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The end of 'Indian Spring'
2012.11.27 19:27:14

Arvind Kejriwal, of the erstwhile NGO India Against Corruption, has made quite a splash since he went political. Even before he named his outfit as “Aam Aadmi Party” (AAP) he had commenced his campaign against the entrenched political establishment. His exposes, virtually like serial ‘bombs’, have already scorched Robert Vadra, the son in-law of Sonia Gandhi,  Chairperson of the ruling formation United Progressive Alliance, Foreign Minister Salman Khurshid, the suave but loyal to the point of being a sycophant of Sonia Gandhi, Nitin Gadkari, the reigning president of the principal Opposition,  the Bharatiya Janata Party, the Reliance Chief and the richest Indian Mukesh Ambani, and, lately, sugar mill owners of Western Maharashtra, presumably targeting the Maharashtra strongman Sharad Pawar, currently Agriculture Minister at the Centre. The Ambanis came in for further treatment in Kejriwal’s accusations regarding their alleged unaccounted wealth in foreign banks details of which, though suppressed, were allegedly available with the government.



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On the edge - the Great Indian Bustard
2012.10.14 22:38:00

With a rapidly growing population, increasing pressures of development and unconcerned public authorities wildlife in India do not seem to have a chance. A recent list of most threatened species of animals, plants and fungi jointly compiled by the International Union for Conservation of Nature and the Zoological Society of London includes four Indian species. Questioning whether these are “Priceless or worthless” species and, therefore, whether we have the right to drive them to extinction the two organisations have surmised that humans seem to care more for economic benefits that certain species provide if they are conserved. The rest, it seems, could be left to their native ingenuity to either adapt to the ever-changing environment or to perish.



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Radios of yore - an eulogy
2012.10.04 19:36:17

The other day while listening to a programme on the fm of Radio Mirchi my mind traveled back long years to 1948 when we got the first radio in our house. My late second brother got a first division in his intermediate examination. The examinations were held then by the Ajmer Board of Secondary education to which a number colleges in Rajputana, United Provinces, Central India, etc were affiliated. With thousands of candidates competing, getting a first division in those days in any board or university examination was no ordinary matter.  Elated by the distinction achieved by him, my father went and bought a radio as a gift for him – a small one, of five valves made by Phillips of Holland. Its price was Rs. 350/-, an amount that was more than my father’s monthly salary.

Tags: valve | radios

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Dow denies succour to Bhopal despite new-found environmentalism
2012.08.30 19:32:10

Before the commencement of the 2012 Olympic Games in London, the gas-affected people of Union Carbide, Bhopal and their several organisations mounted a protracted campaign against the Dow’s sponsorship of it. The Dow funded the £7 million wrap around the Olympic Stadium and also has negotiated a 10-year £100 million sponsorship with the International Olympic Committee. The Union Carbide Corporation (UCC) is now a subsidiary of The Dow Chemicals, the latter having bought it in the late ‘90s.

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Return of the "Darkness"
2012.07.28 19:24:19

Looking around one comes across a kind of darkness that seems to be descending on the country. It is somewhat like what the Nobel Laureate, VS Naipaul, described in his travelogue, “An Area of Darkness”, but, perhaps more forbidding as it is occurring in the second decade of the 21st Century.  Ominous, as it seems, the thought processes of our people seem to be consciously and unrelentingly heading towards the medieval ages. Although it cannot be reckoned as the sign of the times when serious efforts are under way to achieve material progress, yet many societal aberrations strongly suggest that regressive tendencies are getting free play.



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Planet Earth close to tipping point
2012.07.04 19:53:11

Despite a dire warning issued by the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) about the catastrophe that Planet Earth was headed for, the recent United Nations Rio+20 Conference at Rio de Janeiro on sustainable development proved to be a damp squib.



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Indians will soon find survival difficult
2012.05.20 15:27:22

A time seems to have come when people should give up cooking. A recent report said that a domestic LPG cylinder is soon going to cost Rs. 996/- (around $20), virtually a thousand rupees, for those who have an income of more than six hundred thousand rupees ($12000 app.) per annum. The Standing Committee on the matters relating to petroleum ministry has made the recommendation indicating that those who are rich should not be supplied the subsidised LPG. For all one knows, the recommendation may even get accepted regardless of the fact that identification of those who are in receipt of the specified income is going to be a tough proposition. If implemented, only the salaried class would get trapped while others, who are professionals, traders and self-employed, etc. and have to declare their own incomes (which most don’t do entirely) are likely to continue to get subsidised LPG.



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A threatened Ramsar Site
2012.01.31 22:26:20

One can be reasonably sure that on the 2nd of February next the ministers concerned of the government of the Central Indian province of Madhya Pradesh will mouth some platitudes about conservation of the Upper Lake and its adjunct the Lower Lake which together constitute Bhoj Wetland. In practice however, the local officialdom is more concerned about its “development” and by that they mean providing means for attracting more and more visitors to its shores or to its close proximity. Conservation is a word which does not seem to figure in their lexicon in so far as this fantastic natural asset of Bhopal is concerned, particularly when it is a Ramsar Site – a wetland of international importance, the only one in the state.



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Hunger and riches in 'incredible India'
2012.01.31 22:20:11

A national daily presented the other day two contrasting pictures of India. On its front page were the findings of a research indicating the extent of hunger and malnourishment in the country and in one of the inside pages was a report on the explosion on its roads with millions of private vehicles causing traffic jams in its urban centres.



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India - a subcontinental refuge
2011.12.23 15:04:58

A group of 140 overstaying Pakistani Hindus have expressed the desire to remain in India and make Delhi their home. They came to India from Sindh on tourist visa and for fear of being targeted are afraid to go back. With visas expired, they live in utter penury in Majnu Ka Tila in Delhi and have only one appeal for the Government of India that their visas should be extended. They would also like the government to provide them proper accommodation. These people from 27 families waited for years for their visas and were so desperate that once they got them they walked across to India. According to them they always felt unsafe in their own country and were subjected to discrimination. Not only they had no religious freedom, their children were ill-treated in schools, i.e. if they were allowed to join one. Always being told to convert to Islam, they would like to give up their home country and live in India, they said, just as numerous Bangladeshis, Nepalese and Tibetans live here.

They are mistaken if they think they are the only Pakistani Hindus who want to permanently make their home in India. Before them, hundreds and thousands of them came here with or without valid visas and never went back. And, all of them did not come only at the time of partition. Off and on, whenever, there were atrocities against Hindus, India would see an influx of Sindhi Hindus from Pakistan. A large number of them came after the 1971 War that resulted in dismemberment of Pakistan, arousing in it great antipathy for India and, of course, local Hindus. Even in normal times the process of ethnic cleansing has been continuing. Rajasthan and Madhya Pradesh are two states which seem to have been receiving them in large numbers. In fact, the two states have been welcoming them more or less with open arms, presumably, for political gains. They constitute a solid vote bank for the BJP. An August 2011 report said that around 3500 Sindhis who migrated more than a decade ago on long-tem visas and residing in Madhya Pradesh are still awaiting citizenship. If anything, this is a great under-statement. There are far, far more than 3500 Sindhis in the state. Many of them have merged with the local population without observing official niceties and have established themselves in business.

Those now camping in Majnu ka Tila are right when they say numerous Bangladeshi and Nepalese are also living in India. Hindu Bangladeshi refugees always made a beeline for India whenever they were subjected to atrocities. Their numbers were never accurately determined but it is estimated that a million came post partition, another million in 1950s and around 5 million in 1960s, most came after the 1965 war with India. During the struggle for independence in 1970-71 about 10 million East Pakistani Hindus crossed over to India to avoid a veritable genocide. Not all of them went back; around 1.5 million are estimated to have stayed back.

But there has been no respite for India even after Bangladesh came into being. Migration, in fact infiltration, into India has been continuing and, currently, 20 million illegal Bangladeshis, mostly Muslims, are reportedly in residence in India. There is practically no state in Upper India which does not have their colonies.  They have swamped several districts of Assam and border districts of West Bengal changing their demographics. In Assam as many as six districts now have Muslims in majority and in two in West Bengal. In Assam a violent socio-political movement was launched for their eviction.  While the porous borders have helped easy accessibility, poor enforcement and rampant corruption has ensured the illegal immigrants to avail of the benefits they are not entitled to. Their presence in large numbers, largely by design, especially in the states of West Bengal and Assam (where their number is reported to be 5 million out of 26 million) has given rise to fears of Islamic fundamentalism and consequential security threats to India. There have been frequent reports of these illegal immigrants promoting the idea of a “Greater Bangladesh” inclusive of the Indian states of West Bengal and Assam.

The case of Nepalese in India, however, is entirely different. They are here in pursuance of the Indo-Nepal Friendship Treaty of 1950. Each, seemingly, fell into other’s lap out of fear on the emergence of the Red Dragon on their northern borders. The rise of Communist China in 1949 and its subsequent invasion of Tibet heightened their security concerns. Under the Treaty, Nepalese citizens in India have all the rights of an Indian citizen and they do not require visas to enter India, except a valid identification card while entering India by air. Both countries have also agreed to grant, on a reciprocal basis in each other’s territories, the same privileges in the matter of residence, ownership of property, participation in trade and commerce, etc. Curiously, however, while the citizens of Nepal have been exercising the rights granted under the Treaty Indians have not only have to have visas for entering Nepal but also are prevented under Nepalese laws to own and acquire property in Nepal. An estimated 10 million Nepalese are, as a consequence, residing and working in India, doing all kinds of jobs, including in the public and private sectors and in the Army, strengthening their country’s economy by remittances – largely informal – which amount to approximately 10% of its GDP.

Although the Nepalese find the 1950 Treaty unequal, strategic concerns apart, it appears to be highly unfavourable to India. The open borders between the two countries have allowed Nepalese to flood the country and take away from the locals millions of jobs in formal and informal sectors and share the resources that are increasingly becoming scarce. Besides, the open borders have been freely used by the Pakistani jihadists to spread mayhem and chaos in the country. While Nepal exports its so-called labour as a national policy, illegal Bangladeshis are plain and simple intruders having no right to be in India in such large numbers. Sadly, the Centre has hardly made any effort to prevent their ingress and has made, if at all, very feeble efforts to send them back. Even a rich country like the US adopts a very uncompromising attitude against those who breach its frontiers. Pakistan, on the other hand, is solving its communal problem by easing out its unwanted Hindus in hundreds and thousands. India, however has never taken up with Pakistan the question of crude treatment meted out to its Hindus even though President Musharraf during a press conference in Delhi had the audacity to make a comment about treatment in Indian Muslims. Surely he was aware that India hosted far more Muslims than Pakistan. He was, however, put in his place by one Maulana Madani who happened to be present at the meeting.

This is not all. Apart from millions of Pakistani Hindus, Nepalese and Bangladeshis, there are a few thousand foreigners including Pakistanis and Bangladeshis who have overstayed their visas having entered the country with valid documents. Add to that hundreds and thousands of Tibetan, Afghan, Sri Lankan and Burmese refugees to complete the picture. In India’s 1.2 billion people its neighbours have, thus, made the substantial contribution of close to 10%. Had the country – virtually a sub-continental refuge – not been weighed down by these foreigners, its economic profile perhaps would have been far different.



Tags: india

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The great Indian ferment
2011.10.25 16:22:13

India these days seems to be in ferment. If one picks up a newspaper one gets hit by headlines that certainly do not bode well for the country, at least, not in its immediate future. While one can discern a severe churning taking place in the country’s social, political and economic life, the government, at the same time, is largely perceived to be drifting along.



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Indian iconic lake under threat
2011.10.08 18:53:43

Bhopal, the capital of the central Indian state of Madhya Pradesh, could have been such a beautiful city. It was endowed with everything a place could aspire for – green hills and valleys, several lakes and a few small gurgling streams. Climatically it was bordering on the ideal – equable, with mild summers, plenty of rains and moderate winters. All that has been lost because of “development”, now a dreaded word for those who are sensitive about the city’s environment that they have seen progressively deteriorating. The unrestricted urban expansion has been gobbling up the surrounding farmlands, colonising the green hills, transforming the city’s streams into sewers and its lakes into septic tanks. The developmental assault on the city’s iconic millennium-old Upper Lake, a drinking water source for the locals for centuries, unmindful of its vital importance for the city’s environment, water security and green cover.



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In Soviet-occupied Kabul
2011.09.16 18:41:11

In April 1983 I happened to go to Kabul on a Universal Postal Union (UPU) consultancy with the Postal Administration of Afghanistan. I got a rather short notice as I was told about the assignment only in the third week of March. Although Afghanistan was not really stable with the mujahideen resisting the Soviet occupation, yet there was no way one could say “no”, having been trained by the UPU to function as a consultant. Besides, we all believed in the concept of Technical Cooperation among Developing Countries (TCDC).



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The Indian 'Class of 2011'
2011.09.07 19:39:42

The current year has been a year of protests. The “Jasmine Revolution” of Tunisia was the beginning of it all. It was an intensive campaign of civil resistance, including a series of street demonstrations and strikes by professionals that culminated in the ousting of long-time President Zine El Abidine Ben Ali in January 2011. The demonstrations were precipitated by high unemployment, food inflation, corruption, lack of fundamental freedoms and poor living conditions.



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Demise of India's small change
2011.07.21 17:32:26

The Indian central bank, the Reserve Bank of India, had been making quite a song and dance about the 25 Paise coins ceasing to become legal tender from the 30th June this year. It had been asking people to exchange them for equivalent amount of currency. A report the other day said only a little more than a hundred thousand rupees worth of these coins had been deposited in the banks in Bhopal till the 30th June.

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Kashmir in environmental peril
2011.07.02 19:26:32

As the plane came to a halt at the Srinagar Airport one of the cabin crew denied us exit from the rear door. She said passengers had to go out through the front door as the Airport had an aerobridge. Surprised, I thought to myself that through the twenty-odd years of militancy the process of development in Kashmir had mercifully not been discontinued. It said much about the Centre’s patience with the turmoil that persisted all around in the Valley as also its belief in the efficacy of improvements in physical conditions on the ground. Perhaps, these were paying off now as this year Kashmir, seemingly, broke all previous records of tourists’ arrival. Our plane flew with a full load of passengers. It was not the only one; many more were flying in everyday as a result of the government’s “open skies” policy.



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Indian cricket on overdrive
2011.04.09 19:47:56

It has almost been like carpet bombing – the media hype during the recent International Cricket Council (ICC) Cricket World Cup of one-day internationals that was recently played out in the Indian sub-continent. The “bombing” was intensified just before the India-Pakistan semi-final played at Mohali, near Chandigarh.

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Of venal ministers and their equally venal parties
2011.03.16 19:11:15

The Outlook magazine, a popular national weekly, has been publishing excerpts from the taped conversations of Niira Radia, the now (in)famous lobbyist of, inter alia, the House of Tata, with several individuals, including the former Indian Telecommunications Minister, A Raja. In one of the tapes published in the issue of 14th February 2011 of Niira Radia’s conversation with one Manish, an employee at Vaishnavi Communications (another corporate communication consultancy firm) Radia says “In the middle of the night (Raja, the Minister) called Anil Ambani to come and collect his LoI (Letter of Intent) for a dual technology license” and “...when you ask Mr. Raja why are you doing this, his view is ‘what do you do, I have a party to run”.



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Indian Environment Minister's 'no-go' areas for mining under attack
2011.02.27 19:40:42

In India systems that are installed are seldom worked. There are numerous examples but, in the immediate context, the example of the Ministry of environment & Forests (MoEF) should suffice. According to Wikipedia, “the Ministry is responsible for planning, promoting, coordinating and overseeing the environmental and forestry programmes” of the country. Its main activities being conservation and survey of flora and fauna of India, forests and other wilderness areas, prevention and control of pollution, afforestation and land degradation mitigation.



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India's oil mafia eliminate the honest
2011.02.16 19:19:05

The other day something very unusual happened in the state of Maharashtra. Almost all its officers, numbering around 150,000 went on a day’s strike. They were protesting against killing of Additional District Magistrate of Nashik, Yeshwant Sonwane. Sonwane, an uncommonly upright and courageous district officer, was burnt to death by members of the oil mafia when he caught them on camera pilfering kerosene from a tanker. The protest was organised under the aegis of the Maharshtra Gazetted Officers’ Mahasangh. Its President said that the Mahasangh’s members were not really on a strike but were “shunning work” to protest against the gruesome act which had shaken the employees.



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