Friday, July 30, 2010

Critiquie of CWG is unpatriotic, Critique of shoddy city infrastructure is not!

Once upon a time Congress heavyweight Mr. Mani Shankar Aiyar has an unmatched command over the English vocabulary as well as a sharp mind. He also has a knack of drawing the limelight onto himself whenever he feels ignored. Humility not being his crowning glory, he amuses everyone by describing himself as the most qualified person for various public positions.

As Sports Minister in earlier UPA regime, he drafted a Rs 6,000-crore plan to hold national panchayat games to develop skills in kho-kho, kabaddi and assorted indigenous sports, insisting that fund infusion at that level would help grow talent. Result: He was divested of the Sports Ministry.

Similarly, his attempts to by-pass the foreign policy establishment by aligning with Iran met with stern disapproval from his erstwhile employer, the Ministry of External Affairs. He also went on an ego trip with CMD of ONGC and the result: He was divested from Petroleum Ministry as well.

Latest from Mr Aiyar’s kettle is criticizing Mr. S M Krishna over Indo-Pak talks debacle and as soon as media stopped covering the story, he has gone on a rampage airing his pet peeve over sports events in India.

The question is should we take his views seriously at all?

Mr. Iyer wishes that a modern day pralaya should deluge the forthcoming Common WEALTH Games. Predictably, this set the cat among the pigeons, which was precisely what Mr Aiyar had hoped for. Denunciations flew in faster than javelin throws. Mud-slinging event has already started and Mr. Iyer is self-appointed chairman of this event.

Mr. Iyer’s comments range from anti-national, demeaning, demoralising to unsporting and worse. We often find Mr. Aiyar seeking limelight at the expense of mega-events like CWG. He railed against India’s bid for the Asian Games and explained that he wished the CWG would fail so that New Delhi wouldn’t ever dream of bidding for the Olympics.

There are two facets to Mr Aiyar's ill-timed diarrhoea. Casting an evil eye on one of the most prestigious sporting events India will host is, unequivocally unpatriotic. Further, the argument that the Rs 35,000 crore should be used to promote sports facilities in backward or Maoist-infested areas like Dantewada is absurd even by Mr. Iyer’s standards.

Whatever one’s views on India’s ability to organise such events, and there are serious questions relating to that, this is no time to publicly berate the event. If the CWG turns out to be a disaster, India’s national honour and prestige would be seriously compromised. India’s global image, would be severely dented.

But where Mr Aiyar does make a point is with regard to infrastructure. Much of Mr Aiyar’s ire, though, should have been directed at Ms Sheila Dikshit rather than the IOC chairman kalmadi.

The manner in which the Delhi Government and the city’s civic authorities have gone about uglifying the city resembles the work of an amateur biology student dissecting a frog. Already incredible tales of official greed are covering front page of all the newspapers. As soon as civil work is completed by one department, the next one swoops down and commences breaking it up. There have been huge cost and time over-runs in all the CWG projects, except for the Metro.

The city is suffering from the poor quality of roads, collapsing drains, traffic mess. the Government’s obsession with sandstone and granite pavements has driven everybody up the wall. For my life I can’t understand whose daft idea it was to place expensive but slippery granites on pavements. Millions have been spent carting sandstone to Delhi and I am sure Ms Sheila Dikshit will eventually overtake Ms Mayawati in the quantum purchased.

“Commonwealth Games of Delhi are globally ranked number one for collective contractor exposure. It’s a matter of pride for us but a shame that an anti-national person like Aiyar can’t see it.” Said Mr. Kalmadi.

Mr. Kalmadi should not get into petty battles and focus on the task at hand. He needs to reinforce the belief of inevitable success of the upcoming games.

I am still confident that doomsayers will be given a fitting reply when the CWG is held with flying colours. I am sure that India could even host Olympics if one dared to dream about hosting it.

Things might look messy right now but like the saying goes “where there is a will, there is a way”.

Thursday, July 29, 2010

Watch: A vestigial accessory

A person halts another unknown passerby and asks ‘What’s time’? We all have been witness to this situation many a times. Alas! This is history now. Watch has lost all its relevance. 

When our forefathers found that time is the only thing that cannot be controlled, they devised ways in which we can measure time. From the earliest recorded history, calculating time has been the concern and passion for man and India was at forefront with monuments like ‘Jantar Mantar’ still standing today. The earliest sundials and weight machines were an endeavour in this respect. 

Let me take you back to watch era phase I when there were only Pocket watches. The watches were worn in a pendant style from the neck but with the introduction of waistcoats, they were worn in pockets. Learned and affluent people used to wear watches and their wives tied their watches to the end of their saree at the waist. This was phase I. 

In the second phase in 1970s, electronic watches came and replaced mechanical watches forever. Watch became a status symbol. This was also the phase when fathers started telling their son to get good marks in board and the prize will be a watch. Also, a trend began with any tom, dick and harry gifting a watch to his son-in-law. There were two main brands available in India in seventies namely HMT, Ricoh. With the launch of Titan from the TATA stable in 1989, watches became as much an instrument of showing time, as a work of art. 

With India going global in Nineties began Phase III, we for the first time realised that there are watches costing more than salary of India’s Prime Minister. There was a flood of brands and watch retail stores came into picture. Now watches are marketed on the perceived value of one’s style, taste, and individuality. 

Nowadays, we see time everywhere – on news channels, on our PCs, mobiles etc. How well we use time is another story and I will go there some other time. Like time, watches have moved from monuments to pockets to hands and now we only see them in print ads of the elite magazines. 

Watches have become akin to a Junk Drawer in our house or like human body full of vestigial organs like muscles in our ear or tailbones etc. Watches just remain souvenirs of our evolutionary past. We don't use them for their original purpose anymore, and this small narration is a stunted memento of that original function.

Wednesday, July 28, 2010

India Bangladesh power venture leads to regional supremacy

India today signed a 35-year power transmission agreement with Bangladesh for supplying 250 megawatt of electricity from late 2012. The agreement was signed between the Bangladesh Power Development Board (BPDB) and the Power Grid Corporation of India Ltd (PGCI).
PGCIL will incur a cost of about Rs.80 crores (about $17 million) to construct 80 km of transmission line and own, operate and maintain it. The Indian company will recover the construction cost under a fixed rate over 35 years.
Many are of the opinion that India is not able to generate enough electricity to support our domestic consumption. Thus, we should not be distributing to others. I would like to present a different perspective. In current times and age no country can remain with doors closed especially to its neighbours. It is not only imperative but compulsory for better international relations to support economically weaker countries. India is surrounded by Maldives, Nepal, Sri Lanka, Myanmar, Bhutan, Bangladesh, Pakistan and China. With an exception of China, all the countries surrounding India are very weak on infrastructure and resources.
Pakistan and china have been pursuing a regional policy detrimental to India's interests by consorting with forces that threaten India militarily. Afghanistan has been the hotbed of Islamic extremists like Taliban ('Students of Religion', created and nurtured by the Inter Services Intelligence of Pakistan) and Islamic terrorist organizations like Osama-bin-Laden's Al-Qaeda.  Hence relations with Afghanistan have been of security & strategic importance to India.
Bangladesh is another emerging terror front and militants from the North-eastern states continue to operate out of bases in the neighbouring country. The porous border that India shares with Bangladesh is a matter of concern for as infiltration and cross-border terrorism does take place. Government needs to accelerate fencing and lighting work at the border.
India has been primarily providing humanitarian assistance and also helping in establishing education centers, hospitals and other amenities to the neighbours. When Maldives was affected by the tsunami disaster, India promptly dispatched relief aid and rescue teams.
It is equally important for India to aid in infrastructure and funding initiatives with neighbouring countries to establish itself as a regional superpower. Areas for cooperation can range from mining to culture to higher education to clean technology and energy efficiency etc. This not only puts India at the forefront in the region but also makes a positive impact on the minds of our neighbouring states population. Government should setup a separate wing for Comprehensive Economic Cooperation with our neighbours.
India should have a government of the national bourgeoisie, which gives priority to the national interest. Our borders are surrounded by nations that have not only become tools of the imperialist powers, but also claim rights to its territory. And they present a threat to India's territorial integrity, both from within as well as without. Thus, we should be able to understand the importance of regional strategic interests and not only tactical efforts to deal with the dangers.
As Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina's Energy Adviser Tawfiq-e-Elahi Chowdhury rightly said “This is a small step for Bangladesh and India, but a giant leap for regional cooperation.”

Monday, July 26, 2010

Common Wealth Games: Precursor to Opening & Closing Ceremony

The Opening and Closing ceremonies of 19th Commonwealth Games 2010 at J N Stadium Complex in Delhi will be a truly Indian affair. Both the ceremonies will have no foreign influence other than the fireworks at the end of the ceremonies. 

The first eight minutes of the opening ceremony will feature ace percussionist Taufiq Qureshi and his group on the theme ‘The Great Indian Bazzar’. It will give the feeling of ‘how Indian streets sound like’. Taufiq will be using different rhythm structures to attract the audience, which has every little detail of bazaar and been mish-mashed with sounds like an iron-smith using his hammer etc.

This will be followed by voices of Naga and Baul singers and sounds of Bamboo dancers by Bansi Kaul, a Delhi based theatre director. Bansi has extensive knowledge on folk idioms of India. 

Birju Maharaj and Shovana Narayan’s students will then take the stage for next 15 minutes of the opening ceremony with theme ‘Indian seasons’ which will have 480 artistes divided into six groups of 80 dancers each performing six Indian classical dance forms: Kathak, Bharatanatyam, Kuchipudi, Odissi, Mohiniattam and Manipuri. 

Oscar winner AR Rahman, who is composing the anthem for Commonwealth Games, will also perform in both opening and closing ceremonies. The one-hour opening ceremony will have 9000 artists, dancers and musicians from all walks of life and each corner of India. The closing ceremony will be more about India’s martial art forms. This will include Kerala’s Kalaripayattu, Punjab’s Gatka, Manipuri Thang-ta and Tamil Nadu’s Silambattam. Both ceremonies will be mixed with rural and urban sports and culture of India. 

In total Rs 300 crore will be spent in both the ceremonies. Event will be managed by Wizcraft International Entertainment Private Limited. At the end, fireworks will be performed by Howard and Sons, an Australian firm who were behind the pyrotechnics of Melbourne Games. 

Incidentally, the centerpiece of the 2006 Melbourne Games was 11 minutes allotted to India. The Scots, who will host the next edition in Glasgow, would not get a similar time slot this time.

Looking forward to success of CWG 2010 - Delhi !

Saturday, July 24, 2010

Census on Beggars, Prostitutes & Housewives

In the Census of 2011, wise people of Indian establishment have decided to equate 36 crore housewives (who are also called homemakers) with beggars and prostitutes, highlighting extreme insensitivity of the government to a family and social institution. Likewise I would suggest males and eunuchs also should be clubbed in this list. 

Policy makers feel that household duties like cooking, cleaning of utensils, bearing and then looking after children, fetching water and collecting firewood etc. are economically unproductive. How can anyone serving for more than 12 hours a day without formal payment be an "economic burden to society"? If it was not for housewives, our society (for that matter all societies) would have degraded long ago. We just need to look at societies of the western world and consider their divorce - statistics and the care that the children in their families are getting- we will then understand the value of housewives.

It may appear downgrading to housewives to be put in the company of beggars and prisoners and prostitutes but actually it’s a realistic pointer to the status of women in our male dominated society. 

A woman, who actually enjoys the facility of a prisoner at home, really deserves this status. You go to any lower class family and you can see women begging for few pennies to purchase basic necessities for her home and children. You might have seen many women begging at the God’s feet to grant her a son. Whether it’s a boy or a girl, the credit goes to husband. A woman can bear half a dozen children but her name would be anonymous and a child always takes father’s name. That is why wise people say that ‘beggars can’t be choosers’.

In our whole social system chooser’s responsibility has always been unsurpassed by men. Women have been rightly relieved by this responsibility presumably because they don’t have any capacity to select or choose. It always falls in the male’s dominion. If establishment is a little broad minded it would put men in the category of a brainy animal but did not dare to do so for they could not assess what height this special species would attain in our parliamentary democracy. 

I thank the honorable judges for this sharp observation and reprimanding people who think they are "moving forward" and the rest are "retrograde".

Friday, July 23, 2010

Electronic Waste in India

Where do all our electronics go when we throw them away? This is called E-waste, and it may be a bigger problem than we think. E-waste is a popular, informal name for electronic products nearing the end of their “useful life.” Computers, televisions, VCRs, stereos, copiers, and fax machines are common electronic products.

Unfortunately, electronic discards is one of the fastest growing segments of our nation’s waste stream. Millions of tons of disused electronic equipment containing toxic chemicals and heavy metals are being dumped every year without recycling or safe disposal. On an average more than 80 percent of televisions, computers, mobile phones and other equipment all over the world escape proper handling. E-waste levels are expected to touch 4.7 lakh tonnes by 2011 in India and reach over 2,00,000 workers mostly in the age group of 12-25. 

A United nations report suggests that mountains of hazardous waste from electronic products are growing exponentially in developing countries. The study also points out that India would have 500 percent more e-waste from old computers in 2020 than in 2007, and 18 times more old mobile phones. In a study conducted by Centre for Occupational and Environmental Health at the Maulana Azad Medical College in New Delhi of 250 people working in the city as recyclers and dismantlers over 12 months to October 2009 and almost all suffered from breathing problems such as asthma and bronchitis. 


All workers have 10-20 times higher levels of lead, mercury and chromium in blood and urine samples. Such high levels can have a detrimental effect on the respiratory, urinary and digestive systems, besides crippling immunity and causing cancer. Toxic metals and poisons enter workers' bloodstreams during the laborious manual extraction process and when equipment is crudely treated to collect tiny quantities of precious metals.

Workers also are exposed to fumes of highly concentrated acids as they dip their hands in poisonous chemicals for long hours. The recovery of metals like gold, platinum, copper and lead uses caustic soda and concentrated acids. Safety gear such as gloves, face masks and ventilation fans are virtually unheard of, and workers -- many of them children -- often have little idea of what they are handling. The irony is that the amounts of gold and platinum these children extract are traces - fractions of a milligram. 

Even though the Indian government has proposed a law to regulate e-waste trade, destitute children still face hazards picking apart old computers. The proposed law says only big firms should be in the business of recycling and dismantling. This is not going to work because the informal sector already has a cheap system of collection, disposal or recycling in place -- so people will use that. The sight of children working in appalling conditions taking computers apart is as potent a symbol of India's deep troubles as rag-pickers sorting through stinking household rubbish dumps. 

E-waste (Management and Handling) Rules 2010 can be seen here. We need laws which will protect workers' interests, especially the vulnerable and children.

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

Origin of "Satyameva Jayate"

"Satyameva Jayate" (satyam-eva jayate सत्यमेव जयते) (Sanskrit: "Truth Alone Triumphs") is the national motto of India and is inscribed in Devanagari script at the base of the national emblem, which is an adaptation of the Lion Capital of Asoka at Sarnath, near Varanasi in the north Indian state of Uttar Pradesh.

The source of the motto is a well-known mantra 3.1.6 from the Mundaka Upanishad. Full mantra is as follows:

सत्यमेव जयते नानृतम् सत्येन पन्था विततो देवयानः ।
येनाक्रमत् मनुष्यो ह्यात्मकामो यत्र तत् सत्यस्य परं निधानं ॥


Truth alone triumphs; not falsehood. Through truth the divine path is spread out by which
the sages whose desires have been completely fulfilled, reach where that supreme treasure of Truth resides.