Friday, November 28, 2008

India's GDP Grows by 7.6%

PTI reports that India's GDP for the first half year of this financial year grew by 7.6%, in-line with the Central bank and the Government's estimates. The growth, the second-highest in the world in the face of a major recession, was mainly fueled by strong performance in services and construction. GDP growth in the corresponding period last year was at 9.3%.

Virtually all sectors, from manufacturing to agriculture to mining and electricity, faces a slowdown. Agriculture, which employs 60% of workers in India, grew by a mere 2.7% vs. 4.7% (YoY). However, trade, hotels, transport and communication grew by 10.8% vs. 11% (YoY), which is quite good.

The news is also accompanied by data that shows that WPI inflation fell to 8.84% from a year-high of over 12%. 

With the strong GDP growth and falling inflation, corporate India is hoping for a rate cut from the RBI. On this good news, the SENSEX was in the green today, above the 9,000 mark in spite of the terror siege in Mumbai. Shares of Tata were down.

AP in Financial Trouble

The Hindu reports that the Andhra Pradesh Government is facing a severe cash-crunch due to the global economic meltdown. The YSR Reddy-led Congress Government, which came to power in 2004 and will go into elections next year, strictly followed the Fiscal Responsibility and Budget Management (FRBM) Act, which is a federal act that mandates that all states must eliminate budget deficits by 2008-09.

The AP Govt. has been extremely successful in this direction, having recorded a budget surplus for the last two years. So confident was the Government in its fiscal abilities that this year, Finance Minister K Rosaiah set a budget of Rs. 1 trillion, historic for an Indian state (the budgets of Bangladesh and Nepal are less that that. However, when it came to funding, the Government was betting on the sale of land worth Rs. 12,000 crore.

Sadly, due to the slowdown, the state has only earned Rs. 3,000 crore, a huge shortfall. Consequently, YSR Reddy went to Delhi to plead with the Vice Chairman of the Planning Commission Montek Singh Ahluwalia for a year's exemption from the FRBM Act. This has been accepted as a genuine request from a state that is in trouble.

However, the AP Govt. is looking to raise funds on its own instead of borrowing from the Union Govt. or from the Reserve Bank of India.

Mercury Falling in Hyderabad

Cyclone Nisha, moving along the Tamil Nadu coast, has caused temperatures in Hyderabad to plummet.

Over the past few days, Hyderabadis have been waking up to abnormally cold temperatures, lowered further by chilling winds. According to the MET, cold winds blowing in from the North East have been the main reason for the sudden fall.

The Minimum temperature on Wednesday was as low as 15C (remember that India is a tropical country). To be precise, it was 14.8C. On Thursday, residents woke up to a rainy morning, and strong showers kept lashing the city throughout the day. The showers can be attributed to the Cyclone. The rain caused temperatures to fall further, and people donned sweaters and jackets to beat the cold. The power requirement also fizzled out.

Bang On

In its latest editorial, The Wall Street Journal, which has covered the Mumbai Terrorist Attack in great detail, made a strong and accurate case against the ruling UPA Government.IT accused the Government of having done next to nothing to counter the huge threat of terrorism.

The Journal criticised the political leadership, with the Congress often fighting with its alliance partners on how to tackle terrorism, but doing very little to actually tackle it. It warned that the UPA will pay a huge price at next year's general elections.

In a separate piece, a contributor criticised the Congress for having scrapped POTA (Prevention of Terrorism Act) and blocking similar legislation in various states, thereby impeding the anti-terror mechanism. Furthermore, India's intelligence agency is ill-equipped, under-staffer and under-funded. That makes India a soft target.

The Journal did miss some more politics though. ALready, Narendra Modi and Vilasrao Deshmukh are behaving like absolute children, playing politics. In AP, the President of the TDP N Chandrababu Naidu has begun blaming the UPA for all the miseries of the world, while the communal MIM has continued to raise its fingers towards the Mumbai ATS Chief (even though he is now a martyr).

That is India and Indian democracy: a stupid, bureaucratic system that has no patriotism and is corrupt from top to bottom. If it wasn't for the people, the country would have never survived.

All About Mumbai


Sri Chaitanya IIT Academy, SR Nagar, Hyderabad, Nov. 28: The raging topic of discussion in the college today was the Terrorist Strike in Mumbai, the largest of its kind since Independence and the most well-coordinated since 9/11.

Students in S1 had heated debates about it, from how the terrorists came into the Financial capital to the degree of Pakistani-connection. The students seemed well-informed about the incident, since most of them had spent the entire day glued to news channels.

The lecturers provided information whenever they could. 

Interestingly, 13 people were absent today, including three who left early. This can be attributed to the string rain caused by Cyclone Nisha. (OTFS)

'Another 9/11'

The growing condemnation of the terrorist attack on Mumbai from across the world has seen parallels being drawn between this attack and the 9/11 attack on the WTC in New York and the Pentagon.

Israel was the first to say that the attack was the worst ever since 9/11. Later through the day, security analysts and intelligence agencies said that the massive scale of coordination, the huge stash of ammunition and the sites of the attacks made it comparable in significance, if not magnitude, to 9/11.

From the Warzone

The NSG and the Army achieved a major success today by eliminating and killing all terrorists in the Hotel Oberoi Trident. Just a few hours ago, the forces also killed terrorists in Nirmal House, amid large crowds that proved difficult to control. Sadly, five Jews were killed there by the violence-embracing terrorists.

However, a raging war continues at the Taj Mahal Hotel, where an unknown number of terrorists are launching grenades and bullets at Indian forces.

All of India and the world have been closely watching the situation as it enters Day 3.

Thursday, November 27, 2008

Mumbai Attack: Taj Cleared

CNN-IBN reports that the NSG has successfully cleared the Taj Hotel in Mumbai, killing all terrorists and recovering a cell phone with a foreign SIM card. The team inside the hotel faced stiff resistance from the well-armed, well-trained terrorists, who ultimately lost because they were both outnumbered and out-witted. However, parts of the iconic hotel were damaged due to fire.

Meanwhile, the NSG and the Army are still battling it out in the Oberoi Trident Hotel, where a number of 'hostages' have already been freed. They say that they will continue into the night and will not stop until the terrorists are either killed or nabbed.

And lastly, the NSG is all set to take on terrorists at Nariman House, where a small Jewish family is being held hostage.

The Ministry of External Affairs has set up a control room. The phone numbers are: 91-11-23015300, 23012113, 23013537.

The fax number is 91-11-23018158.

Taj helpline numbers: 022 - 66574322, 66574372, 1800111825. Oberoi helpline number: 011-23890606

Mumbai Attacks: Facebook Reacts

The online community on Facebook has come out strongly condemning the terrorist attack on Mumbai. A communities such as We are Against the Terrorists Who Attacked Mumbai on Wednesday, 26/27 Nov.. have come up and membership is growing quickly.

Many angry users have called the terrorists evil forces and have expressed the desire to do something to protect the country. Others have blamed the Government for not doing anything to prevent this. 

Overall, the online community has been swift in responding to the crisis. Countless blogs have turned into realtime news websites, while others have posted details on helpline numbers. Prominent news websites and sw an explosion of hits.

OTFS also joins the chorus and condemns the blasts. Terrorists will never win in India. They will have to kill all 1 billlion+ people to do that.


India's economic capital Mumbai paid witness to the most devastating and audacious terrorist attack in Independent India's history. 

About 20-25 heavily armed terrorists, equipped with AK-47 rifles, GPS and credit cards, landed on the shores of Mumbai at the Gateway of India. This happened in the late hours of Wednesday, Nov. 26.

The gunmen started firing indiscriminately and killed several people at Cafe Leopold. They then hijacked a police car and shot bullets at virtually anything. Finally, they entered three buildings: The Taj mahal Hotel, an iconic monument, the Hotel Oberoi Trident and Nariman House, where a small Jewish community lives.

Several shootouts are taking place in the three buildings as we speak. Smoke can be seen billowing from the two hotels, while a Rabi and his family are being held hostage at the third site. According to police reports, 125 people have been killed and over 300 injured. That includes many foreigners, American and British nationals in particular.

Interestingly, the group seemed to have targeted such foreigners as eyewitnesses at the hotels revealed. Many witnesses who locked themselves up in the hotel were released by the Indian Army, but those being held hostage are in serious danger. The Indian Army and the National Security Guards (NSG) are coordinating the assault. The Indian Navy is surveying the adjoining sea and has said that it has captured the boat that carried the terrorists.

Prime Minister Manmohan Singh condemned the attacks and assured that several steps would be taking to avoid such a situation in the future, including the establishment of a Federal Authority to tackle terrorism and the application of the powerful National Secuirty Act (NSA). He also hinted that 'outsiders' were involved in the incident, a euphemism for Islamic terrorist outfits in Pakistan who have long waged jihad (holy war) against India. Ironically, Pakistan PM YR Gilani condemned the attacks, but the fact that the Pakistani Government has no control over the thousands of Islamist groups functioning in Pakistan is well-established.

UN Secretary General Ban Ki-Moon's office condemned the attacks, as did British PM Gordon Brown, NATO Secretary-General Scheffer, Afghan President Hamid Karzai, Australian PM Kevin Rudd, Chinese Premier Wen Jiabao, representatives of Israel, Canada, France, Germany, Singapore, Sri Lanka and several other countries. US President-Elect Barack Obama issued a statement expressing deep grief over the attack and faith that Indian democracy would endure all.

NDTV now reports that, according to the Police, the terrorists are all suspected to be from Pakistan. As we speak, the encounter is still taking place and has now entered its second day. This massive attack on Mumbai has shocked the world.

[With inputs from Indian media, CNN International and BBC World]

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

20 Years Ago, A Legend was Born

New Delhi Television Ltd. started out as a small, private media production company, the first of its kind in India. It all began in November, 1988 with The World This Week, the only show on foreign affairs in India, on state-run DD

Then, in the late 90s, NDTV signed a deal with Rupert Murdoch's Star and launched India's first private news channel, Star News. Presenting English news, the channel covered all the important events, including 9/11. However, NDTV and Star discontinued their alliance.

Star News moved to being a Hindi News channel, and NDTV launched two of its own channels: NDTV 24x7, India's #1 English News Channel, and NDTV India, India's top Hindi News Channel. In 2005, it launched NDTV Profit, India's #1 Business News Channel. For a good period after that, the company stuck to news.

Then, it finally broke free from the news segments and launched India's first and best lifestyle channel, NDTV Goodtimes. But before that, the company had already gone International, launching Astro Awani in Indonesia and Malaysia, and NDTV Arabia in the iddle East-North Africa. 

Then, NDTV expanded even further into the non-news segment, launching NDTV Imagine, Imagine Showbiz and NDTV Lumiere. It also launched new ventures such as NDTV Labs. In 2008, NDTV signed a cooperation agreement with NBCU.

NDTV has tracked India from the early 90s onwards, giving an Indian perspective to the world. Today, every major National news channel is somehow associated with NDTV, be it CNN-IBN (Rajdeep Sardesai) or Times Now (Arnab Goswami). The channels has taken many risks, some of them paid off, some didn't. But it's future looks bright.

With great shows such as We, The People, The Big Fight and Documentary 24x7, and the high-quality journalism, NDTV seems all set to embrace the future.

(NDTV20 Series Concluded)

Saturday, November 22, 2008

Those Days... of India

Amidst hatred, strife and blood, a nation was born. A nation built on democracy and pluralism. It shook, it faltered but it stood. But one day, the nation ended. Vikram, born into another generation, can still see the scars of those days. Those days... of India.


I hate funerals. They're long and sad. And the women cry a lot.

So why did I come to attend this one? Two reasons. One, I have to. That's the law in Gujarat: the King says so. Two, this was not any other relative, it was my grandfather. Not that I was very close to him - come now, how many of you can say you really loved all your relatives. But Kishan dadaji was different: he would always tell me stories. Stories of lands far away, of noisy cars and inspiring speeches.

"Oh, Vikram, you lazy boy! Don't just sit there, your aunt needs to drink some tea. Go and buy some milk, hurry!" You've probably guessed by now that that was my mother. I always do the chores, yet I'm the 'lazy boy.'

I always disliked walking on the streets of my grandfather's village, Surendranagar. I preferred the roads in Gandhinagar, where I lived. But of course, I really had no choice but to find some milk. Another problem with villages in the Kingdom of Gujarat is that you can never find a shop that sells anything, although if you search long and hard, you'll eventually find one.

Surendranagar is a strange village: it has strange, seemingly useless objects littered all around. No one ever cleans the place, so you can find pieces of old newspaper flying about in the wind. My grandfather used to collect old newspapers, and he left his entire collection of The Times of India (an old, out-of-business newspaper that I never read) to me. I might be able to make a quick buck off it, I suppose. 

It had been quite some time since I last visited the village, but it still looked the same. There were old banners strewn about some shops - all with Indian National Congress or Bharatiya Janata Party written on them. My grandfather told me about them once: they were these groups of people who held 'parties' and asked other people to kill their neighbours. He mentioned something about an 'Assembly' but I never saw such a thing.

Splat! A rotten newspaper just hit my face! The headline caught my attention though: INDIA DIVIDED AMONG MONARCHS, dated November, 2047. Oh, what an ancient date, I wonder why anybody would care for such old news!

"Oh, Vikram beta? So nice to see you again." It was Shakuntalaben, the village spinster and gossip-machine. She knew everything, or at least everything worth knowing. "Hello, Shakuntalaben, I'm here for dadaji's funeral."

"Oh, of course, how sad of him to die, that too just a day before he received the package he had been waiting for. Would you deliver it to your dadiji, please?" Curious, I took the package, sure to open it before handing it over. 

In Surendranagar, you have to be careful while walking, because some of the roads have collapsed statues of dead, unknown people. They were built decades ago, when the Kingdom was controlled by some people called MPs and MLAs. My grandfather told me about them: they would instigate violence among people and yet declare that all people were one. How strange! After many years of living under their cruel, tyrannical rule in the Kingdom of India (they called it a 'Republic'), the Kingdoms broke away and that's how Gujarat, my homeland, was born.

There are still some very old people in the village who lived under that cruel rule. For some reason, they seem to miss it and sing a particular song on 26 January every year. It goes something like 'Jana Gana...' I dislike it somewhat: we should be proud of our Kingdom and our King, not reminisce about some foregone state that seemed to be deeply divided anyway.

I finally found a shop that sold Tiranga Milk, the only brand my grandmother would drink (I have no idea why). Next to it was Lakhanbhai's antique shop. It was a long time since I last dropped by, so I decided to visit Lakhanbhai.

"Oh, how are you, Vikram? It's been a long time."

"Yes, bhaiya, it has. I'm doing quite well, I'm here to attend grandfather's funeral. Kingdom Laws and Customs and all, you know. So how has your business been doing? Any new artifacts?"

"Yes, have a look at this beauty. A granite pillar, carved with four lions and a chakra. Isn't it beautiful? I just hope it's a Hindu object, you know how the King dislikes objects of other religions."

"It's beautiful, I'm sure even the King would try to get hold of it! I'll met you later bhaiya, they're waiting for me back in dadiji's house."

On the way back home, I decided to take a shortcut. I wish I hadn't, because the shortcut passed by a wall that was covered in blood. Such sights are fairly common in Gujarat, they are scars of our Freedom Movement. Only after countless people were killed did we become an Independent Kingdom.

Once I reached back home, my mother was livid because I was late. But she hurried away to boil the milk. Meanwhile, I opened grandfather's secret package. It was a large tapestry, probably meant to be hung in his room. I couldn't understand why anyone would want to do that, though. For one, it was black-and-white, two colours that died out centuries ago. And second, it just had a picture of two men, whom I had never seen before.

The caption below it read - 'Mahatma Gandhi with Nehru, August 15, 1947.' My grandfather always had a taste for strange things.

Hillary Accepts?

The New York Times reports that Senator Hillary Clinton, one-time foe of President-elect Barack Obama, has accepted the post of Secretary of State after her finances and those of her husband's were scrutinised to make sure there is nothing questionabel in them.

Media reports over the last few days have indicated that Obama's transition team has been considering giving her the post, given her vast foreign policy experience and International stature.

The Secretary of State (currently Condoleezza Rice) heads of the Department of State, which handles all foreign affairs and dealings of the United States Government. 

Coup de Grand


Sri Chaitanya IIT Academy, SR Nagar, Hyderabad, Nov. 22: In a monumental change of policy, the college administration has shaked up the balance of power in the IIT Academy. After a series of discussions, the post of Principal has been elevated to that of 'dean.' 

Each campus now has a Principal and a Vice Principal. In the IIT Academy, after a lot of heated debating, Maths lecturers Mr. Vara Prasad has been appointed the Principal while Mrs. Jhansi constinues to act as the Vice Principal. Effectively, they will have to share powers between themselves, with the Principal handling academic affairs and the VP taking care of administrative affairs. For her, it is a major fall from grace as students are no longer fully accountable to her.

Students were overjoyed at hearing the news, hoping that some much-needed change would be introduced. The shake-up ends years of one-person reign and brings to power a person who is deeply respected and loved by most students. Already, all of SI (ISB) has put its weight behind him. He will however, continue to teach.

How long the system will last before it becomes unstable is unclear as of now.

The college has acquired forms for writing IITJEE-09. The forms and brochure, some of which have already been distributed in S1, are availbale in the Library and every students has to buy one. Each one costs Rs. 1000 (for boys) and Rs. 500 (for girls), plus Rs. 100 for postage. The brochure is of great importance and contains everything one needs to know.

Thursday, November 20, 2008

Do Your Country a Favour

IF you haven't gotten your Voter ID Card yet, apply for it online! And if you still can't get it, follow the instructions on to know how you can vote using alternate identification. 

Your vote counts, your country needs you. Get up, and vote!

India Leads Anti-Piracy Battle?

NDTV reports that the Indian Navy is considering increasing the number of warships, stationed near the Gulf of Aden to fight piracy, from one (INS Tabar) to four. This follows a request from the Federal Ministry of Shipping to deploy Naval Ships to protect Indian ships sailing around the 'world's most dangerous waters.'

Already, a Delhi class destroyer has set sail from Mumbai to the Port of Salalah in the Sultanate of Oman, which allows Indian ships to dock with no questions asked. There are also requests from the Navy for better logistics, including the usage of docks in Yemen and Kenya.

Meanwhile, two more developments have taken place in the Gulf of Aden region. After hijacking giant oil-carrier Sirius Star, Somali pirates took control of a Hong Kong-owned ship MV Delight, which holds seven Indians. A ransom demand is expected. Already, pirates have asked for a ransom of $25 mn for Sirius Star, a record amount. The second development is one reported by the Indian Navy: the warship stationed around the Gulf of Aden successfully set ablaze and sank a pirate mother ship, marking the biggest blow the Somali pirates have ever had. This is an unprecedented move on the part of the Indian Navy and demonstrates its capability.

In an even greater development, the transition Government in Somalia has granted permission to India, France and the US to send their navies into Somali territorial waters to chase pirates, a historic move in itself. A major problem for the anti-piracy force has been the fact that once pirates successfully navigate hijacked ships into Somali waters, they cannot be protected by the Force. Now, the three navies can chase pirates in hot pursuit, denying them a safe haven in Somali waters.

However, the Indian Navy (and navies of other countries) have warned that no single naval force can possibly keep track of the gigantic expanse of water and strong, International coordination is necessary. The Indian Navy says it would like such an arrangement to be managed, preferably, by the United Nations.

Somalia has had no functioning government since 1991 and has virtually no military capabilities. Piracy is a lucrative business here, with pirate groups being created out of militia. This year has seen a dramatic spurt of piracy off the Gulf of Aden, which is one of the busiest areas in the world.

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Rs. 10K for Samosas!

CNN-IBN reports that a Dutch couple, touring Northern India, were made to pay a whopping Rs. 10,000 for four samosas that they bought in a little stall in Bihar. Samosas, an inexpensive snack, are common in South and Central Asia.

The couple asked the shopkeeper as to why they had to pay so much and he promptly came up with the fib that his samosas contained special herbs and aphrodisiacs, absolute rubbish really. After a heated argument, the couple paid him Rs. 10,000 but complained to the police. The police detected the fraud immediately and forced the shopkeeper to pay them the money back, taking only what the samosas were worth.

In the end, the couple got back Rs. 9,990; the samosas cost just Rs. 10!

Tourists are at times fleeced by wily shopkeepers, but if they keep their heads about them and remain alert, they should be fine. Bihar is the most backward state in India, other states are somewhat safer. I recommend Rajasthan.

Morning Rebellion


Sri Chaitanya IIT Academy, SR Nagar, Hyderabad, Nov. 18: This morning, while the Principal was on rounds, he found that S1 had just 10 students by 7:50 AM (class starts from 7:30 AM). Consequently, he alerted the VP about it. She, in turn, made a few not-so-serious threats and said that she would come to college at 7:30 AM tomorrow onwards.

Interestingly, many students in S1 have been demanding that she do exactly that, but she has so far failed to listen. The VP can be seen reporting anywhere between 8:10 to 8:30 AM. However, whether she can really keep to her word is yet to be seen. It is worth noting that even the concerned lecturer comes late!

IIT Marks
The final results of yesterday's IIT UT are available FIRST with OTFS. Abhiroop tops the class by a wide margin, scoring above 360 and assured a spot in the State Top 20. Prudhvi comes in second, followed by Aditya, Sushobhan, Abhidarshan and Divya Ravi.

The college introduced the system of scrutinising the paper. The top 10 students were asked to point out the questions which they had wrongly answered so that the lecturers could understand where they were falling short.

The VP told OTFS that she was very happy with this week's performance.

Today's DPT was canceled, perhaps as a reward of sorts.

Silly Talk!

Call it the effects of an over-enthusiastic media. Some people in India, who have no clue about economics and who hardly spend anytime reading the papers, are spreading rumours that India is in a recession.

'Recession' is a fairly new word to India: we've never had one. Technically, a recession means two continuous quarters of economic contraction. Now, India's GDP grew (I repeat, GREW) by 9.3% last year and is expected to grow by 7% this year. And that's where the rumour begins.

A slowdown in growth is NOT a recession. Cyclical (short-term) bear phases do come up in expanding economies. In English, that means growth can slow down depending on various factors, but the economy won't stop growing as such.

So, next time someone tells you India is in recession, redirect him to Opinions 24x7 so that they knows exactly how wrong they are. The free media is no good: recession means anxiety, and anxiety is the stuff news channels live off.

Again, India is growing at 7% a year, WE ARE NOT IN A RECESSION!

G20 and The Hindu's Coverage

The Hindu's coverage of the G20 Summit in Washington, DC was truly excellent. Led by editor-in-chief N Ram, the newspaper gave us a ringside view of the meeting.

From De Silva's noisy comments against Bush, Manmohan Singh and Gordon Brown's economic expertise (and Bush's lack of it) to Nicolas Sarkozy's assertion that the US is not the only superpower, the newspaper covered it all. 

N Ram's personal comments on how Dr. Singh managed another economic crisis oh so many years ago also demonstrated just how seasoned a journalist he is. Kudos to him and his team for a job well done.

Monday, November 17, 2008

Wife? Wives? WIVES!

An Islamic preacher in Niger has 86 wives!

Bello, an 84-year-old preacher in Niger, has 86 wives, which is against the Shariah, Islamic Law, which allows a maximum of four wives. He lives is the town of Bida with his wives and 170 children. 

Currently, he is under pressure from other preachers to divorce 82 of his wives. He has received a number of death threats and a court has now ordered local police to provide him with protection.

Niger is a Muslim majority African country that has been enforcing Shariah for the last eight years.

Saturday, November 15, 2008

Russel Peters: When India Questioned

I admit, I never heard of Russel Peters. When NDTV announced that he was participating in the channel's India Questions programme, I was excited because I felt a comedian would be quite interesting to listen to. However, I was disappointed after watching the show.

His jokes were alright, the one on the Tamil film industry not caring about looks was hilarious. But I disliked the way he spoke. Indeed, I found him to be racist. Now, I know that it seems highly unlikely that an Asian living in Canada/America can be called racist. But that's what he seemed like to me!

His comments on how Mumbai 'smelled' (and his successive antics to justify why it didn't last long), his criticism of Indian accents, his gestures, his words: all of it smacked with a deep dislike for India and Indians. His words were spiteful, not funny.

Maybe I am one of those 'politicians' he is talking about. But I hated his words, although he seemed quite likeable as such. All in all, I'm glad he lives in North America and not here.


What is the extended merit list (EML) in IITJEE and of what use is it?

The Extended Merit List (EML) is a list that ranks students who have not qualified for admission into any of the IITs, IT-BHU, Varanasi or ISMU, Dhanbad. The EML uses marks obtained in IITJEE. The EML is used by other prestigious institutes for admission, the cut-offs being relaxed as compared to the ones in place for admission into the above mentioned institutes.

The students who are interested in admission into these institutes, listed below, should contact them directly. None of the IITs are responsible for admission into them.

The institutes covered under the EML are:
  • Indian Institute of Space Science and Technology, Thiruvananthapuram
  • Indian Institute of Science Education and Research, Mohali/Pune/Kolkata/Bhopal/Thiruvananthapuram
  • Rajiv Gandhi Institute of Petroleum Technology Society, Noida
  • Indian Institute of Maritime Studies, Mumbai
The list is subject to change. Please visit the webpage for up-to-date information. All institutes in the EML are excellent in their own fields and comparison with the IITs is unwarranted.

How to kill a Generation


Let me cut to the chase: Arjun Singh is perhaps one of the most hates, disliked and detested politicians in India. ANd his entire tenure centres around two things: the 27% OBC Reservation and the scam in the Sarva Siksha Abhiyan (SSA).

Arjun Singh forced a bill earmarking 27% of all seats in Central-aided Universities for students belonging to the so-called Other Backward Castes (OBCs). The move was accompanied by a slew of protests all across India, led by medical students in Delhi. The heartless Minister used the police to shoot down peacefully protesting students with water canons: symbolically washing away the country's future. Later on, the Supreme Court stayed the Bill, but passed it later, with a few conditions.

Given the pathetic state of schools in India, the archaic syllabus and the poor standards of teaching, one would think that the HRD Minister would channel his energy towards developing basic infrastructure at the grassroots level. But Arjun Singh was always someone who played with votebank politics: that was quite obvious during his time in Madhya Pradesh. He even 'admitted' that the 27% reservation would be useful to the Congress during elections!

The SSA Scam has come as a major shock for the Ministry. The channeling of funds earmarked for primary education shows that the Ministry of HRD is uninterested in anything but votebank politics, and does not take basic education seriously. It is a known fact that most of the people who use the reservations don't need it: they are rich, lazy, spoiled brats.

The uncontrolled mushrooming of IITs and IIMs is another failure. Lacking infrastructure and faculty, several new IITs and IIMs have been opened up just for the sake of votebank politics. Furthermore, the unilateral decision to double the number of seats in these institutions is a further dilution of standards. Lastly, the controversial decision of forcing institutions to reserve faculty posts is the final nail in the coffin.

Arjun Singh has been the worst performer in the UPA. Most Indians hate him, the images of students being shot down will forever be a shame for India. He will pay for his misdeeds come the next elections.

Ministry of HRD
General Performance: Terrible

Friday, November 14, 2008

Hillary Clinton as Secretary of State?

CNN reports that President-elect Barack Obama's transition team is considering, quite seriously, giving Sen. Hillary Clinton the post of Secretary of State (the American equivalent to External/Foreign Affairs Minister) in his new administration.

The move would find a lot of favour with the Democratic Party, which was deeply divided during the Primaries when Clinton and Obama faced off to become the party's Presidential nominees. 

Hillary Clinton, along with husband former President Bill Clinton, is widely respected in Asia and Latin America. She also finds a lot of supporters among Latinos and other ethnic groups in America and the world. Her appointment would send a signal to the world that America has chosen someone who knows Foreign affairs in and out.

Moreover, her appointment would allow a woman to continue to hold the office of the Secretary of State, after Condoleezza Rice, setting a precedent of sorts. Already, she is recognised as a tough fighter, a woman who doesn't need a shoulder to fall back on. Such a leader is just what America needs to heal its terribly tarnished image abroad.

Let me express my thanks to the historic slate of candidates who accompanied me on this journey, and especially the one who traveled the farthest, a champion for working Americans and an inspiration to my daughters and to yours, Hillary Rodham Clinton. - Barack Obama while accepting the Democratic Party nomination

BJP vs. Congress: The Indian Question

Hopefully, one of these parties will be able to muster a simple majority so that the executive can be backed by the legislature. The era of coalition governments has proved detrimental for India.

Thursday, November 13, 2008

State Elections Coming Up


Five states head for elections in the net few weeks, inclduing the crucial state of Jammu and Kashmir. It begins with Chattisgarh tomorrow. The results of the elections will be crucial in predicting the outcome of the 2009 Federal Elections.

Out of Sight, not Out of Mind

If the Vilasrao Deshmukh-led Congress Coalition Government in Maharashtra thinks that by banning the film  Deshdrohi ('national traitor'), people will not watch, it has another thing coming. The best way to make sure that everyone does something is banning it.

Deshdrohi is a small-budget film centred around the Raj Thackeray-led anti-North Indian movement in the state. The movie's dialogues have been making some noise of late, particularly the ones that inspire people not to bow down to politicians.

I do hope the Supreme Court overturns this illegal ban. Banning something will not solve he greater debate, it will only give it time to boil further.

Wednesday, November 12, 2008



The benefits of tourism are innumerable: it provides much-needed foreign exchange, indirect employment to millions of small traders and also bolsters transnational understanding. But effective tourism requires an effective plan. With that in mind, Ambika Soni launched the Incredible India ("!ndia") campaign. And what a success it has been!

The Incredible India brand has gone far and wide, becoming popular in Europe and the US and also East Asia and the Middle East. Promoting India as a major tourist attraction has yielded many benefits. Ambika Soni's successful campaign propped up the state economies of Goa and Rajasthan, which have now become International tourist spots.

It was also under Ambika Soni that the Taj mahal was declared one of the seven modern wonders of the world. her Ministry used this effectively, marketing the story of the ancient monument. Today, the Taj Mahal is not just a wonder of love but also of effective, dedicated marketing. 

The Ministry was so dedicated to its work that it seized every opportunity to spread the India brand. One incident that comes to mind is the Big Brother controversy, where the racism-accused was invited to spend a few enlightening days in India through an ad in major dailies in London. This was surely a marketing coup: at a time when all of Britain was talking about India (or an Indian, Shilpa Shetty), the opportunity was just right to capitalise on it!

However, the ministry's downfall has been the issue of safety of tourists: deceiving traders still run the scene, while being raped in Goa (and not getting any justice) has become part of the experience. This single issue has been a major problem, although it goes beyond a single Ministry.

Overall, Ambika Soni's dedication has remained unquestionable. She has done a good job. Of course, lots more is still left to do: developing Nalanda as a Buddhist tourist attraction, in extension to India's Look East Policy, for example. But the work done by her in the last five years has laid the foundation for greater tourism in the future.

General Performace: Excellent

DB: GM Shares worth $0

An analyst at Deutsche Bank has called shares of General Motors worthless, setting a price target of $0 as the auto giant faces the spectre of bankruptcy and a government bailout.

The company, which has been at the receiving end of a huge International recession in its key markets, needs $10-25 bn just to stay afloat and avoid bankruptcy. Even if it manages to avoid bankruptcy without a government bailout, it will be unable to manufacture anything. However, DB says that it is unlikely that anything but the Government can save the company.

Last week, GM and rival Ford Motors posted huge losses for the previous quarter. GM has fired thousands of employees and plans to fire more in order to avoid bankruptcy.

Six Months to go for IITJEE

IITJEE-09 will be held on April 12, 2009 across India and in Dubai. As of today, there are exactly six months to go.

By now, most of the sylabus must have been completed. Now is the time for revision tests and practice. IITJEE is a dream for many. But it is not the end. Give it your best shot and leave the rest to life.

Good Luck!

Ambition, thy name is Fashion

FASHION (2008)

Producer: Ronnie Screwvala for UTV Motion Pictures, Bhandarkar Entertainment
Director: Madhur Bhandarkar
Starring: Priyanka Chopra, Kangana Ranaut, Arjan Bajwa, Mughda Godse and others
Rating: ***** (5 of 5)
The censor board gave this movie an 'A' Rating (18+)

Few care about the real lives behind the artificial world of fashion. Every model has a tale, every collection has a human story. Fashion, the Rs. 18 crore film by veteran director Madhur Bhandarkar, is a well-researched, well-presented blockbuster that tackles these issues.

Meghna Mathur (Priyanka Chopra) is a small-town girl from Chandigarh whose dreams became too big for her little town. In Mumbai, she faced the struggle associated with becoming a model. Her ambition: to take over the reigns from India's top supermodel, Shonali (Kangana Ranaut). During her climb to the top, she meets new faces, including Manav (Arjan Bajwa), the man she loves and ditches. 

The opening scenes of the movie are beyond excellence: Kangana Ranaut spreading her arms out to the tune of the smash hit Mar Jawaan is unforgettable. Her story is sad: from fame and glory to defeat and shame, she faces it all as she watches Meghna spread her wings.

But the real emotion behind the film is ambition: success is never enough, and a successful person scarcely notices the steep cliff they are climbing, until they fall off. The movie is as much a depiction of the fashion world as it is of human emotion.

The costumes are beyond comment: Priyanaka Chopra herself wore 136 outfits for the movie. Kangana Ranaut's black gown in the opening scenes take the wind out of you. The lighting, scenes, story: all of them were superb and no amount of praise is enough. The music starts just at the right moments: no silly dancing girls, every song, from Mar Jawaan (my favourite) to Fashion ka Jalwa, had a role to play.

The acting was the main highlight: each emotion was portrayed so well that you could feel the ambitious streak in Maghna, cry for Shonali and understand the realities of being gay in India. The actors give you an insight into your own mind.

Even if you are not interested in fashion, Fashion is a movie you have to watch. Every dark trait of human character can be found here: some character will remind you of yourself. This movie is Bhandarkar's very best: that's reason enough to watch it.

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

Do we need a Presidential System?

Margaret Alva's resignation from the AICC has cracked the Congress Party wide apart. A major question has now come to the fore: why do politicians feel that they constituency is their personal kingdom and their children/friends/relatives own it by birth?

The problem with Indian politics - indeed politics, in South Asia and to a smaller extent, in the US - is that of political dynasties. Did we rid ourselves of the British so that we can be ruled by uncouth politicians? Weren't the maharajas better then: at least they openly declared that they ruled the place? 

What should we do? Well, in my opinion, we need to look back at the formative days of Indian democracy. According to Dr. BR Ambedkar, India chose a Westminster-style of government in order to create continuous accountability of the executive - that has not worked. Where is the question of accountability when an MP/MLA expects to be elected by birth?

So now, I think it is time we think of introducing a Presidential system. I am not a 'neo-liberal' who wants to copy the US top to bottom: I am a concerned citizen who fears for the future of this country. A Presidential system will not solve the problem in the legislature: dynastic politics will continue. But at least the executive, which I believe is more important to the people, will be rid of it. At least the President will have to place himself/herself before the nation and will not be able to win a vote simply as a birthright. 

But it's easy to say all this: is it possible for India to transform into a Presidential democracy? No, at least not in the near future. But it is not impossible. Sri Lanka did it. So did a host of other countries. Latin American countries regularly draft new constitutions. History tells us that when people are absolutely frustrated with successive weak governments, revolution takes place. That will happen in India, and it might end up changing the entire system (to what I don't know) or it might lead to an end to the Union. But something will give eventually.

ABVP Bandh Tomorrow


Sri Chaitanya IIT Academy, SR Nagar, Hyderabad, Nov. 11, 2008: A bandh call by the BJP-youth wing ABVP has forced the college management to declare tomorrow a holiday for all sections. The bandh has been called to highlight the dangers of illegal Bangaldeshi migrants in the North Eastern states of India.

OTFS fully supports the cause. (OTFS)

800 Strong

This post marks the 801st post on Opinions 24x7. In just a year and a half, OTFS has grown from a little political blog to one that boasts of hundreds of hits a day. Last year, we  successfully carried out our 2007 Indian of the Year. We are happy to announce that this year, we will be doing it again. The nominations have begun and the winners will be declared in March, 2009.

Also, two much-awaited documentaries await our readers next year. The Cursed Generation breaks the walls of secrecy around the inhuman Corporate Junior College system in Andhra Pradesh in bold, honest words. 

The Story of Sikkim: The Monarchy, the Annexation and the Union will talk about one of India's forgotten states, Sikkim, and its difficult times in the 1970s. The documentary will try to learn how a small, Independent Himalayan kingdom, caught in a CIA controversy, became the 22nd State of the Indian Union. 

Indian Navy Foils Hijack

CNN-IBN reports that the Indian Navy, near the Gulf of Aden off the Somali coast, foiled a hijack bid by pirates. The waters of the Gulf have gained notoriety for uncontrolled piracy there.

A vessel owned by Great eastern Shipping Company, MV Jag Arnav, sent an SOS after pirates attacked the home bound ship. INS Tabar picked up the message and sent an aerial team to attack the pirates, who beat a hasty retreat. Moments later, the Indian warship entered the scene and escorted the vessel ship into safe waters as it returned home to India.

The Gulf of Aden is one of the busiest trade routes in the world, carrying goods (including crude oil) from Asia to Europe and American and vice versa. The region is also considered to be extremely prone to piracy: 83 vessels have been hijacked this year.

Keeping the safety of Indian assets in mind, the Government decided to send some warships to protect Indian ships there. The move has been appreciated by UN Secretary General Ban Ki-Moon. Clearly, it was a wise move.

Monday, November 10, 2008

Bush's ONLY Success

This might be heresy in India, but lets be fair: George Bush gave India a lot. He blasted a hole big enough for a billion people in the NSG and IAEA. He signed a treaty for defence cooperation. He cancelled many meetings, but none with Manmohan Singh.

Indeed, Bush has been an excellent American President for India. It was his administration (following the Clinton administration) that permanently de-hyphenated India and Pakistan. He has not played an activist role in Kashmir, neither has he wrecked outsourcing.

Of course, he was terrible for the rest of the world. The invasion of Iraq was good for democracy but terrible for everything else: thanks to Bush, India is now surrounded by failing states and faces increasing animosity in its sphere of influence.

But at the same time, Bush propelled India out of its South Asian shell and into the 'big league.' We did not get a P5 membership,but we have been given a lot of chances to flex our muscles abroad. Bush's visit to India in 2005 was watched by millions - mostly out of curiosity. For, many wondered if India had indeed become so powerful that the President of the United States should come for a two-day visit.

India is George Bush's only foreign policy success: the seeds of friendship, trust and cooperation that he sowed will bear fruit generations hence. Lets hope that Barack Obama continues. If not, as The Hindu described it, an 'unabashed lovefest,' certainly more than just a neighbour-of-Pakistan. The US has little choice anyway: either India, Japan and China balance power in Asia, or China becomes the next Soviet Union. The choice is simple.

The Problem is Pseudo-Secularism

Is the BJP a communal party? Yes, it is. Is the Congress secular? The answer isn't so obvious.

The situation is what many call pseudo-secularism, in other words, committing acts that can be termed as communalism and yet using the tag of secularism. If you ask me, that's EXACTLY what the Congress is.

Perhaps the best example of this pseudo-secularism is Andhra Pradesh Minister for Minorities Welfare and Power, Md. Ali Shabbir. Here is a man who pokes fun at the BJP for being communal, yet gives a damn for any community but his own Muslim community. He has ruined Hyderabad's power situation, with power cuts becoming so common that people in some of the outskirts get six hours of power, not power-cuts! Even members from his own party, and of course the entire opposition, questioned his leadership in the Legislative Assembly of the State of Andhra Pradesh.

But Mr. Shabbir doesn't really seem to care. There are hardly any reports about him doing something about the power situation, yet he made it his top priority to create a special Haj terminal in the new International Airport, making it the first Airport in India to have a religious structure - a mosque, in this case - in it. Citizens have written in the papers that he should not do this, because it would ruin the secular nature of India. There is no need for religious architecture to be set up in places of common interest. But he didn't listen: he was busy walking around Old City during Ramdan to ensure that people (Muslims, to be specific) had no problems. I wish he'd walk around Ameerpet and breathe in the stench of overflowing sewage too!

But this is the problem with the Congress: minority appeasement in the name of secularism is threatening the very social fabric of India. The Congress has rejigged secularism to mean - in LK Advani's words - an allergy towards Hindus. What else could have prompted the Government to tell the Supreme Court that Lord Rama never existed? Or to declare that minorities have the 'first right' over India's resources? 

India is perhaps the only country in the world that provides a Haj subsidy: taxpayers' money being used to send pilgrims to Mecca, something that Muslims in other countries would detest, since a Muslim, as I understand, is supposed to save up his entire life to fund this great journey. Again, Md. Ali Shabbir has devoted most of his tenure to see off these pilgrims: the car ride was paid for by the taxpayers, of course. The Haj subsidy system was created by the Congress. The Shah Bano case and its horrible outcome was also because of the Congress. Afzal is still alive because of the Congress.

The best solution would be to forget religion: let secularism mean 'no religion.' Religion is a personal matter, the Government should not get into it. Pseudo-secularism is far more dangerous that communalism: the latter comes out of the blue and disappears just as far, while the former stays for a long time, eating away society bit by bit. Pseudo-secularism is a manifestation of apartheid: if the Congress continues, it will meet the same fate.

India's Pride and Joy

Generations hence will scarcely believe that a cricketer of his stature walked upon the earth.

Saturday, November 8, 2008

IOTY08: Best New Channel

The nominations are:

  • World Movies: UTV
  • IBN Lokmat: GBN & Lokmat
  • NDTV Imagine: NDTV
  • NDTV Lumiere: NDTV
  • UTVi Business News: UTV
  • Colors: Viacom18

The 2008 OTFS Indian of the Year

Coming soon in 2009

Assam shows the way

After the recent bomb blasts in Assam - the worst ever in the North Eastern state - the people of Guwahati did something that their counterparts in other parts of India did not: they went on an absolute rampage, demanding an explanation from the Government. They questioned the legitimacy of the Government: after all, with hundreds of deaths and dozens of bombings across India over the past few months alone, how could the Government continue?

It's not that I support violence: there are better ways of expressing dissatisfaction. But the absolute defeat of the Government at the hands of jihadists has left citizens exasperated. India is not safe: every time we step out for a walk, we wonder if we will come back alive. People have died around us, threatening e-mails are being sent like spam and frisking in every public location has become a way of life. Is this how we are supposed to live?

The mob at Guwahati was controlled by the police, but when all of India gangs up, what are the politicians going to do? Blame Bangladesh and Pakistan? Look for communal overtones to distract people from the point?

You can fool all the people sometimes. You can fool some people all the time. But you can't fool all the people all the time. And in 2009, India will give its verdict.

The Midas Touch


The Indian Railways is the largest PSU of its kind in the world. Ferrying millions of passengers across millions of miles each day, the Railways have historically played an important role in development and connectivity, allowing millions of people to travel across this great nation.

However, the picture was not so rosy when the UPA Government took charge. The Railways was considered an inefficient, corrupt, loss-making system that frequently needed major government bailouts. Service was poor, food quality was abysmal and punctuality was unheard of. To top it off, cleanliness on trains and platforms was rare.

In came RJD President Lalu Prasad Yadav. He began his term by trying to increase the number of people using the Railways. He took strong steps to improve punctuality, and many people actually witnessed their train arriving on time for the first time in their lives! He didn't stop there: Lalu Yadav started outsourcing secondary jobs to private players, thus improving efficiency and standards.

As Lalu's plans started coming into effect, history was made. In spite of huge competition from low cost air carriers, the Indian Railways posted a gigantic profit of Rs. 25,000 cr, only to top it a year later! Thus, the country's worst undertaking, in fiscal terms, became one of it's best. By improving freight rates, expanding infrastructure and progressively lowering ticket prices, Lalu Yadav turned the Indian Railways into a slick, profit-making bloodline, traversing the country.

A major feature of Lalu Yadav's tenure has been the annual rail budget: business channels spent hours discussing, speculating and debating the event. Moreover, people also watched the budget enthusiastically, some because they were sincerely interested in hearing the budget, others for the sheer entertainment that Lalu Yadav promises!

However, his only shortcoming was security. The Mumbai blasts proved that the Indian Railways are not well protected. However, some steps have been taken to avoid a repetition, but those are not enough.

Lalu Yadav proved an angel in disguise for millions of porters (coolis). Until 2008, they worked as casual labourers, with no social security or fixed income. In 2008, Lalu Yadav made them all Central Government employees, thus giving them a guaranteed income for their hard work and bringing stability to their homes. Lalu Yadav also introduced the SmartCard for Mumbai in an attempt to mix modernity with tradition. Speaking of modernity, Lalu Yadav, who struggles to speak in English, has deliviered lectures at leading B-Schools around the world and has beem acknowledged as a great manager.

'Chak de Railways' was a term Lalu coined in 2008 to highlight the success of his administration. I would like to take it a step further: Chak de Lalu! He has been one of the best performers in the UPA Government.

The Indian Railways
General Performace: Excellent

S2, S3 clubbed with NEON Campus


Sri Chaitanya IIT Academy, SR Nagar, Hyderabad, Nov. 8, 2008: In a controversial development, the college has now begun clubbing the second and third sections, SIIT2 and 3, with those in the AIEEE (NEON) Campus.

The news became apparent when the sections were asked to come tomorrow, Sunday, for an exam. The exam will be conducted along with the AIEEE Campus, thus enlarging the number of participating students. Officially, these students are simply Sr. ICON students, though the college's only objective is to get them through EAMCET, OTFS has learned. These students are paying the same fees as those in S1 though.

Meanwhile, today's EAMCET test, held for S1 and all ISB sections around the state, ended on a bright note with expectations of high marks. OTFS currently projects that the highest mark in S1 would be 130-140. The state highest could be well above 150.The paper was described as a balanced one, the right mix for EAMCET.

JUST IN| IPE 2009 Schedule
The following is the schedule for the 2009 Intermediate Public Examination for Second Year:

  1. Practical Exam from Feb. 2 to 21
  2. Second Language: Mar. 5
  3. English: Mar. 7
  4. Maths 2A: Mar. 10
  5. Maths 2B: Mar. 13
  6. Physics: Mar. 16
  7. Chemistry: Mar. 18
Source: The Hindu, Nov. 8, 2008; dates are tentative

Chandrayaan-1 Enters Lunar Orbit

ISRO's team of scientists and engineers today declared Chandrayaan-1 a success with the satellite being placed in the moon's orbit with pin-point accuracy. The nearly-Rs. 400 cr project entered its most critical phase today, and ISRO handled it with skill.

According to PTI, the satellite entered a zone where the earth's gravitational field nearly cancels out that of the moon, a zone which could have thrown Chandrayaan into deep space or on a crash course towards earth. The right combination of thrust was necessary to avert a disaster, and ISRO did it successfully. It is worth mentioning that 30% of all American and Soviet lunar missions failed at this stage.

However, the cot of the mission has been hotly debated. Although the cheapest yet most advanced lunar mission so far, Chandrayaan-1 has sadly been described by some as unnecessary. I beg to apart. Apart from the potential fuel reserves (of Helium-3), the high-resolution imaging technology developed during this mission will prove useful in the years to come.

On a more profound level, Indians have always dealt with Science and Technology. Our puranas are treasure-chests of scientific information and our great epics come with scientifically recorded events and objects. In short, India means science. To put a price tag on exploration and scientific research would be a disaster. The benefits of such missions are known decades after they begin, that does not mean that they are pointless. Chandrayaan-1 represents a deep hunger for scientific knowledge, a hunger that has fueled civilisations including our own. Money cannot be allowed to come in the way of science.

As former President APJ Abdul Kalam said, every Indian should be proud of Chandrayaan. Unlike China, we have not made this an instrument to spread propaganda. India's moon mission is an International collaboration, not a closed-doors affair. This proves yet again that science has no boundaries.

US08: OTFS Reporting

For Opinions 24x7, reporting on the US Presidential Elections has been an engrossing and extremely educative experience. I learned a lot about a non-Westminster style of government, took inspiration from speeches and even understood, partly, the complexity of race in America.

US08 has been our second largest series (after SC24x7). From covering the Obama-Hillary battle during the Primaries (we supported Hillary Clinton) to the final Presidential campaign: we saw it all and loved it. 

However, now that Barack Obama has gone from Senator to President-elect, the time has come for us to wrap up this series. The final post will be written on Jan. 20, 2009, the day President-elect Obama officially becomes the new President. 

The Duo for Change

Tuesday, November 4, 2008

Let's go to College

What is an electoral college and why is it so important?

Many people around the world, and many Americans themselves, are in the delusion that they are directly voting for the US President on November 4. This is not true: they are actually voting for the electors who would make up the Electoral College.

The electoral college system is an example of indirect elections. As per the US Constitution, while the people vote directly for members of Congress, the President is an executive elected by a federation of states. Thus, the Constitution leaves it to states to decide a system to elect the President.

Every state follows an Electoral College system. When Americans go out to vote on November 4 (or even before, if they can), they will actually be voting for the electoral college. But they are asked to state their choice of President so that the winner would be an elector who would in turn vote for that candidate. 

Let's take an example to explain that. Say a particular village votes for Obama on November 4. What has actually happened is that the people there have said that they want Obama to become President and so, an elector who pledges to vote for Obama is sent to the electoral college. There are 538 electors in all: the sum total of the number of members in the House of Representatives, the Senate and some electors from the District of Columbia (DC). The winning candidate must win 270 electoral votes or more.

Is there a chance that an elector breaks his or her pledge and votes for another candidate or doesn't vote at all? Absolutely. However, in 24 states, there are laws for preventing that from happening. However, the apathy the defector would receive from parties is far greater punishment. However, it has happened before. It is also important to note that an elector cannot be a member of any legislature in the United States.

India also follows an electoral college system to elect the ceremonial President. However, the electoral college is elected by legislators from around the country, not directly by the people. This is another example of indirect election.

What happens in case nobody wins a majority of votes in the Electoral College?

According to the US Constitution, in case a President is not decided by the Electoral College, the decision is left to the House of Representatives, where members vote in blocks based on the state they represent (this has happened twice before in history). In case the House is also unable to come to a decision, the incoming Vice President becomes the Acting President.

In case no decision can be made on the next Vice President, the decision is left to the Senate, where each of the 100 members gets a vote and the winner must have more than half the members present, which has to be at least two-thirds of its membership. 

In case the House cannot decide on a new President and the Senate can't decide on a Vice President, the Speaker of the House of Representatives becomes the acting President.

Voting Begins in the US

Voting for the historic US Presidential election has beun in all parts of the United States. The citizens of America are voting in electors to the electoral college, who would in turn vote for the President and Vice President on December 15, 2008.

Alrady, Sen. Barack Obama has voted in Illinois. Sen. Hillary Clinton and former President Bill Clinton have also voted. As for the few results that are out, Dixville Notch, NH, a little town, voted for Obama, breaking their forty-year old Republican bias.

Voting began at around 5:30 PM IST (IST is UTC+5:30) and will go on for several hours more. However, by early morning in India tomorrow, the final results would be out.

Then, unless soemthing goes wrong (and it has before), the electors would elect the candidate who won the popular vote as the next President.