Monday, August 31, 2009

Force India finally comes to force

By: Subhadeep Bhattacharjee

Sunday was just another day for Formula One fans across the world. The twelfth race of the season at Circuit de Spa-Francorchamps near the town of Spa, Belgium was expected to be the same. Jenson Button desperate for a podium finish after having started the season with flying colours. Kimi Räikkönen and Lewis Hamilton, had scored podiums in the two races leading up to Belgium and were expected to do well in Belgium too considered to be one of the toughest circuits in F1.

The first surprise came on Saturday when Giancarlo Fisichella posted the fastest time on the wet surface to grab the pole position. This was the first pole position for Force India and the fourth in the career for Fisichella and first in almost two years. Liquor baron Vijay Malya has many a times been mocked at for buying Spyker F1 team and rechristening it as team Force India.

Once Giancarlo Fisichella got the pole position he was in no mood to give it up. In the end though the Italian driver could not make a perfect finish with Kimi Räikkönen besting him by less than a second it was nothing short of a miracle for Force India which had been written off for most parts of the season. Malya's gamble has finally paid off as his team won a race convincingly without any controversy attached to the victory

It is highly ironical the Ministry of Sports in India does not recognise F1 or any other motor sports as 'SPORTS' in the first place. Sports Minister MS Gill thinks F1 to be more of entertainment than sports well for some politics is nothing more than circus. This illogical statement is not very unlikely from a man who heads several sports bodies in India without having a background in any known sport that the country participates in other than politics.

If Equestrian can be considered a sport in India what is wrong with motor sports. MS Gill and his subordinates in the ministry may not be aware but F1 is one of the most popular sports around the globe after football and tennis. It's high time we recognise the efforts of Narain Karthikeyan who pioneered this sport in India. After all the sports ministry may not be aware but it takes lot of guts to take to a sport which nobody in a huge country like India had done before.


Sunday, August 30, 2009

My country needs a leader

By: Arnab Deb

India has found and lost many great leaders. We had our moments of gusto when we became independent in the year 1947 and our moments of grief when the partition took place along with independence. We rejoiced when we won the battles with Pakistan, and time of sorrow when the country went broke in the early 90s’. We didn’t lose hope even when recession went atrocious over the world economy and subsequently over our country too. Well it is the spirit of India the never dying attitude which always fights back even when up against high tides.

We have a proud feeling in calling ourselves an “INDIAN”. Many great people have made this country proud, right from the time of Swami Vivekananda, Ramanujam, Aryabhatta, APJ Abdul kalam, Rabindranath Tagore, C V Raman, J C Bose, Amartya sen, Mother Teresa, Mahatma Gandhi and many more the list is endless. They were great, legends, though among them many still live, others are in heart of the millions of Indian, or lost amidst history books. India was always and is regarded as a country of hope, diversity, miraculous faith and above all “culture”. A country which even though regarded highly among countries as the future supreme power has not done much to live upto its potential.

We had everything on which a country can flourish and grow. We were the only country to gain complete Independence. We were unlike many countries that came out of colonial Raj; we had our own leaders our own administration above all a belief that we can sustain ourselves. After many years of Independence now the question that arises is where is the country which our leaders dreamed of the golden bird or “sone ki chidiya” as it is always called. Where did we go wrong? Or rather what went wrong? There may be many reasons like many say the long term planning, we made plans without proper thinking or resources, not allowing the economy to breathe freely, too much intervention of government over all issues and departments. Maybe too many states also created the problem, too much of diversity was again a problem. India as a country never existed we only came together to gain independence from British, may be that was also a reason, one particular community always has to say something about the other, how the latter is better than the former, we still fight among ourselves, forgetting how the outsiders like British and the Mughals took advantage of this very fact. Way too many “maybes”. But the result we still have not been to the point where we should have been by now. I wont say we didn’t develop but it has taken too much of a time to reach this point, which we should have reached by 80’s.

Looking back at the country’s development it is quite clear whatever development has taken place it has taken place in last one and half decade. Before that there was almost no development. India’s political situation is very unusual; some states have political parties which have been there for 4 decades now. Even though the states are not developing its amazing how they are able to regain there position after every election. Though India is said to be democratic but we seldom get to see democracy. Law and order only exists in paper, in name of basic amenities we get broken roads, no water, no proper power, no proper education and above all no shelter or food. Government is there for the rich as everyone say and to some extent it is the truth. With half the country below poverty line the truth becomes quite more visible as days go by.
Once Netaji Subhash Chandra Bose said “one individual may die for an idea; but that idea will, after his death, incarnate itself in a thousand lives, that is how the wheel of evolution moves on and the idea and dreams of one nation are bequeathed to the next”. It seems we are running out of ideas. The spirit of India died along with independence. Indians are highly regarded in there I Q level, we are very smart, our average intelligence is much higher than the smartest people worldwide. Where has the smartness taken us? The countries we compare with on terms of intelligence are the super powers now. It seems like we never lived upto our potential or we never believed in ourselves. Once Hitler said “a country believes in development when the people of that country start believing in the country”. Our country cannot develop until and unless we believe we can develop.

After centuries of struggle when we regained independence it seems thereafter we ran out of idea of how to proceed. This is due to leadership. We got leaders who were either dreamers or didn’t have the belief in them to run a country. Like getting married is not a big issue the bigger issue is to carry it on. That’s why in my opinion a leader is the most important thing for a country. That’s why we choose one. He should be person whom others can look upto, believe in him believe in oneself. We hardly got any leaders after independence, it seems we lost too many before that. What made Mahatma Gandhi so special that he could get all the people together for a cause or Netaji Subhash Chandra Bose? Leader shouldn’t be some one who forces his belief on every one rather he makes everyone believe on his belief.

With our country being exposed to global countries it’s a inherent need that we don’t loose our culture and by culture I don’t mean all the superstition we have been petting for so many years now, because that is not a part of our culture. A society should be let free only when they know about their responsibility. We are producing a race that doesn’t care about the country, its people. In name of development we are becoming victims of immature modernization. From fighting with neighbors we have now started fighting ourselves both dynamically and geographically. In name of modernization our government has created a generation who are always drunk or sedated, careless about their future or countries. It is very well said that “there wont have been any problem in the world if everyone mind their own business”. The talents that are being created in this country are working for other counties. Whose loss is this? But it is not their fault, the country’s leader have not created enough example to look after. No role model, no LEADERS. This generation is not being bought up teaching about their country and its greatness rather watching shows like Roadies. We need to find a leader who can motivate them to come out of that world and start believing and feeling for the country.

Its been many centuries that fights have been carried out on the name of religion. People have to be made understood “that country is where your heart is”. Stop fighting over petty issues. Religion cannot give you shelter, food or life. A country can, so stop doing what our ancestors have been doing and fight for a better cause, the cause of building a nation so great that we no longer would need to look upto other countries for their mercy rather than that show compassion to all other countries who share the same fate like India right now. Time we need a leader who can take this country out of mess and show the world that we are the “golden bird” country.

This blog has been contributed by my childhood friend (langotia yaar) Arnab Deb. He is currently working as a CDM & Carbon Trading Executive with ENERGY INFRATECH PVT. LTD. in New Delhi.


Friday, August 28, 2009

Economy showings signs of positivity

By: Subhadeep Bhattacharjee

After months of pessimism and uncertainty that loomed around the world market as a whole and Indian markets in particular are showing signs of positivity. The market might be doing a yo-yo but if we read the markets carefully we will see the it is making steady progress. Although its very hard to call the market bearish or bullish but it definitely is stabilising. Close week to week analysis of the market will reveal that the market cap is increasing.

On the job front which effects individuals there seems to be some light at the end of the tunnel. The other day technology giant Infosys came out with a recruitment ad in major newspapers in the country. People working the IT sector may not be even able to recall how many months had passed since they had seen a similar ad which were common about a year and half back. But in the last year or so, such ads had become a thing of the past.

It is not just the case of one major organization hiring but many companies are filling up their posts although in a subtle manner. One benefit of the economic downturn has been most of the companies have learnt the art of cost cutting. Boorish expenditure has become a thing of the past and most companies and they increasingly inovated new methodology to better their productivity. In a vibrant market these things can go a long way in taking an organization way past its competitors.

Another good sign is there has been an increase in consumer expenditure. About six months back people had limited their expenditure to only necessities in life out of fear and uncertainty. This meant business in the luxury sectors took even a bigger hit than FMCG and the services industry. But after sitting in the back benches for early part of the year these sectors are again coming to the forefront.

The poor monsoon though has dented some of the enthusiasm that the markets had seen since the new government had come to power. With the monsoon being weaker by 20-50% across the nation the rural economy is expected to take a beating. In his budget Finance Minister Mr. Pranab Mukherjee had stressed on the need to boost the rural economy which will in turn boost the entire economy as the consumption of goods and services in the rural areas goes up.

It is too early to set a time frame for a complete recovery to happen but things are definitely better than what they were in the early part of 2009. We will definitely enter 2010 with much more excitement and optimism that we welcomed 2009.


Thursday, August 27, 2009

Seven new IIMs - Quality debate starts

By: Subhadeep Bhattacharjee

The Union Government's proposal for setting up of seven new Indian Institutes of Management (IIMs) in Tami Nadu, Jharkhand, Chhattisgarh, Haryana, Jammu & Kashmir, Uttarakhand and Rajasthan has met with mixed reactions from the people. Students and their parents are breathing a sigh of relief as there will be more IIM seats to grab a couple of years from now. But there are also those who feel the IIM brand is getting diluted with more seats up for grabs.

In a country where there is neck breaking competition for higher education this is a good move by the government as more students will not get a certificate from India's biggest B-School brand. Considering the number of CAT aspirants going up every year these new institutes will solve the demand and supply equation. More importantly they will take away some of the psychological pressure that students go through to enter these premier institutes.

The elites in the society especially who have gone to these institutions in the past would not enjoy seeing the opening of any more institutes because their exclusive IIM Tag looses some of its shine. But the same people opposed when the Government set up more IIT's a few years ago. True when the number of students go up there will certainly be some dilution in the brand but at the same time many deserving candidates who miss out by a fraction of cut-offs will also benefit from this expansion.

Can the people who are protesting against this expansion claim all deserving candidates get into the IITs and the IIMs? Behind the thousands who get in there are lakhs who are filtered. Are all of them undeserving? Can percentage and percentile difference of a fraction be the parameter to judge the intellect between students? More institutes do not solve these problems permanently but certainly bring in some relief to the students.

One of the primary objectives of the educational reforms in the country should be to reduce the level of stress that the students have to withstand. Any measure that helps in this regard should be welcome. Quality is a benchmark and can definitely be maintained when the Government plans to just double the number of institutes. All the IIMs together cater to less than 1% of the students studying management courses in India. Seven new institutions should be welcomed with both hands and not criticised.


Wednesday, August 26, 2009

Can Akram swing it for the Kinghts?

By: Subhadeep Bhattacharjee

Former Pakistan captain Wasim Akram's name along with that of, Pravin Amre and ex-India coach John Wright is doing the rounds for the job Kolkata Knight Riders' coach. The coach's post has been lying vacant after KKR management has ousted John Buchanan after last year's dismal performance. It is however a well known fact that Buchanan lost the job due to his multiple captain theory which was not welcomed by the team especially KKR's biggest star Sourav Ganguly.

Wasim Akram might not have any coaching experience but he is surely the most capped player among those being interviewed by the KKR management including team owner Shahrukh Khan. There are also talks the if not the coach, the Sultan of Swing might be appointed as the bowling consultant by the team which has put up a dismal performance in all three departments of the game in the first two seasons of the IPL.

One thing which might play a key role in Akram's selection is the admiration that Sourav Ganguly has for him. It may be recalled that during the 1997 Shahrjah Cup, Sourav Ganguly had spoken very highly about the left arm magician from Pakistan. It is not too often that Indian and Pakistani cricketers praised each other in public. During India's 2003-04 tour to Australia, Akram had shared his experience with Zaheer and Irfan Pathan on Sourav's request.

Akram's selection for the job will not only be a boon for the KKR fast bowlers but also for most likely captain Sourav Ganguly who can consult him for making decisions off the field. Having played so much of cricket at the top level and led one of the most difficult and controversial teams Akram knows a thing or two about captaincy. Another advantage with Akram is being from the sub-continent he is aware of the cricketing culture here unlike John Buchanan who had Aussie tablets for Indian problems.

If selected Akarm's job will be anything but easy considering the drubbing the team got in the last year's edition where their opponents took the Knights as a virtual walkover. Akram might also have to mentally strengthen the players after the criticism they received in the last edition for the tournament. Akram's prospects look bright but will he be able to SWING the team towards winning ways remains to be seen.


Tuesday, August 25, 2009

BJP slowly loosing its intellect

By: Subhadeep Bhattacharjee

In all the mess that the BJP is in there seems to be a pattern in all the differences in the party. Moderate leaders like Jaswant Singh, Yashwant Sinha, Arun Shourie who do not have a RSS background seems to finding it tough to breathe within in the party. After trying to put up a moderate face to the masses during the Atal Behari Vajpayee era BJP is going back to its hardline Hindutva ideology. The party is turning towards the RSS to sail it back to the shore from the rough waters it is currently in.

The fact of the matter that people like Rajnath Singh are failing to understand is that people like Jaswant Singh, Yashwant Sinha and Arun Shourie represented the intellectual face of the BJP. They are the moderate face of the BJP which can appeal to the people who do not believe in the hardline Hindutva ideology of the Sangh Parivaar. These leaders were the ones who along with Vajpayee brought in a balance to the party.

Another reason why BJP rose post 1900s wasn't the fact that people were carried away by their ideology. There was a floating anti-Congress vote which they cashed on. This anti-Congress vote was never loyal to the BJP and is slowly dwindling away because of its hardline agenda. The intellectual leaders were the ones who were bringing this vote to the party. A Rajnath Singh or a Narendra Modi can never imagine to win seats in Arunachal Pradesh, Nagaland and West Bengal but BJP did win Lok Sabha seats from these states due to the floating votes.

The country has moved on from the Ayodhya moment and the Rajnath Singhs need to fast realise that. India is emerging as the global hub for business and people need to see a strong opposition with development oriented ideologies and policies and not those based on religion. BJP never even did what it promised to its hardline Hindutva supporters. The Ayodhya plot still doesn't have the proposed Ram Temple and thus the Hindutva driven supporters also felt cheated with the party.

BJP as a party was known for its inner party democracy but now it seems to have too much dissent within its wings. It needs to go back to the drawing book and see the reasons for its rise and fall. In an era of coalition politics BJP cannot afford to loose all its moderate and intellectual faces. After all not even the staunchest of BJP supporters will see a future Prime Minister in a Rajnath Singh but they wouldn't mind the Arun Jaitleys, the Yashwant Sinhas and the Arun Shouries


Monday, August 24, 2009

Kangaroos are no longer invincibles

By: Subhadeep Bhattacharjee

Till about a couple of years back World Cricket was divided into two groups. One was the invisible Australian cricket team and the other group belonged to all other nations who fought for the second position in the game. Come 2009, Ricky Ponting is the first Australian captain to loose two consecutive Ashes tour on English soil since the biennial tournament began way back in 1882. Punter might have lifted two consecutive World Cups the lifting but a replica of the Ashes Urn on English soil still eludes him.

By claiming the second Ashes tournament at home Andrew Strauss and his men have silenced critics who felt that England had won the 2005 tournament by fluke. After the 5-0 drubbing that they suffered in the 2006-07 tournament in Australia many people seconded the fluke theory. But the Englishmen who started as favourites in the series dominated most parts of it and can righteously claim the historic Ashes Urn which remains in Marylebone Cricket Club Museum at Lord's irrespective of which ever team wins it.

This tournament has been another setback for the Australian team which is learning to loose quite often than not. If the performance of the Kangaroos in the last year or so is monitored it is very much un-Australia like. They might be the World Champions owing to their World Cup title two years back but their performance has not been able to cash on that tag. After the retirement of stars like Shane Warne, Glenn McGrath, Adam Gilchrist and Matthew Hayden the Aussies seems to have lost the biting tooth in their armour.

In the last two years they have lost quite often especially in the longer version of the game. Starting with the Test match at Perth versus the Indians last years Aussies have been on a decline. They conceded the ODI tournament to the Men in Blue. They then toured India as underdogs and lost the four test 2-0 loss and Ricky Ponting acknowledged his team had no idea what was happening during the test series. South Africa put the final nail in the coffin when they became the first team to win a test series in Australia in 16 years.

But the decline in Aussie cricket doesn't throw them off competition at all as they still have the fire power to defeat any team in the world. What it does is it makes the game more competitive reducing the one-sided tournaments and series, that fans around the world had become used to once Australia was involved. With the rise of teams like India, South Africa, England and Sri Lanka the international cricket seems to be on a more healthier platform than it was with one team dominance.


Friday, August 21, 2009

BJP's decline dangerous for India

By: Subhadeep Bhattacharjee

Bharitiya Janata Party is going through its darkest hour of crisis. The party seems to be in a complete mess with Rajnath Singh's leadership proving to ineffective to lead the party since the defeat in the Lok Sabha polls. Once termed as the 'party with a difference' BJP is today the party with differences, a divided house with no centre of gravity. The situation for the party is such that Lal Krishna Advani the co-founder and once termed as the 'Ironman' of the party is slowly loosing grip over BJP.

Be it the Vasundhara Raje Schindia case, the Yashwant Sinha or the present Jaswant Singh crisis the party seems to have too many expert opinion makers. The exit of Atal Behari Vajpayee from active politics meant that Advani was the sole godfather for the party. But Advani became the first victim of the Jinnah flu and was forced to resign as Party President. Not only did he loose the Presidency but also his command over the party that he had founded and turned into a force to reckon with.

Advani's loss meant that BJP had too many leaders to take the lead and this went onto become their biggest weakness. The Arun Jaitleys, the Yashwant Sinhas, the Sushma Swarajs and the Jaswant Singhs were all equals in their stature within the party. All of them were reluctant to let the other take the lead but none of them were ready to get into the shoes of a Vajpayee or Advani. This infighting among the party leaders and the their confusion with Hindutva ideology has caused BJP's decline.

BJP's decline is however not good for the country. The Saffron party's rise pushed developmental politics in Indian and meant that India's grand old party the Congress which had made corruption and inefficiency its core competence overhauled its system and come out a cleaner party with more efficient leaders. BJP's exit might again push the country into years of sluggish growth with the Congress becoming complacent. The presence of a good political opponent is the essence of any modern democracy.

States like West Bengal and Orissa have lagged behind because the opposition has never been able to topple those in power. Whereas states like Tamil Nadu, Maharashtra, Punjab have progressed because the opposition always pushed the government. So it is in the interest of the nation that BJP regroups and acts as a responsible opposition at the centre. This is not only necessary for the Saffron party but is a need for proper functioning of the Indian democracy.


Thursday, August 20, 2009

Jaswant paid the price for not being Advani

By: Subhadeep Bhattacharjee

Two leaders, same party, same offence but different verdicts.
Confusing and absurd it may sound but that's exactly what the BJP did by expelling Jaswant Singh from the party for praising Muhammad Ali Jinnah. Interestingly BJP co-founder Lal Krishna Advani had escaped any such expulsion for making similar comments on the Founder of Pakistan about four years ago. Advani though had to resign as the president of the party but was not outcast like Singh has been done in this case.

There are questions as to why BJP has followed double standards in the two cases. Reasons for BJP doing so are many, first Advani had made this comment four years ago after the defeat in 2004 Lok Sabha polls which many thought Congress had won by fluke. Compared to that BJP is in complete disarray in 2009 after going down to the Congress in the Lok Sabha polls. Hindutva ideology driven politics is again coming back in the BJP which was trying to create a 'acceptable to all' image in 2005.

The second and the most important reason Jaswant Singh did not get party's mercy like Advani did was because he was no Advani in the first place. Expelling Advani would have meant doomsday for the BJP as he and Vajpayee were the pillars of the party. They had founded it from the ashes of Jana Sangh. Unlike Advani, Jaswant Singh had no mass appeal and was never a leader who could convert public rallies into votes. 'If Jaswant Singh was a politician in BJP, Advani was politics to the party.'
A third reason could have been the way Jaswant went about with his interpretation of the partition and Jinnah's secular image. What Jaswant did wrong was he did not limit himself to praising Jinnah but also went into the turbulent territory of criticising Jawaharlal Nehru and Sardar Vallabhbhai Patel. The BJP is infuriated over the mention of Patel's name, one of the biggest names after Gandhi in Gujarat and an icon for the Sangh parivaar.

But the expulsion of a leader who had served the party for 30 years will definitely have an impact on the BJP which seems to be a completely divided house. Having served in the capacities of Finance Minister, Defence Minister and External Affairs Minister Jaswant Singh by no means in an easily replaceable leader. In a party which is in complete disarray firing a senior leader for his thoughts in his book is not too easy to digest.


Tuesday, August 18, 2009

Why can't Jinnah be secular?

By: Subhadeep Bhattacharjee

After Lal Krishna Advani, Jaswant Singh is the second BJP leader who has invited trouble from the Saffron Brigade by calling Muhammad Ali Jinnah a secular leader is his new book Jinnah: India-Partition Independence. Jaswant has been isolated on the issue so much so that none of the BJP leaders including those close to him attended the book launch. After all the Founder of Pakistan is certainly not the most loved and admired character among Indians.

The surprising thing is on both the occasions the praise for Jinnah came from leaders of a party which is considered to be 'Anti-Minority' especially 'Anti-Muslim'. The reason for the praise is not to woo the Indian Muslims who any ways have very little to relate with Jinnah. The main motive behind the praise is a chance to take a dig at the Nehru-Gandhi family and their politics. But the question is 'Was Jinnah really a communal leader as has been made out by our historians?'

Many historians especially the Britishers have always believed that the partition of British India into India and Pakistan was not because of different religious beliefs but due to clash of ego between Jawaharlal Nehru and Muhammad Ali Jinnah. Both these men wanted to be the leaders of independent India and none of them was willing to bow in front of the other. Since Mahatma Gandhi had a soft corner for Nehru, Jinnah feared loosing the top job to his greatest rival.

The story that followed was well documented in the history of the sub-continent. Jinnah called for a state of Pakistan. The Britishers gave into his demands the largest millions of people became refugees overnight and the largest migration in human history took place. Both the countries wrote their own history and if Pakistan degraded Nehru as a selfish power hungry leader we returned favours by calling Jinnah as a communal leader responsible for partition.

In his historic speech on Pakistan's first Independence Day Jinnah had said “I cannot emphasize it too much. We should begin to work in that spirit and in course of time all these angularities of the majority and minority communities, the Hindu community and the Muslim community....Now I think we should keep that in front of us as our ideal and you will find that in course of time Hindus would cease to be Hindus and Muslims would cease to be Muslims, not in the religious sense, because that is the personal faith of each individual, but in the political sense as citizens of the State.”

The fact remains history is what has been told to us by historians and it need not always be the truth. 1857 was the first war of Independence for us but it was a revolt and mutiny for the Britishers. Subhash Chandra Bose was a hero to us but a traitor for the Britishers. If BJP was accused of saffronisation of education the Congress has erased the named of Shyamaa Prasad Mukherjee, Jayaprakash Narayan and Mauli Chandra Sharma from Indian history for their own vested interests.

So Muhammad Ali Jinnah doesn't necessarily need to be the communal evil leader that we have known him being over the years. It is 62 years since partition and high time we bury the hatchet. Jinnah had declared Pakistan to be a secular state so he cannot be termed a non-secular. He wanted to be the supreme leader of a free country very much like our Nehru did. So people like Jaswant Singh and others should be free to interpret history without having to follow diktats.


Monday, August 17, 2009

Should we take the Shahrukh incident lying down?

By: Subhadeep Bhattacharjee

First it was former President APJ Abdul Kalam begin asked to remove his shoes at the IGI Airport by Continental Airlines and now it is Shahrukh Khan being detained at the Newark International Airport. A lot seems to be happening is United States in the name of security. The question is not concerning a Shahrukh or a Kalam but housands of Indians who fly to US everyday. We only hear about such ordeals when a SRK or a Kalam is involved.

American fans sitting in India will drub this incident as a mere security procedure of the US government but the fact remains there is difference between security and harassment. The Government has said that it will take up the issue with the US Authorities. But didn't it do that same after the Kalam incident had come to light just about three weeks back. What was the result of the Indian government's so called 'taking up the issue'? Had we not brushed that incident under the carpet the Shahrukh incident might not have happened.

All of us are aware of the pseudo threat scenario that S has created around itself to wage wars in Afghanistan and Iraq. We surely do not have any reasons to be bothered about its internal security but we should deny being victims of it. The argument is not to call for a boycott America or take up any unrealistic measure. What the Indian government should do is communicate that we would not tolerate such incidents any longer.

The problem with the American psychology is they have always unofficially respected powers who have threatened them. Be it the erstwhile USSR or China, they have always had a milder tone while dealing with such countries and its citizens. US only noticed us after we went about with our Nuclear Tests and when India emerged as a huge market and world's back office. There is a saying 'Power respects power' and when it comes to countries like US they never hear pleas.

The Indian government should not just raise the issue with the US but take a firm stand no the matter. The Brazilians follow a tit-for-tat policy whereby all the international travellers are meted out the same treatment as Brazilian gets in their respective countries. When was the last time a former US President asked to remove is shoes by Air India staff in New York or a Hollywood actress was detained and questioned in New Delhi because her name sounded similar to that of a terrorists.

The West has tagged us as a Third World Nation because we are a would-be-superpower which doesn't stand us for its citizens. The English team doesn't feel safe to play in India but our teams played during the worst of IRA bombings in England. We cannot detain US citizens even though we face a bigger threat from terrorism. Well its now up to us if we want to take this issue seriously or brush it under the carpet and wait for another celebrity to face this. Any ways who cares for the thousands of people who are harassed in between.


Friday, August 14, 2009

And the bandhs continue in North East...

By: Subhadeep Bhattacharjee

15th August and 26th January as India celebrates Independence Day and Republic Day for most parts of North East its a 'bandh'. The reason well some underground ultras do not believe in being Indians and feel the their states are under the subjugation of the Indian Union. These people feel being Indian is a misfortune and live with the utopian dream of independence. Not only that, they try to enforce their dreams and fantasies on others too.

Unlike most parts of India these two days are marked by a empty streets, cat and mouse game between the security forces and the ultras and lazy day for an ordinary citizen. When India celebrates people of North East watch policeman and armyman patrolling the streets and government officials speeding through the empty roads in their white Ambassadors with red beacons. The official functions are held under unprecedented security cover with very few people around to cheer.

Having spent the first 21 years of my life in the scenic town of Shillong I can hardly recall any great images of the both these days. A few schools like the one I studied in celebrated Independence day one day prior or after August 15. One of my friends had once joked that we should be hoisting the Pakistani flag as we were having the function on the 14th of August. Being Indian in that part of India is still not possible in true sense.

The streets aren't empty because people fear for their lives but the lahe lahe (easy going) culture that exists in entire North Eastern region. A call for a bandh, road blockade is met with cheers from the entire society. Not because they believe in the cause behind such protests but it is a paid holiday for the working class and a welcome relief from schools and colleges for the students community. It won't be wrong to say that the entire region patronises bandhs.

These bandhs and strikes have hardly yielded anything in decades. The ultras are not any better than thugs who extort money and have held our lives to ransom for decades now. They have subjugated our lives with their utopian ideas. The ordinary citizens who have certainly contributed to the success of these bandhs forget that such incidents cast an negative image of the region. It is one more reason why most of the North Easters are stereotyped on other parts of India as being non-Indians.

It's high time we wake up and stand up against such meaningless protests. If we don't celebrate ourselves as Indians what treatment should we expect from people sitting in Delhi, Bangalore or Mumbai?


Thursday, August 13, 2009

Buchanans and Chapples don't understand India

By: Subhadeep Bhattacharjee

Breaking his silence for the first time since his ouster Kolkata Knight Riders' ex-coach John Buchanan termed his Indian experience as disappointing. He added that he was shocked at being sacked as the coach of the KKR and was disappointed with franchise owner Shahrukh Khan as they had initially talked about a five year deal. Taking a dig at Sourav Ganguly he added that he felt the former Indian captain was not up to the pace demanded cricket's slam bang version.

This is not the first time that an Australian coach has had problem in dealing with an Indian team and this is also not the first time Sourav Ganguly has been the centre controversy. Who can forget the great Greg Chappell saga which did more harm to Indian cricket than any good. The former Australian coach had ousted then captain Ganguly and kept him waiting on the sidelines for a year. It is another story that Dada's determined comeback has become a folklore in Indian cricket.

The point is very clear Greg Chappell did not make Indian cricket better neither did John Buchanan do any good to the KKR. What they did was create an atmosphere of uncertainly which ultimately led to the team's decline. They failed to understand the Indian psychology more than anything else. Their methodology which might have done wonders in Australia took a beating here in India. But ego prevented both the men from accepting that they failed as coach.

Indians are not known to be individualists like the Aussies and look up to elders and seniors for advice and guidance. We might be a globalised nation but this is one intrinsic quality we have retained. For years younger players in the team have looked upto the seniors for advice. Buchanan and Chappell shook the pillars of the team calling for a performance related selection. True their methods might have been correct on papers but with the uncertainty created among the top players the team's performance went down.

They dealt with an Indian problem with an Australian approach and miserably failed. What's more both the men don't seem to accept that they have been failures in the Indian assignment. Not surprisingly people like John Wright and Gary Kirsten have had a better success rate with Indian cricket. Both of them never tried to steal the show from the captain and the players and acted as the perfect backbone support for the team. No two individuals and no two teams are the same. A successful leader is one who understands the different needs and adapts to the situation. Both Buchanan and Chapple failed to do so it is high time they accept their failures.


Wednesday, August 12, 2009

India's public health spending is a joke

By: Subhadeep Bhattacharjee

As the nation battles the endemic of Swine Flu a study conducted by World Health Organisation has revealed that India at the bottom of the heap in terms of public health spending. It stands at a dismal 171st place out of the 175 countries listed. Surprisingly some of sub-Saharan African countries which have very little medical infrastructure spend more portion of their GDP to provide basic healthcare facilities to their citizen.

In a country where one third of the population lives below the poverty line India spends 5.2% of its GDP on healthcare. The contribution from the Government is mere 0.9% and the rest 4.3% comes from the private sector. Compared to this developed nations like the United States and Sweden spend 16% and 13% of their GDP on public healthcare respectively. Our biggest economic and military competitor China spends about 6% of its $3.251 trillion GDP on public healthcare where as our government is content with 0.9% of $2.996 trillion GDP.

These figures published by WHO may not surprise many because the kind of leaders who have helmed the Health Ministry. If we look at the tenure of our last Health Minister Dr Anbumani Ramadoss his rule can be divided into two eras the AIIMS battle era and the Smoking tokenism. For the first part of his tenure Dr. Ramadoss was more busy fighting an ego battle against AIIMS Director Dr. P Venugopal. Next half he took the moral responsibility of making India especially Bollywood a No Smoking zone.

Doing all this Dr. Ramadoss forgot about the 'less important things' like absence of basic healthcare in and well trained doctors and nurses rural areas. Banning smoking on screen and attempts to ban bars in metros seemed more important to him than 'small issues' like infant mortality rate, malnutrition, AIDS and other endemic diseases. The reason is simple working on an issue like infant mortality rate would have denied Ramadoss of any controversy and in turn the media coverage and publicity he got.

Coming back to the issue of public expenditure on healthcare, well our country lacks funds, but why not? Building statues for Rs 2000 Crores is necessary in Indian as it empowers the Dalits. Having an oversized cabinet in the centre as well as all the state governments doesn't burn a hole in Government's pocket. The Government happily seems to have money to bail out Air India whose losses have been scripted by a few inefficient bureaucrats and managers but no money to spend in the social sector.

Over the last few years the Government as well as the private sector have tried to promote India as a destination for 'Health Tourism'. Isn't the WHO report a slap on the country's face as we claim ourselves to an emerging 'superpower'? We want a seat in the United Nations Security Council but cannot secure our citizens from normal air borne and water borne diseases. A few good hospitals should not disguise us from the pathetic medical scenario that exists in our country.


Tuesday, August 11, 2009

Chinese Naval threat looms over India

By: Subhadeep Bhattacharjee

The Chief of the Naval Staff, Admiral Sureesh Mehta raised the issue of threat posed by Chinese Navy to the Indian national security. He said that China would certainly be Indian Navy's primary challenges in the years ahead. Over the last two decades with its economic boom China has heavily invested on its military. The country that already boasts of having the largest land army in the world now has the third largest navy in the world.

Reading between the lines of Admiral Mehta's statement one thing is clear Indian Navy's greatest threat is not Pakistan any more it is China. The economic race for supremacy between the two Asian neighbours has led to an obsession for military might especially across the Great Wall. China sees India as its biggest economic threat. It has used Pakistan as a neutralising factor arming them with basaltic missiles and even helping them with their nuclear programme.

Over the last decade or so Beijing has been trying to increase the sphere of influence of its Navy in India's immediate neighbourhood. It already plans to set up naval bases in Malayan peninsular which will pose a direct threat to the Indian Navy in Bay of Bengal. It will also give the Chinese direct access to the Indian Ocean. China also extended military support to the Sri Lankan army in its fight against the LTTE causing worry among Indian military commanders.

Going by sheer numbers Indian Navy stands no comparison to the Chinese Navy. On headcount the Chinese Navy stands at 250000 personnel compared 55000 of the Indian Navy. They have three aircraft carrier compared to one India has. The number of destroyers and frigates 21 and 42 as compared to 8 and 16 on the Indian side. The submarines have even a poorer ratio with Chinese having 68 as compared to 8 on the Indian side.

Chinese official defence budget stands at $40 billion but it is estimated that Red Dragon spends between $70 billion to $200 billion on defence production and purchase annually. Indian defence budget which stands at $20 billion is no match to China. To add to our woes we share borders with countries like Pakistan and Bangladesh promoting terrorism in India and much of out defence budget is utilised in the counter insurgency process.

This perhaps justifies India's bow down diplomacy with China. India would be foolish if its went along competing with China considering the size of its economy, infrastructure and military spending. Pakistan serves as an example in this regard. Their obsession to militarily compete with India led to the downfall in their economy. As Admiral Mehta put it cooperation rather than conflict is the way to deal with China.


Monday, August 10, 2009

It's all in the hands of the Rain God

By: Subhadeep Bhattacharjee

India is today one of the fastest growing economies and of the most lucrative markets everybody wants to be in. But come every Monsoon we are reminded how backward we still as far as management of water resources is concerned. Just as the economy was showing signs of recovery the forecast of poor monsoon has made the stock market investment gloomy. We completely live at the mercy of the Rain God for our agriculture even after six decades of independence.

Agriculture as an industry provides direct or indirect employment to 65% of the working population buy this sector has been complete ignored in the last few decades. We have been carried away by terms Information Technology, Biotechnology, Manufacturing and Infrastructure Development. The results of this ignorance has been India has started re-importing basic food grains in the last few years after enjoying a decade of self sufficiency.

One major factor which has contributed to our poor growth in the agricultural sector has been the absence of proper irrigation facilities. Although we have sent numerous satellites up in the space and connected most parts of the county with optical fibre cable 70% of agriculture still depends on rain or literally put 70% of our agriculture is always left at chance. Every year some part or the other faces a bad monsoon causing poor harvest and in turn leading to farmer suicides.

India lies in one of the wettest belts in the world. Due to its proximity with the Himalayas India receives abundant amount of rainfall in the world. But most of this water flows into the ocean through our major rivers. Rain water harvesting and using it for irrigation in a lean season are almost unheard concepts in India. If that is not enough the irony is we have drought and floods happening at the same time in the country. The project to interlink rivers and share water resources to prevent floods and drought has been shelved defying logic.

It may surprise many but it has been three decades since the last Green Revolution happened and made states like Punjab prosperous for ever with proper irrigation and modern methods of farming. But since then no major project has been initiated by the government in the agricultural sector. It is a sad irony that most of our villages today have access to mobile phone but not proper irrigation facilities. A poor monsoon is the worst nightmare of an Indian farmer. We need another revolution for the agricultural sector but till then we need to keep praying to Rain God.


Friday, August 7, 2009

What is the joy in abusing culture?

By: Subhadeep Bhattacharjee

The protests by certain pro-Kannada organisations against the unveiling of Tamil poet Thiruvalluvar’s statue in Bangalore is shocking. This is a stark reminder of the divisive forces that exist in our society. Language, culture and religion have become bigger identity for each and every individual in a country where we stand by the tag “unity in diversity.” There seems to be a hypocritical love for 'Mine' and unbending hate for 'Yours'.

It is well known that there exists an undercurrent between the two states. There groups are against the unveiling of the statue Tamil Nadu Chief Minister Karunanidhi. Be it the decades old Kaveri water issue or the Hogenakkal integrated drinking water project the two states have always been locked in a battle ground. There are notorious elements on both sides trying to use a little bit of friction to create tension between the two southern neighbours.

It was very heartening to see prominent Kanadigas rally behind Chief Minister Yeddyurappa welcoming the unveiling of the statue in Bangalore. Tamil Nadu is scheduled to reply the gesture by unveiling the statue of Kannada poet Savajnamurthy in Chennai. Isn't this a good step towards bringing down the tension between the two states which was divided by politics rather than culture.

The question is what is the joy in abusing each other's cultures? What has culture got to do with the political problems that exist between these two states? How would these groups feel if one of their cultural icons was humiliated in some other state? These groups which declare themselves as the self styled protectors of culture must realise that it is important to respect other cultures so that their own culture is respected in return.

As far as such groups in both the states are concerned they should realise one fact, Karnataka and Tamil Nadu will have to remain neighbouring states even if someone doesn't like it. There will be lot of cultural exchange taking place between both the communities. It must be also realised that politics and culture are best when they don't come in each other's proximity. Abusing someone's culture is lending an invitation for your own culture to be abused.


Thursday, August 6, 2009

Justice after six years?

By: Subhadeep Bhattacharjee

There is a famous saying “justice delayed is justice denied” but when it come to the Indian criminal justice system we find solace in “better late than never.” After six long years of wait the friends and family members of people killed and injured in the 2003 Mumbai blasts have something to cheer about. Finally the court has delivered justice in the six year old case case involving the twin blasts that shook the city August 25, 2003.

The POTA court has awarded death sentence to the three accused Haneef Sayyed, his wife Fahmeeda and Ashrat Ansari under the charges of murder and criminal conspiracy. The blasts at Gateway of India and Zaveri Bazzar had left 52 people killed and many more injured. The court termed the case as the rarest of rare case and declined to show any mercy towards Fahmeeda considering she was a women and a mother.

Although justice has been delivered in the case but the question is isn't six years too long for justice to be delivered in such a high profile case? Are our laws and justice system outdated to deal with the modern threat of terrorism? Doesn't such delays in court proceedings encourage our enemies to fight a proxy war against us? Don't we add to the pain and agony of a victim's family with such delays in judgement?

Another high profile case involving Mohammed Ajmal Amir Kasab the lone terrorist involved in the 26/11 Mumbai attacks is going on. The case is turning into a mockery of sorts as Kasab is making a fool out of our justice system. He is using the courtroom as a propaganda office for himself. During intense moments in his case he smiles and makes fun of the entire case. Will it take another six years to deliver justice in this case too?

It is a well known fact that Indian justice system is one of the fairest in the world. As they say we are happy to let 100 criminal go then prosecute an innocent man. But this stand of ours has become the biggest weakness when it comes to our justice system. There are millions of cases pending in our courts due to this weakness in our system. Our system encourage cases to drag rather than come to a logical conclusion.


Wednesday, August 5, 2009

Who will captain the Knights?

By: Subhadeep Bhattacharjee

After a dismal performance at the IPL Season 2, Kolkata Knight Riders are gearing up for the third season of the tournament. But the biggest question that is haunting all the fans is who will lead the team in the third season. There were speculations that Sourav Ganguly would be named the captain at the meeting held at Shahrukh Khan's residence on August 04. The meeting however turned out to be inconclusive on the issue of captaincy.

The team management is now emphasising on Sourav's role as a mentor in the team. Sourav had led the team in the first season but was sacked from the role after John Buchanan came up with the infamous multiple captaincy theory. He was replaced by New Zealander Brendon McCullum who struggled both with his personal form and captaincy leading the team to a poor show finishing at the bottom of the points table.

With Brendon McCullum being unavailable for the third edition due to his national duty many thought it was an easy call to make India's most successful captain lead the Knights. But it seems Shahrukh does not want to reveal all his cards yet. It was a well known fact that the air between Sourav and Shahrukh had heated after Sourav was sacked from the top position despite Shahrukh having publicly promised the job to him.

John Buchanan's sacking might have given Sourav extra hope lead his city side again but it seems he will have to wait a little longer to know his fate. The management is not sure about the availability of West Indian captain Chris Gayle while Aussie skipper Ricky Ponting has ruled himself out of the tournament. This leaves Sourav as the most likely contender for the job but there still seems to mystery surrounding who will lead the side.

There are also reports that former Indian coach John Wright's name is being considered for the coach's job. It may be recalled that the duo of Sourav and Wright had turned Indian cricket head on. The Indian team had overnight turned into world beaters under them. It remains to be seen if Sourav is appointed the skipper and John hired as coach. It that happens it will be interesting to see if the duo can create the magic again with KKR.


Tuesday, August 4, 2009

All in the name of Dalit Empowerment

By: Subhadeep Bhattacharjee

There was uproar all over the country over the alleged wastage of money for building parks and memorials in the name of Dalit Empowerment by UP Chief Minister Mayawati. Rather than being apologetic about the irresponsible expenditure of public money in a poor state like UP Mayawati hit back at Congress for having built such monuments for the Nehru-Gandhi family for years all across the country. Well do two wrongs make a right?

Now if all that was not enough she had demanded an additional Rs 500 crore to establish more memorials of Dalit leaders and herself. Stone statue of elephants are being erected all over Uttar Pradesh as a symbol of Dalit Empowerment. From when did the might elephants become the mascot of Dalits across the country? How would a Dalit starving in rural Uttar Pradesh find solace in stone elephants being built in Lucknow and other major cities.

Thanks to Indian democracy Mayawati can spend Rs. 2500 Crores on building her own statues ignoring the fact that one-fifth of India's poor reside in her state. Total number of people below the poverty line in Uttar Pradesh has crossed the 5 Crore mark. Mayawati might have also ignored the fact that literacy in her state stands at a dismal 56.27 % which falls to 42.22% in the case of women. She is building the statues in the stone same UP where basic healthcare system is in dire straits and infant mortality rate stands at 69 against the national average of 55. These figures become worst when it comes to the Dalits and the other backward communities.

Mayawati's political hypocrisy can be understood from the fact that none of her deputies in the party are from the Dalit community. She prefers Brahmins and Thakurs near her so that there is no direct threat to her from within the party. Although her social engineering worked in the Assembly elections her failure to empower the Dalits or bring in development to the state resulted in other parties grabbing a share of the Dalit vote bank.

It is now for the Dalits in the state and the country to decide. Do they see education, employment and health care as the real symbol of their empowerment or find solace in stone structures.


Monday, August 3, 2009

Mamata plays a political master stroke

By: Subhadeep Bhattacharjee

When Mamata Banerjee chased the Tata Nano project out of Singur she was being seen as a monster standing in the path of West Bengal's re-industrialization. A lot of water has flown down the Hoogly since then and the fearsome lady who single handedly caused one of the biggest political upsets for Left in the Lok Sabha. Now she is planning to deliver the final death blows to India's longest running state government.

Mamata played a political master stroke on Sunday when she approached the Centre with a proposal to set up a Railway project of national interest on the 600 acres of land that was acquired for the Tata Motors Nano project. The Union Railway Minister also announced that disputed 400 acres of land will be returned to the farmers who were not willing to part with. The agitation regarding this 400 acre plot had led to the closure of the Tata Nano project.

The West Bengal government had so far failed to attract any major investor to the vacant plot of land since the Tatas closed down shop in last October. Mamata has been on a roll scoring one after another political victory over the Left Front. She said that the railway project would guarantee jobs, development and prosperity like the Tata project so people of Singur will not be deprived of anything due to the closure of the Tata Nano plant.

Mamata's surprise move has put the West Bengal Government into a catch 22 situation. Left's opposition to the project would mean that the party which had cleansed its image under the leadership of Mr Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee will again be tagged as being Anti-Industrialist. Giving a green signal to the project would mean offering the keys of the Writers to Mamata. This would literally mean committing a political suicide ahead of the 2011 polls.

Her 'Maa Mati Manush' campaign was strong enough to create a public wave against the Left Front and win her majority of the Lok Sabha seats from the state. Mamata has since then rewarded West Bengal under her capacity as the Railway Minister. Now Mamata wants to project herself as the future Chief Minister of the and not be seen a farmer leader standing up against industrialization. Seems like more headache for the Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee government.


A tribute to my dear friend Tittu

By: Subhadeep Bhattacharjee

Twenty years ago I had met you when we both were in the nursery class of St. Thomas School. Little did I know you will be one of the best friends in my life. The world always considered you a rebel who did not want to do things the conventional way but at the end of the day you were a friend to many of us. A friend whose friendship we took pride and a friend who would always answer to our call.

The news your untimely death has left a vacuum in our lives. As the world celebrated Friendships Day we mourned the death of a buddy who grew along with us. I just can’t stop recalling those joyous moments of our lives which we spent together. The days when we grew up together will always be fresh in my minds The naught act of childhood and the pranks of teenage will always be remind me you.

The days come back to my mind when all our attempts to teach you the game of cricket failed. The sight of you bunking school to steal oranges and peaches will bring a smile on my face for ever. You might have troubled many neighbours with your never ending pranks but the same people will today mourn your untimely death.

Never will you be there with us in our moments of joy. Never will you be there to entertain us with your unique sense of humour. Everything will still be the same and life will go on as normal as it should but there will be the absence of a unique character in our lives. You will certainly be watching us from distance but your absence will leave emptiness in our lives.

Death may have snatched you from us but your friendship will always be a prized possession in my life. I will cherish those memories for years to come, relive them and enjoy the joyous moment we spent together. Wherever you are my friend may you find all pleasure and happiness that has been denied to you in your short span of life here Life would always been a lesser thing had I not come across a character like you. My dear friend may your soul rest in peace.


Saturday, August 1, 2009

Private Airlines hold Govt. to ransom

By: Subhadeep Bhattacharjee

The proposed suspension of operations by the private airlines on August 18 demanding a bailout of the industry has come as a shocker to the government. This is for the first time that an entire industry had rebelled against the system. The private airlines union is holding the government to ransom demanding bailout in the form of lowering the sales tax on fuel and airport taxes.

The private airlines comprising Kingfisher, Kingfisher Red, Jet Airways, Jetlite, IndiGo, Go Air and Spice Jet which operate 1200 domestic flights against Air India’s 300 will have their entire fleet grounded unless the government meets their demands. Interestingly premium private carrier Paramount Airways has decided to continue with its operation on the proposed strike day. The government on its part is against any such bailout package to the industry.

The question now arises is should the government try to bail out the industry? The answer should be a straight NO. Why should tax payer’s money be used to bail out profit making business ventures? Many people in the lowest end of the tax bracket still cannot afford flying so why should their tax money be used to bail out the business of some of the countries richest industrialists. Every industry is facing the music due to the market downturn so why any exceptions should be made for the airline industry?

India’s aviation boom started in the new millennium with many new players entering the market. Many of them ran their operations in loss to grab the market. New planes were ordered and leased assessing future market demands. All was going well until the market downturn came. Airline still being considered a luxury industry in India was one of the worst effected industries. But still this is no argument to hold the country to a ransom in the name of a bailout?

Public money has more worthy projects waiting for it in a country where one third of the population lives below the poverty line. The same airline industry which is calling for a bailout won’t pay much attention to Corporate Social Responsibility when the market is on a boom. So why should the tax payer’s money be used to bail out rich men’s businesses at the cost of money being invested in the social sector?


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