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Making Sense of India
A Book of essays By
All rights for this book are with Mr. Chandrashekhar Athavale. This book should not be downloaded or printed without express written permission of Mr. Chandrashekhar Athavale. Mr. Chandrashekhar Athavale For any clarification, e-mail to Shekhar.firstname.lastname@example.org
To My Departed Grand father
About this book
Like an elephant from a famous story, which tells us, how 10 blind men went totally wrong in describing it, India remains undecipherable, incomprehensible and impossible to understand for the people around the world. Countless historians, travellers and thinkers, starting from seventh century Chinese monk Xuan Zhang, medieval historian Al Beruni, British Colonial historians and officers and Independent India's first prime minister, Pt. Javaharlal Nehru in recent times, have tried to discover and describe it. Yet, it can not be said that any one has truly and totally grasped and understood it. If trying to understand or describe India, with its myriad variety of landscapes, weathers and people, is an impossible task, anyone would ask, what a humble proletarian like me, is trying to do something that is impossible? Only thing that I can submit in my defense is that I have no intention of discovering India, in writing this book. This book consists of 30 short essays, written by me, which essentially are about India or rather are my feeble attempts to understand or making sense of seemingly impossible events that keep happening in India. The range of subjects therefore does not adhere to any theme, but rather covers almost anything under the Sun. I hope that readers would appreciate and enjoy this book. Pune, India 1 September 2013
1.Buddha's original alms bowl 2. A seniority dilemma 3. Carrying your own food on travel 4. Why should India keep holding the Saltoro ridge? 5. The house of laughs 6. A bleak future for senior citizens 7. Problems of plenty 8. No toilet? No bride! 9. Beware of new drugs! 10. Ignominious disgrace 11. Travelling without a mobile phone 12. An amazing feat 13. New Delhi's Nehru Place market blacklisted by US 14. A gold filled Indian snack-Masala Dosa 15. A golden page from the history 16. Health services or commercial dealings 17. Artificial tummy for would be mother 18. Lifestyle 19. Walking the hills 20. The Rohtang pass 21. Zubaida's crashed airplane 22. How hot is my chilli? 23. Siachin-world's highest battlefield 24. A good kill 25. No milk please! We drink wine only! 26. Indian film makers discover an ancient road to China 27. Nizam's hot rod 28. It happens only in India 29. Striking the roots of a poisonous tree 30. Johnny Johnny! Yes papa! Telling lies? No papa!
1 7 11 17 22 26 31 35 39 44 48 53 57 62 65 72 78 81 87 92 102 107 112 124 127 130 134 138 140
Buddha’s Original Alms-Bowl
In the year 1880-81, the then Director General of the Archaeological Society of India, Major General A. Cunningham, made a tour of the Archaeological sites of the Indian state of Bihar. During course of his visit, Cunningham visited a place known as ‘Besarh’, which was immediately identified by him as the famous medieval town of India known as ‘Vaishali’
. Cunningham did not find any artefacts in this village. He however came to know a very interesting story that Buddha’s original alms bowl was preserved and celebrated for many centuries in this town. Cunningham collected more information about this story and wrote a note on this 1in his book. Buddhist birth stories have an interesting anecdote about this story. According to the anecdote, the original alms bowl given to ‘Goutama’ by ‘Mahabramha’ vanished when ‘Goutama’ became Buddha. The four guardian deities, Indra, Yama,Varuna and Kubera, each brought an alms-
bowl made from emerald to Goutama, which he refused to accept. They then brought four alms-bowls made from stone of mango colour and each and every one of four begged to Goutama to accept their alms-bowl. Not to disappoint any of them, Buddha kept all the alms-bowls and after placing them one into another, miraculously transformed all the four bowl in a single bowl, upper rim of which appeared, as if four bowls have been placed one within the other. In the days of Goutam Buddha, (5th century BC) part of Bihar or Magadha was ruled by Lichchhava Dynasty with Vaishali as their capital. According to Cunningham, Buddha had given his alms-bowl to the Licchavi king and people, when they took final leave of him at the old city on their northern frontier, which Cunningham identifies with Kesariya, 30 miles to the north-west of Vaisali. The famous Chinese travelers Fa-Xian (CE400) and Xuen Zang (CE520) have mentioned this story in their travelogues. Fa-Xian mentions that Buddha gave them (Lachchhvis) his almsbowl as a memorial. Xuen Zang says that Buddha gave them his religious vase as a souvenir. In any case this alms-bowl was preserved and celebrated in Vaishali for next four to five centuries. In fact Vaishali city had become famous for this alms-bowl. In the first or second century, Magadha state was invaded by a king from west. Cunningham feels that this King was either Kushan king Kanishka or his predecesor Huvishka. For the proof, he refers to Vassilief’ s translations of a book by Buddhist monk Taranath. This book says that ” the king of the Little Yuchi invaded Magadha and carried off the bowl of Buddha and Aswaghosha .” Kushan kings were originally from a tribe known as Yuezhi (mentioned as Yuchi here in book) and Aswaghosa is known as an autobiographer of Buddha , who lived in first century. He was a disciple of Parswa, who conducted the third Buddhist Synod under Kanishka. These facts corroborate the fact that Buddha’s
alms-bowl was moved from Vaishali to Kanishka’s capital Purushpur (Present day Peshawar in Pakistan) Buddha’s alms-bowl remained at Purushpur at least till AD 400 when Chinese traveler Fa-Xian saw it there and has described it in his travelogue. It must have been removed from here later because Xuen Zang (520 AD) and Song Yun have not seen it during their visits to Purushpur. However Fa-Xian describes in his travelogue, about an unsuccessful attempt in the third century, much earlier to his visit, to remove the bowl. He says that ” Buddha’s alms-bowl is in this country, and a king of the Yueh-shih got together a large army to attack this country, wishing to carry it off. When he had subdued the country, being an ardent supporter of Buddhism, he wanted to take the bowl away with him.” Here king of Yueh-shih, might be a Bactrian or a Khotanese King and attempt must have made to move the bowl to Kabul , Balkh or Khotan, This attempt however failed and the bowl remained in Purushpur only, where a pagoda and a monastery was built by this invading king with a garrison left there to protect it. Around AD 425-450 Gandhara was again invaded by King of Yu Chi. This king despised Buddhism. After his invasion, the alms-bowl was perhaps moved by Gandharian people to a place also named as Gandhar, near present day Kandahar in Afghanistan. This was the reason why Chinese travelers in AD 520 could not see the Alms-Bowl. The name ‘Gandhar’ given to this new place in present day Afghanistan, slowly corrupted to Kandahar. This place, where the Bowl was preserved, is known today as old Kandahar and the bowl was preserved here in an obscure mosque, almost till recent times. This bowl was near Kandahar city, till Mohamad Nasibulla continued as the president of Afghanistan and was moved to Kabul museum only in last decade. During Taliban rule. This museum was attacked by Taliban extremists couple of times. By good fortune, it has survived there and can be seen in the museum.
We have only Fa-Xian’s description of the original bowl. Since Fa-Xian’s original writing had been in Chinese characters, three translations of the original work, which we have, differ to an extent. According to Remusat’s translation : ” The pot may contain about two bushels. It is of a mixed colour, in which black predominates. It is well formed on all four sides, about two lines thick, bright and polished.” According to Beal : ” The bowl contains about two Tan (a dry measure equal to if gallons). It is of a mixed colour, but mostly black. The seams, where the four parts join together, are bright. It is about 2 inches thick, and is kept well polished and bright.” The third translation is by Giles : “ It might hold over two gallons, and is of several colours, chiefly black. The four joinings are clearly distinguishable. It is about one-fifth of an inch thick, and is transparent and bright”.
The common description from all the three translations, appears to be mixed colour, though predominantly black, capacity about 8 or 9 liters and 4 rims seen clearly as if 4 bowl have been joined together. There is some confusion about the opacity or transparency of the bowl. Dr. Bellew saw the Bowl at Kandahar in Nineteenth century. He describes it as “A huge bowl, carved out of a solid block of dark green serpentine. The straight part above is carved with six lines of Arabic inscriptions”
After seeing the pencil sketch obtained by Cunningham and also the photographs of the Bowl in Kabul museum, I feel that the chances of this bowl being the original bowl are quite high. The bottom portion has been shaped like a lotus flower, which could relate to an early Buddhist period. The Arabic character lines could have been carved later. This bowl is so huge that it appears to be a pot kept in Buddhist Viharas to collect alms, like what we have in Hindu temples even now and known as ‘Hundi’ or Charity Box. . In ancient days alms would be given in form of grains or gold ornaments, coins etc. This would make it necessary to have a large bowl for receiving alms. 26 December 2011
A seniority Dilemma
A senior person of my acquaintance, who is in his late sixties, had a severe attack of Cardiac Asthma recently. This person lives alone in Pune, as he is a widower, having lost his wife few years ago. He immediately contacted his neighbours, who got in touch with this person's physician. The Doctor rightly advised this person to get admitted to a nursing home. This person actually has two married sons and is financially well settled. One of the sons is settled in USA and the other one stays in India but in a different city. According to Doctor's advice, his neighbours and friends, immediately got him admitted to a hospital and also informed his son, who lives in India, about his condition. The medical staff at the hospital took good care of the person. The son, living in India, reached Pune within a day along with his wife. Meanwhile the neighbours and friends took good care of the person. The son and daughter in law, took over the patient care after their arrival in Pune. The neighbours and friends obviously could not continue to look after him as they had their own families and lives to care
for. Since the illness further requires some amount of after care for a considerable length of of time in future, the son has started insisting that his father should travel along with him to the city where he stays and works so that proper after care can be continued. To take this decision of shifting to a new unknown town, is proving a real dilemma for this person. Since his wife passed away, couple years ago, this person is now used to live quite comfortably his life alone and on his own. His daily schedule, which friendsito meet and at what time; is all a part of his routine. For a senior person of his age, absolute regularity is probably an essential part of his daily life. Time to wake up, going for a walk and adhering strictly to a menu and timings for his meals are all essential parts of his daily schedule. About an year ago, this person went to USA to visit his elder son. He just about managed to live there for couple of months and returned with a depressed mood. Financially, his elder son is quite well off and looked after his visiting father with care. However this person suffered on two counts. Most of the seniors , who go to these western countries to visit their children, always have a feeling of economic dependence, because of the wide difference in cost of living and exchange rates. The simple things like having a cup of coffee, which they can easily afford in India, works out to be expensively deterrent. This means that for every small thing, they have to depend on their children. Secondly, nonn availability of public utility like transport in these places, affects their mobility and for making a even short trip, they need to take help from their children. These visiting seniors, start getting a feeling of loneliness because their regular friends are left behind in India and they are unable to to move on their own in the foreign land. Most of seniors, who go abroad to visit their children, return back in a very unhappy state of mind. This person of my acquaintance had similar experience and had returned back to India with a firm decision of his mind; never to go back again.
Even when this person goes to visit his younger son living in India, but in a different city, the problem still persists. His son and daughter-in-law are comparatively younger; both work, and live in a smaller apartment. As a result, their life style lacks regularity of any kind. One day they may get up early in the morning but on the next day, even at 9 AM, everyone would be sleeping soundly, the day being a weekend. The meals are erratic menu wise and also there is no fixed time. On a day there would be no breakfast and there would be only a brunch at 11 AM. Next day lunch would be served at 2.30PM. There is no fixed menu and all kind of dishes from Bombay mixture, south Indian Idli's or mexican taco or Italian Pizza or Pasta are as much enjoyed as spicy Indian dishes with Masala. There is essentially nothing objectionable in this as the son and his wife are young and want to enjoy their life and this randomness in eating pattern is perfectly acceptable and enjoyable for them. Their father finds this continuous change in meal timings and constant variations in menu, quite irritating and unsuitable for his health. Whenever he goes on a visit, he starts having minor complications with digestion and feels very unhappy there. For this reason only, he prefers to stay alone in Pune, where he can live life according to his own style. The new illness has now created a situation of Hobson's choice for my acquaintance. His physician feels that he should not stay alone now because of the Cardiac Asthma as emergency situation could arise any time. As a result, my acquaintance finds himself in depressed condition and he is really undecided about the future. Taking a macro view, I have a feeling that this question faced by my acquaintance is actually a common problem faced by the elders in our society. The new generation thinks and acts independently and want to spend their own life as they wish and I do not see anything wrong in it. On the other hand, the population on the wrong side of the sixties, also correctly feels that they should not be a burden
on their children and should be able to live balance years of their life on their own. In western countries, almost all seniors live independently and alone. However they have one big advantage. The medical and other types of civil facilities available to them are of high grade and user friendly. In India, seniors get facilities only on paper. In practice the seniors face a very difficult living condition. That is why staying independently and alone, as westerners do, is so problematic in India.
I do not know, what this person of my acquaintance, would finally decide. If I have to hazard a guess, I think that he would continue to stay in Pune all alone and independent as previously. 20th June 2012
Carrying your own food on travel
Kid's story books, which I read in my childhood, always described, how the mothers of the young men or princes from the stories, going on some travel to a far off country or to kill a demon, used to pack some dream food stuff for them, which would not only satisfy their hunger but also quench their thirst, while travelling. At that age, I was never worried, whether the queen ( the mother of the prince to go on a journey) cooked this dream foodstuff herself or ordered a cook to do this. But even at that age, I always had great curiosity regarding this dream eat, which would satisfy hunger and also quench the thirst. My mother or grandmother apparently never knew how this dish was prepared. Also no one I knew ever offered me this dish. This childhood wish of mine, to eat this dream foodstuff, was never fulfilled. I found out all of a sudden, though much later, what this dream food stuff was really made off? I remember that I had traveled earlier to Bengaluru city for some official
business work. For this journey, to Bengaluru City, I had managed to obtain valid railway reservations. I had thought then that I would be able to make some arrangements for my return journey, while in Bengaluru. I had finished my work in a very satisfactory manner. But I found out later that to get railway reservations for my return journey was an impossible task with no tickets available for any of the trains at all. Someone had then advised me to make inquiries near Kempagouda circle area, where there were offices of many private bus carriers and I might be able to make some arrangements there for my return travel by Bus. I found out that every night, at least 10 to 15 luxury buses ply between Bengaluru- Pune route. I immediately made reservations for my travel back to Pune with a bus company ,which looked O.K. In the evening, I had some leisurely dinner and reached the place from where, these buses would start for the journey. The bus was ready and left Bengaluru after a slight delay. The bus only had seats and no berths for lying down, which meant that I would have to spend the entire night just sitting up. However I was a young man then and such kind of hardship at that age was not a big hurdle. We reached the town of Belgaum around 5 in the morning. After a cup of steaming hot tea, we left again and crossed Kolhapur town at about 9 A.M. A little distance away from Kolhapur town, the bus came to a halt very abruptly. I got down from the Bus and looked ahead on the road, I could see ahead of our bus, a very long line of of vehicles, standing still on the side of the road. After making inquiries we found out that some peasant's organization had declared a strike on that day and had blocked all the roads. The strike was to continue till 5 o'clock in the evening. There was nothing to do except dozing in my seat in the bus or stroll around the area. That day I found out for first time, how slowly our clocks actually turn. After noon, I realized that I was extremely hungry, but as a young man I had never really bothered to carry
any foodstuff or water with me. A co-passenger , who had ventured out, found that there was a small shanty or a shack selling some eatables. They were serving strong tea liquor with a dash of milk and plentiful of sugar and some fried snack, which to my horror, were fried green chillies. Since there was nothing else to get, I had bought a small quantity of fried chillies. The chillies grown in the Kolhapur region are known for their hotness. True to their pedigree, the fried chillies bought by me, were so hot that I found it almost impossible to eat them.
Finally I had to satisfy my hunger with outer crusts of the fried chillies and the blackish tea liquor. By 4 o'clock in the evening, almost everyone in the bus suffered with deep hunger and thirst. A lady sitting somewhere in one of the rear seats in the bus, perhaps sensed the plight and suffering of all the fellow passengers in the bus and distributed some snacks and sweetmeats she was carrying for her daughter staying in Pune. With fifty or sixty people travelling in that bus, each one of us must have received just a small portion of the snack and a small piece of the sweet cake. That little quantity of food, which I got from
that lady, made me realize that any food that you get to eat, when there is a total scarcity of anything to eat, was the magical dream foodstuff of my childhood days, carried by the princes and heroes and which their mothers always packed for them. Since that day of hunger, I made a rule for myself to always carry some eatables and a bottle of water, whenever I had to on a jaunt. Now a days I travel mostly by air. Many people feel that there is no real need for carrying food and water in an aircraft as everything is served by the air-hostesses. However, after experiencing that there is no basic difference between a bus journey and an air journey as far as hunger and thirst are concerned, I insist and carry food even for an air journey. Few years back, I took a highly regrettable decision to travel from Singapore to India by Indian Airlines aircraft. Our flight on that day was scheduled at 7.45 in the morning. Since it was expected that the airline would serve us breakfast in flight, I reached Singapore's Changi airport at 6 AM. After completing all the formalities like immigration and security check, I was waiting near the gate around 7 AM. Just across the gate, an old looking aircraft was standing on the tarmac, which was supposed to fly us to India. All of us waited at the gate anxiously awaiting the announcement for our flight. Clock turned to 8 o'clock, 9 o'clock and then 10 o'clock. Still there was no announcement of departure. At Changi airport, once you enter departure gate, neither it is possible to get any food or drink nor it is possible to visit toilet. Finally the flight was announced at 11 AM. Since the flight was scheduled for morning the catering service in the aircraft carried some stale bread and oily Samosa's served with lukewarm tea. By the time I reached Bengaluru airport in India it was already late evening by Singapore time. Most of the passengers were dying with hunger pangs as during last 10 or 12 hours they had nothing to eat except some stale bread slices, a Samosa and some lukewarm tea. Some travellers (that included me) were unconcerned and happy because this
select band of travellers had carried with them the magical dream foodstuff of the kiddy days.
From India's different regions, people who originate from Gujarat in western India, are very particular about carrying food on travel. They would invariably carry with them, on any journey, whether of few hours or few days a huge tiffin box stuffed with regular food and snacks like Sev, Gathiya,Papdi and Khakara in sumptuous quantities. I have seen many travellers from Bohra community carrying Mutton Biryani along with them. This might be carrying things too far, but I feel that one must carry at least few packs of Biscuits, sandwiches and some sweet cakes along while travelling. During foreign travels, when you have to pass through some transit airport, there are further complications. Once travelling from Chicago in US to Mumbai in India in 1991, I was forced to spend about 11 hours (from 10 o'clock in the morning to 9 PM) at the Heathrow airport in UK. Since I was travelling back from US, I had few Dollars left with me. In those days the tea was available at the airport for half a
Pound ( About 30 or 35 Rupees). Since I had only Dollars, the tea vendor took 2 Dollars from me and returned balance change in British coins. Those coins are still with me as I never had an occasion to go to UK again and pay for anything in British coins. I had no problem about food though, since I still had enough quantity of food left with me, which I had carried to US in the first place. I ate some of that food and drank cold water freely available on the airport to spend the day. Such is the importance of carrying food when you travel. You may forget everything else, never forget to carry food for any journey. You would not have to repent and you can always enjoy your journey. 19th June 2012
Why should India keep holding the Saltoro Ridge?
Any person, who has some knowledge of the Geographical and political situation of the region north of Leh in Ladakh, would feel relieved that latest round of talks between India and Pakistan on Siachin have broken down. Obviously in diplomatic terms no one says so. The official statements say, “The two sides agreed to continue dialogue on Siachen in keeping with the desire of the leaders of both countries for early resolution of outstanding issues. Both sides acknowledged that the ceasefire was holding since 2003.” This really means in simple terms that the talks have broken down. Many people are likely to question the importance of holding militarily, an obscure mountain ridge in South Karakoram mountains at a great human and material cost to India. But it only shows their ignorance. In the entire history of Jammu & Kashmir state conflict since 1947, operation Meghdoot of 1984, which had led the way to India's present and extremely strong position on the Saltoro mountains, is the only instant, where daring actions of the army have been backed by the resolute support of the New Delhi Government and has produced excellent after results. Haji Pir is a strategic mountain pass in PirPanjal mountain ranges used by Pakistani infiltrators. In 1965 war, this was captured by the Indian army in a daring operation. Later, during Government to Government negotiations, it was returned to Pakistan: a costly mistake as proved later.
Luckily Government allowed the army to keep its hold on Saltoro ridge.
Let us first see, where is this Saltoro ridge. On the northern side of the Indus besin, which incidently runs east to west, rises a great mountain range known as Ladakh mountain range. To cross this range is by itself a forrmidable task. There are only two mountain passes here. One is off course the well known Khardung La (18380 feet) and the other one is the Digar La (17325 feet), further to the east of Leh. After crossing the Ladakh range , one enters in the Shyok river basin which runs approximately towards northwesterly direction. Nubra river, flowing from north-south direction merges with Shyok river near the village of Khalsar. The Nubra river basin is flanked on the east by the Giant mountains of Saser Muztagh range. On the west bank of this river, rise the mountains of the Saltoro range. This range which begins at the point of confluence of Shyok and Nubra rivers, spreads northwards in a Y shaped formation. The left branch marking the line of actual control between India and Pakistan and the right branch extending all the way to Indira Col in the Karakorams, right on the International border between India and China, north of famous Karakoram pass.
On the map, Saltoro ridge appears like a dagger and in geopolitical terms it is indeed a dagger, sturck deep into the territories held by Pakistan and which belonged to erstwhile Jammu & Kashmir state of British India. Saltoro mountains are perhaps not high as great spurs of Saser Muztagh range, but still most of them in the north, have heights around 20 to 22K range. The Indian Army posts on Saltoro range, give them a commanding position as they can look deep into territory held by Pakistan towards west and north. In fact the entire region north of Saltoro is mountainous and inhospitable right up to the Hunza valley, where Pakistan and China have built a road jointly. Coming back to the main subject, why saltoro ridge is so important for India, I can list number of reasons. Saltoro ridge, though consisting of a series of formidable snow clad spurs, have three mountain passes through which an invading army can come down to Siachin valley and then continue towards Nubra valley. Out of these two passes namely Sia La and Bilafond La are completely controlled by India. Approach to the third pass known as Gyong La is
controlled by Pakistan. Controlling the passes is of paramount importance to India as these passes are the only possible routes through which any invasion of Ladakh is ever possible.
Before 1950, Karakoram pass was India's gateway from central asia for thousand;s of years. The route through this pass was connected to the south silk route and was used by trade caravans and pilgrims. India can hold and control Karakoram pass only and only if Saltoro ridge is firmly in India's hands. This route through Karakoram pass has full commercial potential for the future to once again become India's gateway to central Asia. This is one reason that perhaps is the most important reason for holding Saltoro ridge. The terrain surrounding Saltoro ridge is such that the Baltistan region west of it, is subject to regular landslides and avalanches. Only recently, a major disaster had struck Pakistan army HQ in the region killing 126 soldiers. Cost of holding terrain west of Saltoro ridge in Baltistan is becoming unreasonably high for Pakistan without any untenable gains. Pakistan's keenness for a accord, essentially stems out from this hard fact. For India, the gains of holding Saltoro are so apparent and Indian soldiers are also well dug in there in a very commanding position.
Thirdly it would be clear from the Google earth satellite view, that the entire region of Baltistan and Hunza can be watched clearly from Saltoro ridge. Any collaborative activities between Pakistan and China can be monitored from here. For India, it is a very advantageous position. The demand made in certain quarters for withdrawing Indian soldiers from Saltoro ridge is therefore according to me, quite unnecessary from India's point of view. Pakistan is likely to withdraw or reduce the presence of its armed forces from Baltistan, because of the human and material costs. It would be foolhardy for India to withdraw, when its is holding all the aces and there is no compelling need to do so. 13 June 2012
The House of Laughs
During early years of Indian republic or in the Nehruvian era, socialism was the king. The soviet model of planned development through centralized planning process and control was considered the magic mantra of those days. Entire development of the newly independent nation was planned to be capsulized in what were called as five year plans. Everything was thought to be very simple. In first five year plan, India was supposed to become self sufficient in food production. In second five year plan it was the turn of the heavy industry and all such new industries were planned to be set up as public sector companies or those under Government control. Needless to say all these plan targets flopped. India never became self sufficient in food till decade of 1980's, when an American agriculturist Norman Borlaug came along to India and introduced his concepts or hybrid plant cultivations. The heavy industries set up under Government control, soon became white elephants and a great opportunity for bureaucrats, who understood nothing about industries and production. The nerve center of all this planned development and the five year plans was a building on New Delhi's Parliament street or Sansad Marg, aptly named as House of plans or 'Yojana Bhavan.' It was in this building that the chief architect of India's five year plans, known as Deputy chairman of the planning commission, used to sit. He
controlled a vast bureaucratic set up known as Planning commission, which oversaw the five year plans and had power to control everything about India's development. Every year state chief ministers made made a bee line to this building to get plans for their states approved and money released. Mainly politicians, who could not be accommodated in the cabinet were appointed to this post of Deputy chairman except for a unique exception of Dr. D.R. Gadgil, who was an eminent economist.
After disastrous failure of the soviet socialistic model in 1990's, there were not many takers for India's five year plans. In addition, Indian Government under prime ministership of Shri Narasimha Rao, threw away the licensing controls in the same decade and ushered in a new era of liberalization for the Indian economy. This further brought down the importance of Yojana bhavan. At present planning commission still prepares these five year plans, but it is difficult to say as to how much importance is really given to these plans by other Government departments now.
Planning commission of India came out with a super blooper in January 2012, when in a statement submitted to the Supreme Court of India, it claimed that any urban family spending over Rs. 32/- (US$0.581) per day per person can not be considered as poor. For rural folks, this limit is supposed to be Rs. 26/- (US$ 0.4727) only. Any family whose expenditure is below these figures, only can be considered as below poverty line. For a country where food inflation has been raging in double digits and where a mini cup of tea costs at least Rs. 5/- (US$ 0.091), this kind of bloomer from planning commission was something no one could accept. Overnight, Planning commission of India and its ivory tower officers became a subject of ridicule and fun. It took much firefighting effort on part of the Government machinery to control the damage. However it seems that Planning commission is hell bent upon creating lives of Indians easier with bursts of antics to provide comic relief. Media reported recently that when the Government is preaching austerity measures, its own planning commission has spend Rs 35 Lacs (US$ 63000) on renovation of two Toilets in Yojana Bhavan. Naturally there was huge hue and cry from the media. To douse the fire , planning commission and its deputy chairman released further howlers. Deputy chairman says that “ It was within the commission's budget and there was nothing wrong in renovation of the toilets.” and "There is nothing wrong. We have tried to clean up the facilities. If the buildings are being improved, I think this is good." A statement issued by the commission says that "While the amount of Rs 30 lac being mentioned is correct, an impression is being created that this has been spent on two toilets. This is totally false because these toilets have multiple seats in addition to separate facility for the differently abled. Each of these blocks can be simultaneously used by approximately ten people,"
I find this statement outrageously funny. We must really thank the person who wrote this copy, for the great humour. There were complaints in the media that the access to these toilets is now controlled with smart card access control system costing abot Rs. 5 Lacs. Commission defended this by saying “ Because there have been instances of pilferage in the newly-constructed toilets, an access-control system was initially tried but not found feasible in practice". Yet the fact remains that Rs. 5 Lac spent on this system has gone down the drain. It is no wonder that J&K state chief minister Omar Abdullah has tweeted, "Must remember to ask to use the loo next time I visit the Planning Commission. Gotta see what all the fuss is about." Many Indians have no doubt, started thinking that the time has now come to say good bye to planning commission along with its ivory tower officers, who do not seem to be doing any worth while work any way. 8th June 2012
A Bleak Future For Senior Citizens
I read a very disturbing news story few days ago. An elderly couple trying to cross a busy thoroughfare in Pune, had managed to cross it up to the road divider point and were waiting for the traffic on the other side to slow down, when a speeding car brushed past the gentleman. He fell down on the road and was very fortunate to survive. Some kindhearted people helped him and the couple somehow managed to reach home. My first reaction to this story was naturally this. Why did this couple tried to cross the road at some random point instead of a pedestrian crossing point? How can we blame the vehicle driver for this? But when I read full details of the episode, I realized that such a disaster can strike almost any senior citizen. Apparently, the gentleman had an appointment with an eye specialist as he was suffering from loss of vision. Since there was no one else to help him take to this specialist, his wife, a senior citizen herself, agreed to accompany him. After his eyes were examined, the couple came out on the road and tried to hire an auto-cab to go
home. Number of cab drivers who were passing by, refused point blank to take this elderly couple home. The nearest signal light, which had some resemblance to a pedestrian crossing, was quite far away and the elderly couple was in no physical condition to walk up to that point. They realized that they were also not in a position to keep standing there on the road any longer and wait for a cab. In a desperate move, they decided to cross the busy thoroughfare to try and get an auto cab. One may argue that the couple invited the disaster themselves and no one can be blamed for their plight. Can a cab driver refuse a passenger if the fare meter flag on his cab is up? Why no pedestrian crossings at convenient points are provided by the Municipal Corporation? Why no policemen could be contacted on such a busy arterial road for help? What should a senior citizen do if he or she needs some help in a public place? Questions and questions! But no one has any answers. As we move from an era of joint families to nuclear families, it strikes me that the senior citizens alone will have to bear the brunt of this social change. Just a generation back, no senior citizen would have had required to go on his own to consult a physician. He or she would not have had to do grocery or stand in queue to pay his electricity or phone bills. Some younger members of his family would be always available to assist him or do the job. Social changes that are now sweeping through our societies have made just this group very isolated, helpless and vulnerable. It may be argued, that senior citizens from western or other developed nations, have been facing this kind of situation for some considerable period. It is just, that the time has come now for seniors in India, to face the new realities. So why this much ado about nothing. In this argument, we are unfortunately ignoring the de facto situation in these countries, which can not even be compared with situation in India. In these societies, special facilities are created by the
local authorities to serve the elders .There are mechanically operated escalators for crossing the roads. Bus or other transport doors are designed in such a way that a physically weak person also can enter or leave the bus. Bus drivers will wait at bus stops until elderly passengers enter the bus and are seated properly. For people who are economically better off, taxicabs can be called by making a call and above all, real help from Police or Medicos, is just a telephone call away. Special transport vehicles at nominal costs are available for seniors in most of developed societies.
Senior citizens in India, mainly who live in cities, today find themselves living on an isolated island. Because of the heavy congestion and traffic on the roads, they are afraid to move about and remain confined to their dwellings. If they happen to stay in an apartment, their situation is even worst. They cannot climb the stairs and are afraid to use the lift, which may fail anytime because of the vagaries of electrical power and generally poor maintenance. The sense of insecurity dominates their minds as day after day, news stories of elderly people being robbed appear in the press. Feeling of loneliness is perhaps their biggest woe. Younger generation obviously does not find their company particularly enjoyable and physical impossibility of traveling
to meet other elderly persons increases their isolation. There is also a continuing feeling of having become an unwanted and useless member of society. Only a generation back no such problems existed. Most of the elderly were part of a larger family and were well taken care off and happy. An easy evening stroll could take them to other seniors for a chat. They generally had much less feeling of isolation and boredom. Some people advocate the idea that such elders should move to special condominiums where all facilities are available for the elders. I personally loath to accept this idea. There is nothing more depressing for a senior citizen than to meet and interact day in and day out only other aged seniors. Besides, given the cost of such dwellings, very few seniors can really afford to move to such places.
Better medical facilities, newer medical treatment and more effective medicines have increased the longevity or the life span of most of Indians. This also means that there would be more and more isolated and lonely individuals confined to four walls of their apartments. These people still have enough interest left, in life. They like to watch theater, enjoy music concerts and would like to listen to speeches
from litterateurs and persons of eminence. They still like a bite of exotic foods and drinks, occasionally. They want to buy and read new books. They also want to look fashionable and trendy and would like to buy new apparel. In short, they still want to and are capable of enjoying many good things of life. But the congestion in the cities as well as changing social situation is putting them inside four walls from where there is no escape but a maddening feeling of greater and greater isolation and frustration. For senior citizens , the future really appears very bleak. 31st May 2012
Problems of Plenty
The Indian state of Punjab is facing a crisis. It's not that the state is facing shortage of essential commodities or electricity for that matter. On the contrary, the problem is exactly the opposite. Punjab is facing problems of plenty. For the second year in succession, the state is heading to a record breaking bumper wheat harvest. The total wheat harvest this year is likely to be around 12 Million tonnes, which surpasses all previous records. The previous best has been 11 Million tonnes, which means that the crop output would be higher by a Million tonnes. Acreage yield has gone up by 7% due to cool weather conditions and also timely winter rains. Incidence of pest attacks and crop diseases outbreaks also have been minimal. Though it's good news, it is giving head aches to the Government machinery as there are not enough storage places or even jute bags, which are required for packing the bumper crop. In India, traditionally, wheat is packed in Jute bags and then stored. Food Corporation of India (A
Government owned company) says that out of its storage capacity of 20.4 Million tonnes, almost half is used by rice alone. With about 3.5 Million tonnes used to stock sugar, hardly 7 to 8 Million tonne capacity is available for wheat. Adding to storage woes, is the slow movement of wheat from Punjab, the stocks from previous years have gone up by 1.7 Million tonnes. Food corporation of India is unable to store all this stock in scientific manner and some of the stocks are kept in unscientific manner leading to damage. In last five years almost one hundred thousand tonnes of wheat has been declared as non-usable and has been sold to distilleries and cattle feed producers at a great loss, which is estimated to be around 1.25 Billions of Rupees.
Worst part of this story of plenty is that Punjab state is not alone in this. Neighbouring states of Haryana and Madhya Pradesh are also in though to lesser degree. Haryana had an opening stock of 5.5 Million tons and have already procured another 7 Million tonnes this year. Madhya pradesh state used to produce about 4 Million tonnes each year. Last year the output was 5.2 Million tonnes and this
year it would exceed 8 Million tonnes. Both these state have poor storage facilities and much grain is wasted due to rotting.
The minimum support price paid to wheat growers as announced by the Government this year is 12850 Rupees per tonne. Whereas wheat is being sold in wholesale markets in range of 10,000 to 13,000 Rupees per tonne. Due to this reason, no private traders are ready to procure
stocks from the growers. Almost entire harvests in last few years therefore have been procured by the five state agencies and the Food Corporation of India. Who are now facing storage problems on an unprecedented scale. It becomes obvious that a very comfortable wheat supply situation is being given up due to inadequate storage capacity. Wheat exports were banned since last four years and about 2 Million tonnes of wheat was allowed to exported in July 2011. Food corporation of India is trying to lease storage space from private godowns, but the efforts are proving to be inadequate. It is clear that if India has to maintain this position of comfort, large scale construction of storage godowns or grain silos is required. States are now hoping that federal Government would now step in and take the responsibility of storage. Federal Government can not really step in unless Food security act is passed by parliament. This act only would allow the federal Government to step in and create grain storage facilities. Indian consumers are facing raging inflation in almost all food items. Wheat is an exception, thanks to the Wheat growers of Punjab, Haryana and Madhya Pradesh. Whether this position of comfort would be maintained or frittered away due to inadequate storage is a Million Dollar question. Favourable weather for last couple of years has helped in producing a bumper crop. Such favourable weather may not continue forever and in near future, wheat production may take a hit. If wheat godowns are full and flowing, we may not face any shortages. Passing of Food security act and creating storage space therefore becomes a top priority area. Problems of plenty are equally troublesome as woes created by shortages. Isn’t it? 15 May 2012
No Toilet? No Bride!
In India, out of the total population of 1.2 Billions, almost half live in rural areas. In spite of all the show casing of progress in the cities, fact remains that many rural areas still lack even the basic amenities like latrines and toilets. To have a toilette in or adjoining the house is one of the basic necessities of modern times. Unfortunately, not many rural folks seem to have understood the importance of even this basic facility. Effectively, rural womenfolk suffer the most. To avoid prying eyes, they are forced to visit the open-air toilets under cover of darkness, which can be very inconvenient at times. It is humiliating, harrowing and extremely unhealthy. Further, it leads to spread of diseases such as diarrhea, typhoid and malaria. Many rural womenfolk suffer from urinary tract infections, kidney and liver problems, because they don’t have a safe place to go Efforts to improve upon the situation of the lack of sanitation, in rural areas, have not met with much success so far. In the year 2001, a project to build latrines in rural areas was taken up with the help of World Bank. The
latrines built under this scheme were used by rural folks for storage of grains or as verandahs for their houses. The reason for this failure can be very well traced to the fact that the womenfolk never participated or were not even consulted in this project. They need the sanitation facility most and should have been consulted about the project in the first place.
Women from the Indian state of Haryana , now seem to have taken a new lead. With rural womenfolk, giving their support to the cause, the movement appears to have caught the fascination of the village women everywhere and is spreading to other states too. If you ask any rural young girl today, about her expectations of her future bride groom, along with such usual expectations, such as being vegetarian, no vices, capable of getting a good job, a new expectation has come up. Most of the girls would say that the future groom must have a latrine in his house. Two years back, Government of Haryana with the help of few NGO’s, started a new movement under the slogan, “No
Toilets, No bride”. This movement has caught the fascination of rural womenfolk and is growing rapidly. As things stand today, the widespread and illegal practice of the abortion of female fetuses in favor of sons has already reduced percentage of women population in state of Haryana. The girls with marriageable age and their parents are not willing to marry their daughters in a family, which does not have a latrine in the house. This social pressure has brought about a welcome change. Parents, who wish to get their boys married, have started building sanitation facilities in their houses on priority.
This change has not come about without a reason. There are many direct and indirect reasons. First of all, most of the girls of marriageable age are educated at least up to matriculation level. Many have taken technical courses in addition. This basic education has brought about certain change in their attitude towards life and their expectations from it. They keep watching serials and advertisements on TV. When they watch the heroines on TV, wearing silk dresses or Jeans and Tee shirts and going to work on their own vehicles, it makes a profound impact on these young
girls and no wonder that they expect higher quality of life. Five or ten years back, one could always see girls riding pillion behinds their fathers or husbands. These days’ girls driving their own scooty ( a low hp 2 wheeler motorbike) are seen often. Mr. Bindeshwar Pathak, founder director of an organization called ‘Sulabh International’, which specializes in building of low cost rural latrines, considers this ‘No Toilette?No Bride! Movement as a bloodless coup. There seems to be no doubt that this movement would certainly bring more self-respect and confidence back in the minds of rural womenfolk of India. 14th May 2012
Beware of New Drugs! They may not have been tried before!
It is well known that free passage to international medical conferences, free lodging and boarding in a foreign country and expensive gifts are some of the items from a long list of temptations offered by the drug companies to entice Doctors and medical practitioners to presribe their products to patients. Some of the black sheep Doctors of the clique, on condition of being anonymous, sometime describe in details, how anything, medically significant, is ever discussed at these international conferences. That is however besides the point. Enticements offered by these drug companies are essentially a part of sales promotion work. I do not know whether it is ethically correct or wrong, but that is how the medicine business works world wide.
A news storyreleased today reveals a much more serious plan, put to work by some drug companies, which has the dimensions of a major scam. In India, the topmost authority, who has mandatory control over all drugs related issues is known as Drug Controller General of India (DCGI). Which drugs are to be allowed? Which are to be banned? At what price the drugs should be sold? Are some of the issues that need DCGI clearance. In case of new drugs, before allowing them to be released in the market, DCGI procedure specifies that scientific recommendations from medicinal experts in the field regarding effectiveness of drugs and if any side effects are observed, need to be submitted. India's Central Drugs Standard Control Organization (CDSCO), considers such scientific recommendation and the endorsement by experts absolutely necessary before the effectiveness of a drug can be trusted. CDSCO would consider to allow the drug to be released in the market only when such recommendations are received. Since CDSCO do not have medical practitioners on their staff roll, they consider it aboslutely a must that scientific recommendations are given by medical experts in the field. This is all fine on paper. But what exactly is happening in practice? Indian parliament has a standing committee that overlooks the matters concerning health and family welfare. This committee recently tabled a report on functioning of Central Drugs Standard Control Organization (CDSCO). This scathing report says, “ there is ample evidence to show that several scientific recommendations submitted to the CDSCO to push a drug into market were actually written by invisible hands of drug companies themselves and experts merely obliged by putting their signatures." This committee found to it's horror "expert advise and letters of recommendation" from these experts read the same - word by word - and were submitted on the same day.” Committee report gives number of examples of this practice followed by drug companies, obviously in connivance with CDSCO.
For a drug named as Clevudine (Phamasset Inc), three professors of medicine - from AIIMS, KBN Medical College, Gulbarga and RG Kar Medical College, Kolkata - located at places which are thousands of miles apart from each other, have given a word for word identical letters of recommendation. In identical language they recommend that the company may be permitted to market the drug without conducting mandatory clinical trials in India. A medicine called Sertindole, (an anti-psychotic drug by Lundbeck), three experts located at three different places (head of the department of psychiatry of Stanley Medical College, Chennai, doctor from Psychiatric Nursing Home, Ahmedabad and HoD psychiatry of LTM Medical College, Mumbai) have given letters of recommendation in nearly word-by-word, identical language. For Pirfenidone (made by Cipla), professor of pulmonary medicine, AIIMS; a chest physician from Lilavati Hospital, Mumbai; an additional professor of pulmonary medicine from PGI, Chandigarh and a pulmonologist of Yashoda Hospital, Secunderabad have all given their recommendations on same daywere all received exactly on the same day and have adjacent receipt number of DCGI. For Rivaroxaban , a drug for prevention of clotting, manufactured by Bayer, Prof of orthopedics, AIIMS; consultant at Dayanand Medical College, Ludhiana and professor of orthopedics from St Johns Medical College, Bangalore, have all given recommendations, which are ditto copies of each other. In the case of Doxofylline, an anti-asthmatic drug, Prof of medicine of MGM Medical College, Indore and a consultant from Indraprastha Apollo Hospital, New Delhi have given recommendations which are also word-by-word identical. For Nimesulide injection, HOD of medicine, Government Medical College, Aurangabad and senior consultant
orthopedic surgeon of Indraprastha Apollo Hospital, Delhi, have goven letters of opinion which seem to have reached DCGI exactly on the same day and have receipt numbers adjacent to each other. In case of Ademetionine, doctors belonging to Lokmanya Tilak Medical College, Mumbai; Medical College, Thiruvananthapuram; IPGMER Kolkata and chairman and chief of hepatology of Sir Ganga Ram Hospital, Delhi have all given letters of recommendation with similar comments. The case of fixed dose combination of Aaceclofenac with Drotaverine, which is not permitted in any developed country of North America, Europe or Australasia, is extremely curious. Here an official from CDSCO office wrote to the manufacture 'Themis Medicare Ltd.' that the company should select the experts and get their opinions and then deliver them to CDSCO. The parliamentary committee, very rightly has concluded that "There is sufficient evidence on record to conclude that there is collusive nexus between drug manufacturers, some functionaries of CDSCO and some medical experts." From this 'modus operandi' of the drug companies becomes crystal clear. For any new medicines that these companies desire to market in India, they just create a research report or a letter of recommendation, get the signature of any Doctor in the country on the dotted line, who might not even have prescribed the medicine before, Collect such reports from four corners of the country, creating an impression that drug has undergone extensive clinical trials over a wide area and complete the formality of submission of documents to CDSCO. The CDSCO, on their part, instead of being controllers, have degraded themselves as facilitators. They are, like every other bureaucratic organization of the Government, plagued by the ever present evil of corruption. But why should all these eminent Doctors and Medical Practitioners fall easy
pray to vilely ways of drug companies? is a question that pains my mind. But is their really a difference between a Doctor enjoying free hospitality of a drug company in a foreign land, under pretext of attending a medical conference and the Doctors, who have signed on the dotted line on a letter of recommendation of a drug, which has been never prescribed by them. It is a major scam that in these both cases, Doctors, instead of giving sound scientific evidence, are working for the drug companies. 10 May 2012
On every morning, I go for a brisk walk in a park situated not very far from my house. This park has a peculiar kind of shape. The total length of the park must be between 2 or 3 KM. But the width, which is very narrow, varies between just 50 or 60 meters. In this narrow width, a bicycle track has been accommodated on one side. In the remaining width-wise space, there is a jogging track at the center, with mostly small trees planted on one side and large trees occupy the space on the other side. The spaces between trees are filled with small shrubs and greens. For my brisk walks, this park is ideal, because I can start walking from one end, go to the other end and return back. This way, I can easily cover a distance of about 4 or 5 KM. The other day, as usual, I was returning from my walk. The time must have been around 9 AM. There were still joggers running on the central track along with some seniors leisurely completing their morning stroll. I could also see some school or college going kids with their trademark backpacks on their backs. While walking at a brisk pace, my attention was momentarily drawn to a side. What I saw there was totally shocking and unbelievable. It shattered all
my concepts of public behaviour and civic sense. I felt so ashamed that automatically my eyes got focused to the track in front of me. I just could not dare to lift my eyes and moved away from that spot as quickly as I could. What I saw in that fleeting moment, was a middle aged woman, relieving herself just on the side of the jogging track in the middle of a park. In this garden, there are public toilets provided on either end, so absence or lack of a suitable toilet, was no reason for this action, for this ignorant and silly woman. It was just a case of full and total ignominious ignorance of any civic sense for that stupid woman. When a person can be so ignorant of the expected normal civilized behaviour, in a city of 4 or 5 Million people and that too at a spot where continuous movement of the people can be seen, I aqm sure that the situation in India's villages must be unimaginably horrible. UNICEFF, which is a part of the United Nations organization, has recently published a report , which says that 58% of the world's population defecates in open, even today. What I find in this report most shameful is the fact that 54% of Indian population or about 640 Million people use open spaces for their daily evacuations. Perhaps, in no other country of the world, such a vast number of people defecate in the open space. After India, Indonesia is the next country, where a large number of people have make use of open space as a lavatory. But, compared to India, their number is small, just 57 Millions. After this, 54 Million Chinese also face this ordeal. It is however difficult to say whether people are facing this difficulty because of the lack of toilets or prefer to do this because of their ignorance. Even in the case of women, the figures for India are equally disgraceful. In India, 60% of the womenfolk carry out the task in open. From these figures, one can very well imagine the neglect and disregard shown by people in India and women in particular towards their personal hygiene. India's Minister for rural development minister Mr. Jairam Ramesh considers this fact as biggest and largest blot on India, a description any
sensible person would agree to. Mr Jairam says that the situation in the states of Haryana, Sikkim, Maharashtra and Kerala is somewhat better, but in rest of the states the situation contuinues to be absolutely disastrous. In the state of Uttar Pradesh, almost 10 % of the population is an easy pray for deadly diseases because of lack of individual and personal hygiene. Out of total 0.6 Million villages of India, only 25000 villages have toilets available for all the village dwellers. Non maintenance of personal hygiene is the primary reason for the unhealthiness of the society of India at large. About 0.4 Million Indians suffer from Diarrhea every year. Out of which almost 90% are small children. India gets an hit of 2.4 Trillion Rupees, which is 6.4 % of the GDP, because of this personal unhealthiness. Indian Government spends 100 Billion Rupees on Rural development. Out of this only 2 Billion Rupees are spent of programmes connected with personal Hygeine and Toilets. Mr Jairam wants to increase this outlay to at least 10 Billion Rupees. He is quite concerned with the fact that people's awareness can not be increased by just making rules and laws. He has planned a new initiative, which would be called as 'Festival of Cleanliness' and feel that the things can improve only if a social and political mass movement comes up in the Indian society in the field of personal hygiene and cleanliness. Even though these figures ring warning bells for the nation at large, essentially, lack of personal hygiene makes biggest impact on the life of the unhealthy individual. Just because there are no toilets available within their premises, many Indian womenfolk from villages are forced to to go out in groups to defecate in open spaces in darkness before the dawn breaks. These women find this a very shameful act, which they have to perform every morning. This lack of freedom even to carry out normal needs of a human body makes big impact on psychology of these village womenfolk.
In many towns and villages of India, it appears from the behaviour of the menfolk, that fields, roads or any wall are considered as public urinal places. Womenfolk have no such freedom and are forced to wait even when painful, just to locate a suitable place and time. This must be the biggest national disgrace for India and women in particular . When Indians are freed from such disgraceful behaviours, which are principally caused by the lack of suitable toilet facilities, we can say that there really has been some progress. Today, every other Indian has a mobile phone but has to defecate in open because of the lack of toilets. Under no frame of reference, this situation can be considered as honourable. 9th May 2012
Travelling- without a Mobile phone?
Some time back, I was travelling from Mumbai to Pune city by a train service well known as 'Deccan Queen'. These days, everything except for the name of this train service, has been changed or modified Even sixty years before, when I was just a kid, this train service was still very famous. This train then, used to have only 8 or 9 carriages, one of them being used for dining purposes. All the coaches in the train would be First class coaches. The journey was extremely comfortable and was considered as ultimate in comfort. If a family of four was travelling, an independent compartment would be made available, which offered great privacy. Sometime in 1960's decade, chair cars appeared for the first time on the train. These push back chairs, provided in these coaches, were no doubt very comfortable. However, instead of the old arrangement of having 3 seats abreast in a row, four chair cars were now provided in a row. Under the disguise of modernization, Indian railways had very
cleverly reduced effective space and privacy available for each passenger by making four people sit abreast. This sitting arrangement continued for further three or four decades. After 1990, Railways introduced air conditioned chair cars on this train service. The cars became air conditioned all right, but now 5 persons were made to sit abreast in a row. In another clever move, Indian railways managed to give even less space to the passengers on the train, charging them the same fare as before. These new air conditioned coaches also did provide some amount of sound proofing for the passengers and the usual rattling and vibratory sounds of the train travel were heard with much less intensity. This was a good point but interestingly created another side effect. The chatting amongst co-passengers no longer remained private and was heard by everyone sitting around. Similarly, mobile ring tones and the talk also could be clearly heard by every one sitting nearby. I remember clearly that in one of my journeys from Pune to Mumbai, a person sitting just ahead of me, had by mistake, brought the house latch key with himself on the train. Apparently his wife had come to see him off on the station. This gentleman had then called his wife from train on his mobile, who was in a public transport at that time returning home, and had told her loudly the details for next 5 minutes, where he had kept the duplicate key hidden behind a window. Everyone sitting near him, came to know about his house and where they hide the house latch key. If there would have been some social miscreants around us, they could have easily taken advantage of the situation. This 'Deccan Queen' also makes the return journey from Mumabi to Pune in the evening on the same day. During one such return journey, my co-travellers continuously kept on getting calls inquiring about their current location. They were also reporting all the time to someone or other on phone, about having reached XXX station or having just left YYY station.
As we neared Pune, the phone calls were now from the people having come to Pune station for receiving the travellers. Where they should meet? What dresses are being worn by them, so they can be identified easily? Etc. Etc. Some co-travellers were also informing their families in Mumbai about having reached Pune safely. In my coach, perhaps, I was the only traveller on that day, who never received a call or made one. I have made this journey by Deccan Queen on many occasions during last thirty or forty years. All details such as, where would I get down? Where would the person who has come to receive me, be standing? Are part of an old routine for me and my family and I did not find any necessity to make calls for this purpose. There was nothing to report on phone that day. Once travelling to Mumbai by a public bus, we got stuck in a worst kind of traffic jam. I spent entire day on the road, in a place called 'Malvali'. Finally, when the traffic started moving again, I took a return bus in the evening and came back home in the night. In those days, there were no mobile phones at all. So my family came to know about my day having been spent at ' Malvali' instead of Mumbai, only in the night. Really speaking, there are both pluses and
minuses when one is carrying a mobile phone in travel. When I used to travel without mobile phones, I would to be in complete darkness about any domestic difficulties or what was happening in my factory on that day. The person in charge, in my absence, had to deal with the situations. Because of this I would have no worries about the factory, work or my home in Pune and I could concentrate on my work, for which I was any way travelling. Recently, I had gone to Delhi, with few friends of mine. All my friends were in continuous contact with their businesses in Pune. They had tough time there as they were simultaneously solving business problems from back home and were also meeting people and carrying out business deals in Delhi. Carrying your mobile on travel has plus side too. I remember that when I used to be away, I would never know about any serious problem or new business opportunity in my factory in Pune and many a times have lost god orders because of my absence. If I am ever asked a question regarding which travel is better, one with a mobile or one without? I would definitely prefer the travel made with my mobile. If I am carrying my mobile with me on travel, (Which now I always do!) everyone including myself has a sort of secure feeling. This feeling is so much comforting, whenever I have to travel to a foreign country from Mumbai's international airport. Earlier it was not possible for a traveller to contact anyone outside from inside the airport lounges and everyone outside would be in total dark regarding actual departure. I remember a peculiar incidence when my flight to Hong Kong was delayed by 24 hours. I found it extremely difficult to inform about this delay to my people in India as well as abroad. Now you can be in contact with everyone, till about your flight is about to take off. Similarly, as soon as your flight touches ground, you can switch on the mobile and be in touch with your near and dear ones. A mobile phone is like a double edged sword. It can cause hurt to yourself if misused. I feel that if this misuse could be
avoided, this modern gadget is a real blessing for a modern traveller. 6th May 2012
An amazing feat
A huge water reservoir fed by the unimaginable quantum of rainfall of 2.5 to 5.0 meters during southwest Monsoons, is located on west coast of India. This reservoir, situated in between towering ranges of the Western Ghat or Sahyadri mountains, was created in 1960 by damming the Koyana river, whose source or headwaters are located on the Mahabaleshwar plateau. The water reservoir is huge, having a total area of 344 square miles and a depth of about 260 feet and total quantity of water held roughly 10 x 1010 Cubic feet. What is unique about this reservoir is it's location. The reservoir located in deep forests of Western Ghat mountains and at an height of 3675 feet above mean sea level is separated from the Konkan land strip on west coast of India, just by a range of towering mountain range. This Konkan land strip is almost at the sea level. This geographical fact and the resulting hydro-electric potential was recognized ever since the first survey about 100 years
ago. However it took further span of fifty years to put this potential in Megawatts of electrical power.
During first three phases, huge tunnels were excavated in the mountain ranges to divert the reservoir water to the mountain face on the west. From this point, water is taken to huge underground turbines through underground water tunnels to generate power. It was realized during 1980 that during summer months, when the water level falls below a certain level, water can not be diverted to the power house and generation of electrical power slows down. To recover more water, a hole was blasted on a lower level so that water can continue to flow to the power house even when the reservoir water level has dropped down to as low as 630 meters above mean sea level. This additional water was mainly used to generate power during periods of peak demand. After this lake tapping, the height of the water inlet point became 618 meters and when lake water level was 630 meter or above, water could be fetched from the reservoir in enough quantity for power generation. The Government then decided to supply a quantity of about 20 TMC of water to some drought prone areas from the reservoir. This additional water outlay would reduce the water level below
630 meters and flow of water to inlet tunnel at 618 meters was further restricted. It was there fore decided to lower the level of the inlet point to 606 meters, This was easier said than done. A 4 Km long tunnel was required to be dug 40 meter below the surface of the water almost along the water, rock contact at the lake bottom. Near the point of tapping, it had to be dug very near the lake bottom, so that an opening could be blasted in the final protective rock. This new tunnel had to be connected to the old tunnel. This tunneling work was completed in just 100 days.
For the final lake tapping or blasting of protective rock, 1600 Kg of 'Bonogel-711' explosives manufactured by Swedish company Bofors were used. This final blasting was done recently with a North American specialty company as chief consultants. Since the water level in the reservoir at the time of blasting was 645 meters, considerable difficulties had to be faced. As the explosives were detonated, entire reservoir vibrated with force as if there was an earthquake and blue waters of the lake rose by almost 15 feet before surging waves spread all around.
The additional water is expected to generate further capacity of 1000 Megawatts, increasing the total capacity of the project to 1960 Megawatts. It must be said that it was a job very well done. 2 May 2012
New Delhi's Nehru Place Electronics Market blacklisted by USA
Twenty five or thirty years ago, I used to visit New Delhi quite often for business purposes. A huge market known as ‘Chandani Chowk market’, where trading in all sorts of commodities took place, existed opposite Delhi’s famous Red Fort. I had appointed a dealer for Delhi area, to market products manufactured by my company, and his shop used to be in a part of this market, known as Electrical Market. Because of this reason, I used to visit that area at least once in every six or eight months. On one side of this Electrical market, there used to be a smaller market, which dealt exclusively with Electronic products. In those days, Electronic products that were available in India, were very few and limited, such as transistor radios and voltage stabilizers. The highest selling product was so called ‘Transistor portable radio’. Only 4 or 5 big companies such as Philips, Bush, Murphy and National Ekco had Government permission then, to manufacture these radios. No other big
business. was allowed to enter the field. Yet, there were number of small manufactures or bed room manufacturers, who would do assembly of these radios and voltage stabilizers. These small entrepreneurs mostly supplied their goods to this Chandni Chouk Electronics market. This market was also famous for making available, branded radios at a very cheap rate. This was done by labeling, radios manufactured by bedroom manufacturers with labels of Philips, Bush or Murphy. This business was done openly with total disregard of any laws or rules. Naturally such deals were strictly on cash basis and no invoice or receipt was ever given and if given it would be in the name of some other product. It is needless to say that the quality of these fake radios used to be very inferior, as there was no quality control and no guarantee. With globalization and removal of most of the restrictions on manufacture and import of electronics stuff, I had since thought that New Delhi's electronics market and all the illegal businesses carried on there would be closed by now. But my assumption has turned out to be totally wrong. New Delhi's shady market is still very much thriving. The only changes that have taken place are that the market has shifted to a new venue and instead of transistor radios, the trading now goes on in computers, phones and their components. 'Chandani Chouk Electronics market' has now shifted to Nehru Place in New Delhi. Out of some 10000 shops around this place, 3000 shops are dealing in electronics and specially computers, phones and their parts. This Nehru Place market has now the dubious distinction of receiving a new certificate of commemoration.(?) A US Government department known as U.S Trade Representative (USTR) has recently published on 20th December 2012, a world wide list of markets that have been blacklisted for trading in highest number of pirated goods. This list is being called as ' Out-of-Cycle Review of Notorious Markets,December 20, 2011'. This list includes,
along with 14 other ill famous markets, Nehru Place electronics market also. The other markets in this list are Bahia Market (Guayaquil, Ecuador), China Small Commodities Market (Yiwu, China), Ciudad del Este (Paraguay), Harco Glodok (Jakarta, Indonesia), La Salada (Buenos Aires, Argentina), Lo Wu Commercial Center (Shenzhen, China), PC Malls (China), Petrivka Market (Kyiv, Ukraine), Quiapo Shopping District (Manila, Philippines), Red Zones (Thailand), San Andresitos (Colombia), Silk Market (Beijing, China), Tepito (Mexico City), Urdu Bazaars (Pakistan).
USTR report about Nehru Place electronic market says that “ Like many other markets in all other major cities of India, Nehru Place market is ill famous for trading in pirated computer software, movies and music media, and smuggled or illegally procured electronics items”. If we go around this market, we can see here many shops dealing with items like personal computers, servers, networking gear, computer software, copiers, paper, ink, printers, which are all connected with information technology industry.
All related services are also easily available here. There are many shops , who trade in genuine materials, legally imported or procured. This makes this market a Mecca for all those who are connected with electronics or computers. There are many entrepreneurs and shops here that assemble computers and servers against orders. There is also a market for used or second hand computers. Most of the business is carried out here, except for authorized
shops, on cash basis and without any tax compliance. The prices are therefore much cheaper here and with haggling one can get huge discounts. From all this description, it is obvious that Nehru Place electronics market has a huge potential. However, for development of this market into a genuine trade hub, it is imperative that the goods and services traded in this market must be legally procured after full tax compliance. Unfortunately, the market is developing into a hub for smuggled and tax evaded goods and services. If this continues, even though the market is thriving at this point of time, a time may surely come when just like old 'Chandani Chouk Electronics market', the very existence of this market may also get erased. 1st May 2012
A Gold foiled Indian SnackMasala Dosa
In the foodie world of India, the dishes that have effectively stopped the barrage of Punjabi foods like Parathas, Chhole and Bhaturas, are the South Indian snacks like Idli's and Dosa's. Right from Kashmir in north to Aasam in the east, entire north India, loves the great South Indian snacks. Even abroad, any restaurant serving Indian dishes, always serves these mouth watering south Indian delicacies. During my young age, These snacks were certainly available in the restaurants all right, but were not so popular as today. The local Maharashtrian dishes like 'Sabudana Khichadi', 'Kanda Pohe' and 'Misal' used to be very popular earlier. I hit upon these South Indian snacks for the first time, when I moved
to Bengaluru City for my education. Our hostel mess used to serve these dishes every day for breakfast and for snacking along with afternoon tea. On many sunday evenings, we would troop off to Brigade road area, to enjoy the fabulous Dosa's served by a restaurant known as 'Koushy's'. The taste of those crisp Dosa's, makes my mouth water even today. This restaurant is gone now, yet the taste of Kaushy's Dosa's still lingers in my mouth. Those wonderful Dosa's used to cost in those days, maybe a Rupee or two. It is also a fact that in the range of South Indian snacks, not much choice was available for a foodie in those days. One might got 'Rava Idli' or ' Rava Dosa' or a ' Mysore Dosa' at the most. Today, we have endless number of varients and choices like 'Kheema Dosa', 'Chicken Dosa' or even a paper thin Dosa. I am writing all this today on the subject of Dosa's for a special reason. 'Rajbhog', a restaurant in Bengaluru City's posh Malleshwaram area, has come out with a brand new class of Dosa's. Few years ago, coating eatables with silver foil or leaf, had become an item of high fashion. Top quality Indian sweets like 'Laddu' or 'Barfi would normally be coated with a thin silver leaf. Even today, this practice is continued by some sweetmeat shops. More expensive varieties of 'Betel nut Paan' (an after meal mouth freshener ), are also many time coated with a silver leaf. I also remember having eaten a similar ' Paan' with a coating of a gold foil, from a stall near one of the 5 star hotels in Mumbai. Maybe, taking inspiration from that Gold foiled 'Paan' or some sweets, the Dosa's available at this 'Rajbhog' restaurant are actually coated with a Gold foil. Before serving a hot Dosa to the customer, a golden leaf of approximately six inches by six inches is stuck on the Dosa. The price of an ordinary Dosa today, which has already touched the sky according to me, is somewhere in the range of 50 to 100 Rupees. Rajbhog's prices of Rs, 1011 for a Dosa with a gold leaf can not be said to be unreasonably high. Rajbhog restaurant guarantee’s that they would be
serving at least 1 mg of gold to each customer. Gold oxides are already in use in India's traditional medicines of 'Ayurveda'. There is nothing unhealthy therefore in Rajbhog's gold Dosa's, Rajbhog is buying the gold leaves from a company in Rajsthan state of India and Food department of Bengaluru Municipal Corporation has already given green signal to this Dosa. A question is likely to puzzle readers about who is going to eat this Dosa? In Bengaluru, there are many people, who have stuck a gold mine from the Information Technology Industry. This Gold Dosa could be a nice way for them to flaunt their wealth. When this Dosa was offered on an experimental basis by the restaurant, the response has been quite encouraging. It has been therefore included in the standard menu now. I read somewhere recently that India imports 1000 Tonnes of Gold . Few Gold leaf Dosa's are hardly going to make a big difference. 30th April 2012
A golden page from history
Our story opens, right at the beginning of the world war II, in the year 1939, when Nazi Germany and Communist USSR attacked their common neighbour Poland. Improvised Polish army was no match for the invading armies and soon the polish nation surrendered. Nazi Germany and USSR decided to divide Poland between them. Germany holding on to west Poland and USSR on to east Poland. Both the Nazis and Soviets sent huge numbers of Poland’s elite, like military families, police, doctors, teachers, and anyone else suspected of patriotic feelings to prisons and labour camps. Soviet Union later went a step further. They decided and deported more than 1.5 Million Polish citizens to deep interior points like Siberia and Kazakhstan. The purpose of these deportations were two fold. Firstly it was thought that it would simplify the polish integration into Soviet empire. Secondly it provided a supply of labour for Soviet Union's collective farms. Entire families were packed into railway goods wagons in Poland and were confined in them for six weeks as the trains rolled east towards Kazakhstan. Anyone trying to escape was just shot.
However, as things turned out later, this deportation turned out to be a deliverance for the deportees from the Nazi concentration camps and the subsequent genocide. In 1941, Hitler suddenly attacked Soviet Russia with a blitzkrieg. This made the Soviets change their strategy towards the Polish deportees. At that time, thousands of Polish deportees were in prisons in Russia. It was thought that an army could be created out of these deportees, who could fight the Nazi's. A general amnesty was declared to all polish deportees. An exiled Polish Government in London readily agreed to formation of this army and an agreement was signed with Soviets. This army was supposed to fight in North Africa with the British and was to be assembled at just north of the USSR border with Iran, on its way to middle east through Iran. The soldiers were supposed to gather together in bases in Turkmenistan and Uzbekistan before proceeding further. All the polish deportees saw this mass transit of soldiers as an opportunity to escape from harsh life in USSR and an epic journey of thousands of Polish families began towards
Turkmenistan from all over USSR, who hoped to join the soldiers and eventually cross over to Iran. To take up this journey, many families had to escape from the community farms (many farm bosses simply refused to allow them to leave.),have money to buy train tickets and travel for months from Siberia to south. They had to change trains frequently, sleep on bare floors. Conditions were filthy with no proper washing facilities at stations. People were infested with lice and infections spread like wild flowers. Many of them died just waiting for the train tickets.
Polish army along with migrant families, crossed into Iran by ship across the Caspian Sea or by road at the end of 1942. Some 37000 adults and 18000 children made it. After this, the soviet border was closed and another Million Polish citizens remained trapped inside forever. Iranian's were sympathetic towards the polish and treated them kindly. Some of them stayed in Iran but majority moved towards Afghanistan and finally to India.
Navanagar was an Indian princely state of British India, in Kathiawar region, situated on the south of the Gulf of Kutch and ruled by Jamsaheb Digvijay Singh Jadeja, an extremely compassionate ruler. When he came to know about the plight of the Polish refugees, he once decided to open his province for the Polish refugees. He, along with rulers of Patiala and Baroda and Industrialists like Tata's raised a sum of six hundred thousand Rupees and set up a camp at Balchadi near Jamnagar, which had special accommodation, schools, medical facilities and opportunities for rest and recuperation for the refugees. When the first batch of about 500 severely malnourished and exhausted orphans reached the camp, he welcomed them warmly. He coordinated with the Polish Government in exile and arranged to impart education in Polish language apart from catholic priests. Between 1942 and 1948, about 20,000 refugees stayed and transited through India for a duration ranging from half year
to six years in some cases. After the war was over, the refugees were asked to return to Poland. However, many chose to be repatriated to the UK, the US, Australia and other Commonwealth nations while just a few returned to Poland. The Nawanagar Maharaja gave them a personal send-off at the station.
This great deed by the Nawanagar Maharaja was done almost Sixty Four years ago. The real story here, that very much appealed to me, is that even in today's Poland, Maharaja of Nawanagar, Jamsaheb Digvijay Singh Jadeja is fondly remembered. Many survivors even today still recall with emotion and tears, the Maharaja and his kindness. But the real surprise, which almost touches my heart , can be found in a school in Warsaw, capital of Poland. This school is named after the Maharaja to express the gratitude of the Polish people towards this compassionate man. At first glance this school looks like any other school in Warsaw. But as one enters inside, he feels that he has entered an Indian museum. Pictures of Indian monuments and landscapes, wall posters depicting classical dance and rangoli, handicrafts and decoration items, Tibetan Thangka paintings and pictures of Indian gods and goddesses adorn the walls of the school. Not only that, Jamsaheb Digvijay
Singh has been declared the patron saint of this school after the school community consisting of parents, students and teachers conducted a referendum in June 1999 and overwhelmingly approved the move.
The Principal pf this school Ms. Krystyna Starcewska, says that this incident from history is remembered with respect
and gratefulness, and had become a part of the school's own legacy. The legacy of kindness is continued by the school even today by offering free education to the children of refugees in Poland from Chechnya, Vietnam, Sri Lanka, Tibet and African countries. Ms. Maria Krzyszt of Byrski, former Ambassador of Poland to India from 1993 to 1996, and a professor of Indian Studies, agrees and says that naming the school after the Maharaja, was a better option as the “students of such a school would be the custodians of the valuable history.” Poland had recently honoured the Maharaja Jamsaheb Digvijay Singh posthumously, by presenting the “Commanders Cross of the Order of the Merit of the Polish Republic,” This honour is given to civilians and foreigners for contributing to good foreign relations between Poland and other countries. There is also a proposal pending with the city authorities to name a square in Warsaw after the Maharaja and setting up a special plaque describing the history of his connection to Poland. There is a saying that a good deed is never lost. How true, isn't it? 29 April 2012
Health services or commercial dealings?
I have been reading full page advertisements in newspapers about new hospitals that continue to come up in almost all major towns in India. Most of the new hospitals offer a five star service to the prospective patients. These spanking hospitals have the latest diagnostic machines and clinical investigation procedures and wide publicity is given in the news media to these facilities. There is a trend in some western and mid western countries to travel to India for medical treatment because of the relatively low cost, compared to their native countries. Even in my home city of Pune, spanking new hospitals with most modern machines and latest treatments have come up in several places. During last few years, I have visited some of these places on number of occasions, for making calls on sick friends and relatives, who unfortunately due to some sickness or other, had to get admitted to a hospital. I have always felt impressed with the standard and quality of medical help that is tendered to the patients by most of the new
hospitals. On the negative side, the treatments are prohibitively expensive, to put it mildly. A friend of mine was suffering from an incorrigible ailment for number of years. He was being treated by a medical practitioner, who had looked after my friend and his family for at least four decades. This Doctor, who was of about the same age as my friend, was considered by my friend and his family as their 'Family Doctor or Physician' and was always consulted on each and every health related issue. Unfortunately, this medical practitioner was attacked by some hooligans in his house and was severely injured and subsequently lost his life. Having lost a Doctor, who had been giving them consultation over a long period of time, my friend and his family were suddenly at a loss and did not know, whom to consult in the future and who would be able to give effective treatment to my friend's ailment. These days, one can see on every street corner, nameplates or boards of dozens of so called medical specialists, who give consultation only in a certain area of specialization. However a medical practitioner with a private practice and who can give general, broad based consultation has become an absolute rarity these days. Luckily my friend did find a new medical practitioner with a general practice and started consulting him and continued his treatment for more than an year. Later, my friend's health deteriorated suddenly and he became gravely ill. When his family contacted the new medical practitioner and requested him for a home visit, he simply refused to do any home visit and asked the patient to be brought to his dispensary. When he was told that the patient was in no condition to travel , the medical practitioner asked that he should be taken to a hospital in an ambulance. When a patient is taking regular consultation from a medical practitioner, his flat refusal for a home visit, particularly when the patient is gravely ill, appears to me a very bad and almost cruel professional behaviour. Unfortunately, this is what is becoming a norm and a standard practice now in
India. Since I have lived abroad for some time, I am very well aware that in most of the advanced countries, this is the standard practice followed. I could have never imagined that medical practitioners in India, would be picking up this practice so soon, when all other things differ drastically, compared to advanced countries of the world. In the advanced or developed countries, within minutes of your telephone call to emergency medico service, a well equipped ambulance, stocked with all emergency treatment gear and well trained staff turns up at your doorstep and takes the patient within minutes to an emergency ward of a hospital. In my home city of Pune, after making several calls to many ambulance services, one might manage to get an ambulance after a period of half or full hour. This ambulance would have no trained staff or any emergency treatment medicines or gear. This ambulance, in many cases, could also double up as a hearse. I fail to appreciate this blind copying of the behavioural pattern of the doctors from the advanced western countries by medical practitioners in undeveloped and poor country like India, when they are fully aware that alternate patient care infrastructure is just not available and the patient is going to be truly inconvenienced. I frankly believe that this kind of setting up of an arbitrary norm does not suit the profession of medical practitioners, which is considered as the most honourable profession in the world. Fifty or Sixty years before, when I was a kid, or for that matter, even fifteen or twenty years ago, the concept of a family Doctor was well entrenched in Indian society. This Doctor would know the health peculiarities and problems of almost everyone in the family. This ensured that proper and just treatment would always be tendered to every member of the family. If an illness took a turn towards being serious, family Doctor would advice about getting the patient admitted to a hospital and would also attend to him personally to see that proper treatment is being given. This concept made the family Doctor the most trustworthy family
friend. In the present day system, this bond of trust no longer exists and consulting a Doctor has become just a business deal like getting a service of a plumber. With this kind relationship between the Doctor and his patient, the aspect of personal care and warmth is long gone. Today, whenever a patient comes for consultation, the relationship has reduced to a straight forward business procedure of examining him, ask him to carry out as many tests as are available, prescribe medicines and finally collect fees from him. Previously, medical practitioners could diagnose patients just by looking at them and carrying out simple checkups. Today's specialists would not prescribe any medicines unless at least blood and urine tests are conducted. There are basically two reasons for this. Firstly, Doctors are unwilling to accept any risk and secondly for the Doctor, a patient is just a client. Once proper medical treatment is prescribed to the patient, Doctor feels no subsequent liability towards the patient.
This new order of things, shift the responsibility of deciding, whether to go to a hospital or to a private dispensary on the patient or his relatives. Naturally most people feel that if
they make a wrong choice and there are any serious consequences, the consulting physician can just shun any responsibility and blame the patient for inaction. Due to this fear, people tend to visit the hospitals even when, what they need is simple home medication.
Many so called super specialists these days, procure expensive diagnostic or operative equipments at huge costs. Sometime these equipments may cost more than a few Million. After that, unless that Doctor has enough number pf patients, who are treated with the equipment, Doctor can not recover his investments and make profits. To achieve this, many practitioners start insisting about treatment with those equipments, even when the patient has no real need for that treatment. Heart bypass surgery, Angiography and Angioplasty are some of the common treatments that are being carried out, even when they are not a must. In fact, it is not surprising that some hospitals are seen advertising the machines they have, to attract the patients. A common man feels at loss to face this new order. In most of the cases these new treatments are prohibitively expensive and very few people can afford them. Avoiding
any treatment as long as possible, Consulting friends, books or internet and self prescribing the medicines is being done by many. In the advanced countries, general standard of public medical facilities is firstly fairly good and in most cases, treatment is free. One does not mind making use of these public facilities in these countries except may be by the super rich. In India, the costs of private treatment are becoming prohibitively expensive on one hand and the quality, efficiency, cleanliness and standard of free public hospitals is so poor that no one wants to go there. An average person faces an 'Hobson's Choice' while deciding about the private medical treatment. Caring for your health in India, is no longer a simple issue of consulting a Doctor. 28th April 2012
Artificial tummy for a would be mother
Remember the heavily pregnant Vidya Balan in the Bollywood blockbuster 'Kahaani'? She looks so naturally pregnant in the film, that it is difficult to believe that she is only acting her part. Credit obviously goes to her for her acting talent and abilities. But besides that, one major factor in her make believe part is the natural looking artificial tummy made for her by some soft toy makers, which makes her look naturally pregnant. If an actress can be made to look pregnant with an artificial tummy, what prevents a real life woman creating that kind of deception for her relatives friends and acquaintances? Surrogate motherhood, an idea that was first mooted sometimes in the decade of 1980 is becoming increasingly common and acceptable today. There are many reasons for this. Late marriages, unwillingness of the married couples to have kids in early years of their marriage, stress and strains of modern life, are some of the reasons, why couples want to start their families much later in life. It is a biological fact that conceiving becomes more and more difficult when the
expectant mother is on the wrong side of the thirty. Many medical procedures such as ' in vitro fertilization' are increasingly being used by fertility clinics to help childless couples. For some unfortunate couples though a sustainable pregnancy is an impossibility. Such couples used to remain childless in the past. However with the idea of surrogate pregnancy, these childless couples have real ray of hope now. For the surrogate mother, the pregnancy is a business deal. She lets the embryo grow inside her for financial gains and doctors take care that there is no emotional attachment generated between the infant and the surrogate mother. Once she delivers the child, she can go back to her routine life. Since she stands to gain financially in a substantial way, many poor families accept this as a reality of life and social stigmas are not normally attached. For the genetic mother things are much harder. In India, many women from traditional communities can not divulge the fact that they have employed a surrogate to their in-laws and extended families. To make her extended family members, friends and acquaintances believe that she is actually pregnant, such women have now started using an artificial tummy. There are some interesting cases reported by doctors who facilitate a surrogate pregnancy. A couple from Chennai, where both husband and wife were engineering graduates opted for an artificial tummy. This girl had no uterus and she could have a genetic baby only through surrogate pregnancy. She felt that her in-laws would never accept this and decided to have a strap-on tummy for nine months to simulate pregnancy. In another case, the genetic parents even got made an incision on the stomach of the genetic mother with sutures so that it looked like a caesarean section. Just an artificial stomach would not have worked here as there were many doctors in the family. Another lady from US, who employed a surrogate mother from India, actually took artificial tummies with her so that her in-laws
would believe she was pregnant. She had told them that she had to deliver the baby where the IVF treatment was done. So when the child was born she came to India with a strap-on tummy, got the baby from the surrogate and went back, keeping her secret intact. A soft toy maker from India, who specializes in fake tummies says that one can get artificial stomachs in sets of three. Each set costing about 1000 Indian Rupees (US$20) The first set simulates three, five and seven months pregnancy. The other set simulates five, seven and nine months. The deception with artificial tummies is so complete that sometimes the genetic mothers start feeling that they are actually carrying a baby when wearing the tummy. That is absolutely fantastic and throws much insight on working of human mind. 26 April 2012
Would you believe in the fact that a businessman in India, wears a waistband costing equivalent of Thirty Thousand US Dollars or he sits on a chair, for which he has paid a princely equivalent sum of Forty-Five Thousand Dollars or for that matter the silver and gold idols, which he worships daily, are valued at Fifty-Seven Thousand Dollars? At least I did not. It however turns out that these figures are completely true. The person, who uses such expensive daily effects, is Mr. Janardhan Reddy, Managing Director of Obulapuram Mining Co. Ltd; which operates several iron ore mines in the Indian state of Karnataka. The description of Mr. Reddy’s lifestyle however does not end here. Many more aspects that would normally appear impossible in India are actually also true. The table cutlery that he uses daily is made from gold and is priced at Forty-Seven Thousand Dollars. His personal jewelry list extends to three pages and is valued in many Hundred Thousand dollars. This list includes gold ornaments, bracelets, male jewelry, rings, gold idols, ruby and sapphire ornaments. He has large quantities of silver
ware for his daily use. As per his income statement his assets are worth 34 million Dollars, his yearly income is 4.7 Million Dollars out of which he earns from his business about 4 million Dollars. A wedding took place in his family for which Mr. Reddy spent about 4.2 Million Dollars. The wedding ceremony took place in the town of Bellary in the interior of the Indian state of Karnataka. Mr. Reddy had arranged a special helicopter service, to ferry all the guests up and down from Bengaluru, the state capital. Mr. Reddy recently presented a crown to the temple idol of ‘Balaji’ from the famous temple of ‘Tirupati’, located in the Indian state of Andhra Pradesh. This crown made from pure gold and studded with diamonds, costed Mr. Reddy, about 8.4 Million Dollars. What really beats the imagination, is the fact that Mr. Reddy actually got two such crowns made; one was presented to the temple idol and the other has been kept at the Reddy residence in Bellary on a well illuminated special mounting stand made from Sandal wood. This stand is kept rotating all the time so that all visitors can see the display. Bellary residence of Mr. Reddy is a huge palace built like a fort. This palace has three levels of security and every visitor has to go through scanners, bomb detection squads and gun toting guards. Recently, Mr. Reddy added a threestory facility near his residence, to enable his children to play games of their choice. His children are not allowed to go outside for obvious security reasons. Suitable children from nearby places and children of some of his associates are regularly invited to the Reddy residence for playing with Mr. Reddy’s children. Mr. Reddy illuminated a small hill, adjoining Reddy residence, at the cost Hundred Thousand Dollars recently. A conference room in this residence, which is used mainly for political meetings, has huge portraits of top leaders such as Mr. Vajpayee of ‘Bharatiya Janata Party or BJP, which is the main opposition party at present in
Indian Parliament at Delhi. Mr. Reddy also owns a condominium built near a Bengaluru Five- star hotel, ‘West End’ in one of the posh areas of Bengaluru. He also has a luxury suit permanently reserved on his name in this hotel. All these Reddy residences have fleets of super luxury cars such as Bentley and Mercedes along with few SUV’s. Reddy family spends their vacations around choicest resorts around the world. Few years back, Reddy’s owned three helicopters, which ferried them to Bengaluru for most trivial reasons like having breakfast or a meal in one of the Bengaluru’s five star restaurants. Since business is down these days, they have to make do with only one helicopter at present.
Satellite image of Reddy’s residence The super rich Reddy’s were not born with a golden spoon in their mouth. In fact, his father was a police constable and Janardhan Reddy spent his childhood in a two-room dwelling. After completing his schooling, he took up a job as a Chit fund agent. Later he started his own Chit Fund Company and lost heavily in the endeavour.
In 2001, he started the ‘Obulapuram Mining Company and his real growth started. In 2003 turnover of this company had reached 350 million Rupees. But, in a span of just six years, turnover grew to a staggering figure of 30 Billion Rupees.
The bus specially built by Mr. Reddy for political campaigning. The hilly lands, from where, Mr. Reddy digs out the iron ore, are all open cast mines and belong to The Government of Karnataka. Mr.Reddy’s company has taken this land on lease for mining exploitation. Mr. Reddy has been claiming that his mining operations are perfectly legal and according to the laws of the land. Grave doubts are now being
expressed about the tendering process, through which this lease was awarded to Mr. Reddy and whether the compensation, which is being received by the Government is adequate and commensurate, considering the returns, earned by Mr. Reddy.
Large scale destruction of mountain top forests due to mining There is another angle to the story. It has been reported that Mr.Reddy’s company is not restricting itself to the lands allotted to it by the Government and continues to mine the ore from other mines also. This large scale mining has reached such mammoth proportions that satellite pictures also have started showing the damage caused to the forest land and the eco systems of Bellary. Supreme Court of India took notice of this fact and ordered to stop all mining operations in this area recently. The Central Bureau of Investigation in India, has recently launched an investigation in affairs of Mr. Reddy’s company. Whether Mr.Reddy has earned his wealth in a legal manner or he has resorted to illegal means; the truth should come out in this inquiry. Fact however remains, that by allowing the mining operations to continue on such a large scale and for such a long time, The Government of Karnataka have
caused enormous damage to the forest land and the eco systems of the Bellary. This action cannot be justified on any grounds at all. 16th March 2013
Walking the hills
The City of Pune, is one of the few fortunate cities, to have a range of hills, right in the middle of the metropolis. The hills, even boast of a modest peak, about Eight Hundred meters high. A very rudimentary temple, of a tribal God called ‘Vetaal’, exists on this peak, along with an observation tower, mainly used by Fire Brigade people. The people therefore call this entire range of hills as ‘Vetaal’ hills. I have been wondering and trekking on these hills, ever since I was a school-going lad. As young boys, we would aimlessly wonder amongst the hills and dales on many afternoons and early evenings. Now days, I take a calculated walk along a fixed route, as a part of my daily fitness routine. Nevertheless, the joy, the exhilaration and the feel good factor after the walks, has remained just same over the years. Pune is known for its salubrious and temperate climate through out the year and the hills reflect that
climate. Some people call the hills, ‘The Lungs of the city’, as highly polluted city air is somewhat absorbed and cleansed by the abundant, lush green, foliage in the dales. With ‘Vetaal peak’ as central point, the hills spread over an area of about ten square kilometers in almost all directions, with beautiful dales created between the hills. A thick sub tropical forest covers these dales to a wide extent. On the hilltops, patchy forest cover augments the natural wilderness of the hills. A stone quarry, no longer exploited due to opposition from environmentalists, adds to the beauty of the view from north. Entire area is interlaced with small footways. At many places, heavily grown foliage, completely covers the footways and provides cool shadowy spots even at noontime. West side extension of the hills is rocky and bare, except for few shrubs and seasonal grasses. This may be because of the exposure of this side of the hills to scorching hot sun light through out the year, which results into low level of moisture in the soil. In addition, the terrain here is such that torrential monsoon rainwater carries away whatever little top soil, may be there. On the other side, in a very wise move, the forestry department has handed over the northern part of the dale to a private trust, for developing a nature preserve. I have been observing this area for last couple of years and going by the growth and the quantum of the trees, which this trust has planted here, the area is likely to develop into a botanical conservatory of great natural beauty. To a regular trekker, the hills appear to change with seasons or even with time of the day. Dawns in summer are very different from sunsets and the landscape appears vastly different during rains, as compared to summer or winter. Nevertheless, I always feel that the hills look delightfully picturesque; whatever may be the season or the time of the day.
Now days, I walk the hills, early in the morning as the dawn breaks. There is a vista point on my route, from where; view to the east is clear and unobstructed. I watch the Sunrise from here every day in summer. Even if the sky is clear, some cloud patterns are always seen on the horizon, creating a fascinating Sunrise spectacle. As first light breaks through the hilltop forest, rows and rows of denuded, white skinned ‘Dhup’ trees, appear in your view like gigantic sculptures from outer space. With the advent of Monsoon rains, dark green foliage returns to the forest, creating a mysterious façade. Every nook and corner of the forest appears bewitchingly secretive. The grasses at some points grow tall and hide the footways completely. There is not much wild life on the hills. One can see occasionally, some wild rabbits being chased by stray dogs. Peacocks are seen more often, particularly during summer months in the denuded forest. If one sticks to the footways, reptiles maintain their healthy distance and do not come in way. I remember to have seen some huge birds and owl only couple of times.
During my school days, I learnt a very valuable experience on these hills. Five or Six of us were going for a walk, when
a strong muscled ruffian approached us and threatened us for no reason. He was carrying a big stick and all of us were very scared. Next day after much discussion, we decided to take the same route. To our horror, we found the same hooligan coming our way. Even though we had not planned any attack, all of us felt so angry that we pounced on him as if given a cue. His bullying strength and tactics did not work against combined strength of five or six small boys. His big stick was broken couple of times and under our combined onslaught, the tough guy was beaten to our heart’s content and finally started crying. As the city grows, there are many here, who want to cut roads and tunnels through the hills. Fortunately, this has not happened so far. If it happens, it certainly would be one of the sad days of my life. 10th March 2012
The Rohtang Tunnel
Every day, we glance through umpteen number of news items in the news papers and then just forget about them. Some of these news items, are very significant from future point of view, yet we fail to realize their hidden importance. One reason for missing out important news is the prominence for civic issues like blocked gutters, traffic chaos and heaps of garbage on streets, given in daily papers. These issues grab all the reader attention, leaving aside news of real significance. In July 2010, I had read a news item that work has began on the 'Rohtang Tunnel'. This news item also had appeared in the 10 o' clock news on TV. Even then I had failed to catch the real significance behind this news. Last year I paid a visit to Leh and Ladakh. Only after my visit to Leh, when I came across another news item about Rohtang pass, I realized the real importance of this project. When this project was inaugurated in 2010, the political leadership had tomtomed about how this project would improve the quality of life for people living in this remote border region of the country and how they can expect to get prompt medical assistance during emergencies. Yet, no Government would possibly spend 1500 Crores (1.5 Billion) of Rupees on building a tunnel in a remote region, which is snow clad for six months and where very sparse and this population dwells in any case, unless this tunnel is important for the country in some other way. To find out, why this project has been commissioned? And Why it is so important? It might be a good idea to learn about some history and Geography of this region first. In 1947 when India achieved Independence, the British had driven many wedges between peoples of the Indian subcontinent, perhaps with an idea that a divided India would always remain weak, hungry and poor and they would be invited back to rule the country. Besides creation of Independent Pakistan, another wedge driven by the
British was the return of sovereignty to small states within India. During British rule, these states and their Maharaja's were just puppets, dependent on British for almost all practical purposes, with British rulers controlling all state functions through the Maharaja's. With India's Independence, the powers that British had over these Maharaja's, should have been naturally handed over to the new Government. Instead of doing that, the British Government, unilaterally declared that the state Maharaja's would become sovereign monarchs once again. Many of the Maharaja's were enticed by this clever British move and started dreaming of having independent Kingdoms within Indian borders.
Fortunately for Independent India, a gem of a person was appointed as minister for home affairs. Vallabhbhai Patel, who was fondly called as Sardar by people of his native Gujarat, was a soft spoken yet incredibly tough personality. He made use of each and every trick of the trade to bring down these phony Maharaja's to ground realities and made the Maharaja's to sign on the dotted line on a document called Instruments of Accession and be satisfied with a monthly stipend for their nuisance value. Some Maharaja's like Nabab of Junagad, ran away to Pakistan with their
personal wealth. Two large states, however refused to sign this Instrument of Accession, neither to Join India nor to Pakistan. Out of the two, Hyderabad state in south India, was subjected to military action ( actually called Police action) by Sardar Vallabhbhai Patel and the problem was solved within days. Unfortunately Kashmir was a tough nut to crack. Firstly this state had a huge landmass. It had International borders with China, Afghanistan and with newly created Pakistan. On Indian side, Kashmir had borders with Uttar Pradesh and Punjab. The Maharaja of this state, Hari Singh never had effective control or administration over this huge region. Historically speaking, famous Maharaja of Punjab, Ranjit Singh, perhaps realizing the difficulties in administering this region, had awarded this state, to one of his generals, Gulab Singh, who incidentally was an ancestor of present ruler Hari Singh. In the northern reaches of Kashmir state, areas like Skardu, Hunza and Gilgit, the state administation was very weak and had to face troubles from local warlords.In fact, British were forced to keep a garrison in Gilgit known as Gilgit Scouts, to keep this area under control. British had managed to establish peace in this regions only after decades and decades of war. Besides the vast area of the state, the people of Kashmir state were also divided in three regions on religions lines. In Kashmir, Gilgit, Skardu and Hunza, Muslims had a majority, whereas in Jammu region, Hindu's were in majority and Ladakh region was Buddhist. Pakistan found the silence maintained by maharaja Hari Singh over accession issue and his resistance to sign instrument of accession to join Pakistan, very irritating and raised fears, that Hari Singh may eventually decide to Join India. Pakistan decided to take matters in its own hands and under the disguise of nomadic tribes of North West, invaded Kashmir with plain clothed Pakistani soldiers. As per Pakistan's calculations it was almost impossible for the Kashmir state army to defend the state against Pakistani invaders and within a few weeks, Pakistani soldiers reached
outskirts of state capital, Srinagar. At this point of time, Maharaja Hari Singh finally took a decision to join India and signed the Instrument of Accession. Within hours of the signing, Indian army landed in Srinagar airport and moved very fast against Pakistan intruders to drive away the Pakistani army from most areas of Kashmir Valley and beyond the mountain peaks line running near Kargil and Dras. Due to pressure from chiefs of staff and senior officers of armed forces of Pakistan and India, who were still British, or due to some other reasons still unknown, the then Prime Minister of India decided to refer the dispute to United nations security council and and armistice was declared.
The timing of this armistice was of advantage of Pakistan as it still retained about a third of the Kashmir valley and a large position of Northern areas in their hand. From strategic point of view of the Indian army, the line of control
was not defensible properly. There is general thinking in India, that if Prime minister Nehru had referred the dispute to United nations few weeks later, the Kashmir dispute, which has become a permanent head ache for the Indian Government since 1947, might have been solved by the Indian Army, then and there itself. The portion of Kashmir state, which has remained in hands of Indian Government, is geographically difficult for communications and militarily very hard to defend. The region consists of four mountain ranges running parallel to each other in Northwest-Southeast directions. On the south of Pir-Panjal range, the region of Jammu has mostly Hindu population and is similar to adjoining Punjab. Between PirPanjal and Nun-Kun ranges vale of Kashmir is located. Zanskar river basin runs between Nun-Kun and Zanskar mountains. Indus river basin is located between Zanskar and Ladakh ranges. Beyond Ladakh mountain range and to northwest of Shoyok river, rise the mighty Karakoram ranges, a line of separation between Indian subcontinent and central Asia. Because of this peculiar geographical situation almost all traditional routes, except one, for entering Kashmir and Indus valley were from Pakistan borders. Only JammuUdhampur-Batot-Banihal pass-Kashmir route was in India's possession and available for transportation. This route runs, in the Akhanur region near Jammu, almost along the International border. Similarly Kashmir- Ladakh route after crossing Zozi La pass near Sonmarg, runs parallel to Line of control near KargilDras sectors. In 1965 Pakistan invaded India by crossing Tawi river near Akhnur and attempted to cut off the Jammu-Srinagar road. Similarly Pakistan made an disastrous attempt to cut off Srinagar-Leh road by occupying high peaks near this road in Kargil in 1999.
Nubra river flows between South Karakoram ridge and Soltero ridge and joins the Shyok river mentioned above. This river originates from Siachin Glacier flowing down from Karakorams on Chinese borders. To control this area, is a must for India, as important entry points to Ladakh region from the North are located here. The Indian army posts here in Siachin can effectively watch Pakistani army movements in Skardu and Gilgit. In 1980 decade, number of battles were fought in this region. After 1999 defeat of Pakistan, no major military activity is seen here. Coming back to Srinagar-Ladakh route, this route remains closed during winters because of heavy snow falls. It becomes necessary to stock up provisions for LadakhSiachin regions during remaining 6-7 months and that too by a route running close to LOC. From the defense point of view, this was a dangerous situation. Realizing this, attempts were made to open another route to Ladakh since 1950. After 1965 war, efforts were intensified to open a route between Manali in Himachal Pradesh to Ladakh. This route was opened initially in 1965 itself for military transportation and later for everyone.
Manali-Leh route travelling over 485 KM, is militarily safe because it is far away from international borders. Because of this road, the life and death importance of Kargil road has been reduced to quite an extent. Even then there remains one more obstacle, which makes this road unusable during winter months. About 51 KM from Manali, this route passes through Rohtang pass, which is at an height of 13000 feet. Because of very heavy snow fall in this valley, the pass remains closed for at least 6 months a year. Because of the pass being closed, road communications to Lahaul-Spiti araes, which are just north of this pass and also Ladakh, gets totally blocked. Since both, Kargil and Ladakh route close in winter, Ladakh's connection with rest of the country is totally cut off for 6 months every year. Even in summer, the weather in Rohtang pass is unpredictable with cold biting winds and sub zero temperatures. To overcome this natural obstacle, the Indian Government under Prime minister Rajiv Gandhi flagged green to a
project of digging an all weather tunnel under Rohtang pass. In 1984, Geological Survey of India carried out the preliminary studies and in 2000 the work on a road leading to Rohtang pass, costing 180 Crores Rupees(Rs. 1.8 Billion) was started at the hands of then Prime minister Atal Bihari Bajpai . An Australian company , SMEC International, has been appointed as consultants for this work. After the report of this committee was received, in September of 2009, the work of building a tunnel under Rohtang pass was awarded to an Indian-Austrian company, Strabag-Afcons, and the work commenced on 28 June 2010.
Horse shoe shaped Rohtang tunnel is 8.8 KM long and would have a width of 11.25 meters. Instead of using the old Rohtang-Leh road, a new road passing thorugh Shin Kun pass in Zanskar valley and Padm town in Zanskar, is also being built at the cost of 286 Crores Rupees (Rs.2.86 Billions). All these works are expected to be completed by 2015.
According to Col. K.S. Oberoi of Border Roads Organization, India, while excavating this tunnel, about 1.6 Million Tons of crushed stone would have to be removed out. Most of the crushed stone removed would be reused in the concretization of the tunnel itself. This would reduce to a
great extent any major effect on the environment. Huge fans would be installed to keep air circulating in the tunnel. To open up all season communications to Leh and Karakoram region from India, Rohtang tunnel would be of greatest importance without any doubt. Indian defense forces would also be benefited to a large extent. However this tunnel opens new possibilities for India to establish all weather roads towards Xinjiang and central Asia from Ladakh onwards, through Karakoram pass, which was a part of old silk route any way, connecting India with Xinjiang. This trade possibility is perhaps the brightest aspect of future for this remote region. 5th March 2012
Zubeida's crashed airplane
I always consider, noted film maker Shyam Benegal's 2001 masterpiece, 'Zubeidaa' as one of his best creations ever. The film has a powerful story, excellent production values and above all, sterling, once in a life time, performance of actress Karishma Kapoor, who has acted the principal role of 'Zubaidaa.' Many may think that this film story is an imaginary story or a work of fiction. But this may not be true. There was a real life Zubeida, and who did marry a Maharaja. Real life Zubeida was very beautiful and was born into a Muslim family connected with the films. She always aspired to become an actress. However, her domineering father got her married into an unhappy marriage, where she had a son. After partition of India, the marriage fell through and Zubeida was divorced. She met Maharaja Hanuvant Singh of Jodhpur, who was a dashing man in his twenties and a
keen horseman, hunter, pilot, and amateur magician. It is needless to say that being a Maharaja of the largest state in British India, he was stinking rich also.
Zubeida and Hanuwant Singh fell in love and had a passionate romance. However their affair did not meet the approval of the royal family. Zubeida being a divorcee , an actress and above all a Muslim. Finally Hanuwant singh had his way and managed to marry Zubeida. However, the young married couple was forced out of the royal residence 'Umaid Bhavan Palace' and was forced to stay in 15 th century Mehrangarh fort. Maharaja Hanuwant Singh was an immature and impetuous young man. He was forced to succeed the Jodhpur Royal throne at an young age, due to sudden death of his father. There are many known instances of his immature behaviour, in the period just before Independence of India. He considered joining Pakistan at one point of time, which would have been a great shocker and a coup for Pakistan and had even threatened a Government of India emissary with a pistol. He always had one genuine passion, that of flying. He was a keen flyer and had made Jodhpur and international airport, during pre-independence days.
In 1952, Hanuwant Singh got involved into politics and proved to be a big headache for the ruling congress party as he won his seat for the state assembly as well as for federal parliaments against the congress candidates. After the polling, when it was clear that he would win by huge majority, he decided to celebrate his victory by taking his beloved wife Zubeida for a spin, over the deserts of Jodhpur in his favourite light aircraft, a Beechcraft Bonanza. Hanuwant singh was always a reckless flyer and was in habit of performing dangerous air stunts. No one knows exactly what happened later. But Hanuwant Singh and Zubeida just disappeared. The wreckage of the plane was later found out with Hanuwant Singh and Zubaida both proclaimed dead. No one knew for sure, what was the exact reason for the air crash, as the wreckage of the plane also disappeared later and no proper inquiry was ever made.
Jodhpur Central Jail cellars Recently, the staff of the Jodhpur Central Jail was looking through piles of rubble in the jail's cellar, when they found the remains of the Maharaja Hanuwant Singh's Beechcraft Bonanza plane, which was left unattended for last 62 years. The staff intially thought the wreckage to be from IndiaPakistan war, because Jodhpur was bombed few times then. But later, the wreckage was found to be of the Maharaja's aircraft. Jodhpur's Mehrangarh Museum, has now asked for the possession of the wreckage. The Mehrangarh Museum
Trust, founded in 1972 by Maharaja Gaj Sing, who was a son of Hanuwant Singh, has sent a formal letter to the jail authorities, seeking possession of the wreckage. Jail authorities say that they could take a decision only after Government clearance.
Jodhpur's Mehrangarh Museum The Mehrangarh Museum is a popular tourist destination. Every year, seventy to eighty thousand foreigners and more than 4 Lac (Hundred thousand) Indian visitors visit the museum. Museum director says that no decision has been taken regarding the course of action with the wreckage, but it would definitely be part of their collections. One thing is for sure, the wreckage, displayed in whatever form in the museum, would be popularly remembered as a witness of Zubeida''s last moments if popularity of the film 'Zubeidaa' is taken as any clue. 27 February 2012
How hot is my Chili?
About fifteen or twenty years ago, I had watched a Bolywood film titled as 'Mirch Masala' or 'Spicy Chilies'. This film was a superb end product of effective direction, a powerful story and really top class acting by Late Smita Patil. I still remember vividly, the final climax scene in which the heroine, who is a working single girl from a village, and her co-workers, defend themselves against a local warlord or government official and his police, who are bent upon molesting and abducting the woman, by effectively using red chili powder. After watching that film, I had become acutely aware about effectiveness of red chili powder, as a powerful tool of individual self-defense.
I do not know whether this film was a source of inspiration or not, for the scientists of The Defense Research Organization in India to take up a project and successfully develop the 'Chili stun grenades' as a personal defense weapon, using red chili powder. According to DRDO scientists, 'Chili stun grenades could be very effective means of defense against individual terrorists. These grenades also could be used to control uncontrollable and rioting mobs. These grenades neither inflict injury to any person against whom this weapon is deployed nor it is fatal. The target person is just stunned. Because of this reason, the chili grenades could be very effective in crowded places, DRDO scientists also have been able to come out with chili sprays, which can be used very effectively by individual females. The Chili seeds after processing have been used in these grenades and sprays. All over the world, hundreds of different varieties of chilies are grown. Not all chili varieties are hot enough. Some varieties like Capsicum chilies are not hot at all. To measure the hotness of any particular variety of chili, Scoville scale
of hotness is usually employed. Each and every variety of chili contains a chemical known as 'Capsaicin' and the hotness of the chili depends on the percentage of this 'Capsaicin' present in that chili variety. 'Capsaicin irritates the nerve ends on our skin as well as in our throat and we sense the feeling of irritating hotness. Cassaicin in purest form, is given 160 Million points on the Scoville scale. On the other hand, Capsicum chili or Bell pepper, gets Zero points because of almost Nil percentage of Capsaicin present in this variety. Mexican Jalapeno or Hungarian Paprika chillies get in between 2500 to 8000 points. Tabasco chilies, which are used in preparation of famous Tabasco chili sauce, are given between 30000 to 50000 (30K to 50K) points. Normal Indian and Thai chillies are rated with 50 K to 100K points. The famous and very hot chili of south America known as 'Habanero' and Red chili from 'Guntur' district of Andhra pradesh state in India, are given between 100 K to 350K points on Scoville scale.
The red chili, which might be crowned as the Hottest chili queen of the world comes from the northeastern state of
India and is called as 'Bhoot Jolokiya'. This chili on Scoville scale gets 1 Million points. This chili is so hot that Indian soldiers deployed in this region use it for a novel application. If a bunch or cluster of these chilies is kept hanging outside a soldier's tent, it prevents any wild animal coming nearer to the tent, due to pungent and irritating smell of 'Bhoot Jolokiya'. A small trace of this chili, if mixed with food, makes it very testy and generates improved blood circulation and a feeling of warmth for soldiers on duty in cold climates.
DRDO 'Chili stun grenade' makes use of the seeds of this 'Bhoot Jolokiya' chilies in their fabrication. Once this grenade cracks, the eyes of all persons in the vicinity are affected by turning blood red and watery to the extreme.
Such affected persons start vomiting almost immediately and are forced to retreat. However there are persons, who are immune to the effects of 'Bhoot Jolokiya' chili.
In 2009, a lady from 'Jorhat', Asaam, Ms. Anidita Dutt Tamuli, had made a record of eating 51 'Bhoot Jolokiya' chilies publicly. Such persons would have no effect of 'Chili Stun grenades' for sure. But DRDO scientists say that such immune persons are extremely rare and this chili weapon would prove effective against most of the rioters or extremists trying to ferment trouble.
26 February 2012
Siachin- World's highest battlefield
Jammu & Kashmir state of the Indian Union has been involved in a quagmire of controversy, ever since the Maharaja of the erstwhile kingdom, signed the instrument of accession in 1947. This state, even before accession to India, always had international borders with China on east and Afghanistan in the north. In 1947, when British India was divided into Pakistan and India, the state was attacked by Pakistan army invading under the disguise of Tribal warriors from Northwest. After the accession to India, Indian army had to land in Kashmir and fight back the invading Pakistani army. In this war, most of the Kashmir valley was won back by Indian forces and Pakistani forces were forced to retreat to west of Pir-Panjal mountains. Pakistan continued to hold the Baltistan region in north of Ladakh. The Prime Minister of India then refereed the matter to United Nations Security Council. After that, Pakistan has embarked upon three unnecessary wars with India over Kashmir. However, today, after 65 years, the Indian and Pakistan forces keep holding the same positions in spite of these three wars. As an aftermath of the 1971 war between India and Pakistan over Bangladesh independence, a treaty known as 'Shimla Accord' was signed by India and Pakistan. The cease fire in Kashmir was made formal and was named as Line of Control or LOC. This line starting from south, runs parallel to India-Pakistan international border upto Keran village in Kupwada district. It then turns right passing over Dras and Kargil regions of Ladakh. The line again turns north and ends at a point located on a snow clad peak known as NJ 9842. The 1949 Karachi agreement between India and Pakistan mentions this point and says that this line would go further to “ thence North to the glaciers.”
If we study the geography of the state of Jammu & Kashmir, it can be seen clearly that four mountain ranges divide the state into four natural parts. All these four mountain ranges run in southeast to northwest direction. The Jammu region adjoining Panjab state and the Kashmir valley are divided by Pir-Panjal range. The Nun-Kun mountains to the east of Kashmir and the Zanskar range box between them the Zanskar valley. Ladakh plateau lies between Zanskar ranges and Ladakh ranges. To the north east of Ladakh plateau and the south Karakoram ranges, the Shoyok and Nubra vallys are the last areas of habitation. To the east of Karakoram mountain lies the Tibet region. To the south end of Karakoram mountains and to the east of Leh city, the famous Karakoram pass is located. Till 1950, this was a trade route between India and Xinjiang province of China. The LOC between India and Pakistan, crossing all these mountain ranges except Karakorams, ends at point NJ9842 roughly to northeast of Leh city but to west of Karakoram ranges. According to Shimla agreement, since entire region east of this pint right up to Tibet consists of inaccessible
mountains terrain and glaciers, both the countries might have then decided to keep this as no man's land. India had assumed that this line eventually would go along the Soltoro ridge keeping Siachin glacier within India till a point on Rimo glacier, where it would meet the Chinese border. Pakistan according to its convenience decided that this line would run west to east from NJ9842 to Karakoram pass. This would have enabled Pakistan to connect the regions of Skardu and Baltistan straight to Chinese borders.
Pakistan started allowing foreign mountaineering expeditions in the Siachin region and the first Japanese tema carried out an expedition there in 1978. Pakistan's idea behind this permission was a clever one. It was thought that once the international expeditions come to know that Pakistan's clearance is all that they require , internationally it would be assumed that it is a part of pakistan. When the Indian army headquarters came to know of this development, they started sending Indian army teams to Siachin region in summer. The plan was to dissuade any foreign mountaineers from climbing in Siachin
and tell them that they have entered unauthorizedly into Indian territory.
Nubra River basin On 21st August 1983, Pakistani army commander in Kargil sector complained to his Indian counterpart that Indian forces are crossing the LOC, which runs from NJ9842 to Karakoram pass, and venturing on to Siachin glacier. In reality this was the first step of a great strategical move panned very carefully. The Indian army high command, when realized the true intentions behind the complaint, immediately carried out the reconnaissance and found out that out of four passes that are available for entering in to Siachin from Pakista's side, Pakistani soldiers have occupied parts of Bilafond La. An army contingent was immediately dispatched to Siachin. However this contingent realised that very large number of Pakistani soldiers were present in that area and made a retreat. After studying the actual ground situation, the army HQ decided to send army units to Siachin before onset of summer in next year or 1984 and started preparations.
The Region east of point NJ9842 How is the Geography of this region, where Siachin glacier is located? Some authors have called it as the roof of the world. Some call it as the third pole. This glacier flowing at an avarage height of 15000 feet is spread over 72 KM. On both sides of this glacier snow clad peaks of the Karakoram up to 23000 feet tower above the glacier. The south Karakoram ridge extend on the east side whereas Soltoro ridge extends on the west side. Biting cold snow blizzards and winds blow here all the time. In winter the temperatures drop down to -40 degrees Celsius. Indian army HQ realised that if this region is to be taken under military control, it would be necessary to control the peaks on the western side or the Soltoro ridge. Otherwise Indian soldiers on the glacier would be just sitting ducks for the enemy and would be practice targets. It was a very tough task as establishing army outposts at such heights was not easy at all. In spite the advercities, Indian army was successful in establishing series of outposts on the Soltoro ridge by March/April 1984. When Pakistani soldiers arrived in this area again in the month of May, they found that Indian soldiers have occupied all the poasses leading to Siachin namely Sia La, Bilafond La, Gyong La and Chulung La. When it was realised
that all the Siachin passes are now controlled by India, Pakistani soldiers retreated and established outposts on the western ridges of Soltoro. After this the war broke out.
Mouth of Nubra River
A Siachin Glacier Photograph To capture outposts on Soltoro ridge is an impossible task for any infantry unit and Pakistan army failed in their objectives totally. Since 1984 the military situation has
remained more or less same till date. India controls Soltoro ridge, Siachin glacier, all passes that lead to the glacier and major parts of Shoyok and Nubra river basins. Many persons have questioned this occupation of siachin by Indian forces. Army HQ says that to protect Leh and the towns to the north from possible invasion this step has been taken and this seems to be quite true. If we study the geography of this region, the importance of Siachin can be easily appreciated.
From Soltoro ridge, the Pakistan occupied Skardu region is just 40 miles away. The Siachin is shaped like a dagger into north and India's control over Siachin is perhaps the biggest headache for any expansionist plans of Pakistan. To secure this region, controlling Siachin is essential. There can be no two opinions about it.
Soltoto ridge from west (Pakistani side)
Indian Howitzers in Siachin After 1997, Government of India, opened up the Siachin region for mountaineering for Indian and foreign teams. In 1998, a Mumbai mountaineering team led by Mr. harish Kapdiya was allowed the access here. He traveled the entire Siachin glacier from Nubra river mouth to Northernmost Indira Col. A desciption of his travel can be read on this link. The point where Siachin glacier meets the Chinese border, a mountain range blocks further travel. A saddle in these mountaines has ben named as Indira Col. This name has been given much before independence(1912) and is of Goddess Laxmi. Indira Gandhi's name is not connected with this place in any way.) However it is a strange coincidence that the northernmost point of India, which is in India's possession at present and the Southernmost point on the tip of Nicobar islands are both named as Indira. A mountain pass to the east of Indira col. Leads to Xinjiang region of China. In 1889, Francis Younghusband, a British officer had entered Xinjiang through this pass only. Many question about keeping army in Siachin, which requires a huge cost. I have mentined above the answer given by defense ministry. However there happens to be
another more important strategic reason. Upto 1950, trade was carried through Karakoram pass between India and central Asia and Russia via Xinjiang.
The famed Nathu La pass for the gun battles of 1965 is fats becoming a center for border trade between India and China. Similarly Karakoram pass has excellent possibilities of becoming a trade route of the furure for trade with China, central Asia and even Russia.
Once the Rohtang tunnel is completed the Manali-Leh road would be an all weather road to Padm and Leh in Ladakh. Once this happens, a trade route through Karakoram pass is in the realm of reality.
But for this to happen, this entire region has to be secured militarily. This can be achieved only if Soltoro ridge and siachin are firmly in India's hands. The presence of army there, whatever may be the cost, is essential for the future. 17 Febrary 2012
A Good Kill
On the east coast of India it was a clear morning on Friday, 10th of February. Just after 10.10 AM, the Long Range Tracking Radars near Puri city on Orissa coast, picked up a warning of a hostile missile, coming in to attack. The Missile was at an altitude of about 100 KM and was rapidly descending down. Multi Functional Radar at Paradip also started tracking the hostile missile and passed on the information to a guidance computer, which after computing the target's flight data, immediately issued a command to launch an Advanced Air Defence (AAD) interceptor missile from the Wheeler Island base on east coast of India. Within minutes, the interceptor missile was launched. The interceptor missile, equipped with inertial navigation system, an on board hi-tech computer and a radio-
frequency seeker, locked on to the target hostile missile. Travelling at supersonic speed, the AAD homed on to the target and blasted it to smithereens, around 10.15AM. at a height of about 15-km in the endo-atmosphere. This is neither a fragment of imagination from me, nor a scene from some action flic. The action scenario actually took place. Only the attacker missile was not from some foreign country, but a modified surface-to-surface Prithvi missile launched from Launch Complex-3 at Chandipur, again on east coast of India and was sent to validate the new Ballistic Missile Defence (BMD) capability for India. The launches, that of the attacker missile and of the interceptor took place independently and both missiles were controlled by Radars in different places in the country, one by the Mission Control center and another by Launch control center. Fifteen computers stationed at Hyderabad, Balasore, Chandipur, Konark, Puri, Wheeler Island and so on, worked in unison and saw that the mission was a complete success. Defense research and development organization engineers, saw the tracks formed by the fragments of the destroyed attacker missile on their radar screens. The attacker missile belonged to 600 km range class, the interceptor missile is capable of defending against on missiles which have a range up to 2,000 km. DRDO's Chief Controller for missiles and strategic systems certifies that it was an excellent interception and says that “the entire interception was automated with radars tracking the incoming target missile.” While the Launch Control Centre was situated in the Wheeler Island, the Mission Control Centre was situated a few “thousands of kilometers away from the launch point” of the attacker missile. Director General of DRDO now confirms that India’s Ballistic Missile Defence (BMD) programme in the endo-atmosphere (that is, below an altitude of 50 km) is now ready for deployment and the country is in a position to take it to the next phase of production and induction.. A user team from
the Army, which was present in the Wheeler Island, watched the entire operation.
So far so good. We must congratulate the scientists and engineers of the DRDO for a sucessful missions. A nagging doubt however remains in my mind. We, Indians are good at creating new things. We build state of the art airports. Yet, after few years, we find that these are in a dire state, because of negligence and extremely poor maintenance. In a ballistic missile defense system, the defender missile has to be launched within minutes as the window available for defense can not exceed more that few minutes. This means that the defense system must be always maintained and kept in perfect condition so as to be ready for launch at any given instant. To build in, such high degree of readiness, is indeed a tall order and unless it can be achieved, just providing a Ballistic Missile Defense may not achieve much. 11th February 2012
No Milk Please, we drink wine only!
Mr. Baburao Patel was a remarkable personality from the pre-independence India, who made a mark on the society with his thinking and life. Baburao was born in Konkan on the west coast of India. However, it remains a kind of mystery, why he adopted a Gujarati surname like Patel later in his life. This man, in cricket term, was an all rounder. He got elected to India's parliament on Jansangh (Predecessor to present BJP) ticket from Khandwa in Madhya Pradesh. He was the publisher and editor of two magazines being published regularly. One was named as FilmIndia and dealt with Bollywood films and actor,actresses. The other magazine was named as Mother India and used to have a wide acceptance. I remember having read in this magazine about the questions Baburao had asked in the Parliament and the answers he obtained from the Government. Baburao was trained in Homeopathy and used to manufacture Homeopathic medicines under a brand name, 'Mother India Products'. Some of his medicines, which are still available, were quite effective for specific ailments. He used to manufacture a home treatment box consisting of 14 different medicines numbered from 1 to 14 with ready manual about treatment. This box is still available and is
quite popular in Maharashtra. A lady Doctor I know, treats her kids for minor ailments using these medicines. I am reminded of Baburao Patel today, for a pet theory of his. He used to call Sugar, Milk and Maida flour as three white poisons and always advocated that all grown up persons should give up these poisons. It now appears that Sirsa district from Indian state of Haryana has decided to take up Baburao's advice, if not fully, at least one third part of it. The average daily sale of milk in this state is about 1.5 Million Rupees. But the sale of liquors and wine has now crossed 7.0 Million Rupees per day. During my young age, there used to be a wide spread shortage of milk all over India, in particular all the big cities. To get half a liter of milk from a Government run dairy, most of the people had to stand long queues early in the morning in front of Milk booths. Sirsa people, since they have discarded milk now, have started standing in front of liquor and wine shops in long queues. Milk sellers federation says that members of the federation supply approximately 46,000 litres of milk every day in the city, whereas Dairy Association says that 35 small milk diaries, situated in the city only have a cumulative sales of 5,000 litres of milk daily. This way, total sale of milk doesn't cross Rs1.5 Million, daily in the city. There is another milk plant in the city named as Vita Milk. It produces about 3,500 litres of milk, of which only a small quantity is supplied in the city as the balance is sent to other cities for consumption or used for making skimmed milk. Sirsa city was earlier famous for its boiled creamy milk prepared by traditional confectioners and was very popular amongst the young people. Most of the confectioners no longer prepare this as there is no demand. Some have even closed their shops.
On the other hand, as per government records, there are 35 licensed liquor vendors scattered across the district. Out of which 14 shops sell IMFL or Indian made foreign liquor and balance 20 sell country liquor. Shops located in Industrial Area, Rania Bazar, Begu Road, Lalbati Chowk, JJ Colony road, auto market, Shiv Chowk, Barnala road and near bus stand of Sirsa city, have broken their previous sales records this year. IMFL liquor shops sales are around Rs 44.5 lakh per day while sales of country made liquor shops are about Rs 30 lakh per day. In addition to this there are illegal shop who are doing equally whopping sale. What a wonderful scenario this Sirsa district has? They have totally broken away with silly old traditions of drinking that white poisonous stuff called Milk and have embarked on a spree to enjoy natures most healthy drink made from liquor. I am confident that Sirsa soon would have the healthiest people from whole of India. This is the real secret of Haryana state, becoming one of the most progressive state of the country. No Milk please, We drink only wine and liquor. 10 February 2012
Indian Film makers discover an ancient road to China
Mrinal Talukdar and Suman Dev Choudhury, two young documentary makers from Indian state of Assam, claim that they have discovered an easy road from Assam to China with a very short distance of only 400 Km. Assamese news magazine 'Sevensisters Post' says that this road can make possible a trip to China through an all-weather road, winding its way through undulating hills and valleys of the Eastern Himalayas. This rather unknown road starts from Tinsukia in upper Assam and passes through Parasuram Kunda, Hailalyung, Walong and finally Kibithu, traversing a distance of some 300 km through hilly terrain befor it reaches Kaho town and then the border region between India and China in the Lohit river valley. After crossing the border, the road reaches ancient town of Rima in Yunnan province of China. Mrinal Talukdar says that there are very easy and good roads right up to the border and they are not very mountainous. If both Governments agree, one can drive down to china with a fuel
cost of just 2000 Rupees. He adds that the geographical terrain is so surprisingly easy and smooth, with both sides having good roads all the way up to the border. On the Indian side, the road from Tinsukia to Kibithu is an all weather road free of snow. Only for about 3 Km length near the Line of Actual control (LAC) the road is broken off completely. Beyond the border, China has already built an all-weather four-lane highway connected to the interior.
If experience gained at Nath-La , after the border was opened for across border trade, is anything to go by, it is obvious, that such a road to China would benefit the people living in the border region of both India and China. This route has another advantage. It does not enter Tibet at all, but Yunnan, which always has been an integral part of China. Bérénice Guyot-Réchard, a graduate student studying history at University of Cambridge, under guidance of Dr. Joya Chatterji, says in his thesis entitled as 'Decolonisation and State-Building on India's North-East Frontier, c19421962' that British found an old route between Assam and China while exploring the Lohit Valley. This route was used
by Traders, pilgrims, smugglers and even prostitutes. Two biggest cities on this route were Tinsukia in India and Rima (Which does not exist now) in china. The film maker duo, has produced a 26 minute documentary on the subject for Ministry of information and broadcasting, Government of India. For making this film the duo travelled from Guwahati in Assam to Kibithu in Arunachal Pradesh.
This short route can be a mojor boost for the trade between two countries. At present, only land route between India and China, known as Stilwell Road and connecting Ledo in Assam to Kunming in Yunnan province of China, traverses through 400 Km of dense jungles. According to the film makers, this route is known from ancient times. Delhi emperors like Qutubuddin Aibek and Aurangzeb even sent their generals on expeditions here with an idea of snatching some parts of Yunnan province. This documentary indeed opens a new possibility of connecting China proper with India by road. However, things obviously are not as simple as they appear. Firstly there is the military threat from Chinese and secondly this route is very near the opium production centers of the
golden triangle and may turn out to be an easy exit for the opium trade. 8th April 2012
Nizam's Hot Rod
Some of the programmes, broadcast on the Discovery TV channel, are my all time favourites. One such programmes is called 'American Hot Rod'. This programme shows the restoration work on the old cars by a California car shop located in a place called La Habre and owned by one Boyd Coddington. The programmes usually revolves around Boyd, his team and a car being restored at that time. This programme, first shown in 2004-2005 is still shown and I make it a point to see it again and again. I have always admired the clients, who come to Boyd to get some old car restored and are ready to pay a huge price for it. I always thought that because these guys are from US, they are able to afford that kind of money spending. I never ever imagined that any person in his senses would this kind of car restoration at such a huge price in India. So, when I saw the photographs yesterday, of the 100th birth-day celebrations of a century old Roll-Royce car belonging to 6 th Nizam of Hyderabad state, Mir Mahboob ali khan, recently restored, I could not believe my own eyes. I am forced to change my view now, that such enthusiastic car restorers are also there in India. The restoration of the 'Silver Ghost Throne' Rolls Royce has been done by Princess Esra Jah, ex-wife of Prince Mukarram Jah of Hyderabad. She has spent Rs. 50,00,000 on the restoration. Many people think that this car is a symbol of the royal heritage as well as pride and culture of Hyderabad state. The car therefore has been placed on the bandstand in the compound of Chomahalla Palace after enclosing it in a half inch thick toughened glass box. 6th Nizam Mir Mahboob had passed away by the time delivery of this car was made. The 7th Nizam, Mir Usman, Ali khan received this car as apresent from his departed father. This car bearing chasis number 2117, has a 40 horse poser engine and run around 8 miles per gallon. Mir Usman ali
used it only for ceremonial purposes and the responsibility of maintaining it was given to Hyderabad state railway.
After death of Usman Ali, the car was lying in Chiran Fort Palace. 3 years back, Princess Esra decided to restore the car and gave the work to Rana Manavendrasingh Barwani of Indore. From the quality of his workmanship,we can certainly call Rana Manavendrasingh as Boyd Coddington of India. 100the birth-day of this car was celebrated with great pomp and show in the Chomahalla palace. Chief chef of Sri Sakti College of Hotel management, Mr. Annadurai had made a special cake in the form of a replica of this car. Using normal sponge cake, sugar paste,royal icing, whipped cream, pineapple and berries, he laboured for 72 hours to bake this cake. Princess Esra and her step son. Prince Azamet Jah, cut the cake to celebrate the birth-day of the car.
Mir Usman Ali
The car before restoration
Mir Usman Ali was an accomplished Urdu Gazal writer. A musical programme also was arranged at the venue of celebrations. Princess Isra has now planned to restore many cars for Nizam's collection of cars. Next year french fashion house Cartier is arranging a travel concourse in Mumbai. Princess Isra plans to have tow Napier cars, owned by Nizam , restored for this meet.
I am sure to be reminded of Princess Esra and Rana Manavendrasingh, if I can see ever again the programme 'American Hot Rod' on Boyd Coddington's car shop. 8th February 2012
It happens only in India
On 9th January 2012, Airport Deputy manager Mr. Janarthan at Tirupati Airport, had a major problem on his hand. His air traffic controllers had not reported for duty as usual, at 7.00 AM and the control tower was unmanned. Tirupati airport handles only 7 flights every day, but it is the nearest landing point for Tirmala shrines. One of the most revered temples for Hindus, particularly from south India.. To add to his worries, Jet Airlines flight 9W2761 had already taken off from Hyderabad and was scheduled to reach Tirupati, within one and half hours . He made frantic calls to the air traffic controller, who told him that he simply forgot to report for duty. However ATC told Mr.Janarthan that he would immediately start for the airport and would be there as soon as possible. Tirupati airport has no approach radar and pilots rely on air traffic controllers to provide runway and weather information and give landing clearance. Since pilots rely mainly on visual approach to land their planes, they need to have all the support information at least 40 minutes before the aircraft reaches over Tirupati. Mr. Janarthan knew that the pilots of the Jet Airlines flight from Hyderabad, would ask for this information on radio and by then, the ATC just can not arrive at the airport.
Doing some quick thinking, he requested Mr.Pasha, a fireman at the airport, to furnish necessary information to the pilots of Jet Airways flight on radio. Mr Pasha speaks only broken English but managed to give the required information on the radio. 40 minutes later, when the aircraft reached the Tirupati airport, ATC had already arrived and was in his seat to guide the aircraft to land safely. Mr Janarrthan might have solved a crisis in hand , but he is now facing an inquiry along with Mr Pasha, how they undertook ATC duties, without authorization.
Airport Authority of India says that Mr Pasha had good intentions but he is untrained and he should not have done ATC's job. Mere good intentions are not enough to do a job. This can happen only in India. 4 February 2012
Striking the roots of a poisonous tree
The greatest Maratha General, Baji Rao Peshava, had once commented that if you want to bring down a tree, cutting the branches is not of much use. What he advocated was striking the roots. “Strike, strike at the root and the branches will fall off themselves.” The verdict given by the Supreme Court of India, on 2nd February 2012, reminds me very much of this saying. For last several years, common people of India, like you and me, have been watching helplessly from the sidelines, the disappointing rise of the politico-industrial nexus, breeding on corruption and total disregard for the laws of the country. By canceling the licenses of the user companies, who had obtained the licenses, by illegal and corrupt means, Honourable Supreme court has undone the basic misdeed itself and has brought hope for all of us again. Fortunately, there are still few people left around in our country, who feel that transparency and honesty are the basic requirements for any decision taken by a Government and had guts to file writ petitions against deeds of the Government, which they felt were dishonest. But for these people, this bending or breaking of laws, done on the grandest scale, would have never seen the light of the day. The order of the Supreme court, acknowledges the efforts of the petitioners, which should encourage such kind of efforts in the future, to bring to light few more skeletons from the Government cupboards hereafter. In the order, Supreme court has explained beautifully the significance of natural resources and how a Government should deal with these. Holding, that radio wave spectrum was a natural resource, the court said that natural resources “are vested with the government as a matter of trust in the name of the people of India, and it is the solemn duty of the state to protect the national interest, and natural resources must
always be used in the interests of the country and not private interests.” Instead of trying to explain the full verdict of the Supreme court and its implications, I am giving here, this wonderful graphic, which I found on the internet (courtesy The Hindu) , and which explains in nutshell, the 2 G spectrum case and what happens in future.
(Graphic source The Hindu) Senior ministers of the Government are now restlessly trying to shift the blame entirely to the erstwhile Telecom Minister and emphasizing the fact that the prime minister was not involved at any level. People are well aware of the worth of statements coming from ministers , who had previously declared that there was no loss at all to the Government in 2G case and are now praising the court’s ruling and saying that it would be implemented . Common people are hardly going to believe these kind of blame shifting statements, which many not help the Government in any way. What could be considered as the most important fall out of this Supreme court landmark judgment? According to me, it proves conclusively that for a corporate, bending or
breaking of laws to rake in excess profits, does not pay in long term. In India, it has become a common practice for the unscrupulous corporates to use their nexus with elected political leaders to disregard laws of the country and make unlawful gains. This verdict might be for telecom sector, but aftereffects are bound to be felt in almost all sectors of the economy. Thank God, there is still a Supreme Court of India. 3 February 2012
Johnny Johnny! Yes Papa!, Telling Lies? No Papa!
The Economist magazine has published a report in its latest issue about India’s surging exports. According to this report, India’s exports as a percentage of its GDP are converging to Chinese Exports ratio. This ratio is not to be confused with China’s exports in dollar terms , which are at least five times higher. Economist article, gives two reasons for this upwards shift. Firstly, India no longer only sells simple things such as jewels. A decade ago engineering and petrochemicals were 14% of goods exports; now they are as much as 42%. Secondly, the share of goods exported to western hemisphere (read America and Europe ) has dropped from a half of total exports only to a third. India is now exporting more complex products to a wider and more buoyant group of trade partners and Small firms are participating in the export drive in a major way.
In spite of this bright and rosy picture presented by Economist, nagging doubts are resurfacing, that this is just an official hogwash or bogus official bumbling. Kotak Institutional Equities, a leading brokerage and equity research firm, has recently published an report with a detailed analysis of export figures from India and Foreign institutional investor dollar inflows into the country. This report claims that there are wide gaps between the official data and the figures reported by companies and foreign funds. The report rightly raises concerns over the possibility of illicit funds entering the country through these routes. This is not something new to any person familiar with the ways of the wealthy in India. Over invoicing of exports to slip black money back into the country is a very common practice. The data available if often fudged and seldom reliable. The quality of goods manufactured in India is often shoddy and unsuitable for competitive export markets. It is easier to believe that the report by Kotak Institutional Equities would be nearer to the truth. The report says that the official export growth data for the financial year 2010-11 is much higher than the figures reported by the country’s top-500 listed companies for the same period in their annual reports. The study reports that the official figures of engineering goods exports show a rise of 79 per cent during FY 2010-11, yet the group of top engineering companies included in the Bombay Stock Exchange-500 group have reported in their balance sheets, an increase of only 11 per cent in their exports for the same year. About the foreign institutional investments in the country, this report points out the huge gaps between figures provided by the Government and the figures reported by stock exchange listed Foreign investment institutions and exchange traded funds. The report also refers to the estimates of a global fund flow database, EPFR Global. The Government official data shows inflows of US$
22 Billion whereas data collected by Kotak report shows inflows of only US$ 4.5 Billion. This is really a huge gap or a difference and it is obvious that someone would have to do lot of explaining. Kotak report admits that its data is not all inclusive and does not take into account dollar inflows from sovereign and private equity funds. Even we account for that and all other limitations on data collection, the gap between these two figures is so huge that something appears to be seriously misreported somewhere. Economist report surprisingly supports the Government data. It refers to research done by JPMorgan Chase and says that they have tallied the official figures against India’s trade partners’ numbers and data on port traffic and appear to be largely true. As suggested by the Kotak report, a better clarity is a must for the Government data as to minimize risks to the economy from illicit foreign funds. There are possibilities that exports are now largely driven by small er entities, which would make data from listed entities suspect . Economist report suggests this theory strongly and says that the conspiracy theories are flimsy. Perhaps the most worrying aspect of this huge gap between two reports is the possibility of huge amount of black money, previously stashed abroad, making a comeback due to fears of future stringent action by the Government, pressurized by the anti corruption movement of the people of the country going stronger and stronger each day. Kotak report highlights this possibility and calls this money as “ round tripped money of Indian companies and foreign accounts of Indians” Even before the controversy about the accuracy of data is settled, Government has gone ahead and has offered a Rs 170 million incentive package to exporters to ensure continuation of export growth in the unpredictable global scenario. It may well turn out to be just an incentive for the round tripped money, brought back into India. Just imagine the inflationary pressures this kind of money would create
on common people if the exports on paper are flimsy or not backed by real transfer of goods. Right now our little Johnny keeps saying that he has eaten no sugar and is not telling any lies. I hope that is true and sincerely wish that Papa finds the truth as soon as possible. 15 October 2011
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