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Welcome 2017!

Raman Jokhakar
Co-chairman
Journal Committee

Welcome 2017! Wishing you a very happy new year from the BCAJ! As Indians, we have the privilege to wish Happy New Year many times throughout a 365 days period! Each new year is an opportunity to wish well to people around us, to send blessings to so many we don’t even know, take time to reflect on the days that went by, refresh our hopes and aspirations and renew our resolve to realize our dreams. While we prefer to look at the past, as ‘what we know’ is embedded only in the past, we cannot benefit from that completely until we look into the future. In the words of Micheal Chibenko “One problem with gazing too frequently into the past is that we may turn around to find the future has run out on us.”  So best we combine reflecting on the past and look into how we want our future to be!

Surge since Surgical Strike

The hangover of demonetization lingers on beyond 2016! This is perhaps one of the longest lasting HOT TOPIC that has caught fascination of one and all and doesn’t seem like it will die out anytime soon. The so called surgical strike has caused a SURGE in so many things. In lighter vain, since 9th November 2016, there has been a spike in lay people talking confidently like economists on every aspect of demonetization. On a more serious note, I have never seen such all encompassing SURGE in every facet of citizens’ lives, from social, economic, political to psychological, covering everyone and everything. Be it surge in queues, in cash flow of banks, in worries of the black money hoarders, in the risks of downturn for several businesses, to a surge in blood pressure of tax evaders and hoarders of illicit cash. There was a surge in issuance and flip flops of government clarifications, in forwards and debates on media and chat applications, in digital transactions, in uncertainty for politicians who anticipated to use those notes to buy votes, in coffers of local bodies and utility companies and so many areas that no one can list out. Shall we call this move a bold ‘disruption’ in the sphere of ‘illicit’ economy? 

While the ‘demons’ got demonetized of their ill-gotten money, the ‘commons’ had to go through pains of this sweeping change. The problem of tainted money was so widespread that people began to believe it to be legitimate. Sometimes pervasiveness becomes a cause for people to wrongly believe it to be legitimate? This was a wakeup call, an alarm and a siren to push people to make a change at a fundamental level. Let 2017 bring before us a strong and decisive follow through to ‘disrupt’ the business of the corruption in India.  

Gazing into 2017

As I write we have the news of BHIM1  being unveiled. If I had one wish for the year I would love to see ‘disruption’ through innovation in the sphere of governance and law making. There are a thousand problems, but there can be million solutions to deal with them. All we need is to find SIMPLE, FUNDAMENTAL and DIRECT ways to deal with them. With power of technology and innovation, we are no lesser gods, to turn around a massive problem on to our side.

The last three bastions that are embedded in the old mind set and remain considerably untouched by innovation are organised religions, politics and legal frameworks. As a professional in practice, I would expect innovation at least in the Union Budget 2017 as this will be the last one to make significant changes before the one that will precede the election year. In the current context, one dream, and perhaps a bit far out, is to see changes in Sections 13A and 13B.

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1   An App that will allow Digital transfers from mobile handset other than smart phones

When churning takes place, it throws up both desirable and undesirable. While we see billion commons queue up to get few thousands in new currency, we also saw many others with new currency worth crores (equivalent to lacs of people queuing up for months). It only showed how an 'inside job' was still at it.  If the government is serious, bold and willing to go to the end of the road of weeding out corruption, a good start can be right in the backyard of its own class. A measure to ban and regulate cash donations to political parties beyond a certain percentage of total receipts, investigate cash 'donations', and prescribe stringent record keeping, usage and audit is the need of the hour. A good beginning could be to appoint a high powered committee with past or present CEC, SC judge/s, CAG amongst others to suggest 'surgical' reform in this area with time bound implementation.  Here is a big ‘break point’2 , for the good in the government to 'walk the talk' on corruption by starting from where it needs to start - from those who seek and wield political power.

Let’s leave that topic aside for a while and look at many other changes our world is seeing! A big change at a high level is that a fossil fuel company has lost its top spot which is now taken over by a technology giant. The top three most valuable companies are tech giants, and that does tell us where things are headed. The solar power advocates are reaching new heights and will lead to a new wave at how we look at energy. This could also result in disruption of oil based middle-east geopolitics. . Electorates in the west – particularly the US and UK have shown unpredictable and volatile mood, and Germany and France will tell us what is next in store for EU. We can look forward to fireworks from the Trump term starting this month. Media power, fake news and propaganda are areas to watch out for. We will be challenged to distinguish between misinformation and information; and differentiate and depend on facts over pouring propaganda. We can look forward to more and more of Artificial Intelligence (AI) surrounding and hounding us. A White House report3  predicts massive job losses in the US, between 9 - 47 percentages, which seems unprecedented and unstoppable and will impact India too. Imagine all back office and routine tasks taken over by AI! Winner-take-most will continue to dominate and therefore competition might shrink more in many important areas, and result in more wealth inequality.

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2              In tennis lingo

3              Artificial Intelligence, Automation, and the Economy,  December 2016

In the end - Don’t postpone Joy!

Clouding human mind has never been such an important business. Directing large numbers of people has never been so critical for control – of their beliefs, habits, preferences and choices. With nearly 3 billion connected to internet the 'market opportunity' is humongous for every selfish goal to find takers. Today we are surrounded, rather ambushed through 'media' that is incessantly seeking us.

In this maze, I wish to leave you with a short anecdote attributed to John Lennon, “When I was five years old my mother always told me that happiness was the key to life. When I went to school, they asked me what I wanted to be when I grew up. I wrote down ‘happy’. They told me I didn’t understand the assignment, and I told them they didn’t understand life.” I guess that is why we wish a Happy New Year! For all we need is TO BE HAPPY! May you find that all through 2017!