Thursday, July 10, 2014

10 new things in Union Budget 2014

For a post-interim budget presented by the new finance minister of the new Indian government ; the speech may have been a tad lengthy bordering on being called 'dreary.' But the annual document has its own charm in communicating a sense of direction that the country's economy should charter carrying along with it the  political chatter from the minority opposition. Leaving it to the experts to make a sense of the large figures of receipts & expenditures , I intend to provide the readers ten new schemes & activities that the new government has earmarked in this year's budget even though the actual allocation in some of the schemes may have been paltry.

Wednesday, May 14, 2014

Bandhan : From a NGO to a bank - A success story in rural Bengal

Riddled with inflation, unemployment, corruption, falling growth and high Non Performing Assets (NPAs) of Public sector(PSU) banks; the Indian Economy hasn’t had much news to cheer about in the last 3 years excepting for some overheating of stock markets. On the redistribution front the marquee scheme of the preceding government, the Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Generation Assistance (MRNEGA in short), has had problems of  low utilization & partisanship  in majority of the 28 states. One of the main way outs suggested was to increase the coverage of  PSU banks in the remotest corners of rural India to enable financial inclusion for the beneficiary community. The PSU banks have shown lukewarm response to such a measure adopted for the sub-prime market fearing large defaults. In some states the space not filled by the PSU banks had also been usurped by different ponzi scheme masterminds who have siphoned away the savings of millions of people. In this context; the approval of new banking licenses by RBI , as per the guidelines of the Vimal Jalan committee, has been granted to only two entities whose business models show promise for financial stability & inclusion. One of them is an erstwhile  NGO , Bandhan, which started off in 2001 with micro-financing activities in Eastern India complemented by developmental work in health, education, livelihood among the beneficiaries with the twin objectives of poverty alleviation and women empowerment.

Tuesday, May 13, 2014

Dispersed Radiance by Abha Sur - A book review

Western scientists , newspapers in the late 19th-20th century created through propaganda an European  knowledge-is-power brand that ascribed little credit to the works of Indian scientists. JC Bose , who didn’t seek a patent for discovery of wireless telegraphy due to his strong anti-commercialization stance, was overtaken by the Italian scientist Marconi who claimed title to its discovery although it was dated by more than an year of Bose’s. Even recent literature on history of Indian science , written by western authors, do not mention Raman, Chandrasekhar, Saha or Bose although standard physics textbooks will still have a chapter on Raman effect or white dwarfs and Saha’s ionisation equations.
Abha Sur, the author of Dispersed Radiance (published from Navayana)   looks at the impact of caste, class , gender on the history of modern Indian physics through the lives and works of two of India’s greatest scientists –CV Raman & Meghnad Saha. An interesting selection since Raman is a Brahmin, conservative , taciturn while Saha is a low-caste, active in politics & vocal.    

Tuesday, March 18, 2014

Ode to NOTA

When you decide to vote

You can refuse that note

-(or take it anyway)-

When the candidate gives them away.

Wednesday, March 12, 2014

Varanasi Diary, Day 6: Looking back with a smile

Monkey watching sunrise
5th March: Maybe it was a bit too much of the dehydrating whiskey we had the night before
or maybe it was the biological clock alerting the subconscious about the last day in Varanasi; but I woke up early at 6 a.m, freshened up and was ready for catching the sunrise from the balcony hanging over the Ganges. Enjoying a mild chill  in the breeze was one of humanity’s ancestors perched on the parapet of the dilapidated minaret to the left of the balcony.

Tuesday, March 11, 2014

Varanasi Diary, Day 5: The eternal flow of time on the banks of the Ganges

The timeless zone
4th March: By the time the sun peeked from behind the clouds around 6.30 in the morning today, it was shorn of its usual full-bodied glory and glare of its crimson-red hue. The clouds on the sky absorbed most of it while the crowds on the boats, all stretched in excitement for the early-morning boat-ride, kept the rising sun behind them to instead click pictures of the early-morning activities of bathers on the ghats as well as the old buildings that appear to jut above the mark where the ghats end. The bathers at the ghats counted the quick dips that they took at the steps. Some cried themselves hoarse shouting , “Mahadev, Mahadev (O, Lord Shiva!).” The cries appeared more to be pleading for Mahadev to appear rather than praying to him. Ganesh later informed me that the boatmen too cried out the same phrase whenever they were apprehensive of  colliding with another boat.

Monday, March 10, 2014

Varanasi Diary, Day 4: Music in the lanes & ghats of the city

3rd March: Ganesh & Deepak left early for a visit to Kalbhairavi & Kashi Vishwanath temples while I got busy in getting the room cleaned , the beds done and leafed through the Afternoon Raga by Amit Chaudhuri.
They arrived soon after with hot Jilabis and Alu-Parathas for breakfast along with  scary tales of being whisked through the Vishwanath temple from one panda (temple-usherer) to another, losing money at every step for a darshan (holy sight) of the Shivlinga and apparent salvation thereafter.

Saturday, March 8, 2014

Varanasi Diary, Day 3: Life on a Sunday and the middle path

Sunrise from the balcony
2nd March: Intending to catch the Surya-pranam at the ghats, we had risen early although by the time we could hit the ghats down the 36 steps of the Chousatti Ghat, there was clear daylight everywhere.

Friday, March 7, 2014

Varanasi Diary, Day 2: The city that lives for the dead

Diffused sunrise from the hotel balcony

1st March: The sunrise in Varanasi is supposed to be a spectacular sight from the Ghat side as the onset of activities among the populace starts with a Surya-Pranam (prayer to the sun god) at the bathing steps. We were not as lucky as the sky was still cloudy and the sun refused to appear although it did wash the area with light diffused as if from a bright ceiling-lamp. The morning started with a stroll down the Ghats and then up the stone-steps of Daswashyamedh , the holiest ghat, for the vegetarian breakfast at a road side eatery & down the same steps again for a stroll upto the Manikarnika Ghat where flames on the pyres have never ceased since the crematorium’s inception centuries, if not civilisations, earlier. Varanasi is considered among the frontrunners for the oldest city in the world dating back to 8000 years. Frommer’s travel-guide on India has a quaint quotation of Mark Twain on Varanasi. When Mark Twain travelled to Varanasi in early nineteenth century, he found the city “older than history, older than tradition, older even than legends and it looks twice as old as all of them put  together.”