I was in Delhi for just 30 hours this week Thursday to Friday.
My wife had warned me to cancel the trip and return home from Mumbai, but I had to go to Delhi for official work. She instructed me to stay at the hotel and apply eye drops every couple of hours (as I had recently gone through an eye surgery).
While I was in Mumbai earlier this week, I saw frightening news on pollution levels in Delhi. The pollution index crossed 700 which is considered absolutely unsafe for everyone, and I saw a doctor stating that Delhi might have to consider a public evacuation of its inhabitants. Delhi overtook Beijing to become the most highly polluted city in the world.
So, I was surprised to see many foreigners (mostly Westerners and Japanese) happily going out of the airport premises without a protective mask. Only one in ten people were wearing a mask, some were closing their mouths and noses with their handkerchiefs. I had my office colleagues with me, and it was embarrassing to witness the situation in the capital city of the country in front of them. We could not see the buildings on the other side of the highway, it was that bad. A thick smog has shrouded all of Delhi, and the government had closed all schools for the week, and was even trying to close all offices.
I did not venture out except for dinner time, and also kept applying the eye drops though I could feel some irritation in the eyes. It surprised me that there were so many folks walking on the roads as though nothing has changed. It amazes me how Indians continue to treat even an emergency situation with utter nonchalance. I saw that the security guards and other staff in the hotel were not wearing any protective masks, and there I saw the failure of the hotel management in protecting its own employees. The idea seems to be “so what” – if we lose a few staff, Delhi can always provide more people to fill the jobs at the lowest levels – utter disregard for the health and safety of staff members.
It continues to be a public health emergency situation in Delhi. And, as usual, the politicians on all sides were hitting at others and laying the blame elsewhere, and I could not see any actions being taken to address the situation on a war footing. While the root causes will take time to fix, it is imperative that the government spends its time, efforts and resources on removing the smog, for example, by spraying water all over the city from helicopters. India has the resources, but lacks the sense of emergency and purpose, and also political will to take drastic measures. Till the time that India starts to really care about population healthcare and human development, situations like these will go with the government of the day taking half-baked and half-hearted measures. India has one of the highest economic growth rates in the world, but that hardly matters when people are seriously affected like in this situation.
According to the World Health Organization (WHO), the Particulate Matter (PM) is the most critical pollutant affecting most people. Please carefully read the fact sheet that the WHO has provided at its website – I am linking it here Ambient (outdoor) air quality and health. The mean figures for PM10 (for particulate matter with diameter of 10 Microns or less) are: 20 for annual and 50 for 24-hour mean. With Delhi’s figure crossing 700, you can imagine the health problems that are going to be caused due to this smog hanging over Delhi. This means that there are billions and billions of these 10 Micron (or less) diameter particles which are floating around in Delhi at this moment, and these are being inhaled by Delhi’s citizens every second – with the underprivileged people in the streets affected the most. There are labourers and children who sleep on the roads in Delhi. The richer folks can afford expensive air purifiers, but the poor cannot. These instances continue in India with no redressal.
Who can we blame?
Is it the current government or the past government(s)? Is it the bureaucracy?
Well, it does not matter. One day people are going to die on the streets of Delhi. And, tourists and businesses will start to shun the city. Unless the government takes expeditious action now, and also stops this phenomenon repeating itself at the start of the winter season every year.
Delhi can now be called a gas chamber, one which needs to be cleansed and allowed to breathe.
Let us pray for the inhabitants of Delhi and not for its politicians.
11th November 2017
I came across a LinkedIn post and discussion thread today about Tamil vs Hindi (for people who do not know, both are Indian languages).
The original post was by a Chennai-based IT recruiter who complained that North Indians assume that he speaks Hindi when he calls them up, instead of responding to his English queries in English. He even goes on to mention that he teases the potential candidates by occasionally speaking in Tamil!
There were more than 10,000 comments by the time I came across this post, and thousands of “Like” (LinkedIn should also provide an easy button for “Dislike”).
Haven’t we heard this kind of topic before? Of course, we have, especially in Tamil Nadu.
Tamil Nadu and Tamilians apparently have not yet got the 1960’s imbroglio with the Central (Federal) Government on the then hot topic of imposition of Hindi on all States of India, against the Constitution of India and the regional peoples’ will, out of their heads even after 50 years. They are very emotional whenever the topic comes up.
Hindi is sparsely spoken in Tamil Nadu even today, though there are many Tamilians in Tamil Nadu who can speak Hindi rather well. It is not an accepted form of communication, however. Tamilians prefer English, even to talk to other Tamilians. Such is the impact of those old days when Tamil Nadu erupted in violence against Hindi. That misstep also led to the successful emergence of the Dravidian Political Parties of Tamil Nadu, which have been feuding even amongst themselves ever since. The result has been that the national political discourse and national political parties have been locked out of Tamil Nadu for all these past 5 decades.
The bad thing which came out of this anti-Hindi feeling has largely been detrimental to the overall economic interests of the State and its people, though many will argue (even now) that it was the best thing that could have happened for Tamil Nadu (apart from reduced plan allocations and constant challenges, I don’t know what we gained – if someone can elaborate, I would be more than happy to listen without a murmur). In the Sixties and Seventies, when Tamilians educated in Tamil Nadu purely in Tamil and English travelled to Delhi or Mumbai or Calcutta, they were at a big disadvantage. Those days (and even now), the Northern and Western regions of India had the biggest economic investments (both by governments and private sector), and offered more economic opportunities to job seekers. While English was the business language, more often than not it was not the spoken language in the office – it was almost always Hindi.
Who lost out?
Tamilians and Tamil Nadu. India is a country with more than 28 official languages and over 200 dialects. But, 70% of the populations (that is 900M as of now!) speak Hindi in almost a native fashion, or they learn the language from primary school onwards. Another 10% of the population (that is, another 130M people!) understand Hindi well, and would respond in Hindi if spoken to in Hindi.
So, a Billion people can operate in Hindi.
How about Tamil Nadu? It has 68M people only, just 5% of India’s population.
While I am not saying it is compulsory for everyone in the country to learn Hindi or speak Hindi, look at the advantages which I lacked as a non-Hindi speaker. One’s acceptance is higher at business offices, in government offices, in industrial environments and surely in society. Further, one would not need English sub-titles while watching Hindi movies! I survived with extremely half-baked and poor Hindi, and had to mostly depend on others to get my way through. I got into several tricky situations because I insisted on speaking only in English (you cannot blame me, apart from Tamil, English was the only other language that I know!).
I suffered quite a bit during my sojourn in Mumbai for some six years. I always felt left out, and my rather late attempts to learn Hindi did not work out as I just could not recall the right word at the right time. If only I had had the opportunity to learn Hindi even as my third language in my primary school, I would not have had any problems.
At the end of the day, it is the business and social acceptance across the country, notwithstanding any perceived language or cultural supremacy. Tamil is rarely spoken outside of Tamil Nadu in India – except in Tamil communities spread around the country which also speak Hindi fluently as they have settled in the so-called Hindi heartland due to economic or job necessities.
Why take up a fight against Hindi and waste precious time now? What is it going to produce in terms of benefits to Tamilians?
The world is moving fast, and India is moving very fast. Tamil Nadu should worry more about keeping its #3 rank in the State-wise rankings of GDP, it is in a good position to overtake Uttar Pradesh which has three times its population. Let us focus on bread and economics, and jobs and wealth creation for Tamil Nadu. That is a more important fight (in a positive manner, competing with other States of India) than spending an inordinate amount of time on language issues. If Tamilians wish to proceed and establish strong working relationships with Northern and Western regions of India, I would say learning Hindi is a good place to start – a positive thing to progress economically, rather than a negative thing which will impact Tamil. Tamil will never be impacted, it is a language which has stood the test of time over 30 centuries or even more.
Let us make language-based fights and issues a thing of the past, and focus on what is best for our people.
29th November 2017
On the day when the world’s most renowned and celebrated non-violent leader was born (2nd October 2017 in Asia, 1st October Sunday in the U.S.), the U.S. witnessed its most murderous violence against innocent people, perpetrated by a violent gun-loving murderer in Las Vegas. The non-violent leader I am referring to is, of course, Mahatma Gandhi, who preached absolute non-violence against the occupying British police during India’s Freedom Struggle.
America indeed has a serious problem. More than 15,000 people died in the past 12 months because of GUN violence, the highest among all developed countries. In the Las Vegas massacre, 58 innocent civilians died and over 500 were injured. These folks were among a huge crowd enjoying a country music performance opposite to the now infamous Mandalay Bay Resort & Casino – I remember walking past this place couple of years ago in Las Vegas.
I do not think the U.S. Government and Congress have any excuse now but to impose some controls over how guns can be deployed in a civilized society. But they will do no such things under the strong, incestuous influence exerted by the National Rifle Association (NRA). Things will be forgotten, like it was after the Sandy Hook massacre in 2012 during President Obama’s tenure. No government and no congress has the power to outmaneuvre the very powerful NRA, who are the main reason for Americans currently possessing over 300M guns, the most of any country in the world. Not only that, most state governments in the U.S. are now permitting gun owners to carry their weapons in public places, an open invitation for their usage. Who can determine if it is intentional or not? The victims won’t live to tell their side of the story. The usual excuse proferred by the NRA upon the occurrence of every such gun violence will not hold water in any case – the NRA says if only there are enough guns donned by gun owners out there, gun violence won’t happen as there would be an immediate retaliation. Isn’t it laughable that Americans are buying this argument? How about shooting back at the Las Vegas murderer on the 32nd Floor of the Mandalay Bay from the ground below some more than 400 yards away, if only the music lovers all carried their guns?
The whole world is looking at the U.S. (repeatedly over the past 3 years of incessant gun violence) more carefully – how can the so-called leader of the “free world” be so ignorant of so much that needs to be done within its own country, how it fails to repeatedly protect its own citizens from gun violence, how it has failed to protect large cities, and how the whole government machinery is just spinning out of control under the eminent direction of the Honourable President Donald Trump. Among his many promises, Mr Trump assured he will take action against inner city violence and has often cited Chicago as the worst example of continuous gun violence.
My conclusion: nothing will ever change on the issue of gun control in the U.S. Hiding behind the U.S. Constitution is an easy way to fend off criticism from right or left. Judiciary won’t act against constitutional rights of citizens (“the right to bear arms”), despite some of these being outdated. So, there goes yet another wonderful opportunity to stop the carnage and bring sense into American society.
Most other Western nations have controlled guns, the best example being that of Australia under its gun amnesty program. It has been a big success, and major gun violence has long since been eradicated. People generally feel safe in countries with strict gun laws. The argument that America is a vast country, and so guns are needed in remote locations to protect oneself is also specious. If guns are controlled, it also means that guns will be controlled in remote locations. If there is a device that gun manufacturers can fit on all guns which would identify itself and give away its location before use, will that help? Of course, the NRA will fight tooth and nail against any legislative restrictions on gun acquisition, possession, and use.
So, there goes a great country which does not mind sacrificing its citizens and innocent bystanders for the benefit of gun-loving Americans and the NRA. How about the so many innocent lives lost? How about the sacrifices of young and old? All justifiable in the eyes of the NRA. Can it bring back those lives lost on the night of 1st October due to the violent gun-driven actions of a mass murderer who had so many guns ready in his hotel room? The NRA will justify anything to keep its gun lobby going. Do they have conscience? You bet they don’t.
Let us stay completely gun-free in our respective countries and societies. After all, we are already in the 21st Century and in the most civilized phase of our existence thus far, let us keep it that way.
7th October 2017
The anti-refugee “movements” in some European countries have been sowing fear in refugee communities for the past couple of years. Several far-right fascist parties have gained public credibility in their nations, though they have not won the mandate to govern. The extremist views of these parties and social movements are a danger not only to refugees who are seeking asylum, but also to non-local residents of these countries who could easily be misconstrued as belonging to the refugee community. Even worse, locals who try to help the refugees arriving in their town are (or were) targeted by these anti-social movements.
I happened (by chance) to see the BBC’s show on Germany’s New Nazis: it was simply frightening to see the violent tactics of the Freital Group, who unleashed terror on the refugee shelter homes and almost escaped without getting caught over many months. Such insidious activities of a rebel group with the tacit approval of the “silent” majority, could have led Germany towards an abyss, from which it escaped just 70 years ago. Of all countries, it is rather surprising that Germans would accept such a radicalism in their society, which would engender violence, killings, and eventually, a move away from democracy towards a populist leader who would isolate Germany, stop all immigration, and segregate foreigners into “ghettos”. Rather sickening, frightening, and appears easy to achieve, right?
It was funny to note that the German local police feigned ignorance of any of the violent actions taken by the Freital Group for a long time, reminding me of the Indian Police and its ineffectiveness in the past. Only after the German Federal Prosecutor’s Office took over the investigation, things started moving, and eventually, the Freital Group was declared a terrorist organization. It is critical to understand that there will always be an apparent undercurrent of support for fascist and extremist groups amongst the population who have lost their jobs and feel that their lives are being threatened by refugees who do not follow the German way of life. Further, states such as Saxony have administrative and police machinery who had known about extremist tendencies and violent actions, but never took any action thereby undermining their credibility. Humans are fragile, and their idea of infallibility and superiority will reign supreme in their minds long after their predecessors are dead. You know who I mean here……….
Let me now explain my own views. I am not a supporter of uncontrolled immigration. Yes, I supported Angela Merkel when she decided to admit Syrian immigrants in 2015 into Germany, notwithstanding the fact that it could imperil her chance of becoming the German Chancellor for a record fourth time. However, more work should have been done on planning (a) the education of Germans about the rationale for taking in the immigrants (could have been done, I simply do not know); and, (b) the social integration of the immigrants into mainstream German society (also, this might have happened, but does not appear so looking from the outside).
Immigration is always a tough issue when economic conditions are not good. Even if things are fine, thought has to be given about sending immigrants into states where there is serious unemployment.
I am not against folks who oppose immigration. I am against those folks who incite violence and throw petrol bombs into refugee shelters, knowing full well that refugees have suffered an ignominious life in their native country under a cruel dictator who bombed them. What kind of people are these local Germans who do not have human emotions and sympathy and generosity?
Luckily for Germany, it is still the largest European economy, it is a wealthy country, and it holds the conscience of Europe as a whole (not the U.K.). Given its leadership position, Germany cannot afford to be isolated. I heaved a sigh of relief when Dr Merkel won her fourth elections recently, though her margins got reduced. Never mind, she has another four years to work on the German mindset. My suggestion to her – halt further immigration and work on integrating the million refugees that she has already got in. This is not hard heart or mind, it is simply focusing on enhancing the well being of the admitted refugees.
The other European nations have failed in their immigration intake, and are messing up their immigration policy. It is only a question of time before Europe loses its conscious democratic ideology, if no actions are taken immediately to educate the angry electorates.
7th October 2017
I like the maturity and pragmatic approach of Sergei Lavrov, the Russian Foreign Minister, when it comes to his comments about global affairs. He is a diplomat par excellence, one of the best in the world, with solid experience and an intellect which challenges most others in the diplomatic arena. He is 67, yet going strong and has seen four Secretaries of State of the U.S. during his Foreign Minister tenure for the past 13 years. He is also very polished and known for his tough negotiating skills. No wonder President Putin kept him going on the job in a consistent manner over the years.
In his comments last Friday, he called the exchanges between President Donald Trump and Kim Jong-Un of North Korea as a “kindergarten fight between school children”. He also called for “hot heads to calm down”. So he called President Trump as a school child wanting a fight, and also as a hot head.
Most appropriate, right?
Only these two school kids are itching to get into a nuclear war with nuclear tipped missiles. That is a big problem for the world.
We also have President Trump on record in front of the august assembly of world leaders at the UN General Assembly that he would destroy North Korea completely if the “rocket man” attempts to attack the U.S. or its allies. That might seem OK, but it surely is not at the U.N. An irresponsible early morning tweet may be fine, but not in a formal address to the U.N.
President Trump has a long way to go before he is taken seriously as a true leader of the free world, like his predecessor was………he is acting unpredictable by the day, and is not in tune with world’s expectations of the U.S. Why go for another war, when the U.S. is still not able to resolve the wars it engendered in Afghanistan, Iraq, Syria, Libya, Yemen, and elsewhere. President Trump, it appears, also wants to fight Iran, a much better equipped nation than North Korea, though not with a nuclear bomb as of now.
It is no wonder Mr Lavrov is feeling this way about this abominable exchange of words between the U.S. and North Korea. South Korea and Japan must be shaking with fear on this rhetoric, as they know that President Trump is impulsive, and Kim Jong-In is totally unpredictable with a lot up his sleeve. A nuclear holocaust over the Korean Peninsula will also not be allowed by Russia and China, both having land borders with the Koreas.
At the end of the day, the “hot heads” have to cool down. But, unfortunately they won’t. Simply because, Kim Jong-Un is probably preparing for the next missile launch or the next nuclear explosion, irrespective of what President Trump or his neighbours or the U.N. demand. All those demands and sanctions are totally irrelevant to him. He will proceed on his own plan, without any consultations with anyone, not even China. I think China has lost leverage over North Korea. It also appears that North Korea is leaning towards Russia.
If the U.S. – South Korea military exercises are postponed, that would be a first calming step in the process. Obviously, there is no lack of military preparedness on the part of the U.S. or South Korea – they are apparently ready for a war with North Korea any time. However, their collective maturity should make them defer their joint military exercises which annoys the North Korean Leadership every year. Why not do it when you can actually do it without any loss of face?
But President Trump won’t have it as he sees it as a concession to the “rocket man” on a “suicide mission”.
Who will blink first, then?
Surely not Kim Jong-Un. He will continue on his mission to make his country nuclear and missile capable, that is not going to stop.
I am sure that the Pentagon Generals are not advising President Trump to launch a surgical strike to take out the nuclear sites in North Korea. Whether there is a war or not, it is not advisable to provoke a reaction from the North on the hapless citizens of the South, just 30 KMs away from the DMZ (De-Militarized Zone). It is estimated that at least 1M citizens will perish even in a limited war with mutual attacks from both sides (the U.S. will primarily attack from air and sea). And a tactical nuclear weapon from the U.S. to stop the war will not stop it, as the Koreans (like the Vietnamese) have proved to be extremely resilient when it comes to war and hand-to-hand combat even. The war will not stop, and the Koreans will not forget the U.S. for taking an unnecessary military action which would plunge the entire peninsula into an endless war.
I hope Japan does not want war, either. Traditionally, it has sided with the U.S. thought process, so there could be some disparity here between South Korea (which surely does not want war as it stands to lose the most) and Japan.
At the end, I see that Russia is playing a wiser role, articulating a well-calculated strategy on how war is not an option and everyone needs to return to the negotiating table. Given that Russia has some leverage over North Korea (providing employment to the impoverished North Koreans), it might be time that the U.S. listens to Russia, though they both seem to be having interminable issues of all kinds.
But this is about War and Peace.
Everyone should strive very hard to stop war from happening.
24th September 2017
1. In my many years I have come to a conclusion that one useless man is a shame, two is a law firm and three or more is a congress.
— John Adams
2. If you don’t read the newspaper you are uninformed, if you do read the newspaper you are misinformed.
— Mark Twain
3. Suppose you were an idiot. And suppose you were a member of Congress. But then I repeat myself.
— Mark Twain
4. I contend that for a nation to try to tax itself into prosperity is like a man standing in a bucket and trying to lift himself up by the handle.
— Winston Churchill
5. A government which robs Peter to pay Paul can always depend on the support of Paul.
— George Bernard Shaw
6. A liberal is someone who feels a great debt to his fellow man, which debt he proposes to payoff with your money.
— G. Gordon Liddy
7. Democracy must be something more than two wolves and a sheep voting on what to have for dinner.
— James Bovard, Civil Libertarian (1994)
8. Foreign aid might be defined as a transfer of money from poor people in rich countries to rich people in poor countries.
— Douglas Casey, Classmate of Bill Clinton at Georgetown University
9. Giving money and power to government is like giving whiskey and car keys to teenage boys.
— P.J. O’Rourke, Civil Libertarian
10. Government is the great fiction, through which everybody endeavors to live at the expense of everybody else.
— Frederic Bastiat, French economist (1801-1850)
11. Government’s view of the economy could be summed up in a few short phrases: If it moves, tax it. If it keeps moving, regulate it. And if it stops moving, subsidize it.
— Ronald Reagan(1986)
12. I don’t make jokes. I just watch the government and report the facts.
— Will Rogers
13. If you think health care is expensive now, wait until you see what it costs when it’s free!
— P.J. O’Rourke
14. In general, the art of government consists of taking as much money as possible from one party of the citizens to give to the other.
15. Just because you do not take an interest in politics doesn’t mean politics won’t take an interest in you!
— Pericles (430B.C.)
16. No man’s life, liberty, or property is safe while the legislature is in session.
— Mark Twain (1866)
17. Talk is cheap…except when Congress does it.
18. The government is like a baby’s alimentary canal, with a happy appetite at one end and no responsibility at the other.
— Ronald Reagan
19. The inherent vice of capitalism is the unequal sharing of the blessings. The inherent blessing of socialism is the equal sharing of misery.
— Winston Churchill
20. The only difference between a tax man and a taxidermist is that the taxidermist leaves the skin.
— Mark Twain
21. The ultimate result of shielding men from the effects of folly is to fill the world with fools.
— Herbert Spencer, English Philosopher (1820-1903)
22. There is no distinctly Native American criminal class…save Congress.
— Mark Twain
23. What this country needs are more unemployed politicians.
— Edward Langley, Artist (1928-1995)
24. A government big enough to give you everything you want, is strong enough to take everything you have.
— Thomas Jefferson
25. We hang the petty thieves and appoint the great ones to public office.
FIVE BEST SENTENCES
1. You cannot legislate the poor into prosperity, by legislating the wealth out of prosperity.
2.What one person receives without working for…another person must work for without receiving.
3. The government cannot give to anybody anything that the government does not first take from somebody else.
4. You cannot multiply wealth by dividing it.
5. When half of the people get the idea that they do not have to work, because the other half is going to take care of them, and when the other half gets the idea that it does no good to work, because somebody else is going to get what they work for, that is the beginning of the end of any nation!
I think there are some good truths in the above sentences. It is funny that many of these truths are in play today in nations big and small. I thought this is a good education for my blog readers. Enjoy but also think about these truths. Aren’t these relevant even today?
16th September 2017
The United Nations published its 2017 Global Broadband Progress Report on the 14th September 2017.
It is an important report to monitor for people who are interested in the technological and social advancement of developing and poor countries. Around 52% of the world’s population (some 3.9B people) do not have access to the internet. The “digital gap” between the internet haves and the have-nots is growing as well.
Broadband internet access is not only important for education, it is also crucial in providing access to quality healthcare and enhancing incomes, reducing the gender gap, and better infrastructure. Broadband has become a critical part of sustainable development world-wide, and a majority of countries have established a National Broadband Plan to accelerate the penetration of internet into their respective countries, and connect resources to the national broadband for greater access and better livelihood.
While developed countries are increasing their broadband speeds to cater to increased speed requirements of their populations, the average broadband speeds in developing countries are not keeping pace, thereby widening the gap. Further, rural areas are under-served by broadband internet, as the latest 4G technology is being rolled out in urban cities with an ability to bear the cost.
Developing and Least Developed Countries have to worry about the widening digital chasm with Developed Countries. Even in Developing Countries with over 40% internet penetration rates, there exists a big gap between the internet speeds that one can get in an urban city compared to what a rural area gets. The governments force telco providers to extend their networks to the nooks and corners of the countries, but then the progress has been slow.
Given that Developing Countries are now jumping into the mobile broadband networks (sometimes from 2G straight to 4G, and in some countries from 3G to experimental 5G), we can expect a deeper penetration of mobile broadband in these countries in the near future. For countries such as India, the ability to access broadband internet on the go also provides huge benefits to the users – such as access to current weather conditions, education, healthcare information, government services, law and order situation, news, agriculture-related data, and so on and so forth. This is fundamentally going to change society and its focus on development. It will also lead to broader thinking and benchmarking against global standards. Of course, we cannot forget video content which with unlimited data, could easily displace televisions.
The progress of broadband adoption in Developing Countries is an important indicator for the development of society as a whole. Even a decade ago, we would not have thought in this fashion. This shows the huge advancements that internet has made in changing the lives of people for the better.
In order to reduce the gap with Developed Countries, there must be aggressive and concerted focus on not only extending the broadband networks but also increasing the speeds of access.
In 5 years from now, such a focus would completely change the livelihood of rural populations of large countries. Let us hope for the best in this effort.
16th September 2017