Monday, December 26, 2005

Nepal-Brink of civil war?

When my friend Siresongs was in Nepal, I used to get first hand information on Nepal. Now I had to rely on the TV channels and news paper. There was recently two items in Newspaper that caught my eye. First was the decline of an offer for Talks from the Maoists and second was the purchase of lethal ammunitions from China. So is the King really on to something? Declining the peace offer (or attempts to make peace) from the Maoists looks like a brave attempt on the face of it but it has a lot of underlying statements. Reading together the purchase of armaments from China, signals a notable shift of equations with India, Nepal’s traditional ally. If the king had accepted the offer, he would have to revert to democratic means and less military means. As with every dictatorship, military is his first and last straw. Fear is the weapon. Suppression is the way. So anything that remotely resembles democracy, the King will weaken his grip on the Himalayan kingdom. And this would give the ideal opportunity to the political fraternity. Once a people backed rising started, his military might may not be able to contain it. So this may be the reason behind his refusal.
India and US, the traditional arms supplier to the kingdom, has stopped their supplies since the royal coup. India has asserted that it will be a temporary stay, fearing that Pakistan will scoop up the opportunity, and resumed limited supply later but that was not enough to keep China at bay. New Delhi must be ruing the lost goldmine.
Still a large chink of Nepal, Rural areas especially, are controlled by the Maoists. King Gyanendra is losing control everyday steadily. Clamp down on media and arresting leading politicians accelerated his dropping popularity. On international front, pressure is mounting to bring back democracy and law and order. It is to be seen how the wily king cop with the pressure and hold on to power.

Mobile blues

It has been an exponential growth for telecom in India in the last decade. Mobile telephony has seen a phenomenal growth in urban India. A lot of acquisitions and mergers happened and the tariffs are one of the cheapest. It was hailed as a revolution and has changed the way of Indians keeps in touch with each other. It is a ubiquitous gadget these days and an essential one. The advent of Reliance started a flood of cheap mobiles and made it affordable for the lower class. The private operators are boasting of millions of customers, they slash prices every month and they come up with a new scheme that will add a few thousand more to their fold. The latest is validity war. Tata telecom introduced the 2-year non-stop incoming without recharging, and others joined in too.
But has it really evolved? After a decade, it is still in it’s infancy. The recent criticism about the quality by Telecom Regulatory Authority of India (TRAI) highlights the plights of customers.
The other day I was commuting back to home after work when I got a call on my mobile. It was my wife calling to tell me that she wants to do a little shopping and want me to join with her. She want me to wait at a spot and as she was about to tell me where and when, the line broke. She dialed again and managed to convey the place the line went dead again. Before I get the timing. She dialed again and all I could hear was some static. I tried to call her but as usual all networks busy, or that’s what the cell displayed. It is the fifth time she managed to tell me when.
Even if at home, I had to place the cell near to the window or in the Balcony. If I get a call, I had to lean out of the window to get a clear voice. While on train, I had to drop many important calls due to the call-drop. One second you are talking and next second there is only silence. I have identified some spots where there is no signal despite it being a crowded, commercial and residential area.
I use an Airtel connection, and hope they notice this.
1. The stretch between Matunga & Mahim Rly stations.
2. between Santacruz & Vile Parle
3. Kandivli Rly Yard.
4. between Dahisar & Mira Road.
5. Naigaon Station.
6. Mumbai Mantralaya section.
Many a times my relatives complain that they could never reach me. I am always out of coverage area or switched off. When I try to make outgoing calls, especially in the evenings, I could never get it.
That’s not all. I had experienced some discrepancy in my account balance a few months ago and they were deducting some money from my balance every day. When I enquired about it they said they have some new scheme in which I can make outgoing calls at a lower rate. Once activated they would deduct a certain amount everyday. When I asked that guy who authorized the activation, he said they send an SMS and if not replied, they take it as consent! I was thinking like you need to SEND an authorization to activate something. NO SEND is a negative response. Don’t you think?
When the roaming service made free, they made it sure that every one got the message by advertising it all the railway stations and TV channels. And for two months there was no deduction. The third month I found some 25 Rs missing from my account. Upon enquiry the operator said it is Roaming charges. When I asked him about the absence of deduction for the last 2 months, he said it might be a computer error!! I hung up fearing that they might consider deducting retro-effective. As a computer expert, I know that computers don’t make mistakes. But It can be programmed to make! Or humans can make mistake!
The last blow came in November. Till then I could ring up a “customer executive” and tell him my grievances. Not anymore. They made customer care a paid service. A minute 6 Rs! This one too, as usual, was not informed. I was dialing customer care and I got a computer recorded life-less voice telling me that if you want to call the operator, the calls are paid service! So that avenue also closed. Now mobile telephony has really evolved, isn’t it? The next thing, may be, to revert back to charge the incoming. But a consumer is trapped there. If I want to switch operators, I had to opt for a new number. That would mean losing all contacts or I had to sit and inform all my contacts about the number change.
TRAI suggested the number portability and the private operators are vehemently opposing it. But for the users it is god-send.
The cartel of cell operators has so far resisted policies that harm them. There is no reason to believe things will change soon. So hang on, or rather, hang up!
Landlines are no better. Read Dilip's experience in this article

Sunday, December 25, 2005

Tsunami Reports

One year has passed since the Tsunami wreaked havoc in South Asian Countries. Life is back to normalcy. Well, Almost. Read the tsunami reports, a first hand account of a journalist, Dilip D’souza , my friend and former colleague.

* * * * * * * *

July 26, a day when Mumbai was submerged. A lot happened since. But at that time there was a lot of clamor about how plastics caused the choking of drains and how govt is going to ban it and what steps must be taken to avoid such things in future. Half a year passed and what had changed? The much-hyped plastic ban is postponed due to it’s impracticability. It’s dropped actually but the authorities are reluctant to admit their failure.

We, Mumbaikars never learn from our mistakes. We still use the plastic bags and abandon it as and where we pleased. It could be found in every drain, every inch of Mumbai. The inexplicable behavior of the authorities are making us worry. Our beloved city may not be able to hold up if another flood occurs. Its old infrastructure, already taken a lot of beatings, may collapse and take with it all its occupants.

These pictures are taken on July 26th at Vasai.

Thursday, December 22, 2005

Shubh yatra (bon voyage)

Traveling in India by train was always a miserable experience. One had to put up with stinking coaches and waterless toilets, cockroaches and rodents, leaky roofs and beggars. The threat of dacoits always looms large in every mind, but it was isolated incidents. But not any more. Our trains are not safe anymore. Yesterday a group of armed people barged into a Lucknow bound Pushpak Express and looted the passengers and before jumping off the train they gang-raped a 22 year old lady in the toilet. The most funny-sad thing of this story is the response of the railway spokesperson. He said “It’s just a minor incident since the rape is not confirmed”. The honorable (comedian?) Lalu Prasad (Rly Minister) also confirmed this by saying “Rape is not confirmed.”. to the great relief of these comedians, the terrified lady is not available for medical check-up and currently lodged in some private hospital.
Recently there was a surge in the crime figures related to railways. Spurned lovers throwing acid, befriending the passenger before drugging and looting, armed robbery and Rape. There were no GRP (Railway Police) when the loot occurred.
Before it was in trains that goes to Bihar, UP and Up north. But today the menace is everywhere. And the Railways are doing nothing. They want to confirm rape before initiate action. Now they may want the dead person’s affidavit to confirm death!
When comedians like Lalu is ruling, we couldn’t expect anything more. The time is not that far when every passenger has to wear a bullet proof jacket, a pistol and some protective gear before they embark on a train Journey. May be this is what railways had in mind when they say “Shubh Yatra” (bon voyage)

Thursday, December 15, 2005

Condomphobia of Tamilnadu

Tamilnadu’s moral brigade is at it again! Last time it was poor Kushboo . This time they vent their ire at the Condom Vending Machines. Two Muslim organizations came to the fore and their Lady-wing is on the streets protesting. The statements of the state Convener, Fathima Jalaal is funny. CVMs are “belittlement and denigration of Indian Culture” and “There is no need for Condom” and “it’ll have a negative impact on children”. If you talk about Indian culture, then why are you opposing the unified civil code and attempts to legalize your communities Talaque (divorce) methods? You may not need condoms. But for thousands of people it is the difference between life and death. And let me remind you one thing. It will not leave a negative impact on children. But it will keep they alive and healthy.
It is a known fact that Catholics (not all Christians) and Muslims are totally against birth control and abortion. The latter may be justified by the fact that it is killing a little soul. But Condoms?? The best method available to prevent contracting HIV virus is Condom.. And Tamilnadu has the highest infection rate this year . The opposition come from the fact that, if every family do this, there may be less followers to the religion, less income to the church / mosque and less people to carry out the hidden agendas. The Burqua-clad women held plaques saying “condom culture down ,down” and remove condom vending machine”. As if the new generation has never seen the object and never heard the word. Who are you trying to kid? Kushboo just said the truth. You may not like it but pre-marital sex is here.
Women’s League state convener A S Fathima Muzzafer said “one hand we preach one man one partner and same time promoting CVMs” Does CVMs encourage infidelity? Is it a cause to illicit relations? She said it is. What reasoning! Amazing!
These are either simple publicity stunts or some hidden agenda behind it. Tamilnadu has too many disasters this year. Tsunami, floods and the next in line is an epidemic called AIDS. It is already too late, but better than never. Stop these meaningless moral policing and unite against the killer diseas and spread the awareness and educate people about the perils of HIV and unprotected sex.
One last question to these leading ladies of morality. Are you sure your partners have never had any affairs? Are you sure you never had some? If not, then better you make sure they wear a condom. Sex is a biological need. But AIDS is not.

A letter to Saurav Ganguly

Dear Sourav Da,
It must be really hard on you, the latest developments in Indian Cricket. Any cricket fan will admit that the treatment meted out to you is downright insulting. Let’s explore the reasons that led to your ouster.
The recent developments in our Cricket board have a big role for your ouster. When you were selected for the first two tests, you have a strong backing in the selection committee. But as the new president of BCCI, What Pawar did was expel these so-called Ganguly supporters. That gave the wise guy ample room for maneuvering. It is public knowledge that the Chairman of Selection committee or the selectors doesn’t want you in the team either.
Let’s explore some statements made by the Coach, Mr. More, and others in BCCI prior to your selection. Mr. More explained at the press conference that you were selected as an all-rounder. Couldn’t you see the trap there? Everyone knows that your bowling in tests is a below-par affair. After all these years playing international cricket from where did this sudden revelation came from? So what was the reason to take you as All-rounder? Wasn’t it was a trap? Ponder it and read further and you would get the picture.
It is public knowledge that the relation between you & Greg Chappell is not so hunky-dory since things turned sour during and after the Zimbabwe tour. So what was going on his mind when he repeatedly stated “Performance is the only criteria”? Your recent poor run might have made him sure that you wouldn’t succeed. Or what is the alleged 7-0 verdict of selection committee including COACH and CAPTAIN after you performed well? If performance was the sole criteria then Gautam Gambhir, Ajit Agarkar and Harbhajan Singh wouldn’t be in the team.
Now one thing that appall us cricket fans is the new regime’s politics. The former regime was hated and ousted because of their politics and nepotism. As soon as Pawar took charge, he announced some bold measures to change the face of Indian cricket. But now he too stooped to play the games and the first scapegoat is you. Believe me, there will be more fun coming up.
You are a beneficiary of former regime’s favoritism and now you are at the receiving end. Think of Mohd. Kaif, after many successful outings had to sit out in the recent Zimbabwe test. He was excluded to accommodate you. Now things have come a full circle for you.
As things stand, Dada, it is better you quit. It is not an advice. Just a friendly plea. Because you will find it difficult to get back into the team as long as Dravid And Chappell at helm. Consider this; Dravid was your deputy for many years, you have helped him, he has helped you but during your exclusion or yesterday’s news of your being dropped, did he utter a word of consolation? Yeah, he said that your contribution was valuable to the team’s cause, but he could have said that in the Selection committee. Or he could at least have called you and said something soothing. But that was not the case.
Cricket is a cruel game. Yesterday’s heroes are today’s villain. So decide upon your future. It is made very clear that you are unwanted. We are such a thankless people, not very long we were hailing you as the savior of Indian Cricket. Now you got the sack and bricks.
Whatever your faults are, be it running out your mates, or performance, you don’t deserve this ridiculing. And call it a day when you can. It is better than being dropped from next series and the next. And the next.

Sunday, December 11, 2005

Mumbai Mirror got this on their Radar

This article of mine was published in Mumbai Mirror, a times group publication under the section What world wide web is talking about on 9-Dec-05 Friday.

Wednesday, December 07, 2005

God(man)'s plight on a flight

The airports of Luknow, Mumbai and Aurangabad witnessed a different kind of mob outrage yesterday. A very holy man, Narendra Maharaj, has been prohibited from carrying his staff (“dand”) onboard. The Central Industrial Security Force forbade him from entering the flight with the staff. As the word reached Mumbai before the arrival of the Holy man, a mob of about 300 protestors gathered there and besieged the airport. They smashed few cars in Aurangabad airport too.

Later the Maharaj said that he would ask “people’s representatives to take up the issue”. Promptly the Shivsena took up the issue as they are the only representatives left in the country. As they were reeling under the after effect of in-fighting, this was the second elixir of life that they were searching for. The Grand Med collage (JJ HOSP) issue was dying down and they desperately need another straw to clutch on. This was god send. Or rather God man Send.

I am not against of any particular religion, but if the latest developments in India is any indication, We are heading towards another communal riot. Intolerance towards minority and immigrants, resorting to physical violence by the least provocation and as if to add fuel to fire, the statements of the so-called God men or political patriarchs. We are sitting on a communal time bomb and the time is ticking away. The elements in some political outfits are also aiming for a cleansing of some sort.

Somebody said that “if other swamis can carry their staff onboard, why not our Swami?” So what if tomorrow someone else pretending to be a swami and carries a rifle along with him claiming his belief required him to carry that weapon? In a country of great diversity, we must respect the feelings of others too.

On the other hand, Shivsena is fast becoming ever more violent. It is back to it’s roots. Terrorizing tactics and violence. But as Pritish Nandi wrote the other day, India is fast changing and so is Indian Politics. They can’t rely on the outdated techniques forever.

Our cultural rituals and festivals all must be respected and adhered to. But none should come in the way of security. Compromises have already been done on many occasions. Now it’s time to tidy up our act and act tough. Everyone should have equal rules. Be it a big shot politician or a crowd pulling sports star or a self-proclaimed god man.

Some interesting comments in today’s newspaper regarding this incident and my thought about them.

  1. Fr. Tony Charangat, Official Spokesperson of Catholic church.

I don’t know if carrying the staff is an integral part of religion and can’t comment. But everyone should try to observe rules. Carrying cross is not allowed in Saudi Arabia;

Well, this is not Saudi Arabia. They still observe eye-for-eye punishment. And you are allowed to carry your cross here. Don’t you Father? Unlike Saudi, this is a secular country.

  1. Daljith Singh Bal, President, Sikh Association.

Rules should be same for all. Even we are not allowed to carry our kirpans on board despite it being a religious necessity. I don’t think religious leaders should have special rules.

Consider taking up this issue with Shivsena. But chances are likely very bleak since they take up Hindu issues. Or consider starting up something in the line of Shivsena. You can even call it Gurusena.

Tuesday, December 06, 2005

Maharashtra Vs India

The latest gimmick Shivsena employed to avert the public attention from their own in-fighting and crisis is making headlines. After Raj Thackeray quit all the posts, Shivsainiks were demoralized and bewildered. But the wily Uddhav Thackeray found an opportunistic moment and hijacked the movement started by his cousin, Raj. Now both factions are competing each other who can - cause more destruction, invoke more fear in non-marathis and beat up more Biharis.
A couple of years ago, it was against “Bhayyas”, people from UP, was the subject of Sena’s ire.
A few years ago Shivsena embarked upon something similar. They wanted all the boards and sign boards and nameplates in Marathi. I still remember the Cell operator Orange (Hutch) ‘s main signboard blackened and in crude lettering they painted ‘marathi’. Many of the establishments suffered the same fate. I never heard any case filed against anyone for that.
Further down the memory lane. The Anti-south Indian drive of Shivsena. “Pungi Bachao, Lungi Bhagao”.

Back to present. Last year, Uddhav Thackeray started his “Mee Mumbaikar” campaign. It died an unceremonious death. Sena is back to it’s vandalizing, terrorizing self.
Today many of the Marathis working in Bangalore, Hyderabad and other cities in IT / BPO sector. If the Kannada people start something like this, and then Delhiites starting Morchas, and violence to stop Maharashtrians coming to their state, where are we heading? Aren’t we behaving like separate countries? Is it better to “Declare Freedom from India” and form separate sovereign countries? Mumbai and Thane can be ruled my Maharaja UddavSaheb Thackeray while the rest of Maharashtra can go to Maharaja RajaSaheb Thackeray. Both cousins happy, Marathis happy. And yes, other states too can follow suit.
The attitude of Shivsena is to kick up a dust storm whenever they are in trouble or when they need public outrage to win election. And they very well know what is the sensitive issue with Maharashtrians.
If these guys are really concerned about Marathis, why don’t they attempt to eradicate poverty, illiteracy and bring development? Shivsena was in power and that is the worst period of Maharashtra. Kicking people who belongs to other states means prosperity for Marathis? Is the Shivsena is above the Indian Constitution? Why can’t police act in a neutral manner and booked only the non-maharashtrians?
I guess I asked a lot of questions that has no immediate answer. The terror tactics and vandalism won Shivsena many accolades. They will keep doing it in order to empower Marathis. All the immigrants (Or lower grade citizens), should go back home.
It is a separate country! Jai Maharashtra.!!!

Monday, December 05, 2005

Firebrands Fired!!!

The recent two incidents send shocking waves across Indian political fraternity. They are not connected each other but similar in nature and it’s result. Raj Thackeray revolt causes heartburn to Shivsena, “Sanyasin” Uma Bharti’s outburst resulted in her ouster from the party. (As of now, the news is not confirmed, but all indications points towards her ouster).
There is a lot of similarities between these two leaders. Both are hardcore Hindutva advocates, Loves to be in the spotlight, uncanny knack to incite their followers with inflammatory speeches and both are sidelined in their own party due to their misgivings abot the leadership. At a time both these leaders where the party’s lifeline and they provided the much needed charisma to their election campaigns. They were largely responsible for their party’s turn-around of fortunes in their state and seen as the heirs of their respective outfit’s top post. An analysis of their fall out;
Uma Bharti.
She was the firebrand leader, a hardcore Hindutva advocate and, to top it all, a Sanyasin. Her saffron robs and the ability to stir the mob through her speeches gave her an aura of invincibility. And at a time when BJP doesn’t have a strong second-line leaders and VHP & RSS was the party’s main core, Uma grew to fill this vacuum. She was the pet of party. But it all changed after the arrival of GenNext leaders like Pramod Mahajan, Arun Jaitley and Sushma Swaraj. They led the party towards mild-hindutva and this caused the RSS & VHP lost it’s stranglehold on the party. BJP has become more or less like another parties. It has lost it’s cadre nature and has become power hungry.
Ms. Bharti’s outburst last year was a precursor to the things that are in store. L.K. Advani’s remarks about Jinna in Pakistan had caused further alienation of VHP & RSS from BJP and Ms. Bharti scooped up the opportunity to appease the VHP by openly criticizing Advani. But to her utter astonishment, no one come for rescue when party suspended her. Then she apologized and made her comeback to the fold. But this time, when the party denied her the post of CM of Madhya Pradesh, she came out and started her attack on BJP.
Raj Thackeray
Much the same story as Uma Bharti. Was an upcoming politician, blessed with mass appeal and sharp tongue. The apparent heir to Bal Thackeray until Thackeray Sr. appointed his own son as the chief. Under him his influence wilted and his followers were denied assembly tickets. Things were heading to an all-time low for Raj when he spoke publicly against the way things carried out in Shivsena. But the first revolt was tamed by the Lion, Bal Thackeray, by inviting Raj to his house and the three made a round table discussion. As a result Raj was assured more say in things, more executive powers and gave him more powers. On Paper. In fact Uddhav was more determined to cut down his powers and the next assembly election saw Raj’s supporters denied tickets. This led to the last rebellion and Raj is busy meeting his functionaries to float his own party.

It all boils down to one thing. POWER. Everyone wants a piece of the pie. Upon denied, they start pointing fingers and rebellion. Some may succeed in politics by either means. Their own party or joining some other. Some fades into the pages of history. Anyway No India has got Two more party. That brings up the number to 1002(aprox). For those who don’t know read my previous article It’s Raining Parties in India .This will give you a fair idea about indian politics!

An Evening with Hariharan

Last Saturday, Vasai saw an interesting concert by India’s popular ghazal, playback and pop singer Hariharan. It was an interesting evening with my idol.