Aug 15, 2007

Long Pending Fly Overs

A common scene in Indian cities is construction of flyovers at busy road junctions. Though the contractors claim to use new technology (precast segments and all), these seem to take years to get built. Hyderabad seems to be slightly better off than Bangalore in the pace of flyover construction but that is hardly a consolation.

This is a paradox: after all technology is available, manpower is abundant and all required resources are plentiful. Then why these huge delays? I guess the answer lies in the regular approvals required by the government agencies and sub-contracting done to small parties which inevitably have the local politicians involved. Sometimes the flyovers have to be built over statues of some venerable (and many dubious) leaders. Removing them becomes a huge hassle. These squabbles lead to most of the delays, never mind the huge trouble commuters and the common man have to undergo.

Smooth traffic on I-Day

Last month I had posted about the smooth traffic in Hyderabad on the US Independence Day which happened to be a week day. Today on the Indian Independence Day (another week day) the traffic at Hyderabad is even more easy with most people cooped up at home watching their favourite blockbuster movies on television. Driving is more comfortable and no where near the cacophony on the roads. One wishes we had more weekday holidays or a judicious distribution of holidays across the week to give more such breathers!

India: 60 yrs old or 16 yrs young?

India celebrates its sixtieth year of Independence today. While the first few decades were kind if sleepy, India really took off post 1991 when the then Prime Minister PV Narasimha Rao launched key reforms that liberated the economy. PVNR in that aspect held fort for give good years and did more good for India than any other Prime Minister before him.

For those whose youth has coincided with this phase, the experience of India is vastly different from their parents' who witnessed a youth of shortages, high unemployment and denial of basic goodies in life - telephones, cars, air conditioners etc all due to the government wanting to regulate supply. Governance and politics is still not very good but hopefully with the new generation knocking on the doors, things will change soon. Business Standard has a nice editorial today, aptly titled Chak De India.

I wistfully imagine what would have been possible if India had not undergone partition. A freedom struggle that was by and large non-violent thanks to Gandhi culminate in gruesome murders of five million Indians. A more assertive freedom struggle early on would have perhaps taken a far lesser toll of lives, and realised freedom faster. And in the process the manipulations of the British to divide India would not have succeeded. A United India could have emerged faster sans the Kashmir, Bangladesh turmoils. Enough has been said about the personalities and egos of Nehru and Jinnah, the chief players at the time of Partition and Independence.

Anyway the story of India's growth is now sixteen years young and holds as much promise as our last tryst with destiny in 1947. I will any day prefer this sweet sixteen to sixty!

Aug 4, 2007

Business of Law In India

As the Indian economy integrates more and more with the global economy, the demand for skills in the Legal arena is sky rocketing. I got to see this first hand yesterday.

I enrolled for a proximate education program with the NALSAR University of Law Hyderabad, one of the Top 2 Law Schools in India. The course is a PG Diploma in Internet/Cyber Law and funnily out of the 50 people who turned up, only two persons were from the IT industry - a Security Specialist from Wipro (who was also a lawyer) and myself. There was a third person, a lady who just completed her MCA and took the course because her husband was in Law; so I wouldn't count her. There were a considerable number of women in the group, about 40% - a reflection of the growing presence of women in Indian academia and soon industry too!

Coming to the point, a law graduate may earn Rs 5000 per month in Hyderabad at the entry level and perhaps upto Rs 25000 per month in a place like Delhi which is the legal capital (being the political capital) of India. Graduates are choosing between a cushy private sector job in non-litigation vs. the rough and tumble of litigation in courts, which pays less (numbers mentioned before) but hones the person much better for the long term. A litigation expert will go on to then earn huge sums once he is established and makes a name for himself, say Rs 2.5 million for a mere appearance in the court. Corporate jobs on the other hand pay more in the beginning but the career path usually hits a glass ceiling. Now in the US that need not be the case, there are several corporates especially in Insurance Industry where lawyers have gone on to become CEOs.

India is catching up in the legal space now and both the academia and industry are abuzz now with all the growth. Number wise, we still have a long way: 1 judge per 180 people (US has 1 per 30 and Europe 1 per 60); it still take 3-5 years for a case to settle (8 months in US and 18 months in Europe).