Sunday, May 31, 2009

In Conversation with Lord Desai

The May 30 issue of The Hindu Sunday Magazine contained an interesting conversation with Labour Peer Lod Meghnad Desai, a renowned economist of Indian origin and now a member of the UK House of Lords. 

The conversation with an editor of UTVi channel talked about many issues, but that of the Communist parties caught my attention. It is well known that the Left is Lord Desai's bete noire, and he used the choicest words during the conversation. My favourite line is in the picture above. "Imperial fear mongering nonsense" is the best way to describe what the Left has been up to.

Again, The Hindu has published an excellent article. It deserves great praise for being one of the few newspapers in India that publishes meaningful, socially constructive articles in its Sunday supplement, whereas most papers just stick to Page 3 gossip.

CBSE Declares AIEEE-09 Results

May 30, well past 2:00 PM: The fate of over a million students was decided yesterday with the results of AIEEE-09 being declared. AIEEE is the entrance exam for admission into the National Institutes of Technology (NITs) and several other Universities and colleges. In all, there are approximately 50,000 seats up for grabs.

All students are given two sets of ranks: an All India set of ranks and a State set of ranks. Each of these sets consists of two ranks: an overall rank (ranking between all students irrespective of category) and a category rank (ranking only among students within the same category, such as General (GEN), SC, ST etc.). Note that the the State rank is useful for admission into an NIT in your state ('your state' is defined as that state or UT of the Union of India which you marked in the relevant field in the AIEEE-09 application form) but if you choose an institute outside your state, you will compete with your All India rank. Category rank is useful for students who have a specific reservation but not for GEN students.

My Rank is 3758 (All India, all categories) and 720 (State of Andhra Pradesh, all categories)., with a score of 281/432.

This year, over a million students wrote the exam, making it a world record. Students who ranked between 1 and 10,000 can sit tight as they are assured of a good stream in an NIT. Those who ranked in between 10,000 and 30,000 have reason to worry as they have only a 50-50 chance. Those who went into the 30,000-50,000 range will not enter an NIT (unless they have a reservation) but can get a seat in a good Deemed University. Those who dipped below 50,000 should look to their State's CET (Common Entrance Test).

Of the first 1,000 rankers in AIEEE, it is normal for most of the students to jump to IIT as they tend to get a good rank there as well. Interestingly, while my calculations for IITJEE using FIITJEE and other keys went haywire, my marks were bang on for AIEEE!

A full list of all Universities and Colleges that use the AIEEE marks is available at the Central Counselling Board's website. The CCB is constituted by the Ministry of HRD and put this year's cut-off at 100/432 for GEN students. 

The Convener for EAMCET-09 in Andhra Pradesh will release the marks scored in the exam tomorrow, Jun. 1 at 6:00 PM. Final ranks will be declared in late June after taking Class 12/Intermediate marks into account. (OTFS)

Saturday, May 30, 2009

The Time is Right for a Woman Speaker

The latest gossip doing he rounds in New Delhi is that the Congress, fresh from its most decisive victory in over a decade, is keen on electing a woman as Speaker of the Lok Sabha, making it a first. The Congress also takes the credit of installing the first woman President.

Currently, two names are being discussed: Meira Kumar (the forerunner, pictured right) and Girija Vyas. The decision must be made soon as the first session of the Lok Sabha must choose a Speaker. The post of Deputy Speaker, keeping with tradition, is expected to go to the main Opposition the NDA, primarily the BJP.

Women have always been given the shorter end of the stick not just in India but also the rest of the world. By electing a woman to the post of Speaker, who is second in line after the Vice President to the Presidency in case the President cannot discharge his/her duties, it would send out a strong message that women do matter and they will have their rights. Furthermore, it would also send out a strong message to those who have been trying to block the Women's Reservation Bill.

If the UPA does elect a woman to the post, it would be a very attractive feather in its cap.

Friday, May 29, 2009

Looking Far Ahead: IAF Inducts AWACS

With the induction of the first of three units of the Airborne Warning and Control System (AWACS), the Indian Air Force now has one of the most advanced surveillance systems in the world. None of India's neighbours - China and Pakistan in particular - possesses this technology.

The AWACS was acquired, albeit delivered two years late, after a tripartite agreement between India, Russia and Israel. The system is the most advanced in the world and will allow deep penetration into foreign territory. It will substantially upgrade maritime security, a necessity after 26/11. The system can engage up to 60 targets at the same time and has a range of 400 km, making it the IAF's most potent force multiplier.

The aircraft that holds the radar is Russian-built, while the radar itself is Israeli. The inner walls are gold-plated to protect the crew from radiation.  The system can be used for both offensive and defensive purposes as well as intelligence gathering. However, the AWACS will take some time to become compatible with the rest of the IAF, since the other planes have to be upgraded. However, the Chief of the IAF says that this will be done by the end of this year. Two more units of the AWACS will be delivered by the end of 2010.

Diplomatic and military cooperation with Israel has always borne fruit for India. While some political forces - the Communists in particular - live in a Soviet-era dogma and look to rescind all Indo-Israeli contact, the more practical (and popular) thinkers and leaders understand the complementary nature of the Indo-Israel relationship. Also, the Indo-Russian relationship has always been warm right from Independence and even after the Soviet Union collapsed. The AWACS stands as a tall testimony to the friendship between these three great powers.

Tuesday, May 26, 2009

IITJEE: The Aftermath

Like every year, right after the results of IITJEE-09 were declared, the local coaching giants, Narayana and Sri Chaitanya, began to flood the public - particularly prospective students - with well-designed, targeted ads. While the TV ads start and end rather dramatically, they do little to influence viewers. Moreover, these ads are displayed only on Telugu channels, which the entire country does not watch.

What's more interesting is the ads published in the newspapers. Sri Chaitanya's ad takes the cake for being the most deceptive and misguiding ad of all. Large swathes of space in the full-page ad are dedicated were dedicated to indicating the ranks of the successful students. However, their hall ticket numbers were followed by some interesting marks, none of which made much sense. Now, an average reader would ignore the strange marks and sing praises to the institute for its performance. Only someone who carefully reads the ad will find a tiny legend/key at the bottom-left corner of the page, probably printed in the smallest font size possible. It indicated what the symbols meant: * for SC, ** for ST, other fancy symbols for OBC, PD etc. Now, most of the names and ranks printed came with one of these symbols. That means that while the institute claims huge successes, almost all their big-ticket ranks are in reserved categories, where the competition is far less than in the Open Category. For a reader to understand this, they would have to learn the symbols or keep referring to them, something most people would not have the patience to do. That's what I call ingenious deception.

Narayana's ad was a tad more honest than Sri Chaitanya's, although it also misguided the public. The ad pointed out the category after each rank without resorting to a legend. However, it declared itself the holder of the Southern Zone first rank, which is absolutely pointless since admissions are not done zone-wise. It was a clear attempt to use regional chauvinism, which runs deep in South India, for commercial gains. Lastly, the ad ads up IIT ranks and members who made it to the EML and declare a magical achievement by Narayana, which is wrong since the EML is just a tag and of very little use. Adding these numbers like this is just a way to milk maximum advantage out of available numbers.

Dr. KKR's Gowtham Model School published a more sober and presumably honest ad, although it was a little boisterous. Brilliant Tutorials published a small and clean ad. Finally, FIITJEE published a good-looking, full-page ad that allowed two of its students to air their views. It also displayed the All India Top Ranker, who studied there. 

Interestingly, Rank No. 3 seems to be common to all the ads!

Monday, May 25, 2009

DC lifts IPL Trophy

In the final match held on May 24, 2009, DC def. RCB to win DLF IPL 2009.
Next year, IPL will come back to India, bigger and better.

IITJEE 09 Results Announced

The results of IITJEE-09 have been released by the IITs on their websites. Over 10,000 students qualified for entrance into the prestigious institutes, which constitutes 1.5% of the total number of seats available. The All India topper was from Delhi zone.

From S1, Aditya emerged a clear winner with an All India Rank (AIR) of 985. Abhiroop, Divya, Sushobhan, Anurag and Mohit were some of the students who qualified. Counselling will be held for Chennai Zone in IIT-M, the dates for which have been announced along with the results. OTFS has learned that students of FIITJEE, Hyderabad did very well in the exam, with the highest rank being 46.

This year, there are about 8,500 seats in 15 IITs, including two new ones at Himachal Pradesh and Indore. Those who secured a rank of below 7,000 can be quite sure of joining an IIT, if they can agree to one of the streams offered to them. For those with higher ranks, admission is tentative. 

With over 3 lakh students having written the exam, the chances of making it are very slim. Consequently, a majority of students who write the exam do not qualify. They can however, apply for admission in other prestigious colleges under the Extended Merit List.

OTFS congratulates those who qualified in the exam and hopes that those who didn't will do better in other exams. AIEEE results will be released on May 31, along with EAMCET marks, while EAMCET ranks will be announced much later. (OTFS)

My AIR rank is 4782

Sunday, May 24, 2009

Give Me Hope Jo'anna by Eddy Grant

Give me Hope Jo'anna by Eddy Grant
Played during the IPL Season 2 Finals

Lunch at The Yellow Chilli

The Yellow Chilli Restaurant
North Indian Cuisine

Ambiance: Very good
Food: Very good
Service: Good
Value for Money: Good
Freebies: Free beer if available (not recommended if you're dining with family)
Overall: Good

Celebrity chef Sanjeev Kapoor's chain of restaurants - named The Yellow Chilli after the variety of chilli that grows in his hometown - boasts of authentic North Indian food. I decided to try it with a bunch of friends.

You can come to the restaurant impromptu but it is advisable to reserve a seat. The restaurant is nice enough to make a reservation for a large number of people (20 in our case) and will arrange the tables and chairs accordingly. 

The buffet costs Rs. 300 per head. It starts off with appetisers: egg pakodas (not so good), tandoori chicken (delicious but taboo for vegetarians like me), Aloo/Potato 65 (very good) and paneer/cottage cheese tikka (absolutely delicious). Now, they serve you so much of the appetisers that you could fill yourself right there, but don't do that. Next up: the buffet.

The buffet was quite good, with a variety of dishes. There were vegetarian salads, of which the Corn Salad was my favourite. The non-vegetarian section consisted of a chicken rice dish and some curries. There is no beef or pork. The vegetarian section consisted of two varieties of rice, a paneer curry, dal fry, a mixed vegetable dish, a spinach-based dish, two versions of raita (yogurt), to mention a few. The spinach-based dish was passable, while the paneer curry was bland, although paneer curries tend to be like that. However, the dal fry was excellent and the mixed-vegetable dish was also very good. The malai kofta was also good. Overall, the buffet was filling and appetising.

After the buffet, dessert seemed pretty run of the mill to me. When you serve amazing North Indian cuisine for the main course, how can you serve vanilla ice cream and gulab jamun for dessert? The combination surprised me as it was far below my expectations.

Now, you're probably full by now. However, since one of my friends was celebrating her birthday today, we decided to go to the veranda and click some picture. We ordered a chocolate cake (price: Rs. 300 inclusive of taxes) and the receptionist was nice enough to click photos for us. The ambiance here was beyond comparison: a windy day spent with old friends and no crowd to trouble you while you sit in chairs modelled to look like trees. It's pure ecstasy!

Overall, The Yellow Chilli is a fine restaurant to have lunch in, although the prices are a little on the higher side, but not as high as some other restaurants in the city. You can also order directly at your table, but it costs more. If you want to have a good, well-cooked meal with your family, I recommend this restaurant. Just make sure that you avoid the beer.

Address: 4th Floor, Kimtee Square, Road No. 12, Banjara Hills, Hyderabad
Phone numbers: 040-23383838, 040-23383839

Friday, May 22, 2009

A Moment in Time

There comes a moment in time, when the old gives way to the new; when darkness is vanquished by light; when a ray of hope turns into a beam of freedom. All men and all women are born free, but are forever bound in the chains of the world. That time is now: when the principles of liberty and freedom are strengthened and a pledge is redeemed. 

A pledge to honour those principles; a pledge to keep the light aglow. 

Two years ago, I forfeited my freedom for a promise: a promise of a cherished fruit that I never sought to partake of; a promise of a world of dreams that I never dreamt of; a promise of wealth that I never coveted. To three letters, I gave my all.

Two years I spent, locked away in a world I did not luxuriate in. Two years I spent, hoping, praying, that it would all end. I forgot myself; I lost my soul. In others unknown, I stayed alive. I won hearts and lost them just as quickly; I fought for survival and lost, again and again until I could fight no more. My words became my only world, my only window.

Today, I stand free of those confines. No longer am I in solitude, no longer held back. Many occasions will come when my strength will be tested, but I will be wiser. Never again will I forgo what is mine; never again will I listen to those who speak with closed mouths. My life will go by my choices, my path will be of my own making. I will not flow against the current, the current will flow with me. My world of darkness will be made to glow, and the light shall come from within. No longer will I close myself and hope for mercy. The world will be of my own, and I of the world. 

There comes a moment in time, my friends, when there is no looking back. As the past descends, the future appears. When the moment comes, the future shall be ours. That moment is now.

The Decks are Cleared

My guess for the finals is DD vs. CSK, and I think DD is going to win. 

Thursday, May 21, 2009

The Good and the Bad of IPL Ads

With the second edition of DLF IPL entering the semi-final stage, viewers have already been exposed to unique, eye-catching ads. We decided to rank some of the most popular ads in three categories:

1. The Best Ads
Undoubtedly, Vodafone's ZooZoos caught everybody's attention. These little egg-heads featured in innumerable ads, and took some animal variations too! The white costumes were quite unique. Overall, the sheer simplicity of the ads coupled with a brilliant storyline made them the best ads featured in IPL2. Why, even Gaurav Kapoor was featured dancing with the ZooZoos!

2. The Okay Ads
A number of ads come under this category. The Pond's 'Portrait' ad was very good, while the Havell's 'Recession ka Shock' ads were mild. Nokia's ad featuring Priyanka Chopra really caught my attention, but not for the product. However, most of the ads in this category will not be remembered. However, if I had to pick the best from this category, I'd pick the ads from Godrej Aerospace Labs.

3. The BAD Ads
Only one set of ads deserves to be listed in this category. The Tata Indicom 'Hello ki Bimari' ads were irritating and senseless. Everything, from the 'dada' ad to the restaurant waiter, was bad. It was painful to watch these ads. The senseless 'hellos' after each word did not convey any message, they were just plain irritating. Tata Indicom should scrap the ads.

Cricket matches always bring out the best, and worst, from the world of ads. Wonder what they'll come up with next year!

Wednesday, May 20, 2009

Priorities for a New Era

After two and a half long and difficult years of studying amongst cut-throat competition, my world has ended. I was born free, today, I am free again. Indeed, I am born again.

In this new era of freedom, it is important to set aside some priorities. Here are some crucial changes I have in mind for myself:
  1. Roam around and talk to the neighbours a lot more and lose weight.
  2. Drop the insomniac tag. Over the last two and a half years, I have acquired a terrible habit of sleeping very late (the extreme case being 4:30-5:30 AM) and waking up very late (as late as 2:00 PM). This must go, and my newly-acquired cellphone with its alarm clock will come to good use.
  3. Write more documentaries for OTFS.
  4. Rebuild bridges with family members, whom I have not visited much over the period.
  5. And finally, read some good novels. I cannot lose the habit of reading good books; reading newspapers remains part of my core routine.

And so, it ends

My score: 361/450

My Home Sarovar, Secretariat Road, Hyderabad, May 20: The last exam on my itinerary - the Birla Institute of Technology and Science Admission Test (BITSAT) - 2009, ended with delightful results. With a total of 361, I am in a position to choose a subject of my liking in any of the three campuses (Pilani, Goa and Hyderabad). 

First, the centre. My Home Sarovar is essentially a call-centre, with spanking upholstery and central air conditioning. Those who didn't bring proof of their identity (such as a copy of the Class 10 pass certificate) were given a form to fill, which would act as temporary proof. After that, about 150-180 students were taken to the counter in the front of Eduquity (the organisation conducting the test) and assigned a computer and a scribble pad of eight pages. 

The computers were ready for the test. Each student's picture was displayed along with a welcome message. Once everybody was ready, the server was activated and the test began.

Chemistry was easy, except the questions from Inorganic Chemistry. A majority of questions came from Physical Chemistry and they were quite easy. Some questions - such as the pH of a buffer solution in which [Salt] = [Acid] and pKa is given - weren't even worth three marks! Maths was average, with some questions requiring quite a lot of calculation. Physics was fairly easy, with most of the questions following typical models. Nearly all the questions involved a formula, except a question about constellations. 

The English and Logical Reasoning section - unique to BITSAT - was much easier than expected. The words tested in the vocabulary section were familiar, while logical reasoning took less tha five minutes to solve. Some question were challenging though. For example, the meaning of 'gift of the gab' left me confused between two choices: 'an profound orator' and 'a fluent speaker,' both of which seemed correct. At the end, I decided to leave it.

Overall, I answered 135 questions and left 15, six of them being from Chemistry. I correctly answered 124 questions and answered 11 wrong, bringing me to a toal of 361 and virtual roses courtesy the people behind BITSAT! The invigilator seemed shocked by my mark as she looked at the screen quite a few times to verify it. Even I looked at the screen a couple of times to make sure the number didn't disappear!

And with that, I left the air-conditioned room, was given a pamphlet about courses in BITS, Pilani and took back my bag and cellphone. And so it ended. Two years of cut-throat competition, endless exams and gruelling schedules ended with the click of a button.

If you haven't written BITSAT yet, I can only give you one piece of advice: attempt the exam with a cool mind and resist the urge to guess the answers. Keep trying, you will get it. And don't rush, I pressed 'Finish' with just 2 minutes to spare!

Monday, May 18, 2009

Sensex welcomes UPA's Victory

The stock markets gave a huge welcome to the victorious UPA, sans the Communists. The BSE Sensex rose by 2110.79 points to 14284.21. The S&P CNX Nifty ended at 4323.15 gaining 651.50 points. All this happened around 11:05 AM, when the markets hit the upper circuit filter and trading was halted. Later, it was decided to halt trading for the entire day, the first such incident in the 132-year history of the BSE. 

Among the sectoral indices, the BSE Realty Index, which has been taking quite a beating of late, rose 15.8%, while BSE Bankex rose 13.6% and BSE Oil and Gas 11.9%. Among individual stocks, BHEL rose 32.7% and L&T 29%. All stocks gained in double-digits in terms of percentage. 

Indian markets bucked the trend globally, with the Nikkei 225 and Seoul Kospi in the red. 

[Data courtesy of]

Sunday, May 17, 2009

The One-Party Assembly

If you thought that the Left's performance in West Bengal over the last thirty years is impressive, give Sikkim a few more years.

It's not often that you see an Opposition humbled to such an extent. For, once the results of the 2009 Assembly Elections in the Himalayan state of India came out, the ruling Sikkim Democratic Front (SDF) took home all the 32 seats.

Effectively, the legislature has no opposition. In the last Assembly, when there were 40 seats before delimitation (also called redistricting), the SDF controlled 39 seats and the Congress just one seat. Now, the Congress has lost even that lone seat. What's more, this is the fourth win in a row for the SDF, cementing Pawan Kumar Chamling's role as the state's most powerful leader. The four-time CM is all set to form a new, more youthful cabinet. Amazingly, the SDF did not face any rebellion in spite of dropping nine cabinet ministers. The SDF has also won Sikkim's lone Lok Sabha seat.

Democratically speaking, a one-party legislature is not such a good thing. The Government can do anything. There will be no debate, just orders. However, if that's what the residents of Sikkim want, then that is what they will get.

Saturday, May 16, 2009

Hopes for the Next Cabinet

Now the all the results for the Lok Sabha elections are nearly out (in record time thanks to the EVMs), here are a few people I think should be in the next cabinet:

1. Shashi Tharoor as Minister for External Affairs
A former undersecretary to the UN secretary general, Shashi Tharoor is an ideal candidate for the job. His experience as a diplomat will prove useful in the days to come, as India will need to negotiate new deals, including Nuclear Agreements, and cooperate with other countries in areas such as terrorism and climate change.

2. Rahul Gandhi as Minister for Youth Affairs and Sports
The heir-apparent of the Congress party and youth icon Rahul Gandhi will be PM one day, that is for sure. But before that, he needs some administrative experience. Now is the perfect time: as Minister for Youth Affairs and Sports, he would be a hit with the youth. Under him, we could present an excellent Commonwealth Games and Cricket World Cup.

3. P Chidambaram as Minister for Affairs of Home
The Home Ministry, given the series of terrorist bombings and 26/11 last year, is very important to the Indian people. P Chidambaram took over last year after 26/11 and prepared a 100 day plan, including energising the Multi Agency Centre (MAC). In spite of the subsequent bombings in Assam, he has still managed to do fairly well. I think he should be given a chance to implement more long-term plans.

And of course, Dr. Manmohan Singh will be the Prime Minister. Although it would be nice if he could also control the Finance Ministry, this is probably asking for too much. The buzz is that Kamal Nath, who made headlines in the last WTO discussions as Commerce Minister, could get Finance. Dr. Singh will become the second Prime Minister in Independent India's history to serve as PM for two consecutive terms. The first one was Jawaharlal Nehru.

Foreign leaders have already  begun congratulating the Prime Minister. The first was the Prime Minister of Bhutan. Among the rest was Pakistan's President Asif Ali Zardari. President Zardari has been hoping to renew dialogue with the new government, as it was halted after 26/11. However, any new dialogue seems unlikely unless those behind 26/11 are punished.

YSR beats united Opposition and Superstar

Andhra Pradesh Chief Minister YSR Reddy of the Congress is all set to form the next Government on his own. The Congress won 157 seats, surpassing the 148 halfway mark. He is expected to take oath before the Governor on May 20.

The Telugu Desam resurrected itself from the 2004 debacle, winning 91 seats against 45 in 2005. The TRS was completely decimated, winning just 10 seats. The Left won 5 seats. Together, the Mahakootami won 106 seats.

Superstar Chiranjeevi's Praja Rajyam, despite its tall claims, was cut down to size by the electorate. It won just 18 seats, and no Lok Sabha seats (he had earlier claimed that his nascent party would play a big role in Delhi and even supported Sharad Pawar as PM). His party will just be a blip in the Opposition benches.

The Muslim fundamentalist party, the MIM, won seven seats, all in the Muslim-dominated areas around Hyderabad. This is in line with expectations. Other parties won 11 seats, including one seat won by the President of the Lok Satta Party Jayprakash Narayan (JP for short). The Lok Satta party has gained considerable support at the grassroots, particularly among the youth and women. Its first electoral victory ever will encourage it to move further. JP is widely respected across party lines and his voice will be heard in the Assembly.

The TRS needs some  serious introspection. Its continuous flip-flop is not encouraging. Either the party cleans up its act or dissolves itself. Either way, a new state of Telengana doesn't seem to be coming any time soon, since Chief Minister YSR Reddy is known to be against it and he has just grown more influential in the INC. 

However, some of the results were surprising. Devender Goud, who was No. 2 in the TDP, quit and formed his own Nava Telengana Party and later merged it with the PRP, lost. This is a huge fall for a political giant. Speaker of the Assembly Suresh Reddy, a Congressman who is extremely respected in Hyderabad, also lost. And to add insult to injury, D Srinivas, head of the APCC (something like the 'Sonia Gandhi of AP') lost. Zahid Ali Khan of the TDP, who proved to be the most challenging opponent to the MIM's vice-like grip on Hyderabad, lost in the Lok Sabha election to the MIM's Asad-ud-din Owaisi. 

Overall, 2009 has projected the image of a strong but falling Congress party, a resurgent but presumably directionless TDP, a collapsing TRS and a nascent PRP. 

UPA set to return

The results of the 15th General Elections for seats to the Lok Sabha belied all expectations. Far from a fractured verdict that would lead to the formation of a Third-Front-led Government, made up of several ideologically-opposed parties and supported by the Congress, the electorate has firmly reposed faith in the Manmohan-Singh led UPA.

The Congress party won the single largest number of seats - 200 (plus six leads) - and with its alliance partners in the UPA, it brought home 260 seats, with the Opposition NDA far away at 158 seats. The BJP, the main opposition party, won 117 seats (and leads in one). None of the other so-called 'National Parties,' i.e., the RJD, BSP, CPI, CPI(M) and NCP were able to win anything close to the BJP and the Congress. The BSP and CPI/CPI(M) were in the 20s, the highest among them!

The BJP and the Third Front (or rather, the Left) conceded defeat. It is now clear that the Congress, with another ally or two from the Fourth Front, will form the next Government. And since the Congress has such an overwhelming majority in the UPA, it will take all the 'bigshot' ministries, including External Affairs, Finance and Defense, apart from controlling the Prime Minister's Office. 

The Left suffered its most stunning defeat since 1977. The Congress-TC combine in West Bengal, the Left bastion, secured about ten more seats that the Left: 25 against 15. In Kerala, the other red state, the Left were reduced to 4 seats from 19 in 2004. The Left also won 2/2 seats in Tripura and a few more in the rest of India, bringing their total  close to 25, a far cry from their 2004 performance of around 60 seats. The Left will not participate in the Government nor will its external support be necessary: it will sit in the Opposition. 

Among some of the big names that lost were Minsiters Renuka Chowdhary (Andhra Pradesh, Congress) and Ram Vilas Paswan (Bihar, LJP). Mr. Paswan has the distinction of being in every cabinet for over a decade irrespective of which coalition ran the show. Now, he has lost and will not be a part of the next cabinet.  However, P Chidambaram, who was trailing initially, won from Tamil Nadu. He will definitely be a part of the next cabinet. Independent Mallika Sarabhai lost to LK Advani (Gandhinagar, BJP) while Independent Meera Sanyal, whom OTFS endorsed, lost to Milind Deora (Mumbai South, Congress).

This is undoubtedly the end of the road for LK Advani. He has grown too old and the BJP will have to find a new, younger face for 2014. The Congress will also have to search for a new face as Dr. Singh is also growing very old. However, if Dr. Singh refuses to join the cabinet again in 2014 (he is an unelected Rajya Sabha MP), Rahul Gandhi will probably be given the torch to lead.

The Union Cabinet will resign on Monday and a new Cabinet will be sworn in soon. President Pratibha Patil, who probably has the easiest job since 1977, will address the first session of the new Lok Sabha.

Friday, May 15, 2009

All Eyes on the President

As counting day approaches, the President of India Pratibha Patil will have to make a major decision. It is perhaps the only time in a President's tenure that all eyes are fixed on Rashtrapati Bhavan. 

When our constitution was made, it was the norm that a single party would win a majority and form the next Government. That's exactly how it went for decades: the Congress kept returning to power and the President simply invited the leader of the Congress to form a government. But ever since India entered the age of coalitions, the President's task has become complicated.

At the heart of the matter are two contradicting views: one feels that the President should invite the party which has the highest number of seats to come and form a government in a coalition. This is what several Presidents, including President Venkatraman, have done. But the other view, which was used by President Narayan, is that the President should consider realities on the ground and invite that post-poll alliance which has the most numbers. A middle path would be to simply invite that alliance, which can produce enough Letters of Support to form a Government.

Now, the President is not free to act here. He or she must abide by various conventions. These conventions were established because the Constitution is a little vague in this regard. Nonetheless, here are some of the options before the President:
  1. If a party holds the majority, invite it to form the next Government. But this is, in all likelihood, not going to happen;
  2. Invite a pre-poll alliance to form a Government, asking them to muster enough support and prove their strength in the House using a vote of confidence;
  3. Invite a post-poll alliance that can produce enough Letters of Support but ask them to prove their majority;
  4. If none of the above options are feasible, call for a National Government comprising of  all major parties (primarily the Congress and the BJP), ask them to form a Common Minimum Programme together and choose, by consensus, a Prime Minister; and
  5. Install a caretaker Government and call for mid-term polls. This is the least preferred option.
Whatever the President decides will be recorded in history and very President is remembered for this. President Patil, who was made President under the UPA, will have to make this decision soon. The entire nation will be watching.

Thursday, May 14, 2009

The Real Contest is for Medicine

The media and most students always associate EAMCET with entry into prestigious and not-so-prestigious engineering colleges. EAMCET means an engineering seat and a ticket to the good life for most. However, we usually forget about the 'M' in EAMCET.

The EAMCET Medical exam is perhaps one of the most difficult in India. Apart from a very large syllabus, the exam is cut-throat. Consider this: this year, 33% of students appearing for EAMCET Engineering will bag a seat, while it is just about 2% for medical! Although MPC students face a lot of pressure in jr. colleges, much of that is because of over-enthusiastic parents and draconian college managements. BiPC students however, face genuine pressure as a poor rank in EAMCET means a wasted year for them. And medicine is a long-drawn course that sees most doctors studying even in their 40s. 

EAMCET Medical students rarely get the hype that their Engineering brethren do. However, it is important to give them credit for working hard and taking on a huge challenge. Today, after the Engineering paper, Medical students will be writing their paper. The exam is crucial for their future and indeed, ours as well. After all, what would we do without doctors?

3.4 Lakh students write EAMCET-09

Little Flower Jr. College, Uppal, Hyderabad, May 14: Students across the state attempted EAMCET-09 for admission into over 1 lank seats in Engineering colleges. For many students who cannot bank on AIEEE, IITJEE or other exams, this exam means everything.

The centre, LFJC, was well-furnished, but the authorities managed the inflow of students poorly. There was an acute traffic jam as thousands of students attempted to enter the college at the same time. Some good citizen took it upon himself to regulate the traffic. As such, the road was very narrow and was not suited for two-lane traffic, let alone such a wild rush of students. However, after a lot of pushing preceded by an hour or more of waiting in the sun, all students were seated.

The furniture was quite nice and the invigilators were very friendly. Now, as for the exam, it was average. Maths was extremely easy, with some questions taking under five seconds to solve. However, Chemistry was harder than expected and consequently, took more time. Physics was average, although some questions in Physics were difficult. Some students opined that Physics, not Chemistry, was more difficult. However, most found Chemistry to be the game-changer. Nearly all students felt that the allotted time of 3 hours was insufficient. Indeed, OTFS feels that it would have been possible to solve the entire Maths section had students been able to try it for an hour more.

This year, the EAMCET score contributes 75% to the final score, with 25% coming from IPE, counting only the core subjects (i.e., excluding languages). Consequently, estimation of ranks becomes more complicated. Some 'experts' on TV channels are dishing out ranks without keeping this in mind. Empirically, one in every three students who write EAMCET will bag a seat. 

Unlike other exams, students had to return the question paper for EAMCET. There seems to be no logic for this, although it has been the norm every year. The EAMCET Convener, for the benefit of rural students in particular, provided a good quality pencil to each student.

After the exam ended exactly at 1:00 PM, an ocean of students descended upon a little lane, which also happened to house a Reliance Fresh outlet! A huge traffic jam, perhaps the mother of all jams, followed. 

Any mark over 120/160 can be considered as good, provided IPE marks are above 90% (core subjects). The last exam - BITSAT - will take place all over May and early June. OTFS will cover thee exam on May 20. (OTFS)

Tuesday, May 12, 2009

Last Phase of Polling Today

It's taken a month but it seemed like several years. Finally, on May 13, the last phase of polling in the 15th General Elections will take place.

The big fish in Phase 5 is Tamil Nadu, with 39 important seats. Analysts see a wave in favour of the AIADMK alliance, with the Congress-DMK block losing strength. The Tamil votes are crucial for any Government. This time, parties there have used the Sri Lankan Tamils issue to sway the masses. However, most Tamils care more about their own country and day-to-day issues such as price rise and terrorism. Recently, Narendra Modi took a jibe at Tamil Nadu CM M Karunanidhi, saying that he went on a fast for Sri Lankan Tamils but the fast started after breakfast and ended before lunchtime!

Apart from Tamil Nadu, Punjab also heads to the polls. The very serious issue of the anti-Sikh Riots will haunt the Congress as it looks to battle the BJP-SAD alliance, which also runs the State Government. Prime Minsiter Manmohan Singh and LK advani have both campaigned in the city of Amritsar, which neither of the parties is willing to lose without a fight. After Punjab, a few seats in UP also head for polls. Interestingly, all these seats have a sizeable Muslim population, and it will be interesting to see whether they vote for the SP or switch to the BSP or simply ditch the regional parties and vote for the Congress. Some Muslims here also vote for the BJP. The recent battle between Azam Khan and Amar Singh in the SP and the nude pictures of Jayaprada will definitely be a factor.

Parts of West Bengal, including the associated seats around Kolkata, will be up for grabs. Dakshin Kolkata, one of the more better-off constituencies, has been contested bitterly. The Communists hope to hold on to their vice-like grip on West Bengal, but the shackles have already begun to loosen. The Congress-TMC alliance is formidable and consequently, a lot of political violence has been reported from around here. Lastly, seats in Kashmir will also head for polls. Turnout is expected to be low here, although the NC-Congress alliance and the PDP (which is supposed to have some "secret pact" with the BJP!) have been canvassing hard.

Once elections are completed, EVMs will be taken under tight security to the counting centres. Counting will end in less than a day on May 16. Then, the horse-trading will come out in the open. President Pratibha Patil will be tested by the alliance she chooses to invite first. The choice made by any President is always analysed. This year, like President Venkatraman, President Patil is expected to face a difficult task. 

PS: The UPA's silly ban on exit polls ends tomorrow at 5:00 PM. All major media houses are expected to declare their projections tomorrow. Be warned, they are usually incorrect.

The University of Secularism?

The secular card is one that is often played by the Congress when it desperately needs allies. The events of the last few days have proved just that. First, the Congress terms Bihar CM Nitish Kumar communal for being an ally of the BJP. Then, it calls him secular and asks him to ditch the NDA (though not openly). Then, after being strongly refuted by Nitish Kumar, the Congress labels him communal. Even better, he loses his secular character, according to the Prime Minister, by touching Gujarat CM Narendra Modi. Communalism seems to spread faster than swine flu!

It's quite a silly argument now, that secularism can hold a country together. MA Jinnah thought that he could use religion to hold a diverse country together, he was wrong. Governance, and not religion (or the apparent lack of it) holds a country together. 

I would like to ask how the Congress defines secularism: is any party that opposes the BJP secular? If so, can the MIM, PDP and above all, the Indian Union Muslim League (all parties that have nil achievements in the field of governance but win purely by telling their voters that they must vote for a Muslim candidate) be called secular? Are only Hindus communal in that case? Or is secularism a tool used by the Congress to win allies when it cannot offer good governance? Probably.


WEEK 104 DAY 2
May 12, 2009: The Final Day!

Today marks the final day of the 2007-09 batch of Sri Chaitanya, SR Nagar. With tomorrow being being a 'cool off day' before EAMCET-09, today was the last day. A new batch will enter in a few weeks, and the current will only be remembered for a few months on account of their ranks and marks. 

However, students will be called back for one more day. This is because Sri Chaitanya is conducting a BITSAT mock test for its students. The test will be held for each student one day before they write BITSAT. The college has purchased eight computers for this purpose. 

OTFS wishes all intermediate students of AP, BiPC students in particular, best wishes for EAMCET. (OTFS)

Monday, May 11, 2009

Outrageous. But damn Funny!

It's been all over the papers. Sharukh Khan is losing his hair over it. And the IPL team in question doesn't seem to be too affected by the criticism. If you haven't heard about it yet, a new blog has been making waves in the blogosphere.

Fake IPL Player is a blog supposedly written by a bench-burner in the Kolkata Knight Riders IPL team. However, the nicknames used in the blog can be difficult to decipher. But don't fret: Google 'fake ipl player nicknames' and you'll find wild (but mostly correct) guesses as to who each nickname refers to.

One of the funniest is 'Badshah dildo,' referring to Sharukh Khan, the badshah (king) of Bollywood and his habit of poking into everybody's business, like a dildo ;-) (Google it if you don't know what it is). Others include Aila, Appam Chuthiya, Little John, Bhooka Naan, Big Mac, Phoren Babas etc.

This is one blog that every serious IPL fan must read. It might seem like cheap publicity, but it sure explains a lot. 

Sunday, May 10, 2009

Last Instalment of Jayaho Concludes

WEEK 104 DAY 0
The Final Week!

Sri Chaitanya AIEEE Campus (Campus IV), SR Nagar, Hyderabad, May 10: The last in the three-part Jayaho-09 took place today, with a massive turnout. The entire fourth campus was full and students from various colleges, including Narayana and FIITJEE, were present.

The paper was very good and the questions were a good mix of simple and challenging. However, like the previous editions, obtaining the results is next to impossible!

EAMCET will be conducted across AP on Thursday, May 14. Meanwhile, some students have begun to take BITSAT, which began on May 9. A majority are taking the test in the May 15-25 time frame. OTFS will report from both the exams.

Exactly 104 weeks back, the current batch of students joined Sri Chaitanya. Today, a new batch is attending so-called bridge classes. The journey has been long and tumultuous, but it isn't over yet. While the allotted 104 weeks might be over, the effects of our time in Sri Chaitanya will start bearing fruit - sweet or sour - in the near future.

OTFS will, in a few weeks, present a documentary on these two years: 'The Cursed Generation.' (OTFS)

Thursday, May 7, 2009

57% Turnout for Phase 4

The penultimate phase of voting in the 2009 General Elections saw a 57% turnout of the nearly 91 million electorate, according to the Election Commission. This was highest in West Bengal (75%) and lowest in Bihar (37%) and Kashmir (24%).

Violence was seen in some parts of West Bengal and Rajasthan, but the authorities managed to keep it under control. 

Some of the big faces that were scene casting their vote were former President APJ Abdul Kalam and incumbent President Pratibha Patil, who will have to formally form the next Government.

The primary areas which went to vote were Delhi, Rajasthan, Haryana, parts of UP, West Bengal and Srinagar. External Affairs Minister Pranab Mukherjee, Kashmiri veteran Farukh Abdullah and SP president Mulayam Singh were some of the candidates in the fray.

The final phase of voting is on May 13 and counting of votes follows on May 16. Thanks to the Electronic Voting Machines (EVMs), the counting will be over in a single day. After that, the largest party will have to cobble together a coalition, which will then stake claim to form the next Government before the President.

Wednesday, May 6, 2009

VIT Ranks Enthuse Students

WEEK 103 DAY 3

Sri Chaitanya IIT Academy, SR Nagar, Hyderabad, May 6: As the final 104th week in Sri Chaitanya approaches, students of S1 were particularly overjoyed by their ranks in Vellore Institute of Technology's (VIT) entrance exam. The results were spectacular, even though nobody plans to actually join VIT.

Aditya and Abhiroop both secured ranks in the 600-700 range, while Namrata beat them by scoring in the 500-600 range. Another student secured the 258th rank, the highest from the IIT Campus.

Elsewhere, OTFS has learned through its sources that a student in FIITJEE secured the 76th rank Students from Narayana claim to have bagged ranks in the Top 10.

EAMCET will be held across the state on May 14. OTFS will be covering the exam from Little Flower Jr College. (OTFS)

Students Make Tough Decisions

It's a yearly tradition: summer, associated with great cricket, be it IPL or the World Cup, versus exams, books and work. It's cruel and irrational: if sports and academics are supposed to be equally important, then why is it that Cricket's biggest events almost always coincide with a summer full of exams?

Next year, thankfully, IPL is scheduled for February. However, that won't do much for those writing pre-boards or studying for entrance exams. Sadly, cricket just cannot be a priority even in India. 

Monday, May 4, 2009

The Forgotten People of Kashmir

Mehbooba Mufti declares that since Kashmir is a Muslim-majority state, Muslims' issues are more important than others. Such speeches rarely remind us of the tragedy that befell this heaven-on-earth some twenty years back.

The Pakistan-sponsored genocide and mass exodus of Kashmiri pandits from the Valley is a shame on the entire world. It defeats the very purpose of the Government, the UN and the Army. But today, as lakhs of Kashmiri pandits live as refugees on their own soil, their voice is rarely heard.

Who owns Kashmir? India? Pakistan? China? The answer is probably none of the above: Kashmir belongs to the people of Kashmir, those born on its soil. But when millions of Kashmiris are denied the right to life in the Valley, what can the people of Kashmir say? International conferences on Kashmir and Barack Obama's leanings never discuss Kashmiri Pandits. 

Secessionists have engineered the current situation in Kashmir. Kashmiri Pandits, who are Hindus, were probably the most progressive and economically forward people of the State. They never supported secession, neither did they support war. It was this feature that led to the calamity that befell them. Today, they live as refugees in makeshift camps. Disease and death are common. Some have moved on, found work elsewhere or left the country altogether. But their hearts remain in their jannat: Kashmir is as much theirs as it is for the current inhabitants of the state. 

I do not think that terrorism comes with a religion. But the response of the Islamic world has made me sceptical. While Muslim countries spew venom against Israel and espouse the cause of the displaced Palestinians, they do not feel that Kashmiri Pandits are worth talking about. If Palestinians were driven out of their homes, then so were Kashmiri Pandits. But while International donor conferences are held to help the Palestinians (in which Islamic countries donate generously), the Kashmiri Pandits have to live with the paltry amount that the Governments of India and Jammu & Kashmir allot to them. Pakistan makes is clear that it only considers the Muslims of J&K worth discussing; it is not concerned about Kashmiri Pandits.

This year, the National Conference, with its young Chief Minsiter, promised to work towards bringing the Pandits back home. But such promises have been made year after year. Some have even dropped the thought altogether. But all parties and all countries should know that there can be no peace, no deal, no agreement without looking into the plight of Kashmiri Pandits. This land is theirs too, they are children of Kashmir. A final, stable, successful solution to Kashmir can only be one that ensures dignity and security to the Kashmiri Pandits. There can be no compromise on this issue.

Downhill from here

AIADMK President J. Jayalalitha looks to be losing this election. That explains her sudden shift in favour of Tamil Eelam (Independent Tamil Nation) in Sri Lanka, having supported devolution of powers up to this point instead.

Now, at an election rally near Chennai, she has compared herself to Indira Gandhi and said that she would virtually invade Sri Lanka and create a new country, a la Bangladesh. 

Firstly, she should realise that her party is a tiny regional party - sitting in Opposition in the Assembly - and cannot hope to win a single vote beyond TN's borders. Next, she should realise that war is a national issue, and India is more than Tamil Nadu. What Tamil politicians say cannot move the entire country. Lastly, she should also realise that TN does not have its own army, and the pro-LTTE members here should know that small mobs that attack innocent people and make vitriolic speeches do not make up an army.

It is highly likely that at a time when India is continuously slipping on the HDI and has added, nor removed, people to the BPL (Below Poverty Line) list, war is not something that the people of the country will support. We are growing at less than 7% while our deficit runs at over 10% (if you include state deficits and bonds): we do not have the money to fight a frivolous war. Yes, we can encourage a political solution, we can push the Sri Lankan Government to give the Tamils a better deal. But we cannot send in our army (again) to invade another country.

Interestingly, in the same speech, Jayalalitha lambasted Manmohan Singh for giving in to the 'evil military designs' of the US. She should note while Bush is criticised for invading Iraq, she herself is in favour of invading another nation that also treats its people badly. 

So why the double speak? Amma is a smart woman, she knows that she cannot get what she wants. So why is she saying such things? Because her party is losing! Whenever someone raises this issue, it always has to do with politics. Her party is doing badly in TN, her alliance with the PMK is not working. She has no issues, so she behaves as though she is an Indira Gandhi-reincarnate. 

The UPA banned exit polls, which was a terrible decision. But luckily, people like Jayalalitha make up for that by giving away such hints. Now we have an idea about how Tamil voters have voted.

Sunday, May 3, 2009

Good ad from Hero Honda

Product: Hero Honda Passion Pro
Rating: **** of 5
Pros: Great music, good storyline
Cons: The sound of the cars tends to mute the dialogues

This ad from Hero Honda caught my attention because of its simple storyline and fabulous music. The bike looks great and the acting is very good. Another good ad from India's top bike manufacturer!

Close Finish

The Knight Riders needed to win this desperately. But unfortunately, the Kings XI got the better of them. Match 27 of the DLF IPL proved decisive virtually finished off KKR's chances of making it to the semi-finals. Although Brad Hodge (70*/43) helped Kolkata push the score up to 153/3 (20 overs) in the first innings, the bottom-of-the-table team could not overpower KXIP.

KXIP lost an early wicket, that of Sangakkara (0/2 c MN van Wyk b I Sharma). However, Jayawardene's 52*/41, coupled with S Sohal (25/17 c SC Ganguly b AB Agarkar) and Irrfan Pathan's timely runs pushed the Kings to victory. It was pretty tense really: the socres were level with one ball to go, and KKR tried its best to configure its fielding. However, KKR's fielding was poor throughout the match, the team having dropped four crucial catches.

After Match 27, KXIP are just behind DC at No. 2, while KKR languishes at the bottom. Unless KKR can win all of its remaining five matches, it's all over for them.

Saturday, May 2, 2009

Oh, No! There's no Swine Flu in India!

As Influenza A or H1N1 (unofficially called Swine Flu) continues to grip the world, the Indian media seems to be left in a grave crisis. While their foreign counterparts file report after report of more cases - the most recent being in France - the Indian media seems to be left holding the um... pig's tail?

The media coverage of the spread of Swine flu has been spruced up by all channels with a dash of sensationalism. When there was a suspected case in Hyderabad, the OB vans drove like the wind to cover the story. More recently, when there were two suspected cases in Delhi, the media began to jump with joy, forgetting to wait for the final report. When the tests came in negative, the dejected sigh was laughable! News channels painfully asked a doctor whether it was true that Swine Flu had missed India yet again!

It is perhaps worthwhile for the news media to recall the little fact that more people die in India of malaria, AIDS, tuberculosis and female foeticide/infanticide than even the bubonic plague could kill! This is not a serious illness that can halve the world's population: Tamiflu is effective if taken immediately, and research is underway to find a vaccine. Since the flu is similar to Avian Flu (H5N1; represents the proteins present in the virus), it shouldn't be very difficult to find a vaccine, although it will take 4-6 months. However, the media is treating this like the end of the world!

Some channels have made it a competition of sorts. One channel called India's surveillance system archaic in comparison to China's thermal imagery, forgetting that China only acquired this technology after SARS. All this reminds me a bit of the American media in 2007, when the Government there was not calling the situation a recession. News channels in the US were demanding a recession, they were twisting their questions to people-in-power so that they could get such an answer. The Indian media today is doing much the same.

The media has been playing an extremely negative role. However, to be fair, they have helped educate viewers about the virus. But that's a thin silver lining.

Can the BJP break the Jinx?

Darjeeling Lok Sabha Constituency went to polls for the Third Phase about two days back. So, what's so special about it? Well, for one, it's been at the centre of a rising anti-communist storm and a group called the GJM that has been taking forward a centuries-old demand for a Gorkhaland state; and two, it might just be the first constituency in West Bengal where the right-centrist BJP wins.

Contrary to its original nationalist ideology, the BJP has been projecting itself as a champion for smaller states; under the NDA, India got two new states by an Act of Parliament. The logic is that smaller states are easier to manage. Now, the Leftists of Bengal have flatly opposed the call for division of the state, and have found support even in their bitter enemy, the TMC. So, with little choice, the GJM has joined hands with the BJP.

The Gorkhas have put their entire weight behind BJP candidate Jaswant Singh. Mr. Singh, a former Union Minister, seems to have been put into an odd spot. He's from the deserts of Rajasthan, but now, he finds himself in the foothills of the Himalayas! He was virtually unheard of here until he was nominated by the BJP; now, everybody knows him. He has confessed that he has fallen in love with the mountains.

However, on a less emotional note, there is the serious question of whether he can deliver. The state Congress (which will probably form the main opposition if the NDA comes to power), the Communists and even the state BJP is against the division of West Bengal. Most NDA allies are not clear about this issue. To create a new state would be a herculean task, given the whisker-thin majorities Governments tend to control in Parliament these days.

However, whether they can deliver or not, it is quite certain that Mr. Singh will win, such is the strength of the GJM. His win will be the first BJP victory in the state; indeed, the Left has always praised itself as the messiah of secularism by saying that in its states, the BJP does not win. This time, they might end up eating their own words.

Friday, May 1, 2009

IPL gets Intense

Several matches into the IPL, and the action has become even more intense. The KXIP vs. MI match can easily be called the closest yet, and Kohli's on-the-edge catch of Duminy certainly was the turning point. KKR has slipped into bottom place because of reasons that could range from terrible idea from an arrogant coach to poor team morale because of a sulking team owner.

Surprisingly, last year's laggards, DC, have come out on top, although it faced its first defeat yesterday against Delhi. Last year's winners, RR, have slipped to No. 6 and have one of worst Net Run Rates among the IPL teams. RCB retains its No. 8 position, which it ended with last year.

Overall, DD, DC and KXIP look all set to enter the semifinals, although that cannot be said for sure. More exciting cricket awaits IPL fans in the Rainbow Country!

The Greatest Challenge

The US-led War on Terror, now being led by President Barack Obama, seems to have hit upon a decades-old stumbling block. The new administration has already understood that the solution to Afghanistan lies in Pakistan. However, this brings with it a very challenging problem: making the Pakistani Government and Army understand that the Taliban, and not India, is the mortal threat.

The US has been using some powerful diplomacy to get the message across. However, it may just bee too big a challenge for the US. The Indo-Pak mutual dislike goes back well beyond Independence: the seeds of mistrust and hate were sown in the nineteenth century by the British colonialists. The tree of hate is in full bloom today, and it seems highly unlikely that American dollars going to be able to destroy it.

However, it is important that the Americans do succeed in this, even partially. The Taliban poses a huge threat even to India, and only Pakistan can stop it. The Pakistani Army, which boasts that it can defeat India's much-larger army any time, anywhere, seems to be abdicating to the Taliban. Only after intense pressure from the US have they begun to fight back; but that is not enough. The SWAT deal is still in place, although it is an example of gross double standards. The Pakistani army still wants to treat the Taliban as a strategic asset against India. The US must finish this thought if it ever hopes to prevent another 9/11.