Tuesday, May 31, 2011

New Story: And Outward Aye We Fled

We've been through many 'ends-of-the-world' and survived, haven't we? But suppose there really is an end of the world? What happens to life? If we are destined to meet such an end, are we the only ones? Are we both the beginning and end of history? Or are we stuck somewhere in between?

This new story seeks to reveal what has been hidden for so long... the truth of our existence.

And Outward Aye We Fled
This June on OTFS

Monday, May 30, 2011

A New Way to Debate

The Literary Section in IIT Roorkee is a small, rather unknown group that has torn itself into two pieces, both of which are doing rather well with or without each other. Welcome to the world of debates and quizzes at IITR.

One one side is the Quiz Group. It holds about one quiz a month and also some special quizzes, apart from a "big one" at Cogni. Honestly, I can never understand the point of a quiz because all you need is raw data and the ability to remember it. But what does that data amount to? How is it of use to anybody? Has anybody who has been amazing at quizzes ever done anything for the world? I attended one quiz and I had my answers. Quizzing was not what I was looking for.

The Parliamentary Debating Group is the smaller of the two but holds a debate at least once a week on average. It's very difficult to get into without contacts and puts up just one open-house in the entire academic year. The seniors would insist that the two groups are the same and that Lit is united - but in my year, that's not true. But anyway, I hardly care for Lit unity. The first reason I joined the PD Group is because it was my proficiency and I wanted a decent grade. I liked debating but it was not something that I could live without. The future of Lit is hardly my concern.

Parliamentary Debating is a lot of fun. Serious issues (mostly) combined with strict rules and guidelines create a high-stakes situation in each debate. Sometimes, you know you've lost before you even start; sometimes, you know you've won right after you finish speaking; but most of the time, it goes down to the wire and what the adjudicators say has to be backed by sound logic. This is the system on which democracy is built and here we take some facts and convert them into meaningful results.

Sadly, it's extremely unpopular. The PD Group keeps losing more and more people and we end up having to call people and literally beg them to come and help us meet quorum. It's a sad thing but the PD Group has brought it upon itself by refusing to advertise a little. Anyway, I've participated in almost all the debates but did not go for some competition to another institute (which the Quiz Group does not do altogether). Because of MUN, I couldn't even participate in what was called Vox Populi this year.

But Lit has served me well. Suddenly, I had a reputation. I don't think I'mparticularly good but then I still have a reputation that I'm an awesome guy at debating (I have no idea how!). That has helped in MUN and in many other, smaller, ways. My association with Lit will continue until I leave the institute (unlike Kj, which I will have to leave after third year) and I will definitely attend some off-campus event or the other. Who knows, I might even give the quizzes another try?

Israel has few choices

US President Barack Obama's recent speech to the State Department on the American Middle East policy had one striking feature: the world's most powerful country is helpless in front of its most dependent country, Israel.

Following the series of events in the MENA region - dubbed the 'Arab Spring' - the two factions of the Palestinian Authority, Fatah and Hamas, agreed to a peace deal and elections in both the Gaza Strip and the occupied West Bank. Instead of embracing this development that could finally lead to peace in the region, Israel has now refused to talk even to Fatah!

The core problem lies in Israel's illegal colonies in the West Bank. By International law, these are treated as illegal and no country has recognized the occupation as being legitimate - not even the US. The world recognizes Tel Aviv as Israel's Capital - not Jerusalem. Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu and his Foreign Minister must know that Israel has lot the moral conviction and force that gave it legitimacy in the first place by illegally occupying lands thus.

The existence of Israel is not in question - Jews must have a homeland of their own, well-protected from any force that wishes to repeat Hitler's deeds in the future. But even the Jews of Israel must understand that Palestinians have a right to a state of their own as well. And the solution lies in a compromise that is very much within our reach - a two-state solution, Israel and Palestine living side-by-side . The Palestinians are ready to make concessions, perhaps even give up East Jerusalem, but Israel must be prepared to make concessions as well. That is the way we solve problems.

The Netanyahu Government is not doing that - in fact, it's doing everything to prevent a compromise. This does not help Israel or anybody else for that matter. Israel's allies are ready to stand by Israel if it can come up with a viable accord along with the Palestinians, but the current Government does not seem interested in such a thing. In such a situation, Israel will find itself alone in the world, with only an American veto there to protect it. How long is Israel prepared to live in such a precarious situation?

The time for compromise on both sides is now. This generation can see a peace deal if Israel shows some maturity.

Sunday, May 29, 2011

My Juniors: A Short Take

Last year, I wasn't really interested in my juniors; my own position was so precarious. But since we all live in the same place, we have to see them. I can divide my juniors into two groups: the Saharanpur kids and the Roorkee kids. They're not exactly 'kids,' some are even older than me, but they're rather immature.

The SRE juniors are a particularly undisciplined lot. Last time I went there, they were being ragged indiscriminately by my peers, which made me extremely angry. I have stopped talking to some of the culprits. Sadly, I had my hands stained too. But anyway, post-ragging, I have been told that this is probably the worst batch ever in terms of discipline. And if the CGPA's I've heard are anything to go by, I won't be meeting too many of them. There are two exceptional ones who made IITR proud at the Inter-IIT Aquatics Meet and I met one of them. I hope them the very best, although DPT is not the best place to mould their talent.

Now, coming to the Roorkee Campus. The juniors here are pretty much the same story, except that the DOSW forces them to be better behaved (or tries to, anyway). The current batch has had so many marks cut from their discipline marks and have contributed so much money to the institute's fine collection jar that I see dark times ahead. In Kj, I found the juniors to be nice (well, most of them) but very immature; they lack focus. In Lit (PD Group), the juniors are virtually non-existent!

In all this, there are two exceptions. Both are in Kj and the PD Group (one is in my cell). They're way better than the rest of their batch and I have hopes only from them. Apart from them, a first year girl in the English Ed also seems to be a bit more mature than the rest of her class.

One idea I had last year was that I would specifically ask juniors not to address me as 'sir.' That plan is shelved: it has been replaced by a better system in which they are not asked to call me 'sir.' The problem with the former is that it becomes silly and all are not deserving of it; the latter allows for the deserving to be screened on their own. The latter also allows one to keep the moral high ground without entering into pointless negotiations.

But more importantly, I've understood that I should not give all that much importance to juniors. They're important but only after my time; to each year unto its own.

Saturday, May 28, 2011

My Love for Northeast India

Last year, I was fortunate enough to meet two people who fired up my imagination and gave me ample things to think about. I had known people from Guwahati before, but back then, Guwahati seemed like any other city. The only reasons I ever cared about Guwahati is because there is an IIT over there and it took me a long time to convince my parents that I would not be killed by the ULFA!

However, my encounters were not with people from Guwahati, but from the original great city of Northeast India: Shillong. I must admit that when they first told me where they were from, it took me some time to understand where it was. That shocked me because I can usually pinpoint any major city in India - particularly State capitals - instantly. And a little more reflection made me realize that I actually know very little about Northeast India and that my entire knowledge of Indian history had a gaping hole in it.

That was unacceptable to me. And so I went on a learning spree. The Mahatma Gandhi Central Library, fortunately, has a lot of books on the Northeast and I took my time to read whatever I could get my hands on. Simultaneously, I used my new friends to gain a lot of knowledge. and of course, I have always loved reading blogs from the Northeast (they're better than most from the 'mainland') and I continued with that, as I have been doing for years.

And I came to the conclusion that we have been treating the Northeast as a colony! It is so common to hear people declare that the Northeast is so absent from the Indian imagination that it is virtually non-existent: a claim that people in the region also make. But the degree of racism and sheer ignorance with which common Indians regard the Northeast is alarming. It makes me wonder whether all our indoctrination about unity in diversity really adds up to anything or whether a set of people can be treated as second class citizens because they look different, talk different and eat different.

Indeed, I have discovered that racism is such a powerful element in an average North Indian person's mind that all of India except the Hindi belt and Delhi-NCR might as well be excluded from the national mainstream for them. People from Delhi in particular are racist, with exceptions of course. And with a lot of thought I have come to question my own patriotism and whether I would like to live in a country where the people of the Northeast are treated as second-class citizens merely because they look, talk and eat differently.

And my answer is no - that is not the India of my imagination. India is a country of all races, a country where diversity is celebrated and no group can be excluded or discriminated against just because they are different. That is the India I am loyal to and the test of that is Northeast India. The day the Northeast is so badly discriminated against that it secedes is the day that I will cease to remain loyal to India.

The Northeast has given me a new quest of knowledge: to learn about a people who are so different yet are my very own countrymen. It is unacceptable to me to have such a large portion of Indian history excluded from my knowledge. Tribals, non-tribals, insurgents, hills, plains: these terms have taken on newer meaning as I continued to acquire knowledge on the subject. And the quest goes on. One day, I hope to visit Guwahati or Shillong and really see what India's northeast is like.

Time for Change at the IMF

With the rather dramatic exit of Dominique Strauss-Kahn, the International Monetary Fund is in search of a new director to head the organization that has been tasked by the G20 to shepherd global recovery.

Sadly, the organization itself needs a bit of shepherding. When DSK was appointed, it was acknowledged that he would be the last European to head the IMF. Till date, an unwritten convention ensures than a European heads the IMF and an American heads the World Bank Group. However, as the world has changed substantially since WWII, it is imperative that this convention end.

And it did seem that it would end until the moment of truth came and the Europeans backed out, as they always do. French Finance Minister Christine Lagarde is the front-runner from the European countries, but she will face resistance. Already, the IMF executives representing the BRICS nations publicly called for a merit-based system of selection. Sadly, in all probability, the European candidate will win because America would support her (or risk losing its grip on the World Bank) and together they control a majority of votes.

The truth is that the world is in such a crisis that nobody but the very best should lead the IMF - irrespective of nationality. And Europe needs it the most - the biggest danger of sovereign default today comes from Europe and the entire Eurozone could fall into a crisis if that happens. Only the very best can lead the IMF in such a situation and there are extremely good candidates, better than the French candidate, from developing countries.

The Europeans should see for themselves just how short-sighted they are being. If they do not amend there ways, they will probably have their pie but they won't be able to eat it - a crisis in the Eurozone is coming for sure and it could threaten the system that they have built so far.

Friday, May 27, 2011

My Seniors

The branch change wiped off all contacts that I had made with seniors in my first year. Worse, the Civil Engineering Department had a culture in which students of various years - including M.Tech. - did not interact with each other at all, at least not through the Department.

Now, I never really use my seniors as pawns of steps to higher-ups. For me, seniors should be friends, just as peers and juniors are. Yet, seniors tend to be more special, perhaps because they show a notch more maturity. Being in second year, third and fourth years were seniors for me. And I knew none.

To be fair, there were the branch changers from DPT amongst the seniors. And you'd think that people with something like that in common would become old chums. You'd be wrong. Most of the branch changers were haddus, so anyway they were never supposed to be great friends. And the rest were nice but not great friends or anything: acquaintances would be the right term. The real seniors whom I can talk to as friends came from Kj and Lit.

A warning, though: I usually don't name people on OTFS, so I've used a number of pseudonyms here, which any good friend of mine could decode easily. But then, how many good friends on mine read this blog? This is probably the first time I'm going to discuss my seniors here, and maybe it will be the last.

In Kj, I met a number of seniors. Some, like Kannada-haddu and Kj King were just known faces, while others like Kj Queen and Kj Artist were the objects of my dislike. But the seniors whom I got to know the best were in my own cell: Dancing King, Ghissu, Phodu and Drugged. In their own way, each made a difference. Dancing King remains one of the most mature people I have ever met and I am grateful to him for taking me in in time of need. Phodu is another Bengali who probably cannot believe that I actually exist, but we do smile at each other every now and then.

Drugged is from my Department and loves to hear me tell him about my subjects and professors; I think he forgot that he had them too! Still, he's always fun to talk to, although others don't think so. And lastly, there's Ghissu, also from my department, but perhaps the best senior I've ever met. I've also debated with him in Lit and I suppose we enjoy a good rapport. At times, he has irritated me and I have hated him for that; at times, I suppose I have irritated him and he should hate me for that. But most of the time, we've been good friends and when he leaves next year, I'll miss him the most.

I've met other seniors in Lit: haddu is nice but I never trust him, mainly because he gave me such a hard time before I could join Lit. Haddu lady, from my department, is just someone I can have a few laughs with, nothing great. There are some like P and contraception that I hardly know at all and won't comment on. Then there's the Big PI Guy, who is another super-mature person who i think will go really far in life. I don't know much about him but he was good to know (and I got a surprise Fbook friend request from him!). There's also Ganesh, who will probably run the debate scene next year. I don't know him beyond the point that I need him for my grade.

Through Kj, I also happened to meet a few fourth yearites who were in the Eng Ed. I don't know all of them, but there's Original Haddu, who is crazy (I won't elaborate), Jai-Veeru (who gain 'respect' for me in every encounter!) and PV, who was kind enough to pass on some Civil gyaan and his textbooks (through Ghissu of course: the proper channel!). I don't know these people all that well but I wish I did: they seem to be some cool people to know (especially Jai-Veeru!).

Lastly, there's the MT Guy I met through MUN at Cogni. At Cogni I also met other seniors (and juniors), but MT Guy remains the only one I can talk to well enough. I don't know how my association with me will be useful (it may not be, of course), but I do have respect for him.

Respect - that's what demarcates a senior from a junior. Or so I was told. But after a year in the Roorkee Campus, I can conclude that calling them sir and ma'am is not called giving respect. Respect is much, much deeper.

Are they 'World-Class'?

if the sheer silliness of this debate wasn't bad enough, the BJP turning this into a matter of national pride made it worse!

Not Entertaining Enough

Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and his African counterparts successfully completed the Second India-Africa Forum Summit in Addis Ababa, setting the stage for enhanced cooperation between India and Africa. While India enhanced its overall line of credit to the continent and in particular decided to take up a much-needed railway between landlocked Ethiopia and Djibouti, African states resolved, for the first time ever, to hasten the process of UNSC reform come the UNGA gathering later this year.

Unfortunately, the domestic media in India completely and comprehensively ignored the Summit altogether. Chile most channels devoted their entire time either to IPL or the silly IIT-IIM slandering match between Jairam Ramesh and Kapil Sibal, NDTV chose to devote almost all its time to the militant attack on PNS Mehran in Karachi. No reporter from so-called national TV networks traveled with the Prime Minister's official entourage despite the important diplomatic event that the Summit constituted.

The reason for this abject neglect is plain and simple - Africa does not entertain the Indian middle class. News channels today thrive on that entertainment value to bring in the eyeballs; intelligent conversation hardly matters. So, when Barack Obama made an open-ended commitment to support India as a permanent member of the UNSC without any timeline attached, the media made a huge victory march over it. But the fact that African states - whose support is essential to reach that magical figure of 128 at the UNGA - have agreed to speed up the process did not even get a mention!

Fortunately, our print media was more mature. The Hindu's Siddharth Varadarajan covered the whole event from Addis Ababa. Even the ToI gave the event some coverage. While our print media definitely has some maturity, our electronic media has miles to go.

Thursday, May 26, 2011

Another Year, Another JEE

So, like every year, this year's IITJEE results were declared with much fanfare in the media. Like last year, this year's topper is also from Andhra Pradesh. But of course, he in the topper in the GEN category and all over India. If you go for each and every zone and category and then divide that by gender, you can get 7C1*2C1*4C1 different kinds of toppers!

Well, congratulations to the kid who topped the exam in whatever category. It makes no difference for as many ranks as there are seats in IITB CS, which always gets the top ranks, although AIR1 wants IITB EE.

But I'm not here to discuss these things. Two years at IIT Roorkee have made me wiser and I understand that each and every new IITian weill be reset to pre-school once they enter and the entire hierarchy will be redrawn. Kids who loved to solve complex differential equations will mutiny when they learn how an engineer does it and most of them will not turn their field of study into their career. No matter, the world will continue to move on.

What really worries me is an interview that AIR1 gave to CNN-IBN, in which he showed to the entire middle class of the country that he spoke pathetic English. I'm not making fun of him here - he bagged AIR1 in JEE, something that I could not, and even now cannot, do. But nobody can argue the fact that English is an essential component in today's world, especially for IITians. His English was really quite pathetic and I'm sure there are even worse people on that merit list. Unlike BITSAT, IITJEE does not test you on your English.

In my IIT, the class distinction is clear: what language you can speak in best and what income group you fall into clearly demarcate your groups. There is a great deal of stratification on-campus. AP students are the biggest culprits and are labelled 'haddus,' although the term refers to all South Indians who refuse to speak in Hindi. And North Indian kids (who also speak bad English but without the southern accents) make no qualms about the sort of cultural domination that they enforce simply because they are in a majority. I had read once in the NYT that English is the real glue that ensures that we stay together as a country. Well, if that's the case, then this country is falling apart at the IITs. Did I mention the near-total absence of Northeastern students in UG courses?

Every IIT does its best to work on students' communication skills. But the stratification is so near complete that it hardly works: the regional language sticks and the improving your English is as difficult as clearing JEE itself. It's disappointing to see Union Ministers arguing over whether IITs are world-class or not (and why)... the truth is, the world speaks English and if we don't prioritize that in our school curriculum, then no amount of world-class education is going to help.

PS: If you've qualified JEE this year, I congratulate you. You've gotten in, now I wish you luck in getting out.

Must Watch: October Sky

Must Watch is a new, unlabeled, series where we sit back and discuss some old and timeless classics that can only be remembered but not reviewed.


Heroes, they say, can come from anywhere. In 1957, when the Soviet Union launched Sputnik, Americans were afraid that the Communists would colonize space. But in the little mining town of Coalwood, West Virginia, people cared more for what was under them than over.

Everyone, except Homer Hickam (Jake Gyllenhaal, much younger of course), who is determined to master elementary rocketry with his friends. But in a town where everyone mines coal (except the lucky few who play football in colleges), rockets do not fit in with life.

So, guided by his helpful teacher Miss Riley, Homer embarks on a long and arduous journey to launch a rocket a few miles into the sky. And as you guessed, he does it at the end, but not without some ups and downs.

The best part about the movie is the expressions in Jake Gyllenhaal's eyes. In an age when Special Effects did not make up for expressions, Jake delights us with his eyes - sadness, anger, joy, he might have just kept quiet and let his eyes do the talking! The lines themselves are not pithy-but-brilliant remarks but plain and simple - just right for a small-town image.

The director could have made it a rather academic film by simply allowing the kids to launch their rocket. But then, how would that represent American family values that were the staple of movies in that age? The story of Homer having to give up school and work in the mines, and the determination that we see in his face, take us deeper and deeper into the movie. You can actually feel his plight and are absorbed into the movie.

At the end, October Sky is an excellent movie for all those who believe that dreams can come true with a lot of hard work. And even if you don't, for Homer's deep eyes, this movie is a must-watch! (OTFS)

Wednesday, May 25, 2011

The Rescue: Kshitij

The first cracks I saw in the gigantic wall before me came from something I had never heard of before. In first year, we believed that the official IITR literary magazine was Lion, but here, I discovered something else.

An intro talk was arranged for the freshers, but since out knowledge was only marginally above that of a fresher in term of extra-curriculars, we attended it. It was nice, although the LitSec presentation was pathetic. I noted down the timings for certain groups that I was interested in. And I met Dancing King, English Ed-in-Chief at Kshitij. I had no idea what that was but there was a huge crowd around WONA so I avoided it.

And then began a harrowing tale of rejection that made me understand the CulSoc was really just a big hangout - the place where couples are made. But it was either that or three empty years of studying for me. I found some help from my classmates and this new BT kid and after giving an interview (which was a lot of fun) I managed to get into the English Ed at Kj. This marked the beginning of a new chapter for me.

The reception to the news was mixed. Chinki admonished my choice of Kj and told me that WONA is where the 'phokey' guys go. The SRE people were supportive in general. Z probably expected White Boy to be the one who got selected, not me (and that was pretty obvious from his face). But the first meeting of Kj told me that it didn't matter - I was home.

It wasn't a path of roses. Actually, it was - with the thorns to give your intro in second year to second yearites is a terrible thing to do, but there was no choice. The lowest point was when the first year Dork confused me for a first year and asked me how my Freshers was... that was terrible. But in the Spring Sem, it got much better. There is one clear differentiator between a first year and a second year: focus. First years are hardly ever focused because they don't need to be: they are still discovering themselves after two years of coaching destroyed whatever they knew. Second years on the other hand, know whee their interests lie. They might not be very committed but their area of focus is much narrower.

And that was what made all the difference. The last piece in the puzzle was to get some advice on editing - and a retired 4th year guy from my own branch was the perfect choice (and I also got a glass of chai and a free Hydrology textbook to boot!). With that, the time had come to get some work out of the first years, who had done mostly nothing so far. The process was long (much longer than I had expected) and one first year decided to exit the group, but we managed to get the stories of of them at last. For all my trouble, I was promoted to Exec Ed along with Z and WSWAK. In fact, I was pretty flattered by a phone call from Dancing King, telling (lying, probably) me that I was considered for Jt. Secy but because I was in SRE in first year, I lost out. Well, I had no issues (honestly) - I knew where my handicaps were.

And so ended a long tale of how a college magazine put me on the path to rebuilding my world. But I was wholly dependent on Kj for my extra-curricular activities and I needed to diversify. And along came LitSec...

A Well-Worked Out Ad

This new ad from Reliance Digital TV HD comes with some really catchy music and is very well-thought out. It covers almost everything available on TV and the cinematography is very impressive. Overall, a great ad.

Tuesday, May 24, 2011

The Great Scramble for Cooperation

In a symbol of the growing partnership between the world's largest democracy and Africa, Ethiopia will be hosting the second India-Africa Forum Summit in Addis Ababa. The last summit was held in New Delhi two years back. If the draft text is anything to go by, the final outcome could see India extending an even longer line of credit to Africa (all to be given to Indian businesses to do business in Africa with Indian talent) and Africa expressing support for accelerated UNSC reforms with a permanent seat for India.

The Western media is already pretty nervous about the new orbit that South-South cooperation has entered into. Both before and after decolonization of the continent, the West has exploited Africa relentlessly, starting from nothing less than the Slave Trade. India and China both vehemently supported African Freedom movements and did not do so to recolonize the continent. Their interest in Africa stems for an understanding that International trade is not a zero sum game and that the West is no longer the only source of wealth in the world.

Likening the summit as a part of some great "New Scramble for Africa" belies a very poor understanding of what India intends to do in Africa. The aim is to build capacity, grow trade and improve infrastructure so that Africa can experience an age of prosperity while Indian companies can find a new market. It is a winning combination. India's skill training abilities and business skills, acknowledged the world over, fit perfectly with Africa's wealth in minerals and young, hardworking individuals.

Of course, it's not all about business. India's Navy has a presence in the Gulf of Aden, a part of International efforts to fight piracy. The Indian Navy has taken a lead in binging all Indian Ocean littoral states together to ensure peace in this crucial water body. Furthermore, people-to-people ties are strong, with an Indian diaspora present in virtually every African country (and of course the India-connect in South Africa) and thousands of African students studying in colleges across India using scholarships provided by the Indian Government. Clearly, the partnership goes well beyond the narrow goal that any 'scramble' would entail.

Blame the System, not the Faculty

Union Minister for Environment and Forests Jairam Ramesh, the darling of the media, kicked up another storm by asserting that the students, not faculty, made the IITs would-class (a much-berated term after Kalmadi used it generously for the CWG). In fact, according to him, no worthwhile research is going on in these institutions (and the IIMs as well).

Well, Mr. Ramesh is very correct in his assertion that no top-class research comes out of the IITs. Being an IITian himself, though from another generation, he knows that any further dilution in the JEE will see a collapse of the IITs because it takes a certain (and high) level of intelligence to clear the UG course at any IIT.

However, to cast such generalized aspersions on the faculty would be wrong. Good students are hardly enough, you need good mentors too. If not, why train people anyway? JEE and CAT should be recruitment exams, not entrance exams! The reason as to why such poor research goes on there is the bureaucratic system that the IITs have to function in. IITs are autonomous but they have to follow Government rules and procedures, which always means reams and reams of red tape. To indulge in world-class research needs money and the IITs have no shortage of that, but for a professor to access that money he has to go through hell.

Furthermore, the salaries paid to senior faculty members at IIT are hardly world-class. The Government has to realise that it no longer has a monopoly over our lives and the Government is not the best employer anymore. If you want to attract good researchers to the institutes you have to pay them competitively. That will require the Government to get out of areas where it is a burden on the nation (Aviation, for example) and into areas where its presence has done loads of good (like education).

Monday, May 23, 2011

Indian Armed Forces: Commands

Why was Rajiv Gandhi Killed?

In a brilliant analysis of an interview given by former LTTE Chief Arms Procurer K Pathmanathan (KP), CNN-IBN and Network 18's new invention Firstpost.com, the tricky and politically incorrect question of the DMK's role in the rise of the terrorist organization has been brought to the fore.

According to the interview, LTTE Chief Prabhakaran ordered the assassination of the Indian Prime Minister for, among other reasons, his 'hatred' towards Brahmins, an ideology that gave birth to the DMK. Indeed, the DMK and its estranged member Vaiko are seen as the face of LTTE supporters in India who had to cool their heels after the assassination.

The question is - why? From all reasoning apart from the hate theory, there seems to be no logical reason as to why the LTTE would take such a drastic step: one that saw it lose its greatest base of support in India and what a BBC reporter described as the LTTE's real defeat. Often, it is said that he wanted revenge for the IPKF. But as MS Aiyar pointed out to CNN-IBN, the IPKF was not meant to fight the LTTE but to 'keep peace' while the regular army of Sri Lanka handled a disturbance in the South of the Island country.

In fact, the fact that the LTTE even chose to engage with the IPKF can be explained by the hate theory. It is a very interesting thought, that a casteist-hate led to something like the assassination of the leader of South Asia's dominant power.

In the remainder of the interview, KP provides an insight into why the LTTE was actually defeated, including the changed world scenario after 9/11. It makes for a great read. You can see it on firstpost.com.

Those Chaotic Days

The physical move to Roorkee has been completed pretty quickly; the mental move took much longer. The first few weeks were very chaotic and I'm not sure what exactly happened.

My mind was not very well at that time: old memories lingered on. In the mess, I saw my old friends in each and every new face that passed. Perhaps it was then that I built up an image of a very nasty person; no matter, that suited me just fine.

I do have recollections of staring out of the window, scared that I would be left just studying and doing nothing else for three years. It was as though a full-length repeat of Sri Chaitanya was looking me in the face. I have no idea how this state of mind affected my behaviour but it did make me very fearful of others and thus, I would stick to my own SRE-branch changers in class. In that sense, I was lucky because I had Jihadi in my batch.

Change came very, very slowly. It all started with a few words of kindness from Chinki with some suggestions on what I should do. Eventually, things got much better, as we shall see in later posts. But those few days remain ingrained and one supreme truth has been established: we are all alone. Alone, alone, all all alone...

Saturday, May 21, 2011

Rajiv Gandhi: 20 Years After

20 years ago, in Sriperumbudur, Tamil Nadu, one of India's most charismatic leaders and youngest Prime Minister was assassinated. In one of the most gruesome attacks on any political leader in the world, his head was severed from his body and India lost a leader.

Much water has flown beneath the bridge since then. Now, it seems a good time to reflect on how Rajiv Gandhi changed this nation. I, for one, was born a few days after he died. I was born in 1991, a year seen by many as a turning point in India's post-Independence history. But every time I ask someone from that generation and they cite Rajiv Gandhi's focus on computers and telecommunications - the '21st Century,' in journo-speak.

Indeed, his vision of a modern nation that takes full advantage of modern computers and ICT is reflected in what makes this country great today. He could be described as the visionary political leader on the back of whose dream future leaders could shape the country. Indeed, it would be interesting to imagine where India would have been today had he not had that vision. His other revolutionary move was to lower the voting age to 18. Today, we take it for granted that we are adults at 18 but once upon a time, 21 was the barrier. Recognition that each generation grows more mature than the previous one and, averaged over decades, matures at an earlier time in an important achievement.

Yet, Rajiv Gandhi's track record is not squeaky-clean either. The Bofors scandal that saw him lose a good three-quarters of his MPs and continues to haunt the Congress Party to this day was an unsettled blot on his career. The Shah Bano Case and the subsequent Constitutional Amendment brings in question his very secularism, although party politics had much to do with it.

In the end, Rajiv Gandhi was a great Prime Minister, although he did come with his faults. Unfortunately, he could never change the sycophancy of the party that wanted his brother as its leader and not him. His widow today virtually rules the country from the backseat and his son is nicknamed the 'Congress Yuvraj.' Well, some things even a visionary cannot change.

Opinions 24x7 remembers former Prime Minister Rajiv Gandhi on his death anniversary - May 21, 1991.

July 19, 2010: The Catastrophe

Oh, that date. It will remain imprinted in my mind forever. It was on that day that I was travelling back to Saharanpur, excited to start a new year and work in In-DePTh and the Literary Club. Unfortunately, those dreams were cut short by news in the waiting room that I had been elevated to Civil Engineering.

And so started a brutal journey to the Roorkee Campus. One thing is for sure: the system at IITR is not designed for two campuses. Moving was a difficult experience, but I think one thing hit me the hardest: leaving the SRE Campus for good, sitting in the front of that mini truck. That gut-wrenching feeling of leaving home for good is familiar to me, but this time, it was much harder.

But the most difficult part about the branch change became apparent in a few days: we were like aliens who landed out of nowhere, without a past and by the looks of it, without a future. The true success of the integration process can be measured by how much this feeling has gone away. But more on that later. The loss of accolades earned during first year dealt a fatal blow to all ambitions.

And so began the long process of re-construction and integration...

Calling for repeal of AFSPA

Friday, May 20, 2011

A Good Sem, A Bad Sem

The fourth semester will go down in history as the toughest semester academically and the mos fun otherwise. The beginning was slow and I was mostly confined to Kshitij and studies. But eventually, we started feeling the heat of the semester. The three-hour long PCE-222 was fun in the beginning and didn't even last three hours, but all that changed once we got to Profile Levelling, which took three and a half hours, no less!

And that's when the semester began to weigh in. Our mornings were jam-packed. It was only a relief that my elective professor was not a stickler for time and hence, there was no strain for that. The LCE-212 class on Thursday suffered due to abysmal attendance until people realised that the Prof is not going to give free present marks.

Tuesday was the most unbearable day because LES-201, LCE-222 and LCE-212 in a row left us so tired that we were in no mood for TCE-242 that followed. Sadly, we had almost all Tuesdays as working days. Wednesdays on the other hand suffered hugely due to the large number of holidays and just as well because TCE-212 was the worst class of all. Let me be frank, we were scared of that class and the old lady who took it. Tuesday nights in the mess would be a discussion of what would happen in her class the next day and we had to study in advance. She never realised that we didn't take notes in class and just scolded us or not bringing our notes!

Fridays ended well with BM-201. In particular, when Finance was underway, it felt like heaven. It got boring in between, but eventually, Marketing made up for that. Only C5 had a bad time on Fridays because of their PCE-222 in the evening, all alone! Now, two classes that I have very little recollection of are P/2 CE-242 and P/2 CE-252. We lost so many practical classes that I'm sure we couldn't do more than four or five or either. P/2 CE-242 was scary in the beginning because we had not idea what we were doing but got better as we went forward. P/2 CE-252 was terrible in the beginning because of all those old instruments, but once we got to the new equipment is was spectacular!

PCE-212 was a serious pain because even now I refuse to accept that as Civil Engineering. It was Chemistry! So as you can see, this semester was a mix of the good, the bad and the ugly.

Three credits remain however. DISC is no big deal, although we came dangerously close to losing some marks here this semester. The only logical reason I can think of as to why we didn't is that the faculty likes our batch! PR-506 was great and I attended just about all the debates (and participated in them too). I just hope I get the grade!

Thursday, May 19, 2011

Not So Bad

Despite the hype and fear, some of it generated by me, the Spring Sem ETE didn't go all that badly, barring one exam. Of course, even before the theory papers had begun, we were on our seats' edge because of the practical exams.

Actually, my Ce-212 practical exam went off pretty well. The experiment was simple and I was confident of my answers, while the Viva was better than expected. The same can't be said for the written quizzes for the practicals of CE-242 and CE-252. While I made some silly goof-ups in the former, the latter was such a perfect paper that the final mark is truly representative of practical skills! I only wish I knew what IS784 meant! Lastly, the practical for CE-222 was the best one yet, although the heat did make it uncomfortable. I also recorded my best viva ever with this practical.

Then came the theory papers. CE-212 bombed like hell. It was awful, not just for me but for most of the class. I honestly did not know how to solve a majority of papers and my answers were more guesses. The only disappointment is that the professor had high expectations from me, which I could not live up to. Anyway, it got much better after that. Two days of holidays and then came IMA-01. The exam was a breeze although there might have been a few goof-ups here and there. All the same, I am very happy to have chosen the right elective this semester and enjoyed it.

After a good exam, I wanted more. Sadly, that was not meant to be, because I had to face the Goliath of our subjects: CE-252. I cannot remember a subject apart from electronics in which I have had to study so much. The seniors weren't of much help because they kept fear-mongering, while the professor... well, I'll shut up on that. Anyway, the exam wasn't all that bad really and the post-exam discussion revealed a string of correct answers! Still, you can never be sure...

BM-201 was next and it was by far the most unique exam. It was just a long series of stories in which we had to invent our own fiction and fit it with the question. No other exam I have ever written allowed me to discuss the habits of Arab Dictators or finding love at CCD! Two well-spent hours, although I don't have much expectations for the grade.

Now came the last phase. CE-242 was another make-or-break subject, but the exam went off well. It was mostly theory and the word 'succinctly' added to the confusion! Then, after a holiday, came the last of the trashy subjects that I'd have to take up at IITR. ES-201 reminded me of IITJEE with its objective questions and attached answer sheet, not to mention the signatures that had to be carefully made in certain assigned boxes! If only they'd taken that much trouble to frame good questions. A straight series of questions of the kind "Which rock does this...?" left many baffled and the worst was a GK question (whose answer was 'Digboi'). Nonetheless, I still expect an A+ in this and the exam more or less confirmed that.

And finally, second year came down to CE-222, a subject that is kind to you if you take it seriously. The paper was simple and you had a good deal of choice: answer any four of six questions, plus one compulsory question. Not bad. I thought I would answer one extra question but then I came across a question in which you had to correct angles, find bearings, coordinates ad balanced coordinates, all for 15 marks. The question was massive and encompassed four weeks of practical classes! It took me half an hour to finish and I stopped it at that. The Prof asked us to submit our papers and I happily gave mine, happy that another year had come to an end.

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

Watch Your Step

Congress General Secretary and unofficial Crown Prince Rahul Gandhi seems to be learning from his political mentor Digvijay Singh very well. Sadly, he's learning all the wrong things. In the recent and developing scenario is UP, he might have just gone one step too far.

The so-called Youth Icon declared before the media that women in the villages in Gautama Buddha Nagar (Noida) has been raped and med killed and set on fire by the Mayawati Government's police force. By all standards and yardsticks, this is an allegation of the most serious nature. That he made if before the Prime Minister himself adds to the gravity of the accusations.

Now, after Mayawati challenged Rahul Gandhi over his claims and the media decided to find out the truth for themselves, he seems to have gone back on his word. In a meeting in Varanasi, he chose not to bring up the allegations, although the issue of police brutality was very much on the cards. His party claims that he was misquoted and that he never claimed that there was a mass crematorium in the village, but just a "70-foot" (diameter) pile of ash.

Well now, it would be a rather rude shock if the ash was supposed to be anything but that of human bones and flesh. On CNN-IBN, Digvijay Singh himself claimed to have seen remains of human bones in the pile. If he and his young shishya cannot prove their claims, then they deserve to be punished by the electorate. If the pile wasn't of human remains, what was it - wood? Did Rahul Gandhi meet the Prime Minister of India to complain about a pile of wood ash?

Clearly, Rahul Gandhi has got into Digvijay Singh's games of making stupid, blatant lies and then declaring that he was misquoted. He can try all he wants, but the Gandhi scion had better know that time is ticking away for the 2012 UP Assembly Elections. If Rahul Gandhi fails to achieve his goal of demolishing Mayawati, his entire political career could be in jeopardy. and sticking around with Digvijay Singh is not going to help him.

Monday, May 16, 2011

Why, oh Why?!


Produced By: Walkwater Media
Director: Abhishek Sharma
Starring: Ali Zafar, Sugandha Garg, Barry John, Piyush Mishra and others
Rating: ** of 5 (2 of 5)
Pros: Mildly funny
Cons: Dumb, dumb, dumb

Before I begin, let me make it clear that I do not like mindless comedies. Still, I gave Tere Bin Laden a fair chance - and it bombed.

On the face of it, this comedy does have some substance - a bin laden look alike and a Pakistani youngster itching to emigrate to America. Interesting. But terribly made.

The worst part of the movie is the acting. Right from the start, Ali Zafar (playing Ali Hassan) shows us repeated scenes of the same smile irrespective of the situation. The other actors don't really add much either, with the CIA agent (Barry John) putting up an equally pathetic performance. Perhaps I can spare a few nice words only for Pradhuman Singh (playing the Osama lookalike) who actually does put up some good acting.

And then there is the pathetic storyline. It starts decently well but then goes off in every direction possible. The pinnacle was when some American ship supposedly shoots down a little truck from thousands of miles away - GPS is good, but not that good.The costumes are just OK although they could have been better,

To be fair, there were some laughable scenes, including the now-famous 'interrogation' of bin Laden. But those scenes are few and far in between and you are left with a strong desire to get up and leave every few minutes. The music is nothing great either.

This movies biggest faux pas is the use of Indian currency throughout the movie. The song however, describes the actor well - "He's a good-looking ulla da pattha" - but definitely not an actor. He should stick to modeling. (OTFS)

The Leftists' Fall

Now that they are left with only one state Government in India (in Tripura), it is time for the Left parties to do some serious introspection as to where their ideology stands in modern India.

The youth have one serious, irreconcilable problem with the Left - they are a party of the old that stands for the old. Their leaders are all so old and talk about old things. Stalin, Lenin, Che Guevara: thee are old characters from history whose time was different. Sadly, the Left still clings on to them. In many ways, the Left is out of tune with young India.

The Left has this allergic reaction towards America - they view anything and everything American as some deep conspiracy to destabilize India. This is a remnant of Indira Gandhi's age - hardly in tune with today's generation. Today, most Indians do not see America as a conspirator; many families have relatives living in America and cooperation and free trade are what we seek. The Left speaks of absolute state control when the mood in the country ism in favour of private participation in the economy. In 34 years, land reform is the only achievement of the Left Government in Bengal - but it is simply not enough.

The Left is beginning to lose relevance in India and they must seriously reinvent themselves if they are to survive.

The End of Osama Bin Laden

Ten years after the World Trade Centre in New York was brought down in one of the worst terrorist attacks in the world, the man behind the operation - Al-Qaeda Leader Osama bin Laden - was shot dead on the night of May 2, 2011 in the Pakistani garrison of Abbottabad, a short drive from the federal capital Islamabad.

While he has long been suspected of hiding in Pakistan, the suspicion was on the tribal mountains in the Northwest, not on an urban centre. Nonetheless, the discovery probably shocked the Americans as much as it shocked the rest of the world. Operation Geronimo was definitely an encroachment upon Pakistan's sovereignty but the country forced that onto itself when it chose to back the Americans against the Soviets in Afghanistan. Today, Pakistan is paying for that mistake.

In India, the response has been huge, with the entire focus being on Pakistan's role. It is indeed imperative for Pakistan to explain how they could miss a man living in such a heavily guarded town when he is the world's most wanted criminal. The reactions coming from Islamabad so far have been thoroughly unconvincing - in fact, they have all been attempts to duck the issue. Pakistan has a lot to answer for.

However, silly statements from the Army and Air Force Chiefs, and even some politicians, about India launching similar operations to nab Dawood Ibrahim, do not help much. We must realize, an Manmohan Singh explained, that we are not American and the Pakistan will not cringe at deploying its nuclear arsenal at us. As a country that is trying to pull millions out of poverty, we must not look at war. However hard and frustrating it might me, military tactics against Pakistan must be a very last resort.

Oddly, in Indian Kashmir, prayers were held for bin Laden. This deserves to be criticized with sizeable contempt because bin Laden has been derided by Islamic scholars across the world and India in particular. His actions have made life hell for Muslims and he does not deserve any sympathies. This move by separatists is a cheap gimmick and it must be understood that a majority of Kashmiris are against Al-Qaeda and want peace.

The end of Osama bin Laden is by no means the end of terrorism. Al-Qaeda lives on and the world must remain as vigilant as ever to fight terrorism militarily and through dialogue. The dynamics in South Asia as well as the Pak-US partnership are going to chance rapidly and India must remain alert and act swiftly to protect its interests as the regional superpower.

Subverting the Constitution

Karnataka Governor HR Bhardwaj is up to his old tricks again. Having amply demonstrated that he strives to see an end to the BJP's only Government in South India, he has taken it upon himself to do everything in his power to subvert the Constitution and the voice of the people itself.

After receiving assurances in writing that the BJP enjoys a majority in the Assembly, the Governor rejected the cabinet's request to convene a special session of the Assembly to give it a chance t prove its majority. Instead, he wrote a letter to the Union Government asking for President's Rule to be imposed in the state.

This move is blatantly against the spirit of the Constitution. First, the Supreme Court has made it clear that majority is established on the floor of the house - not in Raj Bhawan. By dismissing the Constitutional process, the Governor has virtually subverted the Constitution and this alone should be reason enough for his dismissal.

It seems as though the Governor is trying to deflect the spotlight from his masters in the UPA, who are currently drowning in a flood-wave of scams. However, this is a cheap method to say the very least and it will not work. The BJP has a clear majority in the house and the Central Government cannot simply dismiss a democratically elected Government at the whim and fancy of some self-serving Governor.

The road ahead of clear as crystal: the President of India must reject the Governor's recommendation with the contempt it deserves and the BJP Government must be allowed to continue to finish its term without having to fight for existence every few weeks. If the Congress is really interested in toppling the Government, it must do so through a motion of no confidence, not such cheap, extra-constitutional tactics.

However, if the Union Cabinet chooses to play with democracy in Karnataka, it will pay a terrible price. This is not Indira Gandhi's day and age when State Governments can be tossed around like trash. Already in dire straits in neighbouring Tamil Nadu and Andhra Pradesh, the Congress will face hell if it plays with fire in Bangalore.

Sunday, May 15, 2011

A Year of Change

It started in utter disaster, the end of a kingdom, the destruction of a year's work. The branch change felt like a nail in the coffin, a bottomless pit from which there would be no return.

And then began the revival, the reconstruction. Some losses are irreparable, but not irreplaceable. So while much was lost, a great deal was also regained. At the end, it was a huge race together, as Civil Second Year tried to finish its most difficult semester ever without ending in catastrophe.

But even apart from academics, a lot of gains were met. Some of the nicest people I have ever met came to my help and I met seniors with whom I share a strong bond. The Roorkee Campus now feels like home and cycling back from JB to RKB via EC Circle seems normal, even if it is at 1:00 AM!

It was the worst of years, it was the best of years. And it was different for everyone. Now, as I enjoy a well-deserved break of two months, it's time to look back at the year that was. OTFS presents its second End-Year Review, through this summer.

Winning by a Whisker

In a state which has returned a new Government with every election for most of its existence, Kerala came close this time to breaking that trend. Even as leads were coming in, it seemed as though history had gone amiss somewhere and the highly-factionalized Left Democratic Front led by Chief Minister VS Achutanandan could come back for a second term. But, as counting progressed, it became apparent that history was not on the LDF's side.

Accompanied by a stupendous loss in Bengal, this is the loss of the Left's second State Government, the one in Tripura being the third. However, the Left fared much better than expected. At 68, it just managed to win a majority, but the Congress-led UDF puled off a fast one to take victory.

Nonetheless, the LDF can be reassured that the loss is statistically insignificant. As usual, no independents won in Kerala, reflecting the ideology-driven approach of its voters. The polarization of the Kerala electorate the clear and it seems impossible for the BJP to enter the state, although it is trying.

Oomen Chandy is expected to be the next Chief Minister, although there could be other contenders. Nonetheless, five years of UDF rule is sure for Kerala.

Gogoi Makes History

It was simply meant to be. The Congress in Assam, led by Chief Minister Tarun Gogoi, won an enhanced majority in Northeast India's largest state even as the Opposition came crashing down. Now, it is just a matter of time before the Congress and its ally Bodoland People's Front form their third government: a historic event in Assam.

The Opposition's rout can be traced back to the sheer political stupidity shown by the Asom Gana Parishad in trying to stitch together the BJP and the AIUDF in an alliance. The very idea that a party of Bangladeshi immigrants and a nationalist right-wing party that wants to deport all such immigrants can come together for an alliance is laughable. Little wonder then that the entire alliance broke up and the AGP was pushed to a mere 8 seats, falling below the AIUDF and no longer the main Opposition party.

For Tarun Gogoi, the win is as historic as the election itself: it seems that Assam is looking at prolonged peace after the end of the long insurgency with the ULFA. Although the Paresh Barua faction did try to create some terror, it was clearly nothing more than a whimper. Now, Assam needs accelerated development, particularly the hill districts of Karbi Anglong and North Cachar Hills. Gogoi must deliver on his promises.

Political Genius

Even as polls were going on in Tamil Nadu, few would have dared to predict the results. It was expected to be close; Exit Polls indicated a hung assembly. After all, both the main contenders were offering the same things.

But at the end, J Jayalalitha's caste equations proved to be
unbeatable as her party, the AIADMK, and its allies pulled a
massive victory over the powerful DMK and its partner, the Congress. The victory could also be assigned to the general trend in the state of incumbents losing power. In that way, it is similar to neighbouring Kerala.

Jayalalitha's victory means that the DMK should prepare for the noose to tighten around its first family as the 2G investigation reaches its next stage. Whatever influence the party might have wanted to exercise over the CBI through the Congress will be at a great risk, as its UPA partner would face direct losses it it were seen as supportive of corruption. In fact, the Congress could try to woo the AIADMK and ditch the DMK to continue the rather unending cycle in the southern state. All in all, this loss is a huge setback for M Karunanidhi, who might have just completed his last term before retiring.

Meanwhile, in the tiny UT of Puducherry, the All India NR Congress-AIADMK combine took home a two-thirds majority in the small Assembly whose powers are very limited. The loss of a top leader caused grave loss to the ruling Congress, which now finds itself in the Opposition.

The End of a Dark Era

As expected, the 2011 West Bengal Assembly Elections proved to be a turning point in the history of post-Independence Indian politics. After 34 years of creating and nurturing a political machine that could bring an entire state to its knees and reverberate all the way to New Delhi, the Left bastion in West Bengal finally came crashing down.

The signs were clear for years, the biggest of them being the massive fall during the 2009 Lok Sabha elections. But it was the loss of the Kolkata Municipal Corporation that reflected that even the stiff-upper-lipped intellectuals of Kolkata, who normally swear by Marxism, had ditched the Left. Now, it was but a matter of time.

Throughout the campaign trail, the massive support for the Trinamool was apparent. Being the sophisticated political stalwart that she is, Sonia Gandhi has read the writing on the wall long back and knew that there was nothing for her party to do but join the Trinamool wave. The party's 30-odd MLAs are a result of that realization.

Even in the Chief Minister's own constituency, despite a huge turn out for his rallies, the poll mandate was clear: the Chief Minister has been vanquished in his own home. This was perhaps the greatest insult to injury of all.

Now, Mamata didi will have to think about the future. Her victorious wave will be short-lived if she cannot bring some real change to West Bengal. As for the Left, it now has just one State Government left (in Tripura) and even that could be lost soon. Either it shapes up to the needs of the new generation or it will die out.

Saturday, May 14, 2011

The Good, The Bad and the Ugly

Once upon a time, there was a boy of nine,

Scarcely had he grown that finally came the time,

To leave his home, into the unknown,

To walk the road without friend or foe.

And so he trudged for years on end

Till one day he stopped to see,

Three men he knew:

The Good, the Bad and the Ugly.

The Good gave him some sound advice:

Never be late, never tell lies;

Treat victory as a gentle breeze,

Treat defeat as a chance to seize;

Take honour with an air of grace,

Take rebuke without undue haste;

The Bad stood still; he had little to say,

With his presence alone he had his way;

For virtue relies on the light without,

While vice belies the dark within.

With no sense of shame, nor look of disdain;

With a halo of mystery that would linger on

Long after his arrival, after his cloak was gone;

No pain, no sadness, no inner strife:

Ah! So blissful was Ugly’s life!

A fork in the road is where the trio came,

No more than one for the boy to claim.

He tried his best to stay away

But finally the three had their way.

He chose his path, he went his way,

But the other two followed behind.

The choice was false, the image untrue:

For all three reside within me and you.

He did not know, but time would tell,

That the three cannot be shunned to hell;

He must fight them within his mind,

And some day, success he will find.

Sushobhan Sen

-With inspiration from a senior and friend

Sunday, May 1, 2011

The Helicopter Strikes Again?

Since Saturday evening, Arunachal Pradesh Chief Minister Dorjee Khandu has remained untraceable. Having taken off from Tawang to Itanagar via a chartered Pawan Hans helicopter, the chopper went missing within 20 minutes, setting off a massive search and rescue operation.

Already, the operation has assumed transnational proportions with the Bhutanese Army joining in. The chopper could have landed in Bhutan, which neighbours the Northeastern Indian state.

All this brings back memories of Andhra Pradesh Chief Minister YSR Rajashekhar Reddy's death in a helicopter in 2009, an incident that sparked off a wave of chaos in the southern state. However, the siutation here is ndifferent becaue in the North East, helicopter is a major mode of transport.

The incident clearly reflects the poor work done by Pawan Hans in maintaining its choppers in good condition and providing adequate training to its pilots. Presumably, the state-run company, which enjoys a virtual monopoly in the Northeast, forgot its duty to its customers, the people of India in that region in this case. Already, Meghalaya and Arunachal Pradesh have canceled Pawan Hans' operations and are preparing fresh tenders.

In the short-run, the Union Government must press all its wings into action to find - alive or otherwise - Chief Minister Khandu. A lot has already been done, with the Air Force leading operations in the sky, the Bhutanese Army on the ground and ISRO from space. Sources say that the President is also monitoring the situation. OTFS hopes and prays that Mr. Khandu is found safe and alive and stands with the people of Arunachal Pradesh.

In the long-run however, we need to seriously look at improving surface transport in the hill areas of the Northeast and Sikkim. Over-reliance on one system - helicopters, in this case - can be dangerous, as this incident proves. The Northeast deserves better and money is definitely not an issue in this case. The nation has enough money to build roads, but both the state and central Governments need to show resolve to use it properly.

As the search and rescue operations continue, you can monitor the situation from news channels which have flocked to Guwahati and Itanagar. We stand together in this hour of crisis as one nation.