Dec 31, 2009

REFLECTIONS ON THIS BLOG

Only the other day I was talking to one of my close friends and one of the very few* followers of this blog (though it's probably not necessarily for its content that he follows this blog) and he encouraged me to check out if this casual blogging was turning out to be financially rewarding as well. Not expecting anything earth shaking, I checked out my Ad sense account and amazingly, I did have a little bit to my credit, my very first earnings in US Dollars. And it gave me child like pleasure. After all 'Rome was not built in a day'. Let us see if we can improve upon that in the coming year.

This blog is now one year and seven months old. It was launched on 27 May 2008.

This happens to be the forty fourth post.

My profound thanks and gratitude to all readers for their patronage.

And I also take this opportunity to wish all of you a VERY HAPPY AND PROSPEROUS NEW YEAR.

P.S I received this from my brother this morning, thought I would share it with all of you:

Best Wishes for a very happy new year; 2010!

May all your aspirations be met;

May all this happen without sweat;

May you and family thrive;

May you get, whatever for you strive;

May peace prevail;

Your boat of happiness sail;

You be healthy, wealthy and wise;

In your endeavour you rise;

May your 2010 be so far the best;

Better than the best, better than the rest!

* Come on guys, are we going to change that statistic.


Dec 20, 2009

SMS ECONOMY TELEVISION AND INFLATION


Answer a simple question (by SMS) and win a free trip to Singapore........................"
"Poonam Dhillon ko bachane ke liye SMS Karen POD................................."
"Is gaane ko apna caller tune banana ke liye SMS Karen ............................."
Do these sound familiar? I bet they do. It is amazing how so many cable TV channels (each one of them worse than the other*) and shows from the weird to bizarre are flourishing in India. Given the fact that rural India, or most parts of it do not have access to cable or satellite TV. Does proliferation of Cell phones have anything to do with it?
Be it a news channel, a sports channel, music channel or any other TV channel, you have that omnipresent TV presenter / host, trying to persuade you into sending an SMS on some or the other pretext. And mind you, these SMS messages are three to twelve times more expensive than the ordinary ones. Be that as it may, a host of entrepreneurs seem to be making a killing through SMS messaging.
Apart from subscriber to subscriber messaging, stock quotes, Banking services, Cricket / Sports updates, ring tones, caller tunes, jokes, travel services, astrology, ................., (the list is endless)a host of other services are all available through SMS, at a premium of course.
Telecom service providers are laughing all the way to the bank, and TV channels share a substantial part of the revenue for encouraging morons like us to send ridiculous SMS messages.
Doordarshan India in the era of Satellite and Cable Television has become passé. Now we are in the era of soaps, mega soaps, reality shows and talent hunting (Indian Idol and its cousins). A year or two back I did not know what a reality show was. That was till the infamous row between Jade Goody and our very own Shilpa Shetty in the British reality show 'Big Brother'. And now all that I see on the Idiot box, while channel surfing are reality shows.
Let's take a look at the Telecom revolution in India. Just about a couple of decades back, maybe a bit more, the fastest means of communication available to the common man was the Telegram. And the cheapest was the Post Card. Telephones were the exclusive privilege of the high and mighty. It would take a few years and connections at the right places, not to mention greasing of palms of God alone knows how many peons and clerks, to get a new Telephone connection in those times. Liberalisation of the Indian economy post 1991, took care of that. And by mid nineties we had private cellular operators working in select cities. To use a Cellular phone in that era would have made a big hole in one's pocket. Remember, incoming calls were charged at the same rate as outgoing calls, not to mention the astronomical rates. And ten years hence, a paan or a rickshaw wallah has two cell phones. Imagine, in these inflationary times, the cost of usage dropping from Rs 16 to Rs 18 per minute of air time in 1998, to a single paisa per second in 2009. That, for the more mathematically inclined is a drop of more than 96 percent. That is unprecedented and unparalleled negative inflation.
Is there a parallel in Cable TV? Well the number of TV channels has increased from a mere four in 1992 to more than 400 and counting in 2009. Where at one point of time, it was unthinkable that a full time news channel was commercially viable, we have today, not one, but scores of news channels on air. The rates have not crashed like they have in Telephony, but they have not skyrocketed like Dal(Pulses) either.
Coming back to our topic, the Number of TV programmes based on SMS messages for public at large is rising by the day. One forecast predicts that SMS volumes would reach 191.6 billion in India by 2013 and the country would have more than 750 million mobile connections (almost 75 percent penetration assuming a population of a billion). Out of these if only a tiny five percent use SMS for services available every day, at current rates(Re1/- per SMS#) it would mean a turnover of Rs 3.75 Crores per day. And it would be pertinent to point out here that current margins on SMS are more than 70 percent. Aren't these figures mind boggling?
Small wonder then, that there is such a race on for Television programmes and reality shows from weird to bizarre and Top actors including the bollywood shehenshah, Big B himself queuing up to rake in the moolah.
____________________________
* No offence meant to anyone.
# Varies from operator to operator.


Dec 15, 2009

HOW SMALL IS BEAUTIFUL ?

The Telangana controversy has added a fresh dimension to the problems of Insurgency infested India. Including the Maoist insurgency, more or less, half of India is in the grip of Insurgency. Now, demand for smaller states (division of existing states) seems to be emanating from several other corners of the country. Unless, the issue is tackled firmly and quickly, there is the real possibility of the movement for demand of smaller states taking on much bigger proportions and inevitably be followed by armed struggle.

Had the Maoist Insurgency been nipped in the bud, while it was still in its fledgling state, we would not have had to see state apparatus being not only challenged but also being held to ransom at will by Naxalites on numerous occasions in the past year alone. Now this issue with the Government, needs to be put to rest once and for all before the very notion of taking up arms to get their demands met even crops up.

The Armed Forces, largely the Indian Army, along with the Para military forces, have been embroiled in Counter Insurgency operations in the North Eastern states for more than five decades and in J&K for more than two decades. And still there is no end in sight. The Army has so far been kept away from Maoist Insurgency, but unless things take a drastic turn for the better(which seems unlikely) that situation is set to change. It is probably only a matter of time.

On the issue of Telangana, the Union Government is walking on thin ice. If they are not careful, the situation may just get so out of hand, that military intervention in most if not all states of the country would eventually become inevitable. What a catastrophe, that could be, I shudder even to think.................Civil war in the country.

In an earlier piece on this blog, I had delved into the fallacy of our slogan "Unity in Diversity". Here we have a situation where there is no unity even in small states, leave alone the country.

Sep 23, 2009

TWITTER MANIA

I have not understood what all the fuss is about............... Twitter is making headlines in the national media, what with the flamboyant, new kid on the political block, Shashi Tharoor, creating a needless controversy by calling economy class air travel, cattle class. No doubt it is a bit insensitive of him, given the fact that air travel by itself, is kind of a dream for more than 98 percent of Indians. However, Twitter is Mr Tharoor's private space..............and doesn't the Indian constitution guarantee freedom of speech to all Indians.

The tweet itself, was triggered by Pranab da's so called Austerity Drive, that has triggered quite a debate on whether it is required in the first place. However, talking of Twitter. How should anybody be interested in what someone is doing on a minute to minute basis. Who in this day and age has got the time to keep following what Mr Tharoor or for that matter anybody else is doing in real time. Aren't, sms, emails, tele marketing calls, needless spam and what not, enough to fill 24 hour work day. I am at a loss here...............

BTW, all that Mr Tharoor tweeted on ths subject was, "@KanchanGupta absolutely, in cattle class out of solidarity with all our holy cows!"

Yes out of curiousity and since I have a lot of free time these days, I logged in to twitter and went throgh his tweets.

Aug 6, 2009

SWINE FLU DEATH IN PUNE : WHO IS TO BLAME

The first death due to swine flu in the country was reported from Pune a couple of days back. Today my son came back from school much earlier than scheduled with a notice from the Principal, that the school would remain closed till 10 Aug. Apparently, a student from the school was suspected to have contracted the 'dreaded virus.'

Rida Sheikh's death was indeed most unfortunate. In its aftermath, the media is giving all and sundry bloody hell. The hospitals, Doctors, government, health care system, etc. But if we put things in the correct perspective here, without sensationalising the whole issue like mainstream media, what do we have.

Govt of India Press release dated 05 Aug reports a total of 162380 cases worldwide with 1154 deaths (0.71%). In India on the day, there were 596 cases with one death (0.17%). It does appear that the India has dealt with the threat quite well. So far at least. I am not for a moment suggesting that the health care system in our country is top notch, but let's be fair, govt needs to get credit for the handling of the pandemic so far.

In Rida's case (God bless her soul), initial diagnosis was probably wrong. Big Deal. Diagnosis was wrong : well here is the sad truth, 'eighty percent of medical profession is guess work', when it comes to diagnosis. So, at times some guesses are bound to be wrong. If all hospitals were to send every person suffering from common cold or cough or mild fever for an H1N1 test, the whole system for screening and testing put in place by the health ministry would simply collapse. (as is happening in Pune, thanks to Arnab Goswami and company).

Lets look at it from a saner perspective. The WHO on Tuesday maintained that roughly two billion people could become infected with the H1N1 (swine flu) virus, Reuters reports. "By the end of a pandemic, anywhere between 15-45 percent of the population will have been infected by the new pandemic virus," Read full report here. And we are talking about world population here.

That means that swine flu would be as common as the common flu. So, with all due respect, Mr Arnab Goswami and company, what is the entire hullabaloo about???????

Aug 3, 2009

Grand Indian Tamasha

I am not much for watching soaps on the tube, but at times I am forced to watch some of these bores, cuz my better half is watching. No, not only watching, she is even discussing it with me.
So it was, that I saw this tamasha of a fully faltoo Rakhi ka Swayamvar, and got an update from my wife whenever I could not watch.
Well, what can I say, it sure beats me to see the crazy ways in which imagination is running riot in the minds of these producers of reality shows. Each one of these shows beats the other hollow in being rotten! wouldn’t you say. And as for Rakhi, she sure knows that it would be too much for her to succeed in meaningful Cinema, or TV, so why not make a spectacle out of herself.
And if that were not enough, we have a whole bunch of even more faltoo News channels covering this absurd event in Prime time News.
However, I do feel like making a prediction, “before a year of the two cartoons(Rakhi and whatever his name is the guy with a beard which makes him look more like a goat than a man) getting married(if at all) they are sure to get divorced.
I cannot but feel sorry for the generation which has come to this world in the times of Reality TV.

Jun 20, 2009

NON VEG REASON FOR FOOD CRISIS


Once you have finished eating from the periphery of the huge tray, dive right into the middle to finish off the rest. The most savoury portion lies in the middle.

"SUBHAN ALLAH"











May 11, 2009

MERA BHARAT MAHAAN

I remember reading this piece, written by a Pakistani journalist about India a couple of yrs back, but its so good and flattering for all Indians that I want to save it for posterity on my blog for myself and all other readers of this blog. I received it on email from a friend o mine Sudhir Jha recently. Here it is:

 

Here's what is happening in India

The two Ambani brothers can buy 100 percent of every company listed on the Karachi Stock Exchange (KSE) and would still be left with $30 billion to spare. The four richest Indians can buy up all goods and services produced over a year by 169 million Pakistanis and still be left with $60 billion to spare. The four richest Indians are now richer than the forty richest Chinese.

 In November, Bombay Stock Exchange's benchmark Sensex flirted with 20,000 points. As a consequence, Mukesh Ambani's Reliance Industries became a $100 billion company (the entire KSE is capitalized at $65 billion). Mukesh owns 48 percent of Reliance. 

In November, comes Neeta's birthday. Neeta turned forty-four three weeks ago. Look what she got from her husband as her birthday present:

A sixty-million dollar jet with a custom fitted master bedroom, bathroom with mood lighting, a sky bar, entertainment cabins, satellite television, wireless communication and a separate cabin with game consoles. Neeta is Mukesh Ambani's wife, and Mukesh is not India's richest but the second richest. 

Mukesh is now building his new home, Residence Antillia (after a mythical, phantom island somewhere in the Atlantic Ocean). At a cost of $1 billion this would be the most expensive home on the face of the planet. At 173 meters tall Mukesh's new family residence, for a family of six, will be the equivalent of a 60-storeyed building. The first six floors are reserved for parking. The seventh floor is for car servicing and maintenance. The eighth floor houses a mini-theatre. Then there's a health club, a gym and a swimming pool. Two floors are  reserved for Ambani family's guests. Four floors above the guest floors are family floors all with a superb view of the Arabian Sea. On top of everything are three helipads. A staff of 600 is expected to care for the family and their family home. 

In 2004, India became the 3rd most attractive foreign direct investment destination. Pakistan wasn't even in the top 25 countries. In 2004, the United Nations, the representative body of 192 sovereign member states, had requested the Election Commission of India to assist the UN in the holding elections in Al Jumhuriyah al Iraqiyah and Dowlat-e Eslami-ye Afghanestan. Why the Election Commission of India and not the Election Commission of Pakistan? After all, Islamabad is closer to Kabul than is Delhi.

Imagine, 12 percent of all American scientists are of Indian origin; 38 percent of doctors in America are Indian; 36 percent of NASA scientists are Indians; 34 percent of Microsoft employees are Indians; and 28 percent of IBM employees are Indians. 

For the record: Sabeer Bhatia created and founded Hotmail. Sun Microsystems was founded by Vinod Khosla. The Intel Pentium processor, that runs 90 percent of all computers, was fathered by Vinod Dham. Rajiv Gupta co-invented Hewlett Packard's E-speak project. Four out of ten Silicon Valley start-ups are run by Indians. Bolly wood produces 800 movies per year and s ix Indian ladies have won Miss Universe/Miss World titles over the past 10 years.

 For the record: Azim Premji, the richest Muslim entrepreneur on the face of the planet, was born in Bombay and now lives in Bangalore, India now has more than three dozen billionaires; Pakistan has none (not a single dollar billionaire). 

The other amazing aspect is the rapid pace at which India is creating wealth. In 2002, Dhirubhai Ambani, Mukesh and Anil Ambani's father, left his two sons a fortune worth $2.8 billion. In 2007, their combined wealth stood at $94 billion. On 29 October 2007, as a result of the stock market rally and the appreciation of the Indian rupee, Mukesh became the richest person in the world, with net worth climbing to US$63.2 billion (Bill Gates, the richest American, stands at around $56 billion). Indians and Pakistanis have the same Y-chromosome haplogroup. We have the same genetic sequence and the same genetic marker (namely: M124). We have the sam e DNA molecule, the same DNA sequence. Our culture, our traditions and our cuisine are all the same. We watch the same movies and sing the same songs. What is it that Indians have and we don't?

 INDIANS ELECT THEIR LEADERS

 By Dr Farrukh Saleem

12/9/2007

N.B: The authenticity of all the above facts have not been verified. Some of the facts sound a bit far fetched to me.

 

 

     

May 5, 2009

DIVIDE TO RULE

Our history books blame the brits for having used the policy of Divide and Rule. The country has been independent for more than 60 years now, and what have our rulers been practicing?

In independent India on the other hand it is a case of Divide to Rule. The current election campaign has exposed the rot in Indian politics. We had Varun Gandhi in Pilibhit breathing fire against Muslims, the acquittal of the 1984 riots accused politicians, Tytler and Sajjan Kumar on election eve. There is hardly a political party in fact which has not used caste, creed, religion etc to divide the voters. All this just to ensure that the votes of a particular caste or community don’t get divided.

Apr 27, 2009

INDIA STILL A DEVELOPING COUNTRY : HERE IS WHY

An Old Story:

The Ant works hard in the withering heat all summer building its house and laying up supplies for the winter.

The Grasshopper thinks the Ant is a fool and laughs & dances & plays the summer away.

Come winter, the Ant is warm and well fed. The Grasshopper has no food or shelter so he dies out in the cold.

 Indian Version:

 The Ant works hard in the withering heat all summer building its house and laying up supplies for the winter.

 The Grasshopper thinks the Ant's a fool and laughs & dances & plays the summer away.

 Come winter, the shivering Grasshopper calls a press conference and demands to know why the Ant should be allowed to be warm and well fed while others are cold and starving.

 NDTV, BBC, CNN show up to provide pictures of the shivering Grasshopper next to a video of the Ant in his comfortable home with a table filled with food.

 The World is stunned by the sharp contrast. How can this be that this poor Grasshopper is allowed to suffer so?

 Arundhati Roy stages a demonstration in front of the Ant's house.

 Medha Patkar goes on a fast along with other Grasshoppers demanding that Grasshoppers be relocated to warmer climates during winter.

 Mayawati states this as `injustice' done on Minorities.

 Amnesty International and Koffi Annan criticize the Indian Government for not upholding the fundamental rights of the Grasshopper.

 The Internet is flooded with online petitions seeking support to the Grasshopper (many promising Heaven and Everlasting Peace for prompt support as against the wrath of God for non-compliance) .

 Opposition MPs stage a walkout. Left parties call for 'Bengal Bandh' in West Bengal and Kerala demanding a Judicial Enquiry.

 CPM in Kerala immediately passes a law preventing Ants from working hard in the heat so as to bring about equality of poverty among Ants and Grasshoppers.

 Lalu Prasad allocates one free coach to Grasshoppers on all Indian Railway Trains, aptly named the 'Grasshopper Rath'.

 Finally, the Judicial Committee drafts the ' Prevention of Terrorism Against Grasshoppers Act' [POTAGA], with effect from the beginning of the winter.

 Arjun Singh makes 'Special Reservation ' for Grasshoppers in Educational Institutions & in Government Services.

 The Ant is fined for failing to comply with POTAGA and having nothing left to pay his retroactive taxes,it's home is confiscated by the Government and handed over to the Grasshopper in a ceremony covered by NDTV.

 Arundhati Roy calls it ' A Triumph of Justice'.

 Lalu calls it 'Socialistic Justice '.

 CPM calls it the ' Revolutionary Resurgence of the Downtrodden '

 Koffi Annan invites the Grasshopper to address the UN General Assembly.

  
 

Many years later....

  
 

The Ant has since migrated to the US and set up a multi-billion dollar company in Silicon Valley,

 100s of Grasshoppers still die of starvation despite reservation somewhere in India,

 ......AND

 As a result of losing lot of hard working Ants and feeding the grasshoppers,

.

India is still a developing country…!!!

Courtesy: Basudev Mitra 

Mar 17, 2009

NEXT GEN CAR

Take a look at a few snaps of the next generation cars.



N
No Steering wheel. Cool eh! I am sure our children will love these cars. Like Video games.

Courtesy: Col(Retd)Basudev Mitra



Mar 9, 2009

A TRUELY WIN – WIN STORY

I have been on a sabbatical for quite a while now. Only excuse I can offer for it is that I have a lot of other things on my mind. But this morning I received this story from a good friend of mine Basudeb Mitra. I have to share it with all the readers for it is appealing, motivating and touching at the same time.

At a fundraising dinner for a school that serves learning-disabled children, the father of one of the students delivered a speech that would never be forgotten by all who attended. After extolling the school and its dedicated staff, he offered a question: 'When not interfered with by outside influences, everything nature does is done with perfection. Yet my son, Shay, cannot learn things as other children do. He cannot understand things as other children do; where is the natural order of things in my son?' The audience was stilled by the query.

The father continued. 'I believe that when a child like Shay, physically and mentally handicapped comes into the world, an opportunity to realize true human nature presents itself, and it comes in the way other people treat that child.'

Then he told the following story:

Shay and his father had walked past a park where some boys Shay knew were playing baseball. Shay asked, 'Do you think they'll let me play?'

Shay's father knew that most of the boys would not want someone like Shay on their team, but the father also understood that if his son were allowed to play, it would give him a much-needed sense of belonging and some confidence to be accepted by others in spite of his handicaps.

Shay's father approached one of the boys on the field and asked (not expecting much) if Shay could play. The boy looked around for guidance and said, 'We're losing by six runs and the game is in the eighth inning. I guess he can be on our team and we'll try to put him in to bat in the ninth inning.'

Shay struggled over to the team's bench and, with a broad smile, put on a team shirt. His Father watched with a small tear in his eye and warmth in his heart. The boys saw the father's joy at his son being accepted. In the bottom of the eighth inning, Shay's team scored a few runs but was still behind by three. In the top of the ninth inning, Shay put on a glove and played in the right field. Even though no hits came his way, he was obviously ecstatic just to be in the game and on the field, grinning from ear to ear as his father waved to him from the stands. In the bottom of the ninth inning, Shay's team scored again. Now, with two outs and the bases loaded, the potential winning run was on base and Shay was scheduled to be next at bat.

At this juncture, do they let Shay bat and give away their chance to win the game? Surprisingly, Shay was given the bat. Everyone knew that a hit was all but impossible because Shay didn't even know how to hold the bat properly, much less connect with the ball.

However, as Shay stepped up to the plate, the pitcher, recognizing that the other team was putting winning aside for this moment in Shay's life, moved in a few steps to lob the ball in softly so Shay could at least make contact. The first pitch came and Shay swung clumsily and missed. The pitcher again took a few steps forward to toss the ball softly towards Shay. As the pitch came in, Shay swung at the ball and hit a slow ground ball right back to the pitcher.


 

The game would now be over. The pitcher picked up the soft grounder and could have easily thrown the ball to the first baseman. Shay would have been out and that would have been the end of the game.

Instead, the pitcher threw the ball right over the first base man's head, out of reach of all team mates. Everyone from the stands and both teams started yelling, 'Shay, run to first! Run to first!' Never in his life had Shay ever run that far, but he made it to first base.

He scampered down the baseline, wide-eyed and startled.

Everyone yelled, 'Run to second, run to second!' Catching his breath, Shay awkwardly ran towards second, gleaming and struggling to make it to the base. By the time Shay rounded towards second base, the right fielder had the ball. The smallest guy on their team who now had his first chance to be the hero for his team. He could have thrown the ball to the second-baseman for the tag, but he understood the pitchers intentions so he, too, intentionally threw the ball high and far over the third-base man's head. Shay ran toward third base deliriously as the runners ahead of him circled the bases toward home.

All were screaming, 'Shay, Shay, Shay, all the Way Shay'

Shay reached third base because the opposing shortstop ran to help him by turning him in the direction of third base, and shouted, 'Run to third! Shay; run to third!'

As Shay rounded third, the boys from both teams, and the spectators, were on their feet screaming, 'Shay, run home! Run home!' Shay ran to home, stepped on the plate, and was cheered as the hero who hit the grand slam and won the game for his team.

'That day', said the father softly with tears now rolling down his face, 'the boys from both teams helped bring a piece of true love and humanity into this world'.

Shay didn't make it to another summer. He died that winter, having never forgotten being the hero and making his father so happy, and coming home and seeing his Mother tearfully embrace her little hero of the day!

Have a Shay day.

Feb 21, 2009

Pakistan and China: A Fraying Friendship?

The news of China and the Jamaat e Islami having signed a formal agreement, which should have all Indians worried, almost coincides with another piece in Time, parts of which should be music to our ears. Certain salient paragraphs are reproduced below.

However, with Pakistan's security situation growing increasingly volatile and economic conditions turning dire, there may be a turn in tide between these once intimate friends (China and Pakistan). "The situation is much different now than once upon a time," says William Kirby, T. M. Chang Professor of China Studies at Harvard University. "India has emerged as a much more powerful force in the region and Pakistan has not succeeded in the way that hopeful and loyal supporters had once imagined. It is now one of the great security risks in the region."(Emphasis mine)

Instead of increasing assistance to its old ally, Beijing has apparently been keeping a distance from Islamabad. During Zardari's visit in October, the Chinese snubbed the Pakistani President's request for a full-blown economic bailout. 

"The cooperation we saw during the Musharraf era just isn't there anymore," says Sayem Ali, an economist with Standard Chartered Bank in Karachi. "China would rather develop better relations with India and the U.S., which is not great news for Pakistan because it has always relied on China's help."   

We are now looking at a situation where China and India are on their way to becoming global powers(Emphasis mine) and Pakistan is really in a position of endemic crisis," says Kirby. "China can longer afford to make any unconditional guarantees — particularly where Pakistan is concerned.  

Pakistan’s ceasefire agreement with the Taliban in SWAT valley is certain to raise eyebrows globally. In all probability, the full import of this development has not sunk in fully across global powers. Neither is the Taliban likely to be satisfied with its control of the SWAT in NW Pakistan. The agreement would surely have come as a huge shot in the arm to them and it’s only a matter of time before they start looking to expand their influence to other parts of Pakistan. And that for Pakistan would be a step towards Anarchy, which surely is neither in India’s or the world’s interest.

Isn’t it about time the UN woke up from its somnolent inactivity towards Pakistan and intervened?

There was never a better time for India to seek to improve relations with the Red Giant. In times to come, China is sure to be a force to reckon with both economically and militarily. Unfortunately for us, with elections round the corner, our leaders are way too busy trying to woo their vote banks.

Hope this opportunity does not pass us by.

Feb 18, 2009

DEFENCE MINISTRY SURRENDERS 7000 Cr

In my last post I brought out the adverse effects bureaucratic procedures were having on the modernisation plans of Indian Armed Forces. Here are some excerpts from a news item in Times of India.

  • A day after the interim budget disclosed the defence ministry had failed to spend as much as Rs 7,007 crore from last fiscal's capital outlay. The Defence Acquisitions Council, chaired by defence minister A K Antony ..... gave the green signal to procurements of offshore patrol vessels, fast-attack craft and radars for both Coast Guard and Navy in a step towards bolstering coastal security. 
  • Despite the 26/11 terror attacks and their aftermath exposing huge gaps in the operational capabilities of armed forces, the defence ministry is yet to get its act together as far as removing bureaucratic red-tape (emphasis added) and formulating long-term strategic plans is concerned. 
  • The defence ministry has surrendered well over Rs 20,000 crore capital outlay funds in the last five years, which are basically meant for acquiring new weapon systems and platforms. (No prizes for guessing why)
  • Of the Rs 1,41,703 crore defence outlay in the 2009-10 interim budget, a 34.18% hike over last year's Rs 1,05,600 crore allocation, the capital component stands at a healthy Rs 54,824 crore. But unless the government takes urgent steps, the recurring ghost of unspent funds will continue to haunt the armed forces(emphasis added)

The last bullet sums up the inefficiency of our bureaucratic system and red tape. And let us not get fooled into believing that giving the green signal to procurements, means that things are about to change any time soon. It can take up to three years or more for forces to get equipped with newly acquired hardware, post the so called green signal. Such are our systems.

Read the full piece here.

NEGLECT OF THE ARMED FORCES

The Mumbai carnage brought once again to sharp focus, the criticality of having a potent defence establishment in the country. Nobody for a moment has or is suggesting that the Indian Armed Forces are not up to the mark. Indeed we do have a first rate Army, an Air Force which is much more than a match for our western adversaries and last but not the least a Navy which is a force to reckon with in the sub continent. There are nevertheless indications to suggest that a lot more needs to be done to give ourselves the teeth to be able to act as a deterrent, not only to Pakistan’s war plans if any, but also to their strategy of proxy war. Over the last few decades Pakistan has in fact mastered this strategy of bleeding India with a thousand cuts and more.

For the armed forces of any country to be potent, they require competent personnel and state of the art military hardware. The Indian Armed Forces are unfortunately, challenged on both fronts. The intake of officers in the Armed Forces has been suffering for a long time, especially post the economic liberalization since the nineties. While on the one hand our military challenges are mounting, the number of personnel volunteering to stand up and defend the nation is dwindling. We have it here from the Army Chief himself.

"The armed forces have, after a study, come to the conclusion that the army is not too attractive as a career for a young man, who is looking for employment...for good productive life," Kapoor said in an interview.

                                                                                                -General Deepak Kapoor.

Well, it hardly required a study to be conducted to come to this conclusion. We have to accept that we are well past the day and age when we could expect, the cream of the country to join the defence forces. To make matters worse, more and more officers are queuing up to quit service due to dissatisfaction or better prospects outside. Maybe if the current recession continues for a reasonably long period, the better lot might be forced to choose this as an option.  In order to attract able young men in numbers required, not only do we have to make the services more attractive monetarily but also improve service conditions considerably. Developments like veteran soldiers returning their medals to the President, or the government not paying timely heed to the services demand to address anomalies of pay commission, do not auger well for the morale of the forces.

The other area of grave concern is the modernization of the forces. Regular increase in budgetary allocation for defence notwithstanding, the Indian Armed Forces are far from being the lean and thin fighting machine that they ought to be. The forces in fact are plagued with an acute shortage of critical hardware. A case in point is the deficiency of Air Defence equipment. To quote the Directorate General of Air Defence.

“Air Defence capabilities are hollow. Ninety seven per cent of its equipment is approaching obsolescence.”

The Navy and the Air Force are also plagued with similar criticalities. The CAG has pointed out the gaping holes in critical defence areas, including the fast dwindling strength of Naval submarines. What is causing these criticalities? Is it lack of budgetary support? Is it lack of political will or is it lack of long term vision. While all these factors are responsible, the greatest hurdle seems to be the Bureaucrac,y one of the worst legacies of the British. Our procedures are archaic and slow. It is most unfortunate that even six decades post independence, we have not been able to streamline our procedures in tune with the need of the of the times. All plans of modernization of the defence forces therefore have been lying quagmired in bureaucracy and red tape for ages. And finally when these plans do see the light of day, they are on the threshold of becoming obsolescent. The rot has to be seen to be believed. The defence minister himself stated that there is a need to address red tapism. We can scarcely blame the Brits for having left us with this legacy. We have to blame ourselves for having failed to put in place fresh procedures more in keeping with the times.

The extremely short tenures of senior military commanders is not helping matters either. The tenure of a service chief is seldom more than two years and that of senior field force commanders barely over a year. Implementation of the AVSC report, has further reduced tenures of senior commanders. Jack Welch, the erstwhile CEO of General Electric, was at the helm of affairs of his company for two decades. That is the kind of time that one requires to transform an organization and optimize efficiency. Conception to fruition cycle is a long and tedious one. How can an organization progress, if the very direction of progress changes course every alternate year?  

It is obvious that we have not learnt our lessons from the 62 debacle or the Kargil conflict. The Kargil Committee Report has been left to gather dust and is yet to be acted upon even a decade hence. Lack of long term vision, tendency of the government to accord priority to populist measures required to retain Power at the centre rather than address the more important issues of national security have taken a toll on our defence preparedness.

These are dangerous times that we live in today. With the Taliban threatening to take over Pakistan, having taken over SWAT valley in NW Pakistan already, the threat from our western quarters is getting closer. The spectre of war will always be looming large over the horizon in times to come. It would be foolhardy to believe that the international community would bail us out of a situation, like it did during the Kargil conflict. War is going to be at our doorsteps without much warning, and we will hardly have time to prepare ourselves at the eleventh hour.

Will the powers that be, come out of their somnolent inactivity, for some serious soul searching and act before it is too late.

WE NEGLECT OUR MILITARY AT OUR OWN PERIL.

Feb 12, 2009

PAKISTAN :GUILTY AS CHARGED

Well, well, well! Look what we have here. An admission of complicity, if only partial, in the Mumbai carnage from Pakistan.

Well that is some diplomatic coup for the Indian establishment. One can be sure that this admission from Pakistan did not come easy. It is in fact a result of sustained effort, persuasion, diplomatic efforts, posturing at the highest levels…………………………sam, dam, dand, bhed not only by India but almost the entire International community. In particular, pressure from countries like the USA, UK, France etc. is what has resulted in this admission. And mind you, it must be at the cost of incurring the wrath of all the fundamentalist elements in Pakistan that this admission has come.

A sense of despondency was already beginning to set in to the Indian psyche. Nevertheless, better late than never. Faced with the dismal prospect of being ostracised from the international community especially the western world, Pakistan which is at the very edge of financial collapse, should aid from the World Bank not be forthcoming, had very little choice. However it would not have been surprising if the Pakistani establishment had chosen to defy the world and stick to its erstwhile stand. Fanaticism after all runs deep not only in the Pakistani populace, but also in the Pakistani establishment.

Credit in fact is due to the Pakistan government for having made this landmark admission given the kind of pressures that the government must have faced from the multiple centres of power in the country.

Let's all hope that this heralds the turning of a new leaf in Indo – Pak relations, which would favour both countries. However, given its past track record, I would be very surprised if this turned out to be a real change of heart. In all probability, Pakistan has been forced to make this admission, but it won't be long before they fall back to their old ways and its business as usual for the Jehadis and Taliban being nurtured in the country. History of the sub continent tells us that India alone cannot exert the kind of pressure on Pakistan, that is required to keep the rogue elements in check. The onus now, lies squarely on the International community, to keep the pressure up, and ensure cleansing of this rogue state. Any let up on this account would only be, at their own peril.

For more on BBC : http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/south_asia/7885261.stm

Feb 10, 2009

SHOCKER IN THE CRICKET STADIUM

It was a convincing series win for India in Sri Lanka. Cricket is not by a long way my favourite sport, and I did point that out in my earlier post 'Cricket and the Olympic medal.' But for good or for bad, Cricket in India, is a national pastime. So how can I keep myself completely cut off from the national mainstream? And to be honest the 20-20 format of the game is fun to watch. And today's match against Sri Lanka was indeed a cracker. I don't remember the last time the Indians put up such a spectacular show, winning a series so convincingly, especially on foreign soil.

My heartiest congratulations to the 'Men in Blue' for a most convincing victory in the series. Full marks to the Pathan brothers in particular for having played a cameo role in today's dramatic win.

However I was shocked to see the flamboyant Yuvraj Singh come out to the field to receive prizes(surely he knew he was due to get a few prizes) that he probably richly deserves, in shorts………………………………… and more shockingly bathroom slippers.

Come on man! Grow up. The country is watching you. You think you are Cool. I think you are a Fool.

Feb 1, 2009

KUDOS TO MAHESH AND SANIA

Our heartiest congratulations to Mahesh Bhupathi and Sania Mirza for having done all Indians proud by winning the Australian Open Mixed doubles title. It was a first grand slam victory for Sania. And its after a long long time that an all Indian pair has gone out and won us a Grand Slam title. Ever since the highly successful duo of Mahesh and Leander broke up, we had all but given up hope of any tennis victory featuring an all Indian team.

What makes this victory even more sweet is the fact that the Indian duo were actually given a wild card entry into the event. In the men's section both Mahesh and Leander have been highly successful and highly ranked doubles players. In his previous six mixed doubles Grtand Slam titles, Mahesh has paired with the likes of Martina Hingis, Mary Pierce, Daniela Hantuchova, Elena Likhovtseva etc. These are some of the top names in women's tennis. It would therefore not have been too difficult for Mahesh to have found a more illustrious or higher ranked partner. Therefore, Mahesh needs to be complemented for having chosen Sania as his partner making it an all Indian pair.

Mahesh and Leander, ever coming back together as a team seems almost out of question, we must therefore hope and pray that this partnership with Sania achieves even greater glory and scales even greater heights than Mahesh and Leander ever did. One cannot but wonder, what Mahesh and Leander, the man with lightning fast reflexes, could have done together, had they not chosen to part ways. They would possibly have been in the same league as the legendary 'Woodies' of Australia.

All the best Sania and Mahesh. Keep up the good work and may you go from strength to strength from here on.

And before I sign off, heartiest Congratulations to the Delhi lad Yuki Bhambri for his triumph in the junior event. All the very best to Yuki for a bright future.

I watched the Indian duo's progress in the tournament and wondered what the Taliban and the Mullahs would have to say to the end of the match hugs and kisses that Sania was sharing with her male partner and fellow competitors, not to mention the short skirts. Thank God there is no Fatwa against her. Or is there?

Jan 31, 2009

Pir Panjal Ranges



In the foothills of the Himalayas, Pir Panjal ranges separate the valley of Kashmir from the plains of Jammu. Here are a couple of photographs that I clicked with my cell Phone through the window of an aircraft recently.
It was a breathtaking view of the mountains tearing themselves out of the clouds reaching for the limitless skies.

Jan 27, 2009

ARMY WELFARE ???? HOUSING ORGANISATION

           Never a fan of AWWA and AWHO, I chanced upon this post in another Blog. Excerpts are appended:- 

Quote:

Meanwhile, a friend sent me an email that highlights the inconsistencies with the Army Welfare Housing Organisation. The originator of the email, it seems, is none other than the former Major General VK Singh who was targeted by the government for bringing out the misdeeds in the R&AW.

After having spent 37 years, I am not very comfortable writing this. As a rule, we don’t criticize our own profession, or anything connected with it. That is the credo of the soldier, which sets him apart from others. But now that the Army has disowned the AWHO – yes disowned is the right word - I think it is time to speak out.

The AWHO was created in 1978, with the avowed aim of providing houses to Army personnel at low cost. The scheme, when it began, was modeled on a scheme that existed in the Pakistan Army, wherein a fixed sum of money was deducted from the salary of a soldier, so that he could be given a house when he retired. The AWHO was formed with a similar scheme in mind, called the long term scheme. I still remember the thrill we felt when the scheme was announced by the COAS on Army day. I was posted in HAA and heard the news on my transistor. Most officers and men joined the scheme and amounts varying form Rs 50 to Rs 200 began to be deducted from their salaries. To cater to those who had between 5-10 years service left, there was also a short term scheme, where the contributions were higher.  This continued for a few years. Then, to help those who had just one or two years service left, the spot scheme was started. Later, the long and short term schemes were scrapped, and only the spot scheme survived. The AWHO became like the DDA, or any of the State Housing Boards. (I have often wondered why they still have the ‘W’, since there is no welfare now. The Air Force and Naval Housing Boards don’t profess to be welfare organisations, through they are more transparent).

According to its charter, as given on its web site (www.awhosena.org), the AWHO functions on ‘No Profit No Loss’ basis. However, this is not entirely true. Sadly, the AWHO has become a den of corruption and is fleecing soldiers – harsh words, but true - who are naïve and have little time to go into details. Those who try run into a wall.

The AWHO and Right to Information Act
·                     Attempts by members to get any information are stone walled by the AWHO which contends that it is not covered by the RTI Act since it is a ‘private society’, registered under the Societies Registration Act XXI of 1860. (This is laughable. The AWHO is located in Army accommodation in Kashmir House, alongside the E-in-C’s Branch of Army HQ; it has many serving personnel posted or attached to it; it is run by an executive committee of which the Adjutant General is the ex –officio chairman).
·                     In a hearing held on 10/10/08 on an appeal filed by Maj Gen VK Singh, the CIC accepted the plea of the AWHO that it is a private society registered with the Registrar of Societies Delhi. In support of their arguments, AWHO submitted a statement of the MoS, Defence, Shri Arun Singh before the Lok Sabha. The Minister had stated:- “As far as the first part of the question is concerned, no, it is not part of the Government. It is a society registered under the Societies Act. Regarding the second part of the question, the full time Chairman and all the members of the board of management are ex-offcio. There is no individual as such as Chairman. The Chairmanship rotates as postings are changed. As far as meeting of the general body is concerned, in this particular society, as registered under the Societies Act, there is no such thing as the general body. It is the board of management that runs the society. There the members meet regularly, once year minimum. And as far as complaints are concerned, we are not a in a position to intervene in their functioning directly. We do, however, if there are any complaints, pass on the same to the society.”

End Quote

Read the entire post at http://pragmatic.nationalinterest.in/2009/01/24/where-is-welfare-in-awwa-awho/                     

Jan 25, 2009

COMMENTS ON SLUMDOG…IN BIG B’s BLOG

I am not an avid TV viewer, though at times I do watch the news headlines or a debate or two on one of the channels, in particular Times Now with Arnab as the anchor. Particularly now, that there is some superlative tennis on show from Australia, my TV time is devoted primarily towards Melbourne. However the other day, I happened to hear about Amitabh's comments on his blog, on 'Slumdog Millionaire'. And from whom? Mr Kabir Bedi. I remember quite clearly Mr Bedi having mentioned that he found the Big B's comments extremely petty. And also that the very debate on show, "Are we touchy about showing poverty?" was triggered by Amitabh's comments on his blog.

Naturally, it made me wonder, if it was remorse in the Big B, remorse due to the fact that he, himself, despite his larger than life image in India, never got the kind of recognition and acclaim internationally, that SM and a bunch of amateur actors like Dev Patel were beginning to enjoy.

So I did some research, or in fact my curiosity took me to the Big B's blog to see for myself what the sexagenarian celebrity had written there. And I have to admit, that it's the media which is to blame for the entire hullaballoo, as I could not find anything offensive in the blog at all. In fact the reaction of the media must have obviously pained the man. All that Amitabh has said, in his blog is a reaction to other people's comments. Read for yourself, there is nothing offensive in the blog, not against Danny Boyle, not against Anil Kapoor and surely not against the movie itself.

"On blog, comments for the film 'SlumDog Millionaire' and the anger by some on its contents, prompt me to say the above. If SM projects India as Third World dirty under belly developing nation and causes pain and disgust among nationalists and patriots, let it be known that a murky under belly exists and thrives even in the most developed nations. Its just that the SM idea authored by an Indian and conceived and cinematically put together by a Westerner, gets creative Globe recognition. The other would perhaps not."

Read the full post at http://bigb.bigadda.com/page/5/

    The worst part is that the debate was not on Amitabh's comments, nobody asked Mr Bedi what he thought of comments on any blog……………..

I am very sorry Mr Bedi, I never thought much of you, but you just fell a further four notches in my eyes.

But thanks very much for having prompted me to read the Blog in question, its actually quite nice.

Jan 21, 2009

HAIL ! THE NEW PRESIDENT

    The World was witness to the much anticipated change of guard at the White House yesterday, amidst an ostentatious display of pomp, glitter and ceremony, the likes of which has not been witnessed before. However the cool composed, charismatic and relatively young black American who has charmed his way into people's hearts the world over, has a handful awaiting him, both domestically and internationally. During the ceremony, President Obama looked cool, composed, supremely confident and charming. In short, he was his usual self. And he finished off the swearing ceremony with a flourish : an outstanding speech, full of hope and promise. And finally, music, song and dance through the night. Though it appears to me that the speech had certain serious omissions like a mention of how he planned extricate the country from its current economic mess and a specific comment on the War in Afghanistan, which has claimed the lives of hundreds of American soldiers. …………But to be fair to him, news of his new policies on Pakistan, and in particular their responsibilities against terror outfit on the Afghan border are beginning to trickle in, as I write this piece.

    Never before in history has America, or for that matter the entire world awaited an event with such high expectations, anticipation and probably hope. However the challenges that confront the President are daunting to say the least. A recession of a kind the world has not witnessed since the great Depression, the spectre of terrorism always looming large for America, the American Army being embroiled in an endless struggle in Iraq and Afghanistan etc. Not to mention of course that one of America's greatest enemies 'Osama' is still at large.

    History will not judge President Obama by the opulent vibrancy of the Presidential Inauguration but by the results of his Presidency. The American people did not judge Obama by the color of his skin but by the content of his character. Thus bringing the nation closer to realizing Dr King's utopian dream. What a moment it would have been for Dr Martin Luther King to see Obama, assume the greatest office, which not only America, but the World has to offer. I sincerely hope he was watching the day's proceedings from his heavenly abode. The 44th President however, may be the leader of his people today, but today is irrelevant compared to where America ends up tomorrow and in the years ahead. And Mr Obama might have just four years to live up to the unprecedented hope and expectations of the American people.

    Can he do it? Can he once and for all prove to the World that color, creed or race, and competence are mutually exclusive? We certainly hope so. Let's hope, pray and wish The President all the very best. May the almighty bless him with the strength and wisdom to make his country and the entire world a safer, better and more peaceful place to live in.

    God be with you, Mr President.

Jan 14, 2009

INDIA UNCOVERED

The immense popularity and media hype following the success of the two recent works related to India, namely Arvind Adiga's ‘The White Tiger’ and Danny Boyle's ‘Slumdog Millionaire’ have brought to sharp focus the gory details of the foul smelling underbelly of India's modern façade. Post the rapid development in the last two decades, lest we should revel in the apparent prosperity that has pervaded both rural and urban India, these two works bring us face to face with reality. Not that the underbelly was any different earlier, but the façade surely has been transformed. I wonder if that is the reason(the true to life depiction of India) for their international acclaim and recognition.

As Arvind Adiga puts it things are different in ‘The Darkness’, “There, every morning, tens of thousands of young men sit in the tea shops, reading the newspaper ... They have no job to do today. They know they won't get any job today. They've given up the fight." Through his richly detailed story telling, Adiga captivates the reader by depicting Balram Halwai’s struggling family life in “The Darkness”, in the teashops of Mafia controlled Dhanbad, as the driver for a wealthy family in Gurgaon till he finally kills his master and sets himself free. Free from oppression, free from bonds to his struggling family and his obligations to them and free to set up shop on his own at Bangalore. Through this journey of the rarest of the rare(that is what a white tiger is) ‘Balram Halwai’, Adiga depicts the modern Indian dilemma as unique. Family loyalties and a caste and class ridden culture of servitude, clash with the unfulfilled promises of freedom and democracy. Throughout the book one never loses sight of the intense struggle of the ordinary men and women fighting impossible odds to survive.

‘Slumdog Millionaire’ on the other hand exposes the numerous ills that plague Aamchi Mumbai and India. From the torture chamber of Mumbai Police, the petty criminals who maim and blind children deliberately, forcing them on the streets as beggars, to gangsters of the underworld whose tentacles spread from child prostitution, drug trafficking and contract killing. The music in the film is refreshing, if at times the gore is overpoweringly repulsive.  

If one has landed at Mumbai’s Chatrapati Shivaji Airport, one has probably seen from the air, the very slums which are the scene of action for a large part of the movie. But I can bet many of us have not actually been inside the slums. It’s sad that it takes a foreigner to bring us face to face with the stark realities of our apparently glittering metropolis.

I hope this break through movie will bring light to the living atrocities and in some way help the people that live in our slums.

‘Slumdog Millionaire’ hits theatres in India on 23 Jan 2009.

Jan 8, 2009

AWARD WINNING PHOTOGRAPH

This has to be one of the best pictures that one is likely to see .............. ever.
NOTICE CAMELS  first & then read the message below. And finally if required click the image to enlarge :

 

This is a picture taken directly above these camels in the desert at sunset.  It is considered one of the best pictures of the year.  Look closely, the camels are the little white lines in the picture.  The black you see are just the shadows!!
Courtesy : My classmate from school Gyanjit Mandal and National Geographic.

Jan 6, 2009

WAR AGAINST TERROR: THE DIPLOMATIC WAY

And finally India hands over Mumbai evidence to Pakistan.  We have been accusing Pakistan of sponsoring terrorism in India for decades, but never has evidence been handed over to them with such fanfare. Given the fact that Pakistan has been crying their throats hoarse for evidence of their complicity in the Mumbai carnage, to be handed over to them, what is the reaction of Pakistan going to be this time? Is Pakistan to go into denial mode yet again? Surely it would love to do that, but is it any different from the numerous other similar occasions in the past? We certainly hope it is.

Well, things do look a lot different this time. As one of the commentators so succinctly put it, three things went wrong for Pakistan on this particular occasion:-

(a)    Amongst other foreign nationals who got killed, there were American citizens too.

(b)   One of the terrorists, Kasab was captured alive. Surely, he was expected either to get killed or to disappear.

(c)    Indian armed forces did not reciprocate to the unilateral mobilization of Pakistan Army, post 26/11.

Is the evidence handed over, sufficient to nail Pakistan into accepting alleged involvement of Pakistan nationals, if not the Pakistani state? From what can be gathered, the evidence comprises primarily of the following:-

(a)    Kasab’s confession.

(b)   Transcripts of satellite phone conversations between the terrorists and their handlers in Pakistan.

(c)    Details about weapons and other articles recovered from the terrorists. 

In all probability, Pakistan this time, would argue that the evidence was not admissible in a court of law, particularly a Pakistani court of law. Laws do differ from country to country and their interpretation is subject to being twisted and turned to suit one’s convenience. And so, I am certain that Pakistan would do just that to get out of the hole that they find themselves in today. After all accepting the Indian evidence would be a huge embarrassment. It would be easy for them to claim that Kasab’s confession could have been made under duress. Phone taps were doctored. And the weapons came from China, not Pakistan.

So it really boils down to international pressure, particularly from the US and UK as they directly or indirectly control the purse strings that Pakistan is in desperate need of. Americans are known to be self centred. So, is it in their interest to push Pakistan, and if yes to what extent? The irony is that the US is fighting its global war on terror from the very fountainhead of terrorism. And who equipped the Pakis to become that fountainhead? U……….. S…….. of A……….  Fortunately for India though, for a change this time, Pakistan’s key ally over the years, is apparently on India’s side this time.

There is a very important lesson here for all nation states. In Hindi there is a saying, “jo doosron ke liye gaddha khodta hai wo khud usme gir jaata hai”. India is supposed to have trained the Tamil Tigers, who later gave the Indian forces a bloody nose in battle. USA sponsored and equipped the Mujahedeen in Afghanistan, who later gave birth to Al Qaeda and perpetrated the barbaric 9/11. ISI has been sponsoring terror for decades. Will 26/11 teach them the lesson that should have been learnt from Aesop’s fables or the Panchtantra tales? Is India on the threshold of its greatest diplomatic achievement ever? We can only wait and watch.

 WISH ALL THE READERS A VERY HAPPY PROSPEROUS AND PEACEFUL 2009.