Tuesday, July 29, 2014

Opportunity broke off-earth driving record

An Image Taken by Oppertunity
‘Sky is the limit’ became an old saying long time back. Human race crossed these limit years ago and reached surface of the moon. Many space-crafts send by us crossed solar system as well. Now NASA’s Opportunity Mars Rover (which reached Mars on 2004) clocked 40KM on its odometer. This mile stone achieved on July 27 is an off-earth driving record (earlier record was 39km by Soviet Union’s Lunokhod ). Will all the best for Opportunity and the team which works relentlessly behind Opportunity project.


For more information on NASA's Spirit and Opportunity:

For an image of Lunokhod 2's tracks - http://lroc.sese.asu.edu/posts/774

Photo Courtesy: NASA

Sasan Gir - Home of Asiatic Lions

An interesting documentary on one of the last remaining habitat of Asiatic Lions - ‘Gir National Park’ (Gujarat). A century after Nawab of Junagarh and then viceroy of India spared Asiatic Lions from Royal hunting; through sustained efforts of forest department and cooperation of locals, this group is making a comeback.


The Rise of irrational and unreasonable India

Two years back, on a January evening, while coming from Kanha National Park I stopped at Madla(MP) and spent a full night in that small town surrounded on three sides by Narmada River. Madla was the capital of many dynasties in the past. It is believed that, this place (then known as Mahishmati) served as venue for the most famous debate of Adi Sankara (with Mandana Mishra).

Serious debates shook the floor of assembly while drafting constitution, discussions on amendments etc. Members supported or opposed other’s line of thinking. We also heard about the serious splits like Moderates vs Extremists (during the days of Tilak), Gandhi vs Ambedkar (during Round Table conferences), Gandhi vs Bose (especially when Bose became the president of INC) etc. during independence movement.

Mythology itself is stuffed with serious arguments. Gargi challenged Yajnavalkya on questions related to soul so on and so forth. None of these ended in violent riots or killed people.

In recent times, challenging opinions of living or historical figures (or their ideas) are considered as biggest crime. It was not long ago a cartoon on Ambedkar by Shankar (original cartoon was drawn some half a century back when Ambedkar was alive) created a big row.

Can we call this as progress? 

Are we slowly losing our reasoning capability and power to think logically? How can you explain the violence popping up across India? Someone posted something on Facebook and one guy got killed in Pune. I really doubt those killers even read that particular Facebook post. Neighbors who were on good terms, suddenly become enemies and start running for other’s head because somewhere someone told something.  

Delhi, Gujrat, Marad, Tripura, Mau, Asom, Musafarnagar, Moradabad, Saharanpur… the list is endless. How many more riots we Indians have to witness, to understand, blood gushing out of each victims’ body are red in colour? Pain or bullets doesn’t recognize or spare Hindu’s, Muslim’s, Christian’s or Sikhs? How come an eve teasing or a Facebook post metamorphose in to religious riots? How come an accident involving a couple of people can start riots in a big town? Now-a-days a random fight between two people over a trivial matter can lead to big riots where hundreds can die!!! Pathetic!!!

Words like difference in opinion, arguments, debate, logic, reasoning etc are only for competitive exams and business only not to use in daily life?


Sunday, July 27, 2014

Chinese Development Model – How not to do rather than how to do. Don’t blindly follow

Whenever I heard debates on India’s development, reference to China’s pace of growth inevitably comes into discussion. “Look at China”, “where China was in 1960’s and where it is now?”, “Why can’t we grow like that?” etc. Then someone would reply, although incorrectly, “We don’t have the political will”, “Democracy is stopping us from taking hard decisions” etc.

I am an admirer of China’s growth. It was indeed a success story of 20th century. China rose from ashes after devastating World War II, from crippling communist programs like ‘Great Leap Forward’ etc. China under Deng accepted free market policy and showed miracle growth rates for more than two decades. Now she reached a position where her voice is respectfully heard in international forums.

The question is, do we have to follow Chinese model for India’s growth? Many may tempted to say yes. However my answer is a firm no. There are many things we can learn and absorb from China. However Chinese growth is not a model that we can follow. Why? Even though there are many reasons I will focus 
only on one of them.

Growth without any concern for environment

In India many groups created an opinion that, focusing on environment is affecting India’s growth rates. In short, if you want development then don’t argue for rivers and forests. By extension of this theory, whoever argues for environment is by default included in anti-development group. These groups often sites China as a model.

How far we can accept this argument? Do you think development is always against environment? Do you think, if we need development then we need to cut virgin forests, divert rivers and flatten the hills? What type of development is that? Can we call it as development or simply resource extraction? I prefer the later one.
Honestly speaking, I don’t believe building a dam on every hundred kilometers of Ganga on unstable Himalayan terrain is development; I don’t believe cutting down even the last remaining evergreen forests in Western Ghats is development; I also don’t believe open pit coal mining is a development. Can anyone go to Chromium mining areas, say Sukinda, or open pit coal mining areas and stay there for one week? Can they say those cities are developed ones?

Can you go to Yamuna in Delhi and take a bath? Can you go to Ganga at Patna and drink the water?
The interesting thing is we are all forced to believe that these are development. Will this development reduce our import cost for electronics? How many manufacturing plants are there in India which can produce microprocessors for computer? How many Silicon wafer manufacturing plants we have? Why we got the notorious tag of biggest weapon importer country in the world? Forget about fighter planes and high quality radar, can we even manufacture high grade light machine gun?

In Foreign Affairs magazine Sulmaan Khan analyzes the cost of Chinese development model – “Suicide By Draught” – Sulmaan Khan.

“The rivers flowing from the Third Pole -- among them, the Mekong, the Yangtze, and the Yellow River -- traditionally satisfied the majority of China’s water needs. But those waters, along with China’s other supplies, have been steadily disappearing. Since the 1950s, 27,000 rivers have vanished from China. China has only seven percent of the world’s freshwater to meet the needs of about one-fifth of the world’s population. Of that water, only 23 percent is located in northern China, which, as home to most of the country's major industries, uses much more water than China’s south. Meanwhile, much of the country's available water supply has been rendered unusable by pollution.”

If we continue to destroy the environment in the name of pollution, then some years later someone else will also write a report like that. Only difference will be in the name. Instead of China it will be India.
Problem is we often don’t estimate the value of environment. There is value for fresh air and clean water. These two we can’t simply manufacture. Just ask someone working on Central government’s reverse osmosis project in Chennai to know the cost of producing a litre drinkable water from sea water. Ask someone who walks through Bangalore’s road to know how good the air is.

Development is not cutting down the forest or diverting the rivers. Just think about Singapore, a place less than NCT Delhi in size is receiving more FDI in a year than entire India.

Before going ahead with grandiose plans give one minute for environment as well. NTPC can build tens of super critical coal fired thermal power plants, but without huge water supply it’s useless. In Madurai (Tamilnadu) there are a lot of bridges to cross a river called Vaighai, but nor even a drop of water is present under those bridges. Bangalore, in search of land, flattened many great lakes and built majestic residential layouts and mega structures. However, now water for those residential areas have to come from Cauvery River. Remember Cauvery is a lifeline for many areas in the downstream. Moreover considering the environmental degradation in her sources, how long she can support cities like Bangalore in its downstream?

Before adding water to Gadgil’s report on Western Ghat and making it Kasturi Rangan report, and then adding further water to it, think about the human’s basic needs – clean water and fresh air. We need development, but stop calling plans for building tens of mega dams in unstable Himalayan geographies from Kashmir to Arunachal as development. Build gas fired power plants or new generation nuclear power plants for generating electricity. Don’t call open pit mining as development; if you need coal then go for underground mining. Build more environment friendly railway lines than 8 lane roadways and running thousands of Lorries through it.

China is an example of how not to run after development as far as environmental impact is concerned. Learn from her mistakes, lean from how China is planning to mitigate those risks. Don’t blindly follow her.


Saturday, July 26, 2014

Language Politics – Now the fight is against UPSC

Politics is also about creativity. If you don’t have a problem, then create a problem. If people are tired of an argument, then put the old wine in new bottle. Politicians everywhere is in constant search of finding a way to stay relevant among their supporters. If one didn’t bring much development to their region, then they are more vulnerable to act on ideas which hardly have any merit.

What is this newly found problem in UPSC preliminary exams? How suddenly a group of people found out that UPSC prelim exam (aka CSAT) is designed against their interests? By the way current pattern of CSAT was introduced some three years back. What makes the situation more ironic is the fact that, Hindi speaking region is in the forefront of these protests. Remember, in CSAT all questions and options in both papers are given in Hindi as well (Not in Bengali, not in Kannada…); except around 8 questions related to English Paragraph comprehension. These 8 questions are based on three English passages having one paragraph each.

Are they saying that these 3 passages are their main problem? In that case, people from Andra and Telengana can demand all questions in Telugu; Tamilnadu can demand all the questions printed in Tamil; people from Sikkim can demand exam in Nepali or Sikkimese… so on and so forth.

Do you consider these 8 questions in CSAT as a discrimination against Hindi speaking areas? If yes, then entire republic is showing discrimination against a lot of her citizens. Do you see any central government conducted exam’s question paper in Kokborok? Kokbork is a language from Tripura and have more than 9 lakh speakers (written using Bengali or Roman script). What about Bodo language of Asom or Santali language?

Why a republic after having more than six decade of independent life still feeling it difficult to settle on language issue? It’s time to get over with it. Irony is people’s representatives, instead of creating educational institutions and associated infrastructure in their respective states are engaged in stone throwing… instead of ending child labour and sending those kids back to schools, are supporting chauvinism… instead of saving kids from trafficking is interested in playing spoiler sport… instead of showing their power to stop illegal, unconstitutional diktats of Khap panchayat is throwing their weight behind an exam where kids from Bihar and UP also excel.

Stop this circus of protesting against everything.


Will these people -MPs, MLAs and MLCs who currently leading the protests - stop sending their kids to Australia, US, UK etc. and enroll them in local Hindi medium government school?