Monday, December 28, 2009

A Gaze into 2010

The new year, also ushering in a new decade, will be an important year in my life. While 2009 was surely one of the most defining years of all, 2010 could well be a trove of surprises. With the second semester of my first year at IIT Roorkee along with the first of the second year, I'll probably start feeling much more like a college student.

Last year, my grandfather passed away. It was like the end of an era in my life. But with my new life at IITR, a new era has begun. After all, sunset is always followed by sunrise. This new year and indeed, the new decade, will change my life forever.

So, any resolution? Well, I normally never make any New Year resolutions because well, I can't keep them. But this year, I'd like to make two resolutions, which I will keep no matter what. Firstly, I shall not smoke or drink. Never will I indulge in such acts. My family has never been into this and neither will I. Neither will I let my close friends get into these habits either. All it takes is strength, and we are each other's strengths. Secondly, I shall not rag any junior no matter what happens. I don't care if the authorities ask me to do it (which they very well could) but I will not. These are two resolutions that I make for my late Grandfather and I will keep them. I will.

May the new year and the new decade be one of great joy and prosperity to you, your family, your friends, your country and our planet. And never stop praying: prayer is an expression of hope. And an expression of freedom.

Leaving Tonight

Well, my first end-semester break from IIT Roorkee, Saharanpur Campus, ends soon and it's time to return. My flight takes off at 6:10 AM from RGIA, Shamshabad and is expected to land at 8:00 AM at IGI, New Delhi. Of course, the flight will be delayed owing to the fog!

Now, once I get back, there is quite a bit of work to do. My room needs to be cleaned and I have to dispose of a lot of papers (mostly old test papers and tutorial sheets). I might also burn my Electronics tutorials for old times' sake. Then I have to purchase a lot of notebooks for the new semester. The registration is on Dec. 31 (so evil of them to put it on that date!) and once I get the new academic calendar I'll have to start planning a summer vacation and see if I could go home for the mid-term break too.

Once classes start... well the days will begin to fly, what with Viki's classes and a crazy Physics practical every week. Oh God, I thought I avoided Physics by a good range when I took this course. Now it's assigned five credits each for the next three semesters! Heavens, save me! But anyway, with Tarang '10, Cognizance '10 and Manas coming this semester, there will definitely be a lot of work to do. But it's fun.

Hopefully, I'll be able to bear the January cold, something that I'm not looking forward to. I also hope to roam around Saharanpur a little more, although I've seen enough of Roorkee for now! And now that I'm free from EC-102, I could start breathing without thinking about diodes! Let's see how the new Humanities professors are (although the initial assessment from last semester is pretty poor!) And of course there is also last semester's marksheet. I hope to get a GPA between 7 and 8, although if I pull off an A in CY-101 and MI-101 each, it could cross 8. But that'll take some luck.

Well, a lot to look forward to next semester. Hope the seniors were right: "The first autumn semester feels like hell, but spring semester after that is like heaven." I certainly hope so!

Note to anyone reading this before joining IITR: The electronics semester is the hardest one in the entire Polymer S&T course, according to a few of my seniors.

Sunday, December 27, 2009

AP's Iron Man

The year 2009 saw the tragic demise of Andhra Pradesh Chief Minister YSR Reddy, or simply YSR as he was fondly known. Dr. Reddy was perhaps one of the most powerful leaders in the INC from any state in its entire history.

The Andhra Pradesh Congress has been notorious for factionalism, never being able to provide a stable government. Consequently, it was thrown out of power for a protracted period of time by the Telugu Desam. Indeed, at one point, it seemed that the Congress was wiped out from AP and the Telugu Desam, together with the BJP, would always stay in power.

But things changed when YSR went on his famous padayatra across and won with a thumping majority in 2004. he was the first Congress leader from AP who could unite all factions of the AP Congress and provide a stable, full-term government and even go on to win another election, becoming the longest-serving CM of the state (Naidu had called for a mid-term election, hence his tenure was cut short).

YSR was a very unique Congress leader in the sense that he never let domestic AP politics - such as the Telangana movement or alleged corruption cases - come to the Central leadership's table. He made sure that he would make all decisions pertaining to his state. So much so, he didn't allow a powerful leader to become a Union Minister to prevent an alternate power-centre from arising.

Dr. Reddy's death in a tragic chopper crash was perhaps a death-knell for the Congress in Andhra Pradesh. A few weeks into the tragic incident and the Telangana Movement - which he suppressed with surprising success - has come closer than ever to success. Hyderabad, the city he wanted to see as a Global City, is burning today. The Maoists, whom YSR fought tooth and nail with a great deal of success, are rising to power in the region again. YSR's loss is proving very costly to Andhra Pradesh in particular and the whole country in general.

His contributions to his state and his country will be greatly remembered. He was, and remains, Andhra Pradesh's first and only Iron Man.

When the Light Stopped Glowing

The year 2009 saw the demise of medical student Aman Satya Kachroo of the Dr. Rajendra Prasad Medical College, Himachal Pradesh, at the hands of ragging. Ragging is a menace that has been plaguing a vast number of countries (it is called hazing in the US) and with Aman's death, it really reached a tipping point where public opinion strongly went against it.

Aman was lynched and murdered by four seniors during a ragging 'session.' He suffered internal bleeding and consequently died. The director and principal of the institute did not take ragging seriously and such 'sessions' were quite common, according to the inquiry report.

Amazingly, Aman had complained to his parents before about this but they did not take it all that seriously, much like a majority of parents in India who ask their children to 'just bear it.' He knew it was no use complaining to the authorities and even the police did not take it seriously. The HP Government has an anti-ragging ordinance some decade-and-a-half back but it lapsed long ago.

Society's laid back attitude, lack of law, lack of fear of consequences, social acceptance of this crime against humanity and absolutely impunity of the college authorities, coupled with uncontrolled alcoholism, smoking, casteism, regionalism etc. led to Aman's death. His death however, marked a new day in the anti-ragging movement in India, with society (which was still undecided) firmly going against the practice and several states passing (and notifying) Anti-Ragging Laws.

The year 2009 has seen more rustication and criminal charges being pressed in ragging cases than ever before. The Supreme Court's decision to make it mandatory to sign an 'I won't rag anyone' affidavit before registration has done a lot to save lives in the country. Still, the practice exists and many college administrations support it covertly. The fight has not ended, it has just begun. But Aman Kachroo's death shall inspire those fighting the barbaric act and we shall not tire until we win.

IOTY09: Nominations for Documentary of the Year

The nominations are
  • The Story of Maths: BBC World News (A two-part series taking you through the evolution of mathematics across continents)
  • 25 Years After Midnight: CNN International (A look back at the Bhopal Gas Tragedy, 25 years after it killed thousands of poor people)

IOTY09: The Categories

The awards for 2009 will be given away in the following categories:

The Opinions 24x7 2009 Indian of the Year

Political Awards
Troublemaker of the Year
Politician of the Year
Memorable Visit of the Year

Community Awards
Best State of the Year
City of the Year

Media Awards
Best Talk Show
Best Entertainment Channel
Best News Channel
Best Movie
Best Actor
Documentary of the Year
Best Ad

Sports Awards
Sportsperson of the Year
Memorable Event

Business Awards
Businessman of the Year
Company of the Year

The OTFS Awards
Label of the Year
OTFS Documentary of the Year

Some other commemorative awards will also be given away

Regular readers would notice that some awards have been removed from last time; this is because the IOTY Awards are growing with each year and we keep updating the category list to make it more relevant. Moreover, some awards have been extended in definition, such as 'Memorable Visit of the Year,' which now includes visit by Indian dignitaries to other countries instead of just visits to India.

Thursday, December 24, 2009

Police Reforms are Necessary

The Ruckiha Girotra case has caught the nation's attention and has once again brought forward the need to reform our police system.

A police officer molests a 14-year old girl, then harasses her family to force them to take back the complain. He is found guilty as per an in inquiry conducted by the DGP (Haryana) but he uses his political contacts to avoid punishment. He slaps fake cases on the girl's family members and brutally tortures her brother. The girl commits suicide after three years of being harassed but the case drags on for 19 years, at the end of which a helpless family watches as the officer, who rose to the rank of DGP using his contacts, smiles as he is sentenced to six months jail and a Rs. 1000 fine.

This is the story that makes a mockery out of our skewed, anti-people justice system. The system was put in place by the British Raj to suppress Indians and Independent India took it as it is. While Britain dumped the system itself, we continue to use it. The simple fact that the police is controlled by the Home Department of the State paves the way for an inefficient, corrupt, politician-controlled police force in which the influential can flout the very laws that they are supposed to protect. Our judicial system is another inheritance of loss, in which a case can drag on virtually forever and any decision can be appealed all the way up to the Supreme Court.

The need of the hour is to overhaul the system altogether. The police force of an area must be under the control of a local council consisting of elected representatives and prominent citizens who are directly answerable to the people, not to their party chiefs. For better coordination, there can be a central (state-run) Police Commission but it must not be given the power to harass police officers. lastly, the police needs to be paid far more.

Our judicial system also requires an overhaul. The power to appeal must be limited to serious cases only, the idea of e-complains needs to be taken up seriously, cases must have a time-frame, evening sessions must be taken up to clear the logjam, more courts need to be established, the Supreme Court Collegium must be replaced by a more transparent body open to public scrutiny, the bureaucracy needs to be cut down drastically... the list is simply endless.

But unless something is done, more monsters like SPS Rathore will emerge and thousands more will get away with it. While this barbarian managed to take the life of a young girl, we must seriously do something to prevent the system taking the life out of this country.

A Moment of Peace

Christmas day is here amidst great turmoil. The state and the great city of Hyderabad are divided along regional lines like never before, while violence has taken hold of mankind. This Christmas, let us all join hands to denounce this great evil of violence and arson.

We, as citizens of this great nation, have a duty towards our homeland. We cannot allow the forces of regionalism to divide us. We were divided once and paid dearly: this time, we must remain united. A nation is only as strong as its citizens are united. Let us resolve to make India a strong nation for all people born here.

Our earth is also in great peril, with climate change threatening to wipe out millions of species and render millions of people homeless and hungry. This year, our world leaders failed to reach a deal that would save Mother Earth. It is now up to us to not just put pressure on our respective governments to do something concrete, but also to take up individual measures to lower our carbon footprint.

In this hour of grief and dangers, Christmas comes to remind us that there is always hope. And hope is what kindles the most powerful thing in the world: the human spirit...

OTFS wishes its readers around the world a very Merry Christmas.

Wednesday, December 23, 2009

Up Next: Arson and Chaos

The Centre's decision to virtually suspend the process of creation of Telangana state out of Andhra Pradesh is a sure call for trouble in the strife-torn region, Hyderabad in particular.

Already, the TRS and Osmania university students have called for a 48-hour bandh. Section 144 has been imposed again. Buses are being burnt and the police are trying their best to bring things under control.

Furthermore, the State Government is in no condition to govern: it's MLAs and Ministers are no longer paying heed to their leadership and many of them have actually resigned. The Chief Minister K Rosaiah has no control over his party and is passing the buck to the Central leadership. All major parties in the state are in a state of absolute confusion and all MLAs and MPs are divided on regional lines.

There are threats of riots breaking out, like in 1969, and the state's finances are going from bad to worse. There is a sense of insecurity in Hyderabad and everybody fears for their life and property.

Does the Centre real need any further hints? Use your common sense! Declare President's Rule and bring in the Army: this situation must be quelled at all costs, even if it takes brute force. The state is in grave danger and Maoists are all set to take advantage of this. Rusticate agitating students, arrest TRS workers. What is the Centre waiting for? Hurry, before the killings begin...

Nominations for Documentary of the Year

The Story of Sikkim is a historical documentary that takes you through the monarchy in Sikkim, how it was crushed by Prime Minister Indira Gandhi, how the state was annexed and how it eventually turned into one of India's most peaceful states. View

The Cursed Generation is a four-part documentary that takes you into the dark world of the Junior Colleges of Hyderabad. Their lies, their human rights violations, how society if fooled into justifying them and just why it is necessary to stop them. Introduction Part 1 Part 2 Part 3 Part 4

Modified Inc. explores the controversy behind genetically modified food, taking you through the origins of GM Crops, their benefits and the irreversible harm they can cause to nature and humanity. View

Tuesday, December 22, 2009

The Music does the Trick

MAMMA MIA! (2008)

Produced by: Universal Pictures, Playtone and Littlestar
Director: Phyllida Lloyd
Starring: Amanda Seyfried, Pierce Brosnan, Colin Firth, Meryl Streep, Dominic Cooper and others
Rating: ***** (5 of 5)

The music of Abba comes alive again for a new generation with this spectacular musical, which broke quite a number of records in the UK. Mamma Mia!, named after a song by the band, is an excellent fusion of a classic love story and classic songs.

Meryl Streep plays Donna, a sex-loving young girl who is ditched by the unknown father of her daughter. She starts a hotel on a Greek island and raises her daughter. The story begins when her daughter is to get married to her sweetheart Sky and the three prospective 'fathers' of the bride appear!

The movie uses a host of wonderful songs sung by Abba to express the emotions of the characters: quite an achievement indeed! And since Abba is well, Abba, the music is simply wonderful to hear and appears at just the right time. And like any musical, everyone knows what steps to dance to!

The costumes are very good, but the makeup takes the toast. Donna's old, worn-out look is perfectly captured in her looks, as is her daughter's youthful glow. The actors performed brilliantly, particularly Pierce Brosnan with his concerned-loving-man act and Meryl Streep, who can't be praised enough.

The supporting cast also did their bit for the movie, with an excellent performance from Amanda Seyfried as Sophie. Donna's 'buddies' also added to the comedy in the film.

Personally, I adored the part when Super Trouper was played. The ending of the movie was a little dramatic, but the music put it all together.

A large Bollywood-like element was noticeable in the film, what with the dancing, singing, perfect-love-story and dancing in the shower at the end! This movie is really one meant for the entire world to watch. I highly recommend you to watch it and, while leaving, make sure to thank them for the music! (OTFS)

A Commendable Act

Gujarat Chief Minister Narendra Modi has proved once again that when it comes to administration, he's one step ahead of the rest. The new Mandatory Voting law in Gujarat, which makes it compulsory for voters in Gujarat to vote in local body elections or explain their absence, is a major step forward in fixing our dysfunctional democracy.

Now, one criticism of the Act is that it is not possible to punish so many people who don't vote. This is true, in the sense if conventional punishment. But if the 'punishment' is more like suspending your driving license for a week or some forfeiture of a tax rebate, it would be effective.

Contrary to what the opposition Congress says, the law is not a diktat: people are merely being reminded that as citizens of a democracy it is their duty to vote during elections. In particular, it is aimed at the apathetic attitude of the 'educated' middle class. In addition, the law can go some way in curbing the use of liquor and money in elections. The law does not ask people to do something that is impossible or harmful to them: it merely tells them to spend half and hour of their day standing in a queue to vote on one particular day in five years.

Also, the law gives an option of 'None of the Above' (NOTA): a first for any electorate in India. This will allow the electorate to tell their politicians that they don't like any of them: a long-standing demand. Thus, the law is quite a momentous one in Indian history.

However, the Gujarat Government must ensure that poor migrant labourers, who usually can't vote because of provisions in the Representation of The People Act, 1951, must be protected from the Act. The 'punishment' must be notified quickly and must not be overwhelmingly harsh but rather, coercive in nature.

If the Act is successful in Gujarat, then it must be replicated in a few other states: perhaps the BJP-governed states? And if proves successful elsewhere, the Government of India of the day might just consider implementing it on a national basis.

Sunday, December 20, 2009

The Caste Card Again

The motion to impeach Karnataka High Court Chief Justice Dinakaran by 75 Rajya Sabha MPs has met a highly unexpected stumbling block. It all started with Dalit Congress MPs opposing the motion because they felt that it smacked of caste bias and would deny him the opportunity to become 'the second Dalit Chief Justice of India.' As expected, UP CM Mayawati also jumped into to take advantage of this opportunity, asking the PM to ensure that Dinakaran is heard out.

Firstly, to reply to Mayawati, she should talk to constitutional experts before trumpeting anything. As Vice President Hamid Ansari has admitted the motion, Dinakaran will get a chance to defend himself: that is the law. Nobody is going to convict him of false charges.

As for the Congress MPs, they should be ashamed of themselves for using the caste card. There are very serious allegations against Justice Dinakaran, allegations serious enough for the Collegium to cancel his elevation to the supreme court. There is prima facie evidence against him. Such an individual should not be allowed to continue in his capacity irrespective of what his caste or religion is. And the idea that just because he is a Dalit he is going to become the next Chief Justice is reprehensible.

Dalit MPs have completely hijacked the meaning of Dalit emancipation. Uplifting Dalits means giving them an equal status in society as people of other castes. It does not mean looking for ways to shield them from justice or to avoid the legal system, neither does it discriminating against people of other castes. The faster they understand this, the better for India.

Modified Inc.

With the Government of India looking at allowing Bt Brinjal (eggplant) into the Indian market, the debate on Genetically Modified (GM) foods has come back. But what are GM Foods? Where did they come from and what do they have to offer? And if they are really so useful, then why the opposition?

OTFS investigates...

The History behind GM Foods
Modifying crops to increase the yield of those having certain desirable characteristics is not new, it was practiced by farmers long before we had the tools of modern Biotechnology. Crops which could withstand insects, which gave sweeter fruits, which required less fertilizer: farmers would look carefully for such crops and artificially allow them to self-pollinate. This was called plant breeding and was essentially harmless, since it did not play with any of nature's laws.

However, with increased scientific research, and particularly the cracking of the structure of DNA, it became possible to modify organisms as per human likings. Thus, some varieties of tomatoes were crossed with the genes present in fish that could resist frost to give 'frost-resistant' tomatoes. Similarly, a single insect-resistant gene from the bacterium Bacillus thuringiensis (Bt) when transferred to corn gives the insect-resistant variety Bt Corn. Thus, we see that genes were no longer crossed between plants but rather from animals to plants.

FlavrSavr was the first commercially sold variety of GM Foods (it was a variety of tomato). Another variety was used in Europe to make tomato puree. It became extremely popular until Dr. Arpad Pusztai showed that it was fatal to lab mice.

By 2005, almost 220 million acres of the earth were under GM Food cultivation. In India, Bt Cotton is cultivated on a massive scale. Other large cultivators include the US, China and Argentina.

Benefits of GM Foods
Scientists and industrialists have identified a number of advantages to GM Foods, including:
  1. Increased yield: Many varieties of GM foods are made to maximise the crop yield. Higher yields can have a number of beneficial effects on farmers, consumers and the economy.
  2. Lower requirement of chemicals: High-yielding, pest-resistant varieties of crops can drastically reduce the need for chemical fertilizers and pesticides. As the crops are resistant to pests, loss of yield to them is minimised.
  3. Solution to hunger: GM Foods have been billed as the ultimate solution to the world's problem of hunger. With higher yield, longer shelf-life and other characteristics, they can be grown quickly and transported easily to places where they are required. The UN World Food Programme (UNWFP) also uses GM Foods in countries where they are allowed to do so.
  4. Changed growing conditions: Crops can now be grown in previously unthinkable conditions. For examples, strawberries have now been grown in certain regions of Africa where they could not be earlier.
  5. Food as a supplement: Some foods can be modified to contain higher levels of certain minerals and chemicals such as Vitamin A or Omega-3 Fatty Acids. These can be used in places where the native vegetation lacks such minerals. Thus, the need for expensive dietary supplements can be avoided. For example, thousands of children go blind each year due to lack of Vitamin A, particularly in Asia and Africa. If rice, a staple in most places, could be modified to contain higher Vitamin-A levels, this could be avoided.
  6. GM Animals: With more research, even animals could be modified. Chicken could be modified so that its meat is softer and its eggs contain less cholesterol.

Harmful Effects
In spite of the advantages listed above, GM Foods have been shown to have a number of harmful effects. While there is the psycho-religious issue of modifying living creatures, there are a number of scientific issues as well, as discussed below.

  1. Cancer-linked GM Foods: Certain methods used to enhance yield has proven to produce food that heightens the risk of cancer in humans. For example, the 1993-FDA approved rBGH, a genetically modified growth hormone meant to enhance milk yield in cows, was shown to substantially enhance the chance of breast and prostate cancer in humans. The cows themselves showed an increase of spleen mass by around 40%, indicating leukemia.
  2. Superviruses: Viruses can mix with the DNA of GM foods and form new, powerful, resistant varieties of viruses called Superviruses. Several studies have shows that such gene-mixing does happen and it happens very fast: normally in just a few weeks.
  3. Allergies: GM Foods have been shown to increase life-threatening allergies in people. An allergy is simply something that does not "fit" with out body i.e., the body tends to reject such allergens. This is because the food we eat reacts with chemicals in our body. Any unnatural homogeneity is normally rejected by the body. GM Foods, by virtue of their nature, have amazing homogeneity in their composition and it is this that the body rejects. Although the only real way of knowing these allergies is by testing GM Foods on people, a better but less accurate way is to test them on lab mice. In a study, when GM soy was fed to female rats, they died within weeks, while the colour of the testicles of male rats changed from pink to blue, indicating that their sperm were mutated.
  4. Cell Interior Toxicity: Many pest-resistant varieties of GM Foods have built-in toxins that substitute for artificial pesticides. While this is fine for growing crops, it is potentially fatal if they are consumed.
  5. Harmful effects to soil: Many varieties of GM crops "suck" away excess nutrients from soil. Some bacteria used to make GM Foods eliminate nitrogen from the soil while at the same time killing nitrogen capturing fungi.
  6. Superweeds: A dangerous but very real possibility is that weeds could cross-pollinate with GM crops and form new, resistant varieties of weeds that would be much more difficult to eliminate than regular weeds. A 1996 study in Denmark and the UK showed superweeds growing near GM crops within just one generation. Scientists suspect that Monsanto's GM wheat could hybridize with goat grass to produce an invulnerable kind of superweed. So, farmers are now forced to use powerful chemicals to kill such weeds: negating the promise of GM Food companies that such chemicals would no longer be required!
  7. Superpests and dangers to animals: Pests themselves can mix with GM crops' genes and become resistant to all chemicals that are meant to eliminate them. North Carolina's "stink bug" epidemic is one such case. Animals can also be threatened, as with the accidental release of GM fish in the Philippines, which nearly killed all local aquatic life in the area. Also, beneficial insects which actual work to pollinate plants can also be killed by GM crops, thus ending a crucial natural cycle. In another study, a particular variety of GM potatoes was developed which proved fatal to lab mice as it damaged vital organs.
  8. Genetic pollution: Once GM Foods are released in the open, it becomes impossible to get rid of them in case of unintended side-effects. For example, when companies attempted a "blue revolution" by introducing stronger, faster-growing varieties of salmon to river systems, they found that these creatures actually killed other fish. GM crops have been shown to be able to send their pollen to long distances and contaminate natural crops.
  9. GM crops give much of the agriculture industry to agri-firms that wipe out smaller farms. When large scale, hyper-productive crops and animals were introduced to the system, smaller farmers who could not afford them saw their incomes plummeting. This can lead to monopolization of food production and a dramatic increase in food prices, while farmers continue to earn less. This puts a big question mark on food safety and security.
  10. Imposing an artificial model onto nature: It has already been shown by environmental engineers that changing nature by artificial means can lead to disastrous consequences. GM Foods impose a mechanistic model on a natural, living ecosystem. The long-term effects of this could be an unsustainable, unstable ecosystem and the mass-extinction of species, both plant and animal.
While the GM Foods debate has been raging on, it is still fairly new to India. Awareness here is generally low, although a number of NGOs have been formed to create awareness and fight the Government and the big companies, US-based Monsanto in particular.

GM foods represent a major leap forward in science and bioengineering, but their effects on the environment and in humans in particular have raised doubts over whether this boon is actually a bane. Clearly, some more research and a lot more public debate in both Legislatures as well as in the media is necessary to come to a conclusion on this contentious issue.

This article was written in support of Greenpeace India.

Friday, December 18, 2009

Alarmingly High Food Inflation

The Government recently stated that food inflation (officially WPI of Primary Articles) shows that the annual rate stands at a 11-year high of 19.95%: a figure that would put well over 90% of India in dire straits. Food is an absolutely necessary commodity and a sudden rise in prices such as this one can put to risk the lives of many Indians.

There could be many reasons for this rise: the drought this year has led to lower supply and hence, prices are bound to rise. While nothing can be done about this now, adequate supply of drought-resistant seeds and fertilizers must be ensured by the Government for the next few seasons, until the shortage is met. State governments must also make it a point to concentrate on improving irrigation systems, while Agricultural Universities should conduct studies into this aspect.

The Leftists have alleged that forward trading in primary articles is the cause for high food inflation. While there is no scientific study to check their claims, nonetheless, it must be looked into. No aspect of the supply chain should be left unchecked. Also, State Governments must fight hoarding on a war-footing. lastly, food must be imported to meet the shortage for now.

High food inflation will push millions of more people into poverty, which in unacceptable. It must be fought with the full cooperation of all Ministries and civil society.

My Trophy

As promised, here's a pic of my trophy that Amul awarded me! It's called AMUL VIDYA BHUSHAN.

Thursday, December 17, 2009

Honoured by Amul

Okay, honestly I never expected that I'd ever need to go back to Sri Chaitanya. But once before in my life I had made the mistake of ignoring my past: this time, fate would not let me repeat that mistake.

The Jr. College recommended mine and Divya's name for an award for excellent performance in IPE (HSE to most others). So, at 10:00 AM we were there. We can't say we got a very warm welcome, but they remembered us at least!

But finally, Varaprasad sir took us to the current S1 (ISB) batch's room and gave us our prizes: a certificate, a trophy and a collection of 'Swami Vivekananda's Complete Works: 8 Volumes.' The certificate was written in exquisite calligraphy, the trophy is outstanding (I'll try to get a pic uploaded) and the books... well, I have great respect for Swami Vivekananda, particularly his views on Hinduism, but I can't see myself reading eight of his books! Nonetheless, the gesture by Amul is greatly appreciated.

After receiving the prizes, we got to chat with the juniors for about half an hour. That was probably the best experience of all. We chatted about a lot of things: IITJEE (obviously), other exams (also obvious), which books to use (can you believe I did well in Organic Chem without reading Morrison & Boyd?!), Jhansi (!!), Nitin Jain (Mr. Superstar of IITJEE), Engineering Graphics, mutual dislike for Physics etc. What a great experience that was: it just proved what I knew from way back in school: I enjoy talking to juniors. And indeed, I can't wait to do it next year.

The juniors in today's S1, as Prasad sir told me, don't argue over timings like we did (refer SC 24x7 for details!). However, they don't interact with the lecturers like we used to. Sir said that we were greatly missed, particularly my trio (me-Abhiroop-Aditya). The current batch is pretty bright and I do sincerely hope that most of them qualify and get into IIT... hopefully even IITR and perhaps even the SRE Campus.

So, I'd like to thank Amul for their prize(s) and for giving me such a great day. It took a bit of thinking before I could put down a label for this post, but what's wrong with revisiting the past for a bit?

Living Two Lives

Having been back home for a few days now, it feels as though my life has suddenly split into two: the Hyderabad half and the IIT half.

While the Hyderabad half, once a happy time with work and play mixed in a good balance, then a nightmare with only studies, it has now become a perpetual holiday: which is obvious given the fact that I come back to Hyderabad only in my semester breaks.

Then there is the life at IIT Roorkee, Saharanpur Campus, the half which will be the dominating one for the next four and a half years. This life is a lot of fun, with friends, crazy professors, events and much more.

While both lives can be lived seamlessly, it's only the transition that seems funny: just a long train ride and I go from a life of classes, fun, frolic and masti to my old life, the one that really feels natural; the one that I have lived for all but six months of the last eighteen years.

I still remember going to Saharanpur for the first time: it felt so strange, so full of uncertainty. But at the end, it was the journey that would change my life. Today, I am as comfortable with buying things at ghanta ghar as I am with watching a movie in Prasads or GVK One. Life has taken a very interesting turn, propelling me to North India, where, I suppose, I belong, while keeping a great part of my soul in Hyderabad, a truly wonderful city with its glorious tehzeeb.

But living two lives can be a great experience: you get to experience two different lifestyles in two different places. What can be better than that?

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

AB Surprises yet again

PAA (2009)

Producer: AB Corp. Ltd.
Starring: Abhishek Bacchan, Amitabh Bacchan, Vidya Balan and others, with a guess appearance by Jaya Bacchan
Director: R Balakrishnan
Rating: **** (4 of 5)

Every time you think that he's done everything, Amitabh Bacchan does something new. That's why he's probably the greatest actor of our times. Paa, produced by his own company, turns the table around his real life, with AB Jr. acting as his father, a dedicated politician.

AB plays Auro, a little boy with a rare genetic disorder called progeria, that makes his 13-year old body look like that of an octogenarian's. This disorder is real and the story uses it as its main theme, coupled with a love story between Vidya Balan and AB Jr.

The movie, in spite of its serious nature, is extremely entertaining. The dialogues consist mostly of funny jokes, none of which are below the belt. Of course, there are a lot of sentimental scenes, but the funny ones are more in number. Thus, the movie offers wholesome entertainment. sadly, the jokes can get a little boring at times.

The costumes were pretty average - easy, in fact, in the case of Abhishek. After all, what else can you dress a politician in except a white kurta? The music was excellent as were the scenes in the UK.

Of course, the movie's attempt to educate people about a rare disorder is commendable and extremely rare in Bollywood (AB also did a role on Alzheimer's in Black). The 'Auro Dance' has caught the nation by storm, and enthusiastic news channels (which were condemned in the movie!) have been running around looking for progeroa patients in India.

One problem with the move i9s that it's too long (nearly three hours). This is because it tries to touch upon too many things: political vendetta, slum redevelopment, progeria, premarital sex, single-parent families... the movie tries to fit too much in!

Nonetheless, the movie is fun to watch and is sure to entertain you and your entire family. Don't miss it. (OTFS)

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

The Cat is Out of the Political Bag

Oh yes, it is. Before the 2009 General Elections and State Assembly Elections, all parties in Andhra Pradesh, with the exception of the nascent Lok Satta Party and the CPM, extended their support to the cause of a separate State of Telengana. The Congress - or should I say YSR's Congress? - flip=flopped on the issue back then and has become completely direction-less now under Rosaiah.

However, the moment the Union Government declared that the state would be formed, all these parties became divided and formed the 'pro-Telengana' and 'anti-Telengana' groups.

  • The TDP, whoch was formed by NT Rama Rao under the banner of a United Andhra Pradesh, reversed its stand under N Chandrababu Naidu to be able to ally with the TRS. However, when the Centre's announcement was made, the true colours of the TDP's MLAs came to the fore. The party appears all set to take another U-turn and fight for a united state.
  • The Praja Rajyam, formed recently, also jumped into the TRS bandwagon by hastily declaring its support for a separate state. However, it made no sense logicallyh as the PRP had no hold in Telengana and was only present in Rayalseema and parts of North coastal Andhra. Clearly, the PRP was fishing in troubled waters and is now paying the price for it.
  • The CPM has, rightly, always been against creation of more states and it stuck to its stand. The LSP has never been against a separate state per se but favours development over bifurcation.
  • The Congress, the ringleader in all this, has been doing flip-flops forever. It was pretty obvious that YSR was against a separate state, though he pretended otherwise, but the party as such is a divided house.
  • The TRS was formed as an opportunistic party by KCR, who was denied a Ministerial berth in the 1999 TDP Government. The party has only brought up the Telengana cause when its vote share has dwindled. It has done nothing at all to develop the region, even when it was in Government.
  • The BJP, a minor element in Andhra Pradesh but the second-largest National Party, should in theory support a unified state, being a nationalist party. However, politics came before ideology and the party supports a separate state for the sake of opposing the Congress. The BJP has also done this in the case of Gorkhaland. Clearly, the right wing party needs some disciplining by the RSS.
The decision by the Congress to bifurcate the state now rests in a limbo, as there is absolutely no consensus on the issue. However, political parties must take this as a lesson: stoking regionalism can harm their party, general governance and the country as a whole.

Monday, December 14, 2009

Prepare to Leave

The last leg of negotiations between Environment Ministers in the ongoing COP15 has come, and a consensus on a common draft looks elusive. But what's worse is that developed nations have begun to cross the red lines spelled out in the BASIC draft.

Developed nations have begun demanding that larger developing nations such as China and India accept mandatory emission cuts, in spite of the fact that such nations have a long way to go before they can eliminate poverty. Furthermore, there are the Small island states that are also demanding something similar. However, such a proposal is unacceptable because it would entail perpetual poverty for millions of people.

Also, the developed countries have so far balked at funding the technology necessary to shift to a green economy. While the EU - Britain, France and Germany in particular - have pledged some $10 bn for this, others such as the US and Canada haven't pledged a dime. In fact, the clash between the American and Chinese negotiators shows just how divided the house is.

Now, when heads-of-state and heads=of-government come together from the 16th onwards, we can only expect political statements and not negotiations. Which means that unless the differences are settled now, there can be no deal in 2009, a dangerous proposition indeed.

However, since it seems that developed nations are not going to accept their responsibility - a historic one - negotiators from developing nations, particularly the emerging giants, must prepare to pack their bags and leave. An agreement that banishes billions of people to poverty and allows gluttons to continue their ways is not worth the trouble. It seems that no deal will appear in 2009: perhaps 2010?

Sunday, December 13, 2009

Is a second SRC inevitable?

Map: South India Before First SRC

After the Union Government, most hastily, announced that the process of formation of Telengana state would be initiated, growing voices from across the country became a chorus, all demanding separate states of their own.

Gorkhaland, Purvanchal, Harit Pradesh, Bundelkhand, Vidharbha, Coorg, Bodoland, Jammu: there have been far too many demands for separate states to ignore. However, it is a fact that these demands represent, more or less, a desire for more equitable growth in India.

Why have these demands come into existence? In my opinion, it is because of the disastrous basis on which the First States Reorganisation Commission (SRC-1) was created: to reorganise the states of India on linguistic basis, with Andhra Pradesh, consisting of Coastal Andhra, Telugu-speaking regions of Madras State and the Telengana region of Hyderabad State, being the first. However, with many regions of states remaining backward with others rapidly progressing, the idea of linguistic states being ideal for administration comes into question.

I strongly believe that an SRC-2 is necessary to correct the imbalances in India. The SRC-2 will not be a commission whose only mandate is to divide existing states further; rather, it must have the mandate to completely redraw India's internal borders. The division must be done keeping in mind that states are simply crated for the sake of administrative convenience and are not meant to be sub-nations. Thus, the very idea of linguistic, ethnic or even religious identity must be eliminated from India. The political posturing and violence that shall follow the very announcement of such a commission must be countered by the Central Government because, as I have said in previous posts, the first responsibility of the Union Government is to ensure that the Union is strong and united at all costs.

Of course, the administrative costs of such a massive redrawing of borders would be huge and, given the current economic climate, SRC-2 must be formed only several decades hence when, I strongly suspect, regionalism will become the new religion, ethnicity, caste and identity.

The situation in Telengana today clearly shows that nationalism is missing in India: the idea of a united nation is on the back of our minds, while regional identities have come to the forefront. This must be corrected and nationalism must be restored. And only a second SRC can achieve this because linguistic states, as predicted, will be the end of India unless serious steps are taken,

Saturday, December 12, 2009

In the Year of Our Nation

The year of 2009 has been the year that our nation witnessed a path-breaking general election and truly became a nation whose influence extends beyond its borders.

We celebrate the faces and the companies that took India into the greater sphere of the comity of nations.

The Opinions 24x7 Indian of the Year 2009
Coming soon on OTFS

Tuesday, December 8, 2009

Unacceptable Deal

Yesterday, British newspaper The Guardian leaked a copy of the unofficial draft deal that would be presented during the Climate Change Summit (officially the 15th Conference of Parties or COP-15). The draft is absolutely unacceptable and developing nations must walk out of the conference if it is forced upon them.

Perhaps the most shocking part of the draft is the fact that citizens of developing nations will only be allowed half the carbon emissions as those of the developed world by 2050! This is in total violation of the fundamental principle of Common but Differentiated Responsibility. IT is shocking to think that such a draft could even be proposed: a draft that condemns most of the world to perpetual poverty while allowing rich Western gluttons to continue their ways.

While the head of the G77 bloc of developing nations has refused to sign such a deal, it might not be so easy once they come into the negotiating room. That's why the draft prepared by India, China, Brazil and South Africa must be the guiding spirit for the G77. That draft is in accordance with the aspirations of the developing world - the victims. A major part of the draft is that on 'non-negotiable' items which, if violated, would prompt a walk-out by the world's most powerful developing nations. Sadly, there will be a great deal of pressure from developed nations, but this must be overcome.

Tom Friedman described the situation thus: 'The US cannot have the starter, the main course and the desert and then invite India and China over for tea and ask that they split the bill.' The Principle of Common but Differentiated Responsibility is crucial to any climate change deal and the Danish Draft, which negates that, must be rejected out rightly.

Home amidst great tension

Tomorrow is my train back to Hyderabad. This time, when I go home, I will be looking at a city very different from whence I came. The city is burning, with Section 144 of the IPC having been imposed last night. All Universities and Colleges have been closed and a major rally outside the Assembly is planned in Dec. 10 (I reach the city on the night of Dec. 11).

The man behind all this violence - the TRS President KCR - is still on his make-believe hunger strike with regular fake updates being dished out on him. Students and even professors on the OU campus are busy protesting as well, when they should be thinking about completing the syllabus. All buses and cars are off the road, goons are busy attacking major commercial establishments. What's happening to the city?!

Now, the REALLY bad news is that TRS activists are blocking trains. A few days back, AP Express from New Delhi was delayed by 6 hours. They are blocking trains in Warangal and may also start in Adilabad (which is near the AP-Maharashtra border). Clearly, TRS activists, who were given a major drubbing at the 2009 Elections to the Assembly and Parliament, are out to avenge their loss. They need to make a lot of noise to be relevant again and that's why they are doing this.

However, I strongly believe that the State of Andhra Pradesh will remain united. There is no place for another Southern State.

A Temple on Ramjanmabhoomi

The presentation of the Justice Liberhaan Commission report before Parliament has brought up, once again, the issue of the Babri Masjid demolition. While the BJP and the RSS are 'remorseless,' the pseudo-secularists talk of rebuilding the mosque.

The truth is that the RSS has a very good point here: that land is the Ramjanmabhoomi, the birthplace of Lord Ram. The RSS is not asking for a temple to be built on some random strip of land: this is holy land for Hindus. How would a Muslim like it if a temple were to be built near the Holy Kaaba? Why, Saudi Arabia bans any non-Islamic structure!

The Babri Masjid was created after Babur, who destroyed many Hindu temples, destroyed a Ram Temple there. Is this how Muslims in India would like to remember the site? Muslims should fully support the construction of a Ram Temple because that would send out a message that Muslims are not against Hindus and they would not like to see their religion spread by the sword. Unfortunately, the people, the maulvis, who kidnapped their cause post-1992 see it in their favour to heighten Hindu-Muslim tensions. Hence, they talk stupidly of rebuilding the structure. There can be no going back. Although the matter is sub-judice, the truth is that only a befitting grand temple can be built there.

The site is no disputed site as the BJP says: it is a pilgrimage site, holy land for Hindus. Enough minority appeasement and Muslim appeasement: leaders like Mulayam Singh, who use religion for votes, must be rejected now. A grand Ram Temple is the only solution to Ayodhya and the Hindus of India will have it.

Monday, December 7, 2009

The Nightmare Ends

Four months of absolute torture, tests, quizzes, illegal practical exams and one mammoth end-term examination: that's a gist of the tumultuous time I've had in my first sen trying to passing the subject EC-102: Fundamentals of Electronics. Honestly, I have no idea what then departments thinks of itself.

Consider the logic on the basis of which they prepare their tutorials: they should have nothing to do with the textbook or the lectures (is that being redundant?). Students should refer other books. That's OK, but the library (neither Central Library, Roorkee nor DPT Library, Saharanpur) has any book that can help you solve the tutorials! Consequently, they give you the solutions along with the question paper, but the solutions don't really make much sense either.

Next, the lecturers. They teach as though Boylestad is GOD, going as far as asking us to note down the page numbers, article numbers and figure numbers that they refer to! And the best part is that nothing comes from there in the exams. Indeed, the problems in Boylestad are so basic that studying them will barely earn you any marks at all in the exams! The exams themselves are absolute torture: imagine reading question after question with just one thought on your mind: I have no idea how to solve this!

The examination key is another story. They put it up on Channel-I (which can only be accessed within the Roorkee and Saharanpur campuses) so that nobody can throw any surprise questions at them (and they can't solve a thing anyway). But they don't follow their own key, choosing to give marks on the basis of their 'mood.'

And here's the creme-de-la-creme: we were not allowed to discuss amongst each other while seeing the corrected answer sheets ('Only one per row... maximum two!'). Perhaps they were afraid that we would discover mistakes in their correction as a group.

Well, with 43.3% (provisional) I've definitely passed in this subject. The grade won't be outstanding: more like a C+ or B. But that's more than good enough for a subject that, for months, I was looking at a backlog at.

And so, it's time to celebrate as this is the last time I have to study electronics. Next sem, of course, there is C++ from the same department, but at least the prof is reasonable. Oh, EC Department, till next time, FU!!!

Saturation Point

Ok, so it's been a week here and I've had virtually nothing to do! Note to self: don't be an idiot waiting to see all his papers. GO HOME!!
So anyway, I've spent the last week watching a great number of movies (Mirrors, The Hound of the Baskervilles, Fashion, The Lord of the Rings etc.) on my laptop as well as playing that mother-of-all-games AOE. But how much can one human being engage in these activities? After all, there is a limit to the number of movies you can watch on a given day (3, maximum 4?) and the number of enemy targets you can capture, even in the modern age using nuclear weapons.
But what happens when that limit is reached and you can no longer go on? That, my friends, is when you reach saturation point. And there is only one remedy then: sleep. Yes, sleep. That explains why people here have been waking up after 10:00 AM and going back to sleep by 2:00 PM!
The only entertainment over the past week has been going to Roorkee to get our marks.
Alright, here's the BIG news: I PASSED IN EC-102: FUNDAMENTALS OF ELECTRONICS!!!! Yes, that horrible subject that has been giving me sleepless nights and the department that has screwed us again and again non-stop. But more about that in another post.
Today, we have to check out the last batch of our papers, mainly HS-101: Technical Communication and MI-101: Thermodynamics. I leave for Hyderabad on the 10th. Hopefully, those TRS goons won't delay the train. Can't wait to get back home!

Friday, December 4, 2009

Well-Planned Drama

TRS Chief K Chandrashekhar Rao's so-called 'fast-unto-death' for obtaining a separate state of Telangana is a sham that is meant to bring his collapsing party back into the limelight.

The sad thing about such movements is that gullible students are often trapped in it. Consequently, several student groups joined hands with TRS workers as they torched vehicles, forcing the government to shut colleges in the region for two weeks. This will cause great damage to an already-packed semester, and that for petty politics. Meanwhile, KCR is being attended to by the full team of doctors at NIMS, being administered drips every time his health even slightly deteriorates.

KCR should understand that Telangana is a dead-horse issue and that people have far more serious things to worry about. KCR himself does not represent the Telangana people, which is clear from his party's recent drubbing. Why won't he give up now that he does not enjoy popular support? Simply because he is a power-hungry, greedy politician. His actions have caused great damage to the unity of Andhra Pradesh and he must apologise for that.

The First End-Sem Ends

It took an entire month of spending time in the library, cramming up the entire syllabus and rushing through the syllabus. But when the exam finally came, they were pretty depressing overall!

Okay, let's cut to the chase: EC-102: Fundamentals of Electronics bombed. However, days before the exam, the sessional marks were placed up and I got 30.5/60. Now, the strange thing about this subject is the cut-off: it's always been low (only higher than EC-101A/B). So, seeing as though it was 26 last year, I hope to have passed. The exam went badly for everybody, so maybe I can just pass with a D.

Now, Maths was a good exam. We were shown the papers yesterday at the Department of Mathematics (which strangely shares a building with the Physics Department). I'll probably be getting an A in that one, though not an A+. But that's OK! The results of other subjects will flow in soon.

A lot of people have already left now that the semester has ended. I'm staying to see those horrible EC marks though. So, it's juts a lot of time pass going on right now.

I've gotten into playing The Rise of Nations and I've already conquered half the world!