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


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


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


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


    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


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


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


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.