Tuesday, December 9, 2008

Conversations on Mumbai's Terrorist attack

10 Terrorists is all it took!
Conversation posted on Monday, December 1, 2008 at 2:03pm

Today I heard yet another story. This was of a young reporter whose last text message was something like this " I am under the bed, the terrorists are in the bathroom". She was one among the many who lost her life in the most senseless and tragic way. It took only 10 terrorists to hold a city hostage but 70 long hours for the siege to end. India cannot stand and point fingers at anyone but our own failure in protecting our people. In a city that has been plagued by the worst terrorist and communal acts in the world, Mumbai should have been always ready and always on alert. Mumbai and all major cities in India need to be on constant war footing; always anticipating, expecting and preparing for the worst. Our enemies are dangerous, ruthless and clever. While they might change their tactics and modus operandi, we need to be one step ahead. India has never lacked a brilliant mind. We have brave soldiers and citizens. We have the power, the skill and will. What we need is the determination and responsible governance. We need expertise, preparedness, gear and strength.The international attention will fade and the cameras will turn away. Every nation has its own war to fight and will choose its enemies and friends that best suit its security needs. Worldwide condemnation is just a symbolic gesture and does little to bolster our own security. This is India's fight. Peace to all those affected.

Husna Md wroteat 8:07pm on December 1st, 2008

Samir, Journalist Sabina Sakia's story is one of the several stories,that had us all totally agape.Her close encounter with death,and like a true reporter relegating that news to the Newsdesk,until the last moment was terribly moving.. Every person that has survived the horrific ordeal at the Taj ,the Trident and Oberoi,and Leopold Cafe have their own horrific tales to tell. It's hard to even begin to fathom,the kind of cold blooded endeavour these Men have been conditioned to harbour.With the unearthing of their modus operandi,their technological skills,and aggressive training in Urban warfare,the terrorists have proved that they are a tour de force to reckon with.Maximum damage with limited resources.And it has become more than obvious that there is a Pan global support in their funding , Arms and Ammunition and logistical support.India has some of the best minds no doubt.Our intelligence wing is one of the finest in the world,but as you have said the hitch occurs at the political level,when dissemination and action on this information is required.The State and the Centre have miserably failed on that account.It is thanks to our NSG,the Army ,Navy,and the ATS that the damage was limited.The govt: has become proactive and have taken several tough decision making measures,since then.I only hope that Mr.Chidambaram will make all the difference,where Mr.Patil couldnt.

Sudheer M wrote at 11:11am on December 2nd, 2008

no congress man will make a difference as they are spineless creatures whose only work is to crawl in front of sonia & make money by hook or crook which also lands & goes right to the top & in their madness for power & money they will do anything including sell their mothers or their whole female tribe & also their MOTHERLAND for 30 pieces of silver & their votebanks politics neveris conducive to nation building

Samir N wroteat 1:18pm on December 2nd, 2008
I am not sure if there is a better alternative, all the political parties are so driven by power and money. Even BJP used the tragedy to further its political agenda with advertisements camouflaged as condolence posters. There really isn't much lower one can stoop. Its up to the citizens, the manner in which they cast their votes and how loud they can scream. Hope for the best!

Samir N wrote at 2:41pm on December 4th, 2008

Here is a Letter to editor in The Hindu that is worth a read:
"The headline, ‘Manmohan: no terrorist or enemy can destroy India’s unity’, illustrates how a Prime Minister can make a self-evident platitude sound like a new declaration of national intent and a call to arms by a patriotic, unifying group of politicians. After the thousands of terrorist attacks and tens of thousands of innocent lives lost, which successive bands of netas have done little about, the one thing every Indian knows without the need for exhortations from anyone is that every such attack has resulted in greater unity. If it had been otherwise, this country would have imploded years ago. Our politicians miss no opportunity to pit the Muslim against the Hindu, the Hindu against the Christian, one caste against another, tribes against castes, and sons of the soil against ‘outsiders.’ The only schism they have left untouched is the poor against the rich. Indian unity is a reality that exists, not because of, but despite their machinations." - N C

Saturday, February 23, 2008


India Indeed announces the soon to be launched website "Grubhogs".

A comprehensive listing of restaurants, clubs, bars, pubs, spas and salons in India. Log on, read reviews, write your own reviews and connect with others!

Read more at: www.grubhogs.blogspot.com or click here: GRUBHOGS

Wednesday, January 30, 2008

ISB Breaks into the Big Leagues!

The UK based newspaper "Financial Times" released its annual list of global rankings for Business schools.

European business schools and their US counterparts have fallen victim to a growing number of ever-improving Asian, South American and Australian schools in global rankings as evidenced in the list. This year sees three Chinese schools and one Indian one in the rankings.

The relatively young business school "Indian Business School (ISB)" in Hyderabad was ranked #20. It was set up in 2001 as a private B-school with the blessings of Fortune 500 companies and top Indian organizations. It collaborates with the world's leading business schools like the Kellogg School of Management, the Wharton School and the London Business School. These associate schools actively participate in curriculum design, research, conferences and teaching. According to the school's Deputy Dean Ajit Rangneker, the school is set to increase class size by over 100 students in the next academic year. There is also an anticipation of increased applications from international students. Rangneker estimates around 5% of the students are from abroad.

ISB; the only B-school from India to be ever ranked among the top 20, is not an institution recognized by the All India Council for Technical Education (AICTE), the regulatory body for technical education.

Until now the IIMs were considered most likely to be ranked in such international rank orders.

"US news" releases its list of top B schools later in the year. This highly regarded ranking list ignores Asian Business schools. Only schools from Europe and North America are ranked. In the Wall Street Journal/Harris Interactive Survey of how recruiters eye International B schools, only schools from Europe, North America and Central America were ranked. (Check the list at "IIMs not eyed by US Recruiters - or are they?")

Monday, January 21, 2008

India's Oscar Entry exits

'Eklavya" India's official entry for Foreign Film Category at the Oscars was edged out in the nomination process when it failed to make it to the final cut. The 105 minute film stood apart from the usual Bollywood fare being devoid of over the top themes or dance sequences in foreign locales. The film is entirely shot in Rajasthan, India. The story is intense and well acted with some great cinematography.

Only three Indian entries that have been nominated in the Best Foreign Film Category since India began sending entries in 1956 (Mehboob Khan's "Mother India", Ashutosh Gowarikar's "Lagaan" and Mira Nair's "Salaam Bombay"). A small number considering the enormity of the Bollywood industry.

Wednesday, November 28, 2007

"The Indian Dream"

In 1931 when James Truslow Adams first used the term "American Dream" in his book "The Epic Of America" he was not only referring to a life of "motor cars and high wages" but to "a dream of social order" where in everyone would be able to "attain to the fullest stature of which they are innately capable, and be recognized by others for what they are, regardless of the fortuitous circumstances of birth or position." America presented itself to the world as a place where such a dream could be realized. Its shores opened up to receive the millions of immigrants who saw great promise in their future away from all the constrains of their home country. Within its shores more specifically the African-American population and women chased the dream with equal fervor to break from shackles society had imposed on them.
Most Indians have long learned not to dream and accept the confines of society's expectations of them. A cobbler remained a cobbler, a farmer a farmer and a maid servant a maid servant. Quite like the caste system people's occupations also stayed steady through the generations. Dreams were reserved for those privileged enough to be born into an upper caste or the economically determined middle and upper class families.
But things are changing, Indians are dreaming and dreaming big! A parent's educational shortcomings or their menial labor occupation is no longer a deterrent to their children. Scores of youth leave their rural dwellings in search of an education and jobs that command both a decent salary and respect. Rural to urban migration has burgeoned so much so that it has put into question the sustainability of the cites that attract the immigrants. Even city dwellers are dreaming big, educating themselves, securing higher paying jobs, buying homes and cars. Owning a vehicle or a cell phone is no longer just an aspiration but a given in the scheme of the new Indian's livelihood. More Indians have been on an airplane than ever before and many more demand and travel in first class train coaches.
While medical and dental schools are often too competitive or expensive to join, there is a whole slew of new and alternative professions that are not just attractive but also offering competitive salaries. As cities expand and grow to accommodate its growing population and their demands, the service industry, transportation, city administration, civic services, allied health care, education and many other sectors are providing the new jobs.
In a much smaller role there is yet another nontraditional dreammaker; television. Dreams of stardom and recognition have never been this close to realization as kids and adults have been plucked from obscurity to appear before millions on Reality TV. Reality TV has become a broadcasting phenomenon for Indian television pulling in some of the highest ratings even with its questionable critical credibility. The numerous shows have churned out stars and discovered talent that would have otherwise found no way out into an industry that historically belonged to the Khans, Bacchans and Kapoors of Bollywood royalty. This has also created a new crop of aspirants with more defined goals from the huge pool of viewers.
All the successes are bound to eventually turn the social order topsy-turvy, wherein one's background or caste is no longer any determinant in their future. The opportunities and possibilities have created a great sense of optimism among India's youth. We all feel like we are going somewhere, upward and forward!
So what is the "Indian Dream"? Does the "American Dream" as Truslow described it translate for India too. I believe that it only partially relates but just as much as it relates to what the "American Dream" has become. Maybe Truslow's vision is a bit too Utopian for any country. As India becomes a society dedicated to capitalism the dream will and is becoming more of a quest for money than one for an ideal social order. But at the same time the "circumstance of birth and position" means a lot less in that quest than ever before. While most free themselves from the crushing poverty, it is up to the more privileged and the governments to work towards erasing the invisible and irrational boundaries that separate us .
"The Indian dream" in its truest form should be the opportunity for every Indian to be able to attain the fullest stature of what he is capable of without the constraints imposed by class, caste or sex.

Imagine if we could not dream, now imagine all those millions who are dreaming for the first time.

Thursday, November 8, 2007

Imran Khan makes a run (and a video)

Pakistan police placed leading opposition figure and former national cricket captain Imran Khan under house arrest early on Sunday Nov 4th, 2007. The detention was a part of sweeping arrests made hours after President Pervez Musharraf imposed emergency rule citing militancy and a hostile judiciary.

Imran Khan is a popular political figure in part due to his legendary cricket past. He captained his country's team to victory in the 1992 World Cup. He now heads the Tehreek-e-Insaaf Party and is at the forefront in the effort to return the country to a democracy.

He was detained along with eight supporters at his house. But Imran made a successful escape just hours after his detention. He then released a video recording from an undisclosed location. Vowing to continue his movement to dislodge Musharraf he also called upon the West to support the people of Pakistan rather than one man- a dictator.

Tuesday, November 6, 2007

The Underage Breadwinners - Child Labor in India

(Source:National Geographic)

The Indian government-affiliated V.V. Giri Labour Institute estimates there are 12.5 million children younger than 14 working in India. UNICEF puts the figure at somewhere between 75 and 90 million. Why are so many of our children working?

It is obvious most children are working under some form of compulsion. The compulsion is most often related to economic necessity or expectations attached to their caste.

But the important aspect of child labor is to understand that without a market for it, it would not exist. The carpet and rug industry is known to be the major employer of children. Their employment tactic is based on the fallacy that children's fingers are more nimble and adept at making the fine furnishings. Other industries and households employ children for the ease with which they can be trained, admonished and controlled.

Every day parents introduce their children to the labor market where they are readily absorbed and recruited. In a recent news report the UK daily "The Observer" exposed to the world a sweatshop in south Delhi contracted by the global retailer "Gap". Children rescued from the shop told reporters of how they were aggressively recruited and ill-treated. One child described how his parents succumbed to the lure of higher returns from a working child; "The men came looking for us in July. They had loudspeakers in the back of a car and told my parents that, if they sent me to work in the city, they won't have to work in the farms. My father was paid a fee for me, and I was brought down with 40 other children."

With the kind of poverty seen in India, parents are often left with the heart wrenching choice of starving, loosing their dwellings or having their children work. The employers send paychecks to the parents and the children most often work for food and shelter. The economic necessity is far too great a defence of their action for them to see much wrong in it. Besides in a caste ridden country where lower castes are expected to live a life of labor and in a society that has traditionally employed children, child labor is not a clear wrongdoing.

The worst form of child labor that is unfortunately the most rampant is "bonded" child labor. The children work like slaves and the debt that binds them to their employer is incurred not by the children themselves, but by their relatives or guardians, usually a parent. Children work several hours without food or drink. They are given corporal punishment when they need to be disciplined and live in deplorable conditions.

India does not have an outright ban on child labor, Indian law only prohibits the employment of children under the age of 14 in occupations deemed hazardous. The list was recently expanded to includes domestic, hotel and restaurant work. When the government first moved to ban child labor, employers and even some children's rights activists pointed out that millions of children worked in order to survive. Out of work they would have no one to feed them and no where to go with the absence of facilities to absorb them. Some even conceded that at least some employers treated their child-workers better than their own parents could.

Unfortunately "this notion of benevolence often masks the exploitation and the long-term harm for children" as Shantha Sinha, an anti-child labor activist and 2003 Ramon Magsaysay Award recipient rightly points out. It is true that the government has done little to provide for the rehabilitation of the children or alternatives for income the children bring in that parents heavily depend on.

But legislation is a necessary starting point that will lead to a change in mindsets, social policy and the availability of alternatives. These changes are not necessarily natural phenomenon, it will take a very proactive society and government to bring about.

Society's major role is to remedy the conditions that encourage subservience and subjugation, especially the caste system and to oppose and report all forms of child labor.

The Government has had legislation in place for years but without enforcement, success is a distant dream. There is a lack of recognition of consequence and respect for law that creates the absence of self-limitation and compliance. With stricter enforcement and punishment for the offense some of that compliance can be achieved. Financial incentives such as tax benefits for employers that do not employ children in sectors where child labor is common would also help. Right to education must not only be enforced but also shown to ultimately provide superior benefits. The availability of better paying and decent opportunities for the educated youth will be a compulsion for parents to send their children to school rather than off to work. As far as alternatives to work for the children are concerned there is some good news; India's Ministry of Labour reports that the number of children withdrawn from hazardous jobs and enrolled in special schools under the National Child Labour Project has more than doubled in the last three years.

As long as labor is equated with survival, no matter how deplorable the working conditions are parents and children will prefer employment to unemployment. They will support child labor employers and find ways to subvert the law. Pulling them out of this extreme economic necessity will require further bolstering of economic policies that are poor and rural driven. The National employment Garuntee scheme needs a massive overhaul to be rid of the corruption and the diversion of funds into the wrong hands.

The child labor situation in India is grim. We cannot allow our children to grow up under these circumstances. We have a responsibility to show them that they have been born in to a world that cares for them and one that is willing to protect them.

Resources and References:
Govt. Of India Ministry of Labour (PIB Press Release)
"Child sweatshop shame threatens Gap's ethical image" , The Observer
Save the Child Foundation (Bachpan Bachao Andolan) Pictures from National Geographic
International Labour Foundation - Statistics and Databases "India's latest move to stop child labor", Anuj Chopra, Christian Science Monitor
"Child slavery: India's perpetuating dilema", Natasa Kocevic, Harvard Interantionl Review

Saturday, October 27, 2007

Peace and Climate change: Linked?

In his last and final will Alfred Nobel asked for the whole of his remaining estate to be constituted into a fund to be annually distributed in the form of prizes, five in all. Among them the peace prize was to be awarded to "the person who shall have done the most or the best work for fraternity between nations, for the abolition or reduction of standing armies and for the holding and promotion of peace congresses."

How then does awarding the Nobel Peace prize to Al Gore and the IPCC for their work on Climate change constitute an execution of Nobel's will as he deemed it? Many see it more as a political statement meant to rebuke President Bush, unable to see how the their work qualifies them for a Peace prize.

Here are two qoutes that seemed aimed to quell the dissent or at least afford an explaination.

Adam Smith, Editor-in-Chief, Nobelprize.org
"In awarding the Prize to the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), the global body responsible for scientific assessment of climate change, and Albert Arnold (Al) Gore, the phenomenon's most renowned campaigner, the Norwegian Nobel Committee are highlighting the link they see between the risk of accelerating climate change and the risk of violent conflict and wars."

Rajendra Pachauri, Chairman of Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC)
"The fact that the Nobel Prize committee has awarded this prize to IPCC for peace is a clear recognition of [the fact] that if we allow things to run out of hand, it can lead to conflict. Where you have water scarcity, you obviously have conflict. Where you have floods and droughts, obviously there will be hardship and that can lead to conflict. If the sea level rises and people are displaced, they will overrun political boundaries and that will lead to conflict."

(The above quote is from an interview for Newsweek with Fareed Zackaria)

While the prize will and has helped raise concern and awareness for Global warming, a true planetary emergency, the Wall Street Journal's Opinion Journal carried an article "Not Noble Winners" that lists some candidates for the prize in 2008 that might be more of what Alfred Nobel had in mind.

Thursday, October 25, 2007

Narendra Modi: Face of Religious Terrorism or Modern Gujarat?

On 27th February 2002, 58 people, including 25 women and 15 children were burnt alive in a train coach at Godhra Station during an altercation between Kar Sevaks on board the train and local Muslims. In an act of retribution execution squads composed of the cadre of Hindu organizations — the Vishwa Hindu Parishad, the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh, the Bajrang Dal, the Kisan Sangh, the Akhil Bharatiya Vidyarthi Parishad and the Bharatiya Janata Party, carried out the carnage of innocent and unarmed Muslims. Prominent political and religious leaders orchestrated one of the greatest tragedies India has ever seen. Their directions were to inflict the maximum possible destruction to Muslim property and life in any way possible. The barbaric mobs murdered Muslims by shooting, stabbing, mutilating, lynching and burning. All these cold blooded murders were carried out with a sense of pride and duty. One suspect recorded by "Tehelka" (in a recent undercover hidden cam expose) describes how a Muslim Member of Parliament was lynched limb by limb until the pile of his body parts were set on fire.

Sitting at the helm during the three days of bone chilling murders and violent riots was Gujarat’s Chief Minister (CM) Narendra Modi. He and his government have been accused of everything from inciting, perpetuating and enabling the incidents. The Tehelka tapes provide further credence to these views. The CM was also refused a visa to visit the US citing his role in severe violations of religious freedoms. Mr. Modi has been a hero among the hardline Hindu parties for his unabashed pro-Hindu stance. His complicity during the riots has most likely further strengthened his clout. His website claims he is on "a ceaseless journey in quest of progress of the society". Clearly his quest for progress has been stifled by his hardline Hindutva agenda. The Hindutva ideology is supposed to be a way of life that is based on the cultural and spiritual ethos of Hinduism, instead it has morphed into an intolerant form of fascism. People like Modi clearly also use their misguided beliefs towards a political end. On one had he is willing to accept the gains for society through modernity (science, technology and industrial development) but on the other hand he adopts and advocates an archaic, extra-religious and conservative form of Hinduism. His love for expensive clothes and designer accessories or that fact that he married a woman who teaches in a poor Muslim area of the Gujarat capital are either ignored or dismissed as not relevant. (Hindutva promotes bachelorhood)

The Hindutva ideology has also become institutionalized with a well-defined structure of several political and religious parties that work together in great coherence. There ability to communicate quickly and effectively through all levels of the institution- from Modi to its foot soldiers- was evidenced during the riots. There was a systematic flow of information, dispersal of orders and weapons and in some cases actual directing of the mobs to Muslim dominated areas.

The events of those days brought to the forefront the threat that Hindutva has become to the nation. Instead of being reflective of the morals and peaceful ideals that make up Hinduism, its self-professed protectors take to brutality and murder. Karma is the centerpiece of Hindu philosophy. If its retribution they wanted then who better than the torchbearers of Hindutva to know Karma would take care of it.

Unfortunately the Hindutva agenda has the likes of Modi to call their own. Modi has great political appeal. His oratory skills are impressive and he has proved to easily rally the supporters and earn new ones. Under his leadership Gujarat has also attracted huge financial investments that makes him popular among the business community. After the riots, Modi was re-elected to power as Chief Minister and yet again he finds himself in a favorable position in the upcoming elections. He has muted his religious views and claims to be for all of Gujarat. Political power must be a strong drug.

Hindu's and Muslims in India suffer from a great mistrust of each other. It is not uncommon to find a loathing for each other even among the educated elite. The divide is historical and not a recent phenomenon. A country that prides itself on its secular nature and is home to people of all the world's religions is being torn apart from inside in the name of religion. Modi’s action or inaction on those fateful days is inexcusable and directly or indirectly the man has blood on his hands.

His popularity among Indians and politicians is a poor reflection on our society. It shows the apathy of many Indian citizens towards the underprivileged minorities that face grave and excessive forms of brutality. In that thirst for dollar investment and industrialization many see Modi as the face and hope of a new modern Gujarat rather than the face of intolerance and religious terrorism. Hopefully history will get the story right and Modi will get his place in the pages of infamy and injustice.

Wednesday, October 24, 2007

The Most Dangerous Nation in the World?

The great cocktail that would make Osama Bin Laden drool is apparently being served up daily in one country.

The mix of "political instability, a trusted network of radical Islamists, an abundance of angry young anti-Western recruits, secluded training areas, access to state-of-the-art electronic technology, regular air service to the West and security services that don't always do what they're supposed to do.. and ...a large and growing nuclear program" makes this country more dangerous than any other.

For these reasons and more Newsweek's cover story "Where Jihad Lives Now" (October issue) calls Pakistan rather than Iraq, Iran or Korea (the Axis of evil favorites) "the most dangerous nation in the world". The authors Ron Moreau and Michael Hirsch detail what is considered widely accepted knowledge that "Islamic militants have spread beyond the tribal areas and have the run of an unstable, nuclear-armed nation".

The article calls Pakistan a hot bed of Taliban activity with scores of supporters among the intelligence officers and military men. It calls the truce deals named "treaties with tribal elders" in the areas near the Pakistan-Afghanistan borders an eye-wash. The authors claim that the deals were made directly with militant leaders who either coerced fearful tribal leaders or had willing tribal heads as their frontmen in making the deals.

Retired Army General Talat Massod is quoted as saying that most Pakistani people and senior politicians are ambivalent about the jihadist threats to their country and livelihood seeming to believe this is solely Musharaff's war not theirs. As such people are even accepting of a Taliban presence in their cities.

Benazir Bhutto's arrival in Pakistan was marred by two suicide bombings that killed over a 100 people attending her welcome parade. Bhutto's return to active politics following several corruption charges and a self imposed exile is not entirely popular considering her willingness to cut a deal with Musharaff. Many see the deal with a military dictator as contradictory to her eagerness for the return of democracy and possibly an indication of a her being overzealous for power.

Newsweek paints a very grim picture of Pakistan. If its story holds true it could have grave consequence for the world. It remains to be seen if Musharaff with or without Bhutto can do much to steady the country and steer it away from becoming a vast sanctuary for global jihadists. India stands precariously close to Pakistan and instability of the kind being reported could have huge consequences of the like we are yet to see.