Monday, October 29, 2012

Goa - where east meets with west: Part III Colva, Temples, Churches, Dona Poula and Vasco

Me @ Colva
On the last day our Goa expedition, we opt to catch a glimpse of Southern Goa - her temples, churches and other cultural identities. Approximately nine in the morning we boarded GTDC's bus; first stopover was at Colva beach.

Colva Beach

Colva is one of the celebrated shorelines in Goa. I saw Colva beach for the first time, as full page picture in an inner page of a diary, presented to me by one cousin. It looked very beautiful in that photograph. On that Monday, don’t know whether it was due to off-season or due to my heavy expectation, Colva disappointed me. We went to the beach, walked through the shores for some ten minutes and left.

This beach is located around 8 km from Margao in South Goa.

Loutolim - Portuguese ancestral home

Next in line were 'Goa Bigfoot' and an Old Portuguese residency. After picking some more people from GTDC Colva residency, we continued our journey. Crossing Rabindra Bhavan, Nehru Stadium and Damodar Temple (close to stadium), we finally reached the home, once occupied by a Portuguese aristocrat and his family.

Ancestral home
After buying tickets, we went in. Here audio guide facilities (in English as well as in Hindi) are available along with the services of a human guide. We entered the house through front door - big one built in Portuguese style, then came prayer room, study room, bed room, kitchen, well, store room, dining room etc.

Three things I noticed here are,

   # A number of holes in the wall close to (and pointed towards) store room. Guide explained that, if some try to break in to store room (which already has a think strong metal door), people can come here, observe what is happening and shoot the intruders if required.

   # In kitchen, there was an old Electrolux refrigerator which doesn't need electricity for its operation.

   # Hundreds of Ganesh statues were arranged in 2-3 shelves, collected by later generations of this Portuguese family. To see big and small statues of different model and colour were indeed an interesting experience.

Lotulim Bigfoot  

Meera Bai

Bigfoot is located close to the ancestral home mentioned above. Apart from an artificial Govan heritage village, this area also encloses a temple which contains the foot marking of a Sanyasi, lengthy stature of Mira Bai on ground, a sun dial etc.

Lotulim Bigfoot and Museum, Araujo Alvares mansion are located around 11 km from Margao and 29 km from Panaji.

Shantadurga Temple

This temple, built by Sahus displays the unique temple building technique of Goa. Big lamp post, lengthy entrance, windows with glass panes and rounded tops, building structure etc are different from other temples in nearby states. Flat panel TVs, placed outside, shows live CCTV footage of procedures and poojas from Sanctum. After having a pradakhina we left the place.

Mangushehi Shiva Temple

After crossing Shivaji Park we halted at a GTDC residency for lunch. Post lunch, out first destination was Mangushehi Shiva Temple. Temple is located around one kilometre away from the main road (however two and four wheelers can go as far as the temple gates). Hence we got down at the main road and walked towards the Shiva temple. Inside the temple, the big white lamp pillar of Mangushehi temple welcomed us.

This temple belongs to Gauda-Saraswat sects. According to our guide, Mangushehi was located in some other place, but fearing religious policies of Portuguese, this Shiva temple was relocated to its current place in 1681 AD. Here also you can see the influence of Portuguese architectural style.

Old Goa – Se Cathedral, Bom Jesus, St Assisi and St Augustine 

Shanta durga temple complex

After twelve kilometre long journey, we reached the famous church complex of Goa. Subsequently we walked towards the famous 'Se Cathedral' (17th century) of St. Catherine of Alexandria. This is considered as one of the largest church in Asia. Please note that photography is permitted in these churches, but taking an individual’s photo with church/ any part of the church as background is specifically prohibited.

Church of Bom Jesus is close to Se Cathedral; all these churches including Assisi church are located in a large but flat surface.

Church of Bom Jesus - currently a renowned UNESCO world heritage site – is an important one for Christians, as it is also home to the relics of St Francisco Xavier. You can see the upper part of preserved body through a glass plate from a distance. Once in every ten years the body will take out for a day.

On the way out, we saw the ruins of St Augustine church.

This church complex is located around eleven km from capital Panaji.

Miramar beach

Bom Jesus Church from the front

Another long journey first through an uninhibited area and then through - Panaji, Kadamba bus stand, Mondovi River etc - we finally reached Mirmar beach and got down in front of famous unity memorial (Hindu-Christian Unity statue) located at the entrance of Miramar beach. This is a small beach and not seems to be a popular one.

Mirmar beach is located around four km from capital Panaji.

Dona Poula Bay

Lots of people, vehicles, shops and water- this was the first expression came to my mind while walking towards Dauno Paulo bay view point. It is here, the two of Goa's most famous rivers - Mondovi and Zuvari – attain their salvation in Arabian Sea. According to legends, this bay is named after 'Dona Paula de Menezes' - daughter of a Viceroy.

You can see this area in many movies, including the latest one - Singham. Indian Institute of Oceanography stands close to the bay. After spending some time here, we went back to our bus.

Vasco-Da-Gama city (Vasco)

Waves at Mirmar beach

This was the last one in the schedule of our South Goa tour. We got down from GTDC bus at a junction, from where we got a public bus to Vasco - the biggest city in Goa. Our train (Vasco da Gama – Yeshwantpur bi weekly express) was at 8.45 pm. As there was nothing else to do, we thought of exploring some areas close of Vasco Railway station.

Fishing Harbour

We got down at Railway station stop; there was a neatly laid market in front of us. Close to that, but on other side of the main road, stands a fishing harbour. After walking here and there for some time, we thought of going there. It was a rough fishing harbour with so many boats unloading their cargo - fish.

Suddenly one old lady walked past and tried to enter the harbour; unexpectedly a person sitting in an old chair and talking with his friends called her and asked entry fee. At first she asked how much, then told something to him. She was not willing to pay, however she finally settled the account and walked towards the ships.

If I correctly remember, the entry fees were five/ten rupees per head. After buying the tickets, we walked towards the shores. It was interesting to see Goa from there, a lot of finishing boats - both big and small, most of them are motorised, their nylon nets, steering wheel, cargo, dirty waters etc. After spending some more time, we left the harbour, moved towards the city and started walking through her streets... Vasco seems to be a well planned city, with straight roads and parks.

Finally its 8.45, time to go... Good bye Goa...


PS: Cashew and fenny are two famous items in Goa. Don’t think that, cashew is cheap here – it’s not, it’s about the verity and taste.

Fenny is a country liquor - spirit made from either coconut or the juice of the cashew apple. Goa has registered for a geographical indicator that would allow it to claim the sole right to term drink created in the region as fenny or "Goan cashew feni".


1. Goa Tourism Development Corporation (GTDC)
2. Wikipedia

For reading other parts of this series

Se Cathedral

Sunday, October 28, 2012

Rotting at the core? Losing credibility of Indian media

Media frequently qualifies themselves with soaring words like fourth estate, pillar of democracy, voice of people etc. In this hustle, they often fail to comprehend, how far their deeds match with principles.

One routine from childhood days that still stick with me is reading newspapers. I used to believe that, things are happening exactly as it is described in newspapers. I synchronized myself with the opinions produced by media outlets; we used to think, these are some of the dogmas which everyone needs to safeguard.

However, along with the passage of time, many of these beliefs shattered to the ground. It was a realization; media, most often is not neutral. It’s just like any human beings - prone to mis-communication and selecting what they want to select and seeing what they want to see. If you are reading three different newspapers, you will see three different versions of same story. It may be a headline or breaking news at one place, in the second one it may become space fillers for inner pages. This is applicable for electronic media as well.

Indian Media and the modern world

There are three major scandals that shook my belief and confidence in Indian media. First one is the infamous ‘Paid news scandal’, second one is ‘Nira Radia tapes’ and the third one is ‘Jindal-Zee episode’. When the first one broke out in to public, I didn’t think much about it. After all, people will make mistakes. Then came ‘Radia tapes’, which not only gave me a jolt but also forced to scrutinize the previous paid news scandal through a new prism. Recent ‘Jindal-Zee episode’ put the final nail in the coffin of my belief about the reliability of many Indian media outlets.

Media freedom

Indian democracy has many short comings, but I firmly believe, suppressing media freedom is not one of them. In India media is free, free to support, free to criticize the government, political parties etc. With a hyper-competitive industry and over populated channels, Indian media holds significant powers on news and its distribution. You can see many issues enjoying 24*7 coverage and some others are completely blocked out.

Selling out

Advertising revenue is important for the sustainability of both electronic and print media. But the most important asset any news paper/ electronic media have is its credibility and originality of the news they report. If they are spicing it up or adding water to that, she will lose her virginity. People may like spiced up one, but may no longer be able to believe it. If the industry is not able to get followers then, advertising revenues will definitely dry up. Moreover, such news is highly poisonous to consume.

If left leaning, right leaning political propaganda and interests of various entities are coming as news, then I can definitely say that, the industry is on its way down.

Twelve suggestions 

These are some of the suggestions I have for Indian media to consider,

1. India is not limited to Delhi and Mumbai; it has many other cities and a vast country side.
2. India’s easternmost point is Kibithu (Anjaw district, Arunachal Pradesh), not West Bengal. 
3. Maoist’s activities are not the only thing happening in vast Central India.
4. GDP and FDI numbers are not the only basis for measuring development (I doubt whether I can call all those numbers as FDI, after all many are routed through tax heavens).
5. Globalization, liberalization, free trade etc may not be the only way to go forward, but it certainly can’t be and should not be dubbed as a dinosaur which eats humans alive.
6. There is a significant difference between capitalism and crony capitalism; both are not the same.
7. Indian public sector is not a sacred cow that can’t be touched.
8. Farmer’s deaths are not the only problem in agriculture and this required much more attention than fashion shows in Mumbai (unless the media outlet is specialised in fashion industry).
9. There is no problem in supporting any political party. But, if you are supporting someone, admit it; and never print/ report the propaganda as news.
10. Collaborating with foreign and western media outlets will definitely improve the quality of journalism; but please select the columnists evenly – representing both sides of the coin.
11. Selective reporting and cannibalizing news is not considered as good journalism. 
12. Sting operations are not the only branch of investigative journalism.


Indian media has to travel a long way to qualify as fourth estate or vanguard of democracy or representing the voice of people. Any more issues like paid news, Raida tapes, Jindal-Zee episode will further sink them to a black hole, from where recovering will be difficult.

At the same time, I sincerely appreciate many journalists and media houses which still believe in field reporting and produce wonderful observations, views and analysis.


Photo Courtesy: Wikipedia

Fear Factor – Drinking tea, coffee and milk, in the light of results from ‘National Survey on Milk Adulteration 2011’

Food Safety and Standards authority of India
Today morning, I went to a nearby hotel for breakfast. In my last four years in Bangalore, majority of my daily meals were from hotels. In the counter, two people were standing in front of me. My eyes went through the menu list pasted next to the printing machine; after having a quick look I decided on Idly.

Next to that, price for tea and coffee were also listed. I am not a big fan of tea/ coffee. Last time, I ordered a full tea. But today, seeing the entry itself created a terrible feeling. After all, only yesterday I read the result of ‘The National Survey on Milk Adulteration 2011’.

The National Survey on Milk Adulteration 2011

According to the survey - ‘to ascertain the quality of milk and identify different type of adulteration in the liquid milk throughout the country’,
1. ‘total non-conforming samples were 1226 (68.4%)’.
2. ‘non-conformity of samples in rural areas were 381 (31%)’ [Packet samples: 64 (16.7%), Loose samples: 317 (83.2%).
3. ‘In urban area, the total non confirming samples were 845 (68.9%)’ [Packet samples: 282 (33.4%), Loose samples: 563 (66.6%).
4. ‘deviations were found highest on account of Fat and SNF content in 574 samples (46.8%) of the total non–conformity, which includes 147 samples with detergent and two samples with neutralizers respectively’.
5. ‘Detergent was also found in 103 samples (8.4%). Perhaps the reason may be dilution of milk with water’.
6. ‘The second highest parameter of non conformity was the Skim Milk Powder (SMP) in 548 samples (44.69%) which includes presence of glucose in 477 samples. Glucose would have been added to milk probably to enhance SNF’.
7. ‘The presence of Skim Milk Powder indicates the reconstitution of milk powder’.

If I summarize,

1. 68.4% of milk is not fine for human consumption.
2. Apart from water, detergents are also present in milk.
3. People are adding milk powder.
4. Neutralizers are also present in the milk.


This issue is not limited to any single part of India. Survey was carried out by five regional offices of Food Safety and Standards Authority of India (FSSAI) in 33 states; sample size was 1791.

Moral Issues

After having breakfast, I walked towards a supermarket located some 200 meters away. Young man of around 30-32 years old was walking in the opposite direction. I could see half litre milk packet, inside a partially transparent plastic bag he was carrying. He may have a kid of 2-3 years old. It is also possible that the kid may drink this milk as well– which may contain detergents and other things.

We are buying milk (any other item for that matter) with the belief that, other side will play fair. Moreover, everybody can’t have a cow at their home.


It is a known fact that a good percentage of milk selling in India is not adhering to the highest standards, people made water as the twin brother of milk long time back; but detergents? adding milk powder?

Food Safety and Standards Authority of India (FSSAI) conducted a survey and enlightened the people. Good thing, but who will take action against the entities contaminating milk? Simply conducting an ‘ease of doing business survey’ will not increase the ease to do business. It should be firmly backed by action at ground level. Here, if I am not wrong, independent India always had food inspectors, regulators etc. Even this ‘Food Safety and Standards Authority of India (FSSAI)’ was not created yesterday. Still this is the situation.

It is important for government and its various arms to make sure the security of her citizens. Providing security is not limited to protecting borders or conducting income tax raids, it also includes the protection of consumer and sanity of market place.



1. Executive summary on ‘National Survey on Milk Adulteration 2011 – Food Safety and Standards authority of India, Ministry of Health & Family Welfare, Government of India

Photo Courtesy: Food Safety and Standards authority of India, Ministry of Health & Family Welfare, Government of India

Thursday, October 25, 2012

L’Aquila verdict - Conviction or Witch-hunt?

Port au Prince Haiti, after 2010 earth quake
Envisaging future incidents were always a fascination for humans. From parrot on the road side, Mayan calendars to modern scientific equipments showcase this basic yearning of humanity.

How far we were successful in this quest is a matter of debate. In many areas, we can successfully forecast future course of events - next eclipse, trail of a hurricane, speed of winds, climate, trajectory of a rocket, meteors etc. In many domains we are still infants.

In such circumstances, recent Italian (City: L’Aquila) court verdict raises certain challenges in front of us. Before going further, let’s take a glimpse at an NYT piece about the verdict,

"Seven prominent Italian earthquake experts were convicted of manslaughter on Monday and sentenced to six years in prison for failing to give adequate warning to the residents of a seismically active area in the months preceding an earthquake that killed more than 300 people"
"....The defendants...will also have to pay court costs and damages of $10.2 million..."
"...The seven, most of them seismologists and geologists, were members of the National Commission for the Forecast and Prevention of Major Risks, which met shortly before the quake struck — after weeks of frequent small tremors — but did not issue a safety warning...Lawyers for the defendants were unanimous on Monday in their condemnation of the sentence, which exceeded the prosecution’s request of four years in prison, and vowed to appeal..." - NYT

1. The predominant question here is, is it possible to foresee an earthquake?
As far as I know, we can't.

2. Did scientists failed in doing their duty?
According to the reports, they didn't announce any warnings. But, did they have adequate scientific evidence for issuing a warning? I am not sure about this.

3. Will this verdict advance the quality of scientific predictions?
2004 Indian Ocean Tsunami
I don't think so; climate models and other scientific models will definitely progress in the future. But, this verdict may provide little contribution in that. May be scientists will play safe in future; they may start issuing ambiguous warnings.

4. Another question here is about the qualifications of judge to deliver verdict in this particular case without the backing of a technical panel report.

The judgement is not based on any evidence procured by a professional investigation team of experts in the said locale (Please correct me, if I am wrong here).


In the absence of a proper technology to predict realistically about future earthquakes, Tsunamis etc it may not be advisable to give such lengthy sentences to scientists. At the same time, it is interesting to see that, people started believing more in the competence of scientific potential.



1. New York Times

Photocourtesy: Wikipedia

Wednesday, October 17, 2012

Honeywell ‘F-125IN Turbofan’ to power 125 IAF Jaguars

Honeywell ‘F-125IN Turbofan’ engine components

What will happen, if you are adding more components to an existing airframe without correspondingly increasing the engine power? Obviously, this will result in low thrust and other problems.

Jaguars first came to India (18) as a loan from British Royal Air Force (RAF), then 40 came from Warton, another 45 assembled at HAL plants in India so on and so forth. Jaguars participated in IPKF operations in SriLanka (1987-90), 1999 Kargil war etc. As the aircraft become older, India carried out many modernizations, especially in the 90s and in early 2000s. Now it’s the time for engine.

It is believed that with current modifications, Juguars life can be extended up to 2030. Honeywell F-125IN will provide higher thrust and reduce the life cycle maintenance costs. According to Honeywell, engine replacement doesn't need any structural modifications. After Rolls-Royce withdraw from the race, only Honeywell remained in competition for completely re-engine 125 Jaguars. On Monday, Indian Air Force issued Request for Proposal (RFP) for engines to Honeywell.

According to Honeywell, the benefits of using F-125IN Turbofan engines will be,

I. Enhanced mission capabilities:
a. 23% shorter high – hot takeoffs
b. 17-40% higher thrust
c. Greater mission range
d. Faster climbs to 20,000 feet without afterburner
e. 36% extended fuel range
  f. Increased combat survivability – auto re-start after flame out

II. Technical superiority with increased performance:
a. Drop-fit replacement
b. 555 pounds lighter than current aircraft configuration
c. 4,400 pounds greater high – hot takeoff payload
d. Decreased pilot workload, increased safety
e. Increased pilot safety – F124 – F125 has 500,000 hours without a loss of a single aircraft due to engine failure
f. Decreased pilot workload – Engine FADEC, EMS

III Improved reliability and reduced life-cycle costs:
a. Greater time between maintenance
b. 2,000 hours minimum time between overhaul
c. Lower cost maintenance
d. Reduced fuel consumption
e. Rupees 7,000 Crores (US$1.5 billion) in reduced life-cycle costs

Hope that without much time loss, Jaguars will be back on Indian skies.



1. Honeywell Inc.
2. Wikipedia.

Photo Courtesy: Honeywell Inc.

The drought India forgot - Severe water shortage in Maharashtra

In search of water ©Arko Datto. Image reproduced here with author's permission.
Sometimes, we may be better aware about what happens in other parts of the world. What Obama do, what Merkel said, what is happening in EU, what is happening in Syria, what will happen to the rocks in South China Sea - who will get it in the end? Etc.
In search for that, we often we forget to check what is happening back at home. It seems like, while reporting many fashionable items happening in and around the capital, media forget to look in to the acute water crisis in Thane, Satara, Vidarbha areas of Maharashtra. Ironically, we need BBC to know about it.

This slideshow of photographs, taken by Arko Datto, in BBC reveals the severity of crisis - The drought India forgot



1. BBC

Tuesday, October 16, 2012

Mahindra Racing won 'Constructors title' in Italian National Motorcycle Racing Championship (CIV) 2012

Fiat JTD Engines
Constructor’s title, reminds us about the big names in auto industry - Honda, BMW, Toyota, Ferrari, Mercedes, McLaren etc.

In recently concluded CIV 2012, Mahindra racing won constructors title in 125GP class. According to the report on Mahindra Racing site,
'After making its CIV debut in 2012, Mahindra Racing became the first from India to win an international motorsport event when Moretti took the chequered flag at the season-opening race in Mugello, Italy on 25th March this year.

The team won 6 out of the 8 races in the championship with 3 spectacular double podiums. The Indian manufacturer is one among a handful of entrants using its own chassis and engine, developing new technology at the same time challenging the might of established racing factories that fill the rest of the grid."

CIV Manufacturers Title – 1) Mahindra 176 – 2) Aprilia 162 – 3) Honda 50 – 4) KTM 34;

Vallelunga Circuit Results – 125 GP CIV Italian Championship Round 8: 1) Popov (Mahindra) – 2) Trautmann (Mahindra) – 3) Carpi (Aprilia).' - Mahindra Racing
 125GP is just one of seven other classes (Moto 3, Stock 600, Stock 1000, 600 Super sport, Moto 2 and Superbike) in CIV. The point here is, Mahindra won constructors title and seems to be using its own engine and chassis. This is certainly a good step forwards for Indian automotive industry, which is still struggling in manufacturing engines and gear boxes. This problem is severe in the case of cars and SUV. In the case of planes and helicopters etc the less say the better.

Take a look at the engines used by some of the successful four wheeler manufactures in India.

1. Mahindra Scorpio - Engine: Top mounted intercooler, Intercooled, mHawk CRDe, 4 Stroke, Turbo charged, DI
2. Tata Nano: 2 cylinder SOHC petrol Bosch multi-point fuel injection
3. Suzuki Splash/Maruti Suzuki Ritz - Fiat JTD 1.3 L (1248 cc) based engines
4. Suzuki Swift/Maruti Swift/Maruti Swift Dzire - Fiat JTD 1.3 L (1248 cc) based engines
5. Suzuki Wagon R+ - Fiat JTD 1.3 L (1248 cc) based engines
6. TATA Indica Vista - Fiat JTD 1.3 L (1248 cc) based engines
7. TATA Indigo Manza - Fiat JTD 1.3 L (1248 cc) based engines
8. Suzuki SX4 - Fiat JTD 1.6 L (1598 cc) based engines
9. Suzuki SX4 - Fiat JTD 1.9 L (1910 cc) based engines

May be a victory for Mahindra will give a boost for Indian engine manufacturing sector.



2. Mahindra Racing
3. Bosch develops diesel engine for Nano - BS
4. Wikipedia

PS: It is very difficult to get the information related to original manufacturer of engines used by car and SUV manufactures. In case you have any detailed list, please post it here as a comment.

Photo courtesy: Wikipedia

Monday, October 15, 2012

Goa - where east meets with west: Part II - Sateri Mahalasa Narayani Temple, Panaji, Fort Aguada, Sinquerim, Calangute, Santa Monica and Mandovi

It was a cool Sunday morning. As we have to be on board by 9.00am there was no option other than to wake up early. After having breakfast, we started our epic North Goa expedition.

By 9.00 am engine roared in to action and we were finally on the road. Our first stop was GTDC Colva residency, to pick up people waiting there to join us.

Sateri Mahalasa Narayani Temple

After passing through the middle of lush green paddy fields and some non-inhibited areas we finally reached Mahalasa temple. Mahalasa is considered as the Mohini avatar of Vishnu, because of this she is also referred as Mahalasa Narayani. A new temple for Devi was under construction; we walked towards the sanctum, after taking one parikrama and having prasad, moved back to our bus.

Verna Industrial Area
Sateri Mahalasa Narayani Temple

Verna is very much close to Mahalasa temple. I like the way GTDC selected the places, it’s not limited to the beaches; but includes temples, churches, city, folk dances, cultural events, etc. However, big disappointment with the tour is - it doesn't cover Goa state museum, naval aviation museum or any shipbuilding yards. Goa is more than just beaches, it has some industries - series ones like ship building, ports, mining etc.

Abyss marine fish aquarium

Aquariums are generally not my favourite ones. I don't like the concept of trapping something at a place, or depriving someone of its basic rights, just because somebody else wants to see them. However, joining other travel mates we three bought one ticket each and went in. The building was under construction, however fishes were there and guides were prepared to welcome us.

Cruising through River Mandovi.
One lady guide showed and explained us about fishes, Red Oscar, Pirana, Silver lady, Lucky fish, Tiger shark, Angel fish, Gaurami fish and many others whose names I am not able to recall. One interesting experience was, when the guide took one 'Conch Shell' from water and put it close to my ears - a continuous, slow, study and exhilarating sound was coming out of it. After moving back and forth through the aquarium for some time we finally approached the exit door.

Panaji (Panjim)

Capital cities used to evoke a different feeling in my mind. It's from here both executive and administrative machinery is taking decisions which will affect the entire population of the state. After crossing Zuvari Bridge and spending some more time, we reached Panaji (aka Panjim). On the side of Mondovi, close to the bridge, nine pillars of Panjim welcomed us.

Agoda Fort - Light house and Tank.
Panaji (means 'Land that never floods'), capital and third largest city in Goa, lies on the left banks of River Mondovi. For reaching Fort Aguada, we have to cross the bridge. Within couple of kilometres from the bridge Mondovi will embrace the vast water body of Arabian Sea. After crossing the sea, and moving for some time through a local route, we entered Fort Aguada road.

Aguada (Watering place in Portuguese) Fort

Even though, we saw little traffic in Fort Aguada road the entrance of the fort was bubbling with tourists. After crossing the gate we reach the canal which surrounds the land side of the fort. Earlier these canals were filled with crocodiles for the safety of the fort.

This sixteenth century fort, constructed by Portuguese in 1612AD, was used to store drinking water for ships passing through the area. It comprises a lower fort with bastions all around and an upper fort (consists of Moat, underground water storage chamber, light house, gun powder room and Bastions).  Massive underground tank has the capability to store 23 lakh 76 thousands litres of water. Currently this is not in use.

Fort Agoda and Lighthouse - Another view
From fort's inner courtyard, with the help of sunlight you can see the tank through the grills. Next to the tank there is an old light house (earlier it used to emit light once in seven minutes, in 1864 it was updated to emit light creating eclipse in every 30 seconds but later in 1976 it was abandoned), according to guide, this is the first light house in Asia. From fort walls, across the water body of Arabian Sea, you can see Governors house and Dona paula bay.

Apart from this tank, walls, light house and a distant view of Dauna Paulo bay there is nothing much to see here.

Sinquerim Beach

After 2004 Tsunami, this was no longer a beach. However, a lot of people are coming here to see this Tsunami affected beach. A part of Aguada Fort is located here. A rounded corner pillar, along with staircase to reach the top. Sea waves are relentlessly hitting the bottom of this pillar on one side, sometimes it even raise and embrace people standing on the top.

View from Fort Agoda
It was a nice experience to simply sit there and watch the waves. But, we have to reach GTDC Calangute annex for lunch. So, good bye Aguada!!! By the way Taj Holiday Village and Aguada Hermitage are located here.

Calangute Beach (largest in north Goa, peak season - Christmas, New Year, summer in May)

After having lunch, we walked towards Calangute beach, located close to annex. Calangute beach is considered as one of the best beaches in Goa, filled with small gravel and cool waves, this lengthy beach attracts young, old, couples, kids alike. We spend a lot of time here, sometimes just standing on the shores; sometimes watching others; sometimes experiencing the gravels getting removed from the bottom of legs along with the arrival of each wave.

Many are lying in the water to enjoy the waves and many others are also there because of their inability to wake up - thanks to drinks!!!

By four in the evening we told good bye to Calangute and headed back to Panjim.

Santa Monica

Dauna Paulo Bay
Once more we crossed Mondovi River and reached Santa Monica Jetty. Our next plan was a river cruise in a passenger ship called 'Santa Monica'. Ship started her cruise around six in the evening. There was a small raised platform in the deck, where local dance group used to perform their items, audience can sit in the chairs arranged in front of it.

I selected the first one in the first row. Cultural program started with the dance of kids from audience. Four came, one went back as fast as he came in, and another one too left the stage soon. However, remaining two (one boy and one girl) performed well for some time. Next was their items, in between they invited couples from audience for dancing. To my surprise many did very well.

Within a short period of time, local dance group performed a wide number of dance items, including Goa's best known folk dances - dekhni and fugdi.

As the ship moved forward, I left the chair and walked towards the front end. This place is very close to Mondovi Estuary; hence the river is very much wide here. Our ship slowly sailed past 'beautiful Adil Shah Palace that was once the first building in Panjim City. This was the summer palace of the Sultan which was then used by the Viceroy of Portugal and finally by the government of Goa as its Secretariat. Now that a new Secretariat is in use on Porvorim Hill across the river Mondovi, the Adil Shah Palace will be turned into a cultural centre with art galleries and concert halls, etc'.

During this journey we saw a number of ships anchored in the river - as guide explained in the morning these are probably the floating casinos. An answer for how easily you can become a millionaire (if you started as a billionaire). After taking a U turn we came back to Santa Monica Jetty around 7.10pm.

River cruise will cost you 150 INR per head.

Back to Margao

River cruise was the last item in Sunday's schedule. From Santa Monica, we retraced our path and went straight to our room - second night in Goa.


1. Goa Tourism Development Corporation (GTDC)
2. Archaeological Survey of India (ASI)

Santa Monica

One of the ship floating in the river

Moving through River Mandovi

Sunday, October 14, 2012

These silly questions remembering me about License Raj era

Today, I was totally bemused by one news article. Let me produce the relevant portions of said article here,

"Old furniture collected from Indian consumers in exchange for new ones will not be re-sold in the market, Swedish retail major IKEA has informed the government."

You may be thinking, what's the big deal here? Well, there was an interesting line further down in the report,

"The IKEA's clarification was on a government's query on the nature and intent of activities involving collection or purchase of old furnitures.”

This line forced me to search, what was government’s question? Unfortunately, I am yet to figure that out. In such a situation we can only guess what the question was – well let’s do it.

IKEA is not selling any nuclear energy equipment or missile parts. It’s in furniture business. So, does it matters to government, whether IKEA is going to sell old furnitures collected from Indian consumers or not? Isn’t it a pure commercial decision? Isn't it as simple as asking Big Bazaar shops, where you will set up rice shop - in the second floor or third floor? Isn’t it pure micro-managing?

What forced central government to ask such a question? Are we still living in License Raj era?



1. No resale of old collected furniture, IKEA assures govt - Business Standard, Indian Express

An Iranian tragedy that can be avoided, options are still open for Iran to come out of economic chaos

Arak IR-40 Heavy Water Reactor, Iran
Disclaimer: This article is neither about, ‘equality and morality’ nor about the question, ‘if US can have a bomb why Iran can’t’? This is simply a cost benefit analysis, suspending all elements of highly punching nationalistic arguments and concentrating on simple questions.

What is the price tag of a nuclear bomb? If our answer is – it’s the cost for making it; then I must say we got it wrong. Let's take the case of Iran,

Cost for Iran

Cost of making a nuclear bomb is unacceptably high for Iranian economy. Billions of dollars are losing every year, because of sanctions over her sale of oil and gas. Obsession with nuclear bomb is diverting government’s attention from other pressing needs of economy and people. Sanctions related to transfer of technology in oil refining sector is forcing Iran to use more polluting oil. Talent and investment is heavily concentrating on nuclear sector, which otherwise could have been used for overall scientific and economic development of the country.

Rial - Iranian currency - is nose diving to new lows; in September alone it lost around 40% of its value. International shipping and logistical companies are reducing or totally eliminating port of calls. Iran is totally cut off from world's financial system and other networks. According to OPEC report, Iran’s production of 2.63mn barrels a day in September is its lowest since 1988. Automotive production is going to new lows (42% drop in last six months). Because of sanctions most foreign companies are either left or packing up creating shortages in foreign reserves. International insurance agencies are no longer re-insuring Oil and Gas ships carrying Iranian cargo.

Cost for others

Iran is an important country in Middle-East, not only because of its rich reserves of ‘oil and gas’ or strategic location but also due to its potential. Iran’s obsession with nuclear bomb and crippling western sanctions are reducing the off take of gas and oil output from her ports; which invariable keep the price high and volatile.

Iran shares a 936km long boundary with Afghanistan and offers sea connectivity as well. If there was a proper dialogue between P5+ 1, India, Pakistan, donor nations for Afghanistan and Iran then a better solution could have been possible for Afghan chess board. People in the region have to live in the perpetual fear of war. If Iran is going nuclear, then its arch-rival Saudi Arabia may also try to make one. In addition to that, Iran-Israel relations will make the things more complex. Countries which depend on Iranian oil - India, Korea, China, Sri Lanka etc will suffer.

Iran's benefit in going nuclear

I don’t think going nuclear will offer much deterrence for Iran. First of all, notwithstanding the heavy chest beating, neither ‘US’ nor Israel will go for a war over Iran without grave reasons. When world economy is passing through a fragile state, resources are so scarce nobody wants to upset it further.

Iran has to travel some way from doing a test explosion and making a bomb small enough to fit in a missile warhead (plus putting in place a proper detonating mechanism). Even if they did, it has to break the missile shield of Israel (US is still far away from the reach of Iranian missiles, except the fifth fleet in Bahrain). Iran will lose whatever sympathy it got, after the test explosion. Nuclear weapons will bring more sanctions which will definitely cripple Iranian economy which may probably lead to never ending street protests.


I think, it will be better for Iran and Western group to reach a deal which will be face saving for both. These are my suggestions,

1. Iran should stop the process of making weapon grade Uranium (however they should be allowed to continue using nuclear energy for civilian as well as medical purposes).
2. Allow IAEA to visit and certify its sites - Including the underground ones.
3. Iran can transfer, already manufactured weapon grade Uranium to a third country like Russia in exchange for an economic package.
4. Once this completed, Iran should be allowed to go ahead with their civil nuclear program. Probably a third country like Russia, France, South Korea or Japan can assist Iran in building nuclear complexes in Iran for producing electricity.
5. In proportion to the progress Iran shows in these areas, sanctions should be relaxed. Not only the ones imposed on it recently but the ones imposed on it for decades.
6. Inclusion of Iran in SWIFT, banking networks and other clearing houses.

Apart from this Iran and P5+ 1 countries should create a framework and a road map for further cooperation and development.

Iran needs to remember that, whether ‘West’ adds more unilateral sanctions or not, whether Israel and ‘US’ attacks or not, whether Russia and China veto another resolution in UN or not; Iran’s economy is on a free fall to an endless pit. Their first priority should be to come out of it.



1. New York Times
2. Iranian Students’ News Agency

Photo Courtesy: Wikipedia

Friday, October 12, 2012

Nobel Prize – 2012

Some more people wrote their name in the golden book of history. Let’s take a view on the accomplishments of these people, who contributed much to the development of human race. Starting with my favourite subject.


This year’s Nobel prize goes to, Serge Haroche (from Collège de France and Ecole Normale Supérieure, Paris, France) and David J. Wineland (National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) and University of Colorado Boulder, CO, USA) who 'independently invented and developed methods for measuring and manipulating individual particles while preserving their quantum-mechanical nature, in ways that were previously thought unattainable.'

Quantum physics is one of the important and interesting areas in Physics. Breakthroughs in these areas will definitely bring wide ranging benefits to humanity. May be their contributions will help humans, to reach one more step close to the dream of Quantum Computer.


2012 Nobel prize for Chemistry goes to 'Robert J. Lefkowitz' (Howard Hughes Medical Institute and Duke University Medical Center, Durham, NC, USA) and Brian K. Kobilka (Stanford University School of Medicine, Stanford, CA, USA ) for 'groundbreaking discoveries that reveal the inner workings of an important family of such receptors (that enable it to sense its environment): G-protein–coupled receptors.'

Receptors are critical for human functions; in a sense even our eye is a receptor. Through their researchers, these two scientists and their teams were able to identify and isolate some of receptors - which sense the cell environment - in cells.

Physiology or Medicine

This year's Prize goes to John B. Gurdon and Shinya Yamanaka for 'for the discovery that mature cells can be reprogrammed to become pluripotent'. In simple words, by starting to answer the question, how we can reprogram a matured cell to an immature cell, which we can later develop to any other cell. Interesting isn't it?


Literature Nobel Prize for 2012 goes to Chinese writer 'Mo Yan', 'Who with hallucinatory realism merges folk tales, history and the contemporary'. Guan Moye (Mo Yan - means 'don't speak' in Chinese - is his pen name). He is also the author of 'Red Sorghum' (this was the bases for the movie of same name in 1987).

Peace Price

This year’s peace price goes to European Union (EU) for contributing ‘to the advancement of peace and reconciliation, democracy and human rights in Europe.' Hope that Nobel Price will give a boost to the Union, which is currently passing through difficult times.

The Sveriges Riksbank Prize (Nobel Prize in Economics)

This year's Sveriges Riksbank prize in Economic Sciences was awarded jointly to Alvin E. Roth and Lloyd S. Shapley "for the theory of stable allocations and the practice of market design"

Note that, even though knows as Nobel Prize in Economics, this prize was actually established and endowed by Sweden's central bank Sveriges Riksbank, in 1968 on the occasion of the bank's 300th anniversary, in the memory of Alfred Nobel.


News and photo courtesy: The Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences

"Stopping by Woods on a Snowy Evening" - Robert Lee Frost

Life can present infinite scenarios in front of us. Its often we who fails to opt one firmly and leave all other distractions. Even after choosing, quite often we end up in a state of affairs, where our side looks dry and opposite one green. We often fail to resist the temptation of choosing a way, which may not be appropriate for us. Sometimes, we may fail to answer with a firm yes/no.

Distractions coupled with indecisiveness are indeed an appalling condition. If you ever went through any of these circumstances (and of course hundreds of related ones) then Frost's 'Stopping by Woods on a Snowy Evening' may assist you to reach an answer.

Stopping by Woods on a Snowy Evening - Robert Frost

Whose woods these are I think I know.
His house is in the village though;
He will not see me stopping here
To watch his woods fill up with snow.

My little horse must think it queer
To stop without a farmhouse near
Between the woods and frozen lake
The darkest evening of the year.

He gives his harness bells a shake
To ask if there is some mistake.
The only other sound’s the sweep
Of easy wind and downy flake.

The woods are lovely, dark and deep.
But I have promises to keep,
And miles to go before I sleep,
And miles to go before I sleep.


Tuesday, October 9, 2012

More government processes coming online – Some government initiatives, civil society failed to appreciate while criticising it for everything?

In a recent Malayalam movie - Indian Rupee - protagonist, working as a clerk in Secretariat, want to get sanction for his relative's factory project. According to the advice of a veteran official he bought a huge number of small presentation covers. Later they will divide five lakh rupees, given by his relative, to small chunks - ranging from some hundreds to thousands of rupees – to bribe officials from peon to department heads.

They paid some for searching the file, another for bringing the file to first desk, then for moving the papers from there to the next one. Still another for approving it and passing the file to next desk so on and so forth. While filling money in covers, his colleague said that, he knew three-four people who started with selling covers in front of secretariat and later became big business man.

Moving files from desk to desk

There is no doubt that, this is a highly exaggerated version (or at least I wish so) of actual process. Still, in practice common man is forced to pay for moving files from one table to another.

People often find themselves clueless about the progress of their application and spent days, if not weeks, just to know the status.

Same case in Police station as well. The process of creating an FIR is simple. But tracking it, to know which acts are applicable in your case, what are the specific charges against your opponent, what exactly the law says, when it will be up for hearing etc are some important things an accuser/ defender needs to know. If everything is on paper files, you have to depend on the mercy of government officials (/the weight of your pocket) sitting behind the desks, (or agents) to know the status. Even then, it is possible that, you may be quiet clueless about what is going on.

It is in this situation, we have to appreciate the process started by Orissa and Kerala governments (and many other state governments and central governments as well) for opting electronic way for day to day administrative processes. This will not only make the whole set up more transparent but also simpler and easier.


According to a BS report, "Files in all government departments in Odisha are expected to be processed faster as all transactions within a department would be done electronically by the end of this month [September], cutting down on cumbersome paper work...all 39 administrative departments to switch over to e-filing by September 30"

"...departments must take steps to introduce e-despatch at the level of the directorate and district/division level offices so that most letters received would be through e-despatch mode which can be integrated with OSWAS (Odisha Secretariat Workflow Automation System) easily" - Chief Secretary, Government of Orissa

" files will now be processed as e-files only...rural development department has been able to bring 30,000 files (involving over 700,000 pages of notes and correspondences) on the OSWAS platform...IT department is now working on bringing out a web-based version of OSWAS for implementation"


"...'Know Your FIR online', helps a person to know the status of First Information Report (FIR) online or complaints at police stations by logging into the official website of Kerala Police."

"...any one of the information such as FIR number or name of the petitioner or date of registration of the FIR has to be given to access the details...status of the case, including the acts and sections involved, contact details of the investigating officer, name of the filing court, and case details, etc are available online."


Hope that new government initiatives like this, will not only cut the cost for common man, but also bring transparency to the process as well. There may not be any more millionaires simply by selling covers in front of secretariat.


PS: Around four and half years back, I and my friend approached a lawyer to clarify one doubt. I don’t remember whether he heard the question first and then told his fees or vice versa. What I remember is, it was a one line question and the answer was supposed to be either yes or no – no explanation was required. This entire incident happened in a roadside. I agree that he has to apply his professional knowledge to reach an answer, but I still doubt whether 200 INR was a justifiable amount for that.

We simply walked away from him, and went straight to another lawyer. Who replied ‘yes’ but didn’t ask /declined the fees (I don’t remember whether he didn’t ask or declined but either of this happened). Today, if such a question come, we can simply open respective section from the /post the question in a legal forum/ just check FAQs in government sites. Kudos to government for bringing all the acts, cases etc online and presenting it in a searchable format.


1. Kerala Police
2. Government of Odisha – IT department
3. Kerala Police introduces FIR tracking e-way – BS
4. Electronic transfer of govt files in state from Oct 1 - BS
5  Tata Consultancy Services

Photo Courtesy: Kerala Police, State IT Department - Odisha

Monday, October 8, 2012

Prasar Bharati (DD+AIR) restructuring - Will it become CNN/ Al Jaseera of South Asia?

Prasar Bharati (PB) sounds better than their product - Doordarshan (popular by her short name DD). There was a time, when DD ruled Indian television world, with near complete monopoly.
They had many good programs in those days; mythological series like 'Ramayana', 'Mahabharata', 'Jai Hanuman', 'Aum Namashivaya'; other programs like 'Sindbad', 'Chandrakantha', 'Shakthiman', ‘Jungle Book’, 'Rangoli', 'Chitrahar', 'Turning Point', 'Krishi Darshan' etc (some of them are still there) and of course movies at 9.30pm on Friday and 10.30pm (now shifted to 9.30pm) on Saturday.

Regional Telecasts

DD's regional telecasts were quite popular in those days, after all television was quite new and there were few alternate options. In Kerala, during my school days, there were a festival crowd in front of TV at on Sunday evening to watch regional movies. People even saw the worst movies and ads telecasted in those days.

Not any more

Those days didn't last long, DD slowly but steadily gave her position to newly emerging regional private channels. I must say regional, as I am yet to see the emergence of a national level channel other than Doordarshan.


In many cases they failed to recognise the shift in viewer's interests. By the time they realised this, it was too late and DD look like a camp follower of private channels. In short, not withstanding the entire drum beating DD lost the battle to new generation channels.

Reasons that can be attributed to their failure may be

1. Less amount of time allocated for regional broadcasts.
2. Less coverage for very local news (compared to regional ones).
3. In a way DD was dictating their terms to the people, on what people should see and what not; instead of understanding what people like to see.
4. Failed to change the image over a period of time.

Still good

I still love to watch DD News for current affairs. Here the programs are wider and deeper. You can see issues from North East, South, East, Central, West and North India; from both rural and urban areas; on a wide ranging topics; even though it may be (or may not be) tilted towards government. DD News gives a nice escape for viewers from the over exposure of new generation news channels, which are fully focussed on Delhi and Mumbai; and running 24*7 coverage and discussions on things which may hardly have anything to do with people.

If somebody accused a political leader of corruption, it’s big news, but I certainly don’t want to see it 24*7. There are hundreds of other topics to cover. I am not saying DD is covering all important issues, especially issues which make the government uncomfortable but it is still faring better than new generation news channels.

'Peepli Live' may be an exaggerated version of television reporting, but not to the extent that it is unbelievable. I still remember a scene from that movie, where a local reporter wants to report the death of a farmer who used to buy the land, dig wells and then sell it. In the name of concluding the main theme for the movie to logical end senior reporter discourages it.

PrasarBharati restructuring

Let’s take a look at the important terms in Prasar Bharati restructuring scheme,

1. From 2012-13 to 2016-17, central government will cover all the salary and salary related expenses of PB (however they have to cover annual operation budget which may go up to 2000 crores from internal incomes).
2. Plan capital support for PB from government will be in the forms of Grands-in-aid not loans.
3. Government decided to waive off all accumulated interests on loan-in-perpetuity, interest on capital loans, and penal interests.
4. Loan-in-perpetuity and capital loans already provided to PB will be converted to Grands-in-aid.
5. Accumulated arrears in space segment and spectrum charges up to March 31, 2011 (1349.4 crores) will be waived off.
6. Property and assets will be transferred to PB.

This will certainly clean PB’s book. According to ‘The Hindu’ report, the process of waiving loans, interests, and fines will cost the exchequer around 12,071 crores.


However, DD has the capability to become the mouth piece of South Asia; like what 'Al Jaseera' is for Qatar or 'CNN' for USA or 'BBC' for UK. The earlier PB Board understand this, the better. After current restructuring this should be the aim of PB. They should cultivate DD (as well as AIR) as a reliable and prime source of information for South Asia; in the long run for Asia as a whole. Just look at Qatar and see how they are punching very much above their weight because of companies like Al Jaseera.

By creating a reliable, far-reaching media group, Prasar Bharati can do a lot more for South Asians in general and for Indians in particular.



1. Ministry of I & B, Government of India.
2. The Hindu.
Photo Courtesy: Broadcasting Corporation of India