Wednesday, December 17, 2008

A System of Crooked Intelligence from Purulia to Mumbai:Lessons still not learnt

On this day, thirteen years back, a village in Bansghar in Purulia district of West Bengal was air-dropped with 300 assault rifles and million rounds of ammunition, in what is now known as Purulia Arms Drop Case(PADC). The delivery to intended recipients was bungled as the consignment landed miles off the target & the villagers notified the local police station at Jhalda . The plane that (mis)delivered the cargo was a Russian made Antonov aircraft purchased from the Latvian Airlines. It flew onward to Phuket & on its return flight to Karachi via Chennai , three days later, was asked to land in Mumbai airport by the Airport Traffic Controller for deviating from the scheduled route. 6 people were arrested. They included 5 Latvian crew members & 1 British arms dealer , Peter Bleach. Another person a Danish national named Niels Nielson alias Kim Davey managed to escape. Subsequent trials led to conviction of all the six including Peter Bleach by the City Sessions court, Kolkata . However, international diplomacy in later period by Russia & Britain led to ultimate remission of the sentences and freedom from Indian jails for all the six.
During the trial of the case, it was revealed that Peter Bleach had kept the Ministry of Defence in Britain informed about the illicit nature of the deal when Bleach learned that the intended recipient was not the Indian Government but 'Ananda Margis', a violent Hindu religious sect that propagates the Progressive Utilisation Theory (PROUT) of its founder Late P.R.Sarkar & whose headquarters are based in Banshgarh. The secret services of Britain had passed on the intelligence to the Indian government almost a fortnight before the drop. But none seemed to have acted .

The recent mayhem in Mumbai on 26/11 also hints of a warning, tip-off, interception given to the Intelligence officials & Coast Guard but unfortunately they were of no avail as 10 gunmen with assault rifles put a permanent scar on the psyche of Mumbai & India as they mowed down 175 people.

Thirteen years have elapsed since PADC and there are still unanswered questions .

1. Where is Nielson alias Kim Davey? How did he escape from the aircraft? Nielson was alleged to be a monk of the Ananda Margis and was personally supervising the operation from financing to delivery. What is the Indian Government doing to get him back?

2. Why did the Indian Government decide not to act on the intelligence provided by Britain?

3. The contract , according to Bleach, was for delivery of 2500 assault rifles. Only 300 were recovered. Where are the balance 2200 rifles? If 10 assault rifles on 26/11 can create unimaginable havoc, just imagine what would 2000 rifles manage to do ?

As new & tough laws get enacted by the government, one wonders the efficacy of such laws when there is often a deliberate neglect of crucial intelligence of such crimes.Both in Purulia & Mumbai.

The tragic events of 26/11 in Mumbai should at least push the lawmakers to make intelligence officials and/or their relevant political master(s) accountable for such serious lapses. Only the highest sentence under the Indian Penal Code should be enacted towards these people otherwise the situation will remain the same , tough laws notwithstanding.

Photo Source : Gianluca Giardina on Flickr

Saturday, December 13, 2008

A crow does not eat another crow's meat

A lot of hue and cry is being made of the fact that Asmal Kasav, the captured gunman of the 26/11 attacks in Mumbai is a Pakistani national and that is enough reason for India to go to war with Pakistan. Arguments are being cited that the state must take responsibility of the belligerent actions of its citizens. The 9/11 attacks , seven years back, were executed by a team. a few of whom were residents of West Germany while a few had taken active residency in USA itself undergoing commercial training in flying aircraft. It didn't prompt America to go into a war with a similar developed economy as Germany. But, instead, it took it upon itself to invade & "liberate" Afghanistan and an old enemy, Iraq of their terror networks & supporting regimes. The situation in both the countries,unfortunately, is still fragile with the acrid smell of gun powder and burnt flesh in the streets , all over. The funding of this illogical war inside nation states and against a motivated but embedded enemy of "jihadi terrorists" probably came from the money borrowed from the rest of the world who had mistakenly hitched a ride on the booming real-estate market in USA. And now that the American economy approaches bankruptcy, the rock-bottom prices of oil do not even justify the surrogate control over oil reserves of the middle east. It will not be long before rest of the world will gear up again to bail-out America. Companies in export-intensive countries like Singapore, Japan, South Korea will wipe out American companies on price innovation in the American market thus affecting employment and/or salaries of their own workforce while the governments of emerging markets like India & China will use bloated fiscal-stimulus measures to sustain large western corporations of the capital goods & infrastructure sectors like GE, Caterpillar etc. For the governments in South Asia this is the ideal time to stop, collect together & ponder before blindly signing the checks for future American profligacy.

The sequential cycle of inequality, unbridled aggression in foreign policies, spread of blind-faith over scientific education, terrorism & economic ruin have happened for too long a time to ignore anymore. Over the last century , the cycle time of such sequence of events have reduced from 2-4 decades in the early part to 7-8 years in the latter; helped largely by a boom in defence-arsenal sectors and invention of the microchip , Internet & wireless handheld devices. It will not be foolhardy to expect that the cycle time will reduce further in the coming years. This will put enormous pressure on two of the most dear virtues of a statesman or a leader namely restraint in aggression and tolerance for other faiths including the blind ones.

One sincerely hopes that the political establishments in South Asia do not fall prey to the same virus of war of arsenals & violence among themselves. The bigger war, if it has to be played , is the economic one which a tiny nation like Japan had toiled hard to win during the post world war era. The leaders of South Asian bloc should seize the opportunity to initiate peace and build foundations for long-term dominance of the western market instead of squandering away the economic gains , that they have made in the last decade, after defence arsenals & nuclear warheads.

Tuesday, December 9, 2008

Himalayas from close

This is my first travel post although this is not one about my travel, which has hit its logical end since the days I have been hibernating in Kolkata. This is a post on Venkatesh's (or "Venky" as we knew him in college) trek to the Everest base camp & is dedicated to you who love(s) mountains & travelogues.

Besides the fact that Venky's trek of 71 miles ascending from Lukla to Kalapatthar (5649 m.) was to see Everest & its Himalayan brethren (Nuptse, Pumori etc.) from as humanly close as possible; what I liked most about his travelogue was the way he prepared for the journey studying the route, planning the logistics, physically getting in shape & finally his ability to superbly document the account with the help of numerous elevation profiles, high resolution snaps , videos & commentary. One feels as if one was trekking with him throughout the journey, sharing his joy at spotting the peaks studied beforehand. Venky was not alone in the trek. He had Malini, his wife, for company as an equally enthusiastic trekker & travelogue writer.

Venky now lives in America with Malini & takes his travel cum treks seriously. In his own words , ".... for the past few years, I've been doing this sort of trek on an annual basis and so I try and clock 500 miles of running every year. That keeps me fit enough. In fact, I almost hurt my chances by over-running in the weeks before. Sprained my foot and was limping till the day we boarded our flight to Nepal. Thankfully, I recovered in time to complete the trek without any discomfort"

Thanx ,Venky , for sharing your "trekking world" .

p.s: Click on the link in the first paragraph & select Everest Base Camp from menu & enjoy thereafter. This snap of Everest is from his site.

Friday, December 5, 2008

Dhimsa- Songs from the woods of Araku

Below is a small video clip of the tribal dance form called Dhimsa. I took the clip while on work with a NGO in a small hamlet near Araku, Andhra Pradesh. The locals there were part of a community farming project of organic coffee. The NGO was facilitating building up a cooperative of small & marginal farmers, training them on organic farming & finally helping them to find buyers. A central minister with his family had accompanied us to this place because his wife wanted to take a look at the farm to source the produce for her new organic coffee boutique in Hyderabad. Araku lies on the Eastern Ghats with a moderate elevation where coffee is farmed on the slopes under the shade of Silver oak trees. So after a small climb to the plantations amidst the woods, the entourage was sufficiently tired & needed some entertainment. A colleague of mine had thoughtfully arranged for a durbar of the tribals with the minister followed by a dance performance. Dhimsa is normally performed on full moon nights by the women folk supported by a local band with their drums & flute. But this performance was sometimes in the afternoon. Nevertheless, it is a centuries old dance form, which I was lucky enough to witness.

Thursday, November 27, 2008

Mumbai Mayhem: Has India become an easy playground for terrorists?

The shocking terrorists attacks in Mumbai last night bring the number of terrorist incidents on major Indian cities , since the Bengaluru & Ahmedabad blasts in July-end, to six. Delhi, Agartala, Guwahati being the other three. Some important observations on the Mumbai attacks, that have already killed 100 (& still counting ) & grievously injured hundreds others are as below :
  1. Attacks have taken place simultaneously at ten places clustered around South Mumbai mostly.
  2. Two international hotels have been under grenade & firing attack with British & American tourists being reportedly seized as hostages in exchange for release of "Mujaheddin" from Indian jails.
  3. Attacks involved bomb blasts( taxi in Western Expressway), grenade blasts, firing from automatic rifles.
  4. Timing of attack : 10.30 p.m at night
  5. Attackers have come out in the open with their pictures splashed all across the media. One is shown wearing an expensive designer t-shirt.
  6. 3 senior police officers including the high profile ATS (Anti Terrorist Squad) chief have been shot dead .
  7. Television channels in America & Europe have caught the news in prime-time since the attack started .
  8. Mumbai , which has been attacked, is the financial capital of India
  9. Hostages have still not been rescued from the hotels, even at the time of writing this post. By now, eighteen hours have elapsed.

These preliminary observations point the attacks to be the handiwork of one or more hardline , well-planned, daring & foreign (Pakistan or Afghanistan, possibly) terrorist groups who are seeking international attention for their support to "jihadis" in India & Kashmir. One hopes that this is not the ill-famed "Al Qaeda", who had threatened India with attacks earlier. A never-before group called "Deccan Mujaheddin" has sent an email (IP address traced to Russia) to a news channel claiming responsibility.

The ease with which the devastating attacks have been made can only once again point out to the complete failure of the intelligence as well as to the impotent Indian political leadership that seem to have given vigilance a "go by" & converted the combat mechanism of police forces a to a mere tool on paper.

India's tolerant attitude to gun-toting attackers (whether Maoists, Pakistani terrorists, ULFA ,LTTE , Bajrang Dal, SIMI & others ) has been time and again encouraged by vote-bank-hungry politicians (Mulayam Singh Yadav, Amar Singh, Lalu Yadav, Mamata Bannerjee, Prakash Karat, L.K. Advani, Karunanidhi, Arjun Singh etc. ) who have patronised such groups citing "achievement of 'historically-denied' social justice " as reason behind such violent behaviour. This had had a twofold consequence .

Firstly, the perpetrators have been given a perception that they can get away with murder & mayhem while the administration has been reduced to a bureaucracy of lackeys, who are more interested in protecting their jobs from the wrath of their uneducated, criminal political masters rather than patrol the streets of cities.

It is now obvious that international tourists & business travellers alike would like to avoid an "unsafe" destination such as India for months to come. One hopes that the genuine leaders among our politicians wake up from their slumber and act decisively to modernise & train our security forces in equipment, intelligence,vigilance, combat & legal justice before India reduces to another Pakistan , Bangladesh or Sri Lanka while family members of innocent victims of the attacks silently shed their tears for the departed.

Saturday, November 22, 2008

In a futile search for TRUTH

It was interesting to listen to luminaries & professionals, from varied walks of life, sermonising on the media at a National Debate organised by The Telegraph. The latter is a newspaper known to doctor news. The debate was being televised live by Tara TV.

The motion put forward by the British Dy. HC, Simon Wilson was " This house believes that the Media is misleading the masses."

Supporting the motion was pulp-fiction authoress Shoba De who blasted the media for selling out news on all pages to corporate houses & other interested parties. In her team was R. Gopalakrishnan, ED of Tata Sons , who is normally very well prepared but appeared uneasy today. It was quite difficult to accept R. Gopalakrishnan, a very senior executive himself, accusing the media houses of becoming business entities & focusing on maximisation of profit with zero accountability. Is he trying to say that profit-making necessarily compromises the vision & objectives of any business house? His other team mate Sandip Chattejee, a medical surgeon, eloquently debunked the media for presenting facts without context & knowledge. Finally it was left to Swapan Dasgupta, a media man himself, to bring out his best language & diction while expressing his anguish at media's tendency to paint any situation in pure black & white and not letting the truth rest in its gray overtones.

Opposing the motion was Rajdeep Sardesai who , attired like an activist, thought that those who support the motion actually find the "truth" dug out by the media unpalatable & hence are spreading calumny to change it. Mukul Kesavan , Rajdeep's teammate, opined that news need not be presented in its entirety like a novel with a beginning , an expansion of the theme and the end. More often than not stories about truth will appear like a torn out page. It is left to the readers to assimilate the same & make his own judgement. Ramachandra Guha utilised drama to entertain the audience & thought that accountability of media gets automatically taken care of by the next evolving form. Television reporting made print media more accountable while Internet & blogs hold television journalists accountable for their mistakes.
The guests at the lawns of Calcutta club , where the debate was being held, concluded the proceedings by voting in favour of the motion.

The truth about the media is that its become a circus in India with hundreds of channels & hundreds of dailies sensationalising every event in order to vie for viewers' attention.So much so that like a true circus it has become a form of entertainment which the Indian masses are lapping up like they lap up unrealistic bollywood films with their song & dance routines. The investors are putting their money in , the advertisers get a mass channel & the masses enjoy their relaxation amidst their dreary daily existence. Imaginitive & witty blogs on news such as this dot the margins of the spectrum of mass entertainment.

Where lies the truth then ?
Truth is like the Rashomon story of Japanese film maestro Kurosawa. There is no absolute truth in the world . Every situation will have multiple perspectives. Even a full picture will not be able to reveal what happened to actual truth if truth did not appear naked in the first place.
Consider an example of two brothers. One who squanders away his money & time after born losers and does not believe in savings while the other meticulously saves and spends judiciously. Over time as the first one runs out of money during his rainy days , his 'truth' about brotherhood will be linked to "valuable support & subsidy " from the other. While for the other brother which sees it savings dwindle month after month after his squandering brother, the truth about brotherhood will be linked to a hope for the subsidies to reduce progressively.
The only truth about 'Truth" is the fact that life on earth is a chance occasion. And that's because "Earth" itself is a chance organic creation in the vast emptiness of inorganic matter. Since we live life only once, the only absolute truth is death. Everything else can best be described as , "...that's interesting".

Truth Picture source : David Salaguinto's blog

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

A million for Maradona to set foot in Kolkata

Fish & football are two passions , an average Bengalee can not do without.

You can take industry , industriousness & the "culture for hard work" out of his life but not fish & football. To stoke the electoral fire of the second passion, a communist member of parliament(MP) from Bengal has announced that international soccer star & present coach of Argentina, Diego Maradona will be felicitated in Kolkata next month. Maradona is also expected to lay the foundation stone of a football academy in the MP's constituency in Maheshtala . There are grand plans to send trained young players from the academy to the lower division Latin American leagues.

If cricket superstars like Jayasuriya & Shohaib Akhtars can come & inaugurate Durga Puja pandals , why not Maradona and that too for a good cause of kick starting a football academy in Bengal? So goes the logic of inviting Maradona.
So far , so good.

The cost of bringing Maradona to Kolkata is one million US dollars, as per inside sources. It would be interesting to watch the corporate bodies that are extravagant enough to sponsor and/or underwrite this "one-off" event at a time when corporate spending is low & even organisers of safe- bets ,like the T20 Champion league, are finding it difficult to get the lead & associate sponsors. Further, Maradona will not even take the field.

No comment has been made in the press release about the three-year project cost of such a football academy. That cost should be atleast five times the fee of Maradona . Will the underwriter of the academy-project be able to sustain their interest in the academy through-out the three years? The plans about the academy are so sketchy that one wonders whether this is the right time for launching it with soccer-superman Maradona or anyone else for that matter. Maybe, this is a pre-electoral gimmick of the ruling party to woo young voters, who top the demographical list!

It is expected, the publicity mileage will be cornered by the ruling communist government (as it so often happens in Bengal ) with the sponsors remaining high & dry. The recent felicitation of Oliver Kahn in his farewell match in Kolkata is an example where the sponsors, Peerless hardly got the credit while the state government basked in the glory of bringing the Bayern Munich star to Kolkata.
But when passions are carefully ignited even fools rush in where angels fear to tread.

Thursday, November 6, 2008

Nagpur (k)Nockout: A NEW twist in the India-Australia Test Cricket series

In the deciding test match between Australia & India at Nagpur, India ; a lot many NEW events appear to be playing around this match.

  1. Pitch & Stadium : This is a new stadium & a new pitch with no guesses on its character as to how will it play through the five days. Even net practices for both Indian & Australian teams were not held here. Further there is hardly any information from even first class matches held in the past. Being grass-less , it is expected to break and aid the slower bowlers. Dhoni thinks reverse swingers will have an advantage here. Ponting wants to debut off-spinner Krejza in place of the economic pacer Clark.

  2. Opening Pair: Gautim Gambhir, the Indian opener in form , will have to sit out this match due to a ban. In his place debuts M. Vijay of Tamilnadu , who hit the jackpot when he scored a double-century against Maharastra in Nasik & simultaneously got calls from both the national test & ODI teams . Among the Aussies , Mathew Hayden will look to whack a century for Australia after regaining form in the last test at Kotla.

  3. Middle Order : Ganguly & Laxman both will want to reach new highs to commemorate their respective milestones. Ganguly, for playing his last test match & Laxman for playing his hundredth. Hussey & Clarke intend , on the other hand, to continue their stroke making from where they left it at Kotla. Ponting & Tendulkar are match-ready too.

  4. Captaincy : The edge remains with the new Indian test captain MS Dhoni as Australia appears defensive with Ponting reportedly looking forward to a lucky spin in the toss to rule in his favour .

Overall, the test promises an interesting but uncertain saga that will roll out from today at the new stadium of Vidarbha Cricket Association.

Picture Source : (Inserted on 10th Nov, at match-end )

Wednesday, November 5, 2008

"Piper & the Princess"* in Kolkata

Ian Anderson of the British rock group "Jethro Tull" fame is teaming up for a series of 5 concerts with sitarist Anoushka Shankar in India. The concert kicks off in Kolkata on the 27th of this month.
I visited a Tull concert in Bengaluru three years back. Ian Anderson seemed to have lost his voice then , leaving out high-pitched vocals to give space to instrumentals . But the penchant for showmanship boosted by his indefatigable energy was still evident. Probably the latter makes his live concerts worth visiting .
A folk -rocker famed to have introduced the "flute" to the concerts, Ian is versatile with the harmonica & guitar too.
Anoushka Shankar , who carries a rich tradition of fusion music from her family, is a celebrated performer herself making this unique jam-up an interesting band to look forward to.
Kolkata has generally been out of the concert circuit for quite a long time while the big bands play their gigs regularly in Mumbai, Bengaluru & Delhi.
Hopefully, this Tull concert will set a new trend in Kolkata.

Listen to the clip below from the Kolkata concert.

Picture: A water color painting dated March'93 by Salty
*Note : "Piper & the Princess" is the title of the concert

Thursday, October 30, 2008

Viswanathan Anand - Genius & World Champion from India

Viswanathan Anand emerged victorious today in the FIDE World Championship challenge match played against Vladimir Kramnik in Bonn, Germany. The victory makes Anand the undisputed World Champion in chess for two years in running. Anand had won the double round-robbin world championship held in Mexico city in 2007 . However , he was forced to play this one-on-one, 12-round challenge match against Kramnik (winner in 2006) as Kramnik had the right to challenge Anand for the crown. Anand had termed this rule of right-to-challenge as "ridiculous" earlier but like a true sportsperson moved on to play the match and defeated Kramnik 6.5 to 4.5 overall ; when the 11th game was drawn today bringing the fortnight-long match to an end.
Chess may not be a spectator-friendly sport but has its own share of countless players & fan-followings ,who prefer the brain over the brawn, across the world. Its a game that has been dominated by Russians in the past decades. Its an immense joy to find an Indian sportsperson single handedly breaking the domination and ruling the chess world in circa 2008.
Since Anand became Grand Master in Chess in 1988 at the age of 18, he has performed in the topmost echelon of international chess for 20 years . In the process he picked up 5 Chess Oscars, 3 world championship titles & numerous other titles. No other Indian sportsperson has performed so consistently in the highest level of any international sport for two decades at a stretch.
Anand has already received the highest civilian award for a sportsperson from India , Padma Vibhushan (2007) as well as the highest sports award , the Rajiv Gandhi Khel Ratna award (1992). The Government of India will have to institute a completely new civilian award to honour outstanding achievers like Anand, who will never get a Bharat Ratna (highest civilian award in India) as sports persons are not eligible for this award.
Isn't it a shame that while outstanding achievements in literature & arts qualify for Bharat Ratna (apart from public service & scientific achievements), achievements in sports do not count?Till the time , a special award is created for Anand , we congratulate & bow to this exceptional genius for bringing glory to himself & a nation of 1 billion Indians .

Picture Source : Cristi Dorombach on flickr.

Monday, October 27, 2008

Financial crisis can create economic crisis in India

The recent financial crisis that has blitzkrieged the world since Lehman Brothers & Bear Sterns turned belly-up about a month back has already netted three countries in its whirlpool. Ukraine, Hungary & Iceland are now dependent on the IMF loans of billions. The immediate symptoms that came up in these countries were
  • Almost 20% & above depreciation of their currencies to US Dollar
  • Almost 60-70% fall in commodity prices have crippled export of their economies. Ukraine, of the steel-economy fame, is already facing retrenchment, wage-cuts because of global fall in demand & prices of steel.
  • Large current account deficit because of costlier imports & shrinkage of exports.

India is struggling with the rise in demand of dollar and rupee has already depreciated by 20%. With a CRR cut of 250 basis points & repo rate cut of 100 basis point , apparently liquidity has been restored but the demon of inflation is yet to come to down. Investors are busy converting assets to cash & holding on to them . The credit squeeze will increase cost of borrowings for working capital & new projects. North America & Europe remain the largest market for any MNC. A sustained recessionary environment in those countries will put long term pressure on the profitability of the corporations directly serving those markets & more importantly the key component of the supply chain connected to these markets; BPOs,KPOs etc. The engine of economic growth is always fuelled by lower cost of capital & building of supply lines as long as recessionary conditions/demand shrinkage are absent. With a high interest rate regime in the backdrop of lack of trust in the credit market & fears of recession looming large on the horizon, we are witnessing the turn from supply-side to demand-side economics in India.

Denying the presence of economic crisis is equivalent to denying the existence of currency & rubbishing the concept of cash. The financial think-tanks of India should do well to understand that the fruits of reforms can vanish in thin air if the economic growth rate of the country falls below 5%.

Saturday, October 25, 2008

Politician & Paranoia.

Finance Minister, India on the sensex slide:- " Investor should remian calm & composed......" - As in a funeral?

-"RBI will use conventional & 'unconventional' tools to tackle finance, price & economic stabilities." Stabilities or instabilities?

Cartoon Source:Bigpicture's blog

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

Stats,stats on the wall; who's the best Indian Cricket Captain of all?

(Click the picture above to see "stats" in Large font.)

M.S Dhoni, in his second test match as the stand-in skipper to the injured Anil Kumble,once again registered a win. This time by 320 runs against the mighty Australians at Mohali. Dhoni, once again proved that "Winning is Everything" by getting the entire team to play their respective roles while bagging the Man of the match award himself . Dhoni's recent successes as captain at the T20 world cup, ODI series in Australia & ODI series in Sri Lanka had already strengthened his claim to be the Indian captain in all forms of the game.

In order to check the claim of analysts , who think that Dhoni will become the best Indian captain , I thought of digging some statistics to compare the performances of 6 Indian captains since 1990s in all forms of the game (combined ODI, Tests, T20 internationals). Azhar, Tendulkar, Ganguly, Dravid, Kumble & Dhoni. Here are some key inferences.

  1. Which player has been in the winning side more often ? - Dhoni has been a team member in 51% of his matches when India has won, followed by Tendulkar in 45% of his matches. Azhar, Ganguly, Dravid & Kumble have been equally in the wining & losing team in their lifetime . It appears that Dhoni & Tendulkar have been positive influences to the Indian team . The presence of Azhar, Ganguly, Dravid & Kumble have made no difference to India winning or losing a match.

  2. How have the players performed their respective roles as batsman, bowler, allrounder in their lifetime? Tendulkar, with a career batting average of 48 stands apart & Kumble boasts an excellent bowling average of 30. But for Tendulkar, Ganguly, Dravid & Kumble the average drops by more than 30% whenever India loose implying that failure to perform their respective roles could have contributed to India's loss. As a complete contrast, Dhoni's average shoots up by 46% whenever India wins implying that whenever Dhoni fires with the bat , India has a decent chance of winning.

  3. Finally, what has been the role of each of the above as Captain?
  • Sachin Tendulkar
    : Disastrous record as Captain , losing 53% of matches although has probably won only when he has fired with the bat. His batting average shoots up by 47% for the matches he has won. Overall captaincy affected his batting , pulling his average down by 5 runs. Tendulkar's bowling performances show a decline during India's win implying that he did not make good use of himself as a bowler when he was the captain. Overall, a captain's resource as a good allrounder but not a good captain himself. Rating : D
  • Md. Azharuddin: Consistent batting average of 40 even as a Captain and a good win record of 47%. Captained India for 51% of his matches. Rating : B
  • Sourav Ganguly : Again captained almost half his matches( 46%) but in the process knocked his batting & bowling averages down by 3 runs. However, both his averages shoot up when India has won (49% of times) implying that he used himself well as an allrounder. More often than not, his batting & bowling both clicked when India won the matches under his captaincy. Other Indian captains do not seemed to have used Sourav well as a bowler as his career bowling average drops by 48% whenever India has lost. His record as a Captain is better than Azhar. Rating : B+
  • Rahul Dravid: An excellent record as a captain with a 10% points difference between his winning & losing matches eclipsing Azhar's 6% & Sourav's 9%. And Rahul has just been a captain only 23% of his matches. Has a consistent & higher batting average of 43-45, second only to Tendulkar. If Dravid had not batted poorly( average dropping by 31%) in the matches India has lost under him, his average could have been much higher. Rating : A.
  • Anil Kumble : Has captained only 3% of his matches with a poor win record of 29% and a drastic fall in bowling average by 9 runs. Ignored,for most of his lifetime, Kumble was made the Captain last year after Dravid resigned. Rating : C
  • MS Dhoni: Captaincy seems to have improved Dhoni's batting as his average shoots up by 11 runs. Has a fantastic win record of 55% with a 21% difference between winning & losing matches.Dhoni's batting average as a captain go up by 40% when India wins & go down by 40% when India looses.When Dhoni's strokes get going , India coasts to a win. A key player, MS Dhoni's absence in the team can lead to India's loss. Truly, Dhoni is India's Captain courageous. Rating : A++
After Dhoni's win at the Mohali test yesterday as a captain, the selectors would do well to appoint him immediately as the Captain of the Indian test team. That will help keep the winning momentum going for India.

Friday, October 17, 2008

The value of a politician in India.

A great man is different from an eminent one in that he is ready to be the servant of the society- B. R. Ambedkar

An elected politician in India has three basic values.

1. The value of public service: Whereby , the politician can serve his electorate constituents by aiding in continuous development of the region; creation of infrastructure like roads, electricity, schools, hospitals ; economic development through creation of jobs, inviting industry etc. A Member of Parliament gets 20 MINR per year for spending in development projects,

2. The value of nation building : Whereby, all elected politicians bring in new policies for building a modern India keeping in tune with the needs of the globalised world.

3. The nuisance value : Whereby, a politician on account of his manpower ( as a leader of a 500,000 constituents) and/or official position can stop a developmental project , defy law of the land and bring business operations to a standstill.

The business of running an economy ruled by politicians is normally taken care by the big funders, corporate & large business empires. For them every politician has a value which can be objectified into a figure depending on the paths of action taken by him.

While all three activities referred above have their importances; probably in a developed democracy , a politician's monetary value can be judged by the second activity of "policy change & nation building". Lobbyists fall over each other to support & legally underwrite fund-raising dinners for politicians whose vision of policies fall within the broad objective of their organisations.
Ratan Tata's open support to communist government in West Bengal in an half-page advertisement in all the major dailies in Bengal & Rahul Bajaj's tacit support to the opposition's rally against Nano project on the tube have to understood in this context. It is more than corporate rivalry , as is being made out to be. Indian business houses have been "paying off" political parties in India from time immemorial, although illegally. Probably, the time has come to legalise & make transparent political donations from corporate houses so that the common people of India are aware of the actual agenda behind either a "policy decision" or "extra subsidies from government " or " a rally."
In an evolving ,illiterate, impoverished democracy like India; its the third value that of "nuisance " that attracts the highest bidder. No business entity wants a "mob" to vandalise the "congenial environment" in which his business empire operates. The nuisance value of the politician is in threatening or removing the perception of "congenial" environment.
Higher the nuisance , higher the price business has to pay , illegally, to buy peace & congeniality.

Probably, its time for business entities in India to take a look at fixing a value for the first activity, that of public service. It makes sense for business empires to invest in development of a politician's constituency , where his units are being set up. The donations can be legal and can match/surpass the government grants for a MP. But more importantly, it will bring a focus to a politician's first job of nurturing his constituency & also keep the "mob" away from being a part of rag-tag army of vandals.
Cartoon Source : Bigpicture's blog

Thursday, October 16, 2008

Hire & Fire: Jet Airways publicly pioneers the process in India

Aviation industry in India is going through doldrums. Coping with high fuel prices & low passenger load factors is proving to be costly for all carriers. This prompted two biggest carriers in India , Kingfisher & Jet , to form an operative alliance and dump, for once, 1000 of its air crews.

The fired employees, who were fresh and under probation, cried foul and have sought the help of 'enfant terrible' , Raj Thackeray , leader of a parochial , close minded political entity called MNS.

While Raj arrogantly has threatened to forcibly ground Jet in Mumbai, there is little reaction from the labour minister, Oscar Fernandes on the legality of such a move. Out of the blue, Deora, pertoleum minister, thinks Jet has carried the matter a bit too far and should be hauled up for non-payment of dues to Deora's petroleum ministry even though the credit period of Jet is still valid. The grand old man of trade unionism , Gurudas "spitfire" Dasgupta , even led a bannered protest on behalf of airlines crew.

The viewers on the tube couldn't care less. And they kept on searching for pretty faces among the protesting crews , some of whom claimed to be air hostesses. Having found none, they opined that these probationary officers, who have qualified from dubious institutes, deserve to be grounded.Not one pretty face!WTF!

Welcome to hire & fire in India.

This is one small step for 'labour relations' but a giant leap for 'business adaptability' in India.
Raj Thackeray, notwithstanding!!!
Late news: Baniya Goyal , Chairman of Jet Airways, with his fidgety eyes announced late last night that he was suffering from insomnia after seeing the "agony" of fired employees & hence has reinstated all his employees. The same people who Goyal , just two days back, had dismissively called "probationers & not part of family"! So, first round goes to Raj while Goyal looks eagerly towards the government for a possible financial bailout and/or extension of credit period for paying fuel bills.

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

Telepathy synthesised

The US army is funding research for creating a technology that will enable mankind to convey messages to another fellow mankind. All by thought. That is I think a message, convert in into tiny electrical signals which then are amplified, processed, coded by a device fitted to my cap. The device then transmits a text message , by radio, to another device in your cap that conveys the message to you by voice or text mail. The technology is called Synthetic Telepathy.

Nintendo, a video games manufacturer,wants to incorporate thought-controlled gaming actions (pull, spin, push , jump..) in video games.

Emotiv EPOC is the name of a neuroheadset, developed by Emotiv, that enables computer players to respond with emotions dynamically to another player's smiles, frustration etc.

From gaming to army , Synthetic Telepathy will let you hear voices in your head; irrespective of the fact whether you are a chronic schizophrenic; as long as you have the headset on.

Although the lead scientist in the army project,Mike D'Zmura, from the University of California, Irvine , says that , "I think that this will eventually become just another way of communicating." , the commercial applications are as many as one may imagine them to be. From organised thought-control industry like advertising, regimented religious societies,field training to therapeutic applications in mind disorders; the world may soon become a theatre for puppets on a string.

While everybody can claim to a number of telepathic occurrences in their life (like when your phone rings and you lift it to find its the friend you were just thinking of) , synthetic telepathy will let you have your friend communicating with you just by thought.

Whoever knew that the brave new world , penned by Huxley, will soon be here.

Monday, October 6, 2008

Best Indian awards

The annual Saltyblog Awards for significant contribution to the country in each of the following fields (sorted alphabetically) are here:

Best Bureaucrat : Arun Kumar, Director (retired), CBI for following copy-book bureaucratic procedure to handle Arushi case. Arrests, Search, Detention, Simulation, 'scientific' tests & then release of everybody. Expertly closed the case by clean-chitting the bereaved & accused father after detaining him for 45 days. No body of course knows who murdered Arushi & why ?

Best Corporate Chairman : Ratan Tata. For long speeches to the public & for making his business house a repeat target for eviction from the forest or agricultural land of India. Keeps the shareholder’s wealth safe in his purse, often denying the grease-hungry administrative machinery, power brokers & people with high nuisance value..

Best Economist : Mamata Bannerjee. For protecting Singur from development, inflation & costlier standard of living.

Best Eligible Bachelor: Rahul Gandhi for hinting to keep the dynasty flag flying & for his freudian slip in the Indian Parliament about the plight of Kalavati. The latter was made famous by singer Kishore Kumar in " Zarurart hai, zarurat hai ... ek shiree moti ki , kalavati ki; seva korey jo poti ki..."

Best Enginner(s) : From HCC Ltd, who designed two major flyovers that gave way , while under construction, in Hyderabad & Lucknow injuring scores ; and still qualifying as permitted bidders for other construction projects. If they can manage to dig the Bandra-Worli link flyover in Mumbai too, their balance sheets would look healthier as HCC is losing money everyday on this project.

Best Friends: The Leftists who took the nation for a long costly ride over the nuclear deal and parted from the allies in government after 4 years of support. Have proven expertise of grabbing the cheques from the friends and making issues out of the bills.

Best Marketing Manager: Anil Ambani. For bagging Rs. 130 billion from the public for Reliance Power IPO at a premim of over 400 rupees a share without laying down a single brick of the plant

Best Politican : Dr. Manmohan Singh for steering the government towards signing a nuclear deal with the unpopular President Bush after crossing major political & circumstantial hurdles, Glossed over other problematic issues like inflation, famers’ suicides, administrative reforms, corruption. Has fully metamorphosed from custodian of central bank to vote bank.

Best Procurement Manager : Amar Singh's office for buying out required number of MPs, allegedly ,@25 cr a person within a tight deadline to vote for the nuclear deal.

Best Sportsman : Suresh Kalmadi, Chairman Indian Olympic Committee for going to the gym everyday and spearheading a contingent into getting unprecedented 3 medals in the Olympics.

Award reserved for
Best Social Work: Arjun Singh, Minister of Human Resources & Development who introduced 49.5% reservation for socially backward classes among students & faculty of IITs , without discrimination. It is rumoured that he finds it difficult to spell the word 'Merit' and hence has banned the use of the word in all official correspondences of his ministry. Stands by the human rights for all victims of terrorism, namely the accused themselves when they are bumped off.

(pics source : executive )

Friday, October 3, 2008

The curious incident of Nano in these strange times.

As voiced by Mr. Ratan Tata in a press conference six weeks back, Tata motors has decided to move the “Nano small-car project” outside West Bengal. In a press conference held today in Kolkata,Mr. Tata cited his concerns for the uncertainty regarding the continued safety & welfare of his employees in the face of “aggression” from opposition politicians & their supporters in front of his factory gates. In an exercise of plain talk , Mr.Tata owned up his responsibility for the welfare of his employees in the absence of a “congenial environment” to work in Singur . Likewise he talked about his accountability to the shareholders of Tata Motors because of which he could not afford to keep the investment in a “limbo” till a solution emerged . He had already spent two years full of “trying times & disruption”, Mr. Tata said.

Analysts in the tube voiced different opinions.
Mr. Alok Mukherjee , from the industry, articulated his concerns (& rightly so ) for the deteriorating image of Bengal and the impact it will have on future investments from within & outside the country.
Kalyan Sanyal, a professor of economics from the Kolkata University ( a self-confessed ex-agitator who took to the streets protesting against the visit of Robert McNamara , World Bank chief to Kolkata, decades ago) indulged in a fine-tooth analysis to discover “mother of all marginalised people” among the affected farmers who sold land for the project . He naively thought that if their interests could be protected , the project would have been on. He forgets , in spite of his experience in this field, that agitational politics & industrial development do not go together. Farmers’ issues , like the Babri Masjid, are often merely the stepping stone for a larger political space .
Mr. Abhirup Sarkar, another economist, thought probably the society of Bengal is not ready for “industry” & farmers are not “well-informed” as to what they will do with the money they receive in exchange for the land they sold for the project.
Not ready for industry? Amusing! What are these engineering colleges doing in Bengal? For learning to sow paddy ?
What will they do with the money? Give me a break. Probably they will burn them up for some warmth during the winter or hit the hooch!!!

Quite a few of the analysts often took umbrage to their domestic maid-servants , citing their opinions as proof of the mindset of marginalised farmers. Maid servants are also Mamata Bannerjees’ favourite examples & thus an interesting symbol for the middle-class city-bred Bengali whenever they want to voice their liberal & egalitarian attitude in public. The days are not far away when the feudal Bengali society will be forced to pay higher salaries for the service (often thankless) of maid servants rather than that of the skilled engineers. And Bengal Institues for Domestic Work would mushroom in place of the engineering & technical colleges. Strange times,indeed.

Subrata Mukherjee, a politician, thought he had enough reasons to believe that Tata Motors could still run the plant if they had done A then B & C. It is a sign of the times that politicians of all hues specially the ex-toughies ,with little knowledge of technical education, can portray an image of “educating” a technocrat on how to run an industry. Politicians are supposed to bring in policies for change and a change for the better & not just blind opposition. As the saying goes , Bengal is a land of culture & agriculture. Maybe Bengal is just a land of “disagree-culture”, where people will spend sleepless nights to figure out ten ways to not to do a developmental job rather than finding one way of doing it. We are lucky that the Howrah Bridge & station, the India Railways, Airports & other mega projects have been built in earlier times . In today’s times, even a cross-country railroad project would have been opposed and alternatives of bullock-carts or cycle-vans would have been touted as viable examples of environmental-friendly , people-friendly transports.

This is 21st century and the digital age. The world is moving at a frenetic pace while reductionism rules in technology . Scientists are living on the cutting age ,reducing matter to theoretical particles & conducting experiments to discover Bosons & quarks in order to crack the mystery of the universe. VLSI circuits rule in everybody’s lives . Nano technology is already here and people are counting time in nano seconds. But in Bengal, there is a dilation of time or rather the insignificance of it. Projects here take decades before fruition. The case of Haldia Petrochemical is one such example. If only , Tata Motor had such time to waste!

Mr. Ratan Tata in his press conference today mentioned that , “Miss Mamata Bannerjee pulled the trigger. I did not move my head.”

Now that Nano gets banned from production in Bengal, it may not be long before a Mamata-inspired Bengali band called “kunritey binoshto” (meaning ‘nipped in the bud’) comes out with its own rendition of Bob Marley’s famous number

“I shot the Buddha

But I did not shoot no Mr. T , oh no…”

While Durga Puja, Bengal’s annual festival, starts in a couple of days time; one can only wonder in bewilderment whether Mamata was the Durga that exterminated Nano, the industrial Mahishashur, in the mythical tradition of good winning over evil? Or was it the evil that drove away the good?

In either way Nano's genesis & extermination will remian curious incidents in these strange times of Bengal cloaked in its self-destructive "disagree-culture".

Thursday, October 2, 2008

Smoky post.

From today, tobacco smoking has been barred in all public places in India including bars & restaurants. The choice of date was carefully chosen by the government as today is also the birth anniversary of Mahatma Gandhi, Father of the nation.

Mahatma Gandhi's predictable views on smoking are hard to come by although this weird excerpt from Vol 1. of his autobiography tends to associate smoking with stealing & suicide. One vice leading to another & obstructing the pursuit of "truth"!

Just wonder what would Bapuji (Gandhi) say to Chachaji (Nehru), if he had been alive today to catch Nehru lighting a cigarette inside a train compartment?

Sunday, September 28, 2008

Progress viewed through the coloured glass : Archaic ideological policies are ruining Bengal

Two things are infinite: the universe and human stupidity; and I'm not sure about the universe.- Albert Einstein

Forward Bloc, a constituent of the left front government in Bengal, India articulates its backward policies in this article.
The party is against the move by organised retail chains buying agricultural goods directly from the farmers and selling them to the consumers as it feels it will "ruin the farmers and small traders".

Although its obvious that the farmers will get a higher price than before and the consumers a more economical & better-quality product ; the same can't been seen in black & white by the leaders of forward bloc.
Because they continue to wear the coloured glass.

How will progress in agriculture be achieved if farmers do not move up the value chain in satisfying consumer demand? There is consumer demand for higher yield, better quality, more nutrition , freshness ,an economical price & an efficient supply chain. To achieve such goals, somebody needs to invest in farms, R&D, supply chains, seeds etc. etc. Can numerous small traders who clog the distribution chain invest in consolidation & moving up the value chain? No, they will continue to fleece the farmers (rice in Bengal is bought for 300 rupees a quintal from the farmers and finally sold to the consumers at 2000 rupees a quintal. 1700 rupees go to the traders ) & cheat the consumers through acts of hoarding, adulteration & low quality of produce. Of course, life can go on like this while the agricultural economy of the state miss the benefits of technological innovation in seeds, mechanisation, cold chains & IT-driven supply chains.
Status-quo is a symptom of a rot that goes against the fundamentals of any economy & consumer demand.

A case in point is the opposition to Metro, a international wholesaler in retail who buy goods in bulk directly from the producers and sell them to retailers in the city they are located in. The party members of Forward Bloc should visit Bengaluru & Hyderabad (or even Germany) to see the operations of this chain with an open mind and discover the value that they provide to two fundamental pillars of any economy, producers & buisness-consumers.

The distribution chain of agricultural produce is a hegemony of small & medium traders in rural Bengal & in burrabazar locality of Kolkata. A large number of these people are alleged to be cadres ( lowest rung of members, the hands & legs) of Forward Bloc and/or funders of the party who evidently want to maintain the status-quo.

Can't the leaders of Forward Bloc see that they are actually moving the state backward by their rigid opposition ? Can economical progress be ever achieved in Bengal ?

The answers seems to be a resounding "NO" as long as these leaders continue to wear the ideologically coloured glasses and dance to the tune of their changed party anthem :

"Kadam Kadam peechey ja

Gam-ka geet gaye ja" ( March every step backward while singing the sad tune of self-destruction)

Friday, September 26, 2008

West Bengal : OutLAWs & ORDERless

Incident One : 1 a.m at night, scooter parking lot (behind the woodlands hotel, Bengaluru): Was chatting with a friend, a localite, just after dinner before taking a ride on his scooter back home. An armed cop with his trademark felt-hat walks towards us , demands to know about our activities and orders us to finish our on-the-road chatting & disperse . For a Kolkata resident that came as a rude shock. Our "rights to chat on road " have been curtailed. My friend , however, suggested we chat on the scootie & we rode off.
Incdent Two: Again Bengaluru opposite Koramangala Club. Again a post-dinner smoke-cum-chat but this time there are four of us standing infront of an ATM. Again a cop drives towards us on a bike, slows down without stopping & hollers out at us to disperse. We barely hear his retreating voice as he threatens to come back to the spot within fifteen minutes to see the spot empty. Again , my local friends decide to comply and transfer the chatting exercise inside a moving vehicle.
This is completely unthinkable in a city like Kolkata.
Firstly, you hardly see a patrolling cop walking towards you past midnight (unless of course you are a victim who can be fleeced for money like cab drivers , illegal parking attendants, street walkers & their clients etc.) .
Secondly you barely see an attempt by them to clear the roads of congregation of small crowds.
Lastly & most importantly, even if they do , for sure, there will be an argument started by the crowd on the "rightness" of the entire exercise. No one will comply with the law or attempt to leave if confronted , without an unnecessary, longwinding argument.

West Bengal (including its capital city , Kolkata ) is a place where everyone is anti-establishment & all are extremely conscious of their countless rights to an extent that no body follows authority or complies with the law.
The ruling party that runs the government organises complete shutdown (called Bandhs ) of the state at the rate of one a month in complete disregard to an existing High Court ruling. The Chairman of the ruling party publicly criticises a sitting judge & his judgement in contravention to the constitution. The opposition party blocks a National Highway for a fortnight throwing the connecting towns to disarray. All forms of political parties organise once-a-week processions protesting against some perceived injustice and throw city traffic out of gear. Citizens ransack a hospital , beat up doctors if a patient dies because of a "perceived" neglect from the hospital authorities. Any road accident is followed by a mob lynching the driver of the accused vehicle, followed by torching the vehicle, brick batting & finally staging a road-block. The staff union organises a procession inside the headquarter (Writers' Buildings) of the state administration and throws off policemen down the stairs . Film actors, actresses, directors hit the streets when their favourite sportsperson is omitted from the national squad or when the "impotent & politicised" administration is perceived to be torturous & inactive. And so on & so forth.
In the leftist land of West Bengal, every one is a rebel fighting for some cause against anybody who is perceived to be either more monied or more establishment.

Hence when the Nobel laureate Amartya Sen speaks of politics of street-activism ruling major decisions influencing the state, one can only chuckle.

For, Sen is absolutely right. West Bengal's elected legislators do not debate out major policy issues concerning socio-economic development in the assembly. Instead they always take the streets to air their grievances crying for attention like rebellious children whose toys have been snatched.In the process they hold the entire state to ransom.It would take years of updated knowledge, vision, patience & civilised articulation to debate any issue in the assembly. These are skills , our elected representatives do not seem to possess or make use of.

The modern "elected" revolutionaries of Bengal have managed to truly "revolve" her into a downward spiral of increasing lawlessness, from where it will take more than a miracle to recover.

Definition of a Blogger

Friday, August 29, 2008

India in Olympics : Its getting better all the time

India scored their first (& only) individual gold medal in Beijing 2008 Olympics when 24 year old Abhinav Bindra shot his way in 10 mtr. rifle shooting leaving the silver medallist Chinese literally breaking down in tears. Although India’s overall medal tally of 3 is way behind China’s superlative performance of 100, India’s relative progress over the last 4 Olympics has given the citizens a cause to cheer.

India’s ranking in medals tally has progressed from 77th in Atlanta’1996 to 50th in Beijing 2008 as given below.

1996 Atlanta 77th
2000 Sydney 74th
2004 Athens 67th
2008 Beijing 50th

Recently another chart is doing the rounds on the web,which ranks countries by total medals per population . Jamaica tops the list and India is ranked 55th not far behind China at 49th. Similarly in ranking by gold medals per population ,Jamaica tops the list , India is ranked 55th and China at 47th .

However, in another chart where nations are ranked by medals per "per-capita GDP" , India’s ranking shoots up to 11th just behind Jamaica at 10th with China at 2nd place & North Korea at top. When only gold medals are taken into account, the same ranking holds except that Jamaica is at 7th position.

Are these continuously improving results then a vindication of the fact that post-1991 liberalisation & subsequent economic growth of India is showing upon the Olympic medals tally too?

By 2020, if India manages to double its per-capita GDP ( with an annual growth of 8-9% & net population growth of 1.6 to 2%), will we be able to catch up China in medals tally ?

What do you think ?

Monday, August 25, 2008

Young, meritorious ,middle-class & want to be an IITian? Get out of India.

The reservation juggernaut in IITs seems to roll on continuously. The outcome of the recent meeting of the IIT directors in Kharagpur yesterday was to lower by 50% the cut-off marks for entry of reserved category students through all India Joint Entrance Examination. The idea ostensibly is to fill up the reserved category seats in the IIT.

But then merit? Who cares!

Read this with another recent incident in IIT Delhi, where 3 students admitted under the reserved category were allowed to continue their studies in spite of the fact that these students failed to perform in the engineering examinations. Mind you, engineering is a subject, where it is difficult to fail unless one is a complete duffer or a conspicuous consumer of mind-altering drugs . Presumably, the IIT director succumbed to the dictates of the HRD ministry led by a self-appointed social-reformer , a senile minister , whose only avenue for such reforms is corruption of carefully nurtured national institutions (like the IITs) through large-scale reservations .

What about a national policy for quality primary education for all & a policy for recruiting thousands of faculty to meet that demand to enable merit to come up across the length & breadth of the country? Where is the cess in income tax for primary education going to ? Who knows ? Maybe , its going to the subsidy of LPG or petrol or waiver of farmers’ loans or for buying MPs of other parties.

A few weeks back, the IIT directors had agreed to reservations in all categories (totalling 50%) , in all streams of engineering for faculty aspirants too. Although the reservation has been limited to the entry level ; for sure , the cut-off marks for selection of such faculty would have been reduced too.

One would have thought that the direction of social reform should be abolition of caste & not reservation of caste. This is indeed a warped way of thinking.

The directors of IIT, by nature of their appointment , are answerable only to the ministry . Gone are the days when IITs could be proud of personalities like Prof. Gyan Ghosh (first director of IIT-KGP, which was modelled after MIT) or Prof. Indiresan of IIT Madras , who had a mind of their own and took their job of institution-building seriously.

The present lot of Directors by the very nature of their pro-reservation actions are displaying their weak-kneed personalities and complete disregard for upholding the meritorious character of the IITs. With poor quality of students & faculty to dominate the population in IIT shortly; IITs are set for a rapid decline in standards.

Perhaps this is an eventuality that was waiting to come . For long, IITs have remained an exotic island of merit, known world over for their students & aspired by every educated middle class family having kids with above-average intelligence. Surrounded by institutions of average calibre , jealous non-performers, social-reform activists with the IQ of morons & politicians who pimp the prostitutions of poverty & misery ; it was inevitable that the walls of IIT will crumble under pressure. And what better way to do that than by putting agents of “social change” in the positions of Directors.

So, if you are a young student aspiring to study engineering and have merit with money ; do not waste your time in this country. Apply for the best in the world of universities in USA, Europe & even in China ; take a loan in case you are from a middle class background & short of funds ;get a scholarship and MOVE. Believe me, your pain today will be your gain in the future. The Grade-A university in a country which respects merit is meant for you.

The curse of the (Indian) middle class

Shashi Tharoor in his recent article in the TOI makes an important point about expectations of the people of USA & India, two of the largest democracies, from their politicians. He says
" 1. An American politician is expected to attain standards that American voters do not demand of themselves and their neighbours: would-be elected officials in America are simply not permitted to display the weaknesses that ordinary Americans suffer from...
2. the Indian middle-class expects politicians to behave in ways we would not tolerate in our own families or neighbours. Politicians are not merely assumed to be sanctimonious, insincere and hypocritical, but it's also taken for granted that they must be unprincipled, sleazy and venal. We do not seek a neat and ordered political world: we accept one that is messy, chaotic, devious"

Shashi's comment is almost echoed by Subroto Mukherjee leader from the Congress Party & ex-Mayor of Kolkata , who states in an article in Anadabazar Patrika that , " politics (in India) is all about increasing the vote bank. A pragmatic party will walk that path which would increase his votes ...politicians have not come to do charity........its all about a power game where power equates with mass support ......wherever the mass is , politicians will go there"

That was a reality check.

Who ever thought that politics is about public service and every political party should at least have a stated ideology for serving the fundamental needs of the people of his land?

Shashi's article states that Indian middle class unlike their American counter-parts do not have higher expectations of their politicians. Shashi forgets that Indian middle class;though enlightened ,law abiding & tax-paying citizens of the country; has a very insignificant say in the politics of the nation. To the extent, the middle class is dispensable to the political elite. In the world of representative politics, this trend is only going to get stronger. Communities such as Dalits, Gujjars & Muslims will seize their opportunity for representation in National Institutions like the IITs, IIMs, IIScs & even MNCs through reservations. Marginalised & state-terrorised communities like the Kashmiris, Gorkhas, Nagas & Manipuris will demand rights of self-rule bordering on secession. So on & so forth.

The middle class be damned.

Reality check.

Sunday, August 24, 2008

Table Tennis -a Chinese puzzle

Ma Wang Wang;
Zhang Wang Gou.

That's not a Chinese slang but the first names of the Chinese medal winners (men & women, 6 of them all) in Beijing Olympics 2008. China swept the top three medals in both the men and women sections of Table Tennis. While the results do not raise eyebrows anymore 'cos people expect Chinese to win them anyway; but what is amazing is that the dominance of Chinese is going on for last 4 decades. The penhold grip , open-backhand , amazing speed with spin & power still continue to dazzle & puzzle the top paddlers of the world.
Now its become a sustainable world-class sport in China where ex-world champions coach the next generation talents. The passion of a common Chinese for table tennis is enormous. I remember during my final year in engineering in Kharagpur, I use to practise with an owner of a Chinese restaurant,"Far East". We started knocking around a bit initially and then later it would be a daily afternoon affair at the IIT gymkhana. For two hours we never talked , just played TT and then departed. Again it would start the next day. And all through the initiative to sweat was solely his as I was more content to lay back the few remaining days in KGP.
My impression then was that the Chinese strive for perfection in whatever they do and will even die just striving for that. Their tenacity, hard work, punctuality, geniality and above all their love for the game is enormous.
Anthropologists should make a study on Chinese paddlers to discover the secret in their DNA that make them world beaters for last 40 years.
(In picture : Ma Lin, the gold medal winner in action in Beijing 2008 )

Friday, August 22, 2008

Singur Stalemate : Speed breaker hits Nano, Tata Motor’s “wonder” small-sized car

About 7 months back Ratan Tata announced to the world that the next technological revolution after Internet has come out of his company’s lab. A Rs.100,000/- ($2,500) small-sized, fully featured car (unique in terms of price/features ratio) is ready to roll out in October’2008 from Tata Motor’s new plant located at Singur, West Bengal. Every year around 300,000 NANOs ( brand name of the car) , will roll out from their plant , that has been built on 1000 acres of prime agricultural land , acquired (and later leased out to the Tatas for 90 years) by the communist government of West Bengal. The cost of investment : Rs. 15 billion.

Little did Ratan Tata realise that half a year hence the situation will be so different that he would have to call a press conference and threaten to quit the project from West Bengal, if his employees feel insecure and unsafe under the threat of continuous violence at Singur, where political equations have changed in favour of the opposition party , Trinamul Congress , since the last panchayat elections held in the intervening period.

The item of dispute at this point of time is the 400 acres of land which the opposition party leader, Mamata Bannerjee claims has been forcibly acquired by the state government helped by a stong police force and hence should be returned to the unwilling farmers. The Tatas claim that this 400 acres of land is meant for ancillary factories supplying components to the Nano mother plant and has been incorporated to reside next to the mother plant to reduce logistics & transportation costs. Hence, it is impossible according to the Tatas to return this land. It is better to quit.
The "apparently-benevolent" broker in this project is the ruling Left Front Government {a coalition of 7-8 left parties largely dominated by CPI(M) } led by its Chief Minister Buddhadeb Bhattacharya . The communist government of West Bengal ruling for the last 3 decades have suddenly realised the importance of industrialisation in the last 2-3 years (having earlier forced out industries thanks to its militancy that it practised in the name of worker’s rights and trade unionism) & wanted to usher in a showcase project in the state to revive industrialisation as well as their dwindling electoral fortunes in the state. The government allegedly pulled out all kinds of sops (from low priced land to tax waivers) & forcibly displaced livelihood of marginal farmers ; in order to bring Nano, the “new wonder” of the world, to West Bengal. The state government having acquired the land is now citing the law to prove that land once acquired for "public purpose" can't be returned.

Thus the project has hit a stalemate. Trinamool Congress, which recently trounced the leftists in the local Panchayat elections, has threatened to launch an indefinite agitation at the plant-site from 24th August unless 400 acres of land are returned to its electorates.

While one can dispute Ratan Tata’s egoistic claims of a technological revolution in Nano or Buddhadeb’s forcible acquisition of farmer’s land at cheap prices under an archaic 1894 act or Mamata’s self-glorifying politics of exploitation of the farmer’s situation ; no body is sure how this stalemate will end .

Whether Nano will at all come out of Singur or whether West Bengal will see an end to politics of violence, Bandhs & road-blocks & return to prosperity ? Who knows?

For sure, this issue of forcible acquisition of prime agricultural land & consequent displacement of livelihood for the purpose of development , will change the history of India’s dealing with developmental politics.

As one creep quipped that the only solution, however improbable it may sound , is to get Ratan Tata married to Mamata Bannejee under the secular marriage act (both being unmarried, the first a Parsi & the second a Hindu ) where Buddhadeb Bhattacharya (being in the government) can perform the rituals of a marriage registrar.

Also read :The end of Singur stalemate over Nano

Sunday, July 27, 2008

Serial Bomb Blasts make a dent on India's Intelligence departments.

On consecutive days in the last weekend of July , serial bomb blasts in Bangalore & Ahmedabad have already taken a toll of 50 innocent victims. The reaction from the government has been timely but banal. The President, PM & Home Minister etc have mouthed the stereotyped but ineffective platitudes about it being a cowardly act.As if such rebuke will force the criminals to sink into their shoes!

Every politician has asked the nation to be calm and not be provoked into creating communal disharmony when there has been no communal disharmony present at all. It is another matter that most of the communal riots are always initiated by politicians themselves rather than they being spontaneous!

Basically every citizen is scared and want this menace of faceless violence to stop once and for all. The question that is on every body's lips is what is the role of IB,SIB & CBI in gathering enough intelligence to prevent/anticipate acts? Do our intelligence professionals have network among the new age criminals? Or are they too busy serving their political masters in tapping the phone lines of their masters' political adversaries and other lesser mortals ?

The latest fad among the security professionals is to concentrate all their activities on the email-traces and mobile call records. While this is a good tool to catch the amateur criminals, its effect on seasoned criminals like the bomb blasters will have little effect.

Firstly, as far as email-trace back is concerned there are various software available on the Internet where one can protect one's anonymity while sending an email. In such a software, volunteers help to bounce a email through a relay of nodes from the origin to the destination. The volunteer is in the network to be anonymous in the first place. So the person who is traced back will in probability be a last node in the relay rather than the original sender. In effect, its very easy to hide your traces on the net while sending an email.

Secondly, email & call records are more of a reactive tool than proactive. Meaning they can help you in discovering communication traces rather than prevent such traces to occur in the first place.

Finally, there is no substitute for good old "physical" infiltration of the criminals network, their place of work, their friends , their places of worship etc. etc. That may be a hard way to work instead of spending nerdish hours in front of a hacker's computer. But its still effective provided the IB has a will as well as a plan to do so.

With Maoists fighting an armed guerrilla warfare in the rural red corridor of India and the faceless terrorists holding center stage in the metro cities; the government will do well to understand that intelligence should be proactive in anticipating such acts of violence.Merely reacting to such acts by arresting people on the basis of emails will be considered to be a eyewash to the citizens of India.

Wednesday, July 23, 2008

CPM expels Somnath Chatterjee! When will India expel anti-national CPM ?

He brings disaster upon his nation who never sows a seed, or lays a brick, or weaves a garment, but makes politics his occupation.~ Kahlil Gibran

That probably sums up the profiles of most of the Politburo (whatever that means! probably it means a coterie.) members of the Communist Party of India (M with or without plus a L). Think of Prakash Karat or Sitaram Yechuri or Nilotpol Basu or Biman Bose etc. etc. Whats their profession ? None.
They are what one would call whole timers of the party. If they are expelled from the party , they will starve/beg to death because they have no other marketable skills to survive. They did not spend any effort to learn any. Maybe , they will start another political party and live on their members.

Somnath Chatterjee , who was expelled today by the above members of his party , at least can fall back on his law practice like his earlier adversary Siddharta Shankar Ray, ex-CM of West Bengal. The official reason for Somnath's expulsion is of course , that he did not resign from the Speaker's post as asked by his party high command. The party high command forgets that under the Indian constitution , a speaker is above any party line. Once his term as speaker ends, he can then probably , come under party dictates again.

But then when did the communists have any regard for the Indian constitution? Their party's constitution is bigger than that. As always, national interest comes behind party's interest. The commies in India bloat their chest thinking that they are fulfilling an important role for something as outdated and vague as a "world communist movement" where "petty" things like national constitution can be passed over. Rumour goes that to fulfill such an important mission communists are not averse to being funded by American sympathisers and organisations although they denounce any strategic relations with the American government.

Besides what greater pleasure can unskilled bummers like Karat , Biman or Sitaram get, than by humbling a skilled professional lawyer like Somnath Chatterjee? No one is above their party's law , they scream. Even someone who has given 4 decades of service to the party and given the party a mass respectability that it lacks. People like Karat forget that , " the brotherhood of men does not imply their equality. Families have their fools and their men of genius, their black sheep and their saints, their worldly successes and their worldly failures. A man should treat his brothers lovingly and with justice, according to the deserts of each. But the deserts of every brother are not the same (Aldous Huxley)".

One positive thing about the trust vote yesterday has been the riddance of the leftists from the national policy making bodies. The leftists had paralysed all reforms oriented policies for the last 4 years . We hope that some of them including PSU disinvestment, pension reforms, PF reforms, labour reforms , FDI in retail, aviation etc. etc. will see the light of the day. The hegemony of the leftists still remain in three states which are slowly entering into a realm of backwardness that can only be removed once they are voted out from Bengal, Tripura & Kerala.

If and when that is done (it may take a whole generation because backwardness has to be experienced to wake up the citizens of these states from the slumber that they are in , now), the country will rid itself of a regressive educated devil called the Communist Party of India.
(Cartoon Source : Ninan's World, Times of India)

Tuesday, July 22, 2008

The Cat (sorry, cash) is finally out of the bag. A disgraced Indian Parliament

Power does not corrupt. Fear corrupts, perhaps the fear of the loss of power.~ John Steinbeck

On the second day of the debate on trust vote centred around the nuclear agreement, the symbolic explosion finally happens inside the Indian Parliament, Lok Sabha.

Ashok Argal, a BJP M.P from Morena, Madhya Pradesh submits at the well of the house & proudly displays a wad of 1000 rupee bundles for the benefit of national television. It appears that the M.P was being bribed by the Congress-SP combine to vote for the UPA government in the trust vote to be held in the evening .

Earlier in the day, some BSP M.Ps submitted a written complaint to the speaker that the CBI officers were threatening them to vote for UPA or face some criminal action.

No wonder that the inflation has touched nearly 12% this week. There's too much money chasing junks (disguised as goods) in the Indian market.

Till now, the gossip was just that, a gossip.

Finally the country has proof that the elected representatives of the Indian people do not a care a f**k about the nation that selects them. All they care about is getting to power & staying in power and enjoy the wads of money that just seem to chase them for any exercise of their absolute power.

They deserve to be first stoned by the public & then publicly hanged from the lamp posts that adorn Rajpath in the national capital.