Thursday, September 30, 2010

A review of M.B Naqvi’s "Pakistan at Knife’s Edge"

Naqvi’s book is indeed a good analysis about the internal struggles of Pakistan and her relation with other countries. This first hand narrative is indeed lively and concentrates on the ground realties instead of far-fetched imagination. A good book to get an understanding about the political activities of various parties of Pakistan; her numerous constitutions (which is always subjected to rework) along with the bizarre policies of politicians and army.

a) Lawyer’s movement:

Through out the book author give high importance to the lawyer’s movement. The book describes various situations in Pakistan’s history even if the prime focus (or over focus?)is on lawyer’s strike against Musharraf’s regime. Throughout the book he describes his doubts about the support for the now famous lawyer’s movement from various political parties. We will get a first hand taste of this when he describes,
“No leadership in any party, it appears, was wholeheartedly supporting the cause of lawyers; perhaps none of them really wanted a truly independent judiciary. While in power each party tends to want to do things that it doesn’t like the Supreme Court to look too closely into”.

It is another matter that he later gives much praise to former premier Nawaz Sharif for his support for the movement. He continued further and gave a detailed description about how the lawyer’s movement succeeded in removing Musharraf from power – leaving considerable portion of the book to explain this movement. At the same time it doesn’t give much information regarding to the support of common people to the movement apart from some sentences here and there. This leaves as to guess about what common people think about the lawyer’s movement? And if lawyers can accumulate so much strength, then what happened to them at the time of Musharraf’s take over?

a) Pakistan’s Afghanistan policy

Author also give us a birds eye view on what happened in Afghanistan, starting right after the Saur Revolution of April 1974, and US entered in to this western boundary of East Indian Empire. It become a lot more clear and somewhat satirical when he says,

“Military controlled Pakistan was the obvious beneficiary of Afghanistan’s political transformation in to a virtual satellite of Pakistan- which itself was, and is, a satellite of America”.

But he defies all the logic on issues of ‘peaceful’ conquest of Afghanistan by Taliban and not much mentioned much about the atrocities they did when they are in power (anyway this book is concentrated on Pakistan).

b) Pakistan’s nuclear program:

This book is good to have a bird’s overview of Pakistan nuclear program – ‘A thousand cuts on India’? From
A Q Khan’s announcement - Pakistan had mastered the technology of enriching Uranium in the Indo – Pakistan seminar at Islamabad in 1984 to that of the explosions in 1998. He also describes his interview with a noted Pakistani civil servant – Dr. R.H Usmani (former head of Pakistan Atomic Energy Commission, he also served in IAEA)- in the 1960. One of the answers in that interview force as to think about the effectiveness of IAEA safeguards.

“No matter how many secret cameras they install, we can always cheat them. They can’t be sitting all the time in a reactor control room. Wee will burn Uranium slowly at the cost of having less power than rated…. This will enable as to stockpile, slowly of course, enough Plutonium for a bomb and for more bombs. ”
This clearly reveals the ineffectiveness in IAEA safeguards. If things are always like this, safeguards are doomed to fail. Author didn’t mentioned much regarding to the question - whether Pakistan actually tested nuclear bomb in the beginning of 1990’s or not – as some people claims. His concerns regarding to the effectiveness of nuclear deterrence principle is indeed a valid point. For the question of whether the nuclear weapons will be able to stop the war? He quotes the former Indian Defence minister George Fernandes,
“Let Pakistan use its nuclear weapons first in accordance with its own doctrine. And then wait for India’s riposte: Pakistan’s seven or eight industrial urban centers will be wiped out by India’s second strike capability; Pakistan will have to revert to the Stone Age”.

Later he concludes that “While a certain amount of deterrence inheres in all atomic weapons, it’s not conclusive enough. As Fernandes said one nuclear bomb can be checkmated by another such bomb”.  Anyway now the bomb becomes vulnerability for not only Pakistan but also for the entire world because of the possibility of bomb falling in to the hand of terrorists.

c) Women of Pakistan:

The books don’t describe much about the situation of the women of Pakistan. Apart from the former premier ‘Benezeer Bhooto’, it hardly describes any other women. Why??

d) Agriculture in Pakistan:

Author is successful in describing the pathetic state of agriculture in Pakistan where large tracts of land is concentrated by a small group of people. In these lands, rich landlords and retired military generals reap huge benefits by the usage of modern machinery. He also explains - to some extent - necessity for the redistribution of land - a long time demand in Pakistan.  But after reading about the politicians of Pakistan, we can easily reach to the conclusion Land reforms will be a non-starter. How they are going for the redistribution of land when the legislators themselves are big land lords.

Trust deficit between Central Government and various Provincial governments and also among various Provincial governments didn’t help to make the things better - no matter whether the issue is regarding to greater autonomy to provincial governments or the Indus water sharing agreement. This statement indeed illustrates the point -

“There is a terrible amount of trust deficit among the provinces. Take any major issue like division of waters of Indus water system. Sindh complaining Punjab is stealing its water. Baluchistan accuses Sindh for not giving its share.”

e) Pakistan military:

Indeed the author is very open in his view regarding to the position of Pakistani Military and the pointless arms race with India.

“Requirements of the military that actually needs a minimum of $500mn to $600mn every year for current overseas payments may be considerably more on occasions when new weapon systems are introduced. The expenditure of 500mn $ doesn’t include the replacement of major ordnance”

“Unless the arms race ends, there would be little change in Pakistan’s circumstances”

His opinion regarding to the relation of Pakistani army vis-à-vis US is indeed a revolutionary one. May be even the most influential politician dare not express it.

“The earliest ruling politicians, or really bureaucrats in the early 1950’s, actually did what amounted to renting out the army to the Americans. The unwritten and even unspoken understanding was that let the armed forces foreign exchanges needs be met by American aid and it would be at their disposal for their geostrategic purposes”.

Like any other Pak citizen he also expresses his disappointment with Drone attacks and operations of US Special Forces inside Pakistani territory and civilian damage associated with it - a reflection of popular opinion in Pakistan.

f) Pakistan Economy:

We can get a basic but effective overview of Pakistan economy from the book. Concerns - regarding to the unequal development in Punjab vis-à-vis other Provinces, bad state of economy which requires foreign aid to float, alarmingly high debt to GDP ratio.

“Debt of $45bn to $46bn in 1998, and in 2009 after many rescheduling and considerable write offs still owes $50bn to foreigners and another $50bn in domestic debts; 95% of GDP“.

[The interesting thing to note here is that until 90’s Pakistan’s growth rate was higher than that of India]. He agrees that tis type of aid money will force Pakistan to submit themselves to the will of others. World politics is not the playground of angels; each and every nation will be more interested in securing their national interests. As the author rightly pointed out-

“This kind of aid to an indigent and satellite regime has created a predilection in US that it has somehow to interfere in Pakistan politics and realize its purposes by manipulating various political forces in Pakistan.”
The situation is much worse in International trade where, imports are many times bigger than that of exports - not at all good for a country. Even if he criticizes Musharraf everywhere else here praises him for the growth in economic activity and industrial production [it’s another matter that he goes back to his original views in the later pages.

g) Jihad:

Considerable space is allocated to explain Jihad and Taliban. The below mentioned extract is enough to explain this situation-

“The term jihad made the jihadis, as individual, to expect paradise if they died or some more money if they came back as Ghazis. In retrospect, this cynical exploitation of popular faith of simple Pushthoons for imperial ambitions of the US – and of some bizarre aims of Pakistani generals – has never been widely discussed much less emphasized”.

Just like any other person who is interested in the development and progress of motherland, terrorism is unbearable to the author also. The extract from the text given below is sarcastic and thought provoking one -
“Anyone with small money to recruitment a small Lashkar sets out to become a Taliban leader of his own area. Since the discourse in Pakistan has always been in the religious idiom, he now uses that idiom to a telling effect: he claims enforcing the Islamic Sharia”.

h) Relations with China

Just like any other Pakistani, author is also quite grateful towards the all weather friend China. He is wondering why China is helping Pakistan with out expecting anything in return!!! Later he concluded two reasons for that – to checkmate India, to act as a bridge between US and China. No explanation for ceding a portion of Pak occupied Kashmir to China in the sixties. What about the naval facilities Pakistan offering to China especially in Gwadar, and the non-transparent nuclear program?

Views about India:

In the beginning of book, author went out of his way and with out any logical reasoning concluded that Hindu communalists supported Hindi and Muslims were against Hindi; and this language controversy contributed to the growth of Hindu - Muslim communalism,which ultimately resulted in the partition!!! But he didn’t give any reason why India – which has hundreds of languages including the 23 officially recognized ones – remains as single entity.  If we are looking each and everything through the eyes of communalism then there is no doubt that everything will be connected to communalism in one way or another.

a) Kashmir – viewing through wrong mirror?

Regarding Kashmir also author seems to forget the ground realities. He agreed that Pakistan started a proxy war in Kashmir in 1989 by sending Mujahedeen to create Mayhem in Kashmir. But with out any evidence he declared that – “in the process thousands of Kashmiris, some say 70,000 to 80,000, were killed by Indian troops”.  No one knows who is this ‘some’. He simply put the responsibility on Indian side and easily forget what the militias send by Pakistan was doing. No were in the book he mentioned anything about the situation in ‘Pakistan occupied Kashmir’, in fact this is a black hole in the world. No one knows what is happening there; contrary to that J&K which is fully open to the public and media. It will be helpful for the Kashmiris- who want to join Pakistan - to know what is happening in PoK and why Bangladesh fights for freedom from Pakistan.

b) Comparison of Maoists and Taliban

It’s still unclear on what basis the author is comparing Taliban and Maoists. If it is regarding to the terror they are creating, then the comparison is justifiable, but in other cases both are totally different. Maoist activities are mainly concentrated on the jungles and tribal areas, it have no or very little effect in urban areas of India. And until now Maoists are not in the path of suicide bombing techniques, apart from that Maoists mainly targets security personals, Tribals who are opposing them, people associated with Police and class enemies. It’s another matter that anyone can become their class enemy. But suicide bombing is killing every one indiscriminately.

Author is also quite open and concerned about the socio-politic situation in Pakistan. Malnutrition, various diseases due to the uncleaned water still prevails. State is more interested in arms race with India and attaining their bizarre aims. What about the educational sector? Recently terrorists groups were blowing away the schools for admitting girls. We can easily make out what is happening in educational sector from this single statement – “State never provided enough schools, nor they ever been persuaded to send their children to schools”.

He went on to say that the solution for Taliban and militant Islam in Pakistan is political not a military one; giving social, economical and political rights to all the people, Jobs for young people, provisions for – education, healthcare and other infrastructural services. But certain amount of peace is necessary for all these things. No one can teach students in schools which can be blown away at any moment – and what about the education of girls? Recent activities of militants in Swat proved that they will allow education for girls. So will they climb down from that position? And what will be the price Pakistan will have to pay for these negotiations? But it is true that as far as any one can observe there isn't any better option than this one.

Author wishes that the new middle class will change the political scenario – they required more political space than feudalism and army ever conceded. More democratic freedom and more organized democratic dispensation to breathe freely and not feel ashamed of their leaders who have had best things so often and for so long and still achieved nothing. Indeed a quite a good book to read...


Saturday, September 25, 2010

"Common Wealth" Games - Another disaster for India?

[Common Wealth Games - Delhi 2010]
“Let’s accept the fact that there is corruption in almost all government departments, but this is too much, at least they should do the work properly in time”.

“I feel very angry towards the congress government” --- Some statements from my friends.

There is one obvious advantage of yet to begin 2010 Common Wealth Games. It made even the most non-political person to raise their voice against corruption (at least temporarily), even the recent 2G telecom scam failed in that account. Suddenly Kashmir issue and Naxal problems disappeared from the front pages, not much news about the so called all party delegation went in to Kashmir. Much hyped IPL cases no longer runs in the prime time. Papers stopped giving the photos and statements of ‘Laliat Modi’ in sports page – otherwise there will be one photo and statement from them on every other day. It is a happy time for journalists; they are completely drawn in the floods of news – If they don’t have any news just go to any of the CWG venues – either something will collapse (Is there any more foot over bridge in CWG venue to collapse?) or some other country will publish they doubts on whether to participate or not in the games.

I don’t know who coined the name Common Wealth Games for this sporting event, whoever it may be; this CWG - Delhi 2010 took it in full spirit (literally). People really made it “Common Wealth” Games.

[Broken Foot Over Bridge]

Corruption is not new in India; you have to pay money from village offices to Police stations to make the system work. If you know whom to approach and have the money to spend, you may not have to worry about anything, overnight spirit will be converted to water and victim will become accused. As one of my friend said this time it was too much – beyond the digestive power of ordinary Indians. I got the depth of public angry towards the commonwealth games when one of my friends - a hard core supporter of Congress party, no matter what is their policy - started criticizing the party and government for the mess. It’s interesting to note that he didn’t said much against the thousands of crores 2G scam.

# Back to the Beginning:

From beginning itself everything went wrong. There is no doubt that - it was a good decision from the previous government to bid for the games, but the bad part of that bid is – do we really need to bribe other nations (around 1 lack $ for each participating nation) to get the games? That too, at a time when many parts of India - especially central Indian states like MP - have Child’s who are under severe malnutrition. Many reports even compare these parts of India to the war torn Sub Saharan African countries where civil wars never ends.

Work still not completed?
Even after seven years, works are not finished and even the finished structures are coming down. Recently Army was called to create a foot over bridge in one of CWG venues and they are supposed to finish the work in five days. So what happened to the crores of rupees (some papers reported it as 10 crore) spend on the crumbled down bridge? It may require 1000 page book to articulate all the problems regarding to CWG-2010 - a perfect example of what not to be done in organizing sporting events. It’s not that we don’t have any experience in these fields – Indians conducted the first ever Asian Games and Afro-Asian Games, Asian games come back to India one more time- in the eighties. BCCI organized Cricket world cup in India – they even conducted the 1996 Cricket world cups in different parts of the country. Indians organized the second part of IPL completely in South Africa. Many people even predicted that IPL 2 will be a complete failure as it is happening completely in South Africa, but it turns out to be another success story. Even now cricket matches are conducted across the country and the venues are separated by thousands of Kilometers. 
 # Do we really need the Games?

As Moody’s report pointed out, CWG created severe damage to the credibility of India’s ability to organize large events. It also created a hole in India’s financial system. Using that money we may be able to give at least three time meals to the under nutritioned child’s of India; for infrastructure development; for new schools; for basic research. We may be able to buy much more fighter planes for IAF than we could ever imagine (the number of new generations planes in Indian Air Force is in an alarmingly low level. It’s better not to talk about the aviation wing of Indian Navy). We may also be able to buy some more sub marines (or construct new ones) for Indian Navy or new tanks for Army.

# Let’s also look in to the problem in another perspective,

It is also possible that many of these problems – like cleanliness – are more hyped than actually it was. It is obvious that the rooms will not be handed over to athletes in such condition, but there is no justification for such a scenario at this point of time -Organizing committee got seven years to complete the work. The flood waters also didn’t help the games in anyway. Problems like the collapse an over bridge is not so uncommon during construction scenarios – it got much attention now as it happened in the last moment and done in a mad rush to complete the things. No one will care a damn about it if that happened some three years back.

What about the safety? Suddenly Delhi becomes unsafe for living, and many countries have second thoughts of coming to India due to safety reasons. It’s interesting to note that - it was not long back Australians are assuring Indians every now and then that Australia is a safe country to live, Canada was perplexed on what to do with the ‘Kanishka (An Air Indian Flight) bombing’ and subsequent reports, it was not long time back when terrorists attacked London. But these are not justifications for the photos of CWG venues uploaded in BBC, CNN and in many other news portals.

# Aftereffects:

Even in the wildest of imaginations one can’t justify the amount of money flowing in to this event. Certainly the overspend, waterlogged, incomplete, broken over bridges, dirty games villages, and the n number of corruption scandals made the CWG, one the great disasters for India. Only Hamilton (India beat this Canadian city to host the 2010 game) and terrorists – who even after the nonstop action of decades failed to make considerable damage to India – can laugh at this moment. Will anything happen after the CWG games? I don’t think so, after the games government may announce that the CWG 2010 was an extraordinary event and a proof for India’s ability to conduct multinational sporting events - All is well!!! It’s curious to know, how many are considering the next Olympics in India?


[All the images are taken from dailymail uk]

Saturday, September 18, 2010

America’s wrong turn to Protectionism; Need to take a note from the early Indian protectionist era

[Fully protected by state?] 
Globalization has changed us into a company that searches the world, not just to sell or to source, but to find intellectual capital - the world's best talents and greatest ideas - Jack Welch.
  • Indian experiment with Protectionism:
There was a time in India when Swadeshi (Using the Indian made products) movement was on its height – at that time it to protect the local economy from the injustice of administration; a fight against the mighty British Empire and its notorious taxation laws.

Even after independence government vigorously promoted country made things. Travelling in State owned Air India, Indian Railways and various State Transport Corporations - which rarely produces any profit; banking in state owned banks like SBI etc.; Oil Exploration business through state owned entities like ONGC; Coal exploration through Coal Indian which doesn’t face any completion from Indian market;  Using the electricity produced by various state owned corporations – where production rarely met the demand; calling friends and family using the telephony services provided by Government  - there was a decade long waiting list to get a new connection at that time; notoriously corrupt Public Distribution System(PDS); severe restriction in holding foreign currency; commonly known as the era of the infamous License Raj.

During the British Raj country slipped from the top positions in trade - looks like the ghost of the past glory. Even after independence Indians was unable to regain the pre-colonial dominance (controlled close to 23% of world trade) in the world trade and economy. Things changed in the early 1990s, after the then government of India forced to do critical surgeries in economy to save it from the total collapse. Still opening up insurance, banking, defence sector faces severe opposition from the left and trade Unions. It may take several more years for India to completely eliminate the protectionist policies.

The result of License Raj was disastrous. The so called ‘Asians Tigers’ – Singapore, Taiwan, Hong Kong and Korea marched in front of us. Japanese economy starts flying like a Phoenix, Chinese opened up their economy, and Pakistan attained more growth rate than India. Oil boom in Middle East changed that sector from a mere desert to that of a golden oasis – but still India didn’t have proper exploration policies. When we finally discovered huge oil deposits in KG (Krishna- Godavari) basin there was long legal battle between Government and Private Companies. What more; despite having thousands of kilometers of costal area, we are depending on Singapore, Salala and Colombo ports for transshipment.  

Because of our ‘uncontrollable appetite’ for the products from state owned companies which doesn’t face any competition from market – a characteristic of socialist countries, we are still depending on the technology transfer agreements and so called foreign collaboration, no matter weather it is for the development of a new Boiler for power plants or fighter plane. Still we are not producing a civilian aircraft on the lines of Boeing, Airbus or Embraer. The list will be too long if we are going to describe all the things.

These are the things happened in Indian and may other countries that got freedom after Second World War and vigorously promoted state owned companies. If US wants to going back to that era where state decides everything, from how much a person can eat to how much he can earn, it will not take much time for them to experience the above mentioned things.
  • Effect of Protectionist policies in Education:
It’s good that new US government encourage education, they should do. Because the only way a country can remain in the top echelons of trade and prosperity is through innovation. But innovation will not come from the protected test tubes. It required some air. Countries are prospering when there is an exchange of ideas between the nations, interaction between the people.  There is no need for reinventing Newton’s or Keller’s laws when it is already proven and available.

If US don’t allow companies to hire best brains in science and technology sector – which can also be come from abroad – their efficiency will be eroded over time. In this era of knowledge explosion you should always have the best resources. It is also to be noted that the scientific progress in the US after World War II have heavy contributions from European scientists who migrated to US.
  • Effect of Protectionist policies in Agriculture:
The protectionism in agricultural sector may provide temporary advantage to the farmers but it will raise the expenditure for food among common people, every one can’t be a farmer and those who are not farmers have to buy food grains. In the absence of competition, improvement in production and quality will take the back seat.
  • Effect of Protectionist policies in technology and Service sector:
What If US government restricts/ban the services of foreign companies in IT and other technology sectors? If the US House of representatives can pass two different bills that mandate the congress and Department of Homeland Security to purchase only US made goods, the other legislative assemblies around the world also can do the same. For example, India can decide to cancel the entire orders for the aircrafts from Boeing, Lockheed Martin etc. and redirect it to Airbus, Eurocoptor or Embraer etc. There is no need for giving orders for the construction of new nuclear power plants in India to GE or any other US company for that matter - Avera and many Russian companies will very happy to grab the orders. 

What about Microsoft, Google, Cisco, Apple, Xerox etc? Can’t we use 100% non American products? US have to realize the outcome of their old philosophy of Globalization and Liberalization. The world is more interdependent than ever before, and it is for the mutual good. So instead of forcing Indian IT professionals to fund for the construction of walls in Mexican border, they can use them to improve the competitive levels of US technology, educational sector etc.

[Shanghai deep water port - benefits of globalization]
  • Effect of Protectionist policies in oil:
What about Oil, like the Berry amendment originally enacted in 1941, requires the department of Defence to procure a range of domestically produced or grown items with 100% US content, why not US use 100 % oil from US soil instead of importing it from Central Asia, Africa, Middle East etc.?
  • US ready to lose the leadership?
US have to realize the hard facts, if they are not ready to face the global order and ground realities their position as a leading country in the world will soon become history. A lot of countries in this world are more than willing to assume that position.
Former UN General Secretary Kofi Annan once said - “It has been said that arguing against globalization is like arguing against the laws of gravity.”

[Both pictures are from Wikipedia]

Friday, September 10, 2010

Indian Agricultural Sector needs a Critical Surgery; Will the Government rise up to the expectations?

Food is considered as one of the essential ingredient for the survival human beings. Most, if not all, civilizations in the ancient world were agricultural one and flourished on the banks and deltas of great rivers; no matter weather it’s ‘Indus Valley’ or ‘Mesopotamian’. Over the decades when the human population exploded to six billion and racing towards seven billion, the requirement of food grains also multiplied many times. More interested in planting mines and IED’s instead of doing agriculture, overconsumption and wastage of food items, corrupt governments and inefficient and corrupt Public Distribution System (PDS) etc. resulted in severe shortage of food items in many part of the world.

It is estimated that by the end of 2009, number of hungry people in the world will reach 'one billion' (approximately one out of every six person). It is also sure that India will lead the world in this case with 200mn (largest number of under nourished people in the world) people. Reports even compare Indian states like ‘Madhya Pradesh (MP)’ to that of the war-torn and poverty stricken sub-Saharan countries like Congo. MP has a population of 70mn where as Congo have 62mn but in the case of poverty both are in the same level.

It is in this situation we are hearing the news 11,700 tonnes of wheat washed away. A figure stated by no less than the union minister for Food and Agriculture Sharad Pawar. Not only that, around 60 lack tonnes of wheat in Punjab and 40 lack tonnes in Haryana are lying open in the so called ‘Covered And plinth (CAP) method’. It doesn’t stop there – more than 1,300,000 tonnes of food grain was rotten in the storage during the past decade.

FCI (Food Corporation of India) admits that 1.83 lack tonnes of wheat, 3.95 lack tonnes of rice, 22,000 tonnes of paddy and 110 tonnes of maize were damaged in between 1997-2007. There is no doubt that a part of food lying open will soon swell these numbers further because of our ‘highly efficient’ management of food grains and ‘more efficient’ Public Distribution System.

Most of the time famines in India are not due to the deficiency of food, but due to the way we manage to store and distribute the food grains to the needy. One of the critical problems in agriculture is, this sector provides job and livelihood for close to 60% of the population but constitute only 18% of the GDP and growth in this sector is very low as compared to other sectors.

What we need is an end to end reform in Agriculture in the lines of service industry. Reforms have to touch all the stages – irrigation, production, procurement, storage and distribution. No one is doing agriculture for charity, they have to sustain themselves and make a decent living out of it. Even when the price of wheat, rice and other food grains are so high, not only in the national markets but also in the international markets, we are still hearing about the suicide story of farmers from Vidharbha, Waynad etc in huge numbers. More interesting thing is government is offering almost twice the price for imported wheat as compared to that of domestic one.

I think time is come for applying a radical change in the agricultural sector. Farmers should be more in control on what they are producing, they should be able to put forward and bag better bargains for their products instead of fully depend on government agencies or middlemen. The dependency relations often create and expand a vulnerable underbelly in the chain, where farmers will be at the mercy of government and middlemen.

We have several examples were farmers we more united and able to reap the benefit of markets. No need for taking another study trip to China, Europe or USA. A classical example is available here in home - ‘Anand Milk societies’ and its famous brand Amul.

For this change to happen we should promote both forms of modern agriculture – co-operate farming and corporate farming along with giving the individual farmers more access to the markets. If a real estate company can fix the price for their flats, why a farmer can’t fix the price for his/her products? Political parties especially Left who often show themselves as the champions of farmer’s rights can act proactively here. We want radical reforms in agricultural sector in the lines of Telecom and Service Sector so that it can once again regain its leading position in Indian GDP and improve the lives of farmers.

Now Union agricultural Minister ‘Sharad Pawar’ is in a critical juncture. He can be ‘Manmohan Singh of 1991’ and write his name forever in to the history as the reformer in Agriculture or simply fade away just like another statistic in the text. If he is choosing the second way there is no doubt that, it will be a great tragedy for the Indian agricultural sector.


Saturday, September 4, 2010

A Beautiful night in Trivandrum Express

Onam is one of the rare festivals celebrated by almost all sections of society, may be it’s the time when almost all members of the family will gather in single place and celebrate the return of Emperor Mahabali. It’s a happy time for everyone from consumer companies to that of the Beverages Corporation – both will have record sales in Onam time. This is a happy time for travel operators too, no matter whether it is the state run Indian Railway or private bus operators. To get a train ticket (which is supposed to be the cheapest form of travel in India) in this season is difficult, anyway in the last moment the status of my ticket changed from waiting to confirm.

Trivandrum Express was already there when I reached ‘Bangalore City Railway Station’. As Bangalore City was the starting point for this once in a week train, it looks like an empty iron tube. Or as the biggest open drainage channel in India as someone critically mentioned because of the notorious system of disposing human waste followed by Indian railway?

A long journey with will cover the rest of the day and full night didn’t look bad as I noticed many beautiful girls siting in the same compartment. But coming early for the train proved not so-good to me. Before I fully confirmed my seat, one guy who lost his money for buying the ticket approached me – Why I always met people who lost their money to buy the ticket in the train? Last time when I was in Mangalore railway station some one else approached me. Anyway I didn’t question him much – as I know what will happen if you don’t have money to pay for something and people are behaving like their life is depend on that 10-50 rupees. Last time we were in the same position when the only two atms in a city in Karnataka was not working. So I helped him, still I don’t know weather he actually lost his money or not – anyway, I hope that he is saying the truth. But the girls (two more joined) sitting opposite to me told him that they don’t have any extra cash to help him. Are they more practical towards the world? May be they are…

As the time came for us to start our journey, group of girls sitting opposite to me woke up and wished their friend – a happy journey and slowly disappeared. At least today I can talk with some one as she is alone. Often I found that people like to travel in groups and quite absorbed in among them, even if some one looks for an outside contact the length of the bridge often extends to one or at most two.

At least this time she doesn’t have any boyfriend with her. After the boring and silent ten minutes where I don’t have anything to see through the window other than the usual array of multi storied buildings and roads, I decided to start the conversation with her by asking something. It didn’t take much time to find out her profession. I don’t know why girls from Kerala are so much attracted towards the nursing field. This profession remains one of the most sought after professions in Kerala and you can see a huge number of Keralite nurses are working across the hospitals of India.

But the conversation didn’t progress much as her friend also joined from the next station. At first he seems interested in talking with her. They started with Dengue fever and other things - an area where I don’t know much other than the common name of the disease, so I slowly moved my attention to the news papers.

Some one is criticizing the very existence of planning commission – I was wondering how India moved from the socialist era and shed her socialist cloth. Until some years back everything related to the economy was starting from and ending on the tables of planning commission. Now Indians started to question the very existence of commission itself!!! But what I didn’t like in that Indian Express article is the author criticizing the bureaucrats for all the problems in the planning commission. Just like bureaucrats are the reasons for all our problems!!!

Again I took a look into the opposite direction – still they are engaged in conversation, this time focus shifted from Dengue fever to the patients in the wards. As I don’t have to do anything else I simply looked outside and enjoyed the so called rhythm of Indian railway. Mayavati is blaming the Union Government for the ‘Land Acquisition Act’, but what about the stand off between Farmers and UP government over Noida-Agra Yamuna Expressway? Why doesn’t she act on that issue, and find a solution for that, before putting the blame on someone else? If something went wrong politicians may even go all the way back to ‘Harappa civilization’ to find some scapegoats.

After sometime I again looked in the opposite direction, the person sitting next to her doesn’t looks like her boyfriend. Now he is more interested in the guy sitting in his other side, leaving her to eat the remaining Hide-n-Seek and Lays. I also went back my news paper.

I again turned the pages. Three Army personnel killed as the copter crashed in Nagaland. The Chopper is one from the Cheetah group; the reason mentioned for crash is Poor visibility conditions!!! Why government can’t upgrade the navigational facilities of these Helicopter’s? They can’t blame poor visibility as a reason for the crash and the loss of valuable lives, in the era of GPS devices, advanced whether satellites and navigational systems.

But the more interesting news in that page was a statement from British premier Cameroon regarding to the question of returning the ‘Kohinoor’ diamond to India. He said “If you say yes to one, you suddenly find the British museum would be empty”. But is that a valid reason for not returning Kohinoor to India, Mr Camaroon? If we Indians like to see the symbols and remains of our old civilization do we have to travel all the way to London? He certainly has to find better reasons. The next was about the no-ball controversy, it’s certainly sad that Sehwag lost his well deserved century due to that no-ball, but I believe that this issue is blowing out of proportions. Whatever happened in field should be settled in field.

There are many more interesting stories in that Express, I closed it slowly after completing it and again looked in the opposite direction. Now that guy is more interested in talking about sand and other things, to the one sitting in his other side. As I don’t have anything else to do I went back to news papers. One news in the front page of Times of India was ‘US tells India to go easy on Dow’. It remembered me about the recent oil spill in US. US administration was ‘very easy’ on ‘British Petroleum’. Also keep in mind that in the case of BP oil spill only 12 people died even if it resulted in a huge natural disaster. In the case of Bhopal, India lost close to 25,000 people and many times of that suffered and still suffering from various illnesses due to the leak of MIC. Come on US – laws should be equal to everyone.

Other news was again related to Mayavati. BSP MPs want to dismiss Karnataka government for the notorious mining scam. How many scams in a year? After electing our representatives we may not get a proper executive but we will certainly get a lot of scams and statues. Next was indeed shocking news – it’s about the killing of Naxalite leader Azad. After going through the recent news paper reports CRPF people will certainly wonder weather they are fighting for the nation or against the nation. Whenever someone from the Naxal’s rank getting killed there will be a lot of people to question it and want prosecution (the heavyweight words like Judicial Enquiry etc) but what happened after the massacre (that to two times) of CRPF jawans? Every year there are a lot of security personals getting killed in the north east, J&K and central India (the so called Red Corridor), these are not the act of nature or due to any illness but they are killed in action, but there is not so hue and cry over it.

I again looked to that girl, against the wind and the light from the train she looks beautiful. She is not in her comfort zone. It is not easy to take a long journey and at the same time keeping mum, unless you are interested in something else. She didn’t seem to be interested in anything. I looked for sometime, thought of starting another conversation, but in the end decided against it (after all she too can start) and went back to my news papers.

There are two more news items which attracted my attention. One was related to the “Civil liability of Nuclear Damages Bill”. It’s also mentions about restricting (or no entry?) the nuclear sector for PSUs. Come on Manmohan Singh, we know what is going to happen if it is fully reserved for Public Sector. The example of Telecom sector before and after the liberalization is in front of us. I am not totally against PSUs but private players should also get the chance to work on these highly lucrative markets. If we are ready to buy Nuclear reactor built by GE, Westington or any other private companies or foreign government companies; then what is the problem in allowing private sector participation if they have the capability?

Next news was about the mammoth hike in the US visa fees. US always say about globalization and opening markets. But are they ready for a full globalization - a free flow of capital and labour? I don’t find any reason for Indian IT companies to fund the construction of fences in US- Mexican border. US have remember that US companies (whether it is GE, Boeing, Lockheed Martin, Microsoft, IBM, McDonald’s, HP, GM, Coca Cola, Pepsi, US Investing houses etc) are not only working in US many of them are working in Indian and earn profits. These profits after taxes are going back to US shareholders. As far as I know India didn’t introduce any tax on IBM, GE or any other company for that matter to create fences with Pakistan, China and Bangladesh.

It didn’t seem to be too late, but finally I decided to sleep. With in minutes most of the people who are lucky to have a reserved seat fell in to deep sleep. Trivandrum Express has to reach Palakkad Junction at 3.20 in the morning but keeping the highest traditions of Indian Railway, it reached around 4.15am.