30 December 2007

Presidential Form of Government in India

What if Manmohan Singh had in his cabinet Bhagawati Prasad as his finance minister instead of Chidambaram, P.T. Usha as his sports minister, Narayan Murthy as information and technology minister instead of A. Raja, Debi Shetty as his health minister instead of Anbumani Ramdoss, Shashi Tharoor as his foreign minister in stead of Pranab Mukherjee, etc? These alternative personalities have backgrounds in their respective fields and required knowledge as are essential to guide him in proper and meaningful governance. One may have justified doubt whether Manmohan Singh feels at home with most of his cabinet colleagues and given the freedom to choose persons to assist him in his governance –most of the ministers would not have been there in his cabinet. But Manmohan Singh does not have that freedom to exert his will so far he has to work in the parliamentary set up as it is in India. The party in power (even the parties of the alliance that are not party to governance) determine the portfolio management out of their political conveniences. So an MP who has a dubious and not so clean background is allowed to get a place in the cabinet only because of his acumen to win an electoral battle. An MP who has had no expertise in and no contribution to any field of national, social and political life of this vast country holds important portfolio only because of his proximity to the head of the party which needs him only for the internal interests of the party. The political parties indulge in divisions in casts, religions etc to win electoral battles. In many cases these persons hold links with criminals and employ them to do things for their personal interests detrimental to collective good. The promoters or real estate developers violate norms and rules to grab land illegally or to make constructions not permissible officially by municipal norms with the support of their political masters. The police do not act against a criminal if he is close to a minister. It’s no use of increasing the number of examples to tell about the nexus between the criminals and politicians. Everybody in India knows it. This situation ensues from the very system of parliamentary democracy of India which is a mere copy of Westminster Abbey. Unfortunately there were no visionaries in that wee hours of independence who could determine the right system of polity that could enable the vast poor and uneducated people to seek a government who could deliver what they required. People require to be guided in their potentiality for building a strong nation. But here in India they have been utilized as vote banks for serving the narrow interests of political parties. The founding fathers of our constitution –however worshipped as great persons were not visionaries to foresee the impropriety of this system in the Indian context. They are exaggerated in their images. Nehru was a romantic dreamer and much anglicized and in spite of his renowned book- Discovery of India, he failed to create a native atmosphere wherein India could breathe for a healthy life. Ambedkar was not at all a wise person to grasp India in her totality. He appears to be someone who is expert in matters of law and nothing more. There were no such persons in 1947 as comparable to the great personalities that came in the latter part of the Nineteenth century. India required a Balgangadhar Tilak, a Franklin D Roosevelt, a Lala Rajpat Rai or a George Washington, a de Gaulle to help her taking off for her desired destiny. Unfortunately her fate fell in the hands of some mediocre persons who were not the best sons of this country which gave births extraordinarily wise people. So India did not find her path when she was born after hundreds of years of alien subjugation. The executives who are not at all worthy of being elected find their places in the parliament only because of their maneuvering politics. So we Indians are governed by dishonest and uninformed politicians whose only motive is somehow to get elected in the parliament that can serve better their families and relatives. These executives are not loyal to even to the parties they belong to. It’s not surprising at all as their very ambition is to gain personally. So sometime if prudence bids for a more stable future they do dot hesitate to switch over to a prospective party against which they fought to win the elections. In times of crisis of forming governments when no party gets the absolute majority mark the parliament turns into a horse trading market and millions of Rupees have changed hands for buying the MPs in order to capture the seat in government. In 1984 at the behest of the then Prime Minister Rajiv Gandhi an anti defection bill was passed in the parliament. But this floor-crossing or defection can not be checked. Now a sizeable number of MPs –when they feel to get more including ministerial berths in a new formation –they ‘split’ from the original party without attracting the rules of anti-defection. The situation has become worse when any of the two major political parties –The Congress and the BJP could not form government on their own numbers. So an opportunistic and unscrupulous combination is formed to grab power. If a government is formed with allies of disparate policies it becomes impossible to take major political and financial decisions even if that is necessary for the country. In such combination the small and regional parties (and some who are not part of the government, but as members of the alliance that help the majority number) insist on parochial policies and fund allocations that help only a minor community or a regional centre depriving the real beneficiaries. I should make a general example of the lack of motive on the part of the government to improve or develop the condition of some states only because of the bias of executives. The whole north-east part of India have been deprived of proper governmental assistance and again on the other hand for positive support of some political leaders thousands of Bangladeshi people were allowed to settle in these border states for communal and electoral benefits. This has created demographic imbalance leading to serious discontent and combined with economic deprivation the secessionist tendencies have grown up. The honest, efficient and brilliant officers are not allowed to work in accordance to law of this land. It is quite natural that the dishonest MPs can not be at home with the honest officers. The most glaring example of shameless action has been evident when the most honest and efficient police officer –Kiran Bedi –was forced to resign from service. Kiran Bedi was the only police officer who attained a celebrity status both nationally and internationally. Can the Chief Minister of Delhi provide reasons for such injustice? India is now among a few countries which top in terms of corruption, illiteracy and poverty. We frequently boast of our polity and its stability. But it actually suits us in our opportunism and mediocrity. Indians are not upstart and insignificant people to make experiment with. It’s a most distinctive people and the people are rooted in a profound cultural consciousness and among one of the best peoples of the world. But they had to pass through degeneration under foreign rules. For the last two hundred years before they had been ruled not by themselves as they had not found the opportunity to self-rule. So when the opportunity came they were imposed on by a few leaders, with the system of parliamentary democracy. India would have grown much faster than China had she not wasted much of her time in parliamentary democracy. Even Hindu-Muslim conflict would fail to be an issue under a proper political system. Sri Lanka had tried with this system but after a time she left it for a French Presidential system i.e. combining presidential rule with a parliamentary government headed by a prime minister, which I think, is not suitable in Indian situation. In the French system the head of the government is the Prime Minister, who is nominated by the majority party or coalition in the National Assembly. The Prime Minister recommends Ministers to the President, sets out Ministers' duties and responsibilities, and manages the daily affairs of government. He issues decrees and is responsible for national defense. As per Shashi Tharoor “...given India’s fragmented party system, the prospects for parliamentary chaos distracting the elected president are considerable. An American or Latin American model, with a president serving both as head of state and head of government, might better evade the problem we have experienced with political factionalism.” Indira Gandhi, at one time thought of French Presidential system and as per some press leaks she discussed the matter with the then visiting French President. But nothing further could be heard thereafter. Only Charan Singh divulged it and opined that it was only the American system he was prepared to accept. At that time some journalists and a few veteran politicians were vocal for a change of system. But it was for a short period and then the debate failed the steam for a national issue. But what is an American system at all? In the US the President is not directly elected by the people but direct involvement of the people in general helps the President to be elected. The presidential election takes place every four years. People across the country cast their votes for whichever candidate they believe will do the best job. Votes are counted, and this is called the popular vote, but it is more than a popularity contest. This is where the Electoral College comes in.The Electoral College is a group of people who gather to cast their votes for the various presidential candidates. When the Americans are casting their votes for the presidential candidates, they are actually casting their votes for electors, who will cast their votes for the candidates. So they form an electoral college for electing the president.When all the electoral votes are counted, the president, with the most votes gained by him or her, in this way, wins. In most cases, the candidate who wins the popular vote also wins in the Electoral College. The American President wields wide powers. The President and his or her cabinet, for example, are not members of Congress, unlike the British or Indian Prime Minister and his or her cabinet, who are all members of parliament. The all three institutions –the Congress, President and Supreme Court are so devised in a system where checks and balances in which the three branches of government work separately from each other. Some may argue that an American President may be an authoritarian so far as the powers he/she wields. But no American President has so far been an autocrat. But in India –Indira Gandhi proclaimed emergency even not discussing the matter with all her cabinet colleagues for their approval. Moreover to offset the autocratic tendencies of the president –an executive chief minister or a governor for a state should be directly elected as it is in the US. I think that considering all the aspects of Indian situation the model of American Presidential system is the best available model for India and a change over to this model is urgently necessary. Otherwise the disrespect and loss of faith in the government may lead to anarchy. Indian cities and towns are fast being ghettos of criminals-who act under the secure umbrella of petty politicians on whom the big leaders depend in times of electoral battles.

But why it has not been discussed in national level and what are the main obstacles for a switch over? We Indians have fallen in a trap. For a change of system the matter must get approval from two thirds members of the parliament. Will they –the executives ever agree? Once elected an MP in the parliament –enjoys enormous perks and family pension securities. But apart from this official payments they get access to earn form various sources including businessmen. This evil is two-fold. First this means that joining in politics is lucrative and so the persons who have power –both money and muscle –make it do or die ventures to get somehow elected. And secondly once elected they are after personal privileges. So this is a vicious circle. More so that these people will never allow for a change of system. So this is fait accompli for India unless there is a popular upsurge against the system. ADDENDUM-(Tamil Nadu) I need for an extension with reference to the above as a separate emphasis here to enunciate my basic point in another scenario. This does not run with the same aim as it is specifically related to an Indian state-Tamil Nadu; but it’s an issue not absolutely unrelated to the system of our polity, the theme of my discussion. I have visited Tamil Nadu several times and found the people living in a well organized society. I visited TN first in 1971. The city of Chennai has undergone a huge change in almost half a century now. No city in India is better administered in India than Chennai. Tamils are an ancient race and they are bearer of a very rich culture. Their language is the oldest among the other Indian regional languages. Their contribution to the spiritual tradition of this ancient country is immeasurable. And in no way this race is un-Indian essentially. The language of Gujarat is as alien to Bengalis as Tamils. Even the language spoken in Chattagram (now in Bangladesh) is more near to the Myanmar border area people than the Calcuttans. But both are Bengalis. So I wonder why the people of TN like to feel themselves as separate from the mainstream Indian people. The Vindhyas have long been ceased as north-south divide. The Tamils are found everywhere in Central government offices as efficient and qualified executives. The same is equally true in private sectors. The TN produces the best scientists of international standards. It’s from my own experience I have found that an educated Tamil speaks more fluently in English and even in Hindi in Mumbai than a Bengali generally. But in politics they like to remain close to their regional parties which have no existence in the rest of India. The two main parties are like two individual companies headed by two persons whose only motive is to keep the parties as their personal zamidaries. I can not reconcile how such a great race like to remain as the subjects of two persons. It is because of this parliamentary system. Tamils feel it not comfortable (because of thousands of years of living in other side of Vindhyas) to be ruled by the pre-dominant North Indians. This psychology has been narrowly exploited by the regional parties. As I have told earlier –this could have been avoided under a Presidential system. India as a whole suffers from not having the Tamils in the mainstream politics. Most of the educated and broad minded Tamils, I have no doubt, do not like these parties but they do not find any alternative. The Tamil Nadu Congress is nothing but a bundle of stooges of the north-Indian Congress, especially after Kamraj Nadar. So the genus of Tamils is lost in Indian politics. There must be a balance of powers between the states and the centre; but not such a centre which may be predominantly non-Tamil. We should not fail to make a non-Tamil face of India. This is equally true of other non-Hindi states. Psychologically, men do not object to living under a ruler common to all. So in a family most often there are not so much quarrels amongst the brothers when the father is the head of the family. But in absence of a common head, we like part with from one another.

23 December 2007

India and a probable recession in the US

In my earlier writing (dated 1st October) I wrote under the topic ‘Towards One World’ that “When a meteorologist says that the atmospheric pressure and the movement of air currents are the cause of a depression leading to sudden heavy downpour, we understand him. But we are yet to believe, let alone know precisely that collective human movements have behind them similar forces. Collective human action is more complicated than weather systems and therefore unpredictable. And for that matter, even the weather is often not all that predictable” I meant that whatever is related to the complexity of collective human behaviour mere mechanical or mathematical tools are not helping to precise predictability. It is the same when we find the economists working with the same data are not in unison in predicting the rate of growth of economy in India. Almost everyday the economic experts tell you in logical ways the future levels of economic variables. And the every ‘logical’ prediction differs with the other and sometimes the predictions are wide off the mark. This is very natural that the economists feel interested in discussing whether a global recession will plague the world in the next year. The question is relevant in a more globalized world now as a ripple or stir here in China or there in the US make its effects in India and other countries. Very often in India and in the world in general the economic growth rate of China is a much discussed subject. China as per some is expected to grow at an annual rate of 8 per cent during the 11th Five Year Plan (2006-10). But from a more elaborate exercise we find the following chart.

So from the above it is evident that in near future the rules and the conventional tools used to determine growth position will compel the economists to rewrite the development economics to explain this unprecedented growth. In India the experience is also good if not admirable. But the America is still the guiding factor for the economy of the world. It is because the economy of the US is the largest in the world. And almost all the countries are crucially related to the US economy. If in the US there is a sharp fall in overall demand it will cause serious concerns to the governments of other countries. The Indian government has all along been boosting exports. But now in the software industries it is not as lucrative as before. But before discussing about the US economy we should know about sub-prime mortgage. Sub-prime lending, also called B-paper, near-prime, or second chance lending, is the practice of making loans to borrowers who do not qualify for the best market interest rates because of their deficient credit history. In clearer terms a sub-prime mortgage is a loan offered by a lender to a borrower with a poor credit history (meaning he has defaulted on his financial commitments in the past) against the security of his house property. Such borrowers are called sub-prime borrowers. Since the risk of default is high, these loans are offered at relatively higher interest rates compared to loans offered to people with an impeccable repayment track record. However these sub-prime mortgage loans are relatively much cheaper than completely unsecured loans to the same profile of borrowers. Some borrowers in the US who have otherwise no access to credit –this has helped them. If the financial institutions exercise required norms for lending it is not going to attract adverse features. But if for uncontrolled and injudicious lending practices in order to make money the financial institutions’ investments go to not credit worthy borrowers the loss is sometimes catastrophic in nature after a certain limit. This is what has happened in the US financial markets. Consequently there has been a severe cut back in credit supply in all the countries whose banking system is linked to the US financial sectors. This has also affected the US business seeking credit for sustenance. The housing sector has been seriously affected in the US as the new buyers find it difficult to get loans for housing which ultimately has led to the fall in prices of houses. Even those who can manage credit are not willing to buy in the apprehension of further fall in prices in near future. Eventually there has been sharp fall in construction sector as it is closely related to housing sector. It is now apprehended that this will have ramifications in other sectors of the US economy. The housing sector in the UK has already been affected and threatened the earlier boom. The Bank of England-(the Central Bank of UK) has reduced the bank rate by 0.25 per cent with the hope of raising liquidity in the British economy. Japan has also been facing the problem. But despite this issue of sub-prime mortgage one can not predict for certain that economic recession is a must in near future. Whatever the problem the US still maintains a positive growth rate along with Japan and the UK, the sliding down of the rate notwithstanding. Now it all depends how the governments step in to liberalise the credit policy. But as the liberalized credit policy leads to expansionary monetary policy and is bound to carry the adverse effect of inflation. So the economists are faced with the perennial problem of untying the knot between inflation and growth. Minor inflationary trend is not unwelcome for a positive index of growth as in the case of the UK where the growth rate is positive despite the inflationary rate of two per cent even when the oil price is in all time high level. But how a probable recession in the West will have its effect in India and China? This will depend on the intensity of inflationary course these countries may have to tread on. The economic market of China is much larger than Indian economy. So the effects of recession in the West will naturally be different in the

se two countries. If there is a recession in the US and its economy will move southward i.e. if the US market will be shrunk it will less accommodate foreign exports. In that case Chinese industry will be in jeopardy and it will have to seek alternative markets or countries for sustenance. But Indian export market is far smaller than China and for that matter she will not have to fall as lower than her neighbour. This can not allay the suffering as Indian software market will definitely be affected in a great way. Indian market is much localized and for that matter it is immune from shock from international tremors in the developed countries. Moreover a recession in developed economies might increase outsourcing work to India which account for over half of economy, continue to grow around 8 to 10 per cent.

13 December 2007

The World of Mind

On a foggy winter morning standing on the gate of your house you find some figures are coming along the road that stretches before you. You can not recognize them. They appear to be blurred figures. Even you can not know for certain how many are there and whether if all of them are human beings. The small ones may or may not be animals. Slowly more they come near to you the more they appear clear in their contours. Yes there are two men, one woman, one little boy and a dog. They now stand before you and the elder man says “Hello!” All of them live just beside your house as good neighbours. And you know them for many years since you began living here in this house. They went to the countryside a week ago and now are retuning. There is nothing wrong in you in not recognizing them first at mere a hundred feet from you. It’s a foggy day. The fogs are terrible obstacles for sight. The real –very real becomes hidden. As they have gone past for there house –you find none-none around you anymore. You remain alone as if the world has gone into hiding. But you are not sad as you know that everyth ing is there as it is and as you know them. This sheath of fog has veiled everything before your nose. The same was true for your neighbours when they also failed to identify you from a little far for this veil. So for both for your neighbours and you it is as simple as anything. You know that the fog would vanish under a stronger sun a little after and the world would appear in clear identity. Everything is known to you and this naughty fog can not play such tricks for a long time. But are you sure that you see and conceive your neighbourhood and the neighbours in the right way in normal conditions? Our confidence does not always carry us to realities. But before answering the question I’ll turn the problem in another way. Let me see whether you look as real as you are. You know yourself and know also that you can determine many of your daily routines. But I should first want to know whether you know your tomorrow-how it’ll be like. No –anyone of us knows the exact future movements that beforehand. Whether you’ll brush your hair in the bathroom or in your room is not predetermined. What you will think then- about your next food or your friend’s problem? Are you certain that you will not think of enjoying a movie after your office hours? You may be in a mood to visit a friend whom you have not seen for a long time. Or you may think of returning home soon to complete your unfinished writing. You may be in many moods after your office which you are not aware of now. It’s because you have no control over your mind and for that matter any control over an overall direction of your life also. You do not know what you will think with your own mind the very next moment. Except a very few ones people like you are unknowingly sliding to a destiny obviously not of their choice. You like to name this fact as fate. But if it is that you love to take as your defense then make sure that you have allowed it to step in through your unguarded moments. But I am not here about emphasizing on morality with regard to your nature, least of it, as I see you through your mind. My point is about your mind-the very element you human kind is inclined to depend on more than anything else to know and determine the course and events of your life. You may argue that it is pre-planning that you can form with your mind. But are you sure that your planning will get through? And are you convinced that you are planning rightly or no other planning will replace it with another one in future? Your mind has its limitation because it is not based on all the truths that are there behind your nature and beyond your sight. But before coming to the question of your ability to direct your movements with the help of your mind let me return to the situation where the morning fog blurred the world before your sight. The fog is a temporary external phenomenon to bar a world from your sight. But you are not aware of another fact where you yourself are a blurred existence even to you. You are not what you are actually internally. Your instruments by which you see, know and conceive a reality are not as developed as are able to grasp a totality in which you live. The biologists are not certain whether all the animals feel and see the world in the same way as we do. Some says contrary to the traditional belief that the bulls can not perceive the red colour. Some reptile like snake can not hear according to some. Whatever it may be it is after all interesting to know how the world differs in the perceptions of a dog and a bird. We can not come to a conclusive truth from studying the reactions only. But it’ll be more interesting to know whether you are right in your perception of your own being. You have not been born on your option and the different parts of the organization that you know as you have not been made according to your own plan like that of an engineer making an airplane with his own ideas. Even the external substances you are made of are not of your own making. You have grown and become you like that of a plant growing up into a tree without its own effort. There’s no difference between you and a tree so far as one’s own option in the process of becoming what both of you are now is concerned. Unlike a tree you have something you call mind with which you know that you know ‘all about you’ and explain your existence in terms of your mind and you think that what you think, see, feel, hear etc are in right ways. When you find that you are alone in your room you feel lonely as there is none that appears to your sight. You are convinced that your eyes can see in the right way. And your feeling of loneliness is a real feeling. For all this you get support of your mind. But if I say that all this is mind’s own business and not yours? You will vehemently oppose my proposition because from your own experience you know that the mosquito flying over your head –if it bites, you will feel pain from its sting. You know even more that a disease may follow from its bite. So by knowing it from your experience you are able to apply your mind to prevent it from biting. You know that when there are several persons in your room talking you can hear the noise and it’s caused by people. So noise and the source of noise are very much related to your conception. You know that your very existence will be in jeopardy if your mind leaves you. Exactly so. But you do not know where and how your mind exists in you. Even if you are dissected thoroughly no anatomist will find it out. But it is the main sensory element that helps you to perceive everything. Even without it you will not be able to feel a touch on your skin. So what it is? It’s not material but the materiality is conceived through it. It’s something like a link between you and the world. It’s consciousness –not the essential consciousness but a phenomenon of consciousness in mental level. Wherefrom this consciousness has come? You all know that Man did not fall on this planet from some place called heaven. Man evolved through an evolutionary process in Nature as Darwin informed you. But one thing –the very essential thing he did not mention as to what is this driving force that selects and deselects continuously in Nature. He even did not tell us what the aim in Nature is in her evolutionary drive. Is it merely playing with forms that are able to survive as the fittest in natural situations? Then mere survival through those survived is all that Nature should be content of. For that matter Nature should not have created a weakling –the Man, apparently not as fit as a tiger to survive in the adversity of natural situations. There are many unanswered questions in Darwin’s explanation on evolutionary process. Darwin saw only the phenomenon of external Nature. He did not feel the necessity of knowing the inner and conscious motivation latent in Nature. As Man is an evolutionary product with consciousness we must acknowledge that evolution is concerned with the evolution of consciousness in forms also. Man is more conscious than the formidable tiger and for that matter is more powerful than tiger. So if we examine the whole process of evolutionary path of Nature we find that the whole evolution is a process of evolution of consciousness. The Nature herself has been seeking or aspiring to be more and more conscious in her struggle against unconsciousness. In Man she finds a face to look forward. And for the first time she consciously feels her discontent for not being fully liberated. So in Man she puts herself as an aspiring light within him. It is what people call soul. She is the Mother of all the aspirations in Man. I am telling you all this only to inform you that you are not only a physical body but also a vehicle of consciousness. But the consciousness is not a divisible thing existing separately in you. You may find your body as a separate being amongst many others but you can not be separate even in your body because your bodily existence is valid through several links with the nature from which you have come or evolved. As Nature is an indivisible composite all in her is related to one another. Nobody can exist separately here in this universal nature. Yes, you are even related to animals and even all the living beings long extinct before the advent of Man. You are not separate but an individual front of the myriad whole. Do you know that that your thoughts are not yours but enter in a stream in your mind from outside? Many a times you feel sad as there rises in you a filthy or nasty desire. But generally it’s from the vital (the plane of life forces) atmosphere. It’s not yours altogether. Again let us return to the foggy morning. As you have evolved through the evolutionary passage everything of the whole path is imbedded in your deep subconscious (subconscient). You may have let tail fall of your animal body but you can not efface the animal altogether from your subconscious. We are surrounded with various levels and planes of consciousness. I should better say that we are merged in these. Yes-it is for your mind you can not understand it. Has the evolution ended in Man? We have seen that no species have come out from nature after the advent of Man. The answer lies in man himself. Man is not an inanimate stone, an amoeba, a plant, a bird and not an animal. There is a progressive sign in every successive formation in Nature and this progress is defined in terms of higher consciousness. In man the consciousness has been formed as mind. Man is a mental being. But if mind is the highest form of consciousness then we must conclude that the process of evolution has stopped in principle. But the answer –as I have told above lies with Man. Even all the human beings are not still capable of functioning from the highest Mind-the last station of the evolutionary travel so far. If you are capable of rising to the higher mind you did not have problem in seeing persons lost in fog. If you reached the highest mind you could realize that you are not alone. You could see all in you and find you in all. So is it not that you yourself still live in a blurred existence more blurring than the morning fog could do? Now I must tell you that I’m not here to discuss metaphysical matters. I do not know the future. But one thing I have realized that being in limited manhood I can’t expect a better future. I have not been born to consume even given eternity for doing so in a world where death and disease are vanquished forever. If I can be as vast as infinity and everything –every cell in me can feel absolute liberty live always one with all that are possible in the creation I can be free of myself. This is not possible with being in man only. I am convinced in my heart that Man as we see him is a creation of past. The mother who lit a lamp within replacing the nature-tells us in the language of Sri Aurobindo… O Force-compelled, Fate-driven earth-born race, O petty adventurers in an infinite world And prisoners of a dwarf humanity, How long will you tread the circling tracks of mind Around your little self and petty things? But not for a changeless littleness were you meant, Not for vain repetition were you built… Almighty powers are shut in Nature’s cells. A greater destiny waits you in your front… The life you lead conceals the light you are. [Blogger's note: I have written in a superficial way to express my thoughts. If anyone is interested to know more in detail -he or she is requested to read the book SRI AUROBINDO OR THE ADVENTURE OF CONSCIOUSNESS by Satprem. The book can be had at the following places: Institut De Recherches Evolutives, Canada CP 41 Chambly QC J3L 4B1 Canada Institut De Recherches Evolutives 142 boulevard du Montparnasse 7510-Paris, France Mira Aditi Centre 62 'Sriranga', Saraswatipuram Mysore-570 009 India

19 November 2007

quo vadis, India?

Is India progressing? If yes-what are the parameters? The economists in their preoccupation with various data and statistics see a flickering light on the horizon. Some optimists hope that the light will be steady by c. 2050. The signs are appearing visible at the sights of highrises, shopping malls, the increasing amount of money being invested in hospitality sector and the redoubtable Vijay Mallya’s announcement for Formula1being held in Indian track by 2010 etc amongst many others. The aspect of the number of poor being lessened down to a comfortable level will be taken up in the momentum of the process itself. But this is all about the physical health of the country. This is an index of how much and how many will able to consume in the system leading them ultimately to be consumed in the system itself. This is how the pigs and chickens are fattened and the measures taken to prevent them from viral and other infections so that they can afford to being consumed happily and hygienically. But there is an uncomfortable sense gripping me over at the sights of looks in the eyes of those, whom, I must have to identify as human beings, now waking at this dawn. It’s a sickening look of
avarice. I must enquire that whether the ‘light’ will enlighten also. After a long period of British rule-India, hundred years ago realised her identity and defined her longings culturally, politically, materially and spiritually. But like a superannuated mother she lacked the power and material strength required to reach her dream destination. There were glitters in her eyes in expectations that her children would redeem a future which was
rooted in the values of life as defined in the wisdom of this ancient civilization. Every collective community, as we find in history, when it progressed and attained its peak-the glory glittered through all that we consider as elements of civilization. The aspirations awoke and blossomed all over. Every awakening brought the attendant refinement in all fields of its life. Unlike the individual life a rich and wealthy nation can not be comprised of philistines. Is India heading towards a destination where she would wear an enlightened face? But a shadow is slowly catching up the refining light as the time is wearing on. Let us see the situation. All the cities of India have become havens of hardened criminals, of all sorts, protected by the administration. These criminals are the sources of sustenance for the police and the politicians. The police are supposed to save and protect the law abiding citizens and prevent the goons from doing mischief. But here in India in every police station the policemen’s only enthusiasm lies in finding opportunities where they can have deals with the perpetrators of crimes for consideration. The traffic police in the streets take bribe openly and whenever they need more income they threaten the honest drivers to pay; otherwise they are booked for violation of traffic rules. The Calcutta police in the British period was as efficient as to be compared with Scotland Yard. When Charles Augustus Tegart was the Police Commissioner during the period from 1923 to 1931, he was greatly admired for keeping the city free from crimes. However, he earned tremendous notoriety amongst
A man lost in pain. His story is very common amongst the poor of Calcutta. Having broken his leg in a fall, he was given improper outpatient treatment in a government hospital which resulted in his leg becoming gangrene, the rotting flesh permeating the corner of the dressing room he was in. He now risks losing his right leg, doctors at Talapark clinic sent him to another hospital shortly. This time his treatment will be paid for and supervised by Calcutta Rescue.
the freedom fighters of Bengal for being an obdurate opponent of Indian nationalism to the point of illegality and, for the ruthless torture of prisoners. But for this we are to blame the British rulers under whom Tegart served. Our point is that Tegart –however cruel and notorious he might be- was honest and sincere in his duty to maintain law and order-the most needed thing for both the ruler and the ruled. At least no high police officials in Lalbazar (the Calcutta Police HQ ) was ever recorded even unofficially as involved in criminal and unlawful activities. Now the IPS and IAS officers (equivalent to the ICS cadre of the British period) do not hesitate to violate the laws of the country for self interest. Ironically they are the most brilliant students from universities. Women, some years ago, were unsafe walking alone in the evening in some Calcutta and other city streets. Now they have become vulnerable even in broad daylight. Going by the news paper reports, one would come around the most uncomfortable belief that women are always and everywhere chased by a sex-hungry generation of modern India. They are not safe as patients in hospitals, teachers and students in educational institutions, devotees in temples, passengers in buses and trains and in every possible place they are the target of uncontrolled desires. The healthcare facility in India was never good and most often mainly from ignorance, people, especially in the villages and small towns, were afraid of being admitted in hospitals. But there was no single
instance of a patient being denied admission. Now in Calcutta, even the seriously injured ones by accidents do not find it easy to get admitted instantaneously considering the need of urgency in such matters, when they are brought to the hospitals. Private practitioners never visit serious patients on call in late night. Earlier the situation was not so; the doctors visited the patients in their houses at such odd hours. Medical profession was considered as a noble profession following British tradition and doctors were held in esteem in the society. But now they have been subjected to Consumer Protection Act as they seem to be no different than a trader or a contractor. The food supplied for the patients in government hospitals do not go to them. Most of the food is consumed by the canteen officials. The medicines supplied are sold out to the market and so the patients have to buy the prescribed medicines from the private shops. In many jails in India, the criminals may get extra facilities by bribing the warders. In some cases they enjoy as much facilities as were available to them in outside world. They keep cell phones and maintain contacts to the outer world. It is a widely known fact unofficially. No government cares to check corruption in jails. Teachers in the British period and in the early independent era are the most respected class in the society but they were the very poorly paid section. Now the teachers are handsomely paid. So when it is expected that this comfortable livelihood would help them to get more involved to their task of building the ‘future citizens’ –they themselves have become inclined to insincerity, avarice for money and irresponsibility. To become a teacher is to get access to the extraneous source of earning more by giving private tuition. They insist the students should pay money in their privately run classes if the they want to score more marks. The situation has become so unhealthy that the government has banned private tuition by teachers of government schools and colleges. But it continues as usual and not a single teacher has been officially punished for violating the law. It is because most teachers are activists under political parties. The government, following the suggestion of planning commission, grants sanctions of millions of rupees for improvement of primary education in the country. But much of this money goes to the pockets of the officials and the politicians. A renowned historian Tapan Roy Choudhury informs us that as a member of an education mission he found that the libraries of colleges did not have books for which large amount had been sanctioned by the University Grants Commission. He found that the money sanctioned was not used for lack of initiative. But to his surprise he found an exception in an institution where the library was well equipped with various books. On enquiry he came to know that the concerned librarian had a close relative who was a dealer of books. So it was a convenient situation for the librarian and the book seller to share money between them. The ministers and the members of the opposition parties quarrel with languages that can not be used openly in a civilised society. The general people are habituated to spitting on the streets. They, even the educated ones, find it convenient to urinate on the sides of the roads and streets in the cities. The public and the police equally enjoy violating the traffic rules. In spite of ruling of the Supreme Court against bursting crackers beyond permissible decibels –the young people enjoy bursting of violent crackers at every occasion of festivals. Here in India the government of a state openly criticises the governor-who is the official head of the same government because the governor accuses the government for its wrong doing by employing the goons and dacoits to kill and evict many villagers in order to rehabilitate the party cadres. In many states the parties use money powers to buy elected legislators to form government. There is virtually no democracy in India as all the institutions of this country are governed and headed by the party bosses. One great man once remarked that the parliamentary system of democracy for India was a bastard child of Westminster Abbey. In spite of all this India is fast growing to be wealthy enough to be one among the first world countries after five decades. But will it be enough for her to be poised in the dignity of existence? One is not born to ride a Bentley, to dine in a five (or more) star hotel, to travel in an Airbus A380, to live in a million- dollar apartment and to do all that a Mukesh Ambani or Bill Gates is capable of. The very nature of scientific activity is to be inquisitive. A scientist enquires everything to know the secrets of all; he does not like or accept things existing in hidden ways. So is the child also. Scientists unlike the child are different only in being adults and in their constant search for convenient living which India is going to acquire. But a man is born not to be only a scientist, a painter, a poet, an engineer, a businessman, a politician but basically to seek a truth and purpose of his life. I do not hold any opinion against science, democracy and comfortable living. But my point is whether India has really found her path which can lead her to the proper destination-her home in this world. In this context it reminds me the wisdom of ancient India when what Maitreyi, the wife of Yajnavalka told her husband. At the time when Yajnvalka was leaving for a recluse he told her, "Maitreyi, I am forsaking all and leaving home. If you so desire, I can make separate provisions for Katyayani and yourself." To these words of Yajnavalkya, Maitreyi gave answer, "If all my possessions were to fill the whole earth, would they bring me immortality, my lord?" Yajnavalkya had to reply, "No, that could never be; that would be impossible. But you could thereby have a life of enjoyments, like all other people who have wealth. But of immortality there would be no hope." There upon Maitreyi exclaimed, "What then am I to do with that which does not make me immortal?" I am yet to know the answer for my beloved land, India.
THE GATE IS OPEN BUT THE PATH IS BLOCKED

17 November 2007

Sri Krishnaprema (Richard Nixon)

Many years ago a book on Krishnaprema came to my hand. At that time I was passing through a bad time and was very much depressed. The book helped me to a great extent to gathering myself again in my normal optimism. What moved me most was his fiery love for his lord Krishna. But Krishnaprema was not an ordinary Vaishnav sannyasin. He was an intellectual and highly educated English man. His was not a sentimental, credulous and narrow Vaishnava mind that we are accustomed to see around us. He was rooted in his true and divine love. But I was personally attached to a single statement amongst many of what were quoted to have said by him in the book. This opening single sentence of his statement inspired me and also helped me to discover a truth of our life. The line was: “The finest timber comes from the slowest growing trees.” I am quoting below the whole text which begins with the above line. “The finest timber comes from the slowest growing trees. He who expects to blossom into a yogi in a few months or even in a few years of practice is found to be disappointed and had better leave the whole subject alone. He, however, who has the sincerity and courage to face whatever is in him, and the persistence to go on with his struggle in the face of obstacles within and without, and the humility to recognize that all that he has done is to take the first few steps on a tremendous journey, is certain to achieve something which he would not give away in exchange even for the whole world, for, as Sri Krishna teaches in the Gita, even the seeker after yoga goes far beyond the hopes and fears of ordinary religion and even a little of this dharma delivers from great fear.”

[AN INTRODUCTORY NOTE FOR FURTHER READING ON KRISHNAPREMA]

Richard Nixon was an English person and was a brilliant student of Cambridge University. He joined the British Army in his early twenties during the Second World War. Later he came to India as a professor of English literature. He taught in Benaras and Lucknow Universities. He was then better known there as Professor Richard Nixon. In India he came in contact with Yashoda Mai and became initiated by her in Vaishnavism. He took sannyas from his guru Yashoda Mai who renamed him as Sri Krishnaprema..He was deeply inclined in the traditional Bhaktiyoga of Indian spiritual discipline. In Uttar Vrindavana Yashoda Mai established an ashram and built a temple dedicated to Lord Sri Krishna. G. L. Janeja of Patna wrote under his article ‘Yogi Sri Krishnaprema-“Life in the ashram was extremely austere. They took only a single meal a day and even gave up drinking afternoon tea-when the ashram could not afford to serve it to the labourers who worked in the ashram fields. There was no hot water available, even though the winters were very cold with heavy snow falls. Krishnaprema slept on the floor on a single blanket, close to the side of Yashoda Ma, his guru. All the rest, including the occasional guests slept in their own apartments. Krishnaprema was a great guru-bhakta (devoted to guru) and believed firmly that nothing could take the place of personal service to the guru for quick spiritual progress. His devotion to the guru was something very rare in modern times especially for an ex-professor and an intellectual of such a very high order.” Dilip Kumar Roy a renowned singer and a devotee of Sri Aurobindo came in close contact with Krishnaprem and a friendship grew between them. Dilip K. Roy would often exchange his views and thoughts on spiritual matters with this English gentleman who was then living Uttar Vrindavan in Almora. Dilip loved to send his views on many things especially on spiritual matters to his guru-Sri Aurobindo. Once he sought his guru’s opinions on a matter related to Krishnaprema’s and after sending him one such letter, he received a reply from Sri Aurobindo on the question of faith and optism in the context of an experience of Krishnaprem. Sri Aurobindo wrote: “As for faith, Krishnaprem’s meaning is clear enough. Faith in the spiritual sense is not a mental belief which can waver and change. It can wear that form in the mind, but that belief is not the faith itself, it is only the external form. Just as the body, the external form, can change but the spirit remains the same, so it is here. Faith is a certitude in the soul which does not depend on reasoning, on this or that mental idea, on circumstances, on this and that passing condition of the mind or the vital or the body. It may be hidden, eclipsed, may even seem quenched, but it appears again after the storm or the eclipse; it is seen burning still in the soul when one has thought that it was extinguished forever. The mind may be a shifting sea of doubts and yet that faith may be there within and, if so, it will keep even the doubt-racked mind in the way so that it goes on in spite of itself towards its destined goal. Faith is a spiritual certitude of the spiritual, the divine, the soul’s ideal, something that clings to that even when it is not fulfilled in life, even when the immediate facts or the persistent circumstances seem to deny it. This is a common experience in the life of the human being; if it were not so, man would be a plaything of a changing mind or a sport of circumstances. I have, I think, more than once, written the same thing as Krishnaprem though in a different language. “If you understand this and keep it in mind, Krishnaprem’s experience and the image in which he saw it should be sufficiently clear. The needle is this power in the soul and the card with its directions the guiding indications given by it to the mind and life. The ship is the psychological structure of ideas, beliefs, spiritual and psychic experiences, the whole building of the inner life in which one moves onward in the voyage towards the goal. When the storm comes, a storm of doubts, failures, disappointments, adverse circumstances and what not, the crew – let us say, the powers of the mind and vital and the physical consciousness – begin to disbelieve, despond, stand aghast at the contradiction between our hopes and beliefs and the present facts and they even turn in their rage of disbelief and despair to deny and destroy the structure of their inner thought and life which was bearing on them, tear up even the compass which was their help and guide, even to reject the needle, the great contrast in their spirit. But when they have come to the point of drowning, that power acts on them, they turn to it instinctively for refuge and then suddenly they find all cleared,all the destruction was their own illusory action and the ship reappears as strong as before. This is an experience which most seekers have had many times, especially in the earlier or middle course of their sadhana. All that has been done seems to be undone, then suddenly or slowly the storm passes, the constant needle reappears; it may even be that ship which was a small sloop or at most a schooner or a frigate becomes an armed cruiser and finally a great battleship unsinkable and indestructible. That is a parable but its meaning should be quite intelligible, and it is a pragmatic fact of spiritual experience. I may add that this inmost faith or fixed needle of spiritual aspiration may be there without one’s clearly knowing it; one may think that one has only beliefs, propensities, a yearning in the heart or a vital preference which seem to be temporarily destroyed or suspended, yet the hidden constant remains, resumes its action, keeps us on a way and carries us through. It can be said of it in the words of the Gita that even a little of this delivers us from great danger, carries us to the other side of all difficulties, sarva durgani.” Krishnaprem held a great regard for Sri Aurobindo and once remarked that Sri Aurobindo who fought against the English rule gave the English the most wonderful thing in their language by writing Savitri in English. The language was enlightened to an uncharted height so far unknown to this language. I can not remind the exact sentences Krishnaprema used for his comment on Savitri –unfortunately but the sense was close to it. Sri Krishnaprem passed away on November 14th 1965. His last words to his beloved disciple; M Ashish were-“My ship is sailing”. For further reading on Krishnaprema and the life and sadhana of Yashoda Mai-the suggested book is: "Yogi Sri Krishna Prem " by Dilip Kumar Roy Published by Bharatiya Vidya Bhavan, Bombay -400- 007

13 November 2007

Honda creating home system for drivers to make hydrogen

Honda FCX Concept

Honda Motor, aiming to start mass production of fuel-cell cars by about 2015, is developing a system using solar energy for drivers to make hydrogen at home to fuel such vehicles.Individual production of hydrogen would let people refuel their cars without waiting for a network of stations to be set up, the company's president, Takeo Fukui, said.Automakers, under pressure to cut carbon dioxide emissions tied to global warming and tailpipe exhaust, are seeking alternatives to oil as prices approach $100 a barrel.Honda, Toyota Motor and General Motors have all said hydrogen powered autos are a long-term option, though they are costly to build and lack a refueling infrastructure."Our ultimate goal is to use a renewable source of energy as a source of fuel," Masaaki Kato, the president of research and development at Honda, said. "So we use solar panels to generate electricity and we use the electricity to produce hydrogen."Honda, the second-largest automaker in Japan, plans Wednesday to unveil a fuel-cell vehicle based on its prototype FCX sports car at the Los Angeles Auto Show.In 2008, the new car initially will be leased "to fewer than 100" people, most in California, Fukui said Oct. 23.While producing hydrogen from solar-powered electrolysis would cut carbon dioxide emissions, it is not yet possible to do it cheaply or in sufficient quantity, said a chemistry professor, Nate Lewis, who is also an energy researcher at the California Institute of Technology."You need to do that cheaply and scalably - neither of which we are even close to being able to do technically now," Lewis said.Honda began selling solar panels in Japan earlier this year to make electricity for homes.The panels, priced at ¥57,500, or $509, each, substitute a thin metal layer for silicone typically used in photovoltaic panels to reduce production costs and lower the energy needed to make them, Honda said.Honda has no "specific" plan to commercialize a home-based hydrogen-generation system, Kato said. Still, it could be ready for consumers within 10 years, according to Fukui."We believe this should bring a breakthrough in providing infrastructure for fuel-cell vehicles," Fukui said.Caltex income rises on fuel Caltex Australia, the biggest oil refiner in the nation, expects full-year net income to rise as much as 29 percent as fuel production increases.Net income, including the effect of changes in oil prices on the value of stockpiles, may rise to between 550 million Australian dollars, or $510 million, and 600 million dollars in the year ending Dec. 31, from 466 million dollars last year, Caltex said Thursday.Caltex, half-owned by Chevron, estimates its two refineries near Brisbane and Sydney will increase production of gasoline, diesel and jet fuel to 11 billion liters, or 2.9 billion gallons, this year, from 10.2 billion in 2006.First-half profit jumped 33 percent, buoyed by higher refining margins, production and sales volumes, the company reported.
In a world first, Honda last year delivered one of its FCX fuel cell cars to a private individual in the US. Now a glimpse of how a Honda production fuel cell vehicle might appear in three to four years' time is provided by the FCX Concept, which boasts a fuel cell system that delivers more power in less space, in a unique, low-floor platform. The sleek, premium four-door sedan's low centre of gravity and full-sized cabin offer the kind of driving pleasure and roomy interior previously unimaginable in a fuel cell vehicle. The FCX Concept also features a wide range of technology both for extremely efficient performance and to enhance the driving experience. Fuel cell vehicles must accommodate a wide array of equipment: as well as the fuel cell stack, there is the motor and hydrogen tank which have traditionally been accommodated by raising the height of the floor. The packaging efficiency of Honda's new compact V Flow fuel cell platform means that it has been possible to create the lowest floor in a fuel cell car so far.

11 November 2007

MY INTERVIEW WITH FRANCK

FRANK'S VILLAGE AT ALPS

I came to know Franck from his photographic show in a website. In the beginning I thought of him as an Indian-as almost all of his photographs are on India. And I also noticed that the photographer had a deep love and liking for India as was evident from the photos he had shot. As a photographer he appeared to have admirable talent. As I had some photos of mine in the site-I loved to comment on his photos. Naturally we knew one another through our photographs. I did not read his profile till then. But one day out of my curiosity I read it and came to know to my surprise that he was French and had been living in France. So I wanted to be closer to him as friend. As the friendship grew I requested him to write something on India and why he felt inclined to India. He complied with my request and wrote a brief account on his India tour and his experience while traveling in India. This was published in this blog under the title-“In India with love” and later under “More photos from Frank”. Recently, I have interviewed him with some questions. My questions and his answers are now published. Franck lives in the Alps, at the Italian border-near the city of Briançon. There are two national parks around his village. He wants to visit India third time again at the occasion of Maha Kumbh Mela. Franck is a highly educated person, and also being a son of France, he is cultured in the true sense of the term. I think many educated persons of India are not equals to Franck in his knowledge on India as is evident from his comments on various matters in Indian situation. If the Indian youth were as enthusiastic as Franck in his search to discover India –we would have been fortunate.
Q1. Before coming to India at the age of nineteen you felt for visiting India. Was it because of your readings, seeing documentaries etc India appeared to be an interesting place to visit? Generally we feel interested in many places of the world like the forests of Africa, the Antarctica, Egypt and the Middle East etc which are not less interesting places than India. So in what way India had a special appeal for you. Franck: Oh sure, I was also interested in other places; wonderful landscapes we see in documentaries, especially the extreme of Antarctica, and Amazon also; still, the Himalayas were my favorite landscape; but what happened was that I was also, at the time, discovering/searching spirituality, from atheism to agnosticism; first, I’ve read stories about eremitism (Milarepa chants, but also the books from Alexandra David Neel) then I found a book from an Indian guru and that book made me want to know more about Hinduism; I found some books about Upanishads which my father in law had with him and he loved those books. I learned about "holy men", met students in university talking about this country.. I think I was searching for a living spirituality, and it seemed it was in Orient, and more particularly in India and so I wanted to find the land; and, oh yes, this sentence from Ramakrishna, which influenced me much –which he had told in a simple way about the various paths of religions- "..all religions are ways to God, but the ways are not god". This was how he taught the truth of tolerance. Q2. Was there any pre- base behind your interest conceived idea or thought that had been formed as a? Franck: Yes that same idea that in India spirituality was alive; but I must say that I was also scared in my ideas on the third world countries including India. Q3.Apart from socio-economic and cultural variations from other Western countries –if there is other distinctiveness India stands for? Franck:The strength of family structure; the fact that the culture and religion is far more complex, all-inclusive; the fact it was the only colonised country that survived decolonization, notwithstanding her having suffered the consequences of partition; her vegetarian emphasis, and the presence of nature in the heart of cities, like cows, monkeys, the place and importance of trees (I loved to see these huge trees everywhere); the multi cultural and multi language composition of India; and a strong national pride and consciousness Q4. Do you think India's religiosity is responsible for her backwardness? Franck:It depends on what you call backwardness; if you talk about cast discrimination, dowry problems, abortion of girls, I think it is not religion that is responsible but the lack of political will of the politicians who benefit from ignorance and bigotry; and there is a major difference between religiosity and bigotry; but still, in a 1 billion-people country with 85% of rural population, education is not easy to spread.. Q5. You have said that people of India in general are spontaneously warm to be in relation even with a stranger the kind of which is not natural in Western countries. Do you think it is because people of India consider white-skinned persons are superior to people of their own country? And for that matter they have considered themselves privileged in getting related to you? Franck: I had these feelings sometimes, and it was quite weird; it depends on the people; while Brahmins don't care about us westerners (as they feel so much superior),.. it is true that skin color play a role in the way we are perceived; but what could I do? sometimes it upset me as some attitudes were too servile; but upon that, there was real interest, specially from youths and student, about western way of life; and soon even I discovered that western way of life was not very well appreciated, and often mocked; so I think it is balanced; and beyond that, I had so much good meetings.. Q6. Are the people of India open-minded? Franck: That's a tough question...at first sight, I may think yes, it's an open minded country, with all these religions living together, but soon I discovered how Brahmins were talking about Shudras, how Hindus talked about Muslims, and how Muslims talked about Hindus. I think it's not possible to answer such a question, as there are all kinds of situations; from the very open minded students in big cities to the old men in small villages...India is fast changing, and a lot of people are attracted by these changes, but social structures seem very rigid in some part of the country (like, when dalit cannot enter a temple or drink the water from Brahmin source-in a small village of Uttar Pradesh, and a woman died of thirst because she was not permitted to drink water) Q7. Is India conservative in her social outlook? Franck: Defin tely, even if cast system has been abolished, still social classifications are very strong and make it difficult for anyone to change one's condition; but here again, it depends on the places; rural areas are more conservative, while in big cities changes happen very fast. I heard a Bollywood producer saying "India is 15% of the country, and Bharat is 85%" justifying why there were not more kisses in movies; in villages, boys and girls cannot walk hand in hand, and have to hide when they want to meet while in big cities, it is not a problem; in villages, boys cannot imagine to refuse an arranged marriage.... Q8.Have you not felt anytime that India lacks vitality to rise above her present state? Franck: No the contrary, I felt there is plenty of vitality! you have the best high schools in the world, you have also the second silicon valley with Bangalore, and the new generation is full of dreams and will for success; all is progressing very fast, especially your economy; but I don't know if this rising (if it is only a following of western way of life and economical "science") may be considered as positively indicated. Q9.Have you experienced communal hatred/ill-feeling between her Hindu and Muslim communities? Franck: Yes, once in Jodhpur; it was during a Sufi festival, so the imam in the mosque was talking loud (over microphone) for hours, and we could hear him throughout all the old city; the family in which I was staying were very upset against Muslims, ("they are all terrorists, they make too much babies, poverty is because of them") and talked about fights they had made against Muslims. One month before, I was in palitana, and where Muslims and Hindus were working side by side, drinking chaï (tea) together. I think, as far as I know, that this hatred between Muslims Hindus is maintained by the politics (BJP) as they want India to be a 100% Hindu country Q10.Indian Hindus regard the river Ganga as sacred and they believe in the divine purity of her water. What do you think? Franck: From a western point of view, Ganga is the most polluted river in the world, with half burnt dead bodies in it, chemical pollution, etc...but scientist made one experience: they put cholera germs both in normal water, and in ganga water; in normal water, germs survived 3 days; in Ganga water, germs disappeared in 24 hours...as I’m not Hindu, it shouldn't have impressed me, but when I saw Ganga for the first time I had some peculiar feeling...weird , isn't it? Q11.Have 'Kumbh Mela' had anything special to you? Franck: It was huge! this gathering of million people was very strong! Emile Durkheim, one of the greatest French sociologist and anthropologist, had a word for this: he talked about "mana"; and defined it as "the feeling that is spread in huge gathering as structuring of social model, reinforcing common values and faith"; that is what makes you feel part of a group, of a society; India is full of diversity but throughout events like that, it unites in celebration, and there's nothing more beautiful; a very strong experience. In Hardwar, the feeling of communion was so strong...I felt like a foreigner, for sure, but also received a lot of good feelings Q12.Have you not felt it queer –the way the Hindus sees the cows? Franck: Not at all! Cow gives milk, butter, dahi, cream, cheese, and also means (from its excretion) to light fire..so it is comprehensible for the cows being respected; but nevertheless I found sometime that there was far less respect than I expected; I was surprised for the first time when I found someone beating a cow (to avenge for the loss of vegetables the cow’s having eaten them). Q13.India is a large country with people who are not culturally as homogeneous as the peoples of France and the UK. Indians speak in more than twenty languages. There is no similarity between a Tamil and an Assamese or between a Gujrati and a Bengali. How far it is true that as a nation India is one? Have you felt the quintessential India in all places you have traveled in that country? Franck: As I said, I felt there is a strong national feeling, except in people from coming for eastern states (like Arunachal Pradesh or Meghalaya); and the feeling is also there that this country is out of time; but to answer properly this question, I need to spend more time in this country.. Q14. If you have formed a perception on India-which state seems most representative of your notion? Franck: Uttar Pradesh or Madhya Pradesh, for these states combine tradition, modernity, religious culture, coexistence of religions, holy places and developed cities and all the contrasts that India is living with. Q15.Which state have you liked most? Franck: As they all are different, it is very hard; I liked India as a global experience of alterity Q16. Did you have plans on visiting particular states in India? If you had –what determined your choices? Franck: Yes I had plans; I wanted to go to holy places, and also cultural places; but I also listened to people advising me; for example, when I was in Omkareshwar, some told me about Maheshwar, so I decided to go; then I heard about Hampi, and even I had not had prior plan to go, I decided I would (and I don't regret as -what a fantastic archeological place it was!) Q17.Have you visited W.Bengal and Tamil Nadu? If not-do you have any plan to visit the places that you have not covered in the last two trips? Franck: I did not visit these places, and regret it; but on a next trip, I’d like to go to Kolkata as it is of significant cultural importance, and it looks like a very attractive for that; I wish also to visit the eastern states, after encountering youth of Assam; Tamil Nadu also.. for it's new Shaibism, and also it is very interesting as there are lots of pilgrims places; I wish to travel also the char dham( char dham parikrama) once in my life (I come from mountains and love them). Q17. Indian Hindus believe in re-birth. If you are given the option-do you like to be born in India in your next birth? Franck: The principle of re-birth is that you cannot choose!.. but yes, why not? but not as a girl...! Q18. When are you coming to India again? Franck: I’ll go next time. I’d like to prepare myself for something more serious, may be to find some work in French high school or even primary school, to be able to stay for more long time; learn Hindi properly, to be able to understand and express more; go back in some places where I kept in touch with friends, and above all I wish to be in India for the next Maha kumbh-mela.

6 November 2007

Manmohan Singh makes a visionary statement

Manmohan Singh is widely acknowledged as a soft-spoken gentleman. But this quality of his nature has many a times been seen as his weakness in some circumstances when he should have been rigid on the face of his detractors. Many in the country including myself are of the opinion that it does not behove a Prime Minister to yield to the unjust, narrow and anti-national demands of the Communist Party of India (M) in respect of Indo-US nuclear deal. Mr. Singh is not a politician. He is an economist and he served best in that field as a guide to the late PM, P.V. Narsimha Rao as his finance minister in the process of economic reform. But the real genius of Mr. Singh lies in his vision of the future. No politician, while in office, in this world has ever dared to make such statement what Manmohan Singh did in his public statement yesterday. On the point of the Left’s allegation that the nuclear deal would be a compromise of India’s sovereignty he made a visionary and bold statement. None of his cabinet ministers and the members of the party he belongs to match him. He wondered “Whether the day is not far away when the concept of absolute sovereignty may itself come into question.” By saying so he has proved that he belongs to the Future where the World is One. Thank you Manmohan Singh. Tirthankar from Pondicherry comments Such vision, while too much for the man next door, is natural for any economist of the highest stature who sees the idea of one-world taking shape through the ever-widening economic and trading activities of mankind. Presently, the winds of amalgamation of the peoples can blow more freely over the broad expanses of trade and commerce, and in doing so, it will probably gather sufficient force to shake up the forbidding, narrow and stifled dwellings of politics.Market forces are already rubbing out national and regional boundaries and so it is not surprising that such a revolutionary statement should issue forth from the mouth of a person who is first and foremost an economist than from his parochial politician colleagues.This is an occasion for us to remember the elder brother of this harbinger of change - physical science and technology. In a world that was completely segregated into impenetrable compartments, trailblazing developments in science and technology had helped to knit the peoples closer."

3 November 2007

Flying Palace in the Air-Airbus A380

THE AIRBUS A380 , just completed its maiden commercial flight in the afternoon of 25th October, 2007 carrying 455 passengers including 11 Indians -the youngest was a ten month-old boy from Sigapore and the oldest was one 91-year old Californian, from Singapore to Sydney. The AirbusA380 is perhaps more than a palace. The passangers of its maiden flight were from 35 countries. The aircraft was as tall as a seven-storey building and half a football field long. It has put the great Boeing 747's 37-year supremacy in a dim second position. As far as India is concerned-none of her airports is capable of handling the super jumbo right now. When ready it will be Hyderabad to see the first commercial flight by March next year.Bangalore is next in the line followed by Delhi. Calcutta and Chennai airports are in the process of modernisation and they can follow suit as and when they are ready.Air India is considering to buy 10 of the RS 1267 crores planes for its most congested routes like Mumbai-New York. But it is most unlikely that A380 will be available to Air India before 2011 as the company has already got orders of 165 planes from international carriers. Kingfisher is expected to get by 2011 the first of the five A380s it has already ordered for its European and US routes. Kingfisher's contact with the Airbus specifies it has to be the first Indian airline to operate A380. So Air India will have to wait till the first A380 will have been sold to the Bangalore-based private airline. The A380 burns 17 per cent less fuel per seat than today's largest aircraft. This is the most significant step forward in reducing aircraft fuel burn and resultant emissions in four decades. Low fuel burn means low CO2 emissions. In fact the A380 produces only 75g of CO2 per passenger and per km, almost half of the target set by the European Union for cars manufactured in 2008. With the A380, which offers more space per passenger in all classes, CO2 footprint per passenger has never been so small. Low-noise characteristics have been a major design driver for the A380. As a result the aircraft is significantly quieter than other large aircraft and offers substantial margins in relation to the latest (ICAO Stage 4) noise limits. producing half the noise energy at take off and cutting the area exposed to equivalent noise levels around the airport runway by half. ...advantages: With its three decks for cargo, the A380F freighter version is able to carry 50 per cent more freight than its closest rival – and to fly a full 1,400nm further. Yet with its advanced technology and use of weight-saving composites – 25 per cent of its structure is made from composite materials – the A380F also burns 18 per cent less fuel per tonne than its rival. Now let us take an overview of the 'Flying Palace'-Airbus A380 which is largest aircraft on the planet. Fernando Alonso, chief flight test engineer and vice president flight test division, said the A380’s take-off weight for the first flight, at 421 tonnes, was the greatest take-off weight of any aircraft in the world. “In terms of systems everything worked fine,” he said. “It’s an extremely comfortable aircraft.

What will the A380 change for me as a passenger? The A380 will provide more comfort in every class. This is possible because the A380 offers 50 per cent more floor space but will typically carry only 35 per cent more passengers. Some of the benefits will come as wider seats even for Economy class, some as more spacious aisles and galleys areas to stretch your legs. Regardless of how airlines plan their seats and services, the design of the A380 cabin ensures low noise level throughout and up to 15 per cent more stowage space for your carry-on luggage.In addition, the cabin will benefit from advanced lighting systems and new standards of in flight entertainment, which will greatly enhance your overall travel experience.These advances in cabin comfort are particularly important for the long haul routes such as London-Singapore and Los Angeles-Sydney. How many passengers will I be flying with? The A380 is designed to carry 555 passengers in a typical seating configuration, including an Economy, a Business and a First class. However most airlines have actually indicated that they may have fewer seats than this. In any case, you will not feel crowded thanks to the width of the two separate widebody decks as each will provide more space for everyone. Which airlines have so far announced firm orders and commitments for the A380? To date, Airbus has received 154 orders and commitments from 15 customers. These are (in alphabetical order): Air France, China Southern Airlines, Emirates, Etihad Airways, Federal Express, International Lease Finance, Korean Air Lines, Lufthansa, Malaysia Airlines, Qantas Airways, Qatar Airways, Singapore Airlines, Thai Airways International, UPS and Virgin Atlantic Airways Is the A380 the most technologically advanced aircraft to date? The A380 combines the very latest technologies for materials, systems and industrial processes. It meets the most stringent international certification requirements. The A380 is not only the most spacious civil jetliner ever built, it is also the most advanced - representing a unique technology platform from which all future commercial Airbus aircraft will evolve.Each new technology developed, tested and adopted for the A380 has been carefully studied to determine its effects over the lifetime of the aircraft, and has been selected for its proven reliability and long-term benefits. Will the economy class also benefit from more space or will it be only for the business and first classes? The main deck of the A380 is wider than that of any commercial jetliner in operation today. Its extra floor space will benefit everyone aboard and will give airlines new opportunities to create innovative cabin arrangement for the greater comfort of all passengers. Regardless of how airlines arrange their seats and services, even the economy class will be wider. High capacity overhead bins and the latest generation of in flight entertainment will also significantly enhance passenger comfort