Saturday, May 31, 2014

Barbarians inside the gate – Continuing saga of rape, torture and murder

One more rape found all its way to the headlines of national newspapers and television talk shows. After exhaustive coverage of more than half a yearlong national election campaign, AAP party’s blitzkrieg in Delhi before that, media was waiting for another hot issue.  They got one from UP, ruled by a shaking regional party.

One of my friend recently told me an embarrassing experience. While talking with a foreign female colleague he asked “would you like to visit India for a vacation?” Her answer came immediately, “No, India is not safe for women”. That is the level of awareness we give to potential visitors. No amount of Incredible India campaign can beat it.

We always claims to give high regard for women in our society. Ready for arguments by extracting examples from mythology to prove the amount of respect and freedom we showed on Indian women. Probably every time we have to go back to pre-historic times, because of our dishonorable record in contemporary times. In addition to that, one don’t have to give much proof while talking about pre-historic times.

The brutal gang rape, torture and hanging of UP kids are snapshot of our society’s barbarianism. This is not an isolated incident, everyday there might be many of such incidents happening in rural and urban India. Unfortunately, only a few of them make it in to new paper headlines; and still a fraction of it be able to raise the blood temperature of our youth and administration.

There is no point in singling out UP administration. If this incident happened in any other state, results will be same only. Politicians knew that society’s blood temperature will come back to normal after a number of token actions and a couple of days. That’s exactly the problem, activists and media often forget to take the issues to its logical conclusion. In addition to that, we abhor the victims and make their life difficult. At the same time, society care less about the culprits and they quickly find a way to come back to a normal life.

Still I am horrified by the courage of culprits to hang the body in a public place. Are we living in medieval times?

Demanding CBI investigation

It is interesting to see the continuing demand for CBI investigation after every such incident. Did the people loss the miniscule faith they still had in state police? Anyway, why should they believe the Police, who demand money and put victims name in culprits list? This is time for Police department in every state to do some introspection, why people of their state have little faith in them and ask for CBI investigation for everything. If they don’t do, then only God can save them.

A social obligation

Society has an obligation to help the family and integrate the rape victims back to social life; Police have an obligation – at least for the salary they receive from public – to take the culprits to the court and bring the case to a logical conclusion; administration have an obligation to enforce the law and order, protect the wealth and honor of citizens. Hope that this time – and in all future occasions - all the concerned parties will do justice to their roles.


Monday, May 26, 2014

Power to people or fooling the people? Power supply conundrum in UP

“Power to the people: 22-hour supply to Varanasi, Azamgarh” – TOI.

I was not able to believe my eyes. What is happening? Even an announcement for 22 hours electricity supply to a famous district headquarter is coming in the home page of a national newspaper. Another area marked for 22 hour power supply is Azamgarh (constituency of SP chief). Interestingly, both are constituencies of famous politicians.

Other areas which are getting power for longer hours are “Mainpuri (primary constituency of Mulayam), Etawah (home town of SP supremo), Kannauj (the constituency of Mulayam's daughter-in-law Dimple Yadav) and Rampur (assembly constituency of Azam Khan)”.

What is this? UP is a banana republic or what? What about those unfortunate UP constituencies which didn’t elect any famous politicians? Don’t they have any right to get electricity?


1. Power to the people: 22-hour supply to Varanasi, Azamgarh: TOI

Sunday, May 25, 2014

Another twist in Thailand Crisis

The possibilities of a military coup was in pipeline in Thailand for a very long time. Country is already divided on many lines – red shirts vs yellow shirts; royalists vs others; military etc. In anyway, involvement of military in politics is not unfamiliar for Thais.

However this time integrity of country itself is in question. The differences between red shirts and yellow shirts are raised to such a level that, it might prove next to impossible for them to sit across a table for talks. In current environment, it might not be possible for yellow shirts to come to power through democratic elections. In any way, they won’t agree for a red shirt led government. So army is one of the last remaining choices.

At the same time an army takeover is not welcomed by political movements, especially the red shirts. After all how long army can control the explosive situation? They might have to conduct elections soon.

If political problems are not sorted out early, Thailand is going to suffer in a big way. Corporates won’t find it in their interest to invest in a country, which is not at all sure about its own future. Due to current crisis tourists won’t come to enjoy the Bangkok streets or beaches like Pattaya. It might be very much difficult for the army to control the situation as economic crisis will become deeper and deeper.  

Probably the current king – who is still widely respected by Thai’s (I won’t say the same about his heirs) – can do something to bring all the parties to a table and hold discussions. The better it happens, the better it for Thailand.


Vanga to Magadha: Part VII – Kolkata, Capital of the east

From Boat - SBI building on right side
Dhanbad Express was a bit late to reach Howrah. We booked a room in a hotel – the same hotel we used on last Thursday; and then started our journey.

Inside the boat

Crossing Hooghly in a Boat

This time our first destination was Prinsep ghat. From Howrah Jetty ferries are available to cross the river. Me and Antony bought tickets for one such boat to reach the other side. After some 5 minutes, our boat came. Slowly we crossed Hooghly – through the waters which carry the stories of thousands of kilometers and millions of people.

Rusting - keeping the memory alive
After a while we reached Babu Ghat. After having lemon soda mixed with Jal Jeera, we started walking towards Princep Ghat.

Prinsep Ghat

In memory of one of India's great historian
Before going further let me tell you something about James Prinsep (Prinsep Ghat is named after him). This person completely changed the way we, India's, understand our history. By profession he was an assay master. James Prinsep started his career at Calcutta mint. Later he moved to Banaras mint. In 1830, after the closure of Benares mint, he moved back to Calcutta and joint in Calcutta mint and later became an assay master there.
"In 1832 Prinsep succeeded H.H. Wilson as secretary of Asiatic Society of Bengal... contributed articles on chemistry, mineralogy, numismatics and on the study of Indian antiquities... Coins were Prinsep's first interest. He interpreted doing from Bactria and Kushan as well as Indian series coins, including "punch-marked" ones from the Gupta series. Prinsep suggested that there were three stages; the punch-marked, the die-struck, and the cast coins." - Wikipedia.
At Pricept Ghat

I think his most important contribution for India is the deciphering of Kharoshthi using bi-lingual Indo-Greek coins and Brahmi script.

"In a series of results that he published between 1836–38 he was able to decipher the inscriptions on rock edicts found around India. The edicts in Brahmi script mentioned a King Devanampriya Piyadasi which Prinsep initially assumed was a Sri Lankan king. He was then able to associate this title with Asoka on the basis of Pali script from Sri Lanka communicated to him by George Turnour. These scripts were found on the pillars at Delhi and Allahabad and on rock inscriptions from both sides of India, and also the Kharosthi script in the coins and inscriptions of the north-west. The idea of Corpus Inscriptionum Indicarum, a collection of Indian epigraphy, was first suggested by Prinsep and the work was formally begun by Sir Alexander Cunningham in 1877. His studies on inscriptions helped in the establishment of date of Indian dynasties based on references to Antiochus and other Greeks... Prinsep also delved into the early history of Afghanistan, producing several works that touched on archaeological finds in that country. Many of the collections were sent by Alexander Burnes." - Wikipedia.

Small caravans...
Palladian porch where we were standing in Prinsep Ghat, on the banks of Hooghly River and close to a suspension bridge across Howrah - was designed by W. Fitzgerald in 1843 and erected by citizens of Calcutta in memory of James Prinsep.

After sitting there for some time, watching floated iron structures in the river and vehicles moving across the bridge we left the ghat and reached main road.
A view from flyover - one of that big building in the background belongs to Tata Steel
Fort William

This historical building is one of the prime witness of British Rule in India. Unfortunately, this building is no more accessible to public.

Victoria memorial - Emperor and Empress
The last remains of a bygone era - Victoria Memmorial @ Kolkata
From Princep Ghat we moved towards Victoria Memorial – probably the most iconic building ruling the Kolkata Skyline.

“The building is 184 ft high upto the base of the figure of Victory, which is another 16 ft high. The groups of figures above the north porch represent Motherhood, Prudence and Learning. Surrounding the main dome are figures of Art, Architecture, Justice, Charity etc. The Memorial is situated on a 64 acres of land with the building covering 338 ft by 228ft…Curzon insisted that the Memorial should be built of white marble, and in the event the stone was brought from the same quarries in Makrana, Rajasthan, that supplied Shah Jahan.” -

St Paul's church
Calm and quiet - British era church - St. Pauls
From Victoria Memorial we walked towards St Paul’s church. This is one of the oldest and beautiful church in Kolkata. I liked the church from at the first sight itself.

We were hungry and thirsty after the long walk all the way from Babu Ghat through the sides of EdenGarden, Judges Ghat, Princep Ghat, Fort William and Victoria Memorial. Water from the tap in front of church tasted like nectar from heaven :).

We went inside. There were a lot of tablets pasted in the wall to honor British War Heros. After reading descriptions given in some of the tablets I walked towards the prayer room and sat in a table at one end. It didn't take much time for me to sleep. I never believed that I could sleep so quickly. While sleeping our entire journey from Bangalore, train, Kolkata, Patna, Pawapuri, Ragjir etc moved in front my eyes as a slow-motion movie. In between I woke up and looked towards Antony, he was sleeping - with his eyes wide open. I slept (in sitting mode) for some more time and then we left the church.

It was so calm inside - big building, some 10-15 people. Hardly anyone made sound, except a young girl in her late teens. Her friend, sitting next, was trying to console her. But that sad, fragile sobbing sound continued till we were thre.

Birla Planetarium
Where you can see the sky - Nabho Sparsham Deeptham
Planetarium is located right in front of the church. There was already a long queue, hence we didn't try our luck there. We walked forward. I was eager to reach Ho Chi Minn Sarani. You may be wondering why I am so eager to reach there. ok, let me tell you that story as well.

US Department's second oldest consulate is located in Kolkata, in an area called Harrington Street. Date goes back to November 19, 1792. When communist government came to power in West Bengal, they renamed the street to 'Ho Chi Minh Sarani', in memory of Vietnam National Hero... Ironically, mails to US Consulate in Calcutta during Vietnam War had to carry the address of their greatest nemesis.
An empress who ruled the world

Post-independence many roads and streets in Kolkata got new names.

Chowringhee Road became Jawaharlal Nehru Road; Park Street was renamed after Mother Teresa; Theatre Road was renamed after William Shakespeare (an exception!!! interestingly there wasn't any street named after Shakespeare during more than two century long British Raj; Harrington Street was renamed after the leader of the Vietnam independence movement, Ho Chi Minh. Camac Street has been renamed after great artist Abanindranath Tagore; Russell Street became Anandi Lal Poddar Street. Free School Street was renamed after the Urdu/ Persian poet Mirza Ghalib. Kyd Street was renamed Dr. Md. Ishaque Road. Lindsay Street was renamed after Nellie Sengupta so on and so forth (courtesy for data: Wikipeida)
After walking through Camac street we reach Park street and had Pizza from a near-by Pizza Hut.


Then we went to Park Street Station and took metro to reach Kalighat station. After passing through a number of stations, we finally reached Kalighat and climbed the steps to reach main road. After checking Nokia Maps again we started walking towards the temple. In front of a bakery we met one person who, without asking, told that the shortcut to the temple is on left side. I checked the map again, it showed a line which ends up somewhere. It may be a shortcut, we started walking through that road.

That guy also followed us, why? To get dakshina when we reach the temple? I developed a particular resistance against these type of practices after the incident on Hot Springs at Rajgir. So we tried to avoid him by walking fast, he too increased speed. So we walked slow and allowed him to overtake us. Interestingly he waited (for us?) at next turn. Finally we ignored him. Rest of the path to the temple was densely populated by small stores. After ignoring a lot of offers for easy darshan we finally reached the temple gate and I went inside.

There was not much crowd inside the temple. I reached sanctum and prayed in front of Kolkata Kali. Her face looked ferocious, deadly for enemies and friendly for allies.

From the temple we walked towards the next Metro train station. On the way we had ras malai as well, sweet and costly :) We had only limited time left in Kolkata, probably a couple of hours were there for our train to start the journey towards Bangalore. What to do next?
Poem in Marble
From there we got in another train to reach Dum Dum. A lot people came in and went out. Students going to home after spending day in school, college and outside. Ladies wearing a tiresome look after day long work and gentlemen carrying black leather bags were heading towards home to reunite with family. Finally we reach Dum Dum station, unlike other stations this particular station is an underground one.
Front end.

There was nothing much to see, or more specifically we didn’t had much time left. Hence quickly bought another ticket to MG Road Station. From MG Road to Howrah in a bus and then to Bangalore in ‘HWH-YPR’ Express.


Antony - at a distance

Here it is - beautiful gardens of Victoria Memmorial
From another angle

Edward VII - On top of horse

A view from other side, with Emperor

Friday, May 23, 2014

Vanga to Magadha: Part VI – Rajgir, The Royal House

Roads of Rajgir
We used autos to reach Rajgir from Pawapuri. More than a comfortable vehicle for transportation those hollow metal tubes felt more like a pressure cooker. By evening, we reached Rajgir in a highly compressed form J

We got down at one end of the city and walked towards railway station. Both of us didn’t know that, reaching railway station by walk means crossing the city through its diameter. Otherwise we would have used an auto. We two souls – tired and hungry – finally got a room in hotel next to railway station. Sleeping was the next natural choice, but no. We need to book return ticket to Patna as well. After that lengthy, shaky, time consuming journey we completed in the morning both Antony and me didn’t have the stomach to suffer a repetition of the same. Finally we found a train full of chair cars.

On the way to Shanti Stupa
In the morning our first job was to go to the railway station book tickets to Patna. We went there and searched for a person in the counter to collect money. There was none. There was no point in waiting for more time. Hence we came back to the street and had a strong tea. A heavy political debate was going in a group sitting next to us. I won’t say it’s a debate, one guy was talking and others are trying to reason with him.
Saloon at road side

Rope Way to Shanti Stupa

After having breakfast we walked towards Rajgir bus stand in search of a tam tam (horse drawn cart) to Rajgir. The first one we enquired quoted 200, we simply walked away from there and approached another one. 250 for going to ropeway, waiting there and bringing us back.

Journey was interesting – a lot of colourful tam tams were moving here and there, one guy was running a saloon at the road side – only using stool, mirror and shaving equipments. As we go further, both sides of the road became more deserted and light forest started dominating the environment. After crossing some historical sites we reached Ropeway – a money generating machine for Bihar Tourism Department (60INR/person).

Another long queue. Finally we got a chance to sit on the seats attached to ropes and to reach the hill to see Japanese Pagoda.

While coming back, we thought of getting down at hot water springs. Our tam tam driver asked for another 50. We saw the board for hot water spring while coming, what we don’t know was how far the springs are from road side. I almost felt cheated when I realized that,  the spring is on the road itself and the driver charged extra 50 to wait on the road side for some 15 minutes J After coming back from the springs, I did express my displeasure.

Water was semi hot. It’s the novelty of naturally boiled water and feel good factor. By the way, let me remind you that the place looked more like a public bath room.

Rajgir Express

This train was full of surprises. In IRCTC this train had very good characteristics, but on the ground, i.e. in railway station, train looked different. It didn’t even has a number or board indicating source and destination. After waiting for another one hour our train finally started moving. I thought finally we were on track!!! However, the happiness didn’t last long. Train stopped at one station and it became a station itself. Many trains came and went; many from our compartment moved to Vikramshila Express and other train. After waiting for a long time we started moving again.
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Our train stopped again at the outskirts of the city, next to a polluted water body. Waiting there was not free of cost, mosquitoes heavily taxed us.


Me standing in front of Stupa

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Wednesday, May 7, 2014

Bioscope : Special Moments - 2

My friend Binesh looking at some object. Mahabalipuram, Tamilnadu

A crowded market, Armenian Ghat, Kolkata

Staircase, a lengthy one

Bangalore Metro, on a not so crowded day.

Tuesday, May 6, 2014

Special Courts to hear child abuse cases

According to TOI report,
"Special courts will soon be set up to hear cases related to protection of children from sexual offences (POCSO) in Uttarakhand. Such cases will be heard in district courts."
A small step in adressing a grave issue which is eating away the very fundamentals of morality and values. However, creating special courts doesn't mean that, trials will finish fast and judgement will come quickly. In the landslide of cases these special courts will soon become not so special.

Along with adding new courts, government should make sure that prosecution is equipped with right methods and techniques. We need to make our evidence gathering strong and scientific. In this era where information is always at your finger tips, it should not be difficult or time consuming for a prosecutor to complete scientific tests or to get the results.

Whatever method we adopt, justice should be swift (not after some 10 or 12 years).


Sunday, May 4, 2014

Bioscope : Special Moments - 1

Setting up food stalls in road side is a good business in Bangalore and a place to go for breakfast and dinner

Adding freshness to garlands

Long open drainage feeding plastic to birds

A traveler taking a nap during an afternoon journey

More than just filling the holes: New story in Karnataka’s mining sector

As per Supreme Court’s directions, Karnataka government is about to set up a company to formulate and implement projects under Comprehensive Environment Plan for Mining Impact Zone.

As per business standard report,
“This company will be in existence for the next 30 years and spend at least Rs 30,000 crore for repairing the damage done by mining to the environment in the three districts of Bellary, Chitradurga and Tumkur” - BS
It is interesting to note that government is spending huge amount of money to solve a problem which was created by government’s lack of strict enforcement of forest laws in the first place. Illegal mining, tax evasion, pollution by mining industry already put a heavy toll on Karnataka’s ecology and exchequer. More over who will foot the cost for such a big project?
“The payments received by the monitoring committee under different heads such as compensation payable for Category-B mining leases, sale proceeds of the existing stock of Category-C mining leases, 15 per cent of the sale proceeds of the existing stock of Category-B mining leases, 10 per cent of the sale proceeds of the existing stock of Category-A mining leases and 10 per cent of the sale proceeds of both Category-A and B leases after resumption of mining operations will be transferred to the company. The total amount so far collected amounts to nearly Rs 4,000 crore” - BS
Will the money raised through selling mining leases, royalty payments etc. is enough for such ambitious recovery projects? Why the company is to be headed by so many government secretaries (who are already overwhelmed by other works) instead of appointing some professionals to run it?

Moreover, if government is still reluctant to enforce environment laws in mining areas; industry dont like to think about environment and focus only on extraction; opening sensitive areas of Western Ghats to mining etc. then SC order and setting up a company will not contribute an iota to ecological problems.

It’s good to see some positive movement, but… I still have my own doubts…



Ayodhya: There is a dying river too

As I pointed out in previous articles most of India’s major rivers are polluted to such an extent that, they may no longer be able to support cities and villages located on banks. Many rivers are holy to Hindu’s, they consider them as mothers. Unfortunately, mother’s status didn’t help them from escaping from extreme pollution; disappearance of river bed because of sand mining; loss of catchment areas to illegal processions; loss of huge quantities of water(beyond sustainable limit) etc.

Saryu’s case is not different. Legendry river of Ramayana fame is suffering heavily under human intervention.

There is a big cry from one community for building a new temple; to reconstruct a mosque (or for maintaining the status quo) from another one. However there isn’t much concern for protecting Saryu, the river which sustained life in Ayodya and still providing drinking water for thousands living on her banks. After all Saryu may not raise religious fever in people’s mind or generate votes much like temple-mosque problems do. But should that stop common people like us from saving Saryu?