Friday, December 30, 2016

Stories: Perception on Perception

A teacher teaching Maths to a six-year-old asked him, “If I give you one apple and one apple & one apple, how many apples will you have?”

Boy replied confidently, “Four!”

Dismayed teacher was expecting an effortless correct answer (three).

She was disappointed. “May be the child did not listen properly,” she thought. She repeated, “pls listen carefully. It is very simple. You will be able to do it right if you listen carefully. If I give you one apple and one apple and one apple, how many apples will you have?”

The boy had seen the disappointment on his teacher’s face. He calculated again on his fingers. But within him he was also searching for the answer that will make his teacher happy.

This time hesitatingly he replied, “Four...”

The disappointment stayed on teacher’s face. She remembered that the boy loves strawberries. She thought maybe he doesn’t like apples and that is making him lose focus. This time with exaggerated excitement & twinkling eyes she asked ...

“If I give you one strawberry & one strawberry & one strawberry, then how many will you have?”

Seeing the teacher happy, the young boy calculated on his fingers again. There was no pressure on him, but a little on the teacher. She wanted her new approach to succeed.

With a hesitating smile, the young boy replied, “Three?”

The teacher now had a victorious smile. Her approach had succeeded. She wanted to congratulate herself. But one last thing remained.

Once again she asked him, “Now if I give you one apple and one apple and one more apple how many will you have?”

Promptly the answer was “Four!”

The teacher was aghast.

“How.... tell me, How?” she demanded in a little stern and irritated voice.

In a voice that was low and hesitating young boy replied, “Because I already have one apple in my bag.”

PS: When someone gives you an answer that is different from what you are expecting, it is not necessarily they are wrong. There may be an angle that we may not have understood at all. We need to learn to appreciate and understand different perspectives. Quite often, we try and impose our perspectives on others and then wonder what went wrong.

Disclaimer: '#Forwarded' label refers to stories and anecdotes send to me by friends or the ones I came across in net. I neither know the source of these stories nor its correctness. Being said that, I like the story and truly believe that readers will get inspiration/ motivation from these articles

Tuesday, December 27, 2016

Stories: Value of Life

A little boy once went to his grandpa and asked, "What's the value of life?"

Grandpa gave him a stone and said, "Find out the value of this stone, but don't sell it"

Boy took the stone to an Orange Seller and asked him what its cost would be.

Orange Seller saw the shiny stone and said, "You can take 12 oranges for that stone."

Boy apologized and said that grandpa has asked him not to sell it.

He went ahead and found a vegetable seller and asked, "What could be the value of this stone?"

Seller saw the shiny stone and said, "Take one sack of potatoes and give me the stone."

Boy again apologized and said he can't sell it.

Further ahead, he went into a jewellery shop and asked the value of the stone.

The jeweler saw the stone under a lens and said, "I'll give you 1 million for this stone."

When the boy shook his head, the jeweler said, "Alright, alright, take two 24 karat gold necklaces, but give me the stone."

Boy explained that he can't sell the stone.

Further ahead, boy saw a precious stone's shop and asked seller the value of this stone.

When precious stone's seller saw the big ruby, he lay down a red cloth and put ruby on it. Then he walked in circles around the ruby; bent down and touched his head in front of the ruby. "From where did you bring this priceless ruby from?" he asked.

"Even if I sell the whole world, and my life, I won't be able to purchase this priceless stone."

Stunned and confused, the boy returned to grandpa and told him what had happened.

"Now tell me what is the value of life, grandpa?"

Grandpa said, "The answers you got from the Orange Seller, the Vegetable Seller, the Jeweler & the Precious Stone's Seller explain the value of our life...

You may be a precious stone, even priceless; but people will value you based on their financial status, their level of information, their belief in you, their motive behind entertaining you, their ambition, and their risk taking ability. But don't fear, you will surely find someone who will discern your true value."

You are Unique.

Disclaimer: '#Forwarded' label refers to stories and anecdotes send to me by friends or the ones I came across in net. I neither know the source of these stories nor its correctness. Being said that, I like the story and truly believe that readers will get inspiration/ motivation from these articles

Tuesday, December 20, 2016

Chinese Method for Testing the Waters

USNS Bowditch
The cat and mouse game is on in South China sea, where most of the waters are claimed by China (nine dashed lines). What China don’t know is, how far US will go in South China Sea disputes to protect allies. Will they walk the talk? No one knows. Hence, China is doing what they can do at best. Test the situation… What make this game more interesting is, the actual policy of Donald Trump towards China when he comes to power.

Latest in the chain of events is the capture of US underwater drone. Pentagon claims that it is a scientific research vessel. However, it is quite possible that the vessel was researching Chinese navel assets deployed on contested waters. It is believed that, while launching underwater drone US ship - Bowditch - was just 50 miles away from Subic Bay (former US Navy base in Philippines). This means Bowditch might be outside of nine dashed lines.

As expected Philippines, didn’t make any hue and cry after the incident; which happened within the waters claimed by them. Philippines hardly said a word when new satellite images uncovered weapon installations on artificial islands around Spartly chain.

There may be two reason for this. First, Philippines navy is not in a position to take on Chinese; second, country is looking for Chinese investments; and finally, current president Durette wants more warm relations with China and slowly drifting away from US.

Well US protested formally and after a lot of exchanges Chinese agreed to return the captured Drone.
This incident happened days after US President-elect called Taiwanese president; which was first such official contact by any US president (or president elect) after Jimmy Carter recognized China on 1979. China didn’t take it well.

Where it is heading?

1. I believe Chinese is testing US; to know what extent America will go?
2. Most of the actions by Chinese till now are below a carefully defined threshold; beyond which US has to respond. Problem is, exactly where the threshold is?
3. These types of incidents will cement Chinese authority on entire South China Sea. When one of the contested party – the Philippines – is not ready to protest, US can hardly do much.
4. This incident also raise questions about the future of ‘US – Philippines’ relations
5. No consequence for Chinese actions will only make them bold to go ahead with this policy.


Monday, December 19, 2016

Launching from Air

As a first US launched Pegasas rocket from air, at a height of 40,000 feet above Atlantic Ocean, using an aircraft. This rocket later placed 8 tiny satellites, designed for better Hurricane intensity predictions,  in to orbits. 

All eight satellites are very small – as small as a microwave oven - but the important thing here is we are moving a step ahead and were able to launch the rocket and satellites from air. 

Current problem faced by whether forecasters is finding out the nature and intensity of wind formed under storm clouds. Current satellite configurations will give the data only twice in a  day. Rest of the data is coming from Hurricane hunter planes. With this grid of micro-satellites we will be able to get data in every 12 minutes for any storm formed in tropics. Without doubt, this enhanced forecasting capacity is going to save a lot of lives.  

Pegasus XL Rocket Launches with CYGNSS Spacecraft


Sunday, December 18, 2016

Where Supreme Court of India is heading?

I never felt so much lost when there was continuous washout of Indian parliament; more or less this became a norm than an anomaly. Nevertheless, there was a different set of expectations from SCI. Couple of recent judgements based hardly on any rational thought made a huge dent on those expectations.

Most important of that, is the issue of playing national anthem before the beginning of every movie in theaters. In response to writ petition (855/2016) ‘Shyam Narayan Chouksey’ Vs ‘Union of India’ Supreme Court told,

(a)    There shall be no commercial exploitation to give financial advantage or any kind of benefit…
Well, first point is fine.

(b)    There shall not be dramatization of the National Anthem and it should not be included as a part of any variety show…
Ok, let’s agree for a moment and go on.

(c)     National Anthem or a part of it shall not be printed on any object and also never be displayed in such a manner at such places which may be disgraceful to its status and tantamount to disrespect…
Shall not be printed? What about printing the anthem in books? What about writing it down? Aren’t we going to the extremes?

(d)    All the cinema halls in India shall play the National Anthem before the feature film starts and all present in the hall are obliged to stand up to show respect to the National Anthem.

(e)    Prior to the National Anthem is played or sung in the cinema hall on the screen, the entry and exit doors shall remain closed so that no one can create any kind of disturbance which will amount to disrespect to the National Anthem. After the National Anthem is played or sung, the doors can be opened.

(f)      When the National Anthem shall be played in the Cinema Halls, it shall be with the National Flag on the screen.

Points d, e, f constitutes the worst part of the judgement. On what basis SC made it mandatory to sing national anthem in movie theatres? What made movie theatres so special? Do movie theatres represents the idea of India? temple of democracy? most sacrosanct place in India?

If I want to hear national anthem I will play it. If someone is singing at the beginning of a related function – like flag hosting etc. – I will stand up out of deep respect I have.  When I hear the anthem in the back drop of Himalayan snow or republic day parade my mind will be filled with pride and happiness.

Does that mean I should wake up and respect when I travel in a bus and then anthem is played at nearby school? Or word when someone is driving bike? Just imagine, in movie theatres a B grade movie is getting played right after national anthem. I think this judgement itself is a disrespect to national anthem.

By the way, why insists on Movie theatres? Why not on Indian Parliament, Government offices and of course why not play the anthem at the beginning of every hearing at Supreme court?

Respect is something which comes from our mind not an injectable.

Now there are reports in newspapers that people are getting attacked in movie theaters for not standing up during national anthem.

(g)    The abridge version of the National Anthem made by any one for whatever reason shall not be played or displayed.

Come on.There are millions of cases pending in so many courts in India. In Supreme Court, itself there may be thousands of cases. Life of millions depends on those verdicts. People come to SCI with the hope that they will get justice. Justice delayed is equivalent to justice denied.  With all due respect, SCI, should not entertain these types of verdicts.



Capturing new Market and Scoring Political Points - Chinese goods in Nepal

China - Nepal border crossing (Photo:

While shouting matches, selective leaks on de-monetization, re-monetization keeps politicians and strategists busy here in India; China took her relations with Nepal to its next level. Latest in the string of events is the opening of new trade route which will wide open Nepalese markets to Chinese goods. This will finally break India’s monopoly in Nepalese markets.

New era in ‘Nepal – China’ relations started when trucks carrying goods from western city of Guangzhou arrived at Nepalese capital Kathmandu. Goods worth USD 2.8mn travelled a lengthy 5,200km till Xigaze by train and the rest 870km by road. Goods coming through this lengthy road won’t be cheap unless China is going to subsidize it. But China will definitely do it; after all Nepal is not just a market but a new political theatre.

China also announced her plan to connect Nepal with its rail network through a new line from Gyirong. In addition to this, Chinese Telecom announced an agreement with Nepal Telecom to provide internet through new terrestrial cable.

Well, it’s good for Nepal after all they are not going to be fully dependent on India for goods and services. At the same time, this is going to make Indians uncomfortable.


Sunday, December 11, 2016

Watering down... A bit more...

“The regional government of China’s far western region of Xinjiang, which has grappled with ethnic violence, has put into effect strict regulations that punish people for spreading “false information” online” - NYT

Are you shocked? No right... One thing communism is not able to wipeout is the sense of cultural identity. Though the idea reigned a great geographic mass of Asia and Europe for more than seven decades, people came out of it with a stronger sense of cultural uniqueness. Even in numerous multicultural societies, a separate identity still exists underneath. Better than trying to eradicate it, assimilate it. In that line rather than fearing a detached cultural identity of Xinjiang, try to integrate it with Chinese identity. 

In this open world, how long Chinese will be able to stop the spread of "false information"? So, try to give room for cultural differences to exist than abolishing it. Chinese Communist Party added an ocean of water to the idea of communism. Sprinkling some more will not cause any problem.


Saturday, December 10, 2016

Absurdly Huge

"Actor George Clooney and his wife Amal are reportedly living separate lives and are ready for a $300 million divorce" - TOI

Divorces are abundant in modern society. Old days of adjustments and single companion for life already became history in numerous cultures. Nonetheless, I am wondering, whether it is right to ask or pay such enormous sum for getting separation? $300mn for a divorce...!!!


Wednesday, December 7, 2016

Brahmaputra and Future Water Conflicts Between India and China

Entire Ganges, Brahmaputra and Padma-Meghna Basins
Mighty Himalayas are the water tower of South and Southeast Asia. More than 10 major rivers originate from Tibetan plateau - Brahmaputra, Yangtze, Mekong, Sutlej, Indus, Salween and Huang Ho (aka Yellow River) are some of them. All these rivers are critical to the life and well-being of millions of people live on their banks.

Brahmaputra River

2,880km long Brahmaputra originates from Tibet. There the river is known as ‘Yarlung Tsangpo’. Total drainage area of Brahmaputra river is 5,73,394 This river flows eastwards through southern Tibet for a distance of 1,625 km; then at its easternmost point it takes a spectacular U-turn at Shuomatan Point (aka Great Bend) and enters India’s easternmost state - Arunachal Pradesh.

Here the river is known as Siang. After replenished by several tributaries, Brahmaputra enters Assam (aka Asom). Brahmaputra is the life blood of Assam; after slowly flowing through Assam, Brahmaputra enters Bangladesh. In Bangladesh, this river is known by the name Jamuna. During his course in Bangladesh, Brahmaputra joins with Ganges (known as Padma in Bangladesh) and Meghna and flows to Bay of Bengal. Before embracing the sea, this combined river system creates the largest delta – Sundarbans.

By the way, this river is also shared by Bhutan.

Importance for China, India and Bangladesh

In terms of water flow and length, Brahmaputra is the largest of Indian (though all parts are not in India) rivers. From time to time, this river creates floods in Assam, thereby enriching the soil in that state. As far as Bangladesh and the delta is concerned, water from Brahmaputra is their lifeblood. In a not so distant future when climate change threatens the patterns of Monsoon and many rivers are expected to go dry, Brahmaputra may be the answer – at least for some time. Declining water flow in Brahmaputra will also make its estuary more saline and adversely affects the livelihoods of millions there.

The Problem

Problem we are currently facing is the huge demand for water and electricity from northern and eastern Chinese cities. As population is exploding in cities of coastal China, demand for water is also rising exponentially.  However, water is not something which china can manufacturing cheaply. It is altogether a different matter that, the run for becoming the manufacturing capital of world also heavily polluted most of the water resources in China.

So, Chinese found a simple solution, redirect water from Tibetan plateau to coastal cities. It doesn’t matter how complex the engineering or natural calamity it is going to create. Looks like the Chinese government is almost determined to divert water from the great rivers of south to provide for hungry north and coastal area.


In order to accomplish the task, Chinese government is going to create a series of dams in Brahmaputra - Zangmu, Gyatsa, Zhongda, Jiexu, Jiacha, Langzhen etc.

Another solution is to break the Great Bend and let Brahmaputra flow to China (however this is a huge engineering challenge) or lift the water from Brahmaputra and move it to coastal area (this is also an engineering challenge). Chinese romanticism with huge projects and their gigantic chest of money may even make this possible.

Zangmu dam is the first in the series. Built at an altitude of 3,260m, this 26-turbine dam is expected to generate 540 MW of electricity. Its height will be 116m and length 390m. This dam will have a width of 19m at top and 76m at bottom.

It is believed that Jiexu, Zangmu and Jiacha are within 25km of each other and approximately 550km from Sino-Indian border.

Recently China operationalized $1.5bn Zam Hydropower Station. Located in Gyaca County, Shannan Prefecture, and built by ‘Gezhouba Group’ on Brahmaputra river this project seems to be the largest in Tibet. This dam is also considered as world's highest-altitude hydropower station and the largest of its kind (this dam will produce 2.5bn kwh/year)

China claims that these dams are basically designed as run of the river and not meant for diverting or storing water. However, there isn’t much data available and its extreme secret nature is very much suspicious.

Fragile Ecosystem

Even if it is not meant for water diversion, these dams (for that matter dams currently under construction at Indian side of Himalaya) are extremely dangerous.

Gorge of Brahmaputra is located in a highly seismic zone and prone to earthquakes. In China, there is a strong lobby advocating large dams (in India as well). They should have learned lessons from three gorges dam.  

An excellent paper 'Mountains of Concrete: Dams Building in the Himalayas' published by an NGO International Rivers - People, Water, Life’ explains,

'One of the biggest changes to occur in big dams in the past 20 years is the rise of Chinese dam builders and financiers. China's dam industry has gone global, building hundreds of dams throughout Africa and Southeast Asia, but also Central Asia, South America, and the Himalayas'.

From the experience of flash floods and other disasters in Uttarakhand due to immense changes in the ecosystem and frenzy dam building activities we all should have learned the lesson. Chinese should be knowing better after three gorges dam. Costly Three Gorges project was marketed as the solution for all problems and ended up as the biggest nightmare.

Imagine the breakup of a huge dam in higher Himalayas. This will wipe out civilization at river banks in lower Himalayas. As we all know, Himalayas are one of the world’s youngest mountain range and highly seismic. We can’t even blame nature for disasters.

International Problems

Brahmaputra is not fully flows through Tibet; its waters are life blood for North-Eastern India and Bangladesh. When building dams in international rivers - that too in border areas – Chinese have to answer the concerns raised by lower riparian states.

Some of the mitigation actions both India and China should take immediately are,

1.       Make the details and design of dam’s public; or at least share it with riparian states.
2.       Let Indian officials visit the sites. After all, dams are not military bases.
3.       Chinese government should publish a white paper about their future plans for Himalayan rivers.
4.       We should also set up a permanent joint river commission for Brahmaputra. Commission should meet regularly (like Nile Basin Initiative or Mekong River Commission).
5.       Chinese should provide year around water flow data in Chinese side of Brahmaputra to India.
6.       A water sharing agreement.

Let’s start with these steps,

We should not expect that Chinese will provide the data just by asking. If that was the case, then this would have happened years ago. It is to be noted that, China has refused to join Mekong River Commission (they are only observers in the commission). In addition to that, dragon is yet to ratify UN Convention on Non-Navigable Use of International Watercourses. What more, there isn’t any water sharing agreements between Indian and China, even though many rivers critical to the very existence of Northern, Western and North-Eastern India starts from Tibetan plateau. 

We shouldn’t hesitate in demanding data. This is very much critical for India.


PS: It is believed that - in June 2000 - a natural dam on Chinese-controlled side of Brahmaputra broke free and caused massive flooding in Arunachal Pradesh. 30 Indians killed and another 50,000 displaced from their homes. Indian authorities charged that, China had withheld vital information that could have improved flood forecasts. This finally led to 2002 agreement by which China should supply river flow data to India during flood season. Problem is, this agreement covers for 6 months only. We are still stuck there. Chinese should provide around the year data to India.

1.       Wikipedia
2.       Tibetan Sun etc.
3.   Photo Courtesy: Wikipedia 

“Who Moved My Cheese” by Spencer Johnson

This book was with me for a long time. I don’t know why, but I didn’t read it till today. Through this book author is presenting his ideas about change and how to accept it through four characters – Hem, Haw, Sniff and Scurry.

After searching through the maze for long, all four characters mentioned above found huge quantity of cheese at ‘Station C’. As the quantity was quite large, all four stopped their search and started coming directly to station C every morning. One day when Sniff and Scurry reach station C, it was empty. They didn’t waste time and started looking at other parts of the maze for cheese. Then came Haw and Hem. They were startled to see an empty station C. Unlike Sniff and Scurry, they were not ready to move on. Both of them felt that, it’s their right to get cheese from station C and believed that sooner or later someone would replenish station C. They waited and waited...

As the days passed, Haw began to think differently and started searching for cheese in the maze. However, Hem resisted the change and stood there. After a lot of struggle, How finally discovered huge collection of cheese at ‘Station N’. 

In the book, this story was told by a guy at a friend’s gathering. Later the group started discussing the story. 

Through this simple story, author presented how we should all embrace change.

Key points in this story are, 

a  Change Happens – they keep moving the cheese
b. Anticipate change – Get ready for the cheese to move.
c. Monitor Change – Smell the change often so you know when it is getting old.
d. Adapt to change quickly – The quicker you let go of old cheese the sooner you can enjoy new cheese.
e. Change – Move in with new cheese
f. Enjoy change – Savor the adventure and enjoy the taste of new cheese.
g. Be ready to change quickly and enjoy it again – They keep moving the change. 

If you like this article don’t forget to read the book as well.


Sunday, November 27, 2016

Future of Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) is in Limbo

Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) was a deal to create an American led trade coalition in Pacific rim. By the way, the deal excluded China. China may get an invitation later (may be once the rules are created). Well, China didn’t sit idle, she went on creating numerous other coalitions like Silk Road, Maritime Silk routes, Development Banks, Trade groups etc. As if it's not enough, China even started building islands in Sea.

12 nation group of TPP was almost a done deal until American presidential election fever kicked in. Final proposal was signed on Feb 2016 in Auckland.  This was after 7 years long negotiations. Now the deal must be ratified by participating nations.

Election of Donald Trump as next US president may put the deal in coffin. After all, he promised during and after elections, that US will pull out from TPP on his first day in office. By the way, it is very much possible that he may take a leaf or two from Mulayam Singh Yadav's play book and took an immediate U turn.

What I can say as of now is,

a.       Without US, the deal may not work. Japan, Vietnam and many other countries were ready for concessions because of the promised access to US markets. If US is not going to be there, then there is little incentive for them to do so.

b.       Another important point is abandoning TPP may be a blow for US allies in Pacific. It will give a signal that, US is not going to be there all the time. Those who were more afraid of Chinese hegemony may be willing to accept it and be more receptive of what China preaches. This will be a clear win for China.

c.       Nations can’t build good military relations without having a strong foundation of economic ties. Hence, in the long run US is going to lose control of affairs in this part of the world.

d.       Another possibility is rest of the nations may go ahead and conclude the deal.

Let's see whether Thrump will do what he preaches; or whether his promises will remain as promises forever. Only time can tell.


India on the verge of missing the wave in Mobility and Electronics – Again

Self-reliance, self-sustenance, country made goods - high sounding words like this resonated throughout the history of national freedom struggle and post independent India. It was like, we as Indians can remain isolated from the world (only preach good things to others) and manufacture all things we wanted. However, soon we realized that even in agriculture we are not producing enough. So, came PL470. Export quotas didn’t allow us to become competitive in global markets and import quotas made the best out of the hands of Indians.

We moved light years away from those days. Now BMW, Volkswagen, Honda, Toyota cars are carrying Indian families; Harley Davidson is roaring in Indian streets; Zara and Gucci are there in shopping malls; Johny Depp, Christian Bale, Peter Dinklage etc. are no more some guys in distant Hollywood but familiar household names.                                                                                                                                                                      
However, there were other side effects as well. On one side, we opened markets and started exporting software. On the other hand, India manufactured very less electronics items. Most of electronics goods currently available in India passed through assembly lines in China, Vietnam, Thailand, Malaysia etc. I can understand if we are importing huge quantity of oil, gas, minerals, rare earth materials etc. Nature didn't bless us with those items in abundance. I can understand even if it is food items; in a highly populated country it is not easy to grow all food items to feed 130 crores (1.3 bn) stomachs.

What I can't understand is, why we are still depends heavily on imports for electronics parts.

State of Mobile Phone Manufacturing in India

Consider the case of mobile phone manufacturing. This is same for computers, industrial robots, high end machines used in healthcare etc. as well.

A joint study carried out by IIM Bangalore and Counterpoint Researchers, analyzes the current state of mobile phone manufacturing in India states that,

1. Contribution of domestically manufactured mobile phones has increased from 14% (2014) to 67% (2016). Estimated to reach 96% by 2020.
2. 67% of the handsets manufactured in India contributes to just 6% of the ‘true local value addition’
3. Most of the OEMs are still importing Semi Knocked-Down components (SKDs).
4. Out of 50 facilities (OEMs, ODMs, EMS, component suppliers) involved in manufacturing of mobile phones in India; almost 3/4ths are Indian manufacturers, followed by Taiwanese (10%) and Chinese (10%)

In terms of number of smart phone users, India is second largest market. By 2022 we may have half a billion smartphone users. This means we are going to consume more than US$80 bn worth of components.

When we are standing at 6% in terms of true local value addition; China reached 70%; South Korea and Taiwan crossed 50%; What more; even Vietnam reached 35% and Brazil is at 17%.

As of now, the key components - PCB assembly, display housing, battery, camera, charger continued to be imported.

Earlier this year we reduced import duty from 29.44% to 12.5%. This made less incentive for OEMs to set up a factory here. However, keeping the tax high only take more money out of consumer's pocket. So increasing the import duty is not a good way to promote local manufacturing.

It is to be noted here that, there are some improvement in local assembly.

During the last 18 months, 40 new mobile phone assembly units and 12 new component/accessory manufacturing units have started in the country as part of Digital India initiatives

For the future

If we are not taking the rights steps now to produce high end electronic parts and equipment we going to lose a great opportunity.

Consider the case where we will be when,
a. 5th Generation mobile networks and equipment started capturing the market.
b. World will start mass production of automated industrial robots.
c. When the world switch more towards solar power and high end batteries.

The money involved here may cross billions and reach the order of trillions.

This is an opportunity which India can't miss.


Monday, November 21, 2016

GoI launched Pradhan Mantri Awaas Yojana (Gramin)

This project with a vision of ‘Housing for All’ in rural areas plans to provide an environmentally friendly, secure pucca (strong) house to every rural household by 2022.

# Target to complete 1 crore houses by March 2019.
# Minimum support of nearly 1.5 - 1.6 lakh INR to a household is available.
# An additional provision for bank loan up to 70000 INR.
# Selection of beneficiaries is based on data provided by Socio Economic Census 2011. This will be validated in Gram Sabha.
# Indented to provide skilling (45 day on site hands-on skill training) for 5 lakh Rural Masons by 2019.
# Allows over 200 different housing designs across the country.
# Large-scale use of local materials is envisaged.
# Each home is supposed to have cooking space, electricity provision, LPG, toilet and bathing area, drinking water etc. through convergence.
# Entire payments are through IT/DBT mode with Aadhaar linked Bank accounts

Recently Prime Minister saw over 40 building designs and distributed Sanction Certificates to a few beneficiaries from Agra. Hope that this program will provide a good house for those who otherwise can only dream about it.

For knowing more about the scheme please visit -> PMAY-G


Thursday, October 13, 2016

GCC and Saudi have to stop discriminatory Air Strikes

It is easy to drop bombs from air; especially over countries which don’t have any good air force, powerful anti-aircraft guns or SAMs (Surface to Air Missiles). Aggressors don’t have to worry about anything, as they are not going to lose anything – soldiers won’t come back in body bags; don’t have to engage in high causality ground/city warfare; no need to maintain attack prone lengthy ground supply chains etc. Everything is perfect if there is another humanitarian crisis going on; Saudi got Syria for the same. This is exactly what is happening in Saudi led strikes in Yamen.

Explaining a little background,
Houthis began waging a low-level insurgency against Yemeni government in 2004. Multiple peace agreements were signed and later disregarded. During 2011 Yemani revolution, Houthi leader Abdul-Malik al-Houthi declared their support for it and asked for then President Ali Abdullah Saleh’s resignation.

Conflict was going on between Houthis and Sunni tribes in northern Yemen; by September 2014 Houthi’s finally captured Sana’a (capital city) from government and forced President Hadi to negotiate an agreement. This led to the resignation of Hadi government.

A sequence of events happened. By end of 2015 January, Houthi’s seized Presidential compound. Later they dissolved parliament and formed a committee to govern the country. During this time, Hadi was able to slip out of Sana’a and traveled to his home town - Aden. From Aden he declared Houthi takeover as illegal and indicated his plan to remain as constitutional president of Yemen.

March 2015's suicide attacks on Sana'a Houthi mosques (four suicide attacks during mid-day prayer killed 142 people) changed the course of civil war. Houthi's renewed their campaign. It is believed that IS (Islamic State) carried out the bombing.

While this civil war is going on one side, Al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP) made significant territorial gains in Yamen. IS also started gaining territory in Yeman.

For Hadi's part, he declared Aden to be Yemen's temporary capital.

Houthi’s and pro-Saleh army almost took over Aden. This caused Hadi to fled to Riyadh and met powerful Saudi prince Mohammad bin Salman. Later, forces loyal to Hadi recaptured Aden with support from Saudi Arabian government, airstrikes and shelling by Egyptian navy from sea.

Saudi led alliance accuse Iran of supporting Houthis. On the other side, United States was also a major weapon supplier to Yemeni government. Although weapons worth millions of dollars were missing after delivery.

As per news reports, Saudis along with eight other middle eastern countries - Egypt, Morocco, Jordan, Sudan, Kuwait, United Arab Emirates, Qatar, and Bahrain, with logistical support from US are engaged in an air campaign against Houthi’s. Apparently Pakistan declined to join the bombing campaign (though they dispatched warships to enforce an arms embargo against Houthis). Alliance kept on striking positions in Sana’a which often led to massive civilian casualties.

This low profile but high causality war didn’t get much global attention due to ongoing high profile civil war in Syria. Due to humanitarian crisis in European borders and high decibel ‘US – Russia’ peace talks (other than the name nothing is peaceful) world is focused on Syria. As an enforceable peace agreement for Syrian war is nowhere in sight; and Assad and his allies started final assault to take full control of Syria’s largest city – Aleppo – world may not look in to Yemen any time soon.

Attack on Funeral prayers

Unlike previous air strikes this one on funeral prayers was a big disaster. Continuous strike on the building resulted in more than 100 civilian casualties. Saudi led alliance first denied the strike and later promised an investigation to it. I don’t think those kind of internal investigations will reach anywhere.

As per news reports, "Fighter jets from a Saudi-led military coalition repeatedly bombed a crowded reception hall in Sana where mourners were gathered after a funeral on Saturday, killing 140 people and wounding hundreds of others, according to Yemeni health officials and witnesses.... Tamim al-Shami, a spokesman for the Health Ministry, said at least 104 people had been killed and 550 wounded" - NYT

This attack might be result of wrong intelligence and targeting information. But this is not the first time they are making mistakes; earlier they hit a hospital which have connections with Doctors without Borders; then a food processing factory. All these mistakes are causing human lives, which makes it more important to stop air strikes. These type of attacks on unarmed people even amounts to war crime.

If Saudi’s want to defeat Houthi’s and truly believe in nation building (which even US failed to do in Both Afghanistan and Iraq) then they should not solely relay on airstrikes. There is point after which Saudi led GCC has to put boots on the ground and try to gain territories and stabilize the country. Anyone can bomb a poor country from air and push them to stone age combined by famine and lawlessness. I hope Saudi led GCC will realize this mistake. If they can’t go all the way, then don’t try to destroy whatever left in Yamen.

I agree that UN have little tooth left; but that is the only agency we got. Let the matter go to UN and let UN decide what the next step should be.


PS: “The crew of a guided-missile destroyer fired three missiles to defend themselves and another ship after being attacked on Sunday in the Red Sea by two presumed cruise missiles fired by Iran-backed Houthi-forces” - USNI News


2.       Wikipedia – Yemen Strike, Civil war history related articles.

Monday, October 10, 2016

Indian Bridge Management System (IBMS) - Keeping up with Bridge safety

Gandhi Setu - India's longest Bridge
When I went to Bihar, I wanted to visit Mahatma Gandhi Setu built across Ganga river. After all, this is the longest bridge in India with a total length of 5.75KM connecting Patna to Hajipur. However, crossing this bridge was a nightmare. There were too many vehicles to cross and bridge was under repair. This repair process was going on for a very long time. What is supposed to be a good journey across Ganga turned out to be a hard one. I still wonder why repair work is going on forever.

This is the situation of Indian bridges. There is no comprehensive record of how much weight a bridge can handle, whether new generation super heavy trucks can use that, when to repair, when to decommission etc. There were reports when trucks carrying heavy weights – boilers for thermal power plants etc – had to wait in front of the bridges for weeks to get permission for crossing the same. In many cases authorities denied permission for crossing and the trucks had to retrace and take lengthy routes to reach destination. This resulted in schedule overrun for many projects.

However now there is a solution in sight - Indian Bridge Management System (IBMS)

Nitin Gadkari, Minister of Road Transport & Highways and Shipping, formally launched Indian Bridge Management System (IBMS). IBMS is being developed to create an inventory of all bridges in the country and rate their structural condition so that timely repair and rehabilitation work can be carried out based on the criticality of the structure.

IBMS aims to prepare a data base of all bridges in the country and detailing their structural condition so that timely action can be taken to repair the structures or build new ones in their place.

IBMS is the largest platform in the world owned by a single owner, with database that could exceed 1,50,000 bridge structures. So far 1,15,000 bridges have been inventorized, of which 85,000 are culverts and the rest are bridges.

National Identity Number:
Each bridge is assigned a unique identification number or National Identity Number based on the state, RTO zone and whether it is situated on National Highway, State Highway or district road.

GPS Coordinates:
Precise location of the bridge in terms of latitude-longitude is collected through GPS and based on this, the bridge is assigned a Bridge Location Number.

Engineering Dimensions:
Characteristics like the design, materials, type of bridge, its age, loading, traffic lane, length, width of carriage way etc. are collected and are used to assign a Bridge Classification Number to the structure. These are then used to do a structural rating on a scale of 0 to 9; each bridge is assigned a Structural Rating Number. Rating is done for each component of the structure like integral and non-integral deck, superstructure, substructure, bank and channel, structural evaluation, deck geometry, vertical clearance, waterway efficiency etc.

Bridge Rating Number will decide the importance of the structure in relation to its contribution to daily socio-economic activity of the area in its vicinity.

Based on this inventory IBMS will analyse data and identify bridges that need attention. Further inspection will be carried out wherever required to improve the operational availability of the structure, enhance its life and prioritize repair and rehabilitation work. The data will help to decide which bridge needs critical attention, or which needs to be rebuilt.

This is indeed a step in the right direction.


1.       GoI Press Release
2.       Photo Courtesy (By Aksveer -, CC BY-SA 2.0,

Sunday, October 9, 2016

The Return of Bear?

Power and influence are irresistible; so as the pull of past glory. Most nationalists around the world are trying hard to revive the past. They want to sat in front of glass tables where fate of nations is decided. Now-a-days it’s hard. Unlike old days’ raw power alone can’t decide or influence global events. Countries which want to appear prominently in global order has to have the economic, population, military and technological wherewithal to pursue it.

Consider Egypt; they have the biggest and most powerful army and biggest population among Arab nations. However, their economic situation is bad. Consider Japan, Korea; they are economic super powers, however they lack strength in military. For European nations; though they are well developed and have advanced technology, their size and population hinters their global power projection capacity. Still UK, France have the ware withal to do it. Other European nations are so small (or don't have any ambition to become a global military power) can’t alter the fate of global events individually (but as a group - EU or as part of NATO they can do). Consider the case of South American nations. They have size, population, and probably good military too. However, over dependence on commodity cycles often led these nations to boom-bust cycles, due to which they hardly have any chance to emerge.

This leaves only very small number of nations like US, China, UK, Russia, France, India etc. left with the capacity project power. In this group also other than US, rest can only influence the events in their near abroad.

It is in this situation, Russia under Putin is trying to revive its pre-cold war posture. Problem Putin is going to face is Russia's extreme high dependence on hydrocarbon. As global oil prices are nose-dived from all time high of $130+/barrel to 40s/barrel it is very difficult for Putin to generate money for huge military expenditure required for global power projection.

“The (Russian)defense ministry has reportedly more than halved its budgetary request (for financing of 2018–2025 massive rearmament program) from 55 trillion rubles ($915 bn) to 22tn ($366 bn). But the finance ministry is apparently offering only 12 tn ($200 bn). At a cabinet meeting in the Kremlin, Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu yelled at Finance Minister Anton Siluanov after the latter offered the petty sum (Kommersant, September 17). The price of oil remains depressed at under $50 per barrel. The contracted Russian economy is still stagnant. Russia cannot continue to spend on defense as when oil was well over $100 a barrel” – Jamestown Foundation

Recently Russia, is working to re-launch its former military bases in Vietnam (Cam Ranh Bay naval base) and Cuba (Lourdes signal intelligence station). Russia left both bases in 2002, when she was no longer able to run these bases due to budgetary constraints. Currently Russia has presence in Syria (Tartus), Armenia, Belarus, Georgia, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Molova, Tajikistan). Out of this, other than the one in Syria all other bases are located on previous Soviet Union territories. Looks like Russia is trying to revive all Soviet Foreign Bases. Will it be able to do that?

Vietnam may agree for renting out some space at ‘Cam Ranh Bay’; not so sure about Cuba, which is on a rapprochement path with US. With new bases Russia will be able to project its power far beyond its borders. However, maintaining its bases abroad is going to cost them a lot. Without reviving it industry and reducing the dependency on petro-dollars it will be hard for Russia to maintain foreign bases for long.



Tourist Jailed (3 Months) for Unplugging an amplifier that was broadcasting Buddhist Chants

Dutch "tourist, Klaas Haijtema, 30, was found guilty (was sentenced to three months of hard labor in prison) of causing a disturbance to an assembly engaged in religious worship. He had been staying at a hostel in Mandalay on Sept. 23 when a nearby Buddhist center began broadcasting the recitations of religious devotees...

“I was really tired that night and woke up to the noise,” Mr. Haijtema told the court...

“I was very angry and assumed that children were playing music. I told them to lower the volume of the loudspeakers before I unplugged the amplifier, and they didn’t understand me. That’s why I unplugged it.” Mr. Haijtema wept after the prison sentence was announced.

He was also fined the equivalent of $80 for violating the terms of his entry visa..." – NYT

I think Buddha himself won’t like this sentence. Myanmar has to travel a long way to reach the path of Buddha.


1. Myanmar Gives Tourist Who Pulled Plug on Buddhist Chants3 Months in Prison - NYT

Saturday, October 8, 2016

Straight from Kunduz, Afghanistan

Afghanistan is continuously at war since 1973, the year in which King Mohammed Zahir Shah (who ruled Afghanistan since 1933) was overthrown by his brother-in-law Mohammed Daoud Khan. After five years he was overthrown and assassinated during Saur Revolution. Then came Soviets followed by Mujahidins, Americans, Pakistanis and Taliban. After the collapse of Soviet Union and end of Cold war Americans abandoned Afghanistan. This act gave a free run to Pakistan and Taliban; Taliban conquered most of the territories except northern areas. Then the game changer happened – 9/11. American’s and NATO came again, overthrew Taliban and handed over the country to democratically elected government.

However, Afghanistan was hard to manage. Insurgency ebbed and flowed but never wiped out. Taliban and Pakistan (who sides more with Taliban) knew that Americans will go one day. Finally, NATO’s withdrew process left behind some 13000 troops, far cry from a time when they could call more than 1,30,000 NATO troops for assistance.

However, everything is not well here. For 43 years, this country is permanently at war or war like situation. As NATO withdrew, Taliban is increasing their reach. Eastern areas near Pakistan borders are hardly controlled by government in Kabul. In a recent show of force, Taliban went straight in to Northern city of Kunduz and reached city centre to raise their flag. Timing was critical; this happened on the eve of conference at Brussels where president Ghani was about to show his achievements.
Afghan Special Forces and NATO came to Kunduz to oust the insurgents.

Recently Taliban made a lot of gains in Helmand province as well. Probably 90% of province is under the control of influence of Taliban. May be, Afghan special forces and NATO will be able to recover some of the lost territories. However, without another surge it is highly debatable.
How long Afghanistan can solely look towards special forces (which is numbered around 17,000) and ever reducing NATO forces?

Brussels conference agreed to provide $3.8bn a year till 2020 to Afghanistan. But simply pumping money to a war torn country is not going to make any change; other than making some people extremely wealthy. This may eventually end up in property markets of Middle East or some foreign banks. What is important is implementation.

Unless and until Afghan National Army and Afghan National Police is able to hold ground on their own, there is no way to protect Afghanistan in long term. I saw many people arguing the success of Taliban is a problem with army’s combat training. This argument is very hard to believe. Shall we really think Afghan army personal don’t know how to fight? Then how come Taliban, whose rank and file is also filled by people coming from same country is able to fight long and hard battles? I believe what is really missing is, government and its forces don’t really understand and assimilate what it stands for. I can’t believe it’s a problem with people don’t know how to fight. If it is about training, then Afghan forces have the best trainers in the world.

I think it is more to do with political leadership and their failure to show for what they are standing. Grandiose plans may get funding from conferences like Brussels. However, unless one is connecting with people on the ground and able to boost the morale of Police and Army; Afghanistan doesn’t stand for a chance.


Friday, October 7, 2016

New Wings for West Bengal's Sagar Seaport Project

Sagar port project got new boost with the announcement of 515 crore grant from Central Government. A special purpose vehicle - Bhor Sagar Port Limited (BSPL), where Kolkata Port Trust holds 74% equity and rest by Government of West Bengal - is formed to execute the project. IIT Madras is to prepare a detailed project report for shore protection, land reclamation and physical modelling as well. This work is currently under progress.

A road cum rail bridge is Muriganga river is proposed to connect Sagar Island with mainland. NHAL and Infrastructure Development Corporation Limited (NHIDCL) already prepared a detailed project report for the same. Estimation is 1822 crores. 

Widening NH-117 to four-lane highway from Kakdwip up to rail-cum-road bridge to the Sagar Island.

Sagar port project might give a new momentum to business in Kolkata. With other sea ports in India's eastern sea board, Sagar might be able to move more container and other traffic off India's otherwise congested roads and polluted cities.   


Monday, October 3, 2016

India Ratifies Paris Climate Change Agreement

On Gandhi’s birth anniversary, India ratified Paris agreement on climate change. This agreement will come into force when 55 countries contributing at least 55% of total greenhouse gas emissions ratifies the treaty. As of now 62 countries which contributes 52% of global emissions ratified the treaty.

Aim of the agreement is to,
# Maintain the increase in global average temperature rise well below 2 °C above pre-industrial levels; pursue efforts to limit the temperature rise to 1.5 °C above pre-industrial levels
# Increase the ability to adapt to the adverse impacts of climate change, foster climate resilience and low greenhouse gas emissions development, in a manner that does not threaten food production
# Making finance flows consistent for low greenhouse gas emissions and climate-resilient development.

India has a long way to go. As a developing nation, whose markets are sucking in more and more energy and demanding much more every year needs to make big shifts to renewable energy in order to reduce emissions considerably. Programs like National Solar Mission are steps in right direction.

Paris agreement is a far cry from what is required and hardly have any enforcing mechanism; but this is what we got. Hope that governments will follow at least this one.


1. NewYork Times
2. Wikipedia.

Sunday, October 2, 2016

Water Availability in Major Reservoirs of India & Southern States

As per central government reports, water storage in 91 major reservoirs of India as on Sep 29, 2016 stands at 117.202 Billion Cubic Meter (BCM). This is 74% of total capacity (157.799 BCM). Compared to last year, current capacity stands at 122% (97% compared to last 10 years). 

Water Availability As per Latest Reports - 91 Reservoirs
State having equal storage (Compared to last Year)
Punjab, Rajasthan, Jharkhand, Odisha, West Bengal, Gujarat, Maharashtra, Uttar Pradesh, Madhya Pradesh, Chhattisgarh, AP&TG (Two combined projects in both states), Andhra Pradesh, Telangana and Karnataka.  

States having lesser storage (Compared to last Year)
Himachal Pradesh, Tripura, Uttarakhand, Kerala and Tamil Nadu.

If we carefully look at numbers; in southern region (Andra Pradesh, Telangana, Karnataka, Kerala and Tamilnadu) total live storage available is just 52% of total storage capacity. Last year at same time it was just 34%. Even if this year looks better, total storage is way below the long term average of 10 years - 76%.

This chart should be an eye opener for southern states. Water is no more an easily available item. If we continue to neglect the ecological needs of Western Ghats and not taking water harvesting, drip irrigation and water conservation seriously, as years passes, dams will go dry within 2-3 months of post monsoon rains. There may not be any water left for summer months in future.


Thursday, September 29, 2016

US and Cuba, finally ice is melting

Kerry at U.S. Embassy’s Flag-Raising Ceremony in Cuba
Recently I watched Godfather I and II (again). In second part, there was a scene where Michael Corleone said, soldiers are paid to fight but rebels are not; and there is a chance that they will win. Following sequence of events proved him right. Rebels took over and protagonists escaped to US.

Actual take over happened on 1959 January, when rebel forces led by Fidel Castro finally able to oust Batista. This event led to rupture of ties between Cuba and US. Later incidents like, Bay of Pigs, Cuban missile crisis of 1962, Cold war, Suspension of Cuba from Organization of American States (OAS), trade sanctions, Cuban support of MPLA in Angola etc only made it worse. Cuban missile crisis almost took the world to third (and probably last) world war. Last because there may not be enough people left to fight fourth world war. 

Cold war didn’t finish in this part of the world even after the breakup of USSR. However, a lot of this changed for Cuba. She lost her major benefactor – USSR and Rubles. Later Cuba found some solace in neighboring Venezuela and her leader Hugo Chavez. Like Castro, Chavez was also against US and Market economy. However, mismanagement of Petroleum reserves and fall of oil price in global market crushed Venezuela.

Cuba also witnessed an administrative change - leadership changed from fiercely anti American (but aging) Fidel to his brother Raul Castro. In US also Obama - who received Nobel Prize for Peace before he actually did something - tried to restore relations with Cuba. He may already considering this as his legacy and probably want to make complete reset before he leaves office.

Last year, US re-established their embassy in Cuba and also received credentials from José Ramón Cabañas Rodríguez (first Cuban ambassador to US since 1961). 

Now Obama selected Jeffrey DeLaurentis (served as chief of mission for US in Havana since 2014) as new Ambassador. This is indeed a good move to normalize relations between two countries. 

Obama administration is also trying hard to relax restrictions on trade and travel to Cuba.

However, an effective progress also requires the lifting of trade embargo which requires help from Congress. Without this, there are limitations to improvements Obama can make. Will Congress rise to the occasion and repeal the ban before Obama leave office? Will the new government continue the polices of rapprochement? Will Raul government go ahead with administrative, economic and political reforms? Let's wait and watch. 

Whatever it may be relationship between two nations is certainly going to improve and I believe Obama will be able to leave office with some justification for the Nobel Peace prize. 


Photo Courtesy: US Embassy Website

Thank you Rosetta

Rosetta’s lander Philae has returned the first panoramic image from the surface of a comet
On Friday Rosetta will finally say good bye to humans and jump right in to comet; marking the end for 12-year long eventful expedition. 

Built by ESA (European Space Agency), Rossetta’s primary mission is to study Comet 67P/Churyumov–Gerasimenko and send all information back to earth for further analysis. For last two years she was roaming around the comet and transmitting data back to earth. Problem is, as Comet move further away from Sun, her solar panels won’t be able to generate enough power to sustain the mission. 

Alternate way is to hibernate Rosetta for now and awake her later (when the comet approaches sun again). However scientists decided against this approach, as it may not be possible to wake her up later. Instead scientists decided to capture close-up data while Rosetta hit the comet in her final sprint. 

It’s a job well done by Rosetta and ESA team behind it (Rosetta, also had small lander called Philae which it send to the surface of Comet 67P back in Nov 2014). 

Some important findings from Rosetta are, 
a. Comets Can Stick Together.
b. Initial images of Comet 67P confirmed that the comet is not in round shape.
c. Rosetta’s early observations confirmed the lack of much ice on its surface. 
d. Scientists now know for sure that water did not come from comets like Comet 67P. Quantity of deuterium in the stream of water molecules coming off was much higher than the one in Earth’s water.


Courtesy: Multiple Newspapers, ESA.