Bilkis Bano deserves the Bharat Ratna for her exemplary courage. Her ordeal did not end with the atrocities, it must have been just as bad deposing in court and facing a grueling cross examination on top of that.Now the process will be repeated during the appeal, when the convicts hire top lawyers and Bilkis will be dependant on public prosecution. Bilkis' husband also deserves an award for standing by his wife.How many Indian men would do so in the circumstances? Most Indian women would have committed suicide or gone mad. While nothing can ever change what has happened, I pray that God at least permits Bilkis and her remaining family to live the rest of their lives in peace and prosperity. May justice always prevail.
Friday, October 31, 2008
Lal Lishan Advani, leader of the opposition Bharatya Janta Party has picked up the battered nuclear baton dumped by Karat, the Mao Zedong of India after their resounding defeat in the Indian Parliament. The ruling UPA coalition has given Advani some burning issues on a platter: its softness towards terrorists, spending more on vote-banks (subsidies for Hajjis, etc.) than fighting terrorism, abrogating all anti-terrorist laws like POTA while Indians get bombed and killed regularly.Terrorism is the biggest challenge and issue in India. Instead of enlightening Indians about the shenanigans of the most incompetent Home Minister and President in India's history (S. Patil and P. Patil) in not even enforcing the Supreme Court directive on Afzal, a convicted terrorist, Advani is obsessed with an issue of diminishing returns, the "nuclear bogey". While this could be sign of dementia in this octogenarian politician, it is sheer political hubris. Has Advani forgotten that under Vajpayee, India was about to sign the discriminatory Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT) when they lost the election? Now that they have their cake and they want to eat it too, Advani is moaning about India's right to explode nuclear bombs, in stead of worrying about bombs exploding at his rear.With sky-high oil prices, India desperately needs nuclear energy to develop. Under orders from his communist-turned-capitalist masters in Beijing, Karat deliberately delayed the nuclear deal for years. He has gone back to the black holes of Kolkata with his Red Brigade, licking their wounds. What is Lal Advani's excuse as now he sounds more "Lal" (Red) than Karat himself? And let us not forget the corrupt Caste Queen ruling Utter Pradesh, who is busy enriching herself and building expensive grandiose white elephants in stead of promoting development and helping those who voted for her. With politicians like this, one can see why India cannot make real progress like China.Advani has taken India's politics to a new low. When will such Indian politicians, with their soiled dhotis, chewing betel nut, tobacco and then spitting on the side walks, think of and promote India's interest first instead of their own narrow egotistic personal agendas? The best message for Advani is: "Get a life and get over your nuclear shenanigans, unless you want to become the Permanent Prime Minister-in-waiting".
A farce has been witnessed in Mumbai over the past few weeks, beginning with the assault by MNS workers on North Indian candidates who had come for a railway recruitment exam, followed by projection of the incident by Raj Thackeray as further evidence of his willingness and ability to protect ‘Marathi Manoos’ at all costs, and finally culminating in an elaborate and highly publicised ‘arrest’, judicial remand and release on bail of a triumphant and emboldened Raj Thackeray.To anyone even vaguely familiar with Indian political history, the entire sorry episode smacks of déjà vu. Raj, who copies his uncle’s mannerisms and political posturing, now seems set to emulate the method employed by his uncle in the 1960’s to achieve political relevance and clout.It is well known that Bal Thackeray and the Shiv Sena were originally an invention of the Congress, created to break the then Communist stranglehold over Bombay and its unionized workers. Bal Thackeray succeeded beyond the Congress’ hopes, but much like its other Frankenstein, Jarnail Singh Bhindranwalle, Bal Thackeray turned on the Congress and eventually decimated it in Maharashtra.The wheel has come full circle, and it is now clear that the Congress, which faces incumbency at the State and national levels and has been utterly exposed as being impotent in combating Islamic terrorism, has decided to prop up Raj Thackeray as the new champion of the mythical construct of ‘Marathi Manoos’, positioned as a direct counterweight to its rival, the Shiv Sena of Bal Thackeray.Consider the sequence of events that led to the recent spate of violence in Mumbai, and the complicity of the Congress-UPA and Raj’s MNS becomes evident: A Railway recruitment exam is to be held in Mumbai. Anticipating trouble, prospective candidates try to meet Lalu Yadav, the Railway Minister in the Congress led UPA government, to petition for a change in venue, but the Hon’ble Minister refuses to even give them an audience.Approximately 2.29 lakh candidates register for the exam in Mumbai, which is held to fill the bulk of jobs in the Indian Railways. As anticipated, MNS workers run riot and wantonly thrash young North Indian candidates, causing widespread destruction of property in their wake. The state police, under the Congress government, remains a mute observer to all of this, and takes no preventive measures. At least one student has died as a result of injuries sustained in the assault. Before, during and after the attacks, Raj Thackeray and sundry MNS satraps make incendiary speeches against North Indians, exhorting and encouraging workers to continue their illegal assaults without fear of retribution from either Central or State governments. The situation is allowed to boil over, and tension and fear grips the city of Mumbai.Soon, the anger and resentment spills over to the North Indian states, particularly BJP ruled Bihar which had recently evicted the Railway Minister Lalu Yadav. Suddenly, incidents of arson, looting of trains and general lawlessness grip the State of Bihar, ostensibly as a ‘popular’ response to the actions of the MNS in Mumbai. The byte-a-minute sensationalist television channels try to outdo each other by giving maximum coverage to Raj Thackeray’s inflammatory statements and shenanigans, thereby giving him coverage and stature which far exceeds his actual limited support base.When sufficient national opprobrium has been generated against this unabashed flouting of law and order, and once Raj Thackeray’s vitriolic statements have brought him to the political centre stage from the wilderness he inhabited not more than a few months ago, the Congress government finally decides to ‘act’.A highly dramatic arrest is made in the early hours of the morning in Ratnagiri, about 250 kms from Mumbai in full view of TV cameras. The convoy of police cars ferrying Raj Thackeray follows a circuitous route to reach Mumbai, and sufficient time is given to MNS supporters to gather in locations throughout the city to create further trouble. Despite prior warning and imposition of Section 144 in various areas, the MNS workers again run riot and vandalise large parts of the city, which is completely paralysed. Raj Thackeray is eventually produced in Court four hours later than originally scheduled, but is only charged with offences related to inciting riots, unlawful assembly and causing damage to property, even though under well settled legal principles he can be charged with Murder punishable with death under Section 302, IPC, having committed acts calculated to put the lives of many in jeopardy, with full consciousness of probable consequences, eventually resulting in death of at least two persons.After being kept in police custody overnight, he is released on bail within 48 hours of his ‘arrest’. He arrives back at his home to a rapturous reception by his ecstatic supporters, his credentials as defender of Marathi pride unimpeachably established by his willingness to suffer incarceration for the sake of the cause.Mumbai is virtually held hostage for a week, and at the end of it all, Raj Thackeray sits comfortably in his home while no retribution is brought to bear on the ring leaders of the widespread violence. Sharad Pawar and Narayan Rane, senior leaders of the Congress, have even gone to the extent of justifying the violent actions of the MNS and oppose calls for stringent action against Raj Thackeray or the MNS.And the net result of this elaborate farce enacted at the expense of the common Mumbaikar, whether Marathi or non-Marathi? Raj and his MNS have virtually replaced Bal Thackeray and the Sena as the official defenders of Marathi parochialism and would now expect a far richer electoral harvest as a result of consolidation of the parochial Marathi vote than they could have dreamt of a few months ago when they were wandering aimlessly in the political wilderness.The Congress will project its arrest of Raj Thackeray as an example to North Indians and the average Mumbaikar of their commitment to the cosmopolitan idea of Mumbai, and of their ability to act firmly when faced with a dire threat, and will blame his release on the vagaries of the legal system. Lalu Yadav, Ram Vilas Paswan and other Hindi belt UPA politicians will present themselves to their electorates as protectors of North Indian / Bihari interests. The Shiv Sena will cede yet more political ground to the MNS, and thereby improve the prospects of its rival, the Congress, in State politics.At present, it appears the Congress has successfully played the cynical political gambit it has used many times before – the intentional creation of an alternate albeit unstable power centre to weaken an adversary it is not able to combat directly.As it had created Bal Thackeray to defeat the Communists, it has now created Raj Thackeray to usurp Bal Thackeray’s legacy of Marathi parochialism. But the Congress and its momentarily gleeful strategists would do well to remember that while short term gains may be gratifying, in the long run, monsters of the Congress’ creation have always turned on their creators and caused them lasting damage. Raj Thackeray is an unscrupulous and unstable opportunist, and his tacit or express support of the Congress in the future may well prove to be the poisoned chalice that destroys the Congress’ credibility in Maharashtra and beyond.
The more things change, the more they remain the same. I wonder if it was intended as that but Alphonse Karr's aforementioned quip sums up how the Indian campaign at the Olympics yields strikingly similar results every leap year.Here we are, once again sending a substantial contingent -- lots of officials and some athletes -- to the mega event. And, as if it is pre-destined, we all know the outcome. Indian Olympic Association president Suresh Kalmadi has issued a disclaimer beforehand: "Don't expect too many medals at the Games." Even at the risk of being pummelled by boxer Vijender, or facing a firing squad comprising all the nine Olympic-bound shooters, I want to tell Mr Kalmadi: Don't worry, sir. We're not.On the face of it, one might argue, things have changed, in fact the graph shows a steady incline since Atlanta '96, when Leander Paes ended a 16-year drought with a bronze in tennis. Weight-lifter Karnam Malleswari repeated the feat four years later, even as India narrowly missed out on another medal in boxing. In Athens, Rajyavardhan Rathore got the country its first individual silver.But delve deeper and one thing has remained constant in the past three editions -- that India has consistently been sitting at the bottom of the heap in the medals-per-million population list. The only way the scenario can change is if India doesn't win a medal at all in Beijing. And that is firmly within the realm of possibility.But there is not need be depressed. Every dark cloud, they say, has a silver lining. I tried finding one in it and guess what, I succeeded.A nation obsessed with what our neighbours are doing, we've always compared ourselves vis-à-vis China in the field of sports only to develop a sense of inferiority complex. It's about time we come out of that. While India do bring up the rear in all Olympic medals lists, China isn't necessarily up there every time. Their economy has been doing pretty well, and they are tipped to overtake the US, perhaps at these Games itself, but they haven't quite translated that growth into sporting success, if the list of medals-per-$10bn-GDP is taken into account. China are way down at 64th place, just 11 spots above India and even African countries such as Eritrea (fifth on the chart) have beaten the Asian powerhouse hands down!Somehow, all this fuss about medals is beyond my comprehension. Ours is a nation which has always upheld the Corinthian principle of universal brotherhood. So whoever tops the list should make us happy. Participation, after all, is more important than winning.And for those who still believe in competing, there's another, easier way out. Adjust your frame of reference next time and start reading the medals list upside down.
Every four years, the packed tennis calendar has to jostle around the tour schedules and conjure up a bit more space to squeeze in two weeks of additional hustle and bustle. It's only the biggest sporting spectacle of them all, but does an Olympic medal really have enough of a gleam for today's tennis fraternity?All the talk these days seems to be obsessively pivoted around the world number one slot -- Federer's determination to hold on to a position he has occupied for 235 weeks, even as Nadal inches closes with each roaring bull-run around the courts. Already, stakes are out to accompany predictions regarding this year's winner at the US Open, right after the Beijing business has been dealt with -- the only Slam still in possession of the Swiss. And so what if it's been a month since every adjective was used to describe that Wimbledon epic plucked straight out of a dream, the frequency of its discussions hasn't dropped a notch.In all this, the past, present and future of this year's court-talk, where then are the hushed whispers about the player who will wear the gold and stand proudly with his nation's flag as the anthem is played a few weeks from now? Perhaps no one cares to remember, but the epithet 'Olympic Champion' stands currently attached to a player who is well past his prime, ranked 138th in the world, and needed a wild card entry so he could defend the medal he won in Athens. Nicolas Massu (CHI) may have to contend with the stature of Nadal (ESP) and Federer (SUI) as he seeks a repeat of the 2004 podium place, but surely he too noticed the propensity of the big fish to be swallowed into the Olympic ocean, leaving the rest to scramble for the bait.The withdrawals appear endless, and they don't seem to be ending just yet. It all began with Andy Roddick's declaration earlier this year that he would much rather defend a tour title before the US Open than get another medal for his country. Clearly, the Slams are where it's at. Maria Sharapova joined Serena Williams, Daniela Hantuchova, Amelie Mauresmo, Juan Ignacio Chela, Jo-Wilfried Tsonga and Marcos Baghdatis and more on the seemingly endless list of injury victims who will be watching the Games from the safety of their television while hoping for a speedy recovery.The women's gold medallist, of course, will not be seen in Beijing, but Justine Henin chose not just to walk away from the Olympics, but tennis in total. Nevertheless, the top five men and six of the ten WTA players have made it to Beijing, what will soon be seen is whether they can compete with as much hunger for an Olympic gold. With bodies bruised and minds coaxed through many challenges before they land in Olympiczone, it could be a tough ask.But the show must go on, and so it will.
Be careful what you wish for' as Confucius probably said, may soon be coming true for China. After the unfolding of worldwide anti-China protests leading up to the Games, the Chinese leadership must definitely be wondering whether the Beijing Games would bring the communists more accolades (as they had hoped) or garner them worldwide hatred (as is happening).The Games seems to heading back to an old path going back 72 years to the 1936 Berlin Olympics when Hitler tried using the Games as a vehicle to push Nazism only to have a black American athlete Jesse Owens win four gold medals.For Berlin's sake one can argue that the venue had been selected before the Nazis came to power. However no excuse can cover the decision to award this coveted prize to Beijing.1989 Tiananmen Square is what one would probably vividly remember of China when the Chinese government crushed the peaceful protests as the world looked on in horror.Despite this and a host of other human rights violation that China is responsible for, it still managed to secure the Olympics. A propaganda triumph for the Communists one must say and surely a beautiful prize to show off to the world for all its 'charities' on mankind.The question then stands as to why would the world want to look away or beyond China's irreparable past, its unforgiving present or inevitably bleak future? The answer would most definitely lie in China's surging economy and its clout on the world as a huge economic powerhouse.World leaders, no matter who and no matter what their status with China, surely hold this economic mammoth in awe. Like when the British Prime Minister Gordon Brown toured China, he talked of business opportunities.The US has used its muscle to have a world where western values are embraced calling for respect to the rule of the land and reduction in corruption as a basis for trade and aid. China, on the other hand, has extended the hand of friendship to gruesome regimes and has made it clear that its only consideration is natural resources.But then again that could be China's way of entertaining itself by thwarting Americas' liberal values export.So China has every reason to believe that this would be a trouble free Olympics especially with President Sarkozy, whose country is considered as a cradle for Human rights, first threatening to boycott but later agreeing to attend.A total of 104 'national government dignitaries' is what China's guest list boasts of for the Games.The Gandhi family (Sonia and Rahul) will also be in attendance to display solidarity and the strong bond that the leaders of China and India share, even while China eats into India's borders. China's claim of "this land is ours" has always got a meek response from India as if out of fear of angering the "older brother".China has arrived. That was the message when it began its torch relay around the world with disdain and unprecedented grandiosity. The plan of the torch's itinerary must have looked amazingly great on the drawing board. In practice, though, Beijing has managed to secure a rolling programme of anti-Chinese protest circling the globe.It has basically managed to set the Tibet bandwagon rolling at a high speed towards a destination that every democratic politician will very soon be clamouring to find a place in.Beijing's biggest mistake was probably being too anxious for the Games to be a success. China has probably bitten on much more than it can chew, the indigestion of which it should eventually face in the near future."A man who wants something too much makes himself vulnerable". Surely Confucius said something of this sort.
It’s a journey that is one of its kind with no parallels. There have been conflicts, brutal wars, ethnic cleansing happening all around with hardly any corner of the world untouched by it. But here’s a journey unmatched, a transition It’s a journey that is one of its kind with no parallels. There have been conflicts, brutal wars, ethnic cleansing happening all around with hardly any corner of the world untouched by it. But here’s a journey unmatched, a transition from heaven to a sort of hell like situation. A journey from a paradise to a paradise lost.Jammu and Kashmir is on the boil again. And yes no point saying that it’s a sense of déjà vu. Now, it’s not even that. It has become too painful and hurts like hell to witness the painful situation in which Jammu & Kashmir finds itself in. It’s bleeding again and the region stands divided like never before.We have a very wide and diverse range of opinion on the burning issue, courtesy the strength of our democracy. There is an opinion and a solution for the imbroglio coming from all possible quarters. Political commentators, human rights group, international experts, and everyone in his or her individual capacity has a ‘vision’ for the place once described as a paradise on earth.The Valley is divided and the split is wide enough for the entire world to see. The gulf is wide and this time round, the provocation is ‘100 acres land’. And as is the politicians’ wont, rhetoric is at an all time high.We Indians take great pride in our democratic credentials. But, unfortunately, and ironic it may seems, the root of the problem lies there only. The compulsion of getting power at any cost, thereby, compromising on any issue howsoever dear to the country. The journey from Jammu and Kashmir to Jammu versus Kashmir is fallout of this compulsion.Pointing fingers across the border is the easiest and the most convenient option which we happily indulge in. But the time has come for some serious self-introspection. We must be intelligent enough to realise that the time to act is now. It’s a question we need to ask ourselves: Do we want to burden the future generations with a last century problem?It requires a lot more maturity from across the political spectrum which is definitely lacking as can be seen from the rhetoric which is at display.Peoples Democratic Party supremo Mehbooba Mufti who has the habit of referring Central Govt as Govt of India doesn’t thinks twice before pleading on national television not to make a ‘Palestine’ out of Kashmir. A rhetoric we can certainly do without in the current volatile situation.And it’s less said than better about the conduct of our two national political parties, Congress and BJP.The point is, do we have the political maturity and flexibility which is expected of a vibrant and pluralistic democracy like ours to deal with the issue which is very much under the international scrutiny, much to our discomfort.It will require a lot more out of us and some out-of-box ideas to outline a vision to reconstruct the paradise on earth. But the question is: Are we ready for it?We might not have a definite answer but the fact remains that the time is running out fast and we must be intelligent enough to spot it.Our traditional approach to the issue leaves a lot to be desired and we need to be flexible rather than sticking to the stated positions.No movement or agitation can sustain without the local support. There is definitely a sense of alienation in the Valley. We’ve erred big time and its time to rectify past follies instead of continuing with it. Let’s face it, we have failed in taking people along. Despite pumping huge amount of money, there’s still a sense of anger and dissatisfaction prevalent in the Valley.The unlimited power given to the Army under the Armed Forces Special Power Act has done more harm than good to the cause of Kashmir. It has led to widespread resentment, thereby, fuelling separatist tendencies. A dilution in the power is urgently required.Despite claims by senior BJP leader L K Advani that Amarnath issue is about ‘nationalists versus separatists’, on the contrary.
Cheering for Germany in the Euro 2008 final, as American sportswriter Rick Reilly wrote about supporting Tiger Woods, is like hoping for “Bill Gates to find a twenty on the sidewalk... It’s like cheering for erosion.”But rooting against them too loudly in a public place could be fraught with danger, especially if three people sitting at the bar are in shining white jerseys with Michael Ballack’s 13 emblazoned on their backs. If Germany win, as they probably will, you might get booed out of the joint long before you can correctly pronounce Luis Aragones.And don’t even bother bringing up “the beautiful game” as a sharp retort. Germany tried it at the 2006 World Cup under Juergen Klinsmann and went down to the might of Italy’s masquerading attackers from the back-four. Now, all pretence of playing attractive football abandoned, they are back to “the clinical game”. It’s up to the opposition to make their boring efficiency look alluring.I’ve often wondered if Germany’s fans hate football. And I’ve been surprised with how many times I’ve been wrong. People who can root for Arsenal and Barcelona on another night somehow seem to gravitate towards the Mannschaft like ants to sugar, even when they’re playing a team like Turkey who — despite missing four key players — were calling all the shots in Wednesday night’s semi-final.Germany’s legions of supporters are growing everywhere, even in India. It’s not just the stubborn old folks who stuck with them even when they were taking on Diego Maradona’s gorgeous Argentina in the 1986 final. The ‘undecided’ are also slowly siding with Germany because of their “character”, their “mental toughness” and their “defensive supremacy”. It’s like ugly is the new sexy.Sentimental favouriteEvery tournament has a sentimental favourite, the team you support after yours has gone out. In the 1994 World Cup it was Bulgaria, in 1998 Croatia, in 2002 South Korea, and Zidane’s ageing France in 2006. In Euro competitions, Czech Republic filled the role four years ago, and this time Guus Hiddink’s Russia donned the mantle for their free-flowing dismissal of mighty Holland. Germany, naturally, have never been on that list despite the individual brilliance of scores of their players over the years.So now that Russia have been thrashed 3-0 in the semi-final, it’s up to Spain to stand against the might of the Germans as representatives of the dwindling minority to whom “the beautiful game” still matters.The Spaniards have a curious history when it comes to international competitions. They enter every tournament on a high, believing it’s the one that will open the floodgates for them. And so do the experts. But, after their chances have been built up, the inevitable happens and they end up sitting at home lamenting another what-could’ve-been campaign.This time Aragones’s boys have gone further than any Spanish team since 1984 (they won their only Euro 44 years ago). They’re on an 11-game winning streak and their stand-out striker David Villa did not even have to sharpen his claws against the Russians as they found goals from Xavi Hernandez, Dani Guiza and David Silva.One hour after Spain’s semi-final win, the Reuters online poll to predict the champion was 60-40 in their favour. But doubts linger about Spain’s ability to topple Germany because experts don’t consider them “clinical”, “tactically sound” or “hard” enough — in other words ugly enough — to go all the way. The critics could have a point.“Football is like chess, only without the dice,” Lukas Podolski, one of Germany’s key players in the final, had once observed, showing how much he knew about both games. The problem is that Germany may be right about being so wrong.
The Indo-US civilian nuclear deal is a bilateral agreement on nuclear cooperation between India and USA, signed in New Delhi on March 2, 2006, following their Joint Statement on July 18, 2005 in Washington. However, full text of the agreement was released on August 3, 2007. This agreement is also known as “123 Agreement”, as Hyde Act (an internal law of the US) modified Section 123 of the US Atomic Energy Act of 1954, and permitted nuclear cooperation between the two countries on December 18, 2006.The International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA – a UN agency of 144 member countries) approved the India Safeguards Agreement on 1st August 2008 under which 14 Indian nuclear reactors out of 22 are to come under IAEA safeguards by 2014. Further, the Nuclear Suppliers Group (NSG – a group of 45 member countries) approved a waiver of nuclear export guidelines that prohibit nuclear trade with non-members of Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT) on September 6, 2008. Thereafter, US Congress passed this deal on 1st October 2008. Now, India can obtain full access to international nuclear fuel market.The US, UK, France, Russia, and China tested nuclear weapons before 1967, and are free to possess nuclear weapons legally. India conducted its first nuclear test in 1974. Hence India was not recognised as a nuclear weapon state in the world. On 1st July 1968, NPT was launched for non-proliferation, disarmament, and right to peacefully use nuclear technology.Till date, NPT has been signed by 188 countries for getting access to civilian nuclear fuel and technology in exchange for compliance of IAEA’s safeguards that they are not diverting nuclear energy from peaceful uses to nuclear weapons. India, Pakistan, Israel and North Korea have not signed NPT as it creates two different groups of nuclear “haves” and “have-nots”.The Indo-US Civil Nuclear deal recognises India's "de facto" status even without signing the NPT on the basis of its clean proliferation record. Thus, this deal represents a tacit recognition of India as a nuclear weapon state in the world. Attempts by Pakistan to reach a similar agreement have been refused by the US as well as the international community.The deal is widely considered to help India in its soaring energy demands and a strategic partnership between the two countries. India is now the world's 5th largest consumer of energy, and its demand for electricity is expected to increase from 105 GW in 2008 to 400 GW in 2030. But availability was 89 GW in July 2008, causing deficit of 16 GW.To meet this demand, national energy capacity would have to increase by at least 5 per cent per annum. The deal is also environment friendly as India produces 64 per cent of its electricity from thermal, which produces air pollution and greenhouse gases, causing global warming. But nuclear power is the clean energy. The deal will promote economic growth by opening new trade and investment in civilian nuclear industry. It will help to ease global demand for crude oil and natural gas.The deal is also strategic in view of growing influence of China. Since the end of cold war in 1991, India has been moving closer to the US. The US recognises India as a major regional power in Asia and possible counterweight to China. Through this deal, India will get cooperation in civil nuclear energy, and the US will get a regional military and political ally. The deal will make separate identity of Pakistan from India in the “nuclear-havenots” group.Presently, 16 per cent of the global electricity comes from nuclear power. There are 439 nuclear power reactors with total capacity of 372 GW, operating in 31 countries of the the world. The US has 104 reactors producing 99 GW energy while France has 69 reactors producing 63.5 GW energy.France produced 77 per cent of its electricity from nuclear reactors in 2007. Pakistan has 2 reactors producing 400 MW energy. India has 17 reactors operating, 6 reactors under construction, and is planning an additional 10. Its current nuclear installed capacity is 4120MW.Nuclear energy can be the most powerful mean for India’s long-term energy security. India is the 9th nuclear capacity of the world. Its 17 nuclear power reactors are in operation at 6 locations i.e. Tarapore (Maharashtra) – 4, Rawatbhata (Rajasthan) - 4, Kaiga (Karnatka) - 3, Kakrapar (Gujrat) - 2, Kalpakkam (Tamil Nadu) - 2, and Narora (U.P.)- 2. The installed capacity of these reactors was 2.8 per cent of the total installed capacity (thermal, hydro and nuclear) of 145.6 GW as on July 31, 2008. India expects to add 25 GW nuclear capacities by 2020, subject to an opening of international trade. The contribution of Nuclear power in India’s electricity will increase to 10 per cent in 2020 and 25 per cent in 2050 as its large reserves of coal are inadequate to meet the demand.India has a meagre 1 per cent of global uranium reserves. Due to shortage of uranium, its nuclear reactors are operating at much below their capacity. After the deal, India could obtain sufficient supply of uranium. Australia has 23 per cent of world’s available resources of uranium and will be the key exporter to India. Generation IV reactors may be used for power generation in future. Such reactors are not necessarily fuel by uranium but by thorium, a more abundant fertile material that decays into uranium after being exposed to neutrons. India is possessing 25 per cent of the world's stock of thorium.Nuclear power plants offer the most economical way to generate electricity with environmental advantages. Fuel costs for nuclear plants are a minor proportion of total generating costs, though capital costs are greater than those for coal-fired plants. If the social, health and environmental costs of fossil fuels are also taken into account, nuclear is outstanding. NPCIL carried out a study on the 'Long term Cost Effectiveness of Nuclear Energy' in India. The costs of generation for nuclear and thermal power at 1997-98 price level are Rs 1.77 per KWh and Rs 1.86 per KWh respectively.The EU report (2001) shows that nuclear energy incurs about one tenth of the costs of coal. The World Nuclear Association (2005) quoted the average electricity generating costs per MWh at 5% discount rate for nuclear as US$ 26, coal as US$ 38 and natural gas as US$ 49. US cost figures (2005) for electricity production on an average Cent per KWh showed nuclear as 1.72, coal as 2.21, gas as 7.51 and oil as 8.09.The present measured resources of uranium in the world are enough to last for at least a century at the current consumption rate. Uranium has the advantage of being a highly concentrated source of energy, which is easily and cheaply transportable. One KG of natural uranium will yield about 20,000 times as much energy as the same amount of coal. Even a large fuel price escalation will have relatively little effect on final price of electricity. For instance, a doubling of the uranium market price would increase the electricity cost about 7 per cent, whereas doubling the price of natural gas would add 70 per cent to the cost of electricity.
The International Monetary Fund (IMF) has concluded the first round of technical talks in Dubai with Pakistani officials about creating a system to save the south Asian nation from economic collapse, officials said.Pakistan's government is facing a tightening balance of payments. Its financing gap stands at around $7 billion for the current fiscal year, which ends on June 30, 2009."There are one or two points on which both sides could not evolve consensus," said a senior official, who was part of the returning Pakistani delegation on Thursday.The official, who refused to be named, said the IMF was insisting on raising discount rates by up to four per cent above the existing 13 per cent, in order to curtail inflation, which currently stands at over 30 per cent.Pakistani authorities, however, believed that boosting interest rates would aggravate inflation, creating chaos in the nuclear-armed state, where prolonged power outages and rapidly increasing electricity tariffs have already triggered countrywide protests in recent weeks.Under a Special Drawing Rights (SDR) quota available to Islamabad, Pakistan could get $1.6 billion a year."This quota will be multiplied by four to eight times under a special fund created by the IMF to cater for the needs of those countries that are facing balance of payment difficulties," said the official, who spoke on condition of anonymity.The official added that both sides needed to consult with more senior authorities before a decision could be made to approach the IMF formally.The next round of talks will be held in a few days, he said.Pakistan sought assistance from the IMF only after its closest friends, the United States, Saudi Arabia and China, showed reluctance to provide the approximately $5 billion needed to save the country from economic meltdown.Pakistan's financial woes were caused mainly by the political crisis that ended with the resignation of former president Pervez Musharraf in August and dozens of suicide attacks by Taliban militants around the country. Both drove away foreign investors.Indeed, the meeting with IMF officials had to be conducted in Dubai because IMF officials refused to visit Islamabad following a Sep 20 suicide bomb attack at the capital's Marriott Hotel, in which more than 60 people were killed and more than 250 injured.As a result of the political instability, the country's foreign reserves have dropped some 75 percent over the last 12 months, from $18 billion to around $4.3 billion. At the same time, the rupee has weakened by more than 27 percent against the dollar.
Tata Motors managing director Ravi Kant has said Jaguar Land Rover in the UK, which the Indian auto major owns, will survive the credit crunch but did not rule out more redundancies in the company in the near future.Kant, also on the Jaguar Land Rover board, was quoted by The Sun newspaper as saying: "Jaguar and Land Rover are going through fire. Unfortunately, they are caught in this difficult situation but we are positive they will come out of this. They have an outstanding group of managers."He said any decisions on further redundancies would be taken by the British management, depending on the economic conditions, "but I expect more redundancies will be called for in November".According to Kant, the Tata Group had no regrets about the joint purchase of Jaguar and Land Rover and that company chairman Ratan Tata was "hugely impressed" with the British workforce.A high-level team from Jaguar Land Rover is in India holding extensive discussions to set up a strategy to sell vehicles here.
To listen to Ajay Bijli, Chairman and MD of PVR Cinemas, you’d think he never found the time to work out.”I’m big on sports,” he says, “but thanks to my tight schedules, it’s all work and very little play for me.” Don’t believe it. Bijli’s measuring himself by an altogether different yardstick—he’s a marathon runner. He’s completed five half marathons already, and is now gearing up for the Delhi half marathon that takes place on 9th November. And he’ll be joined by an estimated 30,000 other participants, making it the biggest half marathon in the country. The running bug is catching.Events like these give the corporate world an excellent opportunity to contribute for social causes,” says Bijli. “In all my marathons I try to run for a charity. This year, I’ll be running for PVR Nest, which works for children.” But there’s more to it than just charity. Be it Delhi, Mumbai or Bangalore, more and more people, cutting across all age groups are saying yes to marathons, for their own personal reasons. “Half marathons are all about celebrating the human spirit,” says Vivek B Singh, Joint MD, Procam International. Singh’s sports and leisure management company is the official organiser of the successful Delhi and Mumbai marathons. “To me, an eventlike a half marathon is the most unusual sporting event of its kind, and it’s all about personal achievement. Where else would you find amateurs competing alongside professionals? That to me is the beauty of it all. It’s all about breaking socio-economic barriers and rubbing shoulders with others to prove a point and show that you care.”So, if you’re sitting on your couch, it’s time to get your running shoes on. Marathons are great for staying fit and for raising money for charity. And if that’s not enough of a reason for you, there’s always the prize money—a whopping $210,000 this time.How to do itDon’t even attempt a half marathon unless you’ve trained properly,” says distance running expert Ian Ladbrooke. There are all kinds of risks—knee injuries, lung ailments, cardiovascular disasters. The only way to prevent them is by preparation. Here’s Ladbrooke’s advice about how to go about it.Fitness first“Six weeks before the event, beginners should start with slow running four times a week— working up from 2-3 kms to 6-7 kms. Stay away from tarmac— try parks or mud tracks instead. Swimming, yoga and Pilates are great for preparation too, as they don't put pressure on your joints. You need to know your track, and you should ideally start running along the chalked out path two weeks in advance.”Big on carbs“You need to increase your carbohydrate intake 48 hours before the race. For once, it makes sense to binge on pasta, bread and rice as they up your energy quotient. And on the big day, just have a light breakfast two hours before the race. After that, water and sports drinks like Gatorade should suffice.”
Get the gear right“It’s important to understand your personal pronation type before choosing running shoes. Pronation is the inward rolling of the foot when it hits the ground. Overpronators—people with flat feet—roll more than required, so they need the motion control feature in running shoes. High arched runners tend to underpronate, so they should go for lightweight trainers, a more natural foot motion.”
The crisis affecting the economy is a crisis of our civilisation. The values that we hold dear are the very same that got us to this point. The meltdown in the economy is a harsh metaphor of the meltdown of some of our value systems. A house is on fire; we see flames coming through the windows on the second floor and we think that that is where the fire is raging. In fact it is raging elsewhere. For decades poets and artists have been crying in the wilderness about the wasteland, the debacle, the apocalypse. But apparent economic triumph has deafened us to these warnings. Now it is necessary to look at this crisis as a symptom of things gone wrong in our culture. Individualism has been raised almost to a religion, appearance made more important than substance.
Success justifies greed, and greed justifies indifference to fellow human beings. We thought that our actions affected only our own sphere but the way that appalling decisions made in America have set off a domino effect makes it necessary to bring new ideas to the forefront of our civilisation. The most important is that we are more connected than we suspected...
The only hope lies in a fundamental re-examination of the values that we have lived by in the past 30 years. It wouldn’t do just to improve the banking system — we need to redesign the whole edifice. There ought to be great cries in the land, great anger. But there is a strange silence. Why? Because we are all implicated. [We] took the success of our economy as proof of the rightness of its underlying philosophy... Our future depends not on whether we get through this, but on how deeply and truthfully we examine its causes. I strayed into the oldest church in Cheltenham not long ago and, with no intention in mind, opened the Bible. The passage that met my eyes was from Genesis, about Joseph and the seven lean years of famine. Something struck me in that passage. It was the tranquillity of its writing, the absence of hysteria. They got through because someone had a vision before the event. What we need now more than ever is a vision beyond the event, a vision of renewal.
Eventually, it needed a draw to bring about Viswanthan Anand’s biggest career-title and end the challenger’s reign as the undefeated matchplay player in the World chess championship history. Needing to stay undefeated to touch the winning score of 6.5 points, Anand came up with an expectedly solid performance with white pieces and crossed the finish line in just 24 moves spread over just under three hours.The end was rather sedate once Anand allowed Kramnik to play Sicilian Defence with black for the first time in the match. Anand, who found his rival’s queen-move on the ninth turn a little “tricky,” kept control over the proceedings. Eventually, a hapless Kramnik offered a draw which Anand happily accepted. “I am more relieved than happy,” said Anand soon after accepting the glass trophy that symbolised his extended stay as the champion of the world. At the post-match conference, Kramnik was most gracious in defeat. “I think I learnt a lot of things from this match. I think it was very interesting all the way. When you are playing against a player like Vishy, you can lose.
“I am disappointed but not very sad. I made certain mistakes with my preparations and I will have to go back and get better.”
Scoped out the range of colourful kurtis, skirts and other ethnic ensembles at Nutan Sarawagi’s little store called Kurtiz. Beautifully co-ordinated and block-printed rather than mass-produced like the chain store offerings, these are just right for the season.
Striped leggings. Gothic tops. Laced-up boots. So not October. So not me. What with the current heat and the upcoming festivities, I just want one great place where I can pick up ethno-trendy wear with minimum fuss. And I think I’ve found someone who understands my needs like no European designer can. But my extra-special discovery was the mojris she stocks. Not to be confused with the crassly crafted creaky leather creations that we get at Colaba Causeway, these are the real thing from Jodhpur. And perhaps even better.
And besides loving the careful selection of colours to suit my city palette, what I simply adored were the matching pendants that adorned each foot. Some with ghungroos, some inlaid with precious stones, each one adding another dimension to the footwear. How perfect, I thought, to wear with my raw silk skirt, corset and stole! Or, on a day when I’m not feeling up to my peep-toe stilettos with denims, how fabulously easy to slip into these cushioned flats for a relaxed chic look. No wonder I’m feeling festive already.
Perhaps it’s being buffeted by relentless rain that’s doing it to me. Suddenly, all my promises to pick at my food daintily like a good Gone with the Wind lass seem to have been washed away. What’s left is a hungry rumble in my tummy that could even eclipse the rolling thunder. Which is why the eataholic in me hit the lavish seasonal buffet at The Glasshouse. The informal, yet chic and all-modern dining space also has a breathtaking view of the pool and rain swept sky.
Apart from my regular faves — fish and chips with tartare sauce and the excellent kathi kebabs — the buffet tables are groaning with local and international flavours. The dinner spread is the one I’d recommend if you’re as food mad as I am. Pig out at the live stations. Pick from a range of meats and veggies in various sauces at the sauté counter; or go healthy at the stir-fry or salad stations. The two most popular stations are the fresh baked pizza stop and the dessert counter. The menu changes often and most of it is custom-made, so you’re assured of the best and freshest ingredients and a meal that’s definitely memorable. And can you believe it? Their Sunday buffet, called ‘Windows of the World’ or WOW for short, has an even more extensive range of dishes!
So, what can you expect from the menu? Extreme non-veg ops like pork salad, pepper salami, shammi kabab and curries prepared in an interactive ’show kitchen’. And the superb veg Glasshouse salad in a unique tomato wasabi dressing and some of the best veg pizzas in town.
Still not satisfied? I’d say go all out and have their signature dish — the flourless chocolate cake. This delish dessert is one of my favourites — with the crustiest top and the moistest interior — don’t miss it for anything.
Goosebumps. That’s what some voices do to me. And that’s exactly what happened when I first heard ‘Mitwa’: remember SRK and Rani, roaming the streets of New York, sharing a vibe which gets deeper with each glance? That song from ‘Kabhi Alvida Naa Kehna’ is still high on my playlist, and it’s the one I turn to when I’m all love-lorn and mushy!Shafqat Amanat Ali sang that one, and a couple of other Bollywood faves (’Yeh Hausla’ from ‘Dor’, ‘More Saiyaan’ and ‘Tere Bina’ from ‘Hyderabad Blues 2′). Till then, he was better known as the former lead vocalist of Fuzon, the popular Pakistani band which combined classical, rock, jazz and sufi elements in a completely sub-continental, completely fresh sound.
His just-out debut solo album ‘Tabeer’ is outstanding: the music is all self-composed, and has been playing in a continuous loop, in my home, and in my car! Of the nine tracks, the one I liked best is the haunting ‘Khairheyan De Naal’, which talks of lost love and parting. The soft, romantic ‘Naina’ puts me in the mood for love; so does ‘Rang Le’, the use of the accordion giving it an almost Parisian feel — you know, the guys-on-the-accordions who strum softly as you dig into your coffee-and-croissants in a Paris street-side cafe.
The real test of a singer is when he can carry off a tune without too much accompaniment: ‘Bulle Shah’ has just the flute backing the song. Fabulous. You can also see Ali trying his hand at old classics: his ‘Dum Ali’ is yet another version of the classic ‘Mast Qalandar’ composition, all energy and motion. And ‘Kartar’ — Raag Darbari with electronic beats — is a fine example of marrying the classic with the modern. No wonder he’s called the Rockster Ustad!
‘Tabeer’ means fulfillment. And that’s indeed what I feel — from head to tingly toe — every time I finish a round of listening.
Till now, they were the talk of the town, where everybody went to be seen. We're talking of the myriad pubs and nightclubs that have cropped up all over the Capital and gave its nightlife a much wanted shot in the arm. But now, all that may change. With the Delhi High Court directing the MCD bulldozers towards the commercial establishments in these urbanised villages, the most hit will be these nightclubs. The ones to go? Sources say that the hit list includes most of South Delhi's hot spots like Bistro, Mocha, Tonino, many speciality restaurants along the Mehrauli-Gurgaon road... the list is endless. So effectively, Delhi's nightlife is hiccuping again."It is sad that the capital of the second most populated country in the world offers no options for those who want to enjoy a night out. Life is all about options. Take Los Angeles or New York, or even Singapore and see how the people there liven up the nights. Such a move can affect tourism, economy and most of all, the mindset of the people,"says Peter Punj of Climax, one of the few 'legal' pubs in South Delhi.
Radio stations did their best to help people stay calm after the Delhi blasts and deal with the aftermath. Radio proved again that it was a dynamic and spontaneous medium and the best friend of the people in crisis situations.Delhi radio stations proved that they all strongly believed in being socially responsible and being the platform for people's expression. They rose to the occasion and reverted with assurance and information that was most critical and relevant to people at that point of time. As news of the Delhi blasts filtered in, radio channels across the city swung into action to contribute to maintaining peace and stability in the city that was rocked by terror. Considered as happy go lucky and frivolous by many, radio stations rubbished all such accusations of not being in sync with the mood of the city by playing the role of a responsible and credible source of information and support for people worried about the safety of their near and dear ones. Most radio stations in the city stopped the regular broadcasts and changed the music line-up, to reflect the mood of the city. Requests to stay calm and to donate blood for the victims were repeatedly aired along with the various helpline numbers and details of hospitals etc.
Stations like Hit FM, Fever FM, Red FM, Big FM, Radio Mirchi asked people to stay calm and also urged listeners to donate blood for the victims. According to most stations, not being able to air news was a drawback as they had to rely on other sources to inform about the latest and update the listeners. Also, as the telephone lines were jammed, most radio stations asked listeners to send in their messages if they wanted to check on the well-being of their near and dear ones.
According to Neetu Puri Mathrani, Programming Head, Hit 95 FM Delhi, "We could not do anything special on that day as we (radio stations) are not allowed to do News. We just ran promos asking Delhi to stay calm and together and to donate blood."
Adds Neeraj Chaturvedi, Station Head, Fever 104 FM Delhi, " Due to regulation restrictions we cannot give out news, so we had to wait for about an hour when it was not news, to talk about it. We just told people to stay calm, and go back home if they were out. We did it in a very calm manner, so as not to cause any kind of panic. These are very communally sensitive incidents, we had to be careful about not inciting any kind of feeling or anger, so we did not have any call-ins asking people to say what they felt about it. Our programing was normal, except we weren't joking on-air, and just passed on important messages."
Some stations were of the view that doing anything out of the ordinary in terms of changing the music that they normally played would have added to creating more panic. Thus, they carried on with the normal programming in terms of music. Red FM dedicated Saturday and Sunday (13th and 14th September) as Red FM Pe Salaam Dilli. All regular segments were dropped from the evening drive time and phone lines were thrown open for people to call in and broadcast safety messages / live traffic updates all the way till 12am on the day of the blasts.
The station got tremendous response from the people and aired calls after every song. According to the station, they have never received so many calls before. The station actually connected husbands with wives, relatives, friends and family etc., on-air that evening. Saluting the 'Never say die Delhi spirit' RJ Nitin was in the studio on Sunday to connect with the people. He threw open a platform for people to call up and express their opinions of the blasts that rocked the city. He also interviewed celebrities and influential people from all walks of life.
According to Nitin, "I had to talk to Delhi and take the views of all the people. My thought was that it is sad that all this has happened and everybody needs to be alert, but the spirit of Delhi - of bouncing back - should be there always. It is not that after the blasts log darr jayenge aur chhup ke ghar pe baith jayenge, kyunki Dilli bahut daler hai. I just wanted people to come back to normal life soon."
Speaking about the days that followed the blasts and the police work, Nitin says, "The one thing that is bothering me is the great irony in our country. When a guy gets a medal for the country in an Olympic shooting event, he gets one crore rupees and a policeman lays down his life for the people and all that his family gets is eleven lakh rupees!?"
It is religion which has become the basis of lots of events happening in India, discussed and debated at all levels due to its mal effect on the society and people. So as one sees violence against Christians in Orissa and Karnataka on one hand, there is tension between Hindus and Muslims on the other hand in various parts of the country which are aggravated by the recent bomb blasts.These make one stop and think if religions are serving the purpose they are created for i.e. to bring balance and harmony to the society and to protect and foster faith in the supreme authority. Religion is also meant to bind different people together with a common thread. Thus, it does not only have spiritual objective but also social responsibilities. Most of the major religions so far have been able to bring people together who follow it but have been unsuccessful in building a unified multi-religious society.People who follow a certain faith are not conditioned to look through their beliefs and appreciate and honour the other religion. The so-called secular people stay away from all religious activities including their own religion. So, over time a partially secular culture (as stated above) has been achieved but the equality and peaceful co-existence of all faiths is still to follow. Every religion’s history state that they have been formed whenever the society needed to be organised or re-organised as it offers a set of unenforceable laws which the folks adhere to voluntarily and which become more important than the rule of law.One can refer to caste system in Hinduism which aimed at classify individuals on the basis of their professions but which is passé as new vocations are mushrooming in today’s world. Sikhism owes its organisation to the Khalsa cult, established initially as a military order of "saint-soldiers". Protestantism originated to deal with the flaws of the Church and protect people from it’s the oppressive practices.It is to be observed here that even though there has been a transformation of the social scenario over the last century, the way religion is looked at and pursued has not been changed considerably. If religions do not adapt to present conditions and become a cause for aggressive consequences, it might lose importance in the times to come and might be replaced with better substitutes, some of which are already available. It has already started that people of all religions stick to various cults such as vipassana, brahmakumaris, Art of Living foundation, Auroville among others taken care of by spiritual men and volunteers. They are correctly cut to fit the present set up where one needs a stress-free life above all. Such cults involve various meditation practices as a start up to connect to the Almighty. They are also not devoid of defects like any other religion but are becoming popular with the passage of time. It, therefore, does not matter if we have more Hindus or Christians or which way the conversion equation is moving or whether there are more Bajrang dals or SIMIs. What is more significant is what steps the religious associations take to mould themselves according to the need of the hour.
Inclusive growth by its very definition implies an equitable allocation of resources with benefits accruing to every section of society, which is a utopian concept. But the allocation of resources must be focused on the indented short and long terms benefits and economic linkages at large and not just equitable mathematically on some regional and population criteria.Utopia it is because it dreams of an ideal state which we all strive towards. We still have trappings of an utterly violent prone tribal society where most of conflicts simmer for ages with no solutions at sight and yet we talk of an ideal state. Can we have the so called ideal state with so many criminals and people having no clue, sitting at top and making a huge mess of every thing they lay their hands on?As a nation still in the process of developing itself, it would perhaps be very premature to let go of the dream of inclusive growth but with some hard realities thrown in too. Society by its very definition implies coming together of a variety of peoples and sharing of benefits in order to survive and grow. But what we do of the people who are seeped deep in concept of zero sum game, where one has to win at the cost of other across whole gamut of economic activity? Any direct jobs to skilled people create direct and indirect jobs for people having complementary/down stream/associative skills. When thousands of people get job in IT/BPO sector many job streams are automatically created across wide spectrum of skills and locations. I do not understand aversion towards expanding job market for skilled people in IT/BPO sector. There is no economic activity, which is stand-alone and isolated from its immediate and external environment. In an expanding economy more people with wide skills are required. What will be educated people will do if there are no job opportunities when they pass out of schools and collages? I think this notion of berating any job creations because millions do not have access to primary educations is faulty to core. Please excuse me for being straightforward. The need to upgrade education across the length and breadth of country has been for long and there has not been much done about it in true sense. These are two separate issues and one must not be berated and criticized because of deficiency in other. The concept of few people monopolizing and restricting the entry of others is a faulty notion again based on mindset of stagnant economy and static society. In today's increasingly global, dynamic and competitive economy such notions are based on inherent failure to identify the skill/activity linkages present and missing in the real sense. I do not yet fully understand what are the real concept and objectives of the idea of inclusive growth, other than what it could be in the present scenarios?Off course there is scope for vast improvements and yet the trickle down effect is visible across country with few exceptions too. These exceptions are due to various regional, environmental, political and infrastructures deficiencies. Growth in a competitive economy is and will always be inclusive, because it cannot be other wise. But it is immensely fashionable to criticize and play down innovations in economy and hence the job market. The Eleventh Plan Approach Paper according to which a key element of the strategy for inclusive growth must be "to provide the mass of our people access to basic facilities such as health, education, clean drinking water etc, and that governments at different levels have to ensure the provision of these services". The question, which must be asked, is why previous ten plans could not make any significant differences in these areas and that too with so much of high-sounding ideas but with no substances of real value? That is the legacy of "high thinking-no action" socialism we have to bear with in the twenty-first century. Pyramid of economy and its jobs will always be initiated, activated by people having higher managerial and technical skills and their acts and risk taking abilities will create jobs for other people down stream.The proponents of "Inclusive Growth" have some vogue notions of growth and fail to see a vast change underway. Off course they fail to see any linkages between pyramid of resources, entrepreneurships, skills and jobs. Other day I was watching a discussion on TV, where one of the speakers was Swami Agnivesh. With due regards to his contribution in social life he has displayed his great fixations and penchant for utterly romantic solutions of such basic nature. For him the present growth has no meaning as vast numbers of people are out of its sphere. He wants bottom up growth mechanisms and not top down growth. They may be some exceptional examples of micro level development of what he so eloquently referred to.There is so much of noise about only the educated and skilled people getting employed and most remain uneducated and hence unemployable. What will be use of education if those boys and girls passing out of collages remain unemployed because there are so many who are uneducated? An entrepreneur friend of mine is a very harassed man on verge of going out of business due to rampant absenteeism of around 100 workers he employs. He is faced every day with angry customer's unprintable expletives due to delayed shipments of lower qualities leading to delayed payments and all associative problems. The manufacturing system he is comfortable with is largely manual with no automatic machines. To survive he has to invest in imported automatic machinery that would lead to cut down his labour force by 60% and increase production by 50% along with better quality. To operate these machines he would need to employ fewer technically educated/ skilled people at two to three times of the average salary paid right now. If he does that is he going against the concepts of "Inclusive Growth"? Will some knowledgeable people throw light on the issue?
India has been held hostage to recurring acts of terror in the last few months. The latest of these attacks has occurred on September 27 in the Mehrauli area of New Delhi killing two people and injuring around 20. Just a fortnight ago on September 13, five serial blasts had spread panic across the geographical spread of India’s capital, killing 30 and injuring nearly 90.These had been preceded by the Jaipur serial bombings of May 13, the Bangalore bombings of July 25 and the Ahmedabad bombings of July 26, respectively. These Indian cities have been particularly chosen by the terrorists as they represent some of the most economically vibrant areas of the country.In 2006 and 2007, Mumbai and Hyderabad, India’s financial and computer software capitals had faced similar serial terror bombings.The worst affected in these recurring acts of terror has been civilians. From 2006 till date, more than 1000 civilians have lost their lives in India due to terror attacks. Though this trend is not very different from other areas of the world like Iraq where terrorist attacks have resulted in heavy civilian casualties, what is strikingly unique in the Indian case is that most of the market areas targeted by the terrorists are the favourite hubs of India’s growing middle class, the mainstay of its economic surge since 1991.A little known terror outfit calling itself “Indian Mujahideen” has claimed responsibility for the Jaipur, Ahmedabad and Delhi bombings. In an email tilted “Message of Death” sent after the Delhi bombings of September 13, the Indian Mujahideen asserted that atrocities by the Anti-Terrorism Squads (ATS) against India’s minority Muslim community after the Jaipur and Ahmedabad bombings, the Amarnath land dispute in Kashmir, the Babri Masjid demolition in 1992, and the Gujarat riots of 2002 were the reasons for its terror attacks.However, this is militant rhetorical posturing at best. What is evident from the recent attacks of terror including the low intensity blast on September 27 is that the Indian Mujahideen has two main objectives: First, it wants to establish its credibility as a home grown terror outfit to its target audience and funders in India and possible sponsors abroad.This aspect became evident after the Ahmedabad bombings when it demanded of the Lashkar–e-Taiyabba (LeT) to refrain from claiming a role behind the Ahmedabad bombings as that would have surely minimised the impact of the Indian Mujahideen’s effectiveness as an Indian terror outfit.Second, use of low intensity bombs indicate that the outfit wants to create social panic in India and also demonstrate the inability of the Indian security agencies in thwarting its violent activities. Recurring acts of terror in Indian cities have indeed revealed the alarming lack of security in these areas for the common citizen. What is worse is that it also reflects poorly on the security agencies.It has now come to light that after the Ahmedabad bombings of July 26, the police had intelligence that Delhi could be the likely target area of terrorist bombings after an arrested Indian Mujahideen cadre, Abul Bashar Qasmi revealed to the police the existence of such a terror plan.Averting terror requires a dedicated and well staffed security force. Indian cities, however, suffer from a gross shortage of police personnel since half of them are utilized for providing security to VIPs, and another half is utilized for administrative duties. Delhi for instance has a police force of 65,000 personnel, half of which are being used for government security. This leaves few personnel free for purely law enforcement duties.Close Circuit Television (CCTV) cameras installed in crowded areas are of a poor quality. For example, in the M-Block market of South Delhi, which was one of the areas that witnessed a terror blast on September 13, the terrorists had placed a bomb right under the CCTV at an angle of 25 degrees whereas the camera there could capture images only at an 80 degrees angle. Higher quality CCTVs are capable of capturing images at angles as low as 5-10 degrees range in vertical viewing and 6-11 degrees range in horizontal viewing depending on the lens type. This is rather disturbing as it drives home the fact that the Indian Mujahideen cadres, who had carried out reconnaissance of the target areas in Delhi on September 11, were aware of the type of CCTV camera installed in the area.Deterring recurring acts of terror in India would require a coordinated effort between the state and society. This means that instead of enacting more and more stringent anti-terror laws, the present Unlawful Activities Prevention Act must be better implemented. Also, it is vital that minority civil society organizations, who has already spoken against this kind of senseless terror acts, are utilized by the state to assuage fears prevalent in the communities they represent of victimization after terror attacks. The Indian media must also refrain from assuming who is a terrorist before guilt is proved in a court of law.Violent attacks on civilians by terror outfits never work in attaining an outfit’s objectives. Rather, it has proved counter-productive for the community a terror outfit claims to represent. Therefore, the state and society urgently requires activating counter-propaganda against objectives such as those cited by the Indian Mujahideen or any other such outfits.
Blasts in Jaipur, Ahmedabad, Delhi, Malegaon — the list goes on. We perhaps believed the worst of the terror run was over. But the pre-Diwali lull proved false. Yesterday, several blasts struck Assam — in Guwahati, Bongaigaon, Barpeta and Kokrajhar — leaving scores dead. Spread over almost the entire state, the horrific attacks proved yet again that enemies of India’s territorial and emotional integrity have organisational and technical capabilities that our law enforcers repeatedly underestimate. While fanatics demonstrate with sickening regularity their power to strike at will, the official response is invariably an assertion of renewed resolve to fight terror. Assam’s tragedy shows up, damningly, the government’s failure to deliver on that promise. There were recent warnings that Assam was on the radar of a United Liberation Front of Assam (ULFA)-Harkat-ul-Jihadal-Islami (HuJI) combine. It should have been on high alert, more so given recent ethnic strife between Bodo tribespeople and Bangladeshi migrants. The north-eastern state’s strategic importance in terms of resource wealth — oil, in particular — and security cannot be overstated. More, its social fabric has long been stretched thin by students’ movements against ‘foreigners’, fears of demographic change, ULFA’s secessionist violence and ethnic strife fomented by the National Democratic Front of Bodoland. Pakistani and Bangladeshi militants have long been known to be fishing in these troubled waters; homegrown terror in the form of the Indian Mujahideen (IM) has only helped their agenda in the north-east and elsewhere. In September, Prime Minister Manmohan Singh insisted that the UPA wasn’t soft on terror. This had gone along with a frank admission of gaps in our intelligence network. It may be asked what the home ministry has done since then to reinforce preventive intelligence and law enforcement mechanisms. When it comes to anti-terror combat, it seems India can no longer afford the growing perception of being led by an excessively gentlemanly prime minister and a dandy but weak home minister. For, the prevailing sense of drift has only served to embolden all kinds of challenges to the Indian Union. Terrorism is now a pan-India phenomenon, with terror recruits being traced to even Kerala. Home-grown extremists — whether of the IM or of the saffron variety — are deepening religious divides. At the same time, Naxalite carnage is beating previous records. Now, regional chauvinism of the Raj Thackeray kind threatens to blow up into an interstate conflagration. People’s representatives can no longer wink at the fact that India’s unity is under siege or play games of electoral one-upmanship. The prime minister must immediately do something. He should call an all-party emergency meeting, so that the entire political spectrum stands — and is seen to stand — united against balkanisers and hate-mongers of every stripe.
Imagine a software professional or a well-paid executive in India’s rapidly-growing financial sector. Is he bothered if the prices of potatoes, onions and carrots double? Hardly. His income is so high that staples form a tiny part of his budget.Switch to a daily wage earner on subsistence wages and the picture is very different. Day-to-day necessities consume most of an uncertain income. Food inflation strikes at the root of his existence.The upwardly mobile, on the other hand, has an entirely different profile of inflation sensitivity – the cost of good housing, personal transportation, quality education and health care.While inflation means a general rise in prices, it does make sense to distinguish among food inflation, energy inflation, commodity inflation, wholesale price inflation, consumer price inflation, wage inflation, inflation in manufactured goods and (the latest) asset price inflation. Also, is general inflation demand-driven or cost-pushed? What about demand and supply elasticities? Inelasticity translates into price rigidity and makes policy actions ineffective.
First priority A sensible government must first attend to inflation in basic goods. After all, the first priority is to keep the masses off street protests. At this fundamental level, our rulers come out with flying colours. Rationed rice costs Rs 2, the market is Rs15 and more. Rice and wheat exports were banned the moment the government smelt a global shortage and rising prices. Buffer stocks are more than adequate.Food security, thankfully, has not been compromised, even as the quality ofgovernance touches new lows.Edible oil, vegetable and fruit prices are up reportedly 50 per cent and more. That could be because of a demand spurt or supply shortfall or a demand inelastic situation. (The ‘efficient’ and ‘cost effective’ supply chains of the new retail giants seem to have failed here). Hopefully, their prices will trend back to normal in time as supply augments.Energy conservation On energy, there is no excuse for dithering on indexation to global prices and subsidising the consumption of expensive oil. We have forgotten elementary economics – market prices are signals and stimulants to improve efficiency and productivity and shifts to alternative, cheaper sources. Surely, we can start with differential (much higher) levies on big cars and Sports Utility Vehicles (SUVs) both at purchase and fuel consumption points.With our advances in information technology and communications, we ought to encourage managers and knowledge workers to work as much as possible from home. his applies with even more force to governments. The energy saving and relief in traffic congestion are incalculable.
What is the upshot? Monetary policy and interest rates have far less to do in inflation management than generally imagined. A far greater onus seems to lie with government
To combat inflation, policymakers should create more purchasing power, not reduce it. Subsidies are fine, social security is better but job creation is best.
When the Finance Minister, Mr P. Chidambaram, presented his first full budget in 2005, he could look forward to a bright future. The economy, growing at 6-7 per cent, was on song and the burden of high inflation — 8.7 per cent the previous August — had been lifted. With the ink on the Common Minimum Programme still wet and inflation down at 5 per cent, the Finance Minister promised innovative approaches to development and a congenial environment for investment. Three years later, Mr Chidambaram finds the present imperfect and the future tense. Barely has the RBI taken its finger off the repo rate button than a defiant inflation spurts from around 8 per cent to 11 per cent. Suddenly, the policymaker is faced with unwelcome records; no government would like to exit office with a legacy of such a price rise. At the very least, the current situation of rising prices and falling industrial output requires the kind of innovative approach the government promised when it assumed office four years ago.
There are signs of some half-hearted initiatives. Export curbs, import relaxation of food-grains, the recent fuel tax cut and attempts at austerity in government travel are insufficient. Most crucially the deprived should be empowered to cope more effectively with costlier energy, food and power. The most obvious way would be to smother the fire; the most obvious direction to seek help from would be Mint Street. That is what the Finance Minister did when he promised strong “demand and monetary measures”. But the RBI’s interest rate adjustments are putting out the wrong fires; manufacturing output is declining consistently on falling demand. This month’s repo rate cut and the strong possibility of another one will only goad banks to make credit more costly, with a greater impact on output down the road.
The more effective way to blunt the effects of rising prices would be to ensure that more goods are produced and then used more efficiently. Getting more mileage in the truck from that litre of diesel, reducing the quantity of steel and cement used per square metre of building are some obvious strategies for consumers, but for government it is time to get to the root of the supply constraints. If steel is in short supply it is because no new projects have been facilitated in recent years; if coal is expensive it is because production is constrained — long-pending amendments to legislations on mining and land acquisition need to be steered through Parliament to bring in new investment. Increasing employment opportunities is the best way of arming people most affected by inflation, and that is achieved only by clearing the roadblocks to investment. Policymakers need to create more purchasing power and not seek to reduce it. Subsidies are fine, social security is better but job creation is best. That is what can halt the creeping gloom now pervading the economy’s interstices.
As human rights activists and the Muslim community demand a probe into the September 19 Batla House incident, in which two alleged terrorists and one police officer were killed, some tough questions emerge: Do accused terrorists deserve the same rights as everyone else? Should we deny the liberties of a few to protect millions? And, perhaps most importantly, do we trust the government to make those decisions for us? History has taught us that perhaps we shouldn’t. Consider the more than 1,00,000 Japanese-Americans who the United States government forcibly locked in “war relocation camps” after the 1941 Pearl Harbor attacks. The fear of disloyalty turned out to be unfounded, and based on “racial prejudice, wartime hysteria, and a failure of political leadership”, as the government admitted 40 years later. But you can’t turn back the clock on the countless lives that were destroyed in the process. With increasing terrorist attacks around the globe, it’s natural for us to feel that the world is more dangerous now than it’s ever been. In the United States, the threat to security seems real in a way it never did before September 11. Terrorist attacks used to be the news of faraway countries — news that most Americans could conveniently ignore. The attacks on American soil were a tragic reminder that the United States is not immune. And in India, where over 400 people have been killed since 2006 in a series of bomb blasts across the country, “the scourge of terrorism gets worse by the day”, in one resident’s words. Whether the world is actually a scarier place on the whole now than it was, say, 200 years ago, we can’t pretend to know. It would probably depend a lot on who you asked. The threats — real or imagined — facing each generation always seem more pressing and dangerous than anything that’s come before. And that’s what has always motivated us to make exceptions to the rules — the sense that this time, it’s different. When fear and power combine, things get even scarier. That’s the climate that led to the atrocities at Guantanamo Bay in Cuba, where prisoners have been subjected to a variety of cruel and unusual punishments since the US government opened the detention centre in 2002. The Batla House shoot-out in Delhi took place out of the eyes of the public. And that’s exactly why it deserves to be investigated. It could be that the police report is 100 per cent accurate: Six officers stormed an apartment in Jamia Nagar, a shoot-out ensued and two of the masterminds behind the September 13 New Delhi bombings were killed in the crossfire. Those demanding an impartial judicial inquiry into the incident say the police story doesn’t make sense. Some say it was a governmentorchestrated execution. It’s been widely reported that “encounter killings” are a common extrajudicial tactic for dealing with the problem of terrorism. The police officer who died that day, M C Sharma, had reportedly killed 35 terrorists and 40 other criminals in his 19-year career. (Which begs the question: Doesn’t Sharma’s death prove that a shoot-out took place?) Government must be transparent in its response to terrorism. The public has a right to know what happened on that day. And even the worst among us — the alleged criminals and terrorists — have a right to due process. That includes the right to a fair and speedy trial, the right to a proper defence and the presumption of innocence until a person is proven guilty. It is these safeguards that give a democracy its backbone. The shoot-out no doubt came as welcome news to many, who thought, “Good. Two less terrorists.” But that’s an emotional response to a problem that we must approach rationally. It’s in our darkest times — and it doesn’t get much darker than wartime — that we are most susceptible to error. We cannot allow our fear to cloud our judgment. We cannot accept this fatally flawed notion that the ends always justify the means in the so-called “war on terror”. Or we will doubtless be judged by history for our mistakes.
To understand the phenomenon of Raj Thackeray and the present predicament of Mumbai and its reaction in distant Bihar, one has to combine a psychological and sociological perspective. In the case of Raj — and equally of his uncle Bal — it can truly be said that the personal is political. While the psychological is provided by the unfolding of the relationship between them, the sociological is the constant invention of the ‘other’ as a necessary tactic of survival by the Shiv Sena, and now the Maharashtra Navnirman Sena (MNS). Raj Thackeray, as we know, decided to reinvent himself once it became clear that he was not going to be Bal Thackeray’s political heir. For the latter, the son’s blood triumphed over that of the nephew, ushering in the unlikely leader Uddhav as Bal’s successor. One isn’t quite sure what made the senior Thackeray change his mind after years of having projected Raj as his political heir. In installing Uddhav, Bal Thackeray showed an unusual lack of wisdom, fuelling a hostile competitiveness and rancour in the spurned Raj Thackeray. To teach Bal and Uddhav a lesson, Raj decided to take them on — on their own turf — by launching the MNS. The MNS would not only challenge the Shiv Sena but also other parties and lay its own claim to representing Marathi Mumbaikars if not all of Maharashtra. While rarely coming into open conflict, the two factions have been waging an underground war for supremacy. Raj, through his long and close association with his uncle learnt everything that the latter could teach — how to control Mumbai through muscle power, how to hold it to ransom, how to tweak the psychological nerves of Mumbaikar Maharashtrians so that they felt ‘represented’ and protected against the perceived onslaught of ‘foreigners’ of all hues — those poor and distraught other Indians who make their way to the shores of Mumbai to seek livelihoods their own lands deny them. He learnt well enough that the superstructure of a passionate mass following would be provided by loyal Marathi Mumbaikars. He also knew that the steel structure that supported such outpourings in favour of ‘the leader’ was built upon a well-oiled machinery of intimidation and extortion through the redistribution of which loyalty of the common Marathi Mumbaikar was bought. And Raj, like his uncle, and unlike his cousin, has the guts of steel to mastermind, condone and operate through such machinery. Innumerable writings and films are testimony to the composite nature of Mumbai, created as it continually is through the migrations of Indians of all hues — whether they be from the east, west, north or south. In this, Mumbai is no different from any other major city — say New York or London. Like New York, Mumbai is also an island where people are packed in and thrown upon each other, where they are forced to relate to each other irrespective of class, caste, income, language or regional and religious division. Perhaps, there is a greater scope for combustion in such places. Perhaps real relationships are fewer. Sociologists such as Simmel and Wirth have debated on what a city engenders and what matters most in it — the breakdown of community, the emergence of the blase spirit, or the flowering of freedom, independence and intellect, not to mention innovation. What we do know is that such cities are built from the labour of millions of individuals, each searching for their own dream and trying to make a go of it. Do such cities belong to anyone? Can they survive by abdicating to claims of primacy by a particular ethnic group, granting it privileges not granted to others? Language is a privilege that comes with ethnicity and those moving to Mumbai do not resist the language but accommodate their own speech to it. Marathi is not threatened by other languages and Bambaiya Hindi, even more so, is a special creation of the city itself. The Shiv Sena has survived as a regional party through a long track record in successfully creating the ‘outsiders’ and presenting them as those who take away what rightfully belongs to the ethnic Marathi speaker. We don’t need to remind ourselves that first it was south Indians who faced this, followed by Muslims with the latest victims being people from UP and Biharis. It seems that the Shiv Sena cannot do without drumming up a perceived enemy. Easy to beat down upon, the outsiders have always been a migrant minority — regional or religious. What does this do for the greatness of Marathi manoos that the opponents chosen are weak and defenceless unlike those that their hero Shivaji chose to battle? But perhaps the relevant point is that for Raj Thackeray it is not the Bihari who is the real opponent — it is really uncle who he is fighting to wrest back what he perceives to be his rightful inheritance. That day may not be far away as the older Thackeray fades away to meet his maker. Unfortunately, the youthfulness of a desperate Raj promises us that his brand of goondagiri is not about to fade away in a hurry. To limit the damage resulting from his disruptive and violence-generating actions, one needs more police officers like Prasad, the first one who daringly asserted “Mumbai kisi ke baap ki hahin hai”. Such police officers need the support of political leaders if Mumbai is to fulfil its promise of being a world city.
The Bonn World Chess Championship title is the crowning glory of Viswanathan Anand’s quarter-century-old career. Anand is now the master of the game in knockout, tournament and matchplay, the three formats in which chess is played at the highest level. His success in matchplay, considered the forte of Vladimir Kramnik, the Russian grandmaster he defeated, is all the more remarkable because he won two games while playing with black pieces. Anand’s success is remarkable for other reasons also. India has an illustrious tradition in chess; the game originated here. However, this country had not produced a world champion until Anand took the world by storm by winning the World Junior Championship in 1987. His style of game, fast and aggressive, set him apart from the Russians, who till then dominated the game. Here was a player willing to take risks and fight to win. Anand made chess a more exciting game than it ever was in the 1990s. His rise captured the imagination of the Indian public and provided a big push for chess here. There has been a profusion of grandmasters in India since the advent of Anand. Anand’s success has pushed advertisers to look beyond cricket. That’s good for the game because chess, like all other sports in India except cricket, is short on funds. Sponsorships and ad assignments will help young grandmasters, like P Harikrishna and Koneru Humpy to raise their game. Shooters like Rajyavardhan Rathore and Abhinav Bindra have clearly shown that Indians can be world-beaters in disciplines other than cricket. It is important that India builds on these successes. For a country that aspires to be a global power, India’s record in sports is pathetic. Indian hockey is a pale shadow of its former self. Badminton and tennis have provided occasional sparkle. There is no reason why a country of one billion plus people should have such a limited presence in the world of sport. Countries of size — the US, China, Russia, Brazil, Japan — have done exceptionally well in sports to complement their influence in world affairs. World powers are those countries that have excelled in every sphere of human activity. Success breeds success; sporting glory rubs off on other aspects of living. It’s time that the rest of India takes a cue from Anand and makes the right moves.
Thursday, October 30, 2008
ANOTHER MELTDOWN Reckless borrowing against earth’s exhausted bounty is driving the planet toward an ecological “credit crunch”, the Worldwide Fund for Nature warned on Wednesday. Growing demands on natural capital — such as forests, water, soil, air and biodiversity — already outstrip the world’s capacity to renew these resources by a third, according to the WWF’s Living Planet Report. “If our demands on the planet continue to increase at the same rate, by the mid-2030s we would need the equivalent of two planets to maintain our lifestyles,” said James Leape, the green group’s director general, in releasing the study. The cost of bailing out financial institutions during the economic meltdown, while huge, pales in comparison to the lost value caused every year by ecological damage to the environment, experts say. A European Union study calculates that the world is losing between two and five trillion dollars in natural capital every year due to the degradation of the ecosystems. “The world is currently struggling with the consequences of over-valuing financial assets,” said Leape. “But a more fundamental crisis looms, an ecological credit crunch caused by undervaluing the environmental assets that are the basis of all life and prosperity.” The report shows that more than three quarters of the planet’s population live in nations that are ecological debtors — countries where consumption outstrips biological capacity. Produced with the Zoological Society of London (ZSL) and the Global Footprint Network (GFN), the bi-annual study measures the ecological footprint of human demand on natural resources, and assesses earth’s ability to remain a “living planet”. The 2008 edition shows a drop off of nearly 30% since 1970 in some 5,000 monitored populations of 1,686 different species.
An unmanned spacecraft from India, the most worldly and yet other-worldly of nations, is on its way to the moon. For the first time since man and his rockets began trespassing on outer space, a vessel has gone up from a country whose people actually regard the moon as a god. The Chandrayaan is the closest India has got to the moon since the epic Hindu sage, Narada, tried to reach it on a ladder of considerable (but insufficient) length — as my grandmother’s bedtime version of events would have it. So think of this as a modern Indian pilgrimage to the moon. Reverence for the moon is apparent from the website of the Indian Space Research Organisation, the body that launched the Chandrayaan, which includes a verse from the Rig Veda, a sacred Hindu text that dates back some 4,000 years: “O Moon! We should be able to know you through our intellect/ You enlighten us through the right path.” One is tempted, in all this, to dwell on the seeming contradiction between religion and science, between reason and superstition. And yet, anyone who has been to India will have noted also its ‘modernity of tradition’. The phrase, borrowed from political scientists Lloyd and Susanne Rudolph, might explain the ability of devout Hindus — many of them, no doubt, rocket scientists — to see no disharmony between ancient Vedic beliefs and contemporary scientific practice. The Hindu astrological system is predicated on lunar movements: so the moon is a big deal in astrology-obsessed India. That said, the genius of modern Hinduism lies in its comfort with, and imperviousness to, science. A friend tells me of an episode from his childhood in Varanasi, the sacred Hindu city. Days after Apollo 11 landed on the moon, a model of the lunar module was placed in a courtyard of the most venerable temple in the city. The Hindu faithful were hailing man-on-the-moon; there was no suggestion that the Americans had committed sacrilege. I might add here, with a caveat against exaggeration that science sometimes struggles to coexist with faith in the United States in ways that would disconcert many Indians. Of course, the Chandrayaan is also a grand political gesture, space exploration in the service of national pride. This kind of excursion may provoke yawns at NASA, but judging from round-the-clock local coverage it has received, the mission has clearly inflamed the imagination and ambition of Indians. Yes, even moon-worshipping ones.—