Views of an Australian professor

Prof. Isaac Balbin is a programme director and professor at the school of computer science and IT at RMIT University in Melbourne, Australia.
A regular visitor to India and a mentor to lots of overseas education seekers in India, Prof. Balkin expresses his views about the recent incidences in Australia.
As @Asfaq terms it, this is one of the most sensible & practical posts we have yet read about the issue.
This post was originally published in Indian Express (found via @Asfaq)

I have frequently visited India and have mentored Indian students for over two decades. I have supervised 11 Indian postgraduate research theses. Recent events compel me to pen these words.

The easiest part of my visits to India is convincing good students to join my school’s well-regarded programmes. My central aim is to speak with better students and offer these partial scholarships so that our school continues to flourish, and they may become global leaders in their profession. Indians proudly value quality education and the international experience.

I confess: I love India. I love the people. There is much goodwill and diversity and I am always treated with reverential respect. I have sat with family members and discussed their children’s prospects; I have always given an honest appraisal of their child’s suitability for overseas study. I am not a salesman. I advise with both a professorial and parental hat firmly on my head. Also, I have a keen perspective on racism, as I am visibly Jewish and the son of Holocaust survivors. People of my faith have been persecuted since their beginnings.

To be sure, there were times when I was not able to travel to Ahmedabad because of religious violence, and warned to avoid questionable Indian taxi drivers because foreigners had been robbed, murdered or abducted. I commonly read press warnings to female Indian university students about the possibility of rape upon returning to Delhi hostels in the evening. Pockets of violence are an unfortunate abnormity of our world, but my overall perspective, however, was and remains one of confidence and contentment.

I sojourned at Nariman House exactly 2 weeks before terrorists in cosmopolitan Mumbai murdered my good friends, Rabbi and Mrs Holtzberg. I saw the bullet-riddled and bloodied room that I had slept in. I frequented the Taj Hotel in Mumbai. In Melbourne I spoke and wrote about these events and my comments were reported in the Australian Parliament; they continue to shake my core. I know I will return to Mumbai soon, but this time, apart from the psychological trauma induced by that memory, I will have anxious parents asking me whether they should send their beloved to study in Melbourne, or indeed any other city in Australia.

It is counterproductive to generalise about Australians in the same way that it is counterproductive to generalise about Indians. Indian students in Australia are not all the same. Some are serious and highly motivated, seeking international educational excellence; some are opportunists who knowingly enrol in programs from nefarious institutions and whose primary concern is to find a way, any way, to stay in Australia. This second type of student can sometimes be seen congregating in centre of cities as if they have little to do — that is, until they commence night-time employment as taxi drivers, cleaners, guards or door-to-door salespeople. It is demeaning. Why do it? Students should come for real educations by all means, stay if they choose by all means — Australia is in need of qualified professionals — but “purchasing” paper diplomas is not a sound aim.

Some sober realities:

  • Australia is a great and relatively safe country with an exemplary but currently challenged police force. I consider it the multi-cultural success story of the world. Melbourne, in particular, is a rich tapestry of culture and tolerance.
  • There is a real problem with some members of “Generation Y”, especially in certain suburbs. This may relate to a lack of proper parenting, drugs and alcohol. One should not assume they are “white Anglo-Saxon Aussies.” They do not go after Indians per se, in my estimation. Rather, of late, if they identify someone as a “vulnerable target” they have exercised unjustified and mindless violence. Ironically, one member of a gang was himself clearly from the sub-continent and involved in perpetrating recent train violence against an Indian. Idiocy knows no racial boundaries.
  • Australians care. When a young Anglo-Saxon father came to the aid of someone in distress in the dead of night he was stabbed and later died. Where are those perpetrators? They immediately fled to Thailand. It is easy to guess their origin. We don’t blame their country per se. There are rotten eggs everywhere. To blame a people or besmirch a city can be construed as reverse racism.
  • Some student agents in the sub-continent are irresponsible. They send students overseas when they are well aware that the students don’t have the intellectual capacity and/or the parents don’t have the financial capacity. They make unpardonable promises that students can work (almost full time) to pay both their living and tuition fees. These agents should be exposed and marginalised.

It is great that Indian students protested both last night and this morning, but I think that they should not have done so solely as Indian students. Let’s stop the mindless sensationalising. There is a problem, yes. I am equally confident that this is a transient issue that will pass, perhaps even quicker than swine flu. Let’s enhance cooperation, not work against it. I’d like it if more local students spend a semester in India, at least performing quality work integrated learning. Are there any companies out there who are listening? This will help to further bilateral cultural exchange and mutual understanding.

In summary, this issue is primarily one of delinquency. It is not about a particular race. Surely, we are well past the spat between Harbhajan Singh and Andrew Symonds?

I can only speak for myself but I live in a wonderful, unique, multi-cultural, exciting and friendly melting pot. As a father of five children, two of whom have studied overseas, I am confident that any student who studies here will be in an environment that gushes tolerance and oozes love and respect. I will personally continue to “look after” any student that knocks on my door, be they Indian or otherwise. My campus has had, thankfully, close to zero incidents and we endeavour to keep it that way. This issue will pass if we stick together, forcefully and effectively, but without unnecessary rancour and aggressive finger pointing.

Bihar Transformed

On the morning of counting day, driving through rain and the blossoms of Laburnum and Gulmohar in Patna, I was surprised to find that the road outside Nitish’s residence deserted. For a moment I assumed the other news channels had decided to skip the early morning slightly pointless pre results dispatches, till I walked a few steps away to the next lane. Sure enough, the entire media cavalcade of cameras and broadcast vans was parked right there – outside the home of Rabri devi, Lalu’s wife and the proxy Leader of Opposition.
 
Why would the media ignore the bigger story – Nitish Kumar, the man being wooed by all political formations, praised by Rahul Gandhi, hand-grabbed by Narendra Modi, and generally seen as Bihar’s great hope – to chase the by now predictable story –  the decline of Lalu Prasad, the Railway minister who looked all set to go off track this election?
 
This could a matter of habit – after all, Lalu has been the centre of gravity in Bihar for two decades. Or it could a more calculated journalistic gambit, linked to the well known contrast between the two men – Impetuous Lalu might supply some drama even as a loser, while Punctilious Nitish would not allow the media in except at the
designated hour dutifully phoned and faxed to media offices. Nitish, as the consensus goes, does not believe in springing surprises.
 
And the initial leads came as no surprise. Both reporters and exit polls had picked up the astonishingly high level of Nitish’s personal popularity on which the NDA hoped to sweep Bihar. The only subject of speculation then – what would be the final tally?
 
Lalu’s elder son, a Krishna Bhakt and mildly notorious in Patna, drove in from a morning visit to the temple, flashing the victory sign, holding up both his hands. He is giving four seats to his party – quipped one journalist. Uncannily, that’s what the RJD ended the day with.
 
Ram Vilas Paswan, the LJP leader who completes the Bihar triumvirate, had all morning been enconsced in a five star hotel suite – the one that he occupies when he is in Patna, which is not too often, usually around election time. He has a reason, or excuse, to stay away – as part of every single government since 1996, his duties as Union Minister have kept him busy in Delhi. Except this election took that excuse away. Paswan lost from Hajipur – a seat he won seven times since 1977, losing just once in the Congress wave of 1984. This time, an 88 year old man, Ram Sunder Das defeated him. Das could be this Lok Sabha’s oldest candidate.
 
As far as age goes, many have claimed this election has upturned an old truth about the way Bihar polls. That it is no longer about Jaat or caste, the vote is for Vikaas or development. Hardly one to dispute the remarkable transformation underway in Bihar, led by Nitish, I would slightly modify that claim. The reality is more nuanced.
 
Nitish has revived Bihar’s comatose administration, kickstarted schools and hospitals, used the centre’s money well to build roads and infrastructure – public goods meant for all, they have indeed created a groundswell of support for him across the state and across communities. But what Nitish has also done is target benefits to specific communities, based on caste: the EBC’s or extremely backward castes, numerically larger among the backward castes but edged out by the more powerful Yadavs and Kurmis, have finally been given political space through reservations in panchayats; Mahadalits, dalits minus chamars and Paswans, for whom state largesse now ranges from subsidised homes to monthly supply of bathing soap; even among Muslims, Nitish has singled out the Pasmanda or backward and dalit muslims for special schemes like Talimi Markaj, a scheme aimed to bring Muslim children to school.
 
This is social engineering, Nitish style. And it pays. It has created new votebanks. Numerically, the most significant is the EBC bloc, 100 odd castes that add up to around 30 % of Bihar’s vote. In 2004, not a single EBC candidate was voted to Parliament. In 2009, three will be sworn in as MPs, all three are from Nitish’s party.
 
Further proof of how caste realigned this election – Lalu’s outburst post defeat. Two months ago, on poll eve, he dismissed my questions on the impact of the potential consolidation of the EBC and Mahadalit vote. But as his own electoral defeat from Pataliputra flashed on TV screens, he turned to the group of journalists and ranted : ‘Everyone has united against Yadavs, there is hatred against Yadavs’. His other villains: the administration for rigging the polls, an upper caste media for biased reporting. Familiar targets from the nineties. Not suprising. But what was mildly stunning was Lalu’s dismissal of development as a factor. He said if Vikaas could win votes, he would have won hands down for the turnaround of the Railways. He was emphatic : development does not win votes. It was scary to see a man stuck in the nineties.
 
Nitish, as expected, called for a press conference and walking into 1, Anne Marg had a surprise in store : a mandatory security check, at sharp contrast from the mad chaotic unchecked stampede into Lalu’s home. The security guards, including women constables, were trained to frisk, but did not have the detectors. Another insight into how Bihar is changing – step by step.
 
The press conference took place under the mango tree, the sole unchanging landmark in a vastly different Chief Ministerial Residence. The briefing lasted twenty minutes and a beaming Nitish Kumar repeated several times, the word ‘Nakaraatmak’, translated best as ‘Negative’, but far more potent in its original meaning. Nitish said voters had rejected the ‘Nakaraatmak’ approach of his opponents. Nitish reiterated that this was a vote against ‘Nakaraatmak’ politics. At final count, Nitish had used the word 10 times.
 
Nitish may have choosen the negative adjective, but his work has been an affirmative one, both as the chief minister trying to bring governance back to Bihar, and as a politician schooled in the politics of social justice. The stream combines the socialist ideals of Jayaprakash Narayan, and the modified socialism of Karpoori Thakur – Bihar’s second backward caste chief minister and the first to introduce reservations for OBCs in North India, way back in 1978. Both Lalu and Nitish were claimants to this legacy. But while Lalu squandered it, Nitish is building on it – by deepening the reach of reservations and social targeting. It is Mandal Part Two. And like Mandal Part One, you could have a problem with it, if you oppose affirmative action based on caste. Except, by further refining reservations, Nitish has actually taken on what has been one of the prinicipal criticisms of Mandal – that it helped dominant caste groups like Yadavs and Kurmis become even more powerful, at the cost of the more backward and less powerful groups.
 
Lalu may have privately wished that Nitish’s agenda would lead to a backlash from the upper castes, Yadavs and Kurmis – but it didn’t. Possibly one explanation : even if the others are slightly resentful of reservations, the resentment is offset by the larger benefits of a functioning state that has finally begun to deliver.
 
No wonder, at his press conference, Nitish didnt look particularly crushed at the national picture of a UPA win, and an NDA defeat. Instead, he asked the new government at the centre to live up to the promise of special status for Bihar – just a day ago, every political party had shown a willingness to consider the demand when a hung verdict seemed likely and the support of Nitish seemed crucial.
 
Still beaming, Nitish wrapped up : Good that the elections are over, now lets all get back to work.
 
Post Script: Observations overheard that day: RJD has become Rajput Janta Dal. Apart from Laloo, the other three RJD candidates who won are Rajputs.
 
The election has ended the Raj of Gundas – Gundis. Gundas are dons turned politicians. Gundis are their wives, propped up as proxy candidates. All 10 of them lost. Including Munna Shukla on a JD U ticket.
 
A jubiliant Nitish had one reason to be upset. Digvijay Singh, his former party colleague turned rebel, won from Banka defeating Nitish’s candidate. This setback could be crucial – in keeping Nitish grounded. Bihar cannot afford another arrogant leader.

Source: NDTV Written by Supriya Sharma

A battle is lost, but not the war

Kanchan Gupta / Analysis

Atal Bihari Vajpayee was given to moments of jocular frivolity at times of great stress, for instance on the eve of election results. At the fag end of the 1999 election campaign, a senior journalist asked him what would rate as one of the most banal, if not asinine, questions: “Mr Vajpayee, who do you think will emerge winner?” Without batting his eyelids, Mr Vajpayee replied, “Of course the BJP.” That was contrary to what opinion polls, including one commissioned by his party, were saying: The Congress, according to pollsters, had an edge over the BJP. Later that evening, I made a passing reference to the ease with which he was predicting a BJP victory in the face of a concerted Congress assault. Mr Vajpayee laughed it off and then said, “Nobody can predict the outcome of an election, never mind what politicians and pollsters say.” Placing three fingers of his right hand face down on his left palm, he added, “Any election is like a game of ‘teen patti’ (three-card game). Till such time you turn the cards and see them, you can only guess what has been dealt to you. Similarly, till the votes are counted, nobody can say with any certitude what lies in store for the contestants.”

On the face of it, such wisdom may appear commonplace. After all, veterans of electoral wars would be the first to agree that no battle is won or lost till the last vote is counted. Yet, come election time and every politician and pollster tries to outguess the voter, more often than not coming to grief. The 1999 opinion polls, including the one commissioned by the BJP, turned out to be way off the mark. The BJP and its allies were returned to power with a majority of their own; the Congress had to eat humble pie. So also with the exit polls that were telecast 72 hours before the results of the 2009 general election were declared on Saturday — they didn’t quite forecast such a stunningly stupendous performance by the Congress and the BJP’s astonishing failure to meet its own expectations, fuelled by internal assessments that failed to reflect the popular mood. Whoever predicted on the basis of an ‘exit poll’, and thereby made the party look silly on Saturday, that the NDA would get 217 seats compared to the UPA’s 176 owes more than a mere explanation.

The Congress, no doubt, has won a splendid victory; not to accept this fact would be sheer cussedness. Having said that, it would be equally incorrect to subscribe to the view that at the moment the Congress is riding the crest of a tidal popularity wave which in the coming days will turn into a tsunami of support for the party. Yes, the Congress has made stupendous gains, but a close scrutiny of the results will show that they are not entirely at the expense of the BJP. Nor have the gains accrued to the Congress on account of either policy or programme. For instance, the Congress has picked up a large number of seats in Kerala and West Bengal for reasons that are entirely different. In Kerala, the Left has paid a huge price for infighting within the CPI(M) that has spilled into the streets: A divided cadre couldn’t get their act together. In West Bengal, the Left has been decimated because popular resentment with the CPI(M) for the various sins of omission and commission of the Marxists reached tipping point in this election, helped in large measure by the alliance between the Trinamool Congress and the Congress.

In States where the BJP has lost seats to the Congress, the credit largely goes to saboteurs within the party. It is no secret that a section of the BJP worked against the party’s nominees in certain constituencies in Madhya Pradesh. In Rajasthan, the reasons that led to the BJP’s defeat in last year’s Assembly election remain unresolved. In Uttarakhand, infighting has led to the BJP’s rout. In Jammu & Kashmir, the BJP could have won in Udhampur and Jammu if the local party units had not abandoned the candidates whom they saw as ‘outsiders’. In Maharashtra, the BJP failed to correctly assess the strength of Mr Raj Thackeray’s MNS which has turned out to be a spoiler in Mumbai’s urban constituencies where the party stood a good chance of winning. By default, the Congress has benefited on account of the BJP’s deficiencies. Nowhere is this more evident than in Uttar Pradesh where the BJP clearly failed to sense the shift in voter preference and ended up under-estimating its ability to pick up additional seats which have now gone to the Congress, swelling its national tally.

These reasons apart, at the end of the day what emerges is that the Congress has reached where it has on account of four factors whose impact could not have been predicted at any stage during the campaign when popular mood is palpable. First, the ‘Chiru factor’ has put paid to the TDP’s hopes of staging a comeback. The Congress has gained in the process. Second, the ‘Vijaykant factor’ has spiked the AIADMK’s electoral prospects. The ‘Black MGR of Tamil Nadu politics’ has turned out to be a classic spoiler. Third, the ‘Mamata factor’ was never seriously factored in, especially by the Left, while calculating the possible outcome of this election. Ironically, the amazing collapse of the Left has worked to the detriment of the BJP. Fourth, the ‘urban factor’ continues to elude logical interpretation. If the voting trend is any indication, we must come to the conclusion, and regretfully so, that India’s middleclass is no longer guided by the moral compass. Nothing else explains why corruption should cease to be an election issue and the brazen exoneration by the Congress of those who have looted India fetch no more than a cynical, couldn’t-care-less response. It is equally surprising that the middleclass should have chosen to overlook the mishandling of the national economy by the UPA Government and the pitiable state of internal security. We would have thought that these are concerns that agitate the middleclass the most since they shout the most about corruption, price rise and terrorism.

There is, however, no percentage in looking back. The BJP remains a national alternative to the Congress, more so after this election which has pushed regional parties and their identity politics to the margins of national politics. The BJP’s tally is nothing to scoff at. There is no shame in sitting in the Opposition and preparing for the next battle. Elections come and go, but parties remain. It is for their leaders to use the interregnum to reflect on mistakes, regain organisational strength and revive hope among the faithful. There are, after all, no full stops in politics, and life does not come to an end with the declaration of results.

From: kanchangupta.blogspot.com

Have we forgotten Kargil already?

Kargil makes me sad. I served in Ladakh long before Kargil happened and know that terrain very well.
A lot has been written about the conflict which includes the lessons that the Indian Army  should learn and what we should do to avoid another Kargil. Therefore, I am not going to write about matters military, but matters that are more relevant for our countrymen, especially our leadership and people.

For any nation, the soldiers are its assets. You can replace a weapon or buy new weapon systems but it takes years to train a soldier and make him fight as part of a group that is willing to sacrifice its life for protecting the country.

It takes years to train a combat pilot or a sailor. Soldiers, sailors and airmen give ‘their today for your tomorrow,’ which I quote from the graves in Kohima, Nagaland, left behind by the British after World War II, but still taken good care of. They continue to pay their debt of gratitude to those who laid their lives in that war, fought so fiercely for a tennis court in Kohima.

The Americans too care for their armed forces personnel. Their leaders show genuine concern and match their promises with action. Their veterans are the blessed lot and, what they get for what they gave is something the veterans in India can only dream of.

America is a land of dreams but they convert their dreams into reality especially, when it comes to taking care of the men and women who fought to protect their freedom in all corners of the world. Love, affection, respect and genuine concern shown for the armed forces personnel in these countries and in many more countries in the world is what we need to study and more importantly, emulate.

In our country, soldiers are remembered only in times of need. When Kargil happened many in our country were unaware of what happened and many did not care since it did not affect their daily lives. Yes, there was some war happening in a far off land beyond Srinagar . In any case, the Valley has seen so much of action, it was assumed that it was one more of such action, may be slightly larger in scale like the Taj and Oberoi hotels in Mumbai  that were attacked by terrorists last November.

The general reaction of the public is: Some soldiers died and in any case, soldiers are meant to die for the country. So what if a body of a soldier who belonged to your city or town is brought for cremation? It is just another dead body and don’t we see so many every day in our towns and cities?

So what if a soldier’s widow and children are struggling for their livelihood after he laid down his life for the country? After all, so many widows are languishing in our country and one more does not matter. The soldier’s widow cannot get a ration card. Many others also do not get one, it hardly matters…

That is the general apathy, even to the family of the soldiers who laid down their lives. If the soldier is disabled in war, people think it is nothing that affects them.

The enormity of the situation, the lessons learnt and the corrective action that were needed after Kargil were discussed and forgotten. Kargil is a blur in our memory, an event of history to be forgotten only to be remembered when reminded that we need to celebrate Kargil Diwas! Sadly, we have even stopped doing that!

It is not selective amnesia but permanent dementia. And as for the soldiers who were disabled or who lost their lives, less said the better.

India and Indians need to change their attitude towards its soldiers, both serving and retired. Indians need to remember the families of those who made their supreme sacrifice in conflicts like Kargil or anywhere while performing their duty. We need to pamper our armed forces personnel not because they wore that uniform for 30 years, suffered deprivation, found it difficult to make both ends meet while running two establishments when separated from family because of service conditions.

We need to because a nation which forgets its soldiers and which lets its bureaucracy dictate terms to the leadership to manage the armed forces in the manner that suits them or prove their supremacy, which ignores their genuine demands, is bound to suffer when the time of need comes again. History strangely repeats itself.

That is what is happening now. Why should the ex-servicemen (ESM) ever need to demand their legitimate rights? Why is the country’s leadership not doing its duty to meet their legitimate demands without them asking for it? Do they not have any duty to perform towards the soldiers and their families as the soldiers have performed in silence, asking for nothing in return? Are the words honour, loyalty, duty applicable only to men and women in uniform?

The current ESM agitation which was characterised by many of them undergoing fasts in many places or returning their medals, including the ones awarded posthumously to the gallant officers and soldiers who died fighting in Kargil does not happen any where but in India.

The ESM have been forced to come out in large numbers onto the streets, shouting slogans to attract attention. The country as a whole has forgotten them and it is a pity that the ESM need to remind our countrymen to remember them by adopting agitation as the means to achieve their end.

Sadly, what they are asking for is One Rank and One Pension — a small price for what they have given to our country for so long.

Why is it that our nation has pushed its veterans to this state of helplessness that today this apolitical force is taking sides with political parties to make their demand met? Does our country’s leadership realise that the armed forces which had remained apolitical so far are now becoming politicised? Surely this is not a healthy trend.

The answers to all the question is known to all of us. Yet we are mute spectators because it does not affect the civil population in any manner. If war is an instrument of State policy, the armed forces are the means to achieve that policy when the time comes. Kargil is one more event in our history. The soldiers in and out of uniform are not. They are the ones who make that history happen.

Can Kargil rekindle the hearts of every Indian to make a pledge to give our soldiers the dignity and respect and give their legitimate demand without them asking for it? Surely that is not asking for much, unless we are a thankless nation.

Wriiten by: Colonel A Sridharan VSM (retd)
Source: Rediff

Always a blind spot

I look at the rhetoric surrounding Elections 2009 and wonder – has any political party promised to improve the state of the environment for you and me? Or thought about our right to fresh air or clean water – commodities that have become a rarity in an urbanising India?

Over the past few weeks I’ve studied the manifestos of all political parties and silently witnessed the city around me change. Ancient trees are being decapitated for wider roads, a park’s been taken over for a multiplex and a storm drain, a barrier against monsoon floods, has been filled with sand to make way for a parking lot. Grab and construct is the new mantra for the ‘development’ of our cities.

We spend three hours on an average on roads, stuck in traffic jams, while one in every five Indians suffers from respiratory disorders. Indian cities are headed towards an urban disaster. Take the depleting quality of the air we breathe or the water we drink (that’s if we get it in our taps); while rivers turn into noxious black threads with methane bubbling on their surfaces and landfill sites expand.

Analysts predict that in the next thirty years, more than half of India will be living in urban areas. But does any leader or political party have a vision to address the impending environmental problems? Caste and religion continue to dominate the rhetoric of Election 2009, but is global India, with a growth rate of 9 per cent, doing anything about the toxic gas chambers that are our cities or the brown sludge flowing from our taps?

You could dismiss my angst for clean air and water as an elitist preoccupation that doesn’t affect a majority of the population. But take a look at the alarming figures collected by the Central Pollution Control Board and the Centre for Science and Environment. Out of the 100 Indian cities monitored, almost half have critical levels of particulate matter. Fifty-two cities hit critical levels, 36 have high levels and a mere 19 are at moderate levels. Only three cities – Dewas, Tirupati and Kozhikode – recorded low pollution levels.

Adding to the gas chambers are toxic gases like nitrogen oxide – a major contributor to acid rain and global warming – that are on the rise even in smaller cities like Jamshedpur, Dhanbad, Nashik and Chandrapur. Indian cities can be cured of the curse of pollution, but various policy measures will have to be initiated. One way out could be the introduction of compressed natural gas in the public transport system, and financial incentives for people to buy more fuel-efficient cars or to switch to public transport.

If we look at the availability of water in Indian cities, the situation is no different. According to a 2007 World Bank study on 27 cities, the average duration of water supply was not more than four hours and in some, like Rajkot, it’s less than 0.3 hours. Not even one Indian city gets continuous water supply, and a majority are in the red in terms of plummeting ground water tables. Besides, in the poorer parts of our nation, people have to buy water and have to spend, on an average, one to two hours per day foraging for it.

And what about the impending threat from climate change? There is now enough scientific evidence to show that climate change will first affect the poor, with disastrous consequences for India’s farmers and fishermen. But has any political party woken up to this threat? The BJP, interestingly, has a separate section on the environment in its manifesto, referring to the need to move towards a low-carbon economy. Does that mean it will scrap the 54-odd thermal power projects that were cleared under the UPA government? Climate change may already be upon us in many ways. But one look at the National Climate Change Action Plan launched by the Prime Minister will tell us that most of the targets under the eight missions are non-measurable, so there’s no way to measure the outgoing government’s performance.

And how ‘green’ are our politicians themselves? While one has drained the wetlands of an endangered bird only to build an airstrip in his native village, another, with strong prime ministerial aspirations, spent more than Rs 80 crore ravaging a green belt on the edge of the Okhla bird sanctuary, while yet another in Madhya Pradesh got the course of a river diverted, to make it flow close to his private resort. Media campaigns ask voters to stop complaining and go out and vote. Yes, I too will go and vote. But I am still waiting for that one political party or candidate who promises me, a citizen of India, my right to clean air and water.

By: Bahar Dutt
(This article appeared in ‘Hindustan Times’ on May 5, 2009)

H1N1 Flu

As we are all aware the WHO has confirmed that H1N1 (swine)  flu has moved to stage 5, out of a possible 6 stages, on its international alert status indicating human-to-human transmission in at least two countries in the same region. However there are no cases of H1N1 flu are reported in India citizens are recommended to take following precautionary steps ensure your health safety.

Protect yourself and prevent illness

  • Avoid close contact with people who appear unwell and have fever and cough.
  • Wash your hands with soap and water thoroughly and often.
  • Practice good health habits including adequate sleep, eating nutritious food, and keeping physically active.
  • Avoid travelling the infected countries, If necessary take the following precautions while travelling
    Cover your nose and mouth during travel in the affected countries.
  • Avoid crowded places. Stay more than one arm’s length distance from persons sick with flu.
  • If you are sick, PLEASE
  • Stay home and limit contact with others as much as possible
  • Drink plenty of liquid  and eat nutritious food
  • Cover your mouth and nose when you cough or sneeze

If you feel unwell, have high fever, cough or sore throat:

  • Stay at home and keep away from work or crowds.
  • Rest and take plenty of fluids.
  • Cover your mouth and nose with disposable tissues when coughing and sneezing, and dispose of the used tissues properly.
  • Wash your hands with soap and water often and thoroughly, especially after coughing or sneezing.

Take a extra care about safer food

  • Keep clean
  • Separate raw and cooked food
  • Cook thoroughly
  • Keep food at safe temperatures
  • Ensure your non vegetarian food is cooked at a minimum temperature of 1600F/ 700C (Especially pork related products).
  • Use safe water and raw materials

General information about H1N1 Flu

Signs and symptoms of infection
Early signs of influenza A(H1N1) are flu-like, including fever, cough, headache, muscle and joint pain, sore throat and runny nose, and sometimes vomiting or diarrhoea

Is an effective vaccine already available against the new influenza A(H1N1) virus?
No, but work is already under way to develop such a vaccine. Influenza vaccines generally contain a dead or weakened form of a circulating virus. The vaccine prepares the body’s immune system to defend against a true infection. For the vaccine to protect as well as possible, the virus in it should match the circulating “wild-type” virus relatively closely. Since this H1N1 virus is new, there is no vaccine currently available made with this particular virus. Making a completely new influenza vaccine can take five to six months

To which antiviral drugs does this influenza virus respond?
There are two classes of antiviral drugs for influenza: inhibitors of neuraminidase such as oseltamivir and zanamivir; and adamantanes, such as amantadine and rimantadine. Tests on viruses obtained from patients in Mexico and the United States have indicated that current new H1N1 viruses are sensitive to neuraminidase inhibitors, but that the viruses are resistant to the other class, the adamantanes

Source: Intranet of Mastek

Advani the party man or Singh the economist?

LK Advani might become prime minister next month. What kind of a leader will he make? Let us examine his qualifications. Born in 1927 to a rich family living in a Parsi neighbourhood of Karachi, Advani is from the Amil caste of merchants. In his autobiography, My Country My Life, he tells us “as far as I can remember, I stood first in every class till matriculation” and “when I completed my matriculation, I had just turned 14”.
Do you want him as PM? Amit Dave/Bloomberg
But at DG National College, Hyderabad, Sindh, he fails to get a degree in five years. His Lok Sabha résumé mentions an LLB from Bombay University, but does not say when he got it. His autobiography’s 986 pages do not mention this degree, or his attending this college, at all.
Forced out by Partition, Advani becomes an RSS worker. He spends years in Rajasthan’s villages, where he is “scared of one thing: tapeworm”.
This is because, over the years, he sees many people with the painful exit wound this worm would make on its way out from their legs. He writes about this at length, showing that his fear, for himself and perhaps also for the villagers he served, was real. But he does no research, else he would have learnt that it was not tapeworm but guinea worm.
On a visit to Chittor fort, he is “pained to see thousands of idols of Hindu deities broken and defaced by intolerant Muslim invaders”. Such experiences “were bringing about a strange transformation within me”.
Then, for seven years, till 1967, Advani is a journalist at the RSS journal Organiser, where he writes film reviews.
His writing is lazy and he leans on clichés and stock phrases. He describes a criminal as “dreaded gangster”. He uses too many adjectives and likes hyperbole. He calls Indira Gandhi’s Emergency the “darkest period in Indian history”, but then reports its years wrong in three places (pages 259, 266 and 270).

I edited newspapers for 10 years and I can place Advani as a journalist immediately. He would not have risen beyond middle rank.
He says Dale Carnegie’s How To Win Friends And Influence People would “clearly rate as one of the five or six life-transforming books I have read so far”.
After a brief term in Delhi’s municipal council, because of his RSS connection, Advani is nominated to the Rajya Sabha. Jailed with other opposition leaders, Advani comes to power in 1977.
His life’s first executive job comes to him at 50 and he becomes minister of information and broadcasting.
This lasts two years.
In the 1980s, he finds his cause at Ayodhya. He begins a campaign, but does not understand the nature of India, and what his movement represents.
When his fired-up audience screams: “Jo Hindu hit ki baat karega, vahi desh pe raaj karega (Whoever promises to ensure the welfare of Hindus will form the government)”, Advani says he did his job by telling them they should instead say: “Jo Rashtra hit ki baat karega, vahi desh pe raj karega (Whoever promises to ensure the welfare of the country will form the government)”.
But how many of us remember this modified slogan?
As the procession rolls, riots flare across India. Advani is disturbed by references to “Advani’s blood yatra”. He is not responsible, he tells us, because “there were no riots at all along the Rath Yatra trail”. Six hundred Indians are killed.
The mosque falls on 6 December 1992. He calls this a “tragic happening” and the “saddest day of my life”. Having led the mob to its goal, he’s surprised by its behaviour. Three thousand Indians are killed. He does not understand that his movement is not positive, for the temple, but negative, against the mosque. And that is why the issue has died after the structure was flattened.
Advani’s second executive job comes at age 71, when he becomes home minister for six years (1998-2004). The three major events concerning his work during this period are at Kandahar, Kargil and Gujarat. Advani’s home ministry fails to immobilize the hijacked Indian Airlines flight when it lands at Amritsar. The BJP then surrenders to Jaish-e-Mohammed and releases the leader of the Deobandi warriors, Masood Azhar. He’s still doing terrorism.
At Kargil, Advani’s spies are unable to predict or detect infiltration. Over 400 Indian jawans are martyred. In Gujarat, 1,000 Indians are killed on the BJP’s watch. The prosecution is so bigoted, or incompetent, that the horrified Supreme Court transfers cases to Mumbai.
If Advani has such a poor record on security, why do his supporters refer to him as strong? Sadly, this image comes from his willingness to do violence to India’s Muslims.
Having had only eight years of executive experience, the same as the average 32-year-old, Advani has no long view. He does not understand strategy.
He thumps his chest and warns Pakistan to behave after taking India nuclear, but is taken aback when Pakistan’s generals immediately use this as an excuse to weaponize their own programme. This has destabilized South Asia for generations.
He opposes the Indo-US nuclear deal. Why? Because America does not treat India as “equals”. He views strategic policy through honour and emotion.
Of his autobiography’s 48 chapters, not one is on economics. Muslims, Kashmir, terrorism, Pakistan, Musharraf, Kargil, Shah Bano, Naxalism, Godhra, Assam, Ayodhya. These are his concerns. His passion is all about what other people should not do.
Under Advani, the BJP’s three policy thrusts were all negative: Muslims should not keep Babri Masjid; Muslims should not have polygamy; Kashmir should not have special status.
He offers nothing creative, even to Hindus, only resentment.
There is one brutally tough man in politics, but it is not Advani. This man is cold and emotionless when you observe him talk.
If power means the ability to influence change, he is the most powerful leader in the history of India.
His policies, 18 years old, cannot be bent, forget changed, by leaders who came after he wrote them.
He shamelessly laughs off the sneering accusation that he hides behind a woman, and cannot even get himself elected. He is ruthless enough to discard his allies and embrace his enemies when it suits him.
He is cold-blooded enough to ignore the corruption of his allied ministers, because he understands it’s unimportant in the long run.
He has risen in the world by merit alone. Born in the hamlet of Gah in West Punjab, he studied under kerosene lamps and walked miles to school. He never stopped walking. He went to Punjab University, Cambridge University (where he won the Wright’s Prize in 1955 and the Adam Smith prize in 1956). He went to Oxford University and wrote his DPhil thesis on “India’s export trends and prospects for self-sustained growth”. At 30, he understood the problem with Nehru’s economic model. At 59, he got the chance to set it right, and he did.
He is the most qualified man ever to hold office in India, and it would be difficult to find another as qualified across the world.
Like Harvard’s Obama, he has supped at the table with the world’s intellectual elite and absorbed their ideas. Now, facing a crisis, the world looks to Manmohan Singh for answers.
At the G-20 this month, London’s Financial Times put him on its masthead next to Obama and sent three editors to interview him. All Indians who are ashamed of the quality of our leaders must try to read this interview: www.ft.com/indepth/g20. First question: Do you agree with China on the failures of the global monetary regime and the case for a new reserve asset in place of the dollar?
It’s not the question they would ask of Advani.
The author, Aakar Patel is a director with Hill Road Media.
Originally published on livemint and authored by Aakar Patel (via Acropol Chaudhuri)

Where the CPM scores over the BJP and Congress…

If you thought only the Congress and BJP were singing their way to the 15th Lok Sabha election, then visit the CPI (M)’s official campaign website! One of the links in the website reads ‘songs’ and once you click on it, you are led to four CPM campaign songs – Mehengi Roti Sasti Jaan (Unaffordable food, cheap lives), Haalat Desh Ke Maange Badlao (The situation in the country calls for change), Vikalp Naya Lao Is Baar (Vote for a new alternative this time) and 100 Mein 33 Lekar Rahenge (Will get 33 in 100, in the context of the 33% Women’s Reservation Bill). (http://www.vote.cpim.org/node/1352)

Party politburo member Brinda Karat had, earlier this month, released a compact disc containing these four audio songs though I chanced upon them only today.

I have to admit, I was pleasantly surprised after listening to the songs which are based on themes ranging from price rise and hunger to women’s reservation. These are the broad themes being used by the party in its campaign. The songs are melodious and original (unlike Congress’s Jai Ho and BJP’s Bhai Ho!) and the lyrics are relevant, stimulating and intelligent.

While the first and the third songs have amazingly peppy and catchy tunes and you take to them immediately, the second song is slow yet powerful. Though most of the songs have an anti-Congress tenor (presumably because it was at power at the center), they are not negative or degrading to the party but rather, they concentrate on the problems of the country (whether or not we agree with the CPM’s assessment of our situation is a different issue.) Unlike the BJP’s ‘Bhai Ho’, which is a direct and juvenile counter to the Congress version of the song, the CPM campaign songs are more dignified and do not seem like a childish response to somebody else’s creative (or lack of it!) attempt.

Or for that matter, these songs are not narcissistic and self-indulging like Congress’ ‘Jai Ho’, which concentrates more on praising the party than making the voter aware of its future agenda.

The fact that the CPM does not have resources to match up to the Congress or the BJP is well known, which perhaps explains why these songs are not being splashed across our TV screens or FM stations.

Which party gets my vote behind the Electronic Voting Machine remains a secret, but the CPM definitely gets my vote in the ‘Best campaign song’ category.

Jai Hind’s comments:

No doubt CPM has been innovative in creating their political campaigning material. I would call it ‘Good Marketing’ but unfortunately low on budget.
But that doesn’t ensure they would act for good without vested benefits after they are elected.
And moreover, I am totally against gender-based reservations. Rather you should ensure that everyone(irrespective of gender) gets proper and equal education, opportunities and recognition.
You should go through Sakshi‘s post

Originally published on livemint (via @livemint)

70,00,000 Crores Indian Rupees In Swiss Bank….wat a great achievement….!!!!

Our Indians’ Money – 70,00,000 Crores Rupees In Swiss Bank*

1) Yes, 70 lakhs crores rupees of India are lying in Switzerland banks. This is the highest amount lying outside any country, from amongst 180 countries of the world, as if India is the champion of Black Money.

2) German Government has officially written to Indian Government that they (German Government) are willing to inform the details of holders of 70 lakh crore rupees in their Banks, if Indian Government officially asks them.

3) On 22-5-08, this news has already been published in The Times of India and other Newspapers based on German Government’s official letter to Indian Government.

4) But the Indian Government has not sent any official enquiry to Germany for details of money which has been sent outside India
between 1947 to 2008. The opposition party is also equally not interested in doing so because most of the amount is owned by politicians and it is every Indian’s money.

5) This money belongs to our country. From these funds we can repay 13 times of our country’s foreign debt. The interest alone can take care of the Centre’s yearly budget. People need not pay any taxes and we can pay Rs. 1 lakh to each of 45 crore poor families.

6) Let us imagine, if Swiss Bank is holding Rs. 70 lakh crores, then how much money is lying in other 69 Banks? How much they have deprived the Indian people? *Just think, if the Account holder dies, the bank becomes the owner of the funds in his account.*

7) Are these people totally ignorant about the philosophy of *Karma*? What will this ill-gotten wealth do to them and their families when they own/use such money, generated out of corruption and exploitation?

8) Indian people have read and have known about these facts. But the helpless people have neither time nor inclination to do anything in the matter. This is like “a new freedom struggle” and we will have to fight this.

9) This money is the result of our sweat and blood. The wealth generated and earned after putting in lots of mental and physical efforts by Indian people must be brought back to our country.

10) As a service to our motherland and you contribution to this struggle, please circulate at least 10 copies of this note amongst your friends and relatives and convert it into a mass movement.

Note: I got this article as an email forwarded from my friend. I validated few of the points hwihc are correct as well but cannot claim to be fully authentic. But it is well known fact that their is huge amount of black money lying in the foreign banks.