Tuesday, July 29, 2014

Opportunity broke off-earth driving record

An Image Taken by Oppertunity
‘Sky is the limit’ became an old saying long time back. Human race crossed these limit years ago and reached surface of the moon. Many space-crafts send by us crossed solar system as well. Now NASA’s Opportunity Mars Rover (which reached Mars on 2004) clocked 40KM on its odometer. This mile stone achieved on July 27 is an off-earth driving record (earlier record was 39km by Soviet Union’s Lunokhod ). Will all the best for Opportunity and the team which works relentlessly behind Opportunity project.


For more information on NASA's Spirit and Opportunity:

For an image of Lunokhod 2's tracks - http://lroc.sese.asu.edu/posts/774

Photo Courtesy: NASA

Sasan Gir - Home of Asiatic Lions

An interesting documentary on one of the last remaining habitat of Asiatic Lions - ‘Gir National Park’ (Gujarat). A century after Nawab of Junagarh and then viceroy of India spared Asiatic Lions from Royal hunting; through sustained efforts of forest department and cooperation of locals, this group is making a comeback.


The Rise of irrational and unreasonable India

Two years back, on a January evening, while coming from Kanha National Park I stopped at Madla(MP) and spent a full night in that small town surrounded on three sides by Narmada River. Madla was the capital of many dynasties in the past. It is believed that, this place (then known as Mahishmati) served as venue for the most famous debate of Adi Sankara (with Mandana Mishra).

Serious debates shook the floor of assembly while drafting constitution, discussions on amendments etc. Members supported or opposed other’s line of thinking. We also heard about the serious splits like Moderates vs Extremists (during the days of Tilak), Gandhi vs Ambedkar (during Round Table conferences), Gandhi vs Bose (especially when Bose became the president of INC) etc. during independence movement.

Mythology itself is stuffed with serious arguments. Gargi challenged Yajnavalkya on questions related to soul so on and so forth. None of these ended in violent riots or killed people.

In recent times, challenging opinions of living or historical figures (or their ideas) are considered as biggest crime. It was not long ago a cartoon on Ambedkar by Shankar (original cartoon was drawn some half a century back when Ambedkar was alive) created a big row.

Can we call this as progress? 

Are we slowly losing our reasoning capability and power to think logically? How can you explain the violence popping up across India? Someone posted something on Facebook and one guy got killed in Pune. I really doubt those killers even read that particular Facebook post. Neighbors who were on good terms, suddenly become enemies and start running for other’s head because somewhere someone told something.  

Delhi, Gujrat, Marad, Tripura, Mau, Asom, Musafarnagar, Moradabad, Saharanpur… the list is endless. How many more riots we Indians have to witness, to understand, blood gushing out of each victims’ body are red in colour? Pain or bullets doesn’t recognize or spare Hindu’s, Muslim’s, Christian’s or Sikhs? How come an eve teasing or a Facebook post metamorphose in to religious riots? How come an accident involving a couple of people can start riots in a big town? Now-a-days a random fight between two people over a trivial matter can lead to big riots where hundreds can die!!! Pathetic!!!

Words like difference in opinion, arguments, debate, logic, reasoning etc are only for competitive exams and business only not to use in daily life?


Sunday, July 27, 2014

Chinese Development Model – How not to do rather than how to do. Don’t blindly follow

Whenever I heard debates on India’s development, reference to China’s pace of growth inevitably comes into discussion. “Look at China”, “where China was in 1960’s and where it is now?”, “Why can’t we grow like that?” etc. Then someone would reply, although incorrectly, “We don’t have the political will”, “Democracy is stopping us from taking hard decisions” etc.

I am an admirer of China’s growth. It was indeed a success story of 20th century. China rose from ashes after devastating World War II, from crippling communist programs like ‘Great Leap Forward’ etc. China under Deng accepted free market policy and showed miracle growth rates for more than two decades. Now she reached a position where her voice is respectfully heard in international forums.

The question is, do we have to follow Chinese model for India’s growth? Many may tempted to say yes. However my answer is a firm no. There are many things we can learn and absorb from China. However Chinese growth is not a model that we can follow. Why? Even though there are many reasons I will focus 
only on one of them.

Growth without any concern for environment

In India many groups created an opinion that, focusing on environment is affecting India’s growth rates. In short, if you want development then don’t argue for rivers and forests. By extension of this theory, whoever argues for environment is by default included in anti-development group. These groups often sites China as a model.

How far we can accept this argument? Do you think development is always against environment? Do you think, if we need development then we need to cut virgin forests, divert rivers and flatten the hills? What type of development is that? Can we call it as development or simply resource extraction? I prefer the later one.
Honestly speaking, I don’t believe building a dam on every hundred kilometers of Ganga on unstable Himalayan terrain is development; I don’t believe cutting down even the last remaining evergreen forests in Western Ghats is development; I also don’t believe open pit coal mining is a development. Can anyone go to Chromium mining areas, say Sukinda, or open pit coal mining areas and stay there for one week? Can they say those cities are developed ones?

Can you go to Yamuna in Delhi and take a bath? Can you go to Ganga at Patna and drink the water?
The interesting thing is we are all forced to believe that these are development. Will this development reduce our import cost for electronics? How many manufacturing plants are there in India which can produce microprocessors for computer? How many Silicon wafer manufacturing plants we have? Why we got the notorious tag of biggest weapon importer country in the world? Forget about fighter planes and high quality radar, can we even manufacture high grade light machine gun?

In Foreign Affairs magazine Sulmaan Khan analyzes the cost of Chinese development model – “Suicide By Draught” – Sulmaan Khan.

“The rivers flowing from the Third Pole -- among them, the Mekong, the Yangtze, and the Yellow River -- traditionally satisfied the majority of China’s water needs. But those waters, along with China’s other supplies, have been steadily disappearing. Since the 1950s, 27,000 rivers have vanished from China. China has only seven percent of the world’s freshwater to meet the needs of about one-fifth of the world’s population. Of that water, only 23 percent is located in northern China, which, as home to most of the country's major industries, uses much more water than China’s south. Meanwhile, much of the country's available water supply has been rendered unusable by pollution.”

If we continue to destroy the environment in the name of pollution, then some years later someone else will also write a report like that. Only difference will be in the name. Instead of China it will be India.
Problem is we often don’t estimate the value of environment. There is value for fresh air and clean water. These two we can’t simply manufacture. Just ask someone working on Central government’s reverse osmosis project in Chennai to know the cost of producing a litre drinkable water from sea water. Ask someone who walks through Bangalore’s road to know how good the air is.

Development is not cutting down the forest or diverting the rivers. Just think about Singapore, a place less than NCT Delhi in size is receiving more FDI in a year than entire India.

Before going ahead with grandiose plans give one minute for environment as well. NTPC can build tens of super critical coal fired thermal power plants, but without huge water supply it’s useless. In Madurai (Tamilnadu) there are a lot of bridges to cross a river called Vaighai, but nor even a drop of water is present under those bridges. Bangalore, in search of land, flattened many great lakes and built majestic residential layouts and mega structures. However, now water for those residential areas have to come from Cauvery River. Remember Cauvery is a lifeline for many areas in the downstream. Moreover considering the environmental degradation in her sources, how long she can support cities like Bangalore in its downstream?

Before adding water to Gadgil’s report on Western Ghat and making it Kasturi Rangan report, and then adding further water to it, think about the human’s basic needs – clean water and fresh air. We need development, but stop calling plans for building tens of mega dams in unstable Himalayan geographies from Kashmir to Arunachal as development. Build gas fired power plants or new generation nuclear power plants for generating electricity. Don’t call open pit mining as development; if you need coal then go for underground mining. Build more environment friendly railway lines than 8 lane roadways and running thousands of Lorries through it.

China is an example of how not to run after development as far as environmental impact is concerned. Learn from her mistakes, lean from how China is planning to mitigate those risks. Don’t blindly follow her.


Saturday, July 26, 2014

Language Politics – Now the fight is against UPSC

Politics is also about creativity. If you don’t have a problem, then create a problem. If people are tired of an argument, then put the old wine in new bottle. Politicians everywhere is in constant search of finding a way to stay relevant among their supporters. If one didn’t bring much development to their region, then they are more vulnerable to act on ideas which hardly have any merit.

What is this newly found problem in UPSC preliminary exams? How suddenly a group of people found out that UPSC prelim exam (aka CSAT) is designed against their interests? By the way current pattern of CSAT was introduced some three years back. What makes the situation more ironic is the fact that, Hindi speaking region is in the forefront of these protests. Remember, in CSAT all questions and options in both papers are given in Hindi as well (Not in Bengali, not in Kannada…); except around 8 questions related to English Paragraph comprehension. These 8 questions are based on three English passages having one paragraph each.

Are they saying that these 3 passages are their main problem? In that case, people from Andra and Telengana can demand all questions in Telugu; Tamilnadu can demand all the questions printed in Tamil; people from Sikkim can demand exam in Nepali or Sikkimese… so on and so forth.

Do you consider these 8 questions in CSAT as a discrimination against Hindi speaking areas? If yes, then entire republic is showing discrimination against a lot of her citizens. Do you see any central government conducted exam’s question paper in Kokborok? Kokbork is a language from Tripura and have more than 9 lakh speakers (written using Bengali or Roman script). What about Bodo language of Asom or Santali language?

Why a republic after having more than six decade of independent life still feeling it difficult to settle on language issue? It’s time to get over with it. Irony is people’s representatives, instead of creating educational institutions and associated infrastructure in their respective states are engaged in stone throwing… instead of ending child labour and sending those kids back to schools, are supporting chauvinism… instead of saving kids from trafficking is interested in playing spoiler sport… instead of showing their power to stop illegal, unconstitutional diktats of Khap panchayat is throwing their weight behind an exam where kids from Bihar and UP also excel.

Stop this circus of protesting against everything.


Will these people -MPs, MLAs and MLCs who currently leading the protests - stop sending their kids to Australia, US, UK etc. and enroll them in local Hindi medium government school?



Just watched the video - ‘The Story Telling of Science’. One thing that stuck me was the question on uncertainty. Anyone remember the uncertainty principle which we all studied in Physics classes? I think as a kid I probably loved uncertainty; I may even felt it natural. But now… all my efforts may probably to reduce or avoid uncertainty altogether, than love it. Are we afraid to live in a world of uncertainty? Fearing it to such an extent that, we often end up making elaborate plans, back up plans, plan c and plan d as well?

What is better? The excitement of uncertainty or the boring but low risk certainty?

An interesting set of videos to watch.

The Storytelling of Science (Part 1)

The Storytelling of Science (Part 2)


Wednesday, July 23, 2014

ASI's search for gold cost 2.78 lakh to exchequer

This is exactly what will happen when an agency whose primary method should be based on scientific evidence deviate from its path and subscribe to fantasies. In the end search for gold only added another 2.78 lakh bill to exchequer.

Sunday, July 20, 2014

IPI and India Pak trade

Looks like IPI (Iran-Pakistan-India) pipeline is slowly coming back to discussion tables. Credit goes to US need to isolate Russia; which requires finding an alternate source of oil and gas supply to western European countries. This will again open Iran for international trade. Which means a pipeline from Iran to India through Pakistan is feasible.

However, I am not convinced of the viability of IPI pipeline. It has to pass through many of Pakistan’s most restive provinces. An explosion here or there will break the pipeline and create leakages. However, the other part looks attractive. Exporting the gas through Iran’s Chabbar port; receive at Indian LNG terminals and then distributing it to various parts of Indian and Pakistan. Instead of unsafe route through Pakistan, this one seems to be safe and viable.

In this situation, Arun Jeitley’s announcement of encouraging hydrocarbon exports to Pakistan through Jalandar (after receiving Gas at Dahej and then to Jalandar through existing pipelines) is a welcome statement. This will not only increase the business ties between Indian and Pakistan but also give some momentum in diplomatic engagements. Connecting this Indian city with Pakistan through a 103 km long gas pipeline (to be laid by GAIL) will add some more momentum to business. An additional export of 500MW electricity from India to Pakistan is supposed to strengthen the ties.

However Pakistan also need to reciprocate. One step Pak government can easily take is encouraging Indian business houses to directly trade with Pakistani companies. Instead of going all the way from India to Middle East and then to Pakistan. Won’t it be cheaper for Pakistani’s to bring commodities from Indian cities from couple of hundreads kms away?


Saturday, July 19, 2014

Mosul decree and the choice of others

Finally the word Caliph is back in political parlance. Leader of ISIS, Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, crowned himself (and started ruling?) as the new Caliph of vast swaths of land spread over Iraq and Syria captured by force in lightening assaults. Everyone, probably even Baghdahi, was surprised by the speed of conquest. As Iraqi military is concentrated on stopping the assaults than taking back the lost land; Syrian government on the other side is engaged in survival battle; and Americans are reluctant to bring their boots to the ground, there won’t be any immediate threat to his Caliphate.

As CNN reported, “Islamist militants, now occupying large regions of Iraq and Syria, have issued an ultimatum to the remaining Iraqi Christians in the city of Mosul: accept Islam, pay extra taxes to Islamic Sharia courts, or face "death by the sword."

There is no point of reasoning with Baghdadi. After all the group’s recent actions revels that they only understand the language of force and violence. As neither Iraqi nor Syrian military can dislodge ISIS (also known as ISIL, IS) from its current positon or take back the lost territory there is hardly any hope left for Christians in those areas. If ISIS are not even considerate to their own religion – reports reveals the summary execution of Soldiers and villagers – is there any hope left for other religionists?

Looks like Iraq and Syria are steadily sliding in to a perpetual war situation, just like what happened in vast swaths of Africa, Yemen and Afghanistan. This will only create lost generations. It will be better for Baghdadi to take a look on above mentioned regions and think whether he want the same fate for people living in lands currently controlled by his group.



1. Islamic extremists kill 270 in attack on a gas field in central Syria, report says - CNN

Pushing Vegetarianism by Force? From Palitana, Bhavnagar, Gujrat

Palitana Temples
Fundamental Right – now-a-days news channel anchors and editorial writers can’t complete a sentence without uttering these two words at least once. What is fundamental right? Is it the right enshrined in constitution? Most of us say yes. I too say yes, but I also believe fundamental right is more than what simply mentioned in constitution. It is right which I have, and which no one can take away from me in a modern society which rely more on values than on force to maintain social cohesion.

I am a vegetarian by choice. Neither parents, religion nor society forced me to become a vegetarian. I am free to switch to non-vegetarianism whenever I want.  One can say vegetarianism or non-vegetarianism is good or bad. But it’s a never ending argument, I am not interested in that, it’s my choice, it’s my right.
However, I don’t have the right to force my family members, friends or neighbors to become vegetarian. That is their choice, their right. So why on earth an elected government in Gujrat is thinking about declaring an entire region as vegetarian zone following a hunger strike by 200 Jain monks? This sequence of events are going on in Palitana town, coming in Bhavnagar district of Gujrat.

I agree that this area is a main pilgrimage centre for Jains and a lot of their temples are located in this area. I can also understand the demand for ban of slaughter and sale of meat and eggs within some metres from temple premises. But is it fair to apply the same rule for entire town which have mixed populations?
Monks in Palitana needs to rethink about their demand. It’s purely their choice to select whatever items they want to eat, but it’s not their right to forcefully convert others in to vegetarianism.


1. Gujarat mulls creation of vegetarian zone in Palitana - The Hindu

Sunday, July 13, 2014

Do we need 5,000 crore statue OR healthcare, sanitation and other primary services?

Sardar Patel
In many Indian cities, traffic junctions are occupied by statues of various politicians. It doesn’t matter whether it’s in the east, west, north, south or central India. UP’s former CM, Mayavathi, took this mania to the next level by building colossal statues of her own and her leaders by diverting huge amounts of money from state budget. That too in a state where people are struggling for basic services like health, education and sanitation.

Looks like Gujrat also got this mania. In the fast run to own Sardar Patel from Congress (which anyway hardly care about their non-Gandhi leaders of pre or post-independence era) Gujrat government is going to create probably the tallest statue in the world - Sardar Patel statue in Narmada dam.

As Hindu reports, “Union Minister for Law and Justice, Communications and IT Ravi Shankar Prasad on Friday said the nation needs a memorial to pay tribute to the Sardar… “The Statue of Unity is a Rs. 4,000-Rs, 5,000 crore project and this money [Rs. 200 crore] is only for the statue. We are proud of the legacy of Sardar Patel, the nation and the coming generations need to be told what his contribution is. Why should there only be statues of Indira Gandhi,” he said”

This statement came after the government allocated 200 crore in recent general budget for this project.
As per Business Standard report, “The entire project will include the statue, a memorial park at the base of the statue, an artificial reservoir between the Dam and Garudeshwar town and a visitor facilitation centre and reception desk at Kevadia.” – BS

DNA reports that, “to be developed on public private partnership model, will cost around Rs2,500 crore. It will include the Statue of Unity, and also besides a bridge, a road connecting the memorial with Kevadia, convention centre, garden, amusement park, hotel, among others.” – DNA

The question is, does the government have the moral right to divert such huge amount of money to this project when the fate of thousands of displaced people are not fully settled? Why don’t allocate the same amount for compensatory forestation? Why don’t invest this money in India’s primary health care services or sanitation program and dedicate that program in the name of Sardar Patel. Why don’t build bridges, railway lines to connect villages and cities of India, and name the same after him?

I strongly believe, Saradar Patel will be happier to see the money spend on a project which will benefit the nation and aid in nation building rather than creating a lifeless statue somewhere in the middle of water.


Religious freedom from West to East

Religious freedom is not an easy topic to write. Generally when it comes to religion, people often forget reasoning, logic and follow rigid philosophies. In that world everything is so stiff that, it hardly offers any space for accommodation or negotiation. It need not be the same in years to come. But how often we come out of our cocoons and glass rooms and see the world as it is?

Here is an interesting article from Nicholas Kristoff - Religious Freedom in Peril


Religious freedom from West to East

Religious freedom is not an easy topic to write. Generally when it comes to religion, people often forget reasoning, logic and follow rigid philosophies. In that world everything is so stiff that, it hardly offers any space for accommodation or negotiation. It need not be the same in years to come. But how often we come out of our cocoons and glass rooms and see the world as it is?

Here is an interesting article from Nicholas Kristoff


Saturday, July 12, 2014

Stop crying and start living

"Telangana  chief minister, K Chandrashekar Rao, expressed dissatisfaction over passing of the legislation transferring the areas, which would be submerged under the Polavaram project in Khammam district, to the state of Andhra Pradesh... Telangana Joint Action Committee has called for a shut down in the state on Saturday in protest against the passage of the Bill by the Lok Sabha providing for the merger of seven mandals with AP. The ruling Telangana Rashtra Samithi had also extended its support to the bandh call." - Business Standard

This trasfer was not decided all of a sudden, was it KCR? I have only one thing to say to both states, stop crying and start living.

A War Cry from Pacific?

Was there a need for kicking the giant multiple times to wake it up from deep sleep? I don’t think so; China could have continued the affairs in South China Sea and Senkaku/ Diaoyu islands in a low key manner. Unnecessary push from Chinese end only made the matters worse and transformed the wide open sea to major flash point.

The self-proclaimed nine-dotted lines border was not going down well with neighbors Vietnam, Philippines etc. So as the issues related to Senkaku/Diaoyu islands. The continued face offs in various shovels and reefs only made the matters worse and raised the nationalistic fever in concerned nations. When people started thinking in nationalistic lines they often leave the reasons, logics and after effects of their own actions far behind. Finally authorities compelled by domestic pressure will be forced to act against any mutual acceptable solutions.

After effects of these actions started happening in various capitals. This time major focus is on Japan and Vietnam. In Vietnam people already started taking the matters in to their own hands and attacking Chinese companies. In Japan things didn’t become violent but took a decisive turn when, Prime Minister Abe announced and interpretation.

“Since 1947, Japan’s Constitution, written and imposed by the American Army, has permitted the military, known as the Self-Defense Forces, to engage only in self-defense. That meant the large and technologically advanced armed forces was barred from “collective self-defense” — aiding friendly countries under attack — and thus was far more constrained than those of other nations.

With the reinterpretation, Japan’s military would still face restrictions on what it could do, but it would be allowed for the first time, for example, to help defend an American ship under attack, destroy a North Korean missile heading toward the United States or play a larger role in United Nations peacekeeping operations.” – NYT

This will only help to created more tensions in the area.

I strongly recommend all the concerned nations to take this issue to international court and arbitration and abide by its decision as per United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea.



1. Japan Announces a Military Shift to Thwart China - NYT
2. Japan and the Limits of Military Power - NYT

Saturday, July 5, 2014

Orkut – Shut down in progress

How many scraps you got today? How many friends you have in Orkut?

May be these questions will take you some 6 years back, when Orkut was at its prime. Indians woke up to the world of social network through Orkut. Individuals used to do anything to increase the number of friends or increase the number of scraps in Orkut. Slowly Indians along with Brazilians (Orkut was heavily popular in these two countries) forgot Orkut and moved to other social networking platforms like Facebook and Twitter. Scraps become Likes, Pokes and Tweets!!!

Today just like many other Orkut member I too got a letter from Google announcing the end of Orkut.

“We will shut down Orkut on September 30, 2014. Until then, there will be no impact on you, so you may have time to manage the transition. You can export your profile data, community posts and photos using Google Takeout (available until September 2016). We are preserving an archive of all public communities, which will be available online starting September 30, 2014. If you don't want your posts or name to be included in the community archive, you can remove Orkut permanently from your Google account...

It's been a great 10 years, and we apologize to those of you still actively using the service. We hope you will find other online communities to spark more conversations and build even more connections for the next decade and beyond. - Google”
RIP Orkut.