Monday, April 30, 2012

Old Man's Hope: Sons of Ind, why sit ye idle

Allan Octavian Hume (aka A.O Hume) is an unavoidable name in the history of Indian Independence Movement. He is considered as the founder of one of the oldest democratic parties in the world - INC (Indian National Congress). Apart from a civil servant, political reformer he was also an amateur ornithologist and horticulturalist in British India.

Old Man's Hope, written by A.O Hume, was first published in 1886. This poem analyses the situation of India in the 1880's.

Old Man's Hope

        Sons of Ind, why sit ye idle,
        Wait ye for some Deva's aid?
        Buckle to, be up and doing!
        Nations by themselves are made!

        Yours the land, lives, all, at stake, tho'
        Not by you the cards are played;
        Are ye dumb? Speak up and claim them!
        By themselves are nations made!

        What avail your wealth, your learning,
        Empty titles, sordid trade?
        True self-rule were worth them all!
        Nations by themselves are made!

        Whispered murmurs darkly creeping,
        Hidden worms beneath the glade,
        Not by such shall wrong be righted!
        Nations by themselves are made!

        Are ye Serfs or are ye Freemen,
        Ye that grovel in the shade?
        In your own hands rest the issues!
        By themselves are nations made!

        Sons of Ind, be up and doing,
        Let your course by none be stayed;
        Lo! the Dawn is in the East;
        By themselves are nations made!

Lyrics Courtesy: Wikipedia.


I am very thankful to one of my friends, who send me this poem.

Sunday, April 29, 2012

Sarfaroshi kii tamannaa ab hamaare dil mein hai...

"Sarfaroshi kii tamannaa ab hamaare dil mein hai
Dekhnaa hai zor kitnaa baazu-e-qaatil mein hai..."

These lines inspired thousands of people during India's freedom struggle. Written by legendry freedom fighter Pandit Ram Prasad Bismil these lines are still there in the lips of millions of Indians. Let's see the full lyrics.

English Version

Sarfaroshi kii tamannaa ab hamaare dil mein hai
Dekhnaa hai zor kitnaa baazu-e-qaatil mein hai
Ek se karataa nahin kyon dusaraa kuchh baat-cheet
Dekhtaa hun main jise woh chup teri mehfil mein hai
Aye shaheed-e-mulk-o-millat main tere oopar nisaar
Ab teri himmat ka charchaa gair kii mehfil mein hai
Sarfaroshi kii tamannaa ab hamaare dil mein hai
Dekhnaa hai zor kitnaa baazu-e-qaatil mein hai

Waqt aane de bataa denge tujhe aye aasamaan
Hum abhii se kyaa bataayen kyaa hamaare dil mein hai
Kheench kar laayee hai sab ko qatl hone ki ummeed
Aashiqon ka aaj jamaghat koonch-e-qaatil mein hai
Sarfaroshi ki tamanna ab hamaare dil mein hai
Dekhnaa hai zor kitnaa baazu-e-qaatil mein hai

Hai liye hathiyaar dushman taak mein baithaa udhar
Aur hum taiyyaar hain seena liye apnaa idhar
Khoon se khelenge holi gar vatan muskhil mein hai
Sarfaroshi ki tamannaa ab hamaare dil mein hai

Haath jin mein ho junoon katate nahin talvaar se
Sar jo uth jaate hain vo jhukate nahin lalakaar se
Aur bhadakegaa jo sholaa-saa hamaare dil mein hai
Sarfaroshi ki tamannaa ab hamaare dil mein hai

Hum to nikale hii the ghar se baandhakar sar pe kafan
Jaan hatheli par liye lo barh chale hain ye qadam
Zindagi to apnii mehamaan maut ki mehfil mein hai
Sarfaroshi ki tamannaa ab hamaare dil mein hai

Yuun khadaa maqtal mein qaatil kah rahaa hai baar-baar
Kya tamannaa-e-shahaadat bhi kisee ke dil mein hai
Dil mein tuufaanon ki toli aur nason mein inqilaab
Hosh dushman ke udaa denge hamein roko na aaj
Duur rah paaye jo hamse dam kahaan manzil mein hai
Sarfaroshi kii tamannaa ab hamaare dil mein hai

Jism bhi kya jism hai jisamein na ho khoon-e-junoon
Kya wo toofaan se lade jo kashti-e-saahil mein hai
Chup khade hain aaj saare bhai mere khaamosh hain
Na karo to kuchh kaho mazhab mera mushkil mein hai
Sarfaroshi ki tamannaa ab hamaare dil mein hai
Dekhanaa hai zor kitnaa baaju-e-qaatil mein hai

English Translation

The desire for sacrifice is now in our hearts
We shall now see what strength there is in the boughs of the enemy.
O country, Why does no other speaks?
Whoever I see, is gathered quiet in your party...
O martyr of country, of nation, I submit myself to thee
For yet even the unacquainted speaks of thy courage
The desire for struggle is in our hearts
We shall now see what strength there is in the boughs of the enemies.

When the time comes, we shall show thee, O heaven
For why should we tell thee now, what lurks in our hearts?
We are pulled to service, by the hope of martyrdom
The gathering of the lovers for martyrdom is in the house of the enemy
The desire for struggle is in our hearts
We shall now see what strength there is in the boughs of the enemies.

Armed does the enemy sit, ready to attack on that side
Ready too are we, our bosoms thrust out to him on this side
With blood we shall play Holi, if our nation is in need
The desire for struggle is in our hearts

No sword can sever hands that have the heat of battle within,
No threat can bow heads that have risen so
Even furthermore will rise the flame that is inside us
and the desire for struggle is in our hearts

We set out from our homes, our heads shrouded with cloth(our body bag),
Holding our lives in our hands, do we march so
In our assembly of death, life is now but a guest
The desire for struggle is in our hearts

Stands the enemy in the gallows thus, asking,
Does anyone has a wish for martyrdom?
With a host of storms in our heart, and with revolution in our breath,
We shall knock the enemy cold, and no one shall stop us
What guts does our destination has, to stay away from us
The desire for struggle is in our hearts

What good is a body that does not have passionate blood,
How can a boat tied to shore contest with storms over wild seas
The desire for struggle is in our hearts,
We shall now see what strength there is in the boughs of the enemies.

Lyrics Courtesy: Wikipedia


Saturday, April 7, 2012

Why we shouldn’t bar senior politicians from holding office?

For a long time I am hearing the arguments like there should be retirement age for politicians; youth should take the place of senior politicians in the higher levels of our august democratic institutions including Parliament, Cabinet etc. Some people are reasoning that senior politicians are the root cause of many of our troubles and young blood is a silver bullet for all the challenges our country faces.

I am yet to find any evidence to support these arguments. I am not saying that youth can’t introduce valuable ideas to governance, certainly they can. But if somebody is saying to me that only youth can commence new ideas and senior politicians are the reason for stagnation and delays then, I am sorry; I have to differ.

India is a very vast and diverse country with one sixth of world’s population; diverse than any other country in the world including China. Now let’s calculate how many years it will take for a person born in an isolated remote village of India to reach the centre stage of power politics in New Delhi. Assume that he/she is not a protégé of any politicians, neither a celebrity nor a business mogul. In this case he/she has to move through village level, block level, district level and state level to reach the highest echelons of power in Delhi. In all the way he/she has to compete with sons/daughters/relatives of politicians, celebrities, business tycoons who often start their political career at a higher platform – directly in Parliament or Assemblies.

Mass leaders are not born in a day; it requires a lifelong dedication to politics. In this situation it is quite natural that by the time he/she reaches New Delhi; he/she often finds white hair and a weaken body in the mirror. At the juncture can we took away his/her right to become PM or Minister only because of age? I don’t think we can. India is not a country where any common man can become president after sitting a few years in senate and a very hard campaign over two years.

Moreover, age often gives you the experience (it may not be true in all cases). An experience to handle the people and a chance to gently implement the ideas accumulated and refined over a long period of time. Now if you are saying that, well your retirement age is over, you can’t become a minister; it’s not only a denial of fundamental human rights but also depriving ourselves from a chance to benefit from their experience. To reach Delhi from the bottom of the pyramid needs a lifelong dedication to politics.

What we can have is a mix of both young and old blood in the administration not the total elimination of the second category.


Photo Courtesy: Wikipedia - Later edited to suite this article

Rape, Marriage and Suicide the case of 16 year old Moroccan girl

Raped at 15 by a man 10 years older to her, later forced to marry him, Amina Filali finally died on March 10 in a Northern Morocco hospital after swallowing rat poison. The obvious reason for the death is poison but so as the Article 475 of Moroccan Penal Code which permits the rapist to go without any punishment if he agrees to marry the victim. In this case also same thing happened, but after five months of married life Amina committed suicide.

According to the Human Rights Watch's report 'Article 475 provides for a prison term of one to five years for a person who “abducts or deceives a minor, less than 18 years of age, without violence, threat or fraud, or attempts to do so.” However, the second clause of that article specifies that when the minor marries the man, “he can no longer be prosecuted except by persons empowered to demand the annulment of the marriage and then only after the annulment has been proclaimed.” That clause effectively prevents the prosecutor from independently pursuing rape charges.'(#1)

475 is not the only section in Morocco's penal code depriving women of her rights. 490 and 496 are equally problematic. 490 criminalise consensual sex between unmarried people. That means, if a woman loss the case of rape in court, she can be prosecuted for having sex outside the marriage!!! An easiest was for branding a victim as a criminal. Article 496 punishes anyone who “knowingly hides or subverts the search for a married woman who is evading the authority to which she is legally subject.”(#1). In short a person can be punished if he/she tried to give shelter to a married woman facing severe domestic abuse.

The problem is not limited to Morocco; sexual and other types of violence against women both minor and major are often neglected in many countries. The main problem is the lifelong taboo society forcefully stamped on the victim. Instead of viewing the victim of rape (or any other sexual violence) through the eyes of sympathy society often consider her as dishonour to her family. The victim is forced to suffer the lifelong trauma of both violence and social treatment.

Time is already over for deleting these types of repressive laws from the books. Simply changing the law will not help; society has to change the attitude. Looking the victims through the glasses of liability and dishonour will only lead to the destruction of moral values. We can hope that this tragic death and subsequent protests in the streets will open the eyes of administration to change the law.


1. Morocco: Girl’s Death Highlights Flawed Laws
2. In Morocco, the rape and death of an adolescent girl prompts calls for changes to the penal code
3. Death of Rape Victim in Morocco Sparks Calls for Legal Reform

Photo Courtesy: Wikipedia, later edited to suit this article

Thursday, April 5, 2012

Anomalies in Foreign Direct Investment (FDI) - How much unbelievable it is?

Do you know who the largest foreign investor in India is? Interestingly, it is neither US nor Japan nor any other European countries but a small island in the Arabian sea - Mauritius. This country invested a whopping 2, 47,092 crores ($55,203mn) in India. More than 5 times that of the next big investor Singapore 58,090 crores ($13,070mn) which is again close to 15 thousand crores more than that of the third biggest foreign investor in India - United States. (#1)

Now let’s check about China. Who can be the biggest investor in China? Well according to the latest report in 'The Economist' it is Hong Kong and the second position goes to 'British Virgin Islands'. (#2).

The question is why this anomaly. The amount of money pumped in to India and China (may be to so many other countries) from these small islands and other tax heavens are unbelievably high. Just imagine Mauritius GDP is around $10bn only.

Read this interesting article on 'The Economist' - Shells and shelves.


(1) FDI: The top 10 nations investing in India
(2) 'The Economist' - Shells and shelves

Photo Courtesy: Income Tax Department, Ministry of Finance, Government of India. Later edited to suit this article.

The continuing Russian problems and capital flight

Protests are not new to Russia, so as oil and oil money. But what will happen if the money coming from oil and gas route moving out of the country with much higher speed? Obviously less amount to investment, development, social welfare etc.

In the first quarter alone the capital outflow from Russian economy was $35.1bn (last year it was $19.8). According to the reports, in March the amount is $12.5bn; $9bn more than previous year!!!

The problem with oil economy is it will give huge amount of foreign currency in to the hands of a small number of companies and government. This may enable the government to tax the people less or no tax at all. Well, people can enjoy a tax holiday (this may not be the case in all countries) but at the mammoth cost of 'less influence' in government policies.

Another problem with oil economy is, it will reduce the attraction of other labour intensive businesses – like manufacturing, services etc (of course not a common rule). Just imagine how a small stretch of land in sea - Taiwan - is such a big name in manufacturing and services. How many brands, originated from oil economies, you remember?

Capital flight, shrinking population, widespread accusations of corruption, protests in streets, not so friendly business atmosphere, shrinking investments in defence production, heavy bureaucracy etc are the severe diseases Russian Federation currently facing. Polishing the economy here and there by pumping oil money in to it may not work for longer. Economy requires deep structural reforms for survival.

The question Putin faced on his first round of presidency was about stability of the country. What the state now requires is reforms.

New administration have to stop this huge capital outflows by providing a friendly business environment, stable and enforceable laws and contracts, proactive government policies etc for business. Otherwise Russian Federation may simply end up as a country valued by the amount of natural resources it holds instead of her values or institutions. The challenge is very high, tough and unpleasant but not the one that can be postponed. One positive thing is Russia will join WTO this summer; hope that this will transform the Russian economy for the better.


Photo courtesy: Wikipedia, later edited to suit this article.

Wednesday, April 4, 2012

Which one is an offence - Evading the tax or investigating it?

Interesting news from Europe - 'Swiss seeks the arrest of 3 German tax officials over stolen banking data'.

What makes this one interesting is what the stolen data contains? It’s a CD which contains the information related to Swiss account holders. German tax inspectors paid a hefty $3.3mn for the CD - making it as one of the most expensive CD's in the world. The CD bought on Feb 2010 was already used by authorities from Rhine - Westphalia and other German states to start more than 1000 investigations against tax evasion. Well Germany taxmen showed what they can do.

I think it is already late for Swiss administration to re-think about their banking secrecy laws. Why people will take all the strains to deposit money in Swiss banks, even when there were so many banks close to them? Is it only because the excellent services provided by Swiss banks?

If Swiss wants to protect their secrecy laws, well. Nobody will have any problem if it is applicable to Swiss nationals only. For others let’s allow the laws of their native country or atleast international laws. There is so much wealth in Swiss banks which are legal or illegal but not taxed in most of the cases. Everyone can't go to Switzerland to save the taxes. So it will be better for the Swiss authorities to create a framework which will enable other governments to tax the amount and take appropriate actions.

Every government agencies may not be so strong as IRS or rich enough like Germen Tax authorities. But they too have a right to collect tax and question the illegal deposits.


Photo Courtesy - Wikipedia, later edited to suit this article.

Egyptian constitutional drafting panel becoming thinner and thinner

So many interesting things were set in motion by Arab Spring in this ancient country. Sleeping for a long time, Egyptians suddenly woke up and pulled down their government. Military took over the administration. Then another cat and mouse game started for conducting election.

Finally election was also over and Egypt started to think about drafting a new constitution. This constitution is an interesting entity, some countries stick to their old constitutions while some others switch to new one even before the ink dries from the older ones.

After elections – won by Islamic factions, 100 member council (Constituent Assembly of Egypt) formed to draft the new constitution. So far good, but the problem with the council was women - who eagerly participated in revolution and later forced to undergo virginity tests, minorities like Bedouins from Sinai or Nubians from Sudan border were underrepresented. There were only 6 women and apparently no one from Bedouins or Nubians. Liberals too were in severe short supply. Coptic Christians – Christians forms around 10% of Egyptian population too felt that – too felt that they can’t do nothing much in the constitutional body dominated by Islamic conservatives. Finally they also pulled out making the total number of people pulling out to 25.

Now if the minority is under-represented or not represented at all, what will happen to their interests? Of course, if Muslim Brotherhood worked hard they can create a wonderful constitution. But if others doesn't have a stake in it, if they don't feel it as their own then how far they will accept it? One of my favourite Mark Twain quote is “Whenever you find yourself on the side of the majority, it is time to pause and reflect.” It’s the time for Brotherhood and other Islamic conservatives who hold the majority to bring all others – women, liberals, Bedouins, Nubians, Coptics etc – to the table and start drafting the constitution. Power comes with responsibility.


Photo courtesy: Wikipedia - later edited to suit this article.