Thursday, December 30, 2010

India, Security Council reforms and rising responsibilities

UN Flag
"Now, let me suggest that with increased power comes increased responsibility. The United Nations exists to fulfill its founding ideals of preserving peace and security, promoting global cooperation, and advancing human rights. These are the responsibilities of all nations, but especially those that seek to lead in the 21st century.

If I can be frank, in international fora, India has often avoided these issues. But speaking up for those who cannot do so for themselves is not interfering in the affairs of other countries. It's not violating the rights of sovereign nations." These lines are extracts from Obama's address to the Joint session of Indian Parliament made at its central hall during his state visit.

Obama's statement about accepting the increased responsibility may concentrated more on human right violations across the globe. Its another matter that various countries and civilizations across the world define 'Human Rights' based on frameworks that suits to them. But the real question is, if we are going after the so called magic seat in UNSC, are we prepared to take more responsibilities across the world? That is, are we ready to make our own contributions to the security framework, instead of enjoying the one - which is already in place and maintained by current powers through bilateral and group deals - for our economic growth?

The interesting thing is that we are hearing about UN SC reforms for a long time. But apart from the high volume drum beating in the public, is there any real progress on it?

Let us coming back to the question of accepting responsibility. In the post liberal world, trade may be the strongest thread which tied different nations together. Even the European Union came to existence as a trade group. Along with the increase in economic activities with in and outside of the country, we will become more and more attached to various nations for want of resources like oil & gas or for markets to sell our products.

At certain point of time, when our ties with the various nations cross a particular threshold, we may automatically become a stakeholder in the internal events of that country. After all one of the prime motivator for an increase in trade is peace and stability.

For example, consider the case of China in oil rich Sudan. Because of their high exposure to the petroleum sector of Sudan they automatically become a stake holder in Sudan's future. They cant continue with their policy of non-interference in the internal matters of other countries for any longer (especially in dictators run African countries). China can't utilize the world security order created by US and western countries for ever, slowly they have to become a part of it and accept the responsibility. When India reach such a point (hope that a long and sustainable economic growth will take us to that point) our stakes in global affairs, will also favor a conflict free world.
UN Security Council

But are we ready to take strong decisions in such a situations?As Ajai Shukla  pointed out in his Business Standard column,

"India’s sway in Afghanistan has, over the last four decades, been an alternating saga of triumph and despair, driven largely by tumultuous events beyond our control. But now, for no reason other than negligence, New Delhi’s star is fading over Kabul and the rising sun is Pakistan’s

If New Delhi is not to be marginalised once again in Kabul, it needs to address a key Afghan complaint that I heard repeatedly from senior Afghan officials during my return to that country this month: “India’s development aid, while deeply appreciated by the people of Afghanistan, cannot substitute for a political policy. As the pre-eminent power in South Asia, is India prepared to just build tube-wells in Afghan villages while the country falls into Pakistan’s lap?"

Look at the current major issues in the world. Iran crisis, do we have stakes? yes, not only as a major oil and natural gas source but also as a neighbour of Pakistan and for so many other reasons. North Korea, do we have stakes? yes, mainly because of the alleged links between North Korea & Pakistan in nuclear and missile sector. Afghanistan, Do we have stakes? yes, a neighbour of Pakistan, the existence of terrorist infrastructure in this country may prove deadly to India. Nepal, SriLanka, Maldives, Bangladesh; the list is long.

But where we are now? We are no where near to North Korean six party talks (Its another matter that these six party talks are proved to be a never ending exercise). In Afghanistan we are almost pushed out of peace talks.

For the next two years India is a part of UN SC as an elected non-permanent member - getting the permanent membership may take decades (if there is a probability for any such thing to happen!!!) and the chances are still not so high. How far India will go in this way? how long it will take us to move from a country which is enjoying the current framework for growth to that of a country which actively works for the betterment of world security and development?


Image Courtesy ; Wikipedia

Monday, December 27, 2010

Woman Suicide Bombers - A new challenge to Pakistani security forces

WFP Distribution Centre near Bajaura
In a letter to Marie Bonaparte, Sigmund Freud states that "The great question...which I have not been able to answer, despite my thirty years research to the feminine soul is 'What does a woman want?'"

The recent explosion in Bajaura, North-West Pakistan which killed at least 46 people raises new questions before the security forces. This suicide attack was carried out by a woman aged between 18-22, covered in a burqa head to foot. The prime target of the suicide attack was a UN food distribution centre which distributes food items in Bajaura, Af-Pak border. After the blast UN aid agency closed the centres that fed 41,000 families.

What ever be the reason for the emergence of women as suicide bombers (This may be the third suicide attack carried out by women suicide bombers in Pakistan, first one was in Karachi on November 2000 and second one was in Peshawar in 2007) this new phenomenon will be difficult for the security forces. Especially where majority of the woman are using burqa and the number women officers who trained in dealing with explosives are very low in number. Moreover searching woman may prove to be a very sensitive matter in the tribal societies of Af-Pak border.

People injured in the blast
Earlier some Islamic groups in Middle-East and LTTE in Srilanka used women as suicide bombers but this trend is new in Pakistan. According to Dawn Reports "Sources said that Taliban leaders Maulana Faqir Mohammad and Maulvi Mohammad Omar had warned time and again that they had women, who were willing to blow themselves up.

“Maulana Faqir was making announcements on FM radio warning of involving female in suicide missions,” said a resident of Bajaur. He said that local authorities had received intelligence reports that militants might carry out attack in the area.
Taliban spokesman Azam Tariq, who claimed responsibility for the attack in Bajaur, though did not verify involvement of female suicide bomber, yet he claimed that they had dozens of trained women, who were ready to lay down their lives."

In this new scenario it be more difficult for the security establishment to identify a normal woman from a bomber when they are in full burqa. As the stakes are high one quick remedy may be to hire and train women officers in counter-terrorism, explosives and focus on intelligence gathering.
As it is possible that these terrorists may employ similar tactics in the sensitive areas of Kashmir and other parts of India, it is important for the Indian security forces to train more women officers in explosives and counter-terrorism. More women officers in police and paramilitary will help the security establishment to deal more easily with the women population. It's also important for government to work hard on saving woman and teenagers from becoming would be suicide bombers...


Photo courtesy to The Telegraph, MSNBC

Sunday, December 26, 2010

Gujjar Agitation and Reservation; A constitutional crisis?

"Talks between Gujjars, who are on a warpath on job reservation issue, and Rajasthan government on Sunday failed to break the deadlock with protesters unrelenting on their demand for five per cent quota even as they continued blockade of certain rail and road routes in the state."..."You (minister) are always welcome here but when you come here next time, come with a written order on reservation," Bainsla said. - Hindustan Times.

All this started when Jats had been included in OBC category. Then Gujjars started asking for ST status; It was in September 2006, when Gujjars hold an agitation at Hindaun railway station demanding reservation, then in May 2007, 5 people including a policeman killed in violence, then a mahapanchayath on June in the same year, refusing to sell milk in september, 'Jail-Barao' agitation in October, removing railway tracks in November. Another mahapanchayath in March 2008,  and 'Rail-Roko' agitation in may; this agitation was so violent that more than 20 protesters and one policeman were killed.

Then in August 2008, Gujjar mahapanchayath called for the implementation of reservation bill passed in the assembly providing 5% reservation to Gujjars, Gadia Luhars, Rebaris, Benjaras and 14% reservation to EBC(Economically Backward Classes). In may 2010 government agrees for 1%reservation to Gujjars in the special backward category with in the reservation quota, the remaining 4% reservation was put on hold till the court verdict.

Rajastan High court which earlier stayed the quota as it is exceeding 50% limit, now observed that "till such time a data study of backwardness of gujjar community is done no reservation can be permitted. No pattern like other state for excess reservation is permissible as state has admittedly not undertaken mandatory exercise of staistical study of backwardness of gujjar community in Rajasthan before legislating the special reservation act".

Now the Gujjars are back in streets demanding reservation, blocking the rail and road routes. Of course the airline industry started increasing the flight rates day after day.

But if we are looking to this agitation in a national prism, isn't clear that even after six decades of independence we failed to create a national identity? now we have hundreds of communities which are claimed by various politicians as their vote bank. These vote banks are well used in their bargain with the national parties for the seats in union government and/or state government. Once you reduced from the status of MP/MLA of a constituency to MP/MLA of a community, people are expecting favous for their community from the government. And the easiest to appease the people is to give then reservation.

Instead of separating politics from religion; we weaved it so tightly that it is difficult to separate. Now these separate identities want to cement it forever in one form or another. Reservation was supposed to run for a decade, but it is running even today, and may be will run forever. In many states reservation is close to 50% (if the courts are not insisting on this 50% limits politicians may increase it to 100%). 

We may be the only community in the world where various sections asking for the tag of backwardness. Why people want to be branded as backward class? Because they don't have enough opportunity when they are not in backward class? or because they want enjoy the perks of reservation?

I am not saying there was no caste problem in the past. I am not disagreeing with the fact that people currently in SC/ST categories and forest tries suffered because of the low caste tag and still they are facing problems in the remote villages. But do we have to carry forward this tag forever? DMK leader and Chief Minister of Tamilnadu Karunanidhi said that "Raja is a Dalit. That is why dominant forces are levelling malicious charges against him". This was his statement when asked about his opinion on Raja's resignation. But do you think he is targeted because he is a dalit?

If we are going on in this way of 'reservation for everyone who cries for it', we will reach a point where barring certain communities all others will be included in reservation category. But who will get the benefit? the one who is living in the remote jungles of Attapadi, central India, North-East etc? or those in the cities who are already the beneficiaries of first generation reservation benefits?

Time already came for us to separate religion from politics. Instead of playing one community against another and holding the nation's arteries like roads and railways we have to find a way to empower the really backward communities but without making the reservation as their birthright. 

Instead what should be the birthright? the real candidate is education. Here is the importance of 'Right to Education Act'. Empower the people by giving education to them, by giving generous scholarships and making a clear system where the job should not be allocated through 'First come first served basis' but based on true merit. If people starts to believe that there is some value for merit and they will surely try that path. 

Instead of folding legs before the demands for additional reservation government have to find ways to reach out to people. Today, If government accept the defeat then there is not doubt that some other community will start agitation for reservation from the very next day. Simple mathematics says that government cant give even 1% reservation for each of them as there are thousands of communities in India but the percentage is limited to 100!!!


BSNL Approaching a point of no return

In the current fiscal BSNL made an estimated loss of 6000 crore. This tragic story is for a company which made 10,183 crore profit in 2004-05. This tragic business saga not only forced the government to put the dis investments for BSNL on cold shelf but also raising serious questions about running and financial conditions of various PSUs (Especially in the background of Niira Radia tapes). We certainly don't want BSNL to go in to Air India's way, but if we are not ready to address the problems and flows in BSNL now, it may have a cumulative effect not only in BSNL but also in many other government companies with are on downward spiral, including the Railways.

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 574.85crore in 2008-09. And this year...

In the last years BSNL made some profit mainly from the income of her enormous cash reserves; even that reserve is declining. Reserves fell to 35,337 crore from 40,000 a year ago; if BSNL and MTNL are forced to pay for the 3G spectrum they are holding in the current market rates, then this reserve will evaporate with in no time.

According to Economic Times report in August 2009, "Top BSNL executives speaking on condition of anonymity say the company has been severely hobbled by political interference. It ran out of capacity to expand cellular services nearly 18 months ago and no new major contracts for mobile networks and equipment have been awarded in the past 24 months.

One of the executives pointed out that in 2006 and 2007, the company matched India’s biggest and most valuable phone firm 'Bharti Airtel' in subscriber additions, but meddling since then had resulted in growth stagnating. “BSNL has hardly any capacity addition since 2006-07 and this reflects in our performance,” the executive said."

How far BSNL gone from here? If the TRAI figures are to be believed then BSNL is still suffering in terms of number of consumers too. According to the latest TRAI figures, TTSL overtook BSNL to reach the 4th position. Now this state-owned behemoth which has unmatched capacity both in terms of trained human resources and technical know-how as compared to the rivals now pushed to 5th place in Indian cellular space.

Unlike many other PSU companies, this losses are critical to BSNL. Departments like Railways and a good number of other PSU's may be saved due to the tags of 'National Security', 'Critical for the benefit of People', 'Social Security' etc. But BSNL may not be able to claim these tags as people or government are not critically depend on BSNL for her services. And private sector have more customer base than that or BSNL in cellular space. So it is important for BSNL to find out a way to raise from this crisis, no matter how difficult that actions are.

First of all BSNL should be separated from Telecom Department and ministry, people in BSNL's top level management should be part of the company. If some one want to remain in telecom department let them do so. The next step may be to absorb efficient people from market or internally and pay them in market rates. Use the external financial service companies to restructure the company (Please don't play politics here). Once it showed some improvements, government have to dilute her stake in BSNL both to public and employees and list the company in stock exchange. This process fill force BSNL management to worry about their balance sheets and company will be subjected to all type of SEBI requirements.

As BSNL have to face the customer every day, their operations should be customer centric. They have to understand that no one like to pay extra 200-300 to BSNL employees for their each and every services (like new telephone connection, moving one telephone from one location to another etc), when the private companies are straight forward. Unions have an important role to play, if they want to save the company. Just like they are fighting for salary hikes, they should try to woo customers and try for the betterment of the company; After all this for BSNL's survival. If they are not ready yet, then we all know what is going to happen with BSNL.

Image Courtesy : Wikipedia

Thursday, December 23, 2010

Shravanabelagola, Belur and Halebidu - A pilgrimage to the past : Part III

Hoysalesvara temple
For first part read Shravanabelagola
For second part read Belur - Chennakesava temple
In Halebidu: There are frequent bus services between Belur and Halebidu. I took KSRTC bus from Belur to Halebidu (18KMs - charge 13Rs), and reached the Ruined City - Halebidu literally means 'Ruined City'- around 11am. Halebibu is home to Hoysaleswara temple, Kedareswara temple and three other Jain temples. There is big lake on one side of the temple.

May be it is because of sunday morning a lot of people were there to see these temples. ASI is doing a good work in maintaining the temples and adjecent areas. Hoysaleswara temple have two beautifully carved monolithic statues of Nandi and an archaeological museum. 

These temples constructed using soap stone is yet to be completed even after the labour of 86 years. After the sacking by Malik Kafur and his armies in 14th centry these temples went to a state of neglect. The outer walls were beautifully decorated with the elephants, lions, various dancing igures and scenes from Indian mythology. The statues of dwarapalikas and their dresses are an excellent piece of work.
Kedaresvara temple
After spending considerable time in Hoysalesvara temple, I went to see the lake (only some meters away from the temple) and then headed towards Kedareswara templ which is at a distance of half a kilometer. When I reached Kedareswara there are around 2-3 people and the temple was closed anyway the person in charge of temples opened it for me. This temple also contains some beautiful works in stone. After that I went to the nearby Jain temples and then headed to Bus stand to catch the next bus to Belur. From Belur I retraced my route to Bangalore (Belur - Hassan - Bangalore around 226km).

Overall the trip was good and informative. Its is one thing to read about these pleaces in books and actually go and seeing it. There is no restriction in photography in any of these places, except using tripod and flashlights (this required prior permission). Everywhere it is written that - don't touch the statues, but people are not bothered about it. Aren't they ready to accept the fact that these stone structures after withstanding everything for a millennium is quite vulnerable to external pressure? Even the platform in which the temples are built have to be protected from the pressure of tourists- otherwise the future generation may see it only in books.


Checkout the photos for Halebidu

Shravanabelagola, Belur and Halebidu - A pilgrimage to the past : Part II

For first part read Shravanabelagola

In Belur: To reach Belur from Chennarayapatna bus stand you can either take a direct bus or you can go to Hassan first and from there you will get buses to Belur. I got one to Hassan at 3.12pm, and reached there around 4.22pm (KSRTC charge is 27 Rs). From here I got another bus to Chikmangalore (which will touch Belur) and reached Belur at 5.38 pm (Bus charge is 27 Rs).

Chennakesava (means Handsome Vishnu, dedicated to Lord Vijayanarayana) Temple is near to bus stand. After getting down at Belur I started walking towards the temple, looking for some lodging on both sides. There are many hotels available including one KSTDC. I went to KSTDC first, but after seeing the building (It’s a good one but the rent may be very high), I simply walked backwards and checked the prices for other lodges. Finally settled in ‘Sumukha Residency' at the cost of 300Rs/day (For single room – not bad, this one even have one TV). I spend considerable time in the room by viewing English, one Hindi and one Malayalam movie at the same time. I saw the English movie fully, but missed the climax and some scenes in both Hindi (Red Alert) and Malayalam movie. Red Alert was indeed a good one and missing its climax left a bad taste in mind.

It becomes late and temple was closed by the time reached there. As nothing else to do I roamed around for some time and went for a ‘Masala Dosa’ in the nearby hotel. Next day I reached the temple around 7.15am, but it opened at 7.30am only. Finally time came and I am inside – magnificent!!! Seems like Hoysalas done their best for the construction of the temple.

In Chennakesava Temple complex, Chennakesava temple is the centre piece; surrounded by Kappe Chennigraya (built by Shantaladeve - Chief Queen of King Vishnuvardhana) temple. Temple complex also contains two more shrines, a pushkarni (stepped well) and dravidian style rayagopuram (built later by Vijayanagara kings). The construction of the temple was started by King Vishnuvardhana Raya to celebrate his victory over Cholas at Talekad (117CE) in the year 1116AD, continued by his son Narasimha Raya and completed by his grandson Veera Ballala. It took around 103 years to complete this 100 feet high architectural marvel.

Chennakesava Temple from side
The outer and inner pillars of the temple are filled with numerous scenes from Indian mythology, elephants, lions, horses etc. Inner pillars are a must see for any person interested in architectural beauty. It is believed that Jakanachari carved many of these wonderful pieces. The temple of Belur were constructed using Soapstone (steatite) quarried from the present day Tumkur. Belur structures are chemical washed and wax polished once in every ten years to maintain them. These temples are still active and Puja's are performed in morning and evening (a practice of more than 887 years).Temple complex also contain a 42 feet tall post know as 'Kartika Deepotsava Stambha' prepared and installed by Bice Dandanayaka (1414AD) during the reign of King Devaraya of Vijayanagara.

You have to spend a lot of time to enjoy and understand this magnificent work of Hoysalas. They didn't left much space without any decorations - a must see for an enthusiast. After spending some hours in temple I went for breakfast and then to hotel. After checkout I went to Belur bus stand to catch the bus for my next destination - Halebidu.


Check out the photos for Belur - Chennakesva temple complex
For third part read Halebidu

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Shravanabelagola, Belur and Halebidu - A pilgrimage to the past : Part I

Bhagvan Gomateshwara Statue
Visiting historic places will always help us to know more about the way our forefathers lived. To know more about the circumstances they faced, progress they made and of course the famous architectural marvels they left behind. These places always have something to offer; after all they are witnessing the progress mankind made in these long centuries. The intention for my visit to Shravanabelagola (Sacred place for Jains), Belur (Famous for Chennakeshva Temple) and Halebeedu (ancient capitals of Hoysalas) was nothing different.

In Shravanabelagola (Hassan District, Karnataka):

It was not an easy task to wake up early in the morning, after all who don’t want to sleep some time more enjoying the cold of December. But today I have to reach Shravanabelagola early in the morning. I started my journey from Electronic City to Majestic around 5.30 in the morning. As expected there was not much rush in the road, and I reached Majestic in record time (I still remember the horrible Friday evenings when I have to spend more than 2 hours to reach City Railway Station). I get down at BMTC bus stand and slowly crossed the road to KSRTC stand. (Buy some newspapers if you want to spend time in bus).

It’s not easy to get direct buses to Shravanabelagola, there may be some buses. So the next best way is take a bus to Hassan and get down at Chennarayapatna - 138 km from Bangalore; 100Rs in KSRTC - this small town is very near to Shravanabelagola and buses are always there.  Frequent bus services are there from Chennarayapatna to Shravanabelagola. I got a Mangalore bus and boarded it after making sure that it will pass through Chennarayapatna. The bus started after some time, along with that I started my long awaiting journey to Shravanabelagola. After some time we were outside the city limits of Bangalore and moving towards inner Karnataka.

It seems like the government is on road building spree, constructing flyovers, widening the roads etc are going on. Now-a-days building roads become equivalent to creating infrastructure.  In this craze governments are building up thousands of kilometers of highways. Will the creation of more highways solve India’s infrastructure problem? Not necessarily, if people are more and more interested in private transport. Acquiring more lands, crushing hills to level it, building flyovers, constructing jumpers even on small intersections, straightening the roads even if it is going to save some meters only will only fill the pocket of real estate developers and contractors. Instead of this gigantic exercise isn’t is easier to invest on mass public transportation systems like railways? A two lane railway lane will not take the space of 8 lane highway with service roads but it will do the job. We can discuss these things in some other articles.
View from Vindyagiri

After passing through many of these under construction sites I reached Chennarayapatna around 10.15 am. The bus stand is neat, in fact many of the KSRTC bus stands are in good condition. Shravanabelagola buses are parking near to the entrance of the bus stand. I bought a ticket to Shravanabelagola - 9Rs distance. Contrary to expectations both sides of roads to Shravanabelagola doesn’t bear any indication that it is heading to such a historic place. Plenty of coconut trees and small houses made of baked brick and mud tiles remembered me about Kerala. Many of these houses even rented out there walls to advertising agencies and have the ads of Airtel, Vodafone etc.

Around 10.40am I reached KSRTC bus stand in Shravanabelagola. This place is one of the most important pilgrimage centre for Jains. In Kannada Shravanabelagola means 'White pond of Shravana'. Shravanabelagola has two hills–Chandragiri (Chikkabetta) and Vindyagiri. The 57 feet monolithic statue of Bhagavan Gomatheshwara Bahubali is located in Vindyagiri. This statue - considered as one of the largest monolithic statue in the world - was erected here by a general of King Gangaraya. Base of this statue contains inscriptions in Kannada, Tamil, Marati etc. Thousands of devotees will come here in every 12 years to perform Mahamastakabhisheka (In this ceremony statue will be covered with Milk, Curd, Ghee, saffron and gold coins).

A large number of steps along with railings are carved in both the hills (Chandragiri and Vindyagiri) to make the climb easier, but you have to climb these hills without shoes or sandals. A large number of school children were there to see these historical monuments, there is no need to say that if child are there will not be any effect on the instructions like ‘Silence Please etc’. They make that atmosphere live and active with their voices, and their initial enthusiasm didn’t last long when the steps are appeared too much in number and sun in located right above the heads.

Slowly I started my climb to these hills; it may not be an easy adventure when sun is shining right above your head. But after some hundreds of steps you will rewarded with the sight of magnificent inscriptions in the rock. ASI covered many of these inscriptions with glass along with the timeline associated with it; more than 800 inscriptions are there in Shravanabelagola dating from 600 to 1830. Then there are some more steps to climb and finally you will reach right in front of the monolith statue of Bhagvan Bahubali Gamatheshwara on the top the hill. Even after standing many centuries in the rains and hot sun, its look like a just completed poem in stone.

I looked Bhagvan Gomateshwara for many minutes and then went to the sides to see the statues of other theerthankaras. Later I started my descent; you will get a magnificent view of Shravanabelagola and nearby areas during your descent from different points in the hill top. The pond in the middle of the city is really an eye catching one

After reaching base I headed to Chandragiri hills, here too you have to remove the shoes. It is believed that the last shruta-kevali, Bhadrabahu Swami, and his pupil, Chandragupta Maurya (The founder of the great Mauryan empire, grandfather of Emperor Ashoka, father of Emperor Bindusarae) have meditated here. According to the anecdotes Chandragupta met his future guru Bhadrabahu while he was an emperor. Inspired by Bhadrabahu he later converted in to Jainism and in 298BC; abducted his throne in favor of his son Bindusara and relocated to Shravanabelagola. It is also believed that Chandragupta Basadi, dedicated to Emperor Chandragupta Maurya was originally built by Emperor Ashoka in third century BCE. Chandragiri has many memorials dedicated to numerous monks and shravakas.

Here you have to spend considerable time to visit all the places, read the small but informative descriptions provided by ASI (Archeological Survey of India) and understand the beauty and importance of old architecture. It’s really an interesting experience, to see the places once visited by Guru Bhadrabahu and Emperor Chandragupta Maurya. There is Chandragupta point at the top of the hill, which contains markings of his foot. Being here in this point itself is an unforgettable experience – you are in the place which was once blessed with the presence of one of the greatest emperors in India and famous monks of Jainism.

After seeing numerous basadies I sat in front of the complex, in the shades of some trees, digesting what I experienced just now. Then I started my descent and left Shravanabelagola in another KSRTC bus around 2.40 pm and reached Chennarayapatna after some time.


Check out the photos of Shravanabelagola
For second part read Belur - Chennakesava temple
For third part read Halebidu

Friday, December 17, 2010

"Sāre jahāñ se acchā hindostāñ hamārā.."

“Sara Jahan se acha…”, is one of my favorite songs, first two lines of this poem will always comes to my mind, in fact this may be one of the many two lines which will always remain in the lips of millions of Indians. This poem (one of the most popular poems in India) is written in Urdu, by Muhammed Iqbal (later become the national poet of Pakistan) was first published in 1904.


sāre jahāñ se acchā hindostāñ hamārā
ham bulbuleñ haiñ us kī vuh gulsitāñ hamārā
ġhurbat meñ hoñ agar ham, rahtā hai dil vatan meñ
samjho vuhīñ hameñ bhī dil ho jahāñ hamārā
parbat vuh sab se ūñchā, hamsāyah āsmāñ kā
vuh santarī hamārā, vuh pāsbāñ hamārā
godī meñ kheltī haiñ us kī hazāroñ nadiyāñ
gulshan hai jin ke dam se rashk-e janāñ hamārā
ay āb-rūd-e gangā! vuh din haiñ yād tujh ko?
utarā tire kināre jab kāravāñ hamārā
mażhab nahīñ sikhātā āpas meñ bair rakhnā
hindī haiñ ham, vatan hai hindostāñ hamārā
yūnān-o-miṣr-o-rumā sab miṭ gaye jahāñ se
ab tak magar hai bāqī nām-o-nishāñ hamārā
kuchh bāt hai kih hastī miṭtī nahīñ hamārī
sadiyoñ rahā hai dushman daur-e zamāñ hamārā
iqbāl! koī meharam apnā nahīñ jahāñ meñ
m’alūm kyā kisī ko dard-e nihāñ hamārā!

English Translation:

Better than the entire world, is our Hindustan,
We are its nightingales, and it (is) our garden abode
If we are in an alien place, the heart remains in the homeland,
Know us to be only there where our heart is.
That tallest mountain, that shade-sharer of the sky,
It (is) our sentry, it (is) our watchman
In its lap frolic those thousands of rivers,
Whose vitality makes our garden the envy of Paradise.
O the flowing waters of the Ganges, do you remember that day
When our caravan first disembarked on your waterfront?
Religion does not teach us to bear ill-will among ourselves
We are of Hind, our homeland is Hindustan.
In a world in which ancient Greece, Egypt, and Rome have all vanished without trace
Our own attributes (name and sign) live on today.
Such is our existence that it cannot be erased
Even though, for centuries, the cycle of time has been our enemy.
Iqbal! We have no confidant in this world
What does any one know of our hidden pain?


English translation is copied from Wikipedia.

Electric Cars are Back in Action

Nissan Leaf - Photo Courtesy - Nissan Japan
There was a time when the countries were forced to reduce their expenses and stock markets crashed whenever the ‘horrible’ news of oil price rise comes to the market. For decades oil and gas remained as the most important item in the exports basket of many countries - which resulted in rapid development in some countries and in many others it become an oil curse - and important import item for many other countries. Even now these facts remain the same. World still can’t suffer another oil shock.

One of the prime consumers of the oil is transportation industry. Both private and public transportation and utility vehicles still use oil as its primary fuel. It was and still is a curios question in front of us - why world is heavily dependent on oil and gas? Why not it’s replacing oil with electricity? If a handful of laboratories in US can overcome many critical challenges in Science and engineering during the development of Atom Bomb in record time, it will not be a mistake to think that, root cause of the problem lies more in the absence of a strong political will than scientific and technological barriers.

Any one saw the 1996 documentary "Who Killed the Electric Car?”

But the necessity for embracing green technology and reducing carbon footprint the concept of electric cars are back again. In a recent announcement the cash strapped UK government is ready to offer subsidies of up 5000($7935) for nine selected electric cars models (Mitsubushi iMiEV, Daimler Smart, Peugeot iON, Citroen's CZero, Nissan Leaf, Tata Vista, Toyota Prius, Vauxhall's Ampera and GM Chevrolet's Volt) under low carbon transport plan. Along with these companies other majors like BMW, Chrysler, Ford etc. are also on the race to capture the electric car market. GM alone spends around $700mn for ‘Volt’ excluding its R & D Cost.

But still the price for the batteries, not so abundant plug in points (In US there is only around 1000 charging points - this may increase once electric car become popular) raise the range anxiety problems among customers like; when it will stop? Viability of long drives etc. Long charging hours is another turn off for these cars. Range is slowly improving, the new battery powered Nissan Leaf has an EPA certified battery only range of 120 km (Leaf will cost you around $33,000, tax credits may bring down the cost).

In the coming days as world is more eager on cutting the emissions, there may be more investments in this sector along with future technologies like Hydrogen fuel cells, electrically powered heavy vehicles etc. Until then we have to adjust ourselves with the rising costs of Oil & Gas, pollution etc. Other viable alternatives like bio fuels may sounds interesting. But the problem here is, if bio fuels become the primary source of fuel then large swaths of lands will switch their crops from edible food items to that of bio fuels. Which may results in lower per capita food availability.

Once electric cars become popular then it may not take much years to implement the same in heavy vehicles. Governments can bring down the cost by giving initial subsidies on tax to these vehicles or giving incentives to the companies who are ready to spend money on environment friendly vehicles. But the million dollar question is will the automobile companies and governments show continuous interest in these areas? What is waiting for them in the future, a market domination or premature death?


Friday, December 10, 2010

A 'War' over Nobel 'Peace' Price - China Vs the Rest

Past weeks were really excellent, full of news and thrillers just like watching the next version of "Pirate of The Caribbean". When the hangover of 1.76 lack crore Spectrum scam was over, we got 35,000 crore UP Food Grain Scam (low in numbers but still Indians may be able to adjust with this - Any way next scam will not take much time to come to surface). Reporters may be wondering what they will call for the new scam as many of the heavy weight words are already used. Adopting some practices from history many not be a bad idea like naming the scams like Spectrum Scam II, Fodder Scam II, Telecom scam II etc. When the chilling effect of Radia tapes was over we got the boxing letters of Rajeev Chandrashekhar Vs Ratan Tata. And of course the now famous Cablegage.

Apart from this one more interesting drama is playing in the half closed streets of International diplomacy and economic muscle flexing. This drama started with the announcement of Nobel peace prize- 2010 to Liu Xiaobo. According to Nobel prize committee this prize is awarded to him "for his long and non-violent struggle for fundamental human rights in China", but the Chinese version is entirely opposite. This is already proved to be a action which the new resurgent China can no longer digest.

As December 10(day for distributing the Nobel peace Prize) is approaching, matters are becoming more and more complex. Usually invitations to attend the Nobel price distribution ceremony will be sent to 65 nations who have embassies in Oslo. As China is taken this years ceremony as a prestigious issue, there attempt is to create as much vacant seats in the distribution ceremony. As of Thursday 45 countries had notified the Nobel committee that they will be sending representatives(This includes India also) and 19 countries will not send their representatives (Other than China the list includes Afghanistan, Colombia, Cuba, Egypt, Iran, Iraq, Kazakhstan, Morocco, Pakistan, Russia, Saudi Arabia, Serbia, Sudan, Tunisia, Venezuela, Vietnam etc).

It is already reported that foreign television broadcasts in China have repeatedly gone dark when some thing related to Nobel Peace Price comes up in these channels. Chinese also introduced their own peace price and declared Lien Chan as the winner (A China friendly Taiwanese politician) - it is another matter that this person didn't turned up during the ceremony and prize committee finally gave it to a young girl.

What China is trying to achieve by these actions? As long as they remain as an economic and military power, it may not be a difficult thing to bend other nations views and make them fall in line. It is an open secret that unlike in the west, Asian and other countries usually don't will not mix human rights with that of Diplomacy -  unless these activities are a source of fear for them.

But if china continues to force other nations to take decisions in China's favour this may not be the case. As China become more and more assertive temperature is rising in its borders not only with India, but also with Japan, Vietnam etc. Moreover Chinese economy is an export oriented one - producing much more than they could actually consume, in other words they need other countries to buy them up. In a globalized world countries are interdependent on one another. An economic stimulus to over come the recession may work in the short term but it have its own limits and no country can grow at the rate 10% for ever.

There is also a pre-planned leadership change in China in 2012. If this incident is a litmus test of the coming leader ship then we can anticipate a lot more fire works. A sustained economic growth may act as a complimentary for democracy in short term but it will not offer any long term guarantee.

Instead of forcing other nations to boycott the Nobel peace Prize ceremony, by putting the bilateral relation in between - its high time for Chinese leadership to sit down and think about the future to draw a growth path for Middle Kingdom which includes - human rights and Democracy. We can only hope that this will happen.