Friday, December 21, 2007

chingari

Ham Bhopal ke naari hain, ham phool nahin, chingaari hain. is the rallying call of the Chingari Trust.

from their website ...
The all-woman Chingari Trust represents the spirit of resilience and persistence of the Bhopal survivors and notably the women who for years have refused to be daunted or defeated. Ham Bhopal ke naari hain, ham phool nahin, chingaari hain. ‘We are women of Bhopal, we are flames not flowers.’ This rallying-call of the Bhopali women survivors inspired the Trust’s name and symbol.

The Chingari Trust seeks to provide proper medical care for children being born in Bhopal with malformations and brain damage, and to provide income-earning opportunities for families that have been impoverished by the disaster and the subsequent water contamination. Many families have lost their main earners to death or illness and are left struggling for survival. By funding and encouraging the creation of new jobs and offering a positive and nurturing support structure, the Trust intends to set an example to government and others.

The Trust will recognise and support struggles led by women in various parts of the country, especially in remote rural India by each year making a “Chingari Award for Women Against Corporate Crimes”, with a trophy and a fellowship of fifty thousand Indian rupees.


Mukta Jhodia, a tribal woman leader fighting against the Hindalco-led Utkal Alumina’s bauxite mining and processing project in Kashipur, Orissa, won the first Chingari Award.

Unrecognised heroines, Kalpana Sharma writes about Mukta Jhodia and the cause of struggles.

A Google news search for "Chingari award" gave 5 results.

Monday, December 17, 2007

batti bandh

MumbaiUnplug called for a Batti Bandh on 15th December, from 7.30 p.m. to 8.30 p.m.
Here is what "Batti Bandh" is (from the MumbaiUnplug website) ...
Batti Bandh is an entirely voluntary event taking place on the 15th of December between 7:30 & 8:30 p.m. This event is aimed at requesting all of Mumbai to stand up for a cause that is greater than all of us. All you need to do is switch off lights and appliances in your home, shop, office, school, college or anywhere you are for 1 hour to take a stand against global warming. Just 1 hour.

What will this 1 hour do? This 1 hour for just 1 day is not our only aim. This 1 hour is to set an example to the world, to every person who witnesses it, to show that together we can make a difference. This 1 hour will save a lot of electricity as well as pollution and if done regularly can go a long way in reducing pollution that is released by electricity plants as well.

We were inspired by a similar event recently held in Sydney, Australia, called Earth Hour. In Sydney, 2.2 million people participated. Their one hour of lights out meant that 24.86 tons of carbon dioxide were not released into the air - the equivalent of taking 48,613 cars off the road. We are a city of more than 20 million people. Let this number be motivation enough to show that we can make a difference. Unplug Mumbai. Do this for every child who otherwise will never have the opportunity to witness snow capped Himalayas or the glorious tigers and lions or the sun kissed beaches of Goa. Because if we dont unplug from our ways now, nothing will remain the same. Batti Bandh.

While newspapers are reporting that the event got a lukewarm/mixed response, hopefully it will act as starting point for larger initiatives, particularly when Mumbai is spared from scheduled/unscheduled power-cuts at the expense of other cities/villages.

On a related note, R K Pachauri, the chairman of Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, on the 1-lakh car,
More private vehicles, ... , is not the right way forward. On the contrary, it would take the world farther from solutions to climate change.

Saturday, October 27, 2007

Saturday, October 20, 2007

small car, big trouble?


Tata Motors has announced that it will roll out it's Rs. 1 lakh car (around USD 2500) in 2008. Other car makers may step in that price segment as well.

Do we need a car in this price segment?

... taking in to account, congestion, pollution, dependence on oil, travel needs, alternate public transport mechanisms, safety standards etc.

A related article from Down to Earth is here.

Tuesday, October 16, 2007

al gore and the nobel peace prize

two takes on this ...

It’s Insanity, Stupid! - Al Gore And That Nobel Peace Prize
The Nobel Peace Prize to Al Gore opened a heated debate: was it right to award a mass murderer and war criminal? ...
On CounterPunch, Alexander Cockburn wrote, “When Gore goes to get the prize [… he] should be forced to march through a gauntlet of widows and orphans, Serbs, Iraqis, Palestinians, Colombians, and other victims of the Clinton era.”


Nobel Prize For Al Gore:“Old Europe” Fires Back At The Bush Administration
The awarding of the Nobel Peace Prize to former Vice President Al Gore is a political statement by the European bourgeoisie about the policies of the Bush administration and the politics of the United States. Rarely has there been such an open intervention by the European ruling elite in the internal politics of America

Wednesday, October 03, 2007

Burma burning

Global Hypocrisy On Burma
by Satya Sagar
Of all the countries around the world the most shameful position is held by India, once the land of the likes of Mahatma Gandhi but now run by politicians with morals that would make a snake-oil salesman squirm. India likes to claim at every opportunity that it is ‘the world’s largest democracy’ but what it tells no one, but everyone can see, is that its understanding of democracy is also of the ‘lowest quality’.

Why else would the Indian government for instance send its Minister for Petroleum Murali Deora to sign a gas exploration deal with the military junta in late September just as it was plotting the wanton murder of its own citizens. In recent years India, among other sweet deals, has also been helping the Burmese military with arms and training- as if their bullets were not hitting their people accurately enough.


Explaining India's silence over Burma
by Subir Bhaumik
"We cannot have democracy at home and support military tyrants in the neighbourhood. India must do all it can for the restoration of democracy in Burma," said the country's top human rights lawyer, Nandita Haksar.
...
But two months ago, Indian Foreign Minister Pranab Mukherjee defended the country's Burma policy at a meeting in the north-eastern town of Shillong.

"We have strategic and economic interests to protect in Burma. It is up to the Burmese people to struggle for democracy, it is their issue," he said.

Thursday, September 20, 2007

women suicides in Vidarbha

When the one who dies is a woman, Aparna Pallavi writes on the issue of women suicides in Vidarbha.
Are the pressures which make male farmers commit suicide the same for women farmers as well? Socially, legally, with respect to property rights, and given their family positions, in the farming communities of Vidarbha women are placed in situations strikingly different from those of men. How does this impact women's position as managers of land?
...
The suicides by women farmers have received hardly any official attention till date. No separate statistics on women's suicides are available with any official agency in the region. No official study on the suicide phenomenon has till date paid attention to the specific problems being faced by women cultivators. The numerous farm packages, full of holes as they are, also do not have any special provisions for women-specific problems, the major ones being the issues of land registration and access to credit.

Wednesday, September 19, 2007

how many more will it take?

Opinion Research Business, a polling firm in the UK, is reporting 1.2 million violent deaths in Iraq since the U.S. invasion and occupation.

HOW MANY MORE WILL IT TAKE TO GET U.S. OUT OF IRAQ?

Two reports about this are: here and here.
So we are speaking of some 1.2 million people who have been killed in this way, and that does not count the numbers that were killed during the invasion itself for the crime of having attempted to oppose invading foreign troops, or the 500,000 children and old people killed by the US-UN anti-civilian sanctions in the 10 previous years.

Is the media near-you reporting this? How?

* * * * * * *

Two more related links are here and here.
What does it take us to shock us into action these days? An Opinion Business Research (ORB) survey of Iraqi families indicates as many as 1.2 million Iraqi civilians may have died as a result of the war. That's five times more than the death toll wrought by Fat Man and Little Boy in Hiroshima and Nagasaki.

It's also the equivalent of killing every Arab-American as per the 2000 census or every man, woman and child in, say, Amsterdam. And just why were those people's lives sacrificed again?

Tuesday, September 04, 2007

live simply, that others might simply live

P.Sainath's Ramon Magsaysay Award acceptance speech--- (from here).

This is the 60th year of Indian independence. A freedom fought for and won on a vision that placed our humblest citizens at the centre of action and of the future. A struggle that brought the world’s then mightiest empire to its knees. A struggle which saw the birth of a new nation, with a populace overwhelmingly illiterate, yet aiming at and committed to building a democracy the world could be proud of. A people who, one freedom fighter predicted, would make the deaf hear and the blind see. They did.

Today, the generation of Indians who took part in that great struggle have mostly died out, though their achievements have not. The few who remain are in their late 80s or 90s. As one of them told me recently: “We fought to expel the colonial ruler, but not only for that. We fought for a just and honourable nation, for a good society.”

I am now recording the lives of these last stalwarts of a generation I was not part of, but which I so deeply admire. A struggle that preceded my birth, but in which my own values are rooted. In their names, with those principles, and for their selflessness, I accept this great award.

In that great battle for freedom, a tiny press played a mighty role. So vital did it become, that every national leader worth his or her salt, across the political spectrum, also doubled up as a journalist. Small and vulnerable as they were, the journalists of that time also sought to give voice to the voiceless and speak for those who could not. Their rewards were banning, imprisonment, exile and worse. But they bequeathed to Indian journalism a legacy I am proud of and on behalf of which tradition, I accept this award today.

For the vision that generation stood for, the values it embodied, are no longer so secure as they once were. A nation founded on principles of egalitarianism embedded in its Constitution, now witnesses the growth of inequality on a scale not seen since the days of the Colonial Raj. A nation that ranks fourth in the world’s list of dollar billionaires, ranks 126th in human development. A crisis in the countryside has seen agriculture — on which close to 60 per cent of the population, or over 600 million people, depend — descend into the doldrums. It has seen rural employment crash. It has driven hundreds of thousands from villages towards towns and cities in search of jobs that are not there. It has pushed millions deeper into debt and has seen, according to the government itself, over 112,000 farmers take their own lives in distress in a decade.

This time around, though, the response of a media politically free but chained by profit, has not been anywhere as inspiring. Front pages and prime time are the turf of film stars, fashion shows and the entrenched privilege of the elite. Rural India, where the greatest battles of our freedom were fought, is pretty low down in the media’s priority list. There are, as always, exceptions. The paper I work for, The Hindu, has consistently given space to the chronicling of o ur greatest agrarian crisis since the eve of the Green Revolution. And across the country are countless journalists who, despite active discouragement from their managements, seek to place people above profit in their reporting. Who try desperately to warn their audiences of what is going on at the bottom end of the spectrum and the dangers to democracy that this involves. On behalf of all of them, all these colleagues of mine, I accept this award.

In nearly 14 years of reporting India’s villages full time, I have felt honoured and humbled by the generosity of some of the poorest people in the world. People who constantly bring home to you the Mahatma’s great line: ‘Live simply, that others might simply live.’ But a people we today sideline and marginalise in the path of development we now pursue. A people in distress, even despair, who still manage to awe me with their human and humane values. On their behalf too, I accept the Ramon Magsaysay award.

Thursday, August 30, 2007

internships for graduates

Medical students have to undergo a one-year internship (presumably rotating within several wards/specializations) before they are given a degree. Am not sure about this, but students may also be placed in rural areas as part of the rotation.

The question then is, why don't engineering/science/... students have such/similar requirement?

Surely, the logistics of having a full-time one year internship might be difficult, due to the numbers etc. But can't we have a requirement which is similar in spirit---to get a "real" look at how science and technology is applied and the effects it produces. An alternative could be, students go on short-interval field-trips to nearby places---factories, local artisans, brick kilns, communities etc., to get an idea of what are the real issues, the solutions being used, what can/should be used etc. A holistic view of science and technology would certainly help in its applicability.

This came up during a discussion in the "Appropriate Technology" class ... if students travel, do field-work and get a "real" look at problems, solutions, local resources, they can better understand the role of technology to maximize use of local resources, involve local labor and use local knowledge to develop appropriate solutions for local problems.

Saturday, August 18, 2007

what's wrong with journalism today?

From the series of interviews conducted by David Barsamian, which appear as a collection in the book Louder than Bombs ...

[November 2002]
DB: What's wrong with journalism today?

John Pilger: Many journalists now are no more than channelers and echoers of what Orwell called the official truth. They simply cipher and transmit lies. It really grieves me that so many fellow journalists can be so manipulated that they become really what the French describe as 'functionaries', not journalists.

Many journalists become very defensive when you suggest to them that they are anything but impartial and objective. The problem with those words "impartiality" and "objectivity" is that they have lost their dictionary meaning. They've been taken over. "Impartially" and "objectivity" now mean the establishment point of view. Whenever a journalists says to me, "Oh, you don't understand, I'm impartial, I'm objective," I know what he's saying. I can decode it immediately. It means he channels the official truth. Almost always. That protestation means he speaks for a consensual view of the establishment. This is internalized. Journalists don't sit down and think, 'I'm now going to speak for the establishment." Of course not. But they internalize a whole set of assumptions, and one of the most potent assumptions is that the world should be seen in terms of its usefulness to the West, no humanity. This leads journalists to make a distinction between people who matter and people who don't matter. The people who died in the Twin Towers in the terrible crime mattered. The people who were bombed to death in dusty villages in Afghanistan didn't matter, even though it now seems their numbers were greater. The people who will die in Iraq don't matter. Iraq has been successfully demonized as if everybody who lives there is Saddam Hussein. In the buildup to this attack on Iraq, journalists have universally excluded the prospect of civilian deaths, the numbers of people who would die, because those people don't matter.

It's only when journalists understand the role they play in this propaganda, it's only when they realize they can't be both independent, honest journalists and agents of power, that things will begin to change.

Saturday, August 11, 2007

Rural India and 60 years of Independence

P. Sainath writes on the topic ... "The decade of our discontent".

some of the numbers he mentions are staggering ...
The average monthly per capita expenditure (MPCE) of the Indian farm
household is a long way from Rs.15 lakh. And further from $115,000. It
is, in fact, Rs.503.
About 60 per cent of that Rs.503 is spent on food. Another 18 per cent
on fuel, clothing, and footwear. Of the pathetic sum left over, the
household spends on health twice what it does on education. That is
Rs.34 and Rs.17. It seems unlikely that buying unique cellphone numbers
is set to emerge a major hobby amongst rural Indians. There are
countless households for whom that figure is not Rs.503, but Rs.225.

There are whole States whose average falls below the poverty line. As
for the landless, their hardships are appalling.

Wednesday, August 08, 2007

work, pay

What would be the sorted ordering of the following professions based on monthly earnings---

a) Software Engineer
b) Janitor
c) Teacher
d) Cobbler
e) Office Clerk
f) Hand cart puller
g) Construction worker

and what are the reasons for such an ordering?

Monday, August 06, 2007

little boy, fat man

Sixty two years ago today, was the first of two instances of use of nuclear weapons in warfare.

On August 6, 1945, the nuclear weapon "Little Boy" was dropped on the city of Hiroshima, followed on August 9, 1945 by the detonation of the "Fat Man" nuclear bomb over Nagasaki.

Wikipedia link here.

Estimated worldwide nuclear stockpiles (also from Wikipedia).


* * * * * *

Ambu sends this link: White Light, Black Rain: The Destruction of Hiroshima and Nagasaki, a HBO documentary film.

UNFORGETTABLE FIRE: Pictures Drawn by Atomic Bomb Survivors.

Wednesday, August 01, 2007

Magsaysay award for P. Sainath

P. Sainath has been awarded the 2007 Ramon Magsaysay award for Journalism, Literature, and Creative Communication Arts.

Invisible India is the elephant in your bedroom, an interview with him on India Together.

A report in The Hindu is here.

The complete list of awardees (from www.rmaf.org.ph):

Mr. Jovito R. Salonga, from the Philippines, for Government Service. He is being recognized for "the exemplary integrity and substance of his long public career in service to democracy and good government in the Philippines."

Rev. Kim Sun-tae, from Korea, for Public Service. He is being honored for "his inspiring ministry of hope and practical assistance to his fellow blind and visually impaired citizens in South Korea. "

Mr. Mahabir Pun, from Nepal, for Community Leadership. He is being recognized for "his innovative application of wireless computer technology in Nepal, bringing progress to remote mountain areas by connecting his village to the global village ."

Mr. Tang Xiyang, from China, for Peace and International Understanding. He is being honored for "his guiding China to meet its mounting environmental crisis by heeding the lessons of its global neighbors and the timeless wisdom of nature itself."

Mr. Palagummi Sainath, from India, for Journalism, Literature, and Creative Communication Arts. He is being recognized for "his passionate commitment as a journalist to restore the rural poor to India's national consciousness."

Mr. Chen Guangcheng, from China, for Emergent Leadership. He is being honored for "his irrepressible passion for justice in leading ordinary Chinese citizens to assert their legitimate rights under the law."

Mr. Chung To, from China, for Emergent Leadership. He is being recognized for "his proactive and compassionate response to AIDS in China and to the needs of its most vulnerable victims."

Saturday, July 28, 2007

jashn-e-azadi

Yesterday evening went to Vikalp's preview screening of the film Jashn-e-Azadi. According to the filmmaker Sanjay Kak the film "... raises questions about freedom in Kashmir, and about the degrees of freedom in India."

Reached the venue in pouring rain and found a group of policemen at the entrance, found it unusual but did not take much notice. The screening was to start at 6.30 p.m. sharp and had reached just in time. The screening had not started even at 7 p.m. and just as the discontent was increasing, an announcement was made that the police wanted to stop the screening. "What? Why? On what grounds?" ... the questions flew from the audience. The organizers did not know as well, only that the police were asking them not to screen the movie. A written document was asked from the police for the same. While the police went off to get it Sanjay spoke a little about the topic of the film and its making.

Mu understanding of the few things he mentioned ...
  • The "hartals" on August 14th and August 15th (on eve of Pakistan's and India's independence days). These he said were not called and imposed by any group, but it seemed as a general rule hardly anybody ventured outside and he wanted to look the complex reality behind this eerie silence.
  • The lopsided and propangandish reporting of mainstream media about Kashmir. A question that stays in my mind, "What would the Kashmiris think about India when they see the media doll out news that has very little to do with reality? What would they thing about the Indian government, whose army and media in some sense are operating with some kind of pseudo national consensus".
  • The irony of the situation that mainstream media is allowed by the government to send news clippings and short-sighted reports from Kashmir, but a movie that tries to explore the situation and start an dialogue and discussion is being treated as a problem. It is as if Kashmir is a black box and people can only get information which the government and mainstream media wants to deliver and deciphering the black box is too complex.

    Finally, a DCP and group of other policemen came with a search/seizure warrant. They confiscated the movie and the DCP explained their action by saying something on the lines of ...
    "We have information that this movie can potentially create law and order problems, can leak sensitive information to terrorists and can be a threat to the nation."
    Ah! the all-purpose no-questions asked reasons ... terrorism and threat to the nation. The irony being the movie was meant to be a preview screening organized by Vikalp, not a general screening and above all it has been screened in several cities ... Pune, Nashik, Bangalore, Shillong, Guwahati, Delhi, Patna. In Pune, it was screened at the National Film Archive of India Auditorium, a government institute, so this move the police seemed all the more ridiculous. The police had made up their mind based on their unidentified source and further mentioned that they would watch the movie and if they are convinced that it is not objectionable, will allow it to be screened. Looks like the Censor board is going to face some stiff competition.

    It was first of a kind experience for many in the audience, and almost all sat till the police made a verdict that no screening would happen and gave it in writing. I am sure it was a first for many where for something very ridiculous and plain wrong the government (under an unsubstantiated claim) dictates what can/cannot be done and you are left helpless about it. The audience could not watch what India's freedom and India meant for Kashmiris, but got a taste of the declining freedom in non-Kashmir India ... certainly no reason to Jashn about.

    p.s.: A movie screening is also scheduled on July 30, 2007 (Mon) / 7 pm by
    Vikalp: Films for Freedom @ Prithvi House, Juhu.

    p.p.s.: A related article in Mumbai Mirror is here.
    Two more related articles are here and here.
  • Wednesday, July 11, 2007

    kitna time le raha hai

    While waiting in line to get a railway ticket at Kanjurmarg's new ticketing counter, heard a man in front of me say, "Kitna time le raha hai!". He had an exasperated look on his face and was referring to the unusually slow pace at which the queue was moving. I have also noticed this slow-queue-movement a few times and have attributed it to normal service time variation. Turns out that this new ticket counter is computerized and every ticket that is sold requires a few keystrokes to input the destination, the printer to print your ticket and the person to tear it off from the printer. Comparing it with the non-computerized centres, you tell the attendant your destination (same for either case), she mentally calculates the price, picks the appropriate ticket, puts it in the punching machine and hands it to the customer. At best the time difference between the two procedures maybe in the order of tens of seconds. But it apparently does have a noticeable effect, particularly at long slow moving queues.

    Computerization of ticketing centres for reservations and season tickets is great, as among other reasons it simplifies accountancy and can be integrated with on-line interfaces for anywhere booking. But by using computers to vend daily one-time tickets has the queue slowed down? Is this an apt application for computerization?

    Oh! mera time aa gaya, i better hurry, "ek Sion return".

    Thursday, July 05, 2007

    just exciting television

    Was watching the TV coverage of two doctors arrested in connection with the Glasgow blasts and who are suspected of ties with Al-Qaeda. Saeed Naqvi, a journalist, had an interesting comment ...

    Two characters of Indian origin are arrested (one in Britain and one in Australia) and suspected of ties with Al-Qaeda. Note suspected and not charged. Making a huge issue about it and pointing a finger at the 150 million Muslim community makes only exciting/sensational television and does not help the issue. If anything it only adds a sense of injustice in the minds of the entire community and the reaction to this injustice cannot be guaranteed to be rational! So by making exciting television about such news, the media is actually not helping the real cause.

    I think he is spot-on.

    Tuesday, July 03, 2007

    BT double speak

    As the monsoon arrives and the sowing season gets underway Jaideep Hardikar reports from Vidarbha.
    Inputs dealers in Vidarbha say that there is hardly any non-Bt hybrid variety available in the market this year.

    While cotton prices are crashing every year, a total shift to the genetic modified cotton will hike up production costs, leading a steep risk of heavier losses.

    When hybrid seeds were introduced, they wiped out desi cotton. Now Bt cotton would wipe out hybrids and farmers would be left with no choice but to buy expensive Bt seeds.

    After Bollguard-I (first generation Bt), Monsanto has introduced in the market Bollguard-II in more or less the same genotypes (varieties). The price of a 450-gm packet of seed is Rs.1350, several times the cost of non-Bt seeds. A package of Bollguard-I comes at Rs.750. A packet of same quantity of non-Bt will come at Rs.400-450, while the desi cottonseed, grown in very few areas, costs Rs.50 a kg.

    Maharashtra Agriculture Minister, Balasaheb Thorat, recently admitted that Bt had failed in Vidarbha and cautioned farmers not to sow it.

    Farm activists point out the government-run Mahabeej seeds corporation is itself marketing Bt cottonseeds to inputs dealers, while the minister advises caution.

    Yet, what's concerning activists is the permission granted to nearly 53 new genotypes of Bt cotton by the Genetic Engineering Approval Committee (GEAC). As many 35 of those varieties would be introduced in the central India.

    Monday, June 25, 2007

    15 and choosing

    Read this interesting article on education and careers.
    I’ve always had this funny suspicion that we are a nation of engineers who wanted to be singers, doctors who wanted to be actors, and so on. This is partly because we are a poor country and everybody makes life decisions based on how much he will be able to earn. And partly because nobody ever advised us any better. And that has made us a weird society. A nation which at all times is running on half-steam because a huge percentage of productive citizens are just passing time — because they’re not doing jobs they’d really like to do.

    And then found this article, Are you cut out for the Science stream? , which is probably meant to guide students after Std X ...
    The very first qualifying criteria would be your academic performance in your Class X board examination. While technically even a 50 per cent would enable you to qualify for admission into science, only 85 per cent or higher would enable you to target your city's top-notch colleges.
    Science in top-notch colleges is only for those who have proved their "science-smartness" in Std X!

    Science is a course that requires a high level of commitment and focus. So, unless you have a reasonably strong interest in the subjects and are prepared to work hard for the next two years, science might not be for you.
    Other streams neither require high-level of commitment and focus, nor strong interest and hard work ... that is news!

    and concludes very aptly ...
    As you can see, there is a wide range of options available to students who opt for Science. This is probably why most parents of students prefer this stream.

    What about what the students would have rather chosen?

    The counselors mention interest once, but not in the context of using it as one of the most important criteria. Agreed, bang-for-the-buck is an important criteria and 15 years is not when everyone knows what to do, but should not there be more discussion about what does being an engineer, doctor mean (both mainstream and non-mainstream views) and a contrast of what other conventional streams offer and what people with different backgrounds have done and achieved (again, both the mainstream and non-mainstream types).

    As the first article states, this decision taking business at the age of 15 years sucks.

    ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~

    Arvind Gupta Books and Toys, a great collection of books and toys. Incorporating books, science toys and experiments mentioned on the site as part of school curriculum would definitely make learning fun.

    Thursday, June 07, 2007

    naneghat

    Hiked Naneghat last Saturday night. The picture is just before sunrise, taken from the base of the mountain (after we had hiked down). The 'V'-shaped wedge on the right is Naneghat, translated to English means 'tollway'. The pass was used as early as 200 BC and the cave on top has several inscriptions---some of which also suggest the oldest documented used of numbers.

    Wikipedia link is here.

    A link describing various treks in the Sahyadris is here.

    Wednesday, June 06, 2007

    new-age farmers

    Amitabh Bachchan and Aamir Khan.

    helmet harakiri

    According to this report, the TN govt. has relaxed the requirement of wearing helmets for women and children pillion riders. For all others, they are required to wear helmets.

    Agreed, that most helmets are not designed for women, but what about safety? Isn't that supposed to be the primary concern.

    Apparently there is more to helmet-for-safety than what meets the head!

    A few years back (in 2005), the helmet rule was tried in Pune and other than the cost-factor there were other reasons to oppose it --- loss of hearing and move to help a relative who manufactures helmets.

    "I will not wear the helmet from Monday. I will also not pay the fine to the traffic police. I will get myself arrested," said Vijay Kale, BJP city chief then. Corporators cut-across party lines to threaten a mass agitation and threatened a "helmet-todo" andolan.

    Given the hazardous driving conditions on urban roads, designing low-cost, reliable, gender-conscious and comfortable helmets is the need of the hour and sounds like a good business idea as well!

    ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~

    Is wearing a helmet mandatory in any city/state? and is it enforced?

    Friday, May 25, 2007

    where is the broader analysis?

    watched two reports on television ...
    1. SS Ravishankar of Art of Living is in Iraq to spread the message of peace and non-violence and overlook relief efforts.
    2. A UNICEF official reports that due to the violence in Iraq the huminatarian situation is worsening.

    In both cases had the same thought---"Why such a narrow outlook on the topic?". There was absolutely no analysis on the source of the violence and the unrest (not that I have this thought or heard about this for the first time). It is as if the discussion on why the violence started, on what basis Iraq was invaded, how the resources are being looted is of no importance---more ironically since all the reasons for the invasion have been debunked. If anywhere, both SSRS and UNICEF should at the doors of White House, the perpetrators of this so-called war. Unless, the source of the conflict is addressed, no preaching, breathing exercises or huminatarian efforts will solve anything.

    Tuesday, May 22, 2007

    history? what history?

    Read this article regarding the release of the movie "Amu", which according to writer-director Shonali Bose is the 'suppressed history of genocide' after the 1984 assassination of Prime Minister Indira Gandhi. The Indian Censor Board which gave it a 'A' rating had to say this when asked for a reason,
    Why should young people know a history that is better buried and forgotten?

    Other than the aspect of moral-policing, the statement gives an indication of the role and importance of history in society. In this case, why shouldn't people get to know about the incident? Surely, the sikh roits are painful and bring back sad memories, but the story is important to be told to expose the role played by everyone involved---the state, the goons of the Congress party, the lack of convictions, the extent of illogical hatred. Cannot history teach us how excessive powers with the State can result in such unaccountable tragedies? cannot it teach us what the results of such pogroms can be? and cannot it show how short-sighted humans are, blaming an entire sect for the act of a few? Is history viewed in this context and more generally as learning tool for the present and future from past experiences? or is it just an event and a date, with a narrow view of what the events means and implies.

    * * *

    As school kids, history was always taught as a subject to learn dates and related events. The bigger context of the events, the reasons behinds these actions, parallels between events of yesterday and today, ideologies of people rather than people taught as idols is hardly taught. History textbooks do not have letters, essays, articles written during the times being studied. Wonder why? and wonder how it would have been studying history in that manner.

    Friday, May 18, 2007

    Chomsky interview

    In an interview, Chomsky speaks about the fascist trend of the US Congress, the narrow debate regarding the Iraq invasion and the World Bank and IMF policies.

    Monday, April 23, 2007

    drought down under

    Australia's Epic Drought
    Australia has warned that it will have to switch off the water supply to the continent's food bowl unless heavy rains break an epic drought - heralding what could be the first climate change-driven disaster to strike a developed nation.

    The Murray-Darling basin in south-eastern Australia yields 40 per cent of the country's agricultural produce. But the two rivers that feed the region are so pitifully low that there will soon be only enough water for drinking supplies. Australia is in the grip of its worst drought on record, the victim of changing weather patterns attributed to global warming and a government that is only just starting to wake up to the severity of the position.

    The Prime Minister, John Howard, a hardened climate-change sceptic, delivered dire tidings to the nation's farmers yesterday. Unless there is significant rainfall in the next six to eight weeks, irrigation will be banned in the principal agricultural area. Crops such as rice, cotton and wine grapes will fail, citrus, olive and almond trees will die, along with livestock.

    Saturday, April 14, 2007

    addicted to war


    ADDICTED TO WAR
    Why the U.S Can't Kick Militarism
    A History of U.S Foreign Wars in Comic Book Format
    by Joel Andreas

    Online book is here.

    The book webpage is here and
    if you want to buy a copy, it costs $10.

    Thursday, April 12, 2007

    live bomb in every house

    "In every house there is a live bomb that can erupt at any time. Do you know who that is? Daughters are the honour of the family and the community, and to protect that is our Hindu duty and Hindu culture... . Come, and let's unite to save bombs... I don't believe in love marriage. We have to marry within our own community. These girls go to college, make friends with some lafanga [loafer], roam with them on their bikes, fall in love, and then run off and get married…We bring them back and convince them that they are ruining their future. They stay with me for a while and then return to their parents." - Babu Bajrangi, Frontline, Dec 16-29 2006

    Kavita Krishnan writes on policing of women and borders of caste, religion and community restricting freedom of women.

    Tuesday, April 03, 2007

    coke bad, pepsi good?

    While Coke has drawn all the flak for ground water depletion and contamination in Pallakad district, Kerala and its bottling plant in Plachimada remains closed, Pepsico remains operational and is reported to be doing the same or even worse activity in the district.

    The CPM-led Left Front government in Kerala shut the Coca-Cola plant in Palakkad as it was damaging the environment. Why is it not applying the same rules to Pepsico?

    No one knows how many borewells the Pepsico plant has. No one is allowed to enter.

    Coke used seven to 15 lakh litres of water daily, while Pepsico uses 15-25 lakh litres.

    ... the soft drink giants, the half-a-dozen beer factories and the scrap-iron smelting factories are responsible ...

    The Coca-Cola factory was inside a thickly populated village. But Pepsi is located in an industrial belt and it has arrived through the green channel. So the government has a limited role in enforcing regulations on it. But when it comes to the water exploitation, it is number one.

    Thursday, March 29, 2007

    biofuels, people and the environment

    George Monbiot writes about the effects of biofuels, "Five-year freeze needed on biofuels".
    Oil produced from plants sets up competition for food between cars and people. People and the environment will lose.

    Tuesday, March 27, 2007

    India Is Colonising Itself

    Arundhati Roy in conversation with Shoma Chaudhury.
    A recent Supreme Court judgment allowing the Vasant Kunj Mall to resume construction though it didn’t have the requisite clearances said in so many words, that the question of Corporations indulging in malpractice does not arise!

    I’d say the biggest indictment of all is that we are still a country, a culture a society which continues to nurture and practice the notion of untouchability. While our economists number-crunch and boast about the growth rate, a million people, human scavengers - earn their living carrying several kilos of other peoples’ shit on their heads every day. And if they didn’t carry shit on their heads they would starve to death. Some fucking superpower this.

    No different from police and State violence anywhere else – including the issue of hypocrisy and doublespeak so perfected by all political parties including the mainstream Left. Are communist bullets different from capitalist ones? Odd things are happening. It snowed in Saudi Arabia. Owls are out in broad daylight The Chinese Government tabled a bill sanctioning the right to private property. I don’t know if all of this has to do with climate change.

    How can the rebels be the flip side of the state? Would anybody say that those who fought against Apartheid – however brutal their methods - were the flip side of the state? What about those who fought the French in Algeria? Or those who fought the Nazis? Or those who fought Colonial Regimes? Or those who are fighting the US occupation of Iraq? Are they the flip side of the State? This facile new report-driven ‘human rights’ discourse, this meaningless condemnation game that we all are forced to play, makes politicians of us all and leaches the real politics out of everything.

    The government has slammed the door in the face of every attempt at non-violent resistance. When people take to arms, there is going to be all kinds of violence – revolutionary, lumpen and outright criminal. The government is responsible for the monstrous situations it creates.

    It’s true that everybody changes radically when they come to power – look at Mandela’s ANC. Corrupt, capitalist, bowing to the IMF, driving the poor out of their homes – honouring Suharto the killer of hundreds of thousands of Indonesian communists with South Africa’s highest civilian award. Who would have thought it could happen? But does this mean South Africans should have backed away from the struggle against apartheid? Or that they should regret it now? Does it mean Algeria should have remained a French Colony, that Kashmiris, Iraqis and Palestinians should accept military occupation? That people whose dignity is being assaulted should give up the fight because they can’t find saints to lead them into battle?

    Saturday, March 17, 2007

    whom is Doha saving?

    Devinder Sharma reports on the two-day seminar "Saving Doha and delivering on development" held in New Delhi from 13th March.
    India's Commerce Minister Kamal Nath provided ample evidence of India's willingness to go along with the rich and industrialised countries. In what appears to be a u-turn in India's position so far, Mr Kamal Nath said: "This round is not about removal, but about reduction of distortions that lead to artificiality in prices."

    Knowing well that Kamal Nath's 'tough' posturing is aimed only at the media, Lamy now made it abundantly clear that an agreement on Doha round has to be reached before the expiry of the US Trade Promotion Agreement in June. If the agreement is not signed by June, the US President will lose his Fast Track authority to approve international trade agreements, which means the US Senate/Congress will then oversee the agreements. That is why the US wants to hurry. If no agreement is signed by June it will still be beneficial for Indian agriculture. As long as the subsidies stay in the rich countries, we will not be able to protect our agriculture.

    ... the empirical evidence that Sandra Polaski of the US-based Carnegie Endowment for International Peace presented showing that the Doha round to be heavily biased against the developing countries, found few takers. The UNCTAD-India study on Green Box subsidies and the benefits it would throw for the developing countries if the support were to be abolished, also did not find many takers.

    Whatever the US and EU may offer to keep Doha round is not going to translate into any actual reduction in the massive domestic support, this much is known. The US $360 billion support to agriculture in US, EU and Japan will remain intact. In fact, the US has announced more support to agriculture under its new Farm Bill 2007, and this is not surprising.

    The tall claims of 'victory' at the conclusion of every WTO Ministerial and general council agreements speaks volumes about the incompetence and failure of the negotiators from the developing world. I don't know if any one of them has ever worked out cost and benefits accruing from the Doha round. Negotiators should be asked to openly spell out the benefits to their respective countries after they have inked an agreement. It is high time trade negotiators are made accountable to the society.

    Meanwhile, Indian farmers and for that farmers in the other developing countries must continue to pay the price with their blood for yet another unseen 'development', which in reality means keeping agribusiness companies in western countries afloat.


    On one hand the PM agrees to policies of WTO formed in Geneva, which benefit the developed countries and on the other hand thousands of farmers are committing suicides and he announces irrelevant relief packages.

    Friday, March 16, 2007

    don't look away

    Watched Mira Nair's 'The Namesake' at MAMI's International Film Festival of Mumbai. The movie was the closing movie of the festival and was preceded by an awards ceremony. Several personalities associated with movies spoke---Girish Karnad, Govind Nihlani, Sonali Kulkarni, K Shantaram(?) and each of them spoke of their lives, their experiences in the film industry, whom they are grateful to, how unique the festival is, what they thought of the future of cinema etc.

    The highlight of the evening (including the movie which I thought was average) for me was a very short speech by Aparna Sen. She received an award (i forget which) and was described as a humanist director by the awardee. In her two-minute speech, she did not speak much about her films nor the award, she reminded everyone of the diminishing democratic processes around the country, the lack of respect for human life, the skewed media angle and their thirst for celebrity news. No doubt her speech had Nandigram at the back of her mind, which she mentioned and also pointed to sufferings of the poor in other parts of the country. She concluded by saying "don't look away", do whatever you can to change the situation, but if you ignore it, it will only become worse.

    p.s.: "Dont' look away" also happens to be a song in her move 'Mr. and Mrs. Iyer'.

    Thursday, March 15, 2007

    what freedom?

    The West Bengal government is directing the police against the people of the state. NAPM reports that at least 20 villagers have been killed and hundreds injured due to police firing in Nandigram. This is after the West Bengal Chief Minister made a public statement that the SEZ related acquisition will be put on hold and land will be acquired only after the villagers consent.

    * * * * *

    Puru: "We live in a free and democratic country right?"

    Ashwin: "Yes, we do. But the constitution has been modified slightly to better the lives of the people and to ensure the growth, progress and development of the country".

    Puru: "Oh, is it? I was not aware of that."

    Ashwin: "You better learn it. Here is how it goes ..."
    India is my country.

    Tatas, Birlas and Ambanis are the only Gods of this country.

    All the children, women, men, birds, animals, insects, trees, water and air belongs to them.
    All the land of this country belongs to them.

    From today the policy they make is the constitution of the country.

    Jai Tata! Jai Birla! Jai Ambani!


    Ashwin: "Remember it carefully and enjoy your stay!"

    Thursday, March 08, 2007

    Indian pride!

    Smita sends a pointer to this article regarding the question of Indian pride.
    Who cares about farmer suicides now? Who cares about the children of immigrant workers? India is busy following the West, even when accusing it of racism, following it faithfully into the fast lane of neo-liberalist progress.

    ... the matter finally came to light, it was because the servant — behind his master's back — murdered a Delhi prostitute, whose father managed to be heard more than immigrant labourers from Bihar or Bangladesh tend to be. Since then, India has been discussing various theories: on the one side, that of cannibalism and sex murders, and on the other that of organ trade. Both have their supporters in the argumentative middle classes. As for the debates in those vast Delhi slums of immigrant and landless labourers from the agricultural hinterlands, well...