Saturday, March 27, 2010

Why US fears to givng an independent access to India, in the case of Headley?

Mumbai is in India or in US?

You may be wondering about why I am asking this question? Before beginning let me clear the staus of Mumbai. Mumbai is the biggest city in India, this metro- which is also known as the financial capital of India is also the capital of Indian state Maharashtra.

But recent activities of US government, regarding to the questioning and extradition of David Headley, will force everyone to think that Mumbai is situated somewhere in US. Not only that, we may even wonder whether the blood bath of November 26 by Pakistan based terrorists, which claimed more than 160 lives is happened in India or in US. Otherwise how can you interpret the US denial of Indian request for an independent access to David Headley -  one of the main accused in the November 26th Mumbai attacks.

Out of the more than 160 people died only 6 are US citizens; the place of terrorist attack is in India, the properties like Mumbai CST railway station, Taj hotel etc are either owned by Indian government or belong to Indian citizens. Above all India didn’t outsource her justice system to any other country. Even if Indian courts took much time to deliver the verdict, not even the rivals of the nation can accuse partiality or irregularity in Indian court proceedings.

Then why United States is so determined that they will not extradite or provide independent access to Headley? Why they are not allowing Indian officials to question him? The answer to these questions leading us to many other non digestive facts about Headley. Many analysts questions the past of Headley and accuse him as a double, triple and even quadruple agent; who worked for different US agencies as well as Pakistan bound terrorist organizations. It is believed that these US federal agencies used him to penetrate Pakistani terrorist organizations and give valuable data to his handlers. But later he turned out to be a double agent.

In the absence of a justifiable reason for the denial of an independent access and extradition of Headley - How they can justify it at all? The act is equivalent to dening justice to hundreds of Indian's and other foreign nationals died in the attack -  it is quite natural that people of India starts to believe these facts and stories.

It will be good for US to turn some pages back in history and how they acted in such situation. Recently in the case of Baradar's arrest by Pakistan authorities ISI was first reluctant to give an independent access. But US forced them and finally attained what they want. In fact if you want to know what happened, you should have an independent access to the accused. Otherwise there will be a person who will decide what to ask and what not to ask.

Headley’s guilty plea before the court and suggested stories about his bargain treaty with FBI almost shut down the door of many facts related to Mumbai attacks. The current statements of various US officials made it clear that India (which is the main victim of terrorist attacks in the past and lost thousands of people over the years) will not get a direct access to Headley. It is natural to suspect that US will follow the same procedure in the case of Rana - another accused in the case. But still we should do all the possible steps to get an independent access and extradition of both Headly and Rana.

It is an established fact that both Headly and Rana came to Indian several times and surveyed the places for a potential target. It is also possible that they may be aware about the currently active sleeper cells of LeT in India. The knowledge of it may help to prevent many other deadly attacks – which may save hundreds of lives. Also the fresh evidences that may arise after the interrogation may force Pakistan to do something against the Indian looking terrorists. After all many foreign nations too lost theirc citiziens, and it is natural to expect taht these nations will force Pakistan to act against terrorists targetting India.

In this situation what we can do? It very sad that after the U turn in the Indo - US relations which started in the last days of Clinton administration and reached an all time high under George Bush is again taking a U turn moving in the downward direction with much greater speed. Whether it is in the case of Afganisatn, Pakistan, climate change or Headley we are in the opposite directions.

This may force many Indians to become more suspicious about the US policies towards counter-terrorism and Pakistan.Instead of silently accepting this humiliation we should protest. India have the full right to get an independent accesss and get these people extradicted. Premier Dr.Manmohan Singh have to think twice - whether to attend or not – in the coming Nuclear summit in Washington. If there is no improvement then it may not be a bad idea to send some other ministers to US for attending the conference.


Wednesday, March 17, 2010

The saga and the threat of Unmanned Aerial Vehicles (UAV)

The frequent strike of Drones in the Af- Pak tribal belt of South Asia is now-a-days not rare news at all. Drones are striking in this high density terrorist area on every now and then; and become a major threat to terrorist. As the earlier strikes were not fully depend upon the correct intelligence inputs, a lot of civilians are also died. But now a day the correct intelligence input reduced the damage to civilians and become a deadly weapon against terrorists.

The main advantage associated with these Drown strike is that it is(can be) comparatively cheap and will not result in any manual loss for the attacking forces. These vehicles are fully controlled and deployed by people sitting in the remote areas using their satellites and computers. Recently Pentagon decided to train more UAV pilots than that of the fighter pilots!!!

Many countries around the world are going ahead to build their own UAV's. In 2005 terrorist organization Hizbolla send a UAV to Israel towns which carry a camera. Even if it didn’t carry any weapons, the success of it was enough to create panic in the intelligence circles. The low flying, UAV which have a cool battery powered engine can escape from missiles, which are generally tracking the heat waves.

The irony is that the UAV which big farmers use for spraying pesticides in their lands can be used for carrying bombs and other weapons to big distances. Think about the situation when these UAV's are falling to the hands of terrorists. Destroying UAV's are also a costly business; its said that Patriot missiles can effectively destroy UAV's but the cost is $3mn/missile. Terrorists can build a dozen of UAV's on that cost.

Many countries are very rapidly advancing in this sector. If things are going in this way the future fighter planes will be unmanned only. UAV pilots will control the vehicle from the safe locations, using the advance satellite data and intelligence inputs. Moreover the cost will be low and no human losses to the attackers.

In this situation we have to develop our strategy for countering this new phenomenon. We have to accelerate the research on this field, and have to allocate more funds. Not only in building UAV's but at the same time destroying the UAV's which are targeting our nation. It’s possible that we may find a wave of UAV attacks in Kashmir and other border states in another 5-6 years, so have to focus on the low cost missiles to destroy
the UAV's too.

The defence ministry should not allow these critical projects to go in the way of Gorshgov, Scorpene and many other deals; where the cost and time escalation put a question in the projects success itself. As Hizbollah already succeed in achieving UAV, we can calculate how much time it will take for LeT and other terrorist organizations which are particularly focusing India to get these things.


BSNL In Air India's way

If you go to the business books section of any book stall, it’s almost certain that you can saw books like Toyota’s way, Google's way etc. These books are all about how Toyota invented new methodologies and how they achieved global scale and become market leaders. We too have many success stories like that - Relience, Pathaloon, Tata Steel, Indian railways etc.

But some months back we also heared about Air India's story, 'Maharaja' is still fighting his last battle for survival. A company which had a monopoly in Indian skies for more than four decade can not operate if government refuses to bail them out. Now the latest in this series (the so called Air India's way) is another government behemoth BSNL- yes our own Bharat Sanchar Nigam Ltd. Markets accepted the fact - the world's most competitive mobile market (Chinese mobile market is bigger than that of India's but in terms of dog fight competition no one can beat Indian market) - BSNL is no more in the choice list of mobile customers.

If you go to any shop in bangalore and ask for a BSNL mobile connection, you will be surprised to hear that most of them dont have even a single BSNL sim.None of my friends in Bangalore have a BSNL connection. They have Vodafone, Tata DOCOMO, Airtel, Tata Indicom, Virgin etc but not BSNL. In Kerala situations some what better due to some of their good plans. But still in the land line front people have to wait quite a long time. This company, which was once the face of Indian telecommunication, will slowly go to oblivion if we are not ready to do something.

Look at the performance of BSNL in last few years. The company made a profit of 10,183.29 crore in 2004-05, profit reduced to 8939.69 crore in 2005-06, then to 7805.87 crore in 2006-07 and more than halved to 3009.39 crore in 2007-08, and a disastrous reduction to mere 574.85crore in 2008-09.

BSNL's recent history says that in the last two years they neither expanded their mobile Network, nor awarded new contracts for mobile network and equipments .At the same time the competitors - whether it is Airtel, Vodafone, Relience or Tata - expanding their network in lightning speed. From nowhere in 1995 to 2000, these companies reached almost every corner of India by 2010. If you went to any village in south India, its may not necessary that you may find good roads,but network will be there and you can even recharge you prepaid sim. The sad thing is that even if BSNL have pan India presence, operating from Kanyakumari to Kashmir and Gujrat to Arunachal, they are unable to transform that position to a leading mobile operator - which is the requirement of time!!!

After forming the BSNL in 2000 - following the split of Postal, telegraph and telecommunications department - BSNL achieved the second position in Mobile sector just in six months, second only to the market leader Bharti Airtel. Later it lost the momentum and witnessed landslide erosion in market share and slipped to fourth position.

The erosion in market share is mainly due to the stagnation in the expansion of network as well as the inability
to fight with the popular mobile plans of competitors. BSNL tenders like any other government tenders taking long time for approval, after approval it will ran in to controversies. Sometime someone in the top will add some impossible clauses to it or politicians and beaurocrats will decides something else, or the company which didn’t got the contract will take BSNL to court.

The end result will be a huge delay in expansion of network as well as the customer dissatisfaction. As BSNL is a government company anyone can take BSNL to court - and due to 'fast processing' of cases in Indian courts and 'quick decisions' taken by officials company will lose the precious time. It can only watch Airtel and other new players eating out their market share.

In 2006 BSNL floated a tender for 63mn lines, but Motorola - who failed to make it, questioned the selection procedure and took BSNL to court. Last year company floated another tender for 93mn lines this time 'Nokia Siemens Network' took them to court.

The only way to save BSNL is to allow them to operate in a professional manner. Anyway government made BSNL a company; then allow it to operate just like any other private mobile company. No need for any interference from ministry or politicians. Make the tendering and awarding of contracts faster. If Airtel want to expand their network they will simply call their preferred company and award the contract. BSNL's decision to award the contract to the lowest bidder is not all a professional decision. Cheaper doesn’t mean better, it may but not necessary quality comes at a price. Even after the so much dog fight in Indian telecom
market players are still not able to deliver highly qualified service.

Accept the new mobile number portability law as a chance to penetrate the market. They have to offer good packages and quality services to customers. The long delays in providing the connection, whether its broadband or new telephone will only make the customers to move away- remember that old days are gone.

If BSNL failed to accept the facts and make a turnaround, they will lose the game to private sector. It took government a long time to decide whether or not to bail out Air India. In the case of BSNL it may be even difficult as finance ministry may not like the hole in budget to become bigger.


Tuesday, March 9, 2010

Reservation for women; Are we on the right track?

Finally the women reservation bill was passed by Rajya Sabha. The interesting and ironic fact is - it took 14 years for the bill to reach there. In this marathon journey women reservation bill met with stiff resistance from many parties and groups in and out of parliament. The argument for quota with in the quota, separate quota for SC, ST, OBC, minorities etc stalled the progress of its journey for a long time. It may be marked as success for the women of India. According to the bill 33% of seats will be reserved for women.

But the main question remains. Are we in the right direction? There is no doubt that the problems faced by women have be solved, they should get equal opportunities in governance and in life. After all it’s absolutely wrong to block the legitimate claim of ‘half the population’ to the highest power centers of the nation. But root question is –it this the correct way?

If we are giving 33% reservation to women, along with the already the existing reservations to numerous other groups, the seats available in the general category will come down dramatically. Remember that all the eligible citizens of India can put forward their claim for general category seats (Which also includes the groups which enjoys reservation). Moreover in democracy everyone have the right to participate in elections. Now the opportunity for many people to reach the echelon of power will shrink dramatically.

But surely reservation is not he formula to solve the problems related to gender equality. The sad and ironic thing is that many are asking for reservation with in reservation!!! If seats have to be reserved for every one then what is the need for elections? We can save billions of dollars!!!

How long there quotas will be there? As far as we can see governments didn’t withdrawn any reservation up to now. This one too will be there for a long time. How long we can go in this way? When government will realize that; reservation is not a ready made tablet for everything? Now we have reservation for many things - may be one can fill a complete book by mentioning about the name of reservations available in India.

In present system, in the administrative, law enforcement, politics, medical, education etc saw many highly efficient women, who reached that position by their own efforts, but in the future what will happen? It is sure that many efficient personalities will reach the house; who are otherwise denied the because of the social structures and various prejudices.

May be the introduction of women to the highest echelons of power may encourage many others to come forward and lead a political life, or at least they feel the politicians are more approachable. It is yet to see how far the newly elected women legislators can make progress in the already falling gender ratio, dowry related issues, safety of women in the streets of India, criminalisation and curroption in politics etc.

But certainly this is not the way to do these things. If governments really want to address the issues of public they have to find out genuine solutions. They have to provide a level play ground for everyone - so that each one must get equal opportunity. If one child is lacking books, government has to fund his/her education until they got enough education to secure a job, not giving reservation to him. Of course not free of cost - After getting job he must repay the money with some 2-3% interest back to public exchequer. This money can be used for next generation.

Anyway the bill is passed. To all women of India now you get a ticket to biggest temple of democracy in the world. I wish you may be able to work really well towards the progress and development of our country and the nation. Moreover one more challenge is waiting for you -to change the mindset of common people towards politics. Wish you all the best...


Sunday, March 7, 2010

Challenge to Indian Railway - Expansion and HSR is the requirement of time

[Janshadabdi Express]

For every loss we have a reason. When China showed remarkable progress in the nineties and later; we satisfied ourselves by saying that China opened their economy some two decades before us. So they have an advantage over us. When Singapore, South Korea, Taiwan, Hong Kong etc achieved remarkable success even after a moderate beginning, we said they are small countries and India is huge and have to support a huge population. When the regions in and around Gulf of Persia progressed we said that we don’t have enough black gold (Petroleum).

For everything we have reasons. But what reasons we have for the remarkable expansion of railways in China as compared to that of India? The numbers shows that, at the time of independence India had 54,000 km of rail route, but China only had 21,800 km rails in 1950. China reached 78,000 km in 2007 and 86,000 km in 2009. Now they had a target of 1, 20,000 km for 2020. In the same time, that is until 2004 we added an average of 161km/year to our existing network; from 2004-05 to 2008-09 we added 220 km/year (from 2004-05 to 2008-09 China added 1000km/year).

[Shanghai North Railway Station]

Now what is our excuse for these numbers? Of course we may invent many new theories from the lack of capital to the procedural delay. According to the IIFL study, China saw her first experimental HSR (High Speed Rail) in 2003, and they are planning to expand it to 28,000 km by 2014. But we are still in the planning stage to bring the HSR to our country.

Who are responsible for this? Now railway is talking about building hospitals, schools etc, but what is or what should be the primary aim of Railway? Building hospitals and other complexes are good, but that is not railways job; leave it to government and private enterprises. Even now there are a numerous places and even states in India which doesn’t have even one route km.

Instead of focusing more on popular budgets we have to invest heavily on building the infrastructure. If railway doesn’t have the enough capital to do this, go for private partnership, it is not an untouchable thing. But if we are not ready to invest - not merely investing but rapid expansion and the introduction of High Speed Rail Networks, we will leave behind in the new wave of pan Asian Rail Network. The rail track to Bangladesh is a good start in this direction, but for the expansion of it to ASEAN and other East-Asian countries it’s not enough. Railway is one of the rare pan Indian institutions in India but still it doesn’t spread enough.


Language fun

I said "Antergina won the match". Suddenly my friend who also likes foot ball game exclaimed “Antergina"? I repeated "Antergina". Then he asked me to look to the paper once again. I was surprised too see that its reads ‘Argentina’ not ‘Antergina’. I was more surprised after thinking about the fact that I was reading that word wrongly for a long time, still I didn’t realized it until then.

Some months back I was caught in an argument with one of my friend. I was referring to an amount for which a company got a contract from government. "3000 carore rupees". He looks confused after hearing my statement. I thought ok, if it is difficult to convince a person, its better to confuse him!!! But he exclaimed "Carore" or "crore"!!! Later I checked and find out that the correct word is ‘crore’- (10 million). Needless to say I was in utter disbelief. Countless times I argued with many persons and said 100 carores, 700 carores etc!!!

Once we were discussing about massacres. In between there was reference to "Jalianwala Bhag massare". Suddenly another one shot back, “what is ‘massare’? I was taught it as Massacre”. It was a new thing for me, I used that word numerous times in many conversations but it was all wrong!!!
In my experience there are numerous words and pronunciations which later turned out to be something else. I think I am still using many such words which doesn’t even exist in English vocabulary!!! And for many other words the pronunciation is entirely different.

I think related to pronunciation part the problem is a global one. People often use and popularize there own pronunciation and that vocabulary later accepted as localized English language; like Chinglish, Hinglish, Monglish etc. Today English may be the most popular language in the world, but it is also true that many countries made their own specifications.

What we can do in these situation is, from the beginning itself Educational boards all over the country must make it compulsory for the students to learn phonetics as well. What is the use of learning phonetics after learning the language? So teach it along with the language itself.


Saturday, March 6, 2010

In Mookambika Temple

What you will feel when you go back to a place, which holds some special importance in your life after close to two decades? The journey to Mookambika was a homely experience to me. I wrote the first ever word in my life in this holy shrine. This journey was not at all a preplanned one, the thought of going to Mookambika was popped up in my conversation to Vishnu (One of my close friend). He too wanted to go there and thinking about it for quite a long time. Later Sushant too joined.

As we decided to go in that day itself (Friday), we went to cafe and booked a Karnataka RTC ticket from Bangalore to Mangalore. As there is not much time to search for short routes we decided to go through the easiest way we know. More over train and other KSRTC buses are already filled.

Around 6.30 we reached KSRTC stand in Majestic and comfortably landed in our seats. As usual i took the window seat. After some time the bus started to move and we are on the way to Mangalore. As the metro rail and other flyover works released so much dust to the atmosphere stars are not all visible. After coming to Bangalore i rarely see stars threat to limited. I think instead of never sleeping cities we required sleeping cities. It is said that in a year around 4mn migratory birds are being killed due to light pollution in US alone.
But soon the pollution in Bangalore proved better as compared to the rest of the road we have to travel. This may be one of the worst roads in Karnataka, as we are going far form Bangalore road is becoming more badly. Later Visnu complained that he was unable to sleep as his is hitting front seat, thanks to the road!!!

But it was a wonderful journey at midnight we are moving through some forests, even if the road is bad, sky appeared clean. Around 5 in the morning we reached Mangalore, the city was still sleeping. From there we got a direct bus to Kollur (which was actually coming from Mysore). Roads in Mangalore are very good, but the specialty was the bridges. There were a lot of bridges in the way and the beginning and end of each bridge have a couple Lion capital of Ashoka.

After sometime we reached Uduppi, and then continued our journey to Kollur. Bus started to climb the Western Ghats, and number of passengers was slowly reduced and finally there was only five people in that big bus excluding conductor and driver.

We got a good room in 'Kadinjapalli Satram' - a local lodge. We didn’t find difficulties with language in Mookambika as almost all people know Malayalam very well. In the evening we went to the temple, there was a number of 'arangettam'- performing dance for the first time - in that night. The temple is made up of stone, and the top of the 'Sreekovil' - sanctum Sanctorum is covered with gold. The floor to is paved with stone. After getting 'Kashayam', around 9.30 we came out and went for dinner.

In the next day morning we went ot he temple, and after breakfast we decided to go to Kudajadri - which is the 'Srimoolasthanan' of Mookambika temple. I thought that Kudajadri temple is only some 7 km away from Mookambika temple and we can walk. But people told us that we have to take a jeep as it was more that 20 km away. The cost forgoing in jeep was around 175Rs/head. Due to some unexpected expenses we didn’t had enough hard cash. I went to the syndicate banks atm. But even after entering the value nothing happening, neither cash is coming out nor atm card. Anyway after some time and generating enough sound machines gave my card back. I tried for once again - same result.

At this time Vishnu called us and said that, we can pay the amount later(Next to it there was a Canara bank atm too), which was proved disastrous later. Thus we started to Kudajadri through the zigzag Shimoga route with 8 persons on board - all are from Kerala. After sometime we left the Shimoga route and took right and started to climb all the hair pins. You cant describe this as a road even in the wildest of your imagination. I don’t think that jeep will go for one month with our repairs.

Finally we reached Kudajadri, the idols are Mookambika Devi, Panchamukha Ganapati, Shiva. From here jeep cant move forward. This is believed t be the place where Mokambika Devi gave 'Darshanam' to AdiShankaracharya. The cave in which Shankaracharya performed his ... was only some kilometers away I decided to go in. After walking some distance there is a 'Ganesha Guha'and then AdiShankara Temple. After that there is a steep decent, and after sometime I reached the cave of Chitramoola. It’s a small gap between to big rocks lying horizontally to the mountain.

It was a wonderful place. I am sitting in a place which was used by Adishankaracharya centuries ago. There was a small creek in one side of that cave. I spend there ten minutes, the sight from here is really magnificent, i am not feeling the heat of noon but the coolness of cave. And the opposite is the vast forest and the temple of Mookambika is shining brightly. At this time i got a call from Vishnu(Yes we got signals at this point, but in the way there was no range) as time for going back was approaching. And we started our return journey to Mookambika. It may take some 30 - 40 minutes to reach Chitramoola from Kudajadri temple.

Now its the time to pay the driver - but the Canara Bank(Which is the only one remaining) was empty!!! No way!!! I came back and saw the driver. but as you can imagine, he was not in any good mood, and you know what will happen, people are gathering around and started to advise as - Like why are you not taking enough money? etc etc. But as Vishnu had just enough money which kept in the room, we are all freed from that situation. You can have atm card but it can’t replace hard cash fully.

As we are running out of money we thought to cut short our journey. But later decided to stick to our previous plan (Anyway we already paid the full amount to bus ticket and we already paid the bulk of the rent as advance. Later the room owner proved to be a very good person and even if we stayed half a day more he charged only 50Rs for that time)
In the next day, for our delight Syndicate bank's atm started working. In the afternoon we went to the temple and around 8pm we started our jouney to Bangalore through Shimoga route, road was small but in good condition and reached Bangalore at 6 am in the next day.


Friday, March 5, 2010

Latest Indo-Pak talks, Do we expect anything?

After a short gap India again opened the window of dialogue with Pakistan. For a long time we are on this dialogue process. Some time on and some time off. After the dialogue proceeds for some time there will be some terrorist attacks in some part of India and the dialogue will bounce all the way back to square one.
There is one more dialogue which also suffers the same situation. The marathon Indo - Sino talks, even the people starts to forget the number conferences we had with China.

After so many terrorist attacks people doesn’t have any hope in this process. This time it came in between the Railway budget and Union budget, so people were preoccupied with there balance sheets. But the basic question remain the same - is there any use of this dialogue if we are facing peace process in on side and terrorist attacks on other side?

Government accepts it or not there is a common opinion in India that the current dialogue process started due to the high pressure from Washington - which depends very badly on its long time companion Pakistan for her operations in Af- Pak region and needed Pakistan for a deal with Taliban.

But what we will get after all these dialogues? It's sure that neither India nor Pakistan will do any concessions on Kashmir issue as far as Kashmir Valley is concerned - the status Quo is not going to change anytime soon. Terrorist attacks in India are not going to stop if these groups didn’t become a costly affair for Pakistan or in the absence of highly efficient covert actions.

Americans may want to pull out of Afghan as soon as possible, and for that they are seeking a peace deal with moderate Taliban (I don’t know who coined this term), but what about us? What about the bomb blasts in Indian cities? Anyone in India imagine that Americans will handover the people accused in Mumbai terror strikes to India for trial in India court? After all Mumbai is in India and Indians suffered a lot due to the attacks. Will they pressure Pakistan to hand over the masterminds of those attacks to India? Will they force Pakistan to eliminate the India focused terror groups?

If there is a yes for at least one question then there is a point in talks. At the same time we have to remember what happened in London conference regarding Afghan issue. Even after India was the most popular foreign country in Afghanistan, and her huge development efforts in the country; we didn’t even invited to that conference as Afghanistan is situated not in South Asia but in some remote part of Siberia or South America.

In the end of the day we have to think about our security, we have to play our role in the game. We are not so deprived of options even in Afghanistan. If America can get along with Pakistan, even if the later continue the anti-India policies nothing stop us to build (recover) a friendly relation with Iran. Russia is still there, nothing in the world stops covert operations. So more than mere talks we have to look at what actions (if any) Pakistan is going to take, otherwise these talks will continue for ever and a lot more blood will flow in Indian soil.