Tuesday, January 30, 2018

Afrin Conundrum

Even a year back, Afrin - Kurdish enclave located in North Western Syria - may not be famous outide the country. This city is located less than hundred kilometers from Syria-Turkey border. However, new geopolitical game for supremacy of northern Syria changed all equations.

Kurds, who are the biggest ethnic minorities without having a country to call their own - were widely persecuted in Western Asia. Fall of Saddam in Iraq finally gave them something - a financially viable and stable autonomous territory. Then came Arabian Spring and Syrian revolution. Quick fall of biggest cities forced a withdrawal of forces from Northern border leaving the place open for Kurds. They made full use of it by  establishing a stable area. Then came IS, which made quick territorial gains in Syria as well as in Irag. Suddenly IS territories looked bigger than many countries. However the atrocities they commited turned tglobal voice against them. Again Kurds rose in to prominenace and they become an ally for US for defeating IS.

This entire situation didn't give any happiness to another major stakeholder in Syrian revolution - Turkey. Growing Kurdish influence close to their border raised alarm bells in Ankara. Problem is some Turkish areas are dominated by Kurdish people; Turkey is in a state of war in those areas. Many Kurdish leaders - like Abdullah Ocalan(founding member of Kurdish Worker's Party - PKK) - are already in jail. New found power and territorial control of Kurdish fighters (People Protection Units - YPG) is something which Turkey can't digest. They fear the possibility of Kurdish nation from Turkey to Syria to Iraq. Even Iran is not free from this fear.

Turkey is determined to break this rising power. Now Turkish fighter jets are pounding Afrin (Operation Olive Branch); Turkish Army is standing at border; ready to move in. What make the matter complicated is, YPG and US allies in war against IS. US even planned to raise an army - with core as YPG militia - to protect the area. This is more than what Erdogan can accept; rising nationalism in Turkey is not helping the matter either. Turkey's all out fight against YPG - a major piller in US plans for Irag and Syria - will push two major NATO powers in opposite sides. Turkey under Erdogan is not going to relent anytime soon.

This entire situation plays in to the hands of two other stakeholders in Syria - Assad Government and Moscow. Moscow's relation with Turkey is not good, after they shot down Russian fighter planes. Relations are slowly improving now. But in order to get a free hand in Afrin to pound, Turkey might have to do some consessions somewhere else. Which will help the government to take control of more territories.

Earlier Turkey wrested control of 100km territory west of Euphrates from IS. But this time, they are going to face battle hardened YPG fighters trained by US. More than that, its a Kurdish city and inch by inch city warfare will take its toll on any professional army. What more, YPG can't simply surrender the city to Turkish and militia supported by them. The thing is, if YPG fighters withstood Turkish onslaught and keep the control of Afrin then it is going to be a game changer. Ofcourse it is not going to be the end. Government forces and Russian assets will be moving towards Afrin sooner or later. Here US is going to be in a tough situation, it's difficult to go against their NATO ally; at the same time its difficult to abandon an ally in the middle of a battle field.

I guess US negotiating with Turkey and make some kind of deal in Kurdish areas will be beneficial for US, Turkey as well as Kurds. In case they can't reach a deal then it will be beneficial for Assad and Moscow.


Thursday, January 25, 2018

Mahadayi/Mandovi River, Water and Bandh

Mahadayi/Mandovi River. Photo is taken from Wikipedia
Today, its Bandh in Karnataka. The expectation is that even state capital - Bangalore - which is generally free from all bandhs/strikes is going to shut down at least partially. Schools will be closed; transportation services might take a hit; many companies already declared tomorrow as a holiday (many of those who didn't declare tomorrow as holiday asked employees to work from home).

Mahadayi Water Dispute

Reason for this bandh is a river dispute between Goa and Karnataka (Maharashtra is also a party to the dispute). River in question is an interstate one known as Mahadayi (more popularly known as Mandovi outside Karnataka). This river originates from Belaghavi district of Karnataka; after flowing for 29 km she enters Goa and flows another 52 km through Goa before embracing the Arabian Sea at Panjim (Panaji).

What Karnataka demands is a diversion of 7.56 tmc ft water under ‘Kalasa - Banduri Nala’ project by building dams or barrages. This is to fix acute water shortage problems in Gadag, Dharwad and Belagavi districts of Karnataka. This water will flow into Malaprabha River. Goa opposed Karnataka's move and took the dispute to Supreme court, which led to the creation of ‘Mahadayi Water Disputes Tribunal’ in 2010.

2016 July, tribunal's verdict came. It was against Karnataka. Goa’s objections are mainly based on possible damages to ecology and wildlife, but the real fact is state’s fear about dwindling water supplies and meeting future demands after all Mandovi is the lifeline of Goa.

Water Crisis in Northern Karnataka

The problem in Karnataka is, the state is facing acute water crisis in northern areas. Ten northern districts of Karnataka are worst hit. People are migrating to cities in vast numbers as continuous draught ravaged agrarian economy; recent drinking water shortages only worsen the crisis. As per a report on TOI, “According to unofficial estimates, 5% to 10% of the population migrates every year from North Karnataka, even during normal monsoons, but this year the migration is higher by 2%-3%. The reason, officials say, is that drought, coupled with the drinking water crisis, is so widespread that farmers with large holdings of 5-25 acres have also joined migrants, having lost two crops to the drought”

If 2018 monsoon also failed, then it's going to be a catastrophe in Northern Karnataka. By the way, water situation is not good even at the southern tip – Bangalore. Governments are not acting fast enough to resolve the crisis. They often come up with grand schemes like pumping water from one river to another, building grand canals etc. These are only temporary fixes. For this to work, rivers from which you are pumping should have a good supply of water in the first place. It may be so for some years, but human-made damages to river’s catchment area will soon affect that as well. Diverting Yettinahole to east or any other river to eastern areas are not going to fix the problem.

Water is not something which can be manufactured like shoes or cars or mobile phones. What is important is understanding the role of ecology and the need to balance it. Even if Karnataka gets its demanded share, it is not going to fix the issues in the twin cities of Dharward-Hubli. In the same way, even if Goa is successful in opposing the agreement, Mandovi is not going to be there forever. Extensive and unregulated iron ore mining already made considerable damages to Goa's environment.

Do these governments ready to do go for more extensive (but less glamorous) solutions like preserving local lakes (Bangalore have so many lakes even now, unfortunately, many lakes are so polluted that even water catches fire), extensive rainwater harvesting system, recharging groundwater systems, modern irrigation systems, recycling water, solid waste water management etc?

It is equally important for states on both sides of Western Ghats to sit together and hear the scientific opinion on how to preserve whatever left of Western Ghats. At this point, I don't think, governments are ready to walk the talk or even ready to do what has to be done. Instead, are engaging the grand projects like interlinking rivers, which is only postponing the eventual crisis.

Already multiple water wars are taking place in India. 

1. Krishna - Between Andhra Pradesh, Telangana, Karnataka and Maharashtra
2. Godavari - Andhra Pradesh, Karnataka, Telangana, Maharashtra, Madhya Pradesh
3. Narmada - Maharashtra, Madhya Pradesh, Rajasthan and Gujarat
4. Cauvery - Tamil Nadu, Karnataka, Kerala and Puducherry
5. Vansadhara - Andhra Pradesh and Odisha
6. Ravi & Beas – Sutlej-Yamuna Link Canal- Punjab, Haryana, Rajasthan and Himachal Pradesh
7. Mullaperiyar - Kerala, Tamil Nadu.

In many disputes, tribunals were set up and verdict also came, even though it took decades. But, there will be a clause for review in every 8 or 10 years. We are going to see a new fight whenever those contracts are up for review.

Grand projects and destruction of Water Systems in Greater Middle East – What Should Not be our Future

For those who only believe in grand schemes should read how water scarcity and destruction of wetlands forced crisis in Western Asian countries; and even the recent street protests in Iran.

The Tweet Trump Could Never Send Tehran - NYT

"Over the past three decades, Iran has built 600 dams.. an average of 20 a year.. to irrigate farms and provide power... Poor planning and 14 years of drought have rendered many of them useless and, in some cases, they have contributed to environmental damage in the semi-arid country...”

"Once some farmers found they no longer had water for their crops.. because aquifers had been overused, or water had been diverted to big agribusinesses ... or too many dams had been built and then warmer temperatures shrank the lakes behind them and nearby wetlands... many of the farmers migrated to the margins of cities in search of employment, food and water...These cities, where employment is scarce, have become hot spots of unrest"

“In the mountains of western Iran, the province of Chaharmahal-Bakhtiari is known for mile-high lagoons, flowing rivers and wetlands that attract thousands of species of migratory birds. But years of diminishing rainfall have shriveled water sources. Conditions worsened, residents say, after Iranian authorities began funneling water 60 miles away to the lowland city of Esfahan"

"Lake Urmia was once a giant saline lake, 87 miles wide...Beginning in the 1990s... started building lots of dams around the lake...Now the lake, once one of the largest in the Middle East, looks more like a gigantic crime scene...Its dried salts now mix with sand, fueling toxic wind storms."

Between 2006 and 2011, some 60 percent of Syria’s landmass was ravaged by the worst drought in the country’s modern history. It came after years of overpumping of aquifers...That drought forced 800,000 to one million Syrian farmers and herders to abandon their land and livestock and move to the edges of Syrian cities and towns, where they had to scrounge for work.... they were among the first to join the revolution against it.

"It was not an accident that the chant in the Egyptian revolution was: “Bread. Freedom. Dignity.”


A diversion will address the problem in short-term; the existential crisis in Northern Karnataka will not be over but only get postponed to a later date.


Wednesday, January 24, 2018

What Decides an Indian Voter’s Decision to Vote for a Candidate - Religion, Caste or Development and Progressive Credentials?

I often see identity politics highjack election agendas; which are supposed to be based on what matters to public. Public often go along with that, thus validating party election manager’s assumption that they can continue with this and will be richly rewarded. People are so angry with their neighbors for something happened centuries back; many others are so unhappy because they think the state is not fair enough towards them; many others are so unhappy because they believe their beliefs are under attack and they need to fight hard to protect them.

The fact is, somehow our mind shed objectivity, reasoning and became a good ground filled with nitrogen, potassium and phosphorous. This make it easy for various election campaign managers to saw their seeds.

When that seed become a plant and then a big tree, we often forget to analyze any argument and follow others blindly. This is indeed dangerous. I often wonder how one can kill another just because something happed thousands of miles away?


India is/was never secular in the way French republic is/was. We have an inclusive culture; we don't exclude religion from political or other arenas. We rather embrace them all. Four major religions started from India, at least 4 other religions found India as one of their homes. Most people who ruled Indian subcontinent partially or fully were deeply religious. No matter whether it’s Guptas or Sultanates or Mughals.

Contrary to what we like to say and try to believe, religion and executive is/was not totally separated. Even partition was based on two nation theory, where Jinna feared a Hindu majority nation will not be good for Muslims. However, it turned out that, Pakistan became a catastrophe for minorities.

What worries me most is giving religious colour to everything. Now people are unable (I would rather say refuse) to see things as it is. It’s become a custom to paint everting on religious colours. Go to any popular online newspaper or twitter; read news first and then goes to comments section. Here one can see that readers are fighting with one another; what surprises me is their arguments have hardly anything to do with news articles.

Regardless of topic, fight will soon become Hindu vs Muslim, India Vs Pakistan, NDA Vs UPA.


There are many others who are like – born to criticize. It doesn’t matter whether one is right or wrong. Trolls even go after well intentioned criticism as well. They simply attack person's religious believes, patriotism and calling him\her names but refuse to answer the facts!!! Now-a-days anyone who criticize government automatically become anti-national; any one criticizing social evils in Hinduism become anti-Hindu; anyone criticizing castism and atrocities committed towards Dalits automatically become anti-Indian and Pakistani; anyone supports any government decisions will automatically become sanghi and bakth. 

What more, many trolls are always living in the past. They go all the way to Sultanates period, take something from there and disseminate as if it happened yesterday. Many take things out of context and give new meanings to it. Now in India history is probably the most mutilated subject. Many are considering it as something where theories are coming out of air and doesn’t require any facts to back it up. Everyone is a historian now.

Coming back to original question, what people think before they select their representatives?

1. Religion: 
Political parties and contestants are appealing to people's religious belief. It’s like, we are here to protect you, but opponents are there to harm your belief. If they come to power, then your religion will be under attack. Many will forget everything else and take this as priority.

2. Nationalism:
Media is creating an environment of mistrust and fear by selective high voltage sensational reporting. Lot of people in media fraternity left factual reporting, confirmation of news story, meticulous cross verification and getting comments from other side long ago. For them, only one thing matters - breaking the news before everyone else. To get audience, they are pumping up nationalism. Now those who criticize government policies related to national security or Kashmir or Maoist insurgency will immediately be branded as anti-national and Pakistan agent.

3. Money: 
Gone are the days, when parties came up with right candidates. Now the main criteria for any candidate is having born in a religion which is majority in that constituency. Having enough money to spend will only increase the chance to get candidacy. Once you are elected there are many ways to get the investment back!!!

4. History: 
Now every story is branded as historical fact and pushed to online and print/electronic media space. There people hardly question theories based on facts.

5. Development and Progressive Policies:
This is supposed to be an important factor, if not the most important factor. When we are not focusing in this item and move away to high decibel empty propaganda campaigns, it is we - the people - are losing. Sad thing is, when two stories - one on development and another with religious flavor compete for attention, priority is often going to religious one.

6. Free Market, Socialism:
When we are not focusing on developmental issue, it is obvious that people care even less about the way development is implemented. We often talk in high decibels regarding thousands of non-issues. Hardly debate on what should be India's developmental agenda and how it is to be implemented. Unfortunately, Parliament is hardly on session and functioning to debate on that one.

I wish, people of India will elect their representatives based on what is their developmental agenda. Based on what they are offering to advance India's agricultural, industrial and service sector. What progressive laws they are going to implement. What they are going to do to fix India’s notoriously corrupt, slow and inefficient bureaucracy. What they are going to with Indian police system which functions as per whims and fancies of whoever on charge, not based on any impartial and just process.

In this republic day, I wish more people will understand the meaning and importance of being in a republic and become reasonable. I wish they reject any idea which tries to appeal to their religious/other belief system.


Republic Day, is Indian State as might in the Street as it is in R-Day parade on Rajpath?

India is going to celebrate one more republic day. State’s might will be displayed on Rajpath, the road leading to Rashtrapati Bhavan.

The question is, does the state apply enough power on the ground to protect the interests of citizen? Vandalism by anti-social elements on the streets during release of movie Patmavat is not giving any assurance of protection as such. Unfortunately, this is not an isolated incident. Khap panchayats still run freely in many northern states; couples who loved girl/ boy from another caste is running for life in Tamilnadu. The list is long.

Same goes with state's power to prosecute as well. Court cases are moving slower than snail.

Two cases in point are Vakapalli gang rape case where "Eleven tribal women from Vakapalli in Nurmati panchayat of G Madugula mandal in Vizag Agency were allegedly gangraped by 21 anti-Naxal force Greyhounds personnel on August 20, 2007". In this case, "Judge of 11th Additional District Sessions Judge-cum-special Court under the SC, ST (Prevention of Atrocities) Act in Visakhapatnam has adjourned the first hearing of the Vakapalli gangrape case to January 25". Reason for adjournment is, court didn't hear any communication from official’s side regarding the appointment of P Trinadh Rao as a special public prosecutor (as per victim’s wishes). Imagine, this alleged incident happened in 2007; and the first hearing is postponed to Jan 25, 2018. If this is justice, then I would say, we failed to protect the marginalized.

Second case in point is from Odisha. "Class-IX student of Sorispadar Government School at Odisha’s Maoist-dominated Koraput district – who alleged she was gang-raped by four armed security personnel on October 10, 2017 – hanged herself to death at her house in Musaguda village on Monday evening".

In both cases accused were sworn to protect the citizens. Nothing proved in the court yet, you may say. Well, I agree, but state is failing frequently to bring cases to court on time and do good in prosecution. This is not something which we can be proud of during this republic day.



1. Trial court adjourns first Vakapalli gangrape hearing to January 25 - New Indian Express
2. Odisha Girl Who Alleged Gang-rape by 'Men in Uniform' Commits Suicide, Sparks Outrage - News18
3. Padmaavat: From set vandalism to Karni Sena protest and Supreme Court ruling, a timeline of controversies - FirstPost
4. Noida: Police book 200 for vandalism on DND Flyway, more arrests soon - HT

Friday, January 19, 2018

Rechristening UPA Schemes; Old Wine in New Bottle with New Labels

An important maxim of Deng was, "It doesn't matter whether a cat is black or white, as long as it catches mice". Well, this maxim is not for Indian politicians. They want everything in India - Roads, Utilities, Bridges, Government Schemes - to be named after them or their political mentors/ideologues. Its not about whether the scheme achieved its objectives but about stamping their name on everything. Whenever I visit home town, I could see Local MLS's name in big font on all flood lights in junctions, bus waiting sheds built using public money.

Politicians want people to remember them for a very long time, if possible forever; but they are neither ready to spend their own money nor raise money (outside government treasury) for that purpose.

You might be thinking what this has to do with UPA/ NDA. Well, there is a bad habit taking root in New Delhi. Current administration is renaming all schemes started by UPA one after other. Relaunching same scheme, with minor modifications, with a new name (name of party ideologues etc.) is not a good habit. If someone wants to make their mark on India's economical story, they can do better execution of old schemes or start new ones with new objectives. What UPA lacked was not ideas but lack of execution efficiency. So, show them that, current administration can do it in a better way. Renaming all schemes is not a good trend; if another administration came to power in Delhi they can rename everything again. In short don't claim another's baby.

Latest scheme getting renamed is, Prime Minister's Rural Development Fellows scheme (PMRDF).

List of name changes under Modi administration,


1. Deng Xiaoping was top most leader of China from 1978 till his retirement in 1989. He pulled China out of Communism and transformed the country to a market-economy

1. Another 'UPA scheme' may be re-christened - TOI
2. Modi Has Merely Renamed 19 Out Of 23 Congress Schemes - The Quint
3. Photo in this article is copied from Twitter.

Tuesday, January 16, 2018

Shooting the Messenger - Filing Case against Tribune reporter who exposed Aadhar Leaks

Assume that, you are going to invest in a fund to cover son's higher education expenditures. Your close relative knows this, and after some investigation he found out a critical flow in your selected fund. He informs you about it immediately. As per him, if you are not covering that part, then your investment may be in danger. What you will do? I think you will thank that relative. After all he helped you.

Isn't the same thing that Express Tribune reported did regarding Aadhar? He informed the concerned parties, government and public about the deep and dangerous flows in the system. What government should do? Isn't he deserve some thanks? but no, he was slapped with a case. Is this a citizen or a journalist should expect when they point out a problem to the government? I think we should protect our whistleblowers.

If someone wants to file a case, then I firmly believe it should be People of India Vs UIADI for not securing private and vital information of 1.3 billion people.