Thursday, March 31, 2011

Bring it Home

All the big names from India and many from Pakistan were present at the PCA stadium. The entire subcontinent came to a halt as every eye was glued to the big game. India v Pakistan matches tend to make big news, and this one did not fail.

Prior to the match, statistics were aplenty: India never lost to Pak in a World Cup match,. or that Pak never lost a match at the PCA Stadium in Mohali. At the end though, it all came down to some fine cricket from both sides. India maintained its record and defeated Pakistan to move into the finals for the first time since 2003, where it was defeated by Australia.

This time however, the Australians have already been vanquished (by India at that) and it's a match in the subcontinent, by the subcontinent and for the world (cup). Following England's defeat, India and Sri Lanka face off on April 2 in what promises to be a battle of epic proportions that will truly test the South Asian giants of cricket.

After staying down under for over a decade, the World Cup is set to come to its new home in South Asia. But for Indian fans, nothing short of a victory at Mumbai will suffice. The Indian team is charged up with their win over Pak and a victory at the finals would be the icing on the cake.

Wednesday, March 30, 2011

The Burden of a Few Days

After a great holiday at home, it's finally time to face the second Mid-Term Exam (or "Evaluation" according to our Department). All good things must come to an end, they say, but the fun and pleasure of the Spring Sem came to an end pretty abruptly.

So, let me present the pre-Test analysis.On top of the list of subjects freaking me out is, sadly, IMA-01. I took this elective with the hope that I would not have to face the troubles that I did with ICY-01, and it has worked. Except for the fact that it has now presented its own set of problems. Living up to its name, the subject is really getting into advanced mathematics. I only hope that my blitzkrieg studying can save me in this one.

Then, there's my old enemy, CE-242. It's not that the subject is difficult (it's not, really), but it's so confusing that the questions seem to be meaningless at times. And this time, almost everything has to be done iteratively, due to which even completing the paper would become difficult. If that's not enough CE-212 comes with even more iterations and here, the questions aren't just confusing, they're outright senseless. I can just see myself writing out four or five formulas several times in an attempt to learn them by heart.

CE-252, amazingly, is much better than the other departmental subjects. Probably because it's an application of old concepts to new problems. Not that I'm very confident in it, but it's better than the rest. CE-222 is simple this time too, although I'm not exactly confident for the exam. The problem with this subject is that's it's so simple that making a mistake is rather easy. And of course, the sheer length of the paper makes it worse.

Then come the easy subjects. ES-201 is simple once again, particularly now that we are assured that the paper will be objective again. I'm looking forward to completing the exam in less than 20 minutes again! And after that, there's BM-201, which is sure to be easy given the meticulous notes Dr. Gaindhar gave us, and the fact that the syllabus takes no more than an hour to study!

So, what do I expect from this MTE? Not much really: I just hope to equal my MTE-1 performance, which is good enough. While CE-252 and CE-222 are the subjects I hope to do well in, I'll have to give it my all for CE-242 and CE-212. For BM-201 and ES-201, I am dangerously confident. And for IMA-01, well... that's where I'm stumped!

Saturday, March 26, 2011

The Final Weeks of Second Year

Well, they say good things seldom last long. My week-long break at home from the hustle and bustle of Roorkee has come to an end. This time tomorrow, I'll be having some not-so-appetizing dinner at the RKB Mess.

Of course, it's only a short duration of the semester that's left. Next week will be devoted almost entirely to studies because MTE-2 begins on Saturday. Once the hurdle of the mid-terms is over, there might be a bit of excitement. One more issue of Kshitij is due to come out and I can see that it is going to hinge, to a large extent, on whether the English Ed can get its work done on time. And given the current situation, I can say that it cannot.

Anyway, there's also the regular parliamentary debates, which are always a pleasure to participate in. I might also go to PEC in mid-April for a PD, although that's unconfirmed. There's also RKB Bhawan's Day on the 16th, which I am looking forward too. There might also be some farewell or something like that in the Department, although I can't confirm that.

Then there is the real work: the end-term practical exams. While CE-252 and CE-242 practical exams will be quite simple (particularly the former), CE-222 will be challenging because it depends on sheer skill and CE-212 will be outright hellish because it depends completely on rote memorization of chemicals and procedures, not to mention theory from CE-222, CE-102 and CE-311, which we haven't even studied yet!

Then, finally, there will be the end-term exams. While MTE-1 more and less gave an indication of the path ahead, I am very worried about my elective, IMA-01. I need to concentrate on it.

With nothing much beyond exams scheduled for the next month and a half, I'll probably be able to slip in not more than one novel from the library, maybe two if I'm lucky. Beyond that, there will be no time. The best part about exams is that they eat up a lot of time, particularly the ETE. So the next six-seven weeks should pass by in a flourish, after which I'll be able to kiss my second year goodbye and welcome what could be the most important year of all - Third Year.

Friday, March 25, 2011

What is the Plan?

The situation in Libya is getting worse with each passing day. As if Muammar Qaddafi's forces murdering civilians wasn't enough, an alliance of France, the US and the UK, amongst others, has come together to cause even greater damage!

Consider the profile of these war-mongering countries. The US has a President who seems utterly confused about foreign policy and is prepared to act on any sudden urge; the UK is run by a thoroughly discredited Prime Minister with little or no foreign policy experience but who simply wants himself to remain in the news; and France is run by a President who is not going to keep his post for too long and hence sees no problem with reckless behaviour.

But the African Union - represented at the UNSC by South Africa and Nigeria - as well as the Arab League are equally to blame for not understanding the consequences of their vote.

Now, the US has quickly dumped the role of leading this purposeless intervention to NATO - something that NATO wasn't supposed to do in the first place. Remember that NATO was formed on the basis of collective security of its members. With none of its members having been attacked by Qaddafi, NATO should never have been called upon. This is nothing short of a dangerous and illegal expansion of NATO's responsibilities.

Now, there is even talk of the "Coalition of the Willing" (the countries mentioned above plus the UAE) sending ground forces (illegally) to do God knows what. There is no purpose to the current round of intervention and any further escalation would also be doomed because it simply lacked any purpose. Wars are not fought for the sake of fighting: there must be a clear political aim. In this case, no such aim is visible - except one: Oil. The only correct option that can be reasoned out is Black Gold. The West is trying to take control of Libya's vast oil reserves and the current intervention is designed to do just that, though not overtly.

A very dangerous game is at play here. It was the same game in Iraq and that cost the Coalition dearly. Is it ready to face that cost again, or can it not see that with each and every war that it starts it is ceding more and more space in the world to emerging nations?

Thursday, March 24, 2011

A New Champion Will Come

It was one of the most riveting World Cup matches ever: India vs. defending champions Australia.

Australia's 34 match dream run at the World Cup had already been destroyed by Pakistan in the last match of the League Stage, but this defeat sent the Aussies packing as India went into the semi-finals.

The match was anything but one-sided. India's bowling was pretty good but when the Aussies managed to cross 250, it was clear that the Indian side was tense. When it came to batting, the Little Master made a half century but failed to reach his 100th cricket century.

When Dhoni was out, the fear in the audience was palpable. It looked, for a few balls at least, as though India was all set to collapse like a pack of cards, much like what happened versus SA. But the duo of Suresh Raina and man of the match Yuvraj Singh held on and played some spectacular shots, including the inning's only six.

That coupled with several crucial boundaries saw India through. Interestingly, the Australian team's lack of experience showed clearly when they started making huge fielding follies once the match began to tilt in India's favour. But of course, this is not the same team that won the previous World Cup.

The next match, although a semi-final, is good enough as a final for most of cricket's fans - Pakistan v India at Mohali, Punjab (the Indian Pubjab). In a previous post, I said that India would come to a standstill during today's match. Well, the entire subcontinent is going to com to a standstill on Wednesday. One team will leave the World Cup - let the battle begin.

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Coming Soon: A City Called Bombay

This summer, OTFS takes you back to the city that defines India. Hard working, lazy, rich, poor: Mumbai/Bombay is that city which attracts the very best from all over the country. A city of free spirit and the city of my dreams: Opinions 24x7 presents A City Called Bombay!

This summer on OTFS.

IOTY10: OTFS Awards

Label of the Year
For a series of excellent journeys into whims and fantasies and a promise of much better to come.

Documentary of the Year
Don't Tell Anyone: A Study into the Social Evil of Ragging
The longest documentary we've done to date, a powerful look into what drives the endless cycle of ragging in educational institutes across India, with a view from both sides. Added to that is a powerful call for change and this one wins the award for Documentary of the Year.

(Series Concluded)

IOTY10: Sports Awards

Sportsperson of the Year
MC Mary Kom
For her excellent performance in boxing, winning her fifth consecutive World Boxing Championship last year, bringing glory to he nation. She had the honour of bearing the Queen's Baton during the opening ceremony of the 2010 Commonwealth Games.

Team of the Year
Manjeet Kaur, Sini Jose, Ashwini Akkunji and Mandeep Kaur
For their outstanding victories at CWG2010 and the Asian Games.
Shared with The Indian Hockey Team
For their well-deserved gold at CWG2010, bringing glory to the national sport.

Memorable Sporting Moment of the Year
Saina Nehwal at CWG 2010
For winning India's 101st Gold Medal
Shared with Pankaj Advani at the 2010 Asian Games
For his emotional win over a strong opponent to win gold for India

Memorable Event of the Year
Delhi 2010: XIX Commonwealth Games
The largest multi-sport event ever conducted in the Indian subcontinent, full of excitement and last-minute jitters but a grand success in the end.

Sports Body of the Year
Indian Railways
Shared with Petroleum Sports Promotion Board
For promoting sports amongst their members and bringing glory to the nation at CWG 2010 and the 2010 Asian Games.

Commemorative Award
Somdev Devvarman
A rising star from India in International men's tennis, he receives this award for winning India's lone gold medal in tennis at CWG2010.

A Huge Match Tomorrow

With India having won its final league stage match, a grand quarter final match is set for tomorrow - India v Australia at Ahmedabad. It's not the first time these two have met at a World Cup (the last one was in the finals no less).

But what makes this match in particular so exciting is that it could perhaps be the final clash between two cricket legends: Australia's Ricky Ponting and India's Sachin Tendulkar. The mood is already hotting up as Ponting has promised to 'keep Tendulkar at 99 tons,' a reference to the fact that Sachin needs one more century to reach 100 centuries playing for India.

Rest assured that tomorrow's match will disrupt life in all parts of India as the nation looks forward to an old-fashioned ass whopping at the hands of Dhoni's boys. After all, as George Orwell once said, serious sport is war minus the shooting!

Our New Look

After five years of presenting OTFS in the same format, a lot has changed in technology. New features added by Blogger, new statistical tools and changing tastes have prompted OTFS to go in for a change in its looks. Not the logo: we changed that after the first year and we intend to stick to the current logo for quite some time now.

But the res of the page has undergone some change. A new page - About Opinions 24x7 - has been added for first-time visitors. The new look is called Ethereal, because it looks as though the entire blog is floating in air! The right sidebar has been thinned down because we felt that it was occupying too much space, while the strong divisions between the sections has been lightened to add to the ethereal feel.

The ratings box at the bottom of each post has been removed because it was going unused. Instead, a number of sharing options has been added. We thought of removing Global Eye since new Stats tools allowed us to do the same. But we felt that such data should be shared with viewers so we retained it. As always, there are ample ways to share on Facebook.

So, I hope you enjoy the new-look OTFS!

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

IOTY10: Business Awards

Businessman of the Year
Azim Premji
For his work on improving standards of Government-run schools in India and choosing to use his fortune to give back to the country that gave him so much.

Company of the Year
Coal India Ltd.
For coming out with the largest successful IPO in the history of the Indian stock market and turning a once monopolistic company into a public company with shareholders coming from across the spectrum of society.

IOTY10: Media Awards

Entertainment Channel of the Year
India's Got Talent Khoj 2 differed from other talent shows in that it was low on histrionics and actually introduced a number of simple, down-to-earth but highly talented Indians who won the hearts of Indians all over. For bringing such a great relief to the Indian masses, Colors receives this award.

News Channel of the Year
In Operation Bitter Pill, CN-IBN's journalist showed how some of Delhi's poshest hospitals refused care to the poor and vulnerable despite having assured the Government that they would in return for land concessions. The report was taken notice of by Prof. Kiran Walia, Delhi's Health Minister.

Documentary of the Year
India's Golden Girls, 30 Minutes, CNN-IBN
They prepared against the most compelling of circumstances and brought glory to the nation at CWG2010 and the Asian Games, but the girls from India's small towns and villages seldom faced any support from officialdom or even common citizens. For bringing their stories to its viewers, CNN-IBN's documentary received this award.
*This is the first time that the Documentary of the Year is one produced in India by an Indian channel.

Movie of the Year
In the era of silver screen pulp fiction and mindless comedies, Udaan came as a breath of fresh air. A tale of right of passage and growing up, it could have been any one's story, but yet, it was nobody's until the movie was made. With beautiful music and excellent acting, this movie moved its viewers.

Ad of the Year
Kerala Tourism
The very mention of Government Ads brings to mind childish displays full of preachy and cheesy lines. Kerala Tourism's ad however, breaks that stereotype. Thoroughly professional and full of emotion, this is one ad that one could watch again and again for its sheer elegance.

IOTY10: Community Awards

State of the Year
Uttarakhand and Haryana
Uttarakhand, for showing the best results after a decade of formation amongst the three states that were formed by the NDA Government in 2001.
Haryana, for promoting sports at the grassroots and bringing glory to the country at CWG2010 and the Asian games 2010.

City of the Year
In 2010, Imphal bore the brunt of a massive illegal economic blockade at the hands of Naga student organizations in support of the NSCN(IM). The blockade lasted for over 60 days and created a humanitarian crisis. In the same year, Imphal saw its daughter - Irom Sharmila - enter the tenth year of her Gandhian protest. For being witness to these two extremes, Imphal is awarded City of the Year.

IOTY10: Political Awards

Politician of the Year
Jayprakash Narayan, MLA, Andhra Pradesh
For standing on the side of justice and showing statesman-like behaviour even in the most difficult of situations in what was the most difficult year for Andhra Pradesh since the state was created. Dr. JP earned the respect of every citizen in the state because of his calm yet well-reasoned understanding of a situation in the midst of a charged atmosphere.

Troublemaker of the Year
Sheila Dixit, MS Gill and Suresh Kalmadi
For making a mockery of deadlines, receiving a severe rebuke from the Prime Minister and making a fool of themselves during the preparations for the 2010 Commonwealth Games. In particular, Sheila Dixit for trying to pass the buck on corruption and Kalmadi for making the term "world-class" sound vulgar.

Memorable Visit of the Year
President Obama's India Visit
The only successful leg of his longer visit to the "Asian Arc of Democracy," the visit saw the rare sight of an American President bargaining for Indian money to create jobs in America. His charismatic style and speech in Parliament, along with his wife's interactions with children, made the visit a memorable one.

Monday, March 21, 2011

Oh Dear, I Do Agree

Over the past week or so, The Hindu has been publishing a series of cables leaked from the American Embassy in new Delhi, consulates in India and embassies in the region. Because I strongly disapprove of leaking such cables, I have chosen not to comment on them directly.

However, a particular cable published in yesterday's issue caught my focus and because it was so compelling, I've decided to comment on it. The article was titled, "Manipur more a colony of India" and discussed through the eyes of an American diplomat just how the high levels of military and paramilitary presence in the North Eastern state, coupled with what should be unconstitutional rules, makes the state more a colony.

The article discusses only Manipur, but from my reading of the history of the troubled region, the Union of India may be accused of colonising the entire North East and failing in each and every part except Assam and perhaps Tripura. The elephant in the room is pretty obvious: AFSPA, the Act against which grandmothers stripped naked and a young Meiti woman has taken to Gandhian protest for over a decade.

"There are two Indias" is an old piece of political rhetoric originating from the Hindi belt, but in the North East, it is not rhetoric. It is cold truth: the Constitution of India is severely limited in the region and a perpetual emergency is in place there, much like the emergency that Hosni Mubarak placed on Egypt for decades (or maybe worse). Travel restrictions, restrictions to human rights and second-class treatment from the 'mainland' give a sense of hatred against India to the people here. Indeed, it is very much like the feelings our forefathers bore towards the British during the Raj.

Citizens of India who love their country must ask the question - who has given the moral right to Delhi to lift the most basic parts of the Constitution from an entire region and treat citizens there like second class citizens, employing Kautilya's four-pronged strategy (sham, dan, dand, bhed) to subjugate them? Why do we talk of the North East as though it is some foreign land under Indian control and call people from the region 'Chinese/Chini/Chinki'?

I found most of these leaked cables to be gossip that could have been picked up from the newspaper or a joke book ('Keralite Mafia'?!) but this one in particular was pretty stark. It is true: Manipur is more like a colony of India. When the Constitution was being written, Mahatma Gandhi had said that he would stand in between Delhi's bullets and the Naga tribes. Sadly, there is no Gandhi today and nationalism stands on a single leg as slender as the stretch of land that links the North East to the rest of the nation.

As a citizen, I feel ashamed.

No People's Court

Following The Hindu's WikiLeaks Indian Cables, the Congress faced a thousand cuts and Prime Minister Manmohan Singh was forced to defend himself once again on the floor of Parliament. As always, the arguments were pretty far-fetched and ended with the standard line - "The Court of the People rejected the allegations in 2009."

This is a pretty stupid argument that regularly comes from the Congress camp. There is no such thing as a court of the people. Elections are no substitutes for judicial trials. If the congress' logic was to be accepted, then we could very well do away with judicial proceedings and instead call for referendums on everything under the sun. At least that would clear up the overburdened judiciary once and for all!

A more dangerous extension of this logic is that any and all criminal acts committed by politicians can be wiped off through an election victory. The Congress regularly harps on about Narendra Modi and the Gujarat massacre. Well, Mr. Modi has been cleared by the court of the people not once but twice. Following the Bofors scam (also revealed by The Hindu), Rajiv Gandhi lost two thirds of his MPs: are we to assume that the Court of the People held him guilty? And if so, why was he never put behind bars?

Clearly, the Congress is using pathetic logic to save itself from a very tight situation, going as far as to mislead Parliament on the Parliamentary inquiry that followed the Vote of Confidence in 2008. Manmohan Singh no longer stands as Mr. Squeaky Clean, his reputation has been maligned beyond repair. This is not a question of his personal integrity but of his leadership. Clearly, he is a bureaucrat and not a politician, Sadly, the PM is a political post and he will be remembered as one of the very worst PMs Independent India has ever had.

For his own good, Manmohan Singh should resign immediately.

ULFA Still Lurks

The blast outside Congress Bhawan in Guwahati was a stark reminder to the Indian Government that while most of ULFA might have come to the table for talks, the no-talks faction of Paresh Barua is still powerful enough to wreak havoc in the North Eastern state of Assam.

However, for all its troubles, the Congress is looking at a historic victory in the state and Tarun Gogoi could be Chief Minister for the third time. It's not as though his government has done excellent work (far from it) but the Opposition made so many goof-ups that there appears to be no alternative to the ruling party.

The main opposition Asom Gana Parishad's disastrous attempts at seeking a grand alliance between the BJP, itself and the AUDF have now seen to it that each of these Opposition parties has declared its own list of candidates to all the seats. Unless there is some tacit understanding (highly unlikely) it is clear that the Opposition will have to spend another five years exactly in the same place in Dispur.

Confusion Galore

Kerala's ruling party LDF, which is looking at a time-tested cycle of defeat and victory again, appears to be rather unsure of what exactly it wants to do this election.

In a bizarre set of events, the LDF finalised a list of candidates and decided to drop Chief Minister VS Achuthanandan as well as his bete noire and Kerala Left Front General Secretary P Vijayan, who decided to sit out of the elections this time round. But the very next day, the list was amended and VS was given a seat to contest.

Clearly, the LDF is without any sense of direction. The SNC Lavlin affair took the chink off the Leftist armour and the impending loss could be the final nail in the coffin. The Opposition UDF is sitting tight because victory is almost guaranteed to it.

The Congress must give way

In West Bengal, one of the most significant elections since Independence is being fought. after three and a half decades of Communist rule, Mamata Banerjee's Trinamool Congress appears all set to take Writer's Building.

The political scene in Kolkata has been hotting up over the last few weeks. Seat sharing talks between the Congress and TMC are going nowhere. The TMC published a list of candidates leaving 64 for the Congress, well below what the Grand Old Party was asking for. However, if reports are to be believed, Mamata Banerjee will have her way because Sonia Gandhi has supposedly sent a demarche to the WBPCC informing them that a political alliance with the TMC is more important for the Congress than the actual number of seats that they get.

That of course is in direct contradiction to Rahul Gandhi's mantra of self-respect. State Congress leaders appear to be caught between these two extremes. However, in the next few days, we can expect the dust to clear. After the Bihar debacle, Rahul Gandhi's methodology will not be blindly followed. Furthermore, after the momentary scare of the DMK's threat to pull out of the Union Government, the Congress does not need any trouble from the TMC in New Delhi.

Meanwhile, the Left Front has released a fairly radical list of candidates, dropping nearly 150 sitting MLAs including nine Ministers. its manifesto is covered with the same old stuff about protecting the poor (and keeping them that way) and agricultural reforms, although there is a part on industrial development in the state. The underlying theme appears to be change, but the winds of change are clearly blowing against the Left Front. So far, the TMC-Congress-SUCI(C) combine looks set to storm West Bengal and the Left had better prepare for the worst.

A Season to Give

When political parties give freebies to voters, it's called a bribe. But when the Government does it, it's development. That's pretty much the condition of politics in Tamil Nadu.

The DMK's manifesto reads like a shopping list. If it was colour TVs last time, the list of freebies that the party hopes to give to voters this time is far more broad-based. To put it in DMK MP Kanimozhi's own words, "there's something for everyone" in this manifesto, be it mixers or laptops.

Now, you might think that the whole thing should be struck down by the Election Commission. But the EC has powers only during elections and the party is not giving away these freebies right now (it is giving away other things, but that's covert). The Colour TV scheme was challenged in the Madras High Court but the court could find nothing wrong in it. Indeed, apart from the moral aspect of it, there is nothing wrong.

Meanwhile, the Congress has managed to extract its pound of flesh in seat-sharing, contesting over 60 seats for the first time in decades. Clearly, it is taking full advantage of the 2G Scam in which the DMK's reputation has taken a severe beating.

The Opposition AIADMK-DMDK seems to be rather weak. So far, campaigning has been poor and the DMK-Congress combine seems to have the edge. But there is still time. With the loss of the MDMK over seat-sharing, the AIADMK will have to put in some extra effort. However, as of now, amma's chances do not seem very bright.

Sunday, March 20, 2011

A Proper Vote at the UNSC

With the anti-Qadhafi rebellion in Libya coming close to being crushed, leading to a huge humanitarian crisis, the discussion on concrete measures finally came up in the UNSC. India, as a non-permanent member, was expected to take a call.

While it voted yes to the first indictment of the regime, going as far as to refer it to the ICC (to which India is not a party), the second vote dealt with specific, immediate steps to tackle the situation. As expected, the troika of the US, UK and France demanded a no-fly zone over Libya.

India very rightly abstained during the vote along with China, Russia, Brazil and Germany. It's not because Qadhafi has offered (through the media) preferential treatment to Indian companies, but because India opposes any foreign military intervention apart from that of UN Peacekeeping forces. Had it voted yes, India would have fallen into the danger of limiting its own options in the ongoing anti-Maoist operations. Moreover, it would have approved of foreign military intervention, which contradicts the most basic of India's foreign policy doctrines, Panchsheel.

However, had India voted no to the resolution, it would have been seen as though it were backing Qadhafi at a time when even the Arab league has ditched the Libyan strongman, causing International criticism and isolation. A negative vote would have made India look like a country whose foreign policy was for sale to the highest bidder.

In such a situation, India's abstention was the best thing to do. As per UNSC convention, an abstention by a non-permanent member usually means a positive vote with reservations. That is precisely India's view on the issue. While we, as a democracy, do not support dictatorships of the kind in Libya, we believe that foreign powers including India should not play a destabilizing role in affairs of other states. However, India must be careful to articulate its position carefully, lest it seem we have sold out to Qadhafi's offers, which would certainly find no favour with the Indian public.

IOTY10: Commemorative Awards

2010 was a extremely difficult year for Union Home Minister P Chidambaram. Operation greenhunt took off with some disastrous consequences, including the death of over a hundred CRPF jawans. As the civilian head of the operations, he faced huge criticism from all quarters but persevered.

The Maoist insurgency is growing at an alarming pace. Prime Minister Manmohan Singh described it as India's most serious internal threat. As Union Home Minister, the burden of defeating them fell on P Chidambaram. It wasn't easy: he was not allowed to bring in the Air Force, faced stinging criticism for heavy casualties and, most importantly, stood isolated politically on the very need to continue operations. Coupled with his responsibility on the terrorism front, the pressure on his was massive.

His perseverance and ability to convince others was a factor that helped him see Operation Greenhunt through 2010. In 2011 and beyond, he will face even more serious challenges. But for his steadfastness to the cause of India's internal security, OTFS commemorates him.

In the quiet hill town of Shillong in Meghalaya, people like to keep it simple. They're happy with what they have. Dreaming big is just not what people like to do. But every now and again, there are those few who choose to take the road not taken, who choose to chase dreams much bigger than themselves. When the Shillong Chamber Choir auditioned for India's Got Talent Khoj 2, they did just that. And they had their tryst with destiny.

The meteoric rise of the choir group, whose only edge over its regional counterparts was the fact that it could dish out some Bollywood numbers too, is the stuff of dreams. After winning the talent show, they went on to perform for millions through the lenses of CNN-IBN, NDTV Hindu and other TV channels. The crown jewel was when they were invited to perform at Rashtrapati Bhawan during the President's State Dinner for American President Barack Obama.

Few can hope for the sort of fame and commendation that the Choir has received. Yet, for all that, they continue to remain a very humble group of youngsters from a quiet town that just enjoys its music. Shillong has often been called the Music Capital of India and their talent reinforces the belief that some of India's best musicians are waiting to be found there.

For the courage they showed in stepping out out of the North East and taking on the uncertainties of Mumbai, winning the hearts of millions of fellow Indians, making the entire North East proud and, most importantly, living the dream that all the well-wishers of the North East (including myself) hold for the region, OTFS commemorates the Shillong Chamber Choir.

IOTY10: Indian of The Year 2010 is...

Some believe that awards such as IOTY go only to the famous, to those who have been able to create enough noise on TV sets. That's not true: IOTY is that person who made a mark on the national domain, irrespective of how loud they were.

Wajahat Habibullah is not exactly a celebrity in the Indian media. But his contribution to the long-term sustainability of Indian democracy is immense. In 2005, he assumed the office of Chief Election Commissioner of India and thus watched over the nascent (and most vulnerable) moments of the revolutionary Act.

During his tenure, the Act became a powerful weapon that out 'the feat of God in the bureaucracy,' to use one activist's words. But that could have easily been a pipe dream. Like everything else in India, the RTI Act depended heavily on the sincerity of the bureaucratic apparatus that was to execute it. Had the CIC kowtowed to political whims and fancies, the Act could have quite easily fizzled out.

And that's what made Mr. Habibullah's role so significant. From releasing the communication between the President of Indian and the Chief Election Commissioner to setting in motion the process of creating transparency in the post of Chief Justice of India, his decisions have been crucial to the overall development of the Act. His contribution stands tall along with those of some of India's best bureaucrats like JM Lyngdoh, Shyam Saran and others.

Wajahat Habibullah completed his term as CIC in 2010 and left behind a great legacy. For his far-reaching contribution to Indian democracy, OTFS awards him Indian of the Year 2010.

IOTY10: And The Winners Are...

The last year was a testing one for India. On the one hand, South India's largest state faced massive turmoil, while on the other, the ULFA looked as though it was on the verge of defeat. India's well-oiled ego was badly bruised when the BBC gave the world a sneak peek of the CWG Village bathroom, but that proved to be a boon in disguise as the OC and the Delhi Government fire up with passion and got its act together in record time. And of course, the Games were a smashing success.

The series of scams that came up after the Games, as well as the IPL fiasco that saw Shashi Tharoor lose his job as Mos in the MEA put a spanner in the Government's propaganda machine.

That and many more things changed this country and took it forward into another year of its post-Independence history. OTFS recalls those who figured most prominently in the affairs of the year. Welcome to the 2010 Opinions 24x7 Indian of the Year.

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

Lets Hope for the Best

As India's ambitions to top the League table come to test this Saturday against the West Indies, an ominous silence prevails all across the Indian plains.

Last Saturday's disastrous match against South Africa was a crushing blow. While it seemed that India could make history by beating its record for highest score in a World Cup, what with Sachin Tendulkar's record century, all hopes were dashed when the rest of the team fell in quick succession, so that the Indian side could not even complete their fifty overs.

South Africa's impressive performance deserves praise. They seemed to be all but defeated while Sachin was piling on the boundaries, but their astonishingly quick recovery and subsequent victory is sure to have pleased them. For India, this is a clear sign that they the team needs to work harder and, if necessary, make tough cuts.

The battle might have been lost, but the war is on. Amends can and need to be made. Ultimately, the pride of the nation is at stake here. No matter what, a billion Indians are always behind Dhoni's men in blue. This time for India!

In Japan's Tragedy, Lessons for India

The progressing disaster in Japan that started with the magnitude 9 earthquake that set off a massive tsunami seems to be be far from ending. With increasing levels of radiation in from the Daiichi reactor in Miyagi prefecture (state), dangerous radiation is funneling into Japan, threatening a slow re-run of Hiroshima and Nagasaki.

While Japan is indeed one of the most advanced nations in the world, its civilian nuclear program, the security aspect of it in particular, seems to be headed for rough weather. It might be necessary for the country's government to request for technical assistance from the West.

An echo of this disaster could reach Indian shores one day. As the country begins to take full advantage of its NSG waiver and IAEA Agreement, the dangers of a massive natural disaster wreaking untold havoc on our population are growing. Not that they aren't present already: India has a number of hydropower projects in seismically active regions such as the mountains of Uttarakhand and Himachal Pradesh or the hills of Arunachal Pradesh.

However, the Jaitapur Nuclear Power Project on Maharahstra's west coast is the particular case in the eye of the storm. It is a perfect candidate for a nuclear (not to mention environmental) disaster and India is not one of the most technologically advanced countries in the world that it would be able to control it. If a disaster ever occurred, it could kill millions.

We must be careful as we move forward on our development trajectory. There is no point in blindly copying techniques adopted previously that went on to fail. Safety and environmental concern must go hand in hand with development if it is to be sustainable.

I'm on my way

It was cold and then it was hot. And it didn't change, although I was hoping it would.
They were boring and they didn't improve, although I was hoping they would.
It was supposed to be boring, but was super-fun, just as I had hoped it would.
They're fun and I'm waiting for more, just as I was hoping I would.

It's been just two and a half months of Spring Semester 2010-11, but it's been some of the best moments I've had at IIT Roorkee so far. My induction into LitSec (Parliamentary Debate Group) gave me a second line of membership into the cultural council, after Kshitij. The academics proved vigorous this semester, what with the difficult subjects, the endless iterative calculations and the long practicals.

This semester also saw Cognizance 2011. It was new for me given the fact that I had not gone to the Roorkee campus like I did last year. Cogni was amazing with me adding another feather to my cap by participating in the first IITR MUN.

We brought out - finally, I must add - the second issue of Kshitij and the first one to carry my story. KJ has had a special place in my heart, given that I joined it when I was in a most desperate situation and that I've some some of the best people ever through it. Now, we have to work on the next issue. I am happy to say now that I am fully recognized as a second year member.

In the middle, I had a pretty upset stomach and that increased my longing to have some home-cooked food. Well, now that time has come. Friday evening, I'll be home in the city of Hyderabad, ready to sleep on my comfortable bed and eat food that every human being deserves.

I can't wait!

Sunday, March 13, 2011

Session 4: India Votes 'Yes'

In any MUN, there is no such thing as lunch. Lobbying goes on even during lunch. Add lunch break to the unmoderated caucus before it and you get a pretty long session of lobbying indeed.

During that time, UK, USA and France drafted a resolution of the final issue. Pakistan, Japan and Iran were in the process of drafting their very own. India's support was crucial.

At the very word 'go', India shot down references to the NPT. That made the entire resolution highly agreeable, particularly the clause calling for an FMCT not including existing stockpiles! The other resolution called for scrapping of the NPT (which Japan, surprisingly, agreed to), which was also favourable to India, but contained clauses that went against the strength of the NSG (of which India aspires to be a member) as well as one that called for compulsory nuclear protection to NNWS's from NWS's, something that would be a huge worry for India.

Consequently India was in favour of the first resolution and was a co-signatory. But during the debate, a friendly amendment called for a conference under the CD to discuss disarmament, in particular the NPT RevCon 2010. India saw red and called for an explanation. Just as India was all set to abstain on this one too, a clarification came from USA that the conference would only be meant for discussion and India could freely comment on the NPT there, while nobody was calling for India to join the NPT (as pointed out by the Chair). With that clarification in hand, India voted 'yes.'

The debate on the other resolution was far more heated with the Chair itself taking up a fight with Japan. However, it received a lot of support. Finally, the first resolution passed with a slim majority. And with that came a long session of bakar, cricket scores, a five-point dance and loads of fun.

IITR MUN'11 was a grand success!

Session 3: Crisis Averted

After a good night's rest, the delegates were back and even before the session had begun, a draft resolution on the crisis was being prepared. Initially, it called for military sanctions on Russia through the UNSC, but that was watered down to economic sanctions on India and Russia's insistence.

Fortunately, given the huge drop in DPRK's stance, the UK dropped all its hostile moves that it had threatened yesterday.

As the resolution was being discussed, a number of amendments were proposed. India and Pakistan both tried to push through an amendment to either get rid of references to the NPT or add a clause calling for a new order on disarmament. Sadly, while the first one was not allowed by the Chair on a technical ground, the second one was not even raised by it.

Consequently, because of the the clause calling for strengthening of the NPT, India decided to abstain during the vote, although it largely agreed with most of it. Pakistan voted 'No,' while China voted 'Yes.' China was a major disappointment because it was expected to lead Asia in this issue, being the only NPT-enabled NWS from Asia. But it did not and the leadership moved to the West, primarily France, UK and USA, who tried to win over India, seeing Pakistan as a lost case.

The resolution was eventually passed by a simple majority. Now, it was time for something even bigger: the final resolution.

Session 2: The Crisis

Post-lunch, we found that there was some lobbying going on, including an unexpected Russia-Pakistan axis! Nonetheless, we proceeded into the session, with Netherlands choosing to leave the show beforehand.

The session was quite boring for the first half and hour. Motions were raised and defeated, bringing everything to a standstill, much to the Chair's displeasure. Nonetheless, we did manage to avoid an India-Pak match.

Then, came the Crisis. To add spice to life, the USG Crisis Group was activated with a message that Iran and Russia has signed a secret deal for transfer of nuclear technology, including weapons, to the latter. This immediately made things terribly exciting. As the two countries began to defend each other, moving places to save the staff the trouble of having to send a hundred chits back and forth, an update came: a joint Iran-Russia underwater nuclear test has caused a Tsunami to kill hundreds of people along the Sea of Japan rim.

I, as India, knew that I had to ditch Russia or face heat from the rest of the world. A quick condemnation followed, although I did add that Iran has the right to peaceful nuclear technology but not weapons. Eventually, Iran ditched Russia and the latter was found to be defenseless, unable to say anything beyond the fact that their "intentions were always good."

In the meanwhile, Pakistan faced heat for threatening to nuke Iran (which was a big surprise); DPRK virtually reversed its foreign policy and agreed to everything under the sun; and the world was still without a solution!

Session 1: Not Quite a PD

For the first time ever, IIT Roorkee organized a Model United Nations - IITR MUN'11 - under the banner of Cognizance 2011 in association with the UN Information Centre for India and Bhutan.

About a week back, I was supposed to be editor of the World Press. But then, I was shifted to - believe it or not - Indian Delegate, a huge responsibility. I wrote a quick position paper in about two days and immersed myself in preparing for the event.

Session one was marked firstly by a great deal of socializing. That was followed by a short orientation session, a roll call and a number of people leaving the hall (perhaps they were intimidated?).

Well, with just the interested parties left, the session began with a list of speakers. As expected, Pakistan requested that it be allowed to speak only after India, a request that was quickly shot down by the Chair. Most of the session went by in trade-offs between Israel and Iran. It wasted the entire session and we were just left with Pakistan's speech. Now, I knew I was supposed to say something, and I did, but it turned out that Pak has more enemies in the world that I expected, because there was such a volley of questions that I wasn't even allowed to follow-up!

UK came out in full support of an FMCT, which left many people flabbergasted because they had never heard of FMCT before! So, with my speech left, we went in for a break, during which I got an interesting requesting asking for me to prevent an India-Pak slugfest on the lines of the Israel-Iran fest we had just seen.