Tuesday, December 29, 2015

A closure for ‘Comfort Women’?

Chinese and Malayan girls forcibly taken from Penang by the Japanese to work as 'comfort girls' for the troops
‘Comfort Women’ are those unfortunate women from East Asian countries – mainly Korean Peninsula, China, Philippines etc. – who were victim of extreme sexual abuses committed by imperial Japanese soldiers during World War II.

Right after the war, this issue was a matter of serious friction between Seoul (ruled by Japan from 1910 till the end of World War II) and Tokyo. After constant denials, Japanese Government finally acknowledged on 1993 that, Japanese military had forced Asian and European women to work on Japanese military brothels.

In 1995 Japan offered to set up a $1bn fund for victims. The amount was rejected by Comfort Women as it was coming in the form of private donations; neither from Japanese Government budget nor in the form of legal reparations. Hence it continued as a major dispute between two countries. Koreans went on to install a statue of ‘Comfort Women’ right in front of Japanese Embassy in central Seoul in 2011.

Jan Ruff O'Herne, taken shortly before she, 
her mother and sisters, as well as thousands 
of other Dutch women and children were 
interned by the Japanese Imperial Army 
in Ambarawa. Over the following months, 
O'Herne, along with six other Dutch women, 
was repeatedly  raped, day and night, by 
Japanese military personnel
Situation become problematic when South Korean president Park refused to have any summit meeting with Abe (Japanese Prime minister). This standoff lasted till this November. Looks like, US pressure – both Japan and South Korea are US allies – in the face of rising Chinese profile in the region and North Korean adventurism forced both countries to reach some kind of deal.

On Monday, South Korean and Japanese foreign ministers announced a new settlement on Comfort Women. According to which, Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe offered an apology and $8.3mn (not legal reparation) aid set aside in Japanese budge for elderly comfort woman. By the way, this settlement was immediately criticized by elderly comfort women as Japanese are not accepting any legal responsibility for the crimes.

Both side said the deal as final irrevocable resolution on this issue. Along with this settlement, Japan also got an important promise from Seoul that, they will not criticize Tokyo again on this issue.

Japan could have done much more much earlier… Hope that, this settlement will draw a closure to comfort women issue. As far as those poor women are concerned, modern society should make sure that those type of horrible crimes should never 
happen in earth.


Notes

1.  Out of 238 comfort women came forward in South Korea only 46 are alive now. They too are in the late 80s and 90s.
2.      Depends on whom we ask, number of women forced to sexual slavery by Imperial Japanese military varies. Based on international estimates, it may vary between 2,00,000 to 3,00,000.

References

Photo Courtesy - Wikipedia

Saturday, December 26, 2015

Kodajadri - Entering in to the graduate school of trekking

Oh, dear you are too long to walk for a day
Pilgrim's progress 
Last time when I was in Mookambika, I went to Kudajadri by Jeep. This time before leaving itself I made a pact with Jithu that we will trek to Kudajadri – to and fro. He was a bit apprehensive in the beginning. After searching a lot in internet we finally found out that, bus is available from Mookambika temple to Tarekatte. From there we need to walk close to 13km through forest to reach the top. First bus to Tarekatte from temple junction was at 8.15AM. Not to miss the bus, we skipped breakfast. By 9.15 we reached Tarekatte.

It was hardly a bus stop; in fact, it was just a turn in the middle of forest. At one side there was a sign board indicating the path to Kudajadri. Thus we started our walk.

Kodajadri Peak

You need more blood? Sorry, I can't give it to you
Located in Western Ghats, this peak is the 10th highest peak in Karnataka (Shivamogga District) with a height of 1,343m from sea level. From Kollur it will take around 21 km to reach here. This peak has significant importance in Hindu religious system. It is believed that sage Adi Sankara visited this peak and meditated here. A small temple called ‘Sarvajna Peeta’ is there on the top in his memory. Some 2 km down, there is one more temple which is considered as ‘Sri Moolashanam’ (Original location) of Mokkambika Temple. It was Sankaracharya who built a temple at Kollur for Mookambika Devi. A large group of devotees, mainly from Kerala, visit Kudajadri (most of them prefer Jeep) alongside Mookambika temple.

Growing - We leave the past behind and accelerate towards the future

On that day we were not alone for trekking. Some more people got down from bus - one group and another two guys.  These two guys – Subhash and Rajesh – joined with us and we together started our long walk. For few kilometers trekking path was wide and forest was shallow. Except for a number of snakes and numerous leeches we hardly saw any animals. Buy the way, leeches were efficient in locating human blood and drinking it. One won’t even know that these little creatures are doing it so smartly. Fortunately, we saw snakes before they saw us!!!

On the way...
After trekking for a while we reached at the edge of a small plain surrounded by green hills. A minor village with not more than 20-25 homes were located there. We had our breakfast from a small hotel and then started our next phase. From there, we had to travel close to 10-12 km through dense forest. I was the first one to climb the hills but energy didn’t last long. Last one week’s hard work and tiredness quickly caught up with me and took more rest than all other combined!!! Without doubt, the journey was a fascinating one.

On the way we met many who were on their return voyage after spending one full night at top. After a while we reached a mountain side and sat there for some time. From here we could see Kodajadri temples and peak on the next hill; however, there is a gorge in between. Hence we need to take a L shaped lengthy path to reach there. While sitting here we met another group (Shiva Yogi and Co.) who are also on the way to Kudajadri. For some of them, it was their second or third journey through the same path. For rest of the journey we were together. By the way, if any one likes to stay at Kodajadri at night then they can use inspection bungalow or preist’s home.

After taking 5-10 mins of break in an open area watered by a small creek we started our final ascend. Soon we reached inspection bungalow and temples. From there Sarvanja peeta is another 2 KM.  If it was not for friends, I would have stopped there itself. But they persisted and finally I also started climbing. But, I was so tired that, I had to let them go at an open area from where one can see two peaks and a valley. I spent next one hour there enjoying the sights of small yellow flowers and a pats on the back by white colored cold wind coming from the valley. That one hour was probably the best experience I had in the entire trekking.

Without reaching Sarvaja Peeta I can’t claim that I reached the top. Feeling rejuvenated after the cold wind recharged by energy cells I started walking towards ‘Sarvajna Peeta’ and soon reached there. During my last journey I went to Chitramoola Cave (located down but on other side of the hill), hence skipped that part and walked towards the edge of a cliff and sat there waiting for Jithu and others to come back.

While coming back we took the jeep. For one way they charged 250 INR/person (for complete journey they are charging 350). It took one hour and 45 minutes to reach Kollur by jeep. By the way, this jeep is going through probably one of the roughest motor-able path in the world itself!!!  After having a Masala Dosa from Vasudev Adiga’s at Kollur we were ready for return journey.

Memories captured by lens,

Subhash, Rajesh and Jithu - Four men in a boat
Here we stand and saw all of you
Caught people on the way and enlarged the group


Some place to sit in between.


I too need some honey
Meditating is good for health
In the name of Adi Sankara - Sarvajna Peedam
I, Me, Myself
Dear Sweety, don't fly away
Hmm, let me see what is on the other side
Hmmm.... not so dense, siblings are far away
I too have a story to tell
Temples at the top of the hills, article of faith.

Hills don't frighten me

Wednesday, December 23, 2015

Indian Parliament Passed 'Juvenile Justice (Care and Protection of Children) Bill, 2015'

Child Or Adult?
Finally, JJ Bill - Juvenile Justice (Care and Protection of Children) Bill, 2015 - cleared opposition led ‘Rajya Saba’ and now waiting for presidential approval to become law. There is a lot of questions on the decision to try juveniles aged between 16-18 as adult criminals. Unfortunately for all of us, our beloved parliament had little time to discuss matters of critical importance.

Main points in this bill are,

As per this bill ‘JJB (Juvenile Justice Board)’ and ‘CWC (Child Welfare Committee)’ will be formed in each district.

There will be an option for those (aged 16 – 18 years) who committed heinous crimes to be tried as adults. Under this bill there are three types of crimes – heinous (which attracts an imprisonment of 7 or more years under current law; Serious Offence (which attracts an imprisonment of 3-7 years) and ‘petty offence’ is the one which can result in a jail term of 3 years.

However, the person aged between 16-18 will not be prosecuted as adult automatically. “Whether the child committed the crime of heinous category in an adult or child mind, will be first assessed by the Juvenile Justice Board… comprise of psychologists, social workers and experts.”

One of the major hurdles faced by this bill was the fact that, it is based on NCRB data - which states that there is a spike in the crimes committed by people aged between 16 to 18. Unfortunately, NCRB data is based on number of FIRs filed (not as per actual conviction rates).

As per today’s report in ‘The Hindu’ (Why the FIR doesn’t tell you the whole story – The Hindu) they analysed all 500 cases involving sexual assault that had been came to Delhi’s six district courts in 2013 to present; and 142 cases decided by Mumbai’s two sessions courts.

These case included those which are filed under Molestation (IPC 354), Kidnap (IPC 363), Kidnapping a woman for marriage (IPC 366), rape and Sexual Offences against children (POCSO Act). Report states that, one quarter of all cases involved parents filing cases of kidnap and rape against young men who eloped with their young daughters (Many of them are inter-caste and inter-religion relationships). Out of 142 cases filed in Mumbai courts, only 41% resulted in convictions for crimes against women and girls; in 105 cases registered for Rape only 37% resulted in convictions. However, user POCSO conviction rate is much higher at 67%.

Hence NCRB data is not a factual indicator.

Overall the law looks good as it won’t trial juveniles aged between 16-18 automatically as adults; at the same time, it won’t allow juveniles who committed heinous crimes to escape using technicalities.
My only problem is, our parliament is hardly interested in spending time in conducting meaningful discussions on important bills.

Sajeev

Note 1: UNCRC states that signatory countries should treat every child under the age of 18 years in the same manner and not try them as adults.  While the 2000 Act complies with this requirement, the Bill does not.  However, many other countries who have also ratified the Convention try juveniles as adults, in case of certain crimes.  These countries include the UK, France, Germany, etc.  The United States is not a signatory to the UNCRC and also treats juveniles as adults in case of certain crimes. – PRS [1]

References

1. PRS – PRS Legislative Reserch (http://www.prsindia.org/theprsblog/?p=3610)
2. The Hindu

Tuesday, December 22, 2015

Tips for Public speaking and Presentation



An important step in public speaking is to make your audience feel comfortable. For that to happen, you should be comfortable first.

What you can do to make yourself feel relaxed while facing an audience in order to deliver a memorable speech?

Points mentioned below may help you with that,

1. When you feel anxiety, take a deep breath and understand that you are feeling anxious.
2. In your mind reframe the speaking situation; think it as a conversation.
3. What you can do to make the speech conversational? Two important steps are use conversational language and inclusive words.
4. Start your speech with questions, anecdotes etc.
5. Don’t think too much about what will happen if your speech went bad; live in present moment.
6. Try to warm up your tongue; drinking some warm water before the speech will help.
7. Don't try hard to make your speech perfect. Don’t try to do over analysis, over thinking; these two things may freeze you in the stage; and often disconnect your audience from real theme.
8. Think about each speaking opportunity as an opportunity; it's not a threat. It never should be you Vs Audience.
9. Try to reduce negative words in your speech.
10. Another important point is slowdown and listen when audience have something to ask.
11. Try to speak with audience in a structured way. Like, you can state the problem, suggest a solution and explain what are the benefits. This often works in normal conversations well. You can also develop your own structure.
12. You can also go with the format - What? So what? Now what? For e.g Assume that you are talking about a problem. The you can use the format - what is the problem? why it is so important? Now what is the solution for that.
13. One important factor in delivering public speech is 'Never lose the audience'

Sajeev

#Musings: This tag contains articles which are notes prepared by me while attending a session, speech or reading a book. Hope that, it will be helpful for you as well.

Reference
1. Stanford School of Business.

Sunday, December 13, 2015

Breakthrough in Nuclear Fusion: Stellarator - An answer?

Wendelstein 7-X - Will this be the future of energy
Fukushima accident was a critical incident in the history of nuclear power. World shocked to see the plight and helplessness of Japanese authorities in this sea side city. Germany turned their back towards nuclear power and started working on other renewable energy sources after the accident. Well, nuclear power is not going to go down without a fight.

During recent turn of events ‘Max Planck Institute’s’ ‘Wendelstein 7-X’ was able to produce Helium Plasma lasted just a tenth of a second and heated up to 1 million degree celsius. Unlike other experimental fusion machines this one doesn’t follow tokamak design. This project - which began 9 years ago - already costed one billion euros. But major breakthroughs are results of extreme hard work and cost. If this results in the creation of stable fusion devices - which of course will take many more years to materialize - will be an answer to world's growing hunger for energy.

Energy produced through fusion process is believed to clean. This process tries to duplicate what really happens in Sun. The plan is to heat hydrogen nuclei (it’s heavier isotope called deuterium) to about 100 million celsius required for fusion to take place like in Sun's interior. The stellarator's plasma was created on Thursday by using a microwave laser (Wendelstein 7-X), a complex combination of magnets and just 10mg of helium.

Hope that scientists will soon be able to come up with stable fusion devices.

Sajeev

References


Saturday, December 12, 2015

Bullet Train and Indian Railway’s investments

It’s an incredible news. I should feel happy about it. But I am not. Unlike many who cheers the possible arrival of bullet trains in ‘Mumbai – Ahmadabad’ route, I am a bit worried. Well, I have my own reasons. I am a big fan of science and technology and feel proud about every advancement of human society. So I should be happy right?

What worries me about the project is its price tag – 98,000 crores. Considering cost and schedule overrun (which is a norm in GoI projects), by the time it completes the cost may over 1.1 Lakh crore. I don’t believe Indian Railway(IR) is investing this much amount of money for laying new tracks or doubling the existing ones in a year. And let me inform you that, we are going to get only 500km track for this mind blowing number. Of course it’s a bullet track.

80% of this project is funded through JICA (Japan International Co-op Agency) for just 1% interest. In addition to that, Japanese are ready to share the technology know-how. This loan is with coming with a 50-year long tenure (there is a moratorium of 15 years as well). Well, this project might be announced during the coming visit of Japanese Prime Minister Mr. Abe to India.

Getting a bullet train is indeed a great thing. But, does Indian Railway have enough funds to expand its normal track network to cater the ever increasing needs for passenger and freight? Does Railways have money to invest in the upgradation of its signal and safety systems? I hope that government will aggressively fund Indian Railway’s not so glamorous projects as well. Hope that this bullet train will not end up as a bullet in the heart of IR’s investment plans.


Sajeev

Friday, December 11, 2015

Clean Shave for Western Ghats

Interesting to see this news while world is making, or atleast acting as making, all efforts to stop climate change in Paris, France.

Wondering what is the news? As per 'Forest Survey of India' through satellite imagery we are losing forest cover very fast.  One district in Karnataka - Shivamogga - alone lost 263 sq.km of forest in last four years to plantations, constructions and God knows what (203 sq.km or 50, 000 acres lost in last two years alone). Dakshina Kannada and Kodagu districts are not far behind. In 'Bangalore Urban', green cover was reduced by 20%. Only bright line in this entire saga for Karnataka is Tumkur district saw an increase in forest cover.

The problem is, whatever we are losing is the lush green forests of Western Ghats and the gain might have been due to Plantations. In satellite imagery plantations may look green, but loss of natural forests can't be replaced by plantations or aquasia trees.

The faster we understand this fact the better it will be.

Sajeev.

Reference


1.The Hindu, print edition - 10th Dec 2015.

Are we putting the money where the mouth is?

It’s not long back we heard about problems faced by girl child and how they were killed even before they born. Even if they born, life is not easy in many parts of our nation. It is believed that, lack of awareness and educational level of society are the main culprits. In many states of India, gender ratio is skewed to such an extent that families started looking for bride from other states.

So, how do we expect our government will act? With extreme urgency right? Well, I can’t completely blame government for inaction. They acted; in fact, they came up with something called ‘Beti Bachao-Beti Padhao’ scheme. Keystones of this scheme is - implementation of ‘Pre-Conception & Pre Natal Diagnostic Techniques (PC & PNDT) Act’ and gender awareness campaign in 100 districts were Child Sex Ratio is very low.

In addition to that, “Sarva Shiksha Abhiyan (SSA) provides for… opening of schools in the neighbourhood to make access easier for girls… additional teachers including women teachers, free textbooks, free uniforms, separate toilets for girls, teachers’ sensitization programmes to promote girls participation, gender-sensitive teaching learning materials… scheme of Kasturba Gandhi Balika Vidyalayas as residential upper primary schools for girls belonging to SC/ST/Minority Communities, BPL families and girls in difficult circumstance”

For girls in secondary schools we have ‘Rashtriya Madyamik Shiksha Abhiyan (RMSA). National Scheme of Incentive to Girls for Secondary Education (NSIGSE), exemption from paying tuition fee in Kendriya Vidyalayas, and 33% reservation for girls in Navodaya Vidyalayas. I don’t know how many deserving candidates made use of these schemes.

Unfortunately, I am concerned about the amount allocated for ‘Beti Bachao-Beti Padhao scheme’, its just 200 crores under 12th five-year plan. Just think about the gravity of issue and then think again about allocated amount. I am not saying that, allocating big amount will increase a program’s efficiency. But it’s too low to have any meaningful impact on 100 crisis districts of India.
I can only hope that government will open its eyes. Otherwise…

Sajeev

Reference


1.       GoI Press Release

Wednesday, December 9, 2015

Fakes are everywhere - PDS, LPG, you name it

It was only the other day I was talking about how PAHAL program helped government in closing more than 3 crore fake/duplicate/inactive accounts. First thought came to my mind while reading that article was, how this much fake accounts were created in the first place. How much money and effort might have spent on giving subsidies to these bogus uses.

Anyway, fakes doesn't stop at LPG accounts. As per the new government press release, based on 2011 census and family size estimates projected over 2015, a study (by National Council of Applied Economic Research (NCAER)) has estimated that, the number of excess ration cards made in five target States (Bihar, Chhattisgarh, Karnataka, Uttar Pradesh, West Bengal) is close to 1.65 crore.

The good news is, state governments and UTs deleted over 1.2 crore fake ration cards from 2012 till now. Highest number of fake cards were deleted by West Bengal (62.43 lakh) followed by Karnataka (52.78 lakh).

In a country where people who committed crimes like rape, murder and forging fake degree certificates are easily getting elected to parliament and assembiles; were public money easily flows in to the pokets of ministers and their cliques some crore fakes entries in LPG and PDS registeres are not a big deal. However, this is not the situation any one of us wants.

Government's new plan to link everything with Aadhar and more computerization in storage, transportation and delivery will definitely help to weed out the fakes. But I wonder how many fakes are already entered in to our Aadhar system!!!

Sajeev

Reference

1. GoI Press Release

Dumping food grain in Massive quantities? Its Criminal

Punjab Agro Food grains Corporation (PAFC) and Markfed floated tenders for auctioning 1.93 lakh tonnes of food grain (whose market value - if it was fit for consumption - is around 294 crore) which is not fit for human consumption. These food grains are procured between 2010-11 to 2012-13 years.

These food grains are rotten due to its unscientific storage and delay in distribution. Just imagine how much food is wasted in a country where millions of hungry stomachs go to bed every day. Do these people, who are responsible - for procurement, storage, distribution (and of course works for government) - ever heard about starvations deaths in various parts of our country? In 2013 alone a single tribal village in Attapady (Palakkad, Kerala) lost 51 kids due to malnourishment. Did they ever heard about kids born (and many died)  because their mothers - when they were pregnant - were not fed enough? Did they ever know that many parts of our country is getting compared with Sub-Saharan Africa?

In MP alone [kids under 5 years] 40% of children were stunted and 60% were underweight; In Rajasthan the numbers are 24% and 44% respectively [NFHS 3].

Problems in storage are nothing new. We are facing this complication for a very long time. Same thing goes with dumping food grains. This is also happening here for a very long time. At one part of the country people are dying because of starvation and we are dumping food grains in oceans.

Even distributing freely, this much food would have helped thousands of people to sleep without huger atleast for a day.

This situation is not due to any financial problems faced by our central or state governments; but it's happening due the fact that, we don't care much about what happens to our agriculture produce. We don't care about people who are living in areas where noisy television channels don't go. We don't care because these deaths hardly matters to us - nothing more than a statistical entity in some reports.

When will this change? Or will this ever change?

Sajeev

PS:

As per 'World Food Program's' reports,

1. Some 795 million people in the world do not have enough food to lead a healthy active life. That's about one in nine people on earth.
2. The vast majority of the world's hungry people live in developing countries, where 12.9 percent of the population is undernourished.
3. Asia is the continent with the most hungry people - two thirds of the total. The percentage in southern Asia has fallen in recent years but in western Asia it has increased slightly.
4. Sub-Saharan Africa is the region with the highest prevalence (percentage of population) of hunger. One person in four there is undernourished.
5. Poor nutrition causes nearly half (45%) of deaths in children under five - 3.1 million children each year.
6. One out of six children -- roughly 100 million -- in developing countries is underweight.
7. One in four of the world's children are stunted. In developing countries the proportion can rise to one in three.
8. If women farmers had the same access to resources as men, the number of hungry in the world could be reduced by up to 150 million.


References

4.Hunger Statistics- World Food Program

Monday, December 7, 2015

The Ivory Throne - The Matrilineal Society of Kerala

I always wondered how my state – Kerala –  was matrilineal and then switched to patrilineal. Review of book – ‘The Ivory Throne – Chronicles of the house of Travancore’ - on Caravan magazine by ‘Manu Pillai’ did answer a lot of questions I earlier had on this subject. However, I admit that the reason provided for why Kerala society was matrilineal earlier is not answered quite satisfactory.

Some excerpts from the book review (pasted verbatim),

“Scholar K. Saradamoni points out…Nair women always had the security of the homes they were born in throughout their lives and were not dependent on their husbands”

“Sexual freedom was also remarkable so that while polygamy was happily recognised in other parts of India, in Kerala women were allowed polyandry. Nair women could, if they wished, entertain more than one husband and, in the event of difficulties, were free to divorce without any social stigma”

“The marriage… was simply called sambandham, or relationship... terminable at will.”

“The bond between brother and sister was considered more sacrosanct than that between husband and wife.”

“Every Maharajah, in other words, had a Brahmin for a grandfather and a Nair for a grandson, both of whom were commoners; the Nair’s father, grandfather and great-grandfather came from different rungs of the social hierarchy”

“The procedure to enter into a sambandham was rather easy and simply involved the man handing the woman a piece of cloth before an oil lamp”

“This late [Cochin]Rajah’s wife already had a daughter from a previous husband, (indicating that even princes married widows or divorcees) and this girl, even at the highest social station in the court of Cochin, could keep two men at the same time. Similarly, the author C.V. Raman Pillai wedded his late wife’s sister, for whom it was the fourth marriage in a line that included two dead husbands and one divorce.”

“Traditional Kerala society never frowned at all this for the simple reason that such sexual relations were not taboo. It was customary and made perfect sense within the historical and economic context of the land. But what did happen by the nineteenth century was the impact of Christian missionaries with their prudish Victorian notions of decency and morality, aided by the colonial enterprise to “civilise” India.”

“This was also the time when Nair men were out studying at the new English colleges and schools, exposed to these foreign opinions...”

“Hitherto local practices affected no Malayali as odd. But now he had to face derogatory comments about their repulsive “backwardness”. “And it became worse,” Saradamoni tells us, “when sambandham was equated to concubinage and the women to mistresses and the children called bastards.”

“In 1912, Travancore gave its first boost to nuclear families, modelled on the patriarchal style … allowed men to bequeath part of their self-acquired property or money to wives and children instead of the taravad, or matrilineal joint family”

“By 1923 the call was final: matriliny should be abolished and individual partition was to be the weapon of choice.”

“between 1897 and 1907 alone an average of 487 suits were brought to court by nephews against the managing senior uncles of their taravads”

“in April 1925 the Legislative Council passed a bill terminating matriliny, permitting partition of property, “legalising” all sambandhams, and essentially inaugurating the age of the patriarchal family in Travancore”

“It was sent to the Maharani for her assent and on 13 April she signed the historic Nair Regulation of 1925, giving matrilineal kinship the unique distinction of being the only system of inheritance and family in the world to be abolished by law.”

“Similar Acts were passed for the Ezhava and Vellala communities also, sections of which were matrilineal. The Government of Madras would follow her lead in 1933 and do the same in Malabar, while Cochin would issue corresponding orders by 1938.”

I believe this is a good book to read on this subject.

Sajeev

Reference

1. What Led to the End of Kerala’s Matrilineal Society? – The Caravan Magazine

PAHAL Scheme in ‘Guinness Book of World Records’

Launched in 2014 November, this government program aims to sell LPG cylinders at market rate to households and then subsidy will be deposited back to their bank accounts. As of Oct 3, 2015, 14.62 crore households are members in this scheme.

Early avatar of PAHAL was launched by previous government under a different name. Unfortunately, they had to drop it later as its implementation was proved to be a disaster. Under its current implementation – the largest cash transfer scheme in the world – PAHAL helped the government a lot.  After all, this drive enabled GoI to identify and close around 3.34 crore fake/duplicate/inactive accounts. Blocking these accounts itself resulted in a savings of 14, 672 crore a year.

Hope that the government will display same efficiency while implementing other schemes as well.

Reference

1. GoI Press Release 

Sunday, November 8, 2015

Twisted World Of News Reporting

One answer I often get from people in between arguments is 'check it in Google'. It sounds like whatever displayed in google (for that matter any other search engine) is correct. This is very far from reality. Truth and facts are not the factors based on which search engines display results.


I was watching TimesNow in the morning. Initially when BJP was leading by 25 seats they told, they are the only channel who got it right. Two hours later, when the lead was reversed, then also they told they are the only channel who got it right.


Just now watching Russia Today, its a state sponsored channel. Good one to hear the alternate view points from Russian side. Now a days RT and CCTV have good coverage too.


Interestingly RT news anchor in a talk with 'Foreign Policy' magazine's chief compared killings in Syria with that of shooting of AfricanAmerican's in US. Ironic, isn't it?
Media no longer serves news. What it give is its opinions. For getting original news you need to work out your brain.


Sajeev.

Tuesday, November 3, 2015

Pragati Meetings finally waking up India's notoriously dysfunctional bureaucracy

Dedicated Freight Corridor
Good to see that, projects stuck on red tape started moving from there due to direct intervention by Prime minister through Pragati Meetings. Pragati meeting (usually held on fourth Wednesday of each month) generally involves officials from finance, law, land, environment, transport and energy ministries, as their approvals are required for any projects to go ahead. According to reports, PM's intervention helped to clear projects worth nearly 60bn since March.

If we focus more on execution part of projects, rather than fighting never ending ideological battles,  getting in to first 50 of World Bank's 'Ease of Doing Business' by 2017 may be feasible. To reach there we still need to climb 80 positions. Hope that we will make it.

Sajeev.

References
1. Once a month, Modi steps in to revive stalled projects - BS

Photo Courtesy: http://www.dfccil.gov.in/


Sunday, October 25, 2015

Supreme Court: Finally Touching the Untouchable

It is interesting that, probably one of the most famous litigators of Independent India is a 62 year old Muslim women, mother of 5, from Indore. Her maintenance law suit (Mohammed Ahmed Khan Vs Shah Bano Begum (1985 SCR (3) 844)) opened a Pandora ’s Box, which till then Indian leaders where trying to hide under carpet.

Shah Bano Begum was divorced by her husband in 1978. Subsequently, she filed and won (right to alimony from her husband) a criminal suit in Supreme Court of India. Under fire from fundamentalists, parliament sided with them and went out of its way to beat this poor women. Thus passed 'Muslim Women (Protection of Rights on Divorce) Act, 1986' to dilute the judgement. Poor Shah Bano, she may never expected that she would win the case in court and lose it to Parliament of India.

However, in later judgements (Daniel Latifi case; Shamima Farooqui Vs Shahid Khan case) Supreme Court interpreted the act in such way that, it was helpful for destitute Muslim divorcées who were denied alimony from their former husbands.

Current SC

30 years after SC ruling on Shah Bano case; in which court asked government to frame universal civil code; two judge bench of SC has ‘Suo Moto’ ordered the registration of PIL (Public Interest Litigation) to consider gender discrimination suffered by Muslim women due to arbitrary divorce and second marriage of their husband when the first marriage is in force.

The question is, should the law consider this gender discrimination faced by Muslim Women as the violation of Article 14 (Equality before law), Article 15 (Prohibition of discrimination on grounds of religion, race, caste, sex or place of birth) and Article 21(Protection of life and personal liberty) of Indian constitution and other international covenants.

What is Uniform Civil Code?

Before going further let’s take a look at Uniform Civil Code. This is a proposal to replace existing personal laws based on scriptures and customs of various religions with a set of common rules applicable to every Indian. These laws cover Marriage, Divorce, Inheritance, Adoption and Maintenance. Currently because of the flaws in debate across the country, this suggestion looks more like something targeted against Muslims. But this outlook is not current.

The main idea of Uniform Civil Code is bring in same set of law for everyone in the land. However it is true that, main beneficiaries of this law may be Indian Muslim women. Even under considerable opposition government some way passed Hindu Code Bill in 1956. This one and various acts like (Hindu Widows Act, Commission of Sati (Prevention) Act (1987), Dowry Prohibition Act (1961) ) etc bought in considerable equality for Hindu Women under the law.

Currently only Goa have common civil code.

Politics behind the Code

Flawed debates across the country made Uniform Civil Code look like a draconian law targeted against Muslims. Fundamentalists are adding more fuel to the fire without recognising the importance of this law. Uniform code is much more than a simple law.  Unfortunately, fearing the backlash politicians may never dare to implement it.

About Future

Hope that we will all live to see a day when all matters related to law – no matter whether it is personal, civil or criminal – will be under a common law. If Supreme Court can bring in this one, then it will be one of the greatest service to the nation.

Sajeev

Saturday, October 24, 2015

National Perspective Plan – Came late, but finally came

Sagarmala Initiative - A new era for Indian Shipping
Having lengthy coastal belt is a blessing by nature. Many landlocked countries across the globe are desperate to get a connection to sea ports and global waterways. Major cities located on sea shores made full use of its access to maritime commons and became hub of industrial activities. Look at Singapore a county which may not reach its current form if it was not located in such a strategic location.

For long time, we ignored the industrial importance of coastal area and coastal shipping; even though 3 out of 4 of our metros are located in sea shores.

Probably National Perspective Plan (NPP) set to launch by Jan next year will open a new chapter. As per the policy potential geographical zones called Coastal Economic Zones (CEZ) will be identified and developed. These economic zones will be around a group of major or minor ports. Zone can extend 300-500 KM in coast and 200-300KM inland. As of now 14 CEZ are identified.

An important point in this plan is its integration with Dedicated Freight Corridor, National Highways, SEZss and other industrial areas (Sagarmala Initiative).

Hope that, it will be good start for the coastal areas, whose potential we ignored for a very long time. Global Maritime Commons are the primary nerves of global trading system. A direct connection with it will quickly improve the industrial activity and generate more jobs and development.

Sajeev.

Sagarmala Initiative: Sagarmala project is to promote port-led direct and indirect development and to provide infrastructure to transport goods to and from ports quickly, efficiently and cost-effectively. This focus on, (a) Supporting and enabling Port-led Development through policy and institutional interventions (b) Port Infrastructure Enhancement, including modernization and setting up of new ports, and (iii) Efficient Evacuation to and from hinterland.

Sagarmala Initiative – PMO

Eurospirit - Off Mumbai Coast

Supreme Court: Make Selection Process Transparent

Presently courts are one of the most respected institutions in India. This has more to do with tarnished images of executive and legislature than with the efficiency of courts itself. Needless to say Indian courts are extremely slow and a business with it burns common man’s pocket. However, as the last respite Indian courts are doing a wonderful job.

Ever since Supreme Court of India declared 99th constitutional amendment and NJAC act as unconstitutional (4-1 majority judgement), one question that frequently disturbs us is – who will oversee the keepers of Indian constitution. The present collegium system of appointing judges - which Supreme Court for itself - is a big black hole. No one knows what is going on there and what criteria they follow.

Supreme Court may fend off current demand for abolishing collegium. By the way ‘National Judicial Appointment Committee Act’ and 99th amendment was passed by both houses of parliament and 20 of Indian state legislatures. President of India also gave his assent to 99th amendment.

I still don’t understand the problem with SC regarding this amendment and bill. Proposed NJAC Commission will consist of 6 member panel (Chief Justice of India, 2 of most senior judges in SC, Law Minister and 2 eminent people). These two eminent people will be selected by a committee composed of CJI, Leader Of Opposition and Prime Minister. This structure doesn’t allow executive to impose their will over selection of judges.

If SC thinks this laws is against constitution, then there isn’t much option left in front of government. But one thing the court has to understand is collegium system - introduced by SC through verdicts of 1993, 1998 – should go. People have the right to know the selection process in SC and other higher courts of the land.

Sajeev

Tuesday, October 20, 2015

The Candle Light Economy

There was a time when candle light dinners carried a premium among hotels in Bangalore. Now these hoteliers are the most worried folks as power cut (also known by its glorified name - load shedding) is back in Bangalore with a bang. These power cuts enable the families to have candle light dinner every day!!!

Electricity boards says water level is much lower than expected in Karnataka’s reservoirs; thermal power plants are shut down for annual maintenance (or due to some technical issues). If our love for environment is progressing in this rate, then there will never be enough water in reservoirs. If we are looking forward for constructing new thermal power plants then higher pollution level will make sure that we won’t live much longer to complain about electricity shortages. In both ways Bangalore is doomed, unless we are trying to fix the root cause.

Sajeev

Sunday, October 18, 2015

Murudeshwar

Shiva statue and Gopuram from a distance
When I and Jithu started our night long journey to Mookambika, rain was slowly washing down the dust from Bangalore’s heavily polluted air. In bus, we kept on talking about all things under sun for next couple of hours. After all, when two people who know each other for some time is confined to a compartment the easiest thing to do is talking. Slowly we said good bye to Bangalore city. Our bus was supposed to reach Mookambika by 6.30 in the morning. However bus reached only at 8.30 in the morning.

Gopuram - Close view

We spent that day in Mookambika itself. We means, me, Jithu and Jithu’s parents. By the way, they came from Palakkad in a train. Forget to tell you something about Jithu. Just like air and water are essential for our day to day life; train is important for Jithu. If there is a way, he use only train!!! Unfortunately there was no direct train to Mookambika and hence he was forced to use bus. I never saw a person who is so much addicted to Indian Railways.

Next day (Saturday) we decided to go for Murudeshwar. Unfortunately, it was on that day, farmers and their unions declared bandh to add more fire to already heated Karnataka – Tamil Nadu water sharing agreement. If you want to understand the value of water, you just need to follow Kaveri dispute. It is also a ready ready-reckoner for the possible intra-state crisis on water sharing in the future.

Even though we thought of starting in the morning, some way it become noon. Contrary to expectations bandh was not much effective on coastal districts. Still, there was less number of vehicles on the road. Close to 12.30 we got a bus going to Bindoor. In between an auto driver approached us and offered a ride to Murudeshwar (located 60km from Mookambika) for 400 INR or so.

We boarded the bus and quickly we reached Bindoor. Here road from Mookambika join Edapally- Panvel National Highway No 17. We got down here and boarded a cab to Bhatkal (30 INR). From Bhatkal we boarded another tempo traveler (17 INR) going to Murudeshwar. This vehicle stopped every now and then making it one of the most boring stretch in the journey.

People taking their boats to sea. Statue is surrounded by Arabian sea on three sides
Finally we reached Murudeshwar. After having lunch from nearby hotel, we went to see Murudeshwar Shiva statue.

Located on Arabian coast of Bhatkal taluk (Uttara Kannada district of Karnataka), Murudeshwar has the second highest Shiva statue (123ft) in the world (highest one is ‘Kailashnath Mahadev’ in Nepal with a height of 144ft). There is a 20 storey gopura in front of the statue (with lift facilities) from where we can see Shiva statue with blue waters of Arabian Sea sparkling in the background.
A Shani (Saturn) temple is located next to Shiva statue. Here I visited a Saturn temple for the first time.

Shiva - A close view
Story behind Murudeshwar Temple (courtesy – Wikipedia)

“Ravana wanted to attain immortality by obtaining the Atma-Linga (Soul of Shiva). For this Ravana started worshipping Shiva with devotion. Pleased by his prayers, Lord Shiva appeared before him and asked him what he wanted. Ravana asked for the Atma-Linga. Lord Shiva agreed to give him the boon on the condition that, it should never be placed on the ground before he reaches Lanka. If the Atma-Linga was ever placed on the ground, it would be impossible to move it. Having obtained his boon, Ravana started back on his journey to Lanka.

Narada, who came to know of this incident, realised that with the Atma-Linga, Ravana may obtain immortality and wreak havoc on earth. He approached Lord Ganesh and requested him to prevent the Atma-Linga from reaching Lanka. Lord Ganesh knew that Ravana was a very devoted person who performed prayer rituals every evening without fail. He decided to make use of this fact and came up with a plan to confiscate the Atma-Linga from Ravana.

As Ravana was nearing Gokarna, Lord Vishnu blotted out the sun to give the appearance of dusk.
Ravana now had to perform his evening rituals but was worried because with the Atma-Linga in his hands, he would not be able to do his rituals. At this time, Lord Ganesh in the disguise of a Brahmin boy accosted him. Ravana requested him to hold the Atma-Linga until he performed his rituals, and asked him not to place it on the ground. Ganesh struck a deal with him saying that he would call Ravana thrice, and if Ravana did not return within that time, he would place the Atma-Linga on the ground.

Ravana returned to find that Ganesh had already placed the Atma-Linga on the ground. Vishnu then removed his illusion and it was daylight again. Ravana, realising that he had been tricked, tried to uproot and destroy the linga. Due to the force exerted by Ravana, some pieces were scattered. One such piece from the head of the linga is said to have fallen in present-day Surathkal (Sadashiva temple is said to be built around that piece). Case covering is believed to fell at Sajjeshwar; lid of the case at Guneshwar and Dhareshwar and the cloth covering the Atma-Linga at Mrideshwar (which later has been renamed as Murudeshwar).

After visiting Shiva Statue and Shani Temple, we went to Murudeshwar Railway station (Konkon Railway) to catch a train back to Bindoor. From Bindoor (Mookambika Road Station) we boarded a bus back to Mookambika.

After having a very big Cheese Paper Masala Dosa at Adiga’s (near to Mookambika Bus stand) we went back to Dharmapeedam guest house for spending the night.

PS: One interesting happened at Murudeshwar was; we met a teacher who taught Physics to Jithu back in his under graduation days at Victoria College, Palakkad. It was a surprise for both of them. She was very happy to see her old student after a very long time at an Arabian shore.

Sajeev

Me sitting in the tracks




Me, in front of Gopuram



Jithu, on the way back to Mookambika temple

Konkan railway's innovative service.
A big clock at Murudeshwar Railway station

Thursday, October 8, 2015

Russians are back in Middle East

Russian’s are the latest ones to jump in to the great Syrian battlefield which is already heavily populated by foreign fighters, foreign money and foreign arms. One thing is sure about this civil war, whichever side wins, Syria will definitely get a dark age lasting at least for a decade. Her infrastructure housing, factories, roads, airports etc. are already in shambles; her intelligentsia is fleeing the country.

Timing is very much crucial here.

Assad is currently facing major reversals in battle; Iran is back in the game with money in hand (after US and allies removed sanctions in selling oil). After the misfortunes faced by militia allegedly backed by Iran in Yemen, they need to open another front against Saudi led alliance; Pushed into a corner in Ukraine and significant fall in oil prices, Russians badly need to open another channel to divert attention and to remain in great Middle East game. For Russia, Syria is not mere an alley but also a place where they hold a good strategic foothold. For Assad this civil war is a matter of life and death.

On the other side, hands of Western powers are tied after the world saw the brutality and success of Islamic State (IS). Britain and France might not take the risk of creating another Libya, where no one is in control. Even though Turkey backs the so called moderate rebels, they can’t digest the fact that fall of current Syrian dispensation headed by Assad will also create a free Kurd country which extends from Iraq to Turkey’s borders. Although Saudi and other GCC countries spent billions on shopping defence gears, they don’t have the will to engage in a ground offensive. Last but not the least, pride of the pack – US – is going to face a presidential election. After watching thousands of dead bodies flying back home from the battle fields of Afghan and Iraq, US citizens are not in any mood to start another bloody battle.

So Russia’s timing is excellent. One thing to see is, whether it will make them or an alliance with Iran, Syria, Lebanon and Iraq will pull Putin to the quick sand from where he won’t be able to get out gracefully.

Sajeev.

Wednesday, October 7, 2015

Telangana: Demand for forgiving agricultural loans… again!!!

Politics often defy common logic. After all politicians care more about buying hearts (or votes) than earning it. On last Monday, close to 30 legislators were suspended from Telangana assembly for their continuing protests to get a firm commitment from Telangana government for one time loan settlement for farmers. By the way, they announced a state wide bandh on Oct 10.

I know farmers are facing a lot of challenges and many of them are committing suicides because of economic hardships. But is writing off the farm loan every time is the right way to solve things? Most often, along with farm loans many other loans also get disappeared from the books. For capital crisis in agriculture we need to find a solution, not to apply some quick fixes.

I am sure that, if government and our agricultural research centres are not helping Indian farmers to compete with high productivity of Chinese, European and American farmers; if there is not enough cold storage to store their  perishable farm products; if we are not building good distribution networks; if the farmers are not able to bring modern farming methodologies to their field; if they are completely depends on monsoon; if poor farmers have no access to banking channels and depends on loan sharks for capital, our problems are not going to disappear.

Writing off loans is not a solution; it’s a new problem on its own.

Sajeev

Dadri Lynching: Modern UP or Medieval UP?

We often claims that, we are living in a modern society; we demand permanent seat in UN because we are the second most populous nation in the world and are upholding democratic values; we often criticise China for not being a democracy; we criticise Pakistan for its state sponsorship of terrorism; we claims that education will take us from stone age to modern world; our political parties set candidates on seats based on which caste they belongs to; the list is long. But what we really are?

When I look at the incident of public lynching of Mohammed Akhlaq at Dadri in UP; I can't hold myself from asking this basic question. Who we really are? I can't believe that people are ready to kill a person because he allegedly consumed cow meat. What more, in so called modern India, these rumours are enough to create a communal riot and subsequent death of so many individuals.

Where was this anger when so many innocent girls were raped privately and publically in the streets of UP and Bihar (for that matter in many other states as well)? Where is this social anger when system drinks all public welfare funds? Where this anger when public services are way below the standards? Where is this anger when your dear ones don’t get bed when you reach hospital? Where is this anger when your kid is not able to receive education because there is no school, teacher etc?

First think about these questions before killing someone based on some rumours. Is human life so cheap?

Sajeev

Great news from Atlanta – TTP is going to change the rules of trade

While Europe was busy about migrants; West Asia was busy about IS and India was busy in Bihar elections (and associated drama), history was in making in Atlanta. The historic deal of TTP (Trans Pacific Partnership Agreement) came to its formal shape in this busy town. Of course it has to be ratified by participating nations.

You may be wondering how this deal is going to make history? I would rather say, this is not only going to make history but will also change the economic future of Pacific Rim nations. Let’s look at some facts related to this deal.

TTP countries (Brunei, Chile, Singapore, New Zealand, Australia, Canada, Japan, Malaysia, Mexico, Peru, the United States, and Vietnam) produces 40% of global economic output. This deal is going to affect farmers, manufactures, drug makers, auto companies etc. in one way or other. US President Barak Obama, who invested a lot of time and energy for this cooperation says, “This partnership levels the playing field for our farmers, ranchers, and manufacturers by eliminating more than 18,000 taxes that various countries put on our products”

Interesting fact is China is not part of this deal. After all US don’t want to get China on its way, while getting back on the foot in terms of economic recovery. This deal already have powerful opponents.  However, I am for it. Once implemented this deal is definitely going to change the face of trade among participant nations.

Sajeev

Tuesday, October 6, 2015

A Shot From The Street

Light piercing the darkness
All of us are coming to this world with an expiry date.
Wish all the footpaths in Bangalore are like this; wish if there were no potholes in other footpaths as well.

Super Cop On The Road


Super cop on the road; along with stray dogs wandering cows are now becoming the new normal in Bangalore roads.

Thursday, September 24, 2015

An IIT and can of worms

Now-a-days it’s more about presenting non-issues as core issues. What more, these issues are projected across the political spectrum as if the life of an entire civilization is depend on the outcome on this one problem. Often we are helpless to do anything to stop it or driving the debate in right direction.

Most often major problems faced by the society are ugly and solutions for them might not be popular. If I can borrow Brian Tracy’s words – we often fail to eat the uglier frog first. So what we do? We take something on the peripheries, twist some facts here and there to make it as the central theme and divert the attention.

The question here is about setting up an IIT in Karnataka. Central government allocated an IIT to Karnataka; Dharwad, Mysore and Raichur was in race for that. After studies Dharwad was chosen. So far fine - Karnataka wanted and IIT and it got one. Unfortunately the selection of Raichur opened a can of worms. Politicians (not limited to them) from Raichur wanted an IIT there and started agitations for the same. Matter went to a different level when Chief Minister also put his weight behind Raichur and sent a letter to Union Government.

Anyone following the agitation will feel like the route cause for all problems in Raichur is the absence of an IIT. In other words, setting up an IIT there will resolve all problems and place Raichur in a high growth path. To an extent, I agree, may be an IIT will act as a motivation for local students to take the studies to next level. But, I don’t think an IIT is going to make any radical difference to Raichur’s landscape. Instead of siding with one group and publically sending recommendations, chief minister should sit and think what he can do to make Raichur an industrial hub.

Dharwad was selected by the committee after considering all facts and Karnataka Government should go with Dharwad and give a closure to this issue.

Sajeev.