Sunday, March 23, 2014

Scrapping 5/20 rule; why it’s created in the first place

Finally government is abolishing a condition which shouldn’t be there in the first place. This is about the infamous 5/20 rule, where an aviation company registered in India should have 20 planes and complete 5 years of operation before starting overseas operations.

Ironically this rule was not applicable for companies registered abroad. In short one can register a company, which owns a single plane, and still be able to fly to India. If this rule was not there, then deceased Kingfisher Airlines might not have acquired Air Deccan and runs to huge debts. So as many rmsrthe two joint ventures of TATA.

I still don’t know why GoI, is enacting laws which will put Indian companies in a disadvantageous position. This is certainly not for helping passengers. If that was the case, then they should have inducted more flight safety inspectors to DGCA.


1. Five-year ops, 20 aircraft rule may be scrapped - Business Standard

Vanga to Magadha: Part I – Waka Waka this time for Kolkata

Vanga to Magadha: Part I – Waka Waka this time for Kolkata

Visiting Calcutta was one of my old dreams. When I was a kid, I heard about people going to Chennai, Mumbai, Pune, Delhi, Coimbatore, Bangalore, Mangalore etc. but never heard about anyone taking a train to Calcutta to build a new life. May be a lot of people went, but I never heard. For long this Capital of East, a wealthy city in the past remained in dreams only. 

One month back my friend and colleague Vivek invited me for his marriage in Patna. The next question was how to reach there? Our first option was Sanghmitra Express. However, for seeing Calcutta we dropped this train and booked tickets in YPR-HWH express.

Finally, on Tuesday evening we – Me, Ankit and Antony (Three Men in a boat) – left Bangalore for Calcutta. Train was on time, and we started crossing stations one by one. Train was fully packed by the time we left ‘KR Puram’. Next in the line was ‘Whitefield’; in that night, station building constructed using stone and painted in white looked more like ghost buildings in movies. Railway unions made sure that, the building would not look good by pasting their ads.

From Karnataka we moved to Andra for a while and then reached Tamil Nadu. Without failure Vodafone welcomed as whenever we are crossed state borders. However their services mostly limited to that welcome messages and voice only. Better to say nothing about 2G data quality.

By morning we arrived at Chirala station. Large number of Lorries were going in and out. Antony was sleeping in the upper berth; Ankit was on other side of the train. He was supposed to join with us in the morning.

By the time we reached Tenali Jn, everyone woke up from the sleep. Train was full of vendors – both from IRCTC and local ones – moving back and forth eatable items. Some people were wearing long chains of Gutka and pan-masala packets around their necks and serving a large consumer base. Full effect of pan masala sales were visible in the gap between bogies and washbasins. Those red coloured disgusting patterns in the floors.

Still no information about Ankit. Finally I started walking towards his berth on other end of the train. Many were sleeping, some were playing cards. By 9.30AM we reached Krishna. For river also lean season is going on, more than two thirds of the land under the bridge were covered by sand.

Soon we were in Vijayawada Jn - a main junction in the route; here train stopped for 30 minutes. I started walking to and fro in the platform. At one end TTE was shouting at a tea vendor for giving him cold and tasteless tea. Shop owner told him that the tea he serves is an excellent one and assure him an extra one. I too ordered one tea, it was hotter. However, simply heating the water won’t make tea any better.

It is interesting – after a while boring – to see both sides of the track in these areas. Vast agro fields wearing green saries were laying in the bare earth for long stretches. This beautiful landscape was enriched by the presence of large number of black stemmed palm trees. A good background for shooting beautiful movie songs. By this time, I found out Ankit. He was happily sleeping in a side upper berth.

By 12.30PM, we reached one of the biggest and sacred rivers in Andra – Godavari, a visual treat for eyes. If the train could go a little bit slow…!!!

Post lunch there weren't much things to do. Outside, it’s still those agro fields. I went for a long sleep; Ankit and Antony were busy with movies.

Long sleep in the day time, helped me to stay awake in the night. We were moving fast across Odisha to recover the time we missed in day time. In between I slept for some more time; when woke up were in the Capital of Odisha. Soon we entered Cuttack station, back to this legendary city after almost three years. Some more minutes to reach Great Mahanadi River– the pride of Odisha. Person sitting next to me told that, it would take 4 minutes for a train to cross the bridge across Mahanadi.

At 4 ‘o’ clock we reached Khargpur station. This station once had (now third after Gorakhpur and Kollam) the lengthiest platform in the world. One guy sitting next to me told that, five trains can stand back to back in this platform!!! Please note that, platform’s length is 1.072KM.  I was so eager to put my foot on this platform that I jumped outside and walked through the platform at 4 ‘O’ clock in the morning!!!

Finally it’s time to take some rest. By morning we were entering Calcutta city. As expected we reached the outskirts of the city in the early morning itself. However, it took another one hour to reach Howrah terminal – a mammoth station with more than 20 platforms. Waka Waka this time for Calcutta. We slowly went outside and start searching for a hotel.


Friday, March 21, 2014

MCTS - Mother and Child Tracking System

There is a proverb in Malayalam – “Chottayile Sheelam Chudala Vare”. It means whatever habit you acquired in childhood will remain with you till the cemetery. This is true in the case of childcare as well.

Antenatal and postnatal care services provided to pregnant women; nutritional food given to kids; immunization to all children etc. will help the nation to create a strong new generation. MCTS (web based tracking system) introduced by Ministry of Health, Family and Welfare can play an important role in this development.

MCTS “IT system providing alerts to health service providers about the services due list and services delivery gaps… also provides ready reference about the status of services / vaccination delivered to pregnant women and children… appropriate health promotion messages to beneficiaries that are relevant according to the month of pregnancy or date of birth of the child are being sent on mobiles of beneficiaries… being used for transfer of JSY(Janani Suraksha Yojana) benefits to pregnant women after delivery as is presently being done in 121 DBT districts. A pilot to transfer ASHA payments directly into their accounts has also been initiated.”

As per the latest government reports, “More than 10.7 crore pregnant women & children have been registered on MCTS Portal”.

Wish all the success for ICDS, JSY, JSSK, NIPI, MCTS and other health care systems. Hope that they will successfully serve their objectives.


GIS based Call tracking and GPS based Police dispatch for Women making distress call

The infamous gang rape happened in Delhi, in 2012 December 16. It was not the first gang rape in Delhi and certainly not the last one. In the next budget government came up with a 1000 crore nirbhaya fund.

After one year and two months of that incident, this is the statement given by Minister of State for Finance,

‘The progress on operationalisation of the ‘Nirbhaya Fund’ for which an amount of Rs. 1000.00 crore has been earmarked is being reviewed at the level of Finance Minister. A proposal for “Establishment of an Integrated Computer Aided Dispatch (CAD) platform for supporting Geographical Information System (GIS) based Call tracking and Geographical Positioning System (GPS) based Police vehicle dispatch to respond to women and other distress calls and ensure speedy assistance to them is at an advanced stage of approval. 

In addition to this, Ministry of Information and Technology is working on a proposal to introduce mandatory provision of SOS Alert Buttons in all new handsets/providing SOS alert system in the existing handsets through free downloading of suitable software. Further, Government has also approved a scheme of Ministry of Road Transport and Highways to provide enhanced security for Women in Public Road Transport System in the country. The amount has been credited in a Public Fund and utilization will be as required from time to time’.

If you read it carefully, you can see sentences like ‘is being reviewed’, ‘at an advanced stage of approval’, ‘working on a proposal’ etc.

When they are going to introduce all those things? How much time they will take to review all those things? From when the status will change from ‘advanced stage of approval’ to actual approval?

Fortunately, one thing they approved – a scheme to provide enhanced security for women in public transport system. Isn’t this a misnomer? Provide enhanced security? That means there was some security in the past!!! Please let me know if you see any enhanced security in public transport system.

By the way it is good to see that, government is going to implement GIS, GPS based call tracking and Police dispatch. I support it 100%. But the question is, when all this things will become operational?



1. Lok Sabha Q & A (Feb 21/ 2014)

Thursday, March 20, 2014

Olive Ridley Turtles – Arribada

Ever saw the small Olive Ridley turtles moving towards ocean in mass? Well, I also saw that on TV only. If any one of you are interested, then this is the best time to visit Rushikulaya, Gahirmatha nesting grounds, Odisha.

“Olive ridley turtles are the smallest and most abundant of all sea turtles found in the world, inhabiting warm waters of the Pacific, Atlantic and Indian oceans. These turtles, along with their cousin the Kemps ridley turtle, are best known for their unique mass nesting called Arribada, where thousands of females come together on the same beach to lay eggs. Though found in abundance, their numbers have been declining over the past few years, and the species is recognized as Vulnerable by the IUCN Red list.” – WWF.

This time, DRDO is live webcasting the events. If you can’t be there in person, then don’t miss the webcast.



Wednesday, March 19, 2014

The Curious Question of Crimea and Her Big Neighbour

One year back how many of you heard about an area called Crimea? I guess, not much people. All of a sudden this area on northern coast of Black Sea; once controlled by Cimmerians, Scythians, Greeks, Romans, Goths, Huns, Byzantines, Golden Horde, Ottomans etc. became a political hot potato. If that Malaysian plane episode was not there, this place would have occupied 80% of international prime time.

A little bit of History

Crimea’s association with Russia officially starts with the conquest of Crimean Khanate by Russian Empire under ‘Catherine the Great’ in 1783. Russian Empire fought hard for this place. Later, from 1853-56 Russia fought with French, British, Ottoman, Sardinia and their allies for Crimea; which later came to known as Crimean war.

After Russian civil war, Crimea became a part of Soviet Union. The twist came in 1954, when Khrushchev transferred this region to Ukrainian SSR. He might not have imagined that, Soviet Union would break up. However, that too happened in 1991 and Crimea became a part of independent Ukraine.

Russian Navy

By the way let me tell you one more interesting fact here. Russian Navy has three Military districts,

1. Western (head quartered in Severomorsk, Kaliningrad),
2. Southern (head quartered in Sevastopol, Astrakhan) and
3. Eastern (head quartered in Vladivostock).

You can locate these places in maps and see where they are. Vladivostock is very far away from Moscow; Severomorsk opens to Barents Sea; Kaliningrad is not geographically connected to Russia. This increases the importance of Black Sea Fleet head quartered at Sevastopol (this place is in Crimea).

Containment after 1991?

US and western powers, might have thought about containing Russia by wooing former Warsaw Pact countries to EU. Russia made some noises when some of them eventually joined EU and later in NATO. Meanwhile EU expansion started touching the doors of former Soviet Union member states. For Russia, Poland or some former Warsaw pact countries joining EU is one thing, and Ukraine joining EU is altogether a different thing. Problems in Ukranian capital, between groups having support from Western Capitals and Russia’s own Victor Yanukovich only made the matters worse.

Washington Post reports that, “Crimeans voted overwhelmingly to leave Ukraine and join Russia, election officials said Sunday, capping a heavy-handed campaign that blocked most voters from hearing a vision for any alternative to unification with Moscow. Crimean election Spokesman Mikhail Malyshev said the final result was 96.77 percent to rejoin Russia and 2.51 percent against.”

Will Putin annex Cremia to Russia? May be yes, in any way there isn’t much scope for a truly independent Cremia.

What will happen next?

Will US and allies really impose crippling sanctions on Russia? Or all these hue and cry are just for the sake of making some noises? I think US have limited options here. They need Russian support in Syria, they need Russian support in pulling out rest of their troops from Afghanistan. At the same time, US needs to reassure their Eastern European allies on security. They also need to show to rest of the world that, they are in control.

However, it is difficult for European countries to impose sanctions on Russian. Many of them depends on Russian oil and gas for fuelling their economy. The main question here is, will Western European nations sacrifice Russian relationship for Ukraine, which anyway doesn’t occupy much higher place in European strategic calculations (if they have one)? I don’t think so.

US still holds some cards here. They can open their huge gas reserves to their allies on other side 
of the Atlantic (in case Russia reduced the oil and gas supply) to get their support. This will help US to get EU support for imposing tough sanctions on Russia. I think there will be some sanctions, and suspension on talks. Nothing further. This crisis may still go in the same way of Georgian question went. Situation may change if entire Ukraine became unstable.

China and Syria might be smiling… for time being South China Sea and Syrian crisis went further down in emergency list.


PS: It is believed that the famous Victoria Cross – Highest Military decoration of Britain introduced by Queen Victoria in 1856 - is believed to me made from the Russian cannons captured at the Siege of Sevastopol.

Sunday, March 16, 2014

More species in to the exit list

Critically endangered; this is not a category any species may interested in. In short, if current situation prevails longer enough, those species may disappear from the world.

As per the latest report of 'International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN)' 15 bird species of India are there in the Red List of Birds (2013) under critically endangered section.

The birds are,

Migratory wetland species: Baer's Pochard, Siberian Crane and Spoon-billed Sandpiper.
Non-migratory wetland species: White-bellied Heron. Grassland species: Bengal Florican, Great Indian Bustard, Jerdon's Courser and Sociable Lapwing.
Forest species: Indian Vulture, Red-headed Vulture, White-backed Vulture and Slender-billed Vulture.

In addition to that, Himalayan Quail and Pink-headed Duck are now considered Extinct for all practical purposes.

This is not an unexpected turn. When wetlands suddenly became the favorite of real estate players and forests are handed over to mining compnies to extract whatever left under the ground, this is bound to happen.

Next time when you some rare birds, make sure that, you took some photos of them. Who knows whether it will exist.



1. 15 bird species in India critically endangered - TOI

Thursday, March 13, 2014

New Political Dramas in Telengana

It is very much interesting to watch the current political drama going on in AP. By the way let me remind you, this is the state which elected the biggest contingent of congress MPs. However, those days are gone. After the split of Andra to Seemandra and Telengana it is guaranteed that, Congress is going to suffer heavily in Seemandra region.

However as the mid wife of Telengana, congress is supposed to be in an advantageous position in Telengana. INC managers must have believed that, TRS will merge with Congress (and make K Chandrasekhar Rao as first Telengana CM) and they will swipe Telengana. However, they forgot the main thing, even after the formation of new state, options are open for TRS. Why should they merge, if they can extract more from congress by threatening them?

Will congress give in to the wishes of TRS and destabilize their regional presence in return for some seats in center?


The Curious Question Of Rhinos

Rhinos are hunted across the world for their horns. This business area is fast growing because of the availability of people stupid enough to believe that, it is a cure for so many things.

So what is the solution? If I ask you this question, then your answers may be - Create awareness among people, enforce stricter punishments etc. Will you suggest trimming the horn itself? I guess no. However this is the brilliant idea came in the minds of Assam government.

According to a TOI report, "Last month, Assam Forest and Environment Rockybul Hussain had said the government will set up a committee to study if the horn of a rhino could be trimmed without any harm to the animal to save it from poaching." - TOI

In this way we can save elephants by cutting their trunks; and other animals by removing the organs given to them by nature. Bye the way, how they are planning to protect women?

Society's answer to these type of illogical reasoning should be a straight NO. Nothing less than that.



1. Environmentalists oppose Assam govt's move to dehorn rhino - TOI

Monday, March 3, 2014

Confused: lobbying and bribing, what’s the difference?

What is the difference between lobbying and outright bribery? I am confused whether any actual difference exists between these two terms, as the practitioners of lobbying claims. Why some pays bribe? Why someone pays enormous amounts in lobbying? How come lobbying acceptable in some countries and bribe got that universal negative meaning?

According to a recent TOI article, which again refers to a report by Centre for Responsive Politics ‘... across sectors, the lobbying spend had fallen to $3.21 billion in 2013 from $3.31 billion in the previous year. The number of lobbyists has also declined from 12,433 in 2012 to 12,279 last year’.

It is interesting to note that, companies and other interest groups considered it appropriate to spend $3.31bn and $3.21bn in 2012 and 2013 respectively, for lobbying. Isn’t because the elected representatives won’t be able to push forward this group’s opinion without something in return? If that is the case, then do you really think lobbyists are merely the PR front of these interest groups?

I believe, companies should talk directly to elected representatives without opening their purse in every step leading to their seats. If they want to hire an outside agency for that, so be it. But they have to make sure, elected representatives won’t get any monetary benefit out of it. Otherwise, we – the people - won’t find much difference between lobbying and bribing.