Saturday, January 31, 2009

Longest Day in College

January 30, 2009 will go down as the longest day I ever spent in college. First, I came to college at 7:30 AM, whereas actual classes began at 8:30 AM. After some boring classes, practicals began at 1:00 PM. We had to climb six flights of stairs to reach the labs in Campus 4. Once there, we performed various experiments (titration, salt analysis and functional group identification) for a good three hours. Everyone was exhausted at the end.

But for me and three other classmates, the day hadn't ended yet. After a small battle with the JL, the four of us managed to get a special session in the Physics lab. So at 4:30 PM, we climbed up to the sixth floor again, where a wonderful female JL in the lab agreed to demonstrate all the experiments, rather than just the three we wanted to see. I must admit, personally, it was a bit strange being the only boy (okay, the male JLs were there too, but you get it) in a class full of girls, since Campus 4 is the AIEEE Girls' campus. Nevertheless, the practical exams were approaching!

We cleared our doubts in three major experiments (Sonometer, Inclined Plane and Diodes), learned how to properly use a Physical Balance, Screw Gauge and Vernier Callipers, and discovered a set of experiments the entire class had not performed, such as those related to heat and Surface Tension. What the class will do without knowledge of this, I have no idea. Quite frankly, I don't care.

We left only at 7:30 PM, by which time the AIEEE Campus and indeed, all of SR Nagar, had cleared out. After an embarrassing situation with our bags (the watchman came to the rescue at the end), one of the girls an I took an auto, and she dropped me home on the way. My legs were soar like never before: I was standing for over six continuous hours, with no food or water. I inhaled the most obnoxious fumes in the Chem Lab and nearly had my foot crushed in the Phy Lab.

And I reached home at around 8:00 PM, the longest I've ever been in college. And my mother was quite livid. But the sheer pain in my feet melted her, and I had an early dinner, read the paper, and slept like a log.

Jan, 30 was quite a day.

Google's 'Potentially Harmful' Glitch




















Google Search users who used the world's most popular search engine today were in for a rather rude shock. Due to what Google calls a 'human error,' every search result carried the message 'This site may be potentially harmful to your computer.' Now, when I attempted to open a link to the very innocent Wikipedia, Google sent me the same message and prevented me from accessing the page via Google.

Interestingly, pages associated with Google - such as Google Book search - were not affected by the glitch, although that could be because of the internal coordination between Google's verticals. 

The glitch has now been repaired.

Thursday, January 29, 2009

Attendance Dwindles as Practical Exams near

WEEK 89 DAY 4


Sri Chaitanya IIT Academy, SR Nagar, Hyderabad, Jan. 29: The attendance rate in S1 has fallen sharply, with students wither preparing for the ICON Grand Test Series (IGTS) beginning from Saturday, or the IPE Practicals, beginning from Monday.

All the guirls and about a fourth of the boys were absent today, giving the class an empty look. Among those preent, the vast majority came just to get their records attested and attend the special practical session, which was eventually canceled.

Upon hearing of the cancelation, some influential students stormed the Principal's Office and demanded that they be allowed to practise in the lab. The Principal assured them that he would try his best to grant them permission. The Intermediate Public Examination Practicals (IPEPR) will begin from Feb. 2 and go on for over two weeks. OTFS will be covering the event.

Interestingly, lecturers assued students that they would get excellent marks in the exam and asked them not to worry. Apparently, BIE's promises to ensure strict evaluation has gone up in smoke! However, students have been asked to be ready for the theory/viva voce section.

Liliput Series
OTFS has learned exclusively that students of the IIT Academy would be given a copy of the 'Liliput Series,' a summary of the entire syllabus. Also, admission tests for Sri Chaitanya Techno Schools would be conducted on Sunday, Feb. 1.

Also, Sushobhan Sen of S1 was congratulated by the VP for securing the top rank in the State in the last AIEEE Part Test. 

In other news, the Sanitation Department has once again begun digging up the road in front of the college for repair works, causing great inconvenience.

The IPE Enviromental Education test will be held for Jr. Inter students tomorrow. (OTFS)

OTFS will be covering the IPEPR exam on Feb. 7 and 8, with in-depth analysis and tips.

Monday, January 26, 2009

Republic Day to me...

Republic Day is one of the three major public holidays in India, along with Independence Day and Mahatma Gandhi Jayanti. The Day was created to mark the adoption of the Indian Constitution as the highest legal document of the land.

While Gandhi Jayanti is meant to remember the Father of our nation and Independence Day to honour our freedom fighters, Republic Day is of a different nature: it is meant to look towards the future. 

Democracy has triumphed in India even as it stumbles elsewhere. The Constitution stands today, the envy of other countries. Republic Day reminds us that the only way to progress is to secure the dignity of humankind. It reminds us of our dedication to fraternity, justice and liberty. It reminds us of the magnanimous task we have ahead. 

This, the 60th Republic Day, serves also as a reminder of our spirit of resilience. In 2008, India bled: terrorist attacks, communal violence and regional chauvinism all came together to launch a massive attack on Indian identity. Yet we triumphed. And we will triumph, again and again. terrorists cannot overpower our will. Our spirit is too great, our faith towards democracy too powerful. We will not cow down, we will not be defeated.

On the occasion of Republic Day, I greet my fellow Indians. Jai Hind!

Celebrations Across India

While President Pratibha Patil and Kazakh President Nursultan Nazarbayev took in the festivities of the 60th Republic Day in New Delhi, Indians in other parts of India and the world also celebrated.

In every State Capital, from Srinagar in Jammu and Kashmir to Bengaluru in Karnataka, the Governor of the State and the Chief Minister participated in parades and delivered speeches. The Constitution places the responsibility on State Governments to support their people, and Republic Day serves as an excellent occasion to remember that responsibility.

Not just in India, Indian Embassies across the world, from Kabul to Washington, DC to Tel Aviv, the Indian diaspora came together to mark the day. Traditionally, the Indian tricolour is raised and the Ambassador/Consul General of India delivers a speech. That is exactly what took place in over a hundred countries on January 26, 2009.

Greeting came in from around the world to the President's table. US President Barack Obama greeted the Indian people on the occasion, and assured them that India has no greater friend and partner than the American people. 

And most importantly, schools, colleges and universities across India celebrated the day with cultural programmes. The message was clear: the Indian Republic stands strong and powerful, 60 years after it was created by the power of the People. 

India Celebrates 60th Republic Day

The time has come for every Indian to redeem the pledge to uphold the values of the Constitution as India celebrates another momentous Republic Day. The Supreme Commander of the Armed Forces, President Pratibha Devisingh Patil, along with Vice President Hamid Ansari and Chief Guest, the President of Kazakhstan Nursultan Nazarbayev, observed the festivities at the Republic Day Parade in New Delhi.

The Indian Armed Forces, long with the admired National Security Guards, put up a grand show of strength. Marching with elegance and firmness, our soldiers displayed their skills. The Indian Air Force put up a spectacular air show, showing off the miracles of human and machine. 'The Daredevils' once again the gathering with their feats. 

The cultural programmes were spectacular. Keeping with tradition, a float from each State was displayed. From the hills of Manipur to the rice fields of Andhra Pradesh, the parade was an amalgamation of diversity and a plural society that can only be described as quintessentially Indian. Various social causes were also displayed, as were India's achievements in the fields of space exploration and disaster management. 

The crowds took it all in, amazed at the spectacle that the Parade was. From dignitaries to diplomats to citizens, everyone cheered when the heroes of India - brave children, policemen and martyrs of 26/11 - were honoured by the President. The 60th Republic Day marked the wounds of 26/11, still so fresh, and the unprecedented security arrangements proved that we had not forgotten.

The Day was also significant because it was the first Republic Day in which the Prime Minister did not participate in the events (he is recovering from a bypass surgery at AIIMS). In his place, Defense Minister AK Antony performed his duties, mainly because the Republic Day Parade is organised by the Ministry of Defense. The Chief Guest, the Kazakh President, seemed impressed by the proceedings. Just yesterday, he and President Patil oversaw the signing of a landmark Civilian Nuclear Pact.

To close the event, the President's battalion raised the Flag and the National Anthem was played. India was united, and the pledge was redeemed.

Roadies 6: Fight Club

Episode 3 (Part 1): Udaipur

All's not well at Camp Roadies. If the last two episodes saw just a small degree of bickering, Episode 3 was a full-blown battle.

Tamanna proved to be a scheming, tactful girl. A major spat over alleged attacks on her 'reputation,' an attempt to commit suicide and a nearly-physical fight with Palak: Tamanna could have put Ekta Kapoor to shame! If Nauman, the man in the eye of the storm, hadn't thrust himself in between the two girls, Tamanna would have surely needed Paulomi's makeup kit for a while. Sadly, the animosity seemed to linger on for the money task.

The task for the week was a celebration of ethnic Rajasthani dance. Now, some of the Roadies were quite good at dancing (kudos to Devarshi for his spirit) but that didn't mean they were good at traditional dancing. So with a lot of practice (which also saw quite a bit of fighting, courtesy Bobby and Sandeep), the Roadies were asked to dance before a large audience. While the judges observed them, the audience was asked to pelt them with shoes. And what colourful sandals flew! While the first set of girls were spared, the others faced a barrage of footwear, with Devarshi taking one right in his face. Eventually, the red Brats triumphed again, adding Rs. 30,000 to their account, now swelling at Rs. 80k. The Om Blues were left broke, and certainly weren't happy about it.

But the fighting didn't end there. Sandeep and Pradeep took it upon themselves to rag Devarshi, who took it without any visible signs of even caring. Being the target of several dares, being rudely ordered to stop smiling and being kicked in the stomach: Devarshi took it all. Sandeep made his hatred towards Devarshi clear, and he stoked the flames between Dev and Pradeep. Nauman chose to stay by Dev: a wise decision.

On Facebook, Tamanna has been condemned for treating this show like a pointless soap opera, and Pradeep condemned for being a bully. Devarshi won quite a lot of admirers for his resilience and Nauman lost a lover. The signs are clear: the audience is losing patience, and only a challenging, Roadies-style immunity task can keep the interest alive.

Tuesday, January 20, 2009

President Obama Sworn in to Office

After years of campaigning and watching the US economy and foreign policy degenerating, Barack Hussein Obama was finally sworn in as the 44th President of the United States on Capitol Hill today. 

In the most expensive inauguration in history (billed at $170 million), the Chief Justice of the Supreme Court read out President Obama's oath over the same bible used by President Abraham Lincoln, making history. Before him, Vice-President Joe Biden was sworn in.

In his inauguration speech, the new President spoke of the hard times ahead for Americans, but reminded them that the nation had been through far worse. He reached out to the Muslim world and promised to be a friend to all nations. He sent out a strong warning to terrorists, telling them that "we will win." He quoted from previous Presidents, including President Lincoln. 

Every word of his speech was taken in by the two million-strong crowd, including VIPs like former President Bill Clinton and SoS-nominee Hillary Clinton, (former) President Bush and his Vice-President, Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi and others. 

Many in the audience shed a few tears, amazed at the sight of the first African-American President. After the inauguration, the President attended a luncheon with members of Congress, followed by the grand Inauguration Parade. In the meantime, former President George W Bush and wife Laura Bush left for Texas, leaving a long, controversial legacy behind.

Today is a day of celebration for President Obama. Tomorrow, will be a new, hard day.

Monday, January 19, 2009

Inside Alex's Kitchen

Restaurant Review
Alex's Kitchen
(Chinese Restaurant)
Gagan Mahal,
Himayath Nagar,
Hyderabad - 29
Phone: 040-23220548

Rating: **** (4 of 5)

Chinese food in Hyderabad can take many shapes. From the street vendors whose Chinese food if very Indian to the high-end restaurants like Mainland China, the food takes many forms in the City of Pearls. In the midst of all the options, Alex's Kitchen stands as a small, but homely, restaurant. 

The ambiance of the place is very good: warm and welcoming. The tables were a bit crowded, but that didn't hinder the people waiting outside for a table. The service was fast and sprightly. The decorations - a mix of Chinese ornaments and dim lighting - made for a cosy lunch.

Now, coming to the food. It was very good. I personally recommend the Wanton Soup and the Spring Rolls, although the latter needed some ketchup. For the health-conscious non-veggies out there, the restaurant offers a Clear Chicken Soup, which is quite innovative. The quality of the food was excellent, while the quantity was quite reasonable. The restaurant had some unique preparations, including a vast variety of Fried Rice. Drinks included popular soft drink brands and mineral water (on request). The gravy was delicious, with the vegetables stir-fried just right.

Overall, Alex's Kitchen is an excellent place for a trip with family or friends. The prices are quite reasonable: a heavy meal for three, including starters and the main course, cost us just Rs. 500, which would have easily gone up to Rs. 1,000 in other restaurants. I strongly recommend Alex's Kitchen, both for the excellent food and the ambiance. 

Interestingly, the restaurant doesn't serve any dessert, but one can find an ice cream store right outside. Business camaraderie?

Roadies 6: Holy, Shit!

Episode 2: Pushkar 

With 14 Roadies left after Episode 2, the time had finally come for a money task. And what better task in Pushkar - where the annual Pushkar Mela takes place - than cleaning up? Not after people: after animals! In one of the most disgusting tasks ever, the Roadies were asked to clear animal dung. 

For this, the Roadies were divided into two groups: the green Brats and the blue Om Blues. The team that collected the most dung would win. Oh, there was also a catch: three members had to be exclusively involved in collecting freshly produced dung (geeli goo). Sounds disgusting? It certainly was! The team that won beat the opposition by a whopping 7 kg and took home a cool Rs. 50,000!

The once-friendly Roadies began showing some friction, with Palak simply refusing to get along with everyone else. Most of the time at the hotel was spent in fights between Palak and the other girls, with the boys trying their best to restore peace. Unsuccessfully.

The War with Palak proved costly for the boys in the immunity task. With the team structure intact, the boys were placed on a platform for a unique 'quiz.' The theme: Hindi, and PAIN. The girls had to answer some impossible questions ('what do you call Internet in Hindi?'). Each wrong or right answer would force the boys to get a beating in the groin.

It was cruel, inhuman and uncivilised. The boys initially laughed it off when they realised that their shorts absorbed the impact. But then they were asked to take off their shorts and alas, their boxers were not that thick. The painful screams chilled everyone. I couldn't even laugh at Devarshi, it was so cruel. The tasked reeked of Raghu through and through.

The vote out at the end saw Varisha facing a tie-breaker against Paulomi, and a great deal of fighting ensued thereafter. So with 13 Roadies left, the troop headed closer towards its ultimate destination: Australia.

Sunday, January 18, 2009

Was Raju a Thief or just a Liar?

The NYT, quoting a investigator probing the billion dollar Satyam Fraud, claims that disgraced former Chairman Ramalinga Raju's 'letter of confession' might have been a lie too.

According to the source, Mr. Raju had a complex network of over 300 fraudulent companies that were registered on the name of either family members or non-existent individuals. These companies might have worked to siphon off money to the tune of a billion dollars from Satyam's accounts.

In his letter, Raju has insisted that the money never existed in the first place. He said that he had cooked Satyam's books to avoid hostile takeovers, particularly from IBM. 

So where could the money have gone? An understanding of Raju's mental state might answer that: he seemed to have an unending penchant for land. It is possible that he used the money to buy property in prime locations in Hyderabad. Indeed, he is known to own property in other cities such as Delhi and Pune. If this is true, the spotlight will clearly fall on his sons' companies: Maytas Infra. and Maytas Properties. 

As investigations proceed, it seems the entire story of Satyam is darker than previously thought. Chief Minister YSR Reddy should take heed: the entire citizenry is watching his Government's moves, armed with a vote.

PS: All my readers from Andhra Pradesh who felt that Raju did siphon off funds, not just create them out of thin air, have been proven right. Your comments are valuable, keep them coming.

Has the Swat Valley Fallen?

A series of media and intelligence reports seem to show that "Pakistan's Switzerland," the Swat Valley, has fallen to the Taliban.

Over the past few months, schools for girls (run by private individuals and by legislators) have been shut down. DVD rental stores and movie theatres have been bombed. Power lines, telephone cables and other critical infrastructure have been bombed and destroyed.

It gets even worse: civic authorities have either quit or have disappeared. According to magazine reports, beheaded bodies can be found on some streets almost daily. 

The Pakistani Military has launched some operations in the region, which would otherwise become one in a series of territories falling out of Islamabad's control. However, further reports suggest that the Taliban militants there are actually tipped off about military strikes, leaving the military to just kill more civilians and destroy even more infrastructure.

If the Taliban does indeed take control of the Swat Valley, it will be a dangerous development for the entire world. Terrorism would bloom there like never before. And for Pakistan, the economic loss would be huge: the Swat Valley is a favourite tourist spot.

Friday, January 16, 2009

Citi to Split into Two

The world's largest fiancian company, Citigroup (CITI), posted an exorbitant $8.29 billion loss for the fourth quarter, forcing CEO Vikram Pandit to announce that the entity would be split into two. 

The two new houses would be called Citicorp and Citi Holdings. The move aims to restore profitability to the company, beleaguered by the US Subprime loans. 

Citigroup announced a loss for the fifth quarter running, with revenues down in all regions. It also announed over $7 billion in write-downs for the fourth quarter. It's headcount has also been halved over 2008. 

Citigroup received a $25 billion cash-injection from the US Government in October last year, apart from around $300 billion in government support to all deposits.

“I have no doubt we will emerge from the current environment stronger, smarter, and better positioned to realize the full earnings power of this great franchise,” Mr. Pandit said in a statement with the results.


[With inputs from the NYT]

Thursday, January 15, 2009

NIA gets its first DG

CNN-IBN reports that Union Home Minister P Chidambaram has appointed Radha Vinod Raju, Special DG of J&K (1975 IPS batch), as the new Director General of the National Investigation Agency, which was created in the wake of 26/11 to handle all terrorist-related cases in India. 

59-year old Raju was selected on the basis of his experience and expertise. He was a key member of the team that probed the assassination of former Prime Minister Rajiv Gandhi (1991). J&K Chief Minister Omar Abdullah has signed the papers for his transfer. 

Also, ground staff for the organisation would be taken from existing agencies, including state police. 

Wednesday, January 14, 2009

The Harvest Festival

' Sankranti,' literally means 'prosperity for all.' The ancient Indian festival marks the seasonal harvest, when farmers would reap the fruits of their hard labour. In Modern India, the festival is synonymous with kites and sweet meats. Those who came to cities to work return to their village to attend the celebrations, while those who stay on fly kites to celebrate the festival.

Sankranti is a festival to celebrate the Earth, to thank Mother Nature for the bountiful harvest. It marks the New Year in Ancient India, even though Modern India sticks to the Gregorian Calendar. The spirit of celebration is in the air, on the streets and on OTFS!

New Year Wishes!

Technology has caught India by the neck, and even politicians seem to have realised that the mobile phone and Internet are better techniques to reach out to the masses than rallies and road shows. Here is a very interesting SMS received on Jan. 5:

sms_naidu_newyear

I also received an SMS from an ex-BJP MLA, who hurled curses at he UPA for failing to counter terrorism and wished me a happy new year that would used in 'change'!

To top it all of, Leader of the Opposition in the Centre Sri LK Advani has launched his own blog to connect with young voters. Looks like the 2009 elections are going to be fought on new ground!

PS: If you haven't, I recommend you to read Lalu Yadav's blog as well. I just wish Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and Gujarat Chief Minister Narendra Modi would also keep a blog. They are, after all, extremely respected by the youth. Oh, and I'm still waiting for the day a Presidential Blog would be announced!

Criminal Negligence

MIN_HOME

The Ministry of Home Affairs

Headed formerly by Shivraj Patil, now by P Chidambaram

The Opposition and even some UPA allies described Shivraj Patil as India's most ineffective Home Minister ever. That description is quite accurate. Year after year, Shivraj Patil said that India's internal defences were not up to the mark. He made plans to improve intelligence gathering and coordination. But those plans remained just that. He did not do anything to improve conditions as India was facing a gigantic onslaught from jihadist forces from abroad and within. He did virtually nothing to make citizens in the North East safer, in fact, he virtually ignored the North East.

Mr. Patil refused to strengthen laws to counter terrorism, in fact, his ministry repealed the powerful Prevention of Terrorism Act. He made a case that India's laws to prevent terror were the best and most effective 'in the world,' in spite of huge evidence that they weren't. He consciously played votebank politics, equating terrorism with India's minority Muslim community. In that process, thousands of lives were lost and India was crowned third in the list of countries worst affected by terrorism, after Iraq and Afghanistan.

Mr. Patil had a terrible habit of tucking issues under the carpet by calling them 'law and order problems,' which come under the State List. He did not understand, or did not want to understand, that terrorism, insurgency and left-wing extremism could not be handled by States alone. The crisis created by his apathy reached a zenith in the summer of 2008, when the Indian Mujahideen detonated bombs after bombs in major Indian cities. It finally took the Gujarat Police to bust the entire racket. Odd, since Mr. Patil often looked upon Gujarat Chief Minister Narendra Modi as a terrorist himself!

Mr. Patil refused to resign from the MoHA without pressure from his party. He put his party before the country. The entire mess reached a tipping point on 26/11, when Mumbai was slaughtered by terrorists who came by sea. The public outrage after the incident saw unparalleled vengeance against all politicians, and the Congress' political existence became threatened. It took such massive outrage for Shivraj Patil to finally quit, but not before he changed his attire five times during the Mumbai carnage! In fact, the media and the opposition chided him as being the Fashion Minster of India! Another failure of his was the issue of illegal Bangaldeshi migrants in India. In fact, he even told then Rajasthan CM Vasundhara Raje to round the migrants up in Gitmo-style camps!

After the debris of Mumbai began to settle, Mr. Patil was succeded by former Finance Minister P Chidambaram. He has done quite a lot to bring some calm. The establishment of the Multi-Agency Centre (MAC) to coordinate intelligence, the establishment of the National Investigation Agency (NIA) and the powerful amendments made to terror-related laws all took place within a month of 26/11.

But the damage was already done. Families were killed, homes were razed and India became a very dangerous place to live in. It's not just terrorists and insurgents who are to blame: a spineless Home Minister who does not value Indian lives also led to the carnage. For this, Mr. Patil (and consequently, the entire Union Cabinet) stands accused of criminal negligence leading to death.

The Ministry of Home Affairs

General Performance: Horrible

Flying High

min_civilavia

THE MINISTRY OF CIVIL AVIATION

Headed by Minister of State (Independent Charge) Praful Patel

Praful Patel took over as Minister of Civil Aviation (MoCA) when it was boom time for Indian aviation. Airlines were looking at new routes and low-cost carriers made flying affordable for the masses. But towards the end of his tenure, Praful Patel faced a crisis that almost saw the collapse of some major airlines. And he handled both situations well.

The biggest achievement for Mr. Patel was undoubtedly the merger of India's state-run carriers, Indian (Airlines) and Air India, to form a new entity which is today one of Asia's largest carriers. The move faced stiff resistance from Unions, but the Minister held his own, sure that consolidation would mean growth and profits. The eventual merger would be his greatest achievement.

The Minister also saw the creation of new Greenfield airports in Hyderabad and Bangalore. These are unique in themselves, since they are the first Greenfield airports built in India by a private company. The Rajiv Gandhi Hyderabad International Airport is South Asia's largest airport and boasts of modern technology, albeit with a few glitches. New airports have also been sanctioned in the north-east, creating better connectivity with the rest of India. This is another major achievement for the Minister.

The rise in ATF prices saw the virtual collapse of the Indian Aviation Industry. In these hard times, Praful Patel took it upon himself to protect the industry. He batted for air carriers with the Finance Ministry, demanding financial assistance. And he got it: an extended period of credit, a line of credit and a drop in regulated ATF prices. Without Mr. Patel's quick intervention, these companies would have collapsed. He also played a decisive role in helping sacked employees of Jet Airways get their jobs back, with some compromise on salaries. Thus, he not only worked for the industry but also for the people employed in it.

The only major failure of his was to increase security and technology standards in airports. His Ministry was not pro-active enough to force airports to beef up security, not was it strong enough to force carriers to train its pilots in flying in adverse conditions.

Overall, Praful Patel was an excellent Minister for Civil Aviation. The expos and kiosks set up by his ministry have brought a new, modern India to the world. His contributions will go a long way in putting India on the world's aviation map.

The Ministry of Civil Aviation

General Performance: Very Good

The First Female President

issue_prez

The President of India, according to the Constitution, is the highest non-executive office in India. The President has a unifying role: a figure the whole country can look up to for inspiration. During its tenure, the UPA Government was faced with the task of building national consensus on the issue of the election of the 13th President of India.

The President is elected by an electoral college made up of legislators from across the country, through a multi-vote system. Now, the election of this President was unique because the incumbent was perhaps India's most popular President: Dr. APJ Abdul Kalam. The country was clearly divided on one issue: whether President Kalam should be given a second term or not. This was also a matter of tradition, since no President apart from the first President Rajendra Prasad, had obtained a second term.

In all the political bickering, several names came up, including that of then Minister of Defense (and now Minister for External Affairs) Pranab Mukherjee. However, the UPA finally concluded that they would try to elect the Governor of Rajasthan Pratibha Patil to the post of President. The move received a great deal of support, since it would mark India's first female President. Women has always been discriminated against in India, and making a woman the First Citizen would send out a powerful message that women are equal.

It was with this message that the UPA approached other parties. The biggest support was received from Mayawati's BSP, which eventually proved crucial to her election. There were still some parties that favoured President Kalam for a second term, the BJP being the largest. The BJP also some startling revelations about a bank run by Governor Pratibha Patil's brother, Pratibha Bank, which has to be liquidated by the RBI on charges of fraud. They also started a new website - www.knowpratibhapatil.com - to tell citizens more about her. But eventually, President Kalam pulled out of any race for the Presidency, saying that he would not let the post be tarnished by politics.

Thus, facing almost no challenge, Pratibha Devisingh Patil was elected the first Female President of India,a historic event. Her husband, Sri Devisingh Shekhawat, became India's first-ever First Gentleman! Also keeping with tradition, Dr. Hamid Karzai, from the minority Muslim community, was elected the Vice-President of India. This was done to reflect India's pluralistic society.

The election of the first female President did not happen without its fair share of controversy. But at the end, the UPA can look back proudly and say that they were instrumental in putting a woman in Rashtra[ati Bhavan and making history in the process.

Tuesday, January 13, 2009

IOTY08: Movie of the Year



The nominations for Movie of the Year 2008 are:

  • Rock On!!
  • Jaane Tu... Ya Jaane Na
  • Roadside Romeo
  • Fashion
  • Slumdog Millionaire
  • A Wednesday

The winner will be declared in March 2009

Opinions 24x7 Presents

OTFS Indian of the Year 2009

Infy beats Street

IT bellwether Infosys Technologies Ltd. (INFY) reported its third quarter earnings today, beating street expectations and showing a rise of 6% in profit. It's revenue rose from $1.08 bn to $1.17 bn (+8%).

In rupee terms, Infosys posted a rise of 33% in its profits, helped by a weak Rupee. Revenues for the quarter stood at over Rs. 5,800 crores, beating expectations.

However, the company lowered its guidance for the year and said that the fiscal 2008-09 would be a bad one overall. The company added 30 new clients in the quarter and also raised its headcount by 5,000 employees. The company is also sitting on a large cash-reserve.

Infosys' Chairman clarified that the company remained unaffected by the Satyam scam.

Infosys shares on the BSE and NSE and its ADS on Nasdaq, rose sharply on the results. 

[With inputs from AP and The Hindu]

Going back to the Emergency

The Government's decision to amend the Cable Television Networks (Regulation) Act seems to have been made in great haste and without enough deliberation. While it is true that the media's self-regulation failed hopelessly on 26/11, the new law is draconian, akin to laws in place during the Emergency!

The idea that a government official can simply decide what is good and what is bad (and deem it 'national interest' in the process) sickens the people of a democratic nation. The idea of allowing a government official to confiscate equipment and shut down media offices is pure evil. 

The Government should cooperate with the NBA (News Broadcasters' Association) in strengthening self-regulation and making it more effective. Instead, it is trying to gag the media. What a shame!

50 Days After 26/11

50 Days after terrorists caused carnage in Mumbai on 26/11, all investigations have pointed its fingers towards Pakistan. The Indian Government has shared a dossier with the entire world, including Pakistan, which shows that the terrorists came from Pakistan. It does not show, however, that the Pakistani state was involved.

After all this, however, Pakistan has done nothing. They have virtually rejected the evidence, and are calling it 'information, not evidence!' Pakistan's NSA grudgingly confirmed that the lone terrorist captured, Ajmal Amir 'Kasab,' was a Pakistani, for which he was promptly fired!

Now, India is considering more options. While the US and the UK can only do so much, India can do a lot more. Economic sanctions are the first on the table: as the South Asian superpower, India can impose harsh economic and cultural sanctions on Pakistan. India can also press for hard sanctions from the IMF and the World Bank (though a UNSC sanction would be impossible). 

Diplomatic pressure is also a potent weapon. India has most of the world on its side. It must make it very clear that while India is not blaming the civilian Government in Islamabad for 26/11 (though it is blaming the military and the ISI), that does not absolve the civilian government of any responsibility. Every state has to act against non-state actors coming from their soil. Pakistan must be forced to stop using terrorism as an instrument in the Kashmir issue.

A few days before Afghan President Hamid Karzai's visit to India, an Afghan official said that in the past, Pakistan had been given proof by Afghanistan of terrorists using Pakistani soil, but Pakistan readily denied it and nothing moved ahead. Afghanistan could not do much, but India can. And India must. 

Monday, January 12, 2009

AP's Irresponsible Opposition

The political fallout of the Rs. 7,000-crore Satyam Scam have taken an ugly turn in Satyam's State of origin, Andhra Pradesh. The opposition, which has formed a most opportunistic alliance in the state with the one-point objective of defeating the Congress Party in the 2009 elections, has been making irresponsible, baseless and inaccurate statements for some time now.

The Telugu Desam, led by former Chief Minister (and great friend of disgraced Ramalinga Raju) was the first to drop in its hat, declaring that Chief Minister YSR Reddy had walked off with the Rs. 7,000-crore. This was perhaps the most irresponsible thing he could have said: such a serious allegation needs definitive proof, not political vendetta. The only saving grace was his demand for a look into Maytas Infra.'s books, which is a fair demand.

The Communist parties have, in typical communist fashion, wreaked havoc without knowing what they're doing. First, they threatened to 'occupy' the land given to Satyam's sister-concern, Maytas Infrastructure Ltd. as part of government projects. They said that they would 'distribute' the land to the poor, without any proper planning or vision, effectively creating more slums. They also asked where the Rs. 7,000-crores went. Perhaps, if they read reports properly, they would realise that the money never existed in the first place, so how could it go anywhere?

The Opposition in Andhra Pradesh is playing dirty, cheap politics ahead of the elections. They are creating a bad image of AP in other states. Of course, almost every state has an Opposition that would do exactly what the ones in AP did (the one in West Bengal would do worse), but image is a major issue and Opposition leaders should only speak with proof, not political motivations. 

Sunday, January 11, 2009

Roadies 6: Eating Mud

Roadies is a new label on OTFS, designed to cover all editions of Roadies on MTV, from 5.0 onwards.

The first episode of Roadie 6 can easily be tagged the single most unfair episode ever. Although the first meeting of all 20 roadies was very good, sans any fights, the decision to divide them, almost at random, into a "safe" group and an "unsafe" one seemed over-the-top.

The selection of the "safe" group was random and highly questionable. For example, how is it that Devarshi and Paulomi were in the group, when any imbecile would say that they don't even deserve to be roadies in the first place! 

Now, as for the task. The ten "unsafe" roadies were regrouped into groups of five, each group having to complete an obstacle course made up of ropes, mud and paranthas. At the end, the green team, which included Ankur and Soniya, lost and were sent back immediately. What's more, the victorious yellow team was made to go through a vote out, where Sufi as removed. This was just too much for the audience: six roadies dismissed in the first episode, six good players. 

On Facebook, Nauman has been declared the new super-hunk. Palak has found a slew of people who dislike her. And one user from Dubai cleverly pointed out that in the preview video for Roadies 6, Sufi was shown boxing in a red vest, which means he is coming back. Now, that's keen observation!

Pongal Holidays Begin

WEEK 86 DAY 7/WEEK 87 DAY 0
HAPPY PONGAL

Sri Chaitanya IIT Academy, SR Nagar Hyderabad, Jan. 11 (Sunday): The first IIT exam of the year was conducted for ISB (S1) on Sunday, with mixed reactions from the students. Three students did not write the exam. The coming of the Pongal vacations was the bigegst event for everyone, something that overshadowed the fairly difficult paper. 

The college will reopen on Jan. 16, and language classes will restart for S1. 

EXCLUSIVE| THE KUKATPALLY BATCH
OTFS has learned that two students from S1 will be sent to the Kukatpaly Campus for 'intensive coaching,' so as to maximise their ranks in IITJEE. Once there, the students will be living on campus for three weeks, and study time will be from 6:00 AM to 9:00 PM!

The news was broken to the two students by the Principal, Mr. Vara Prasad. (OTFS)

Friday, January 9, 2009

Govt. Disbands Satyam Board

The Government of India invoked various acts today and formally disbanded the board of scam-shaken Satyam Computer Services Ltd. (SAY). The board meeting scheduled for tomorrow has been canceled and the Government is expected to appoint 10 new board members to steer the company forward.

Very little remains ahead, however. The financial position of the company is terrible. It's market capitalisation has shrunk from $7 bn six months ago to just under $200 mn today. Eventually, the company might have to seel itself off either whole or in parts. 

Satyam's employees also seem a worried lot. According to various Job firms in Bangalore, over 7,000 CV's from Satymaites have been received. However, the chances of them finding a job in the current financial situation seems thin. Furthermore, Satyam will probably be unable to pay its employees' salaries for the next two months. The company's real operating margin was shown to be just 3% (it was originally reported to be 20%), which means that the company has made an overall loss. That means that it has been borrowing just to pay salaries, making it unviable

Raju Arrested
NDTV Profit reports that former Chairman of Satyam B Ramalinga Raju and his brother have been arrested and taken into CID custody for interrogation in Hyderabad. The arrests took place around 9:30 PM. Legal experts say that he could probably remain in custody for at least 14 days, and could face prison for at least 10 years. 

Wednesday, January 7, 2009

SATYAM REVEALS FRAUD

In the biggest fraud of its kind in recent corporate Indian history, the chairman of Hyderabad-based Satyam Computer Services Ltd. has admitted to inflating the companies balance sheets and reporting non-existent assets amounting to over Rs. 5,000 crores, with additional unreported liabilities taking it up t Rs. 7,000 crores.

Company Chairman Ramalinga Raju resigned today while announcing the huge fraud. He said that the companies false assets were created several years ago, starting from a small difference in reported and actual profits to this huge amount, accumulated as the company grew. He described it as "riding a tiger, not knowing how to get off without being eaten." He said that no other board member had any knowledge of the fraud. 

He said that he was now ready to face the law of the land. Indeed, he will face the ire of both Indian and American regulators (Satyam (SAY) is listed on the NYSE, the BSE and the NSE). Following the news, Satyam's stock on the BSE shed a massive 80% of its value. The sensex fell by over 7%. 

The promoter also revealed that his failed bid to acquire Maytas Infrastructure Ltd. was an attempt to replace non-existent assets with real ones, but that deal failed after shareholder outrage. The company had hired DSP Merrill Lynch to explore options for merger, but the investment bank has reportedly terminated its operations. 

Satyam is the country's fourth largest software exporter and employs 51,000 engineers. Andhra Pradesh CM YSR Reddy has said that he would not let such a large company collapse and create widespread unemployment. He will be looking into the fraud. In Raju's letter to employees, he also hinted that the company might need some Government Assistance.

[With inputs from NDTVProfit.com and IBNLive]

Tuesday, January 6, 2009

The New Standard Approach

Pakistan's civilian government seems to have assumed a new "standard approach" in replying to India's evidence on 26/11. The following outlines what I've observed:

Stage 1: In Transit
India sends evidence or official statements. Pakistan reacts by saying that they are yet to receive it or are still processing it.

Stage 2: Rejection
Pakistan rejects whatever is handed over to it. The rejection is always followed by a flimsy story: they describe it as 'doctored,' say it is not adequate or simple say that they are still not convinced!

Stage 3: War Hysteria
Pakistan starts by accusing India of pushing the region towards war. It then flies PAF aircrafts over major cities, to tell its urban population (who watch the war hysteria on TV, GEO TV to be more specific) that nothing can defeat it. The Chief of Army Staff makes a few statements. And the nuclear card is finally pulled out.

Stage 4: Religious Rally
Religious leaders come out in support of Pakistan and almost always use the phrase 'lone Islamic nuclear power' in some way or the other. Effectively, they use religion and nationalism to cover everything and rally everyone behind the flag.

Step 5: External Help
Foreign leaders come to the region and 'defuse tensions.' Except British PM Gordon Brown, everyone takes a balanced stand.

And this goes on and on until another terrorist attack takes place.

Monday, January 5, 2009

Why Indians seem to Support Israel

Israel's assault on Hamas in the Gaza Strip has received condemnation from the Government of India. The communist parties have staged protests outside the Israeli Embassy in New Delhi, while pro-Islamic movements have held demonstrations in Srinagar, burning Israeli flags.

But in all the noise, there is a quiet, unspoken truth: most Indians wish India could be as strong as Israel. Last summer, India was bombed virtually every alternate day. Indian Mujahideen, HuJI, LeT, JeM: the list goes on, and the training sites are always in PoK, Lahore, Karachi or Bangladesh. 

The anger within the masses swelled up, while an absolutely ineffective Home Minister failed to do anything. It was only after 26/11 that the country stood up and said 'Enough is Enough.' People accused the Government of not caring for Indian lives. They demanded an assault on Pakistan, ripping apart terror infrastructure there. 

Interestingly, the people of Israel have been saying the same things. Only, their government listened. Various eyewitness accounts speak of how Israelis living near Gaza lived in a perpetual state of fear. Rockets were launched from Gaza, hundreds a day. That's the equivalent of what's been happening in India: bombs here, rockets there. In India, about 20 serial blasts took place last year. In Israel, 3,000 rockets were launched last year from Gaza!

Now, you will hear a lot of political voices speaking up against Israel. They are politicians and DO NOT represent the wider opinion of the nation. Yes, in the world's largest democracy, the Foreign Policy has only been tweaked a little since Independence, and the strong anti-American tide during the Indira Gandhi regime has given way to pro-US (and consequently, pro-Israeli) feelings which are not adequately reprsented in the Indian foreign policy. 

It might sound evil, it might sound wrong, but it's the truth: India would have loved it if the Government had blasted Pakistan, as Israel is blasting Gaza. For two countries which established diplomatic links only in 1992, the Indo-Israel relationship has grown on culture, values and terror strikes.

Saturday, January 3, 2009

'Fratricide' on Lumiere

Fratricide (the act of killing one whom you consider your brother) is a spectacular German movie that was recently screened on NDTV Lumiere. The movie tells the tale of two Kurdish refugees in Germany - teenage Azad and young Ibrahim Denzil - who work hard to earn a living in a strange land. Sadly, they face increasing enmity with Turks living in Germany, an enmity that eventually leads to the death of Azad's brother and the unravelling of Azad and Ibo's (as Ibrahim is fondly called) world.

The depth of understanding between the two boys immediately attracts the viewer's interest. And the excellent story (and story-telling) keep it. A wonderful movie that teaches us just how horrible illogical hatred can be.

Afghanistan and the Indian Challenge

The biggest foreign policy challenge for the next Indian Government that will take charge after this year's Federal Elections will be Afghanistan: the war-torn country that depends almost entirely on International aid and illegal drugs.

The devastating destiny that awaited Afghanistan with the Soviet Invasion and the Taliban Government is being rolled out as we speak. Afghanistan is one of the poorest and most unstable countries in the worlds. While a civilian government is in place, most of the country is under the Taliban, which is fighting with NATO forces.

In the din of battle, the cries of help are often unheard. Thousands of Afghan students yearn for quality education, and those who get it yearn for a well-paying job. A vast majority of others simply want an easier way to survive. That's where India comes in, in my opinion. Already, India provides 5,000 scholarships a year and the new South Asian University will provide even more. A majority of seats should go to Afghan students; they need it, they deserve it.

Then there is the issue of jobs. Already, India is constructing infrastructure worth $1 bn in Afghanistan. Most of it will help fuel India's trade and commerce, but the trickle-down effect will create thousands, nay, millions, of new jobs for the people of Afghanistan. Then there is the issue of strengthening democracy. It is heartening to note that India is helping build the new Afghan Parliament. That's the building, now we need to give enough support to the democratic system to make sure it reaches as far as India has, maybe even beyond.

The war in Afghanistan is dangerous for all of South Asia. A successful, democratic Afghanistan will be a boon to India and South Asia as a whole. In Afghanistan, India can find a friend and ally. And a friend in need is a friend indeed. 

Thursday, January 1, 2009

Serial Blasts in Assam

CNN-IBN reports that over 20 people have been killed in a series of blasts in the North-Eastern state of Assam. This comes as the first terror/insurgency incident on the very first day of the year.

This will also be P Chidambaram's first test as the new Home Minister, and will also test just how prepared the UPA Government has made the country for such situations after 26/11.

For more, log on to IBNLive.

Swapnika Loses her Battle for Life

Swapnika, the final-year engineering student who suffered 55% burns after an acid attack by her 'jilted lover,' succumbed to her injuries at Yashoda Hospital. Her final wish was that no girl should ever have to go through what she did. 

May her soul rest in peace. Students Unions and Youth Wings should concentrate on fighting evils such as acid attacks. When girls in our country are safe, then our country is truly safe.

Looking for Something Better

Let's face it: 2008 was a terrible year. Globally, the world sinked into recession and millions of people lost their jobs. Thousands of people lost their lives in Iraq and Afghanistan. Terrorists strikes became all too frequent in India. And I have just gone through the worst year of my life.

But the perpetual optimist that I try to be, I can only hope for a better 2009. Plenty can happen: a better government could be formed after the Federal Elections. Security could actually be tightened. More nuclear agreements could follow. The markets could find that elusive bottom. The possibilities are endless!

Then again, it could be a lot worse. For me, 2009 holds a lot. I'll have to admit myself into a University. Which one, I have no idea. Oh, and I'll be turning 18! 

Hoping for a better new year, keep reading Opinions 24x7!

Rivers of Tears and Blood


















GHAJINI (2008)
Producer: Geeta Arts under the Indian Films banner
Director: a R Murugadoss
Starring: Amir Khan, Jia Khan, Asin Thottumkal and others
Rating: **** of 5 (4 of 5)
Comments: Not safe for heart patients

From rivers of blood to screams of pain and anger to moments of pure love: Ghajini is a power-packed thriller that uses every trick in the book of thrillers. Amir Khan was the clear superstar: he metamorphoses from a rich businessman to the boy-next-door kind of guy to a murderous killer with short term memory loss - and makes it look easy to boot!

Now, this movie is supposed to have broken all box office records. And the reason is pretty clear: Amir eight-pack abs and relentless promotion clearly did the trick. His abs were truly phenomenal, putting even SRK's abs in Om Shanti Om to shame. Amir's acting complemented his look: the most powerful scene being the one where he breaks free of ropes tying him to a chair with animal-like ferocity and viciousness.

Souther beauty Asin kept her own in the face of more-experienced Amir. She was simply beautiful and her acting was quite good, although her character was a bit too LOUD. After a series of Southern heroines making it big in Bollywood, Asin was just what the audience was waiting for. Sadly, Jia Khan is not really worth waiting for. Her role is pretty limited, quite pointless at times. Rumour goes that her voice was dubbed to hide her accent. Well, that would be a real feather in her cap, wouldn't it?

The music of Ghajini was very good, the opening song and Behka being the best. Although the songs didn't exactly fit in the scene (then again, apart from Fashion, which movie's songs fit into their scenes?) but provide ample relief from the violence.

Oh, the violence. The audience would have left the theatre in tears, had the violence not numbed them. Blood and gore dominated the film. It was scary, though hardly crude. Just when you begin to smile at the Kalpana-"Sachin" courtship, you close your eyes as you are shocked out of your senses by the violence. That is just about the only negative thing about the film: the extreme use of violence. 

There were a few loopholes in the story, such as the question as to how the protagonist was able to create such an elaborate lifestyle in just fifteen minutes. There is also the sad realisation that the murdered lover never realises the true identity of her love. And the antagonists South Indian look and North Indian accent made him quite a funny brute indeed!

I recommend you to see the movie, it one of the better ones from 2008. Just don't think too much while watching it.