their proven corrupt and inept leadership will have their say in governance if elected.  If there has to be option it has to evolve beyond current options that may be projected by opposition.  Whether the bold decisions on demonetization and GST have had the structural impact or not is yet to be proven though is fiercely debated by experts who have taken sides based on their affiliation.  Common man had supported demonetization back in 2016 but has not seen any changes. Banking reforms and reduction of NPAs is a fact but it is attributed to different reasons by experts on both sides. There is definite change in governance. Some ministries have made impact eg Railways, Infrastructure, Foreign ministry. We are proud of institutions like ISRO, DRDO with space, rocket, and missile technologies. Our economy also a part of global markets suffered to oil and dollar price. Situation eased out in the later part of 18. Markets lost lot of value thanks to global meltdown and political reasons. As we said Nationalism is challenge worldwide but as Indian we really should be focused on development rather than insecurity of erstwhile opinion makers. Erstwhile powers houses and mainstream media with vested interest have tried successfully to create image that this government is not inclusive and not everyone feels safe. Moreover they have taken in arms cause of poor who really suffer using subsidy and loan waiver route. We need to be vary with these attempts as we have experience similar policies that ruined our nation for sixty years after independence. The forces which are against India who sponsor problems in Kashmir and rural India through Naxalism will find sympathizers in ruling coalition.  Urban and Rural cleanliness ignored for last sixty years is showing results. Terrorism which has been moderately kept at bay will rebound. Though this column may sound pro government but as democracy we need strong opposition which should be capable and well-meaning and this column does not find any viable option unless Rajnikanth provides a super human angle. Let this column know if there is any.
As a Maharashtrian, I feel society divided on caste lines as a sinister campaign by opposition to play it using reservation card. Fadanvis has led successfully from front against opposition but has difficult road ahead of 19 state elections. The corruption which was at forefront in all cooperative and related movements has been curbed. Fiscal discipline and investment friendly policies have helped. But then who cares? All we are worried are caste based identities and corruption as road to success.
As a Punekar, we should try to better citizens by following traffic rules, cleanliness, safety and sense during picnics. We have seen flexes can be lethal. We have seen unseasoned floods due to burst pipelines. We have seen traffic issues due to road and metro works. But lest hope they vanish in 2019. Let’s hope we have vision to resolve water issues. Construction and real estate needs to be streamlined to avoid urban and semi urban disasters especially in fringe areas. We need to grow more trees.
In sports we had a great Soccer world cup in terms of competitive matches, skills, tactics, upsets, use of referrals. French played exceptionally well to stop series of upsets from Croatians. Belgians. English and hosts played well.  German, Argentine, Spanish, Portuguese stars waned. Federer started with bang in Australian Open, Nadal kept his reign at Roland Garros but Joker reigned at Wimbledon and New York. Women saw four different winners while Serena shined on as well as off the field.  Indian did very well in Asian Games where heroes from our hinterland ruled our hearts. Indian Hockey team went into top seeing though failed in WC and Asian Games.  Badminton saw a great year with lot of stars emerging and proving at top most levels. Mary Mom is star of the year for her top position. We expect nothing less than gold at Tokyo Olympics.  Indian Cricket had a year where it fought hard in foreing grounds. They were near yet to far from victory in England. We also did well in SA. But with win at MCG in the last test of 18 they stand on crossroads in 19 to win series in Australia. MSD returns in ODIs to wind best balance for 19 WC. Women’s team also did well. Cricket saw ball tampering scandal as well as fall of Srilankan and WI cricket as well emergence of NZ.
In Films and Entertainment we saw Rajani taking honors with 2.0. We had good movies like Badhai Ho , Raazi, Andhadhun doing good. Stars failed to deliver with exception of Akshay. We had some popular web series which tweaked model. Television saw return of KBC. Indian Idol had some quality singing and compeering. Judges had their own set of problem and we had undeserving winner. Marathi films did well and we have great expectations from 19 releases. This is birth centenary for Pula, Gadima and Babuji. 1919 was great and let’s hope we have same a century later. We had new talent and venue for Sawai Gandharv.
In 18 we lost Atalji one of the two greatest PMs of India. We also lost Patangrao Kadam in state politics and Karunanidhi in national politics. We lost Sridevi, Lalan Sarang, Mrinal Sen,  Ajit Wadekar. At world stage we lost George Bush Sr, Paul Allen, Stan Lee, Anthony Bourdain. Apologies for any miss in obituary.
We had lot of events in 18 which really keeps us at a Crossroad which is very crucial for future.  Time to be Wise and Careful…

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