in deep existential crisis..

A Journal by Sara

Yashwant Sinha – Indian General Elections 2009

Oh! What an interview! One of the best I have read in the last few weeks, check this out!  Yashwant Sinha at his best here.

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May 12, 2009 Posted by | Economics, India, Indian General Elections 2009, Infra Structure, Issues | Leave a comment

PM says Mumbai will turn a global city

 

Manmohan Singh, for much of the hype to his stature, is no wonder slowly learning the art of politics as a toddler. I came across this piece in Rediff, MMS saying “We have invested in creating world-class public transport in Mumbai.”We want to build world-class infrastructure to make Mumbai a truly world-class city” in the wake of election ’09 campaign.

He added further, “We will build Mumbai into a truly global city. It is at that dream that the terrorists struck (but) they will never succeed but Mumbai will,” Noting that those living in Mumbai are concerned about the quality of urban life, Singh said, “Our government has launched the Urban Renewable Mission with a special focus on improving the quality of life of those who live in slums.”

PM says they have high hopes of building a truly global city out of Mumbai if they are voted to power, but they said the same, to be specific, said the same in his 2004 election speech for much applause. “When we talk of a resurgent Asia, people think of the great changes that have come about in Shanghai. I share the aspiration to transform Mumbai in the next five years in such a manner that people would forget about Shanghai and Mumbai will become a talking point,” the prime minister said in 2005. Links to his speech here (the entire article itself is worth a read)

Prime Minister, has definitely kept his words, when he said “People would forget Shanghai and Mumbai will become a (s)talking point”. Especially with dozens of events like 26/11 and other massacres. You have to read between the lines to understand a supreme intellect like our PM. Between, Did I miss a point?

Has Mumbai now changed into Shanghai?

Tell me if you know!

April 13, 2009 Posted by | Indian General Elections 2009, Infra Structure, Issues, Policy/Strategies, Politics | Leave a comment

Akamai’s Rankings of Internet Broadband Speeds and Penetration

Uhmm, I stumbled upon this piece in Rediff about the top internet speeds across the world. The list crowns South Korea as the leader of the pack with the average connection speed of 15Mbps. Bro, it is 15 Mbps, arghhh! How dumb I am all along, I never thought the connections existed beyond top speed of 5Mbps in any part of the world. But, here not even the top speed, but it is the average speed that South Korean government is dishing out to its citizens. Oh my God! A HD movie which could be downloaded in say 10 minutes, a torrent worth a huge video file in 15 minutes, a HD webcam transmitting without having to pause for ages and I can dream on for tons of possibilities. Bull crap, we might think, but in fact it is accessible just somewhere in this part of the globe. And the countries which are proud leaders in this segment are taking initiatives to bring even higher speed connectivity, including Fiber-to-the-home (FTTH). Also, mind you, the average connection speed of the globe is 1.5 Mbps.

South Korea is also ranked first in terms of higher broadband connectivity with its majority of the subscribers (69%) getting at least minimum speed above 5Mbps. But, it is understandable the success of the broadband penetration given the relatively smaller and highly denser population of South Korea.

Who else? Japan ranks second with 54% connections above 7 Mbps, Hong Kong at third with almost similar average speed of Japan, Romania fourth with 5.7 Mbps joining closely with them is Sweden at fifth position, followed by Swiss over speed of 5 Mbps, but only leading the seventh seeded Netherlands marginally. Belgium, Slovakia and Norway occupy the last three spots with an average of 4.5 Mbps.

Oops! No wonder that girls of Romania and Slovakia are regulars on webcam sites. You can’t help but admire the great benefits of such high speeds.

akamai_soi_4q08_51

I could largely see a pattern associated in this graph, which is all the nations at the top are relatively smaller in size and population. Though, that cannot be the reason for incompetency of other 203 countries in the list barring few hopeless countries we at least have 100 countries still left with .

Expectedly, India comes almost last in that 100 country with Rediff quoting that we are dismal with the average Internet connection speed of 772 Kbps. Excuse me; 772 Kbps? Average speed in India? I beg to differ with this stat, when I last heard the Internet Penetration in India hovers somewhere around 2.5% of the entire population. i.e the number of users stand somewhere around 30 million. It’s also a fact, according to the India Online 2007, that only 37% of the users come from top 10 cities. Hence, a staggering 63% of the available users are from rural households. This is contrary to my belief that 90% of the subscribers come from top cities.

Let’s first have a look at these urban Internet users. If we agree, the speeds such as 2 Mbps or more is largely consumed by the corporations and enterprises with majority of the individual users having either 256 Kbps or 512 Kbps keeping in mind the price to utilization ratio. If we consider the rural areas, they don’t even have the options of 1 or 2 Mbps connection available for them. Already the urban’s average falls between 256-512 kbps, put rural majority also into the mix, which would bring that average connection speed miserably further down even, roughly leaving us around the figure of 300-350 Kbps as an average net connection speed. Keep in mind the another horrible fact that of the 30 million subscribers said above only 2.5 million use Broadband or superior connections, which even brings my figure to its nadir somewhere around 60-80 Kbps. Refer here to the TRAI’s 2007 telecom report. I think the average Internet Speed of 772 Kbps (half of the global average Internet speed) is a far cry for us, with our hopes still rooted to the ground.

Oof! Ironically, did you know that Congress Government declared 2007 to be the “Year of Broadband”? This is one among their innumerable promises and their constant stressing on how they are pro-reform and pro-development striving government. May be they thought that India would be much better off without people having instant access to the information they seek.

At its best, India managed to inch ahead of Nigeria in Broadband penetration.

Forget about the Broadband, India stands nowhere as far as even the Internet is concerned. But that’s another story reserved for another day.

P.S: Between I checked my Broadband speed and I am jubilant enough that I get 14 Kbps more than my subscribed speed and it stands beamingly at 270 Kbps. Check for yourselves below.

net-speed-mine1


April 8, 2009 Posted by | eWorld, Information Technology, Infra Structure, International, Internet, Issues, World | 2 Comments

BJP – Road to Victory?

Nearly a decade back, BJP who was in power at the centre, sensed the need of world class roads for the rapidly developing Indian economy. They drew up the National Highways Development Project with several phases of which the cost of first phase was set to Rs. 54,000 crore, world’s biggest infrastructure project then.

It aimed at linking the North, South, East and west; as well as the four metros with eight-lane world-class expressways that were expected to put India on the fast lane to growth. These were to be supplemented with same quality links and bypasses that were to be created by upgrading existing highways.

With the making of world class infrastructure in place, still NDA could not convince the voters of India, as the twists and turns of politics brought the Congress-led UPA to power and saw Manmohan Singh take oath as PM. And one of the first things that National Highways Authority of India, the government’s custodian of arterial roadways, did after the regime change was to order all skyboards redone to remove Vajpayee’s picture at a cost of about Rs 1.8 crore.

Till 2004 — and a little later — people started realizing that motoring from Delhi to Chandigarh or Jaipur; or Mumbai to Pune was a breeze. Any drive along the highways linking the four metros of Kolkata, Delhi, Mumbai and Chennai was bustling with construction workers.


Now, after years later, the scene on the ground is different. The activities are more sluggish — you barely see progress at sites where a bridge is being built or the road is being widened even if you cross it at a year’s gap. Nearly all flyovers and stretches of highways and roads that have been “inaugurated” or come into operation were started during the NDA regime.

Times Of India has come out with its interesting analysis on its Chennai edition dated 4th April. If you have a look at the graph below, you could see it for yourself that number of kilometers of road laid by legendary congress in its 50+ years of rule is 36,013 Kms where as the BJP has laid 31,271 Kms in just 5 years. Figures don’t lie.

Graph. Courtesy: Times Of India

If this is not a startling observation, what else would be? In terms of construction of roads, if BJP in its only term has roughly done 95% of what congress is trying to do in a whole stretch of 50 years, I could see with whom the fault lies and who has firmly put India on the road to victory in infrastructural development.

Somewhere I read recently which asked, if Pro is opposite of Con, then progress is opposite of what? Yes, I have the answer, and you?

April 5, 2009 Posted by | India, Indian General Elections 2009, Infra Structure, Issues, Policy/Strategies, Politics | Leave a comment

IT Shows in the Agenda of BJP & Congress

 

In the term of 1999-2004, BJP rewrote the conventional portfolio to include a revamped ministry called ‘Ministry of Communications and IT’. NDA’s IT reforms took the IT & ITES sectors on an upward swing and it started realizing its potential. A refreshing journey was on course at almost the final stages of NDA rule which peaked in the succeeding government after 2004.

As we had a well endowed gentleman as Prime Minister in post-2004 rule, we took a cold shower relaxing that finally the academics has met politics and things would only emerge brighter, leaving all speculations to rest. Unfortunately, it wasn’t to be, as we have witnessed in the last 5 years of despotic rule.

Most of the people I engage with political debate keep undermining my statement saying that how much the Goddess of Knowledge is residing in every UPA minister’s mind, but I beg to differ with the stark contrasting reality of Congress and UPA government.

If UPA is looked upon as a knowledge powerhouse, if it is the most visionary and if it is the one which has invariably best of literates as their advisors, where is a well thought-out election manifesto, a greatest of great vision for its country India? At least a few among the innumerable ideas they have for the prosperity of Indians and to counter the economic recession and to stop the freefall of IT sector. Where are the details of it? Has congress even thought about one? Has Manmohan Singh & Co. even feel the need for it?

By absolute contrast, BJP has a document called IT Vision released by LK Advani which runs to 30 pages and is definitely a set of documented ideas practically feasible in its implementation. On the release of it, LK Advani said “A future NDA Government, if elected to office in the coming parliamentary elections, would give high priority to the realization of this vision, which would help India overcome the current economic crisis; create productive employment opportunities on a large scale; accelerate human development through vastly improved and expanded education and healthcare services; check corruption; and make India’s national security more robust.”

The highlights of the IT Vision document are as follows,

  • Multipurpose National Identity Card (MNIC) with unique Citizen Identification Number (CIN) for every Indian citizen in 3 years; to replace all other identification systems.

§  I could immediately think of the benefits this move would fetch; as one of the foremost issues on national security we face now is the lakhs of illegal immigrants from Bangladesh pouring into India. This would keep a check on it and would help identify most of them. I am also reminded of, a news I read few months back, How a chief-level officer in RAW was dismissed after they found that he is not an Indian but an illegal immigrant from Bangladesh.

§  Next benefit would be the major face lift the government offices would get especially with the first hand information on their desk and also with the disposal of strenuous paper work involved by both bureaucrats and the citizens. Efficient bureaucracy at last seems a little possibility.

§  The benefits are enormous; the cost savings that would make to the Government, the easy handling of Information in terms of Defense and Internal security measures; easy representation of Information for Police and Judiciary; easy handling for the election commission preventing fraud in electoral process, prevention of false interpretation of any information (most of the civil & corporate frauds) and it would be endless.

§  But if all information of yours is integrated, the next ominous question that strikes the mind is the security and efficiency of handling this information. BJP has to come forward with their detailed plan of how they would set to protect the information in this regard and chalk up their tight security plan.

  • 1.2 Crore (12 million) new IT-enabled jobs in rural areas.

§  Though I am unaware how they arrived at this figure, but I firmly say it has the potential, if the government reforms computer-deprived offices of its own and the other subsidies thereby setting up a huge wave of new jobs. As this domestic market is still untapped and is a sleeping giant.

  • 1 crore (10 million) students to get laptop computers at Rs 10,000. Interest-free loan for anyone unable to afford it.

§  This is a strange development unlike the India we know which throws only freebie at people and never cared about the money spent. I would say this is much better opportunity provided where I guess should benefit most of the rural students to a greatest extent.

  • National Digital Highway Development Project to create India’s Internet backbone, and Pradhan Mantri Digital Gram Sadak Yojana for last-mile access even in the remotest of villages.

§  NDA had walked the talk earlier with its famous Golden Quadrilateral project in its last term. The project with its ambition of connecting all the important highways of the country with multi-way lanes, implemented with remarkable success. Hence, it should be a safe bet to reckon that the Internet backbone would get quite a bit realistic.

  • Broadband Internet (2 Mbps) in every town and village, at cable TV prices (less than Rs 200/month).

§  I think it is too ambitious to even think of it, when the internet connection speed of even the major cities has not been ramped up to that level and the prices comparably is still large and not easily affordable.

  • All schools and colleges to have Internet-enabled education.

§  Especially, this needs to be done on a fast lane, when we think of taking our education infrastructure to world class level. It is high time we provide desktops and laptops to the students with internet enabled.

  • 100% financial inclusion through bank accounts, with e-Banking facilities, for all Indian citizens. Direct transfer of welfare funds, preferably to the woman of the house.

§  Even if right actions are initiated towards achieving this goal, if not fully completed, still that would go a long way in restructuring our citizen’s economical identity, and in establishing transparency in bureaucracy. That would see a major shift in strategies of the banks and would be an ideal launch pad for its rural penetration and its customer base.

  • Every BPL family to be given a free smart mobile phone, which can be used by even illiterate users for accessing their bank accounts.

§  This is the continuation of the above point, to provide people with access to the e-Banking through a cheap smart mobile.

  • Number of mobile subscribers to be increased from 40 crore at present to 100 crore in five years. Internet users to equal mobile subscribers. India to equal China in every IT parameter in five years.

§  Telecom is already been proved a huge potential market and it would only improve the connectivity of more people with more and more users laying hand on the device. Internet users in India are usually very small compared to the mobile subscribers and this avenue again provides a great growth opportunity.

  • Video conferencing to be made affordable and universally accessible.

§  Thorough implementation of IT reforms across India and the excellent infrastructure if built for IT & Internet would make all these easily follow suit.

§  You can see the other points below, most of them self explaining.

  • Primary Health Centre in every village to be linked to the National Telemedicine Service Network. Basic health insurance scheme for every citizen, using the IT platform. Cashless hospitalization.
  • India’s ranking in the United Nations’ Human Development Index, which is currently 128, to be improved to 50 in five years, with the long-term objective of bringing India within Top Twenty by 2020.
  • Massive expansion in the use of IT in agriculture, rural development, SMEs, retail trade, and informal and unorganised sectors of the economy.
  • National e-Governance Plan to cover every Government office from the Centre to the Panchayats. The ‘E Gram Vishwa Gram’ scheme, launched by Shri Narendra Modi in Gujarat, to be implemented nationwide.
  • Government spending to be made corruption-free. A former Prime Minister had once said, “If I put Rs. 100 in the pipeline in Delhi, only Rs. 15 reach the end beneficiary.” In contrast to Congress governments’ Leaky Pipeline, the BJP’s IT Pipeline will ensure 100% benefit to people. Those who misappropriate public funds will be punished.
  • All post offices to be converted into IT-enabled Multi-Service Outlets. All telephone booths to be upgraded to Internet kiosks.
  • Citizens will have a simple 1-800 BSNL Toll Free Number, which will be accessible 24x7x 365 days of the year, to contact their Member of Parliament.
  • Unlimited VoIP access to all
  • e-Bhasha: National Mission for Promotion of IT in Indian Languages.
  • Special focus to bring women, SC/STs, OBCs and other weaker sections of society within the ambit of IT-enabled development.
  • Use of IT for the protection of India’s priceless cultural and artistic heritage.
  • Government to standardize on ‘open standard’ and ‘open source’ software.
  • Domestic IT hardware industry to be aggressively promoted to minimize dependence on imports.
  • Domestic hosting industry to be promoted to minimize international bandwidth charges.

Finally an independent body, Digital Security Agency (DSA), to be set up for cyber warfare, cyber counter-terrorism, and cyber security of national digital assets.

April 2, 2009 Posted by | Economics, India, Indian General Elections 2009, Infra Structure, Issues, Policy/Strategies, Politics | Leave a comment

AIG – to pay bonus to its top executives

 

You might read AIG as ‘American International Group Inc’, as they have stood for, else call ‘All Investments Gone’ as the reality calls for and read the title of this column.

Since few days, AIG has drawn lot of flak and public outrage, after the news poured in that AIG has paid its executives, bonuses amounting to $165 million. Obama has vowed that he would try every possible legal avenue to stop such bonuses being paid out.

AIG has 80% stakes of United States government, after receiving four bailouts totaling to $170 billion. AIG has been questioned on the transactions that were made with the tax payer’s money and finally it has listed the transactions with payee’s consent.

The largest single recipient was Goldman Sachs ($12.9 billion). Other recipients include 20 European banks that received a total of $58.8 billion and Merrill Lynch ($6.8 billion), Bank of America ($5.2 billion), Citigroup ($2.3 billion) and Wachovia ($1.5 billion).

Big foreign banks also received large sums from the rescue, including Société Générale of France and Deutsche Bank of Germany, which each received nearly $12 billion; Barclays of Britain ($8.5 billion); and UBS of Switzerland ($5 billion).

Altogether, the disclosures account for $107.8 billion in A.I.G. bailout money which leaves us wondering about the rest of the money. Another $30 billion was added to the A.I.G. bailout pot this month and must be accounted for as soon as it is spent. That leaves some $32 billion unaccounted for. Where did it go?

If you get a measure of how a certain $165 million spent out of that $32 billion, it sure does sting. A staggering $165 million handed out as bonuses for employees of a company that nearly took down the financial system. And heck, the taxpayers, own nearly 80 percent of A.I.G.

A senator was fuming hearing about the bonus payments,

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“A.I.G. has been trying to play the American people for fools by giving nearly $1 billion in bonuses by the name of retention payments,” Mr. Cummings said on Sunday. “These payments are nothing but a reward for obvious failure, and it is an egregious offense to have the American taxpayers foot the bill.”

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Obama On an interview,

The Fed chairman, Ben S. Bernanke, appearing on “60 Minutes” on CBS on Sunday night, said: “Of all the events and all of the things we’ve done in the last 18 months, the single one that makes me the angriest, that gives me the most angst, is the intervention with A.I.G.”

He went on: “Here was a company that made all kinds of unconscionable bets. Then, when those bets went wrong, they had a — we had a situation where the failure of that company would have brought down the financial system.”

In deciding to rescue A.I.G., the government worried that if it did not bail out the company, its collapse could lead to a cascading chain reaction of losses, jeopardizing the stability of the worldwide financial system.

The list released by A.I.G. on Sunday, detailing payments made between September and December of last year, could bolster that justification by illustrating the breadth of losses that might have occurred had A.I.G. been allowed to fail. Some of the companies, like Goldman Sachs and Société Générale, had exposure mainly through A.I.G.’s derivatives program. Others, though, like Barclays and Citigroup, stood to lose mainly because they were customers of A.I.G.’s securities-lending program, which does not involve derivatives.

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AIG is the source of global financial disorder, as viewed by most experts across the world, for their risky financial practices and short term target achievements. Indeed, as the system, says what is your worth for this financial quarter and as it evaluates you on YoY basis, even the executives have just seen the quarters ahead of the decades. Consequence, he gets a performance bonus for the fiscal quarter whereas the entire world goes bust on YoY basis.

Should not the top executives of the firm apologize in front of the people, pleading guilty for their unpardonable acts rather than filling their pockets with the abuse of the entire world?

May be, is he rewarded for meeting his previous quarter’s target, in fact exceeding by far miles. What could one do if he chose to say that he is only answerable to his firm and not to the world outside the firm? It sure does sting, and leads to the inevitable question of who is accountable to whom?

Suddenly capitalism looks down at its depth !

March 17, 2009 Posted by | Business/Industries, Economics, Entrepreneurs, Finance/Markets, India, Infra Structure, Issues, Policy/Strategies | 1 Comment

India – Take a deep breath

 

The merry days were gone. According to our registers, we have witnessed boom, prosperity and light, and now paralyzed to observe in this economic downturn, how we would keep the wheels moving as in the start of this millennia and get the mirth back on our faces.

But, there are also people, who are looking for some light and prosperity among this same crowd, which had never been witnessed or heard of. But, they are born with us; live among us and perish before us.

Malnutrition has always been our academic topic and rightfully left behind with old school days. As politicians turn blind eye to the global hard hitting problem, searching records to prove that we actually are not worse, reality amass all dust and hits across our face.

Somini Sengupta expresses that comparing the stats across the most populous states, China has sharply reduced child malnutrition, and now just 7 percent of its children under 5 are underweight, a critical gauge of malnutrition. In India, by contrast, despite robust growth and good government intentions, the comparable number is 42.5 percent. She further argues that the results showed points to the efficiency of an authoritarian state like China. India’s sluggish and sometimes corrupt bureaucracy has only haltingly put in place relatively simple solutions — iodizing salt, for instance, or making sure all children are immunized against preventable diseases — to say nothing of its progress on the harder tasks, like changing what and how parents feed their children.

The 2007 research paper puts that, Childhood anemia, a barometer of poor nutrition in a lactating mother’s breast milk, is three times higher in India than in China. 

_____________________

A World Food Program report last month noted that India remained home to more than a fourth of the world’s hungry, 230 million people in all. It also found anemia to be on the rise among rural women of childbearing age in eight states across India. Indian women are often the last to eat in their homes and often unlikely to eat well or rest during pregnancy. Ms. Menon’s institute, based in Washington, recently ranked India below two dozen sub-Saharan countries on its Global Hunger Index.

_____________________

 

Malnutrition

Malnutrition

March 13, 2009 Posted by | Health, India, Infra Structure, Issues, Living, Regional | Leave a comment

The date!

Enough I had notions, uncertainties and marvel on her. Now, I have reached close to her, next, what? Sheesh, I can’t touch her yet, fine, it’s after all a moment for I have waited all along, let me wait a little more.

Finally the moment closed in; yes I touched her on an overcast night. Millions have touched her, but yet she has preserved her sanctity; remained fresh and waiting for me. Others, who had a feel of her, say once you touch her, she embraces, she entertains and she casts a magic wand on you and she does everything you long for. Let’s see what has she got up her sleeve tonight? Gotham, they call her. The Big Apple, they call her. They say she never sleeps. Yes, she is the New York City.

It had always been my dream to rove in metropolis and cosmopolitan cities of the world. Walk slipshod on the sidewalks of the famed streets, cranking heavy metal through my can, full of music pounding my ear drums on a sunny day. Swig in tequila shots, puff a King size fag, and there I am!

New York City is a single case study of a broader phenomenon, urbanization, which has marked the period of modernity and effected shocking changes around the world.

NY Skyline - Spend an evening watching it!

NY Skyline - Spend an evening watching it!

Having stepped out of the car at West 31st Street, I walked up straight in to the mid-town Manhattan, the economic and cultural heart of the city; dominated by skyscrapers. Grabbed a cappuccino at the next café and headed to the West 42nd street. It had an atmosphere you will instantly fall for and accompanied by a noise of the city which filled bass in my ears, the sound which had an immense calm in it. I could notice immigrants of diverse ethnicity, creed and race wandering around getting a taste of this city. The entire city is well connected by hundreds of miles of subway rail track, trains cruising underneath. The manhole on the roads emitting smoke, from underground city beneath, was a sight I bemused at.

The incredible thing is that New York looks even better up-close, in person. New York seems to have engendered by its image on the big screen, someone once said that to grasp it “you should not …begin with the city and move inwards to the screen; rather you should begin with the screen and move outwards to the city”; a perfect synonym.

NY City's sheen

NY City's Sheen

It’s much like movies. It was fun, visiting the Madame Tussauds, the home for celebrity wax figures. You will wonder how this magic of wax artistry could look this real. You can rub shoulders with the Hollywood’s finest, legendary sportsmen, political biggies and all-time pop stars. It’s a star studded morning for me, to talk about my Caribbean knowledge to Johnny Depp, stirring equation along with Albert Einstein, join a fast with Gandhi, play guitar with Jimi Hendrix, hug Jennifer Aniston, hand a blow to Mike Tyson, crack jokes with Chaplin, discuss the next Indiana Jones with Steven Spielberg, join along with Bill Gates cursing Google and last but not least advise on foreign policies to George W. Bush. It was huge sets well classified. Yes, as you might think now, I almost got close to breaking one, but god saved. An hour of looking around the fantasy, I got out now to the real world.

Team work@Madame Tussauds

Team work@Madame Tussauds

Walked through the intersection of celebrated streets of Fifth Avenue and West 34th Street to the Empire State Building and followed stairs. Surprised to see a security check on! Yes, thorough security checks and then had to wait up for another hour to go to the top floor. Well to have finally gotten there up, whoa, I had no words to describe! It was a panorama that got etched in my heart. Having a look around the radiant New York City landscape, I could feel for real everything, see people shop ‘til they drop in the luxury shopping zone of Fifth and Madison Avenues, feel People rocking in the Hard Rock Café, smell the money being made day and night on the Wall Street, discover the orient in China Town, The Broadway Theater that screened AR Rahman’s musical, Times Square, Madison Square Garden, the high profile U.S open live, the NYPD patrolling the city, the headquarters of world’s greatest of brands. All of this grandeur shoe-horned into only a 50 Sq. km goes on to portray the stature of this city.

Snap from the Empire State risking my lovely phone

Snap from the Empire State risking my lovely phone

I was looking at an evanescent, yet lingering New York. An hour of wham-bam serious clicking of photographs and all my shooting skills were out on the floor! Some video recordings followed too! I could spot the Chrysler Building, GE, Statue of Liberty, Brooklyn Bridge, Central Park, Rockefeller Center and all other places of the city and its suburbs. A pigeon sat to the outer edge at the vicinity, and all were spot on shooting pictures of it. Yet it would not look scared but proud, leaving an everlasting wish in us, if only we could be at its place. I could imagine an illusory moment holding the edge of the building from the other side and looking down the ground from fifteen hundred feet. Huah! It sent shiver down my spine.

I left the place ecstatic, and was cooling the heels off for couple of hours in the Jersey City. Picked a PATH train to West 34th street and was biting a Mac chicken for dinner at McD. Walked in to the Times Square. Times Square with its multicolored stuttering invocation of ebullience looked day light even at midnight. Perhaps, a moment that reminds you are in the city that never sleeps. It is a costliest place on earth to put on display, a digital billboard. NASDAQ with its huge sign, nearly 100 feet high, is known to be paying more than $2 million a year to lease the space.

Pigeon flying high! Whoa, If only I could be there!

Pigeon flying high! Whoa, If only I could be there!

You can travel the world just by walking a few blocks within the Times Square area and visiting some of the many fabulous shopping stores, multi cuisine restaurants, musical venue, and big brand corporate offices.

It is a busy intersection of culture and entertainment capturing visitors’ mind to it. Billboards around include Toshiba, Coca Cola, Budweiser, McDonald s, Chevrolet and many others. Times Square acts the head quarters of Morgan Stanley, Ernst and Young, Lehman Brothers, Bain and Company, Thomson Reuters, MTV Networks and dozens more.

The commercial buildings are Macy’s, M&M Store and the hotels include Renaissance, Sheraton, Marriott and the great Hard Rock Café opposite to NASDAQ signs.

Whether you want to call it spontaneity or chaos, there are a million different New York moments that can catch you off-guard and sweep you off your feet.

Times Square at midnight, a pace of life to match!

Times Square at midnight, a pace of life to match!

Constant bustling streets, and tall skyscrapers around, and the complex subway system, no matter how grandiose or beautiful New York’s sights are, their combined scale may seem even overwhelming.

Whether it is the Frank Sinatra’s track ‘new york, new york, I wanna wake up in a city that never sleeps’ or the AR Rahman’s score ‘New York nagaram urangum boathu’ You will walk the feeling all over, in the Manhattan island of the New York City.

It’s not difficult to fall in love with New York. You just have to watch a Woody Allen Film, “Sex and the City” or “Gossip Girl” to see how the city is as much an actor as the others. It has an aura, attitude, sex appeal and grit.

You are the New York City!

September 9, 2008 Posted by | Infra Structure, My Camera, No Disclaimers, Photography, Travel | 10 Comments

Nuke Economics

I could recollect a lecture hour at school, when my physics teacher wrote a title at black board, reading Nuclear Reaction. An articulate teacher she was, explained the next one hour about the technical details of nuclear reaction with a bundle of equation and jargon. She asked me to summarize the whole lecture, and sat behind.  I stood up nervously and after a minute whispered ‘a chain reaction triggered due to collision between two particles producing enormous power’ and quickly sat down with a sense of relief. She pointed to the board and asked me whether that’s all she taught, and I immediately said ‘Yes, Ma’m’ with a big smile on my face, erghhh….which in turn did set up a nuclear reaction on her face.

If she has seen the current political fiasco, she would have appreciated my wisdom the other day and would have even ordered a round of applause from the other students. Yes, I was correct when I said ‘a chain reaction triggered due to COALTION between two PARTIES producing enormous POWER issues’. This is the statement which precisely sums up the nuclear reaction in today’s relevant terms. Little did I know that day, I would be technically and politically, correct relating to the future Nuke Deal issue.

As Indian government keep harping about the vivid and illustrious growth story of today’s India, little they do for its sustenance. Services industry does contribute a sizeable amount of our GDP, rips open new avenues for employment and in turn improves the quality of dining table in every household. This industrial growth has set up soaring demand for land in cities and hence real estate prices has shot up and costs has reached Manhattan-style skyscrapers in every major city of India, and spilling over to tier-II and III cities too. Lands untouched a decade ago, are now shaping into multi-storied office buildings, shopping malls and luxury apartments. Every square inch built is illuminated with power units, which in turn generates huge demand for electricity and fuels as a whole.

Hence, no doubt that energy demand would be on the rise, in the world’s second most populous and growing country with each passing day. If this energy crisis needs to be meted out, then it requires a strategic planning and a broad outlook keeping in mind the future.

India has its hand laid on different energy sources such as coal, bio-diesel, wind power, solar and nuclear energy. The then president Dr. APJ Abdul Kalam is one of the strong advocators of Jatropha cultivation for production of bio-diesel. In one of his recent speech, the President said that out of the 60 million hectares (600,000 km²) of waste land that is available in India over 30 million hectares (300,000 km²) are suitable for Jatropha cultivation. But the production is far-sighted in India.

Theoretically solar energy potential in India is far more than its current total consumption. As said, it is theoretical. Wind power is in its budding stage with government setting up its own turbines [Central Windmill Energy Technology] in Pune, Gujarat, parts of Tamilnadu etc.  The energy has lot of potential in this country, provided the government focuses more on its production and allows foreign companies to set up its own wind turbines.

At last, another important source of energy is nuclear energy. India has domestically developed nuke reactors for their power and weapons programs separately. However, the major ingredient of nuclear cycle, uranium, is found limited in India. India has also done a great amount of work in the development of a Thorium centered fuel cycle. While Uranium deposits in the nation are extremely limited, there are much greater reserves of Thorium and it could provide hundreds of times the energy with the same mass of fuel. There isn’t sufficient infrastructure built to utilize thorium deposits for energy production in India, which is a different story altogether.

Being a popular non-signatory of Nuclear Non-proliferation Treaty, India has often been denied of advanced nuclear technology from foreign countries to breed its nuclear reactors. With limited imports of fuel and technology gained from other countries, India has always been behind its vision target of 20GW of nuclear capacity by year 2020, owing to the nuclear test done in 1974 and 1998.

If India ever wanted to ramp up its nuke production, it is inevitable to gain access to the advanced nuclear technologies and Uranium from developed countries, with US being a significant player. It’s a welcome move that US came forward to lift sanctions on nuke program of India and allow them access to technologies, with the proposal of 1-2-3 agreement. Since 2 years, diplomats from either nation were involved in negotiation in certain clauses of the agreement to sign the deal. As, certain clause came close to be a back door entry of Hyde Act, it aroused several debates across the nation, questioning the worth of the deal and the risk of the national interest. However, the Indian congress was involved in progressive talks with their American counterparts to brush off any strings attached in the agreement. Thanks to the keenness shown by US, the bill was passed in American Congress with much effort and was finally tossed on India’s table for its approval.

Now this turns a familiar topic, as we see the headlines and political cartoons in media every day, about the left’s opposition to this nuclear deal with US. Left’s leader Mr. Karat expressed his reservations about the deal, not due to any concern in the clause, but, it brings proximity to US. It’s ill-fated to see the party which won meager percent of votes in parliamentary elections, now holding forte in Indian Parliament, on acts which guards national interest. It’s rather a sorry state of affairs to have been controlled by politicians whose vision for society begin and end with communism, which has not been the flavor of this country.

It’s not been cease of memory yet, to have forgotten the circumstances where CPI and its allies had put down the nation favoring their international ideologues. To begin with the most notorious example that communists were never been bothered about the independence of India when they were raising their vocals against the Quit India Movement in 1942; In 1948, after India gained independence, the then leader of CPI claimed ‘this freedom was fake’. In 1962, Sino-Indian border conflict, a section of communists upheld the flag of china and complained openly India plays an aggressor. Later, the pro-Chinese faction led their way out from their parent party CPI to form CPI (Marxist). The standpoint of communists in those crucial moments when Indian patriotism were at stake could be seen totally contradictory and opposite, to their ranting today, when they say that India-US treaty does not serve the national interest. How ironical it could get than this?

Given its track record, the Left’s attempt to see itself as a protector of India’s national sovereignty is a disgrace. Communists in India have acted, at critical periods, at the command of the Soviet Union or China. In so doing, communists have sacrificed India’s national interests. And unfortunately they seemed to be set repeating the history again.

It was BJP who initiated the deal for India in their regime, which had continued over today. UPA government pays its price today, for not including the opposition party (BJP) in the debate over the Nuke deal. But certainly, this is not the time for BJP to play its trick, to gain political advantage over congress, as it is India’s integrity which is at stake. It’s appalling to look at everyday’s headlines that the ruling government of India is down their knees, waiting for approval from their iniquitous political-ally which at best screws up the integrity of this nation.

Thus Indo-US treaty, for you and me, has reshaped into various forms far from its original state of conception, with clandestine political motives and vendetta taking centre stage, leaving behind the original purpose in the shade. The deal, which is expected to be a historical breakthrough in the diplomatic ties with US, is still on the LEFT of table and needs to be passed over else, pushed over. With enough intricacy overstuffed, the great picture is definitely in making, but whether it would turn out to be a Mona-Lisa or a stain on the wall is yet to be seen.

November 15, 2007 Posted by | Infra Structure, Issues, Politics | 1 Comment

A Blood Sucking Canal

In the earlier post, I discussed about the affidavit filed in Supreme Court supporting the Sethu Samudram Canal Project. Congress immediately sensing the political slip-up withdrew the petition the next day. But the smoke after all did not exhaust the same day.

The DMK supremo MK, a well known atheist, aired his views that Ram does not exist and it is just a fictional character as any other cast in stories he writes. He also questioned the wisdom behind the alleged construction of the bridge by Ram, and asked from which engineering college he has graduated through. He did not stop with that either and went a notch up to say Ram is a drunkard too.

There, the smoke was lit in a grand manner and fuelled regularly by him and others. The BJP chief Advani said he appreciates MK being an atheist, but at the same time people at the helm of affairs do not impose their personal opinions on the masses and asked him to withdraw the statement. But MK was quick to reply saying there is no room withdrawing the statement and invited Advani for one-on-one debate on Ramayana.

Now, the issue which all along been regional has spun its wheels all over the nation and lit itself up as one of the most sensitive controversy in New Delhi capable of twitching the throne. MK said, it had been a century plus years dream of the Tamil to have the canal built up and make way to the economical progress. He has said it would be a dream-come-true for the fishermen in the coastal areas and they would immensely benefit out of the project. But the truth holds otherwise.

According to these reports, it is the very fishermen whom they talked about want this project to be scrapped. Then which Tamils dream is it to realize this project? Is it the Tamils of the politician’s family? It also talks about the environmental disaster it would turn out to be, if implemented. Also, the private ships which are expected to pass through the canal has not showed absolutely any interest to use the canal, as it is not a viable option for them to use it and would be better-off without such canal. It’s also reported that as sand continuously move in the Palk straits it is impossible to dig a canal out there. Also, a report stating that widening of Ram-Sethu would amplify Tsunami.

Excerpts from interview with O Fernandez, the co-convenor of CAN and director of the Human Rights Advocacy and Research Foundation.

The Union minister for shipping says that the canal is the 135-year-old dream of the Tamils…

We ask: which Tamils? When the fishing people are opposed to it, you must listen to them. Forget the scientific experts; these fishermen are saying from their experience that when there is a particular volume of noise and a particular amount of sand churning, the movement of the fish gets affected. If there is a canal, the fishing community will not be able to access the sea. So, we are asking, which Tamil are you listening to? Are you listening to the Tamil living on the coast? The government should have undertaken some environmental studies before clearing the project. Because no studies were conducted, no foreign dredging vessel is willing to take part in the project. Now you are depending on the Dredging Corporation of India, which is very easy. Rs 533 crore is being spent on the project. Where is all this money going? The project is not viable scientifically or economically. It is environmentally disastrous. It is disastrous for the livelihood of the lakhs of fishermen living along the coast.

Two years ago, you said you had the support of scientists, environmentalists and the local residents. But when the government went ahead with the dredging, you people couldn’t stop it…

That?s because the dredging ship is protected by the Coast Guard and the Navy and they have been ordered to shoot at sight. So, the fishing people cannot go anywhere near the dredging site. Otherwise, we would have gone and sat on the vessels. Once in Nagapattinam, 500 boats were ready.

You told me then that fishermen would go out in their catamarans and stop the dredging?

But there were shoot at sight orders, and if they went within 3 to 5 kms of the deredging ship, they would be shot at.

Here is a report, which sums up neatly in its subject line itself about this old-school thought of digging up a canal which serves anyone no purpose. It beautifully illustrates the economic incompetency of this project’s scope and the least attraction to the private ship companies which comes through west. Here is an excerpt from the column.

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The Suez and Panama Canals save ships thousands of miles, and that makes them profitable. Sethusamundaram is not remotely comparable. It is designed for small ships (the project documents talk of 20,000 DWT), whereas the Panama Canal takes ships of up to 65,000 DWT and Suez takes ships up to 150,000 DWT.

Global shipping is shifting to ever-larger vessels. Bulk carriers and tankers often exceed 200,000 DWT, and those under 60,000 DWT are being phased out as uneconomic. Old general cargo vessels have been replaced by container ships, which started small but now exceed 35,000 DWT, and may soon touch 75,000 DWT. Such vessels cannot use the canal.

So, Sethusamundaram will be unsuitable for the large vessels of the 21st century. It is a 150-year old idea for 150-year old ships. That may be its epitaph.

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So, with all these inabilities, the least scope for future usage, a disaster for marine environment, the ship carriers opting not to use it, the only purpose for which the canal is being planned, the fishermen who badly wants to stop the project but couldn’t due to shoot-at-sight orders at 3-5km near the project construction site are few parameters, at best it could easily be summed up to one key word, a political motive, than being useful for anyone else.

On financial note, the tax payer’s money Rs. 533 crore is believed to have been spent thus far in a project which would get outdated even before it is updated.  And that tax payer is none but you, me and the people around.

September 27, 2007 Posted by | Infra Structure, Issues, Politics, Religion/Spiritual | 1 Comment