Monday, March 10, 2014

ISSUES & CONCERNS INITIATIVES


EDITORIAL COLUMN

Friends

We are at the end of Financial Year. It is a month where union budgets are discussed across the media. Election to the Loksabha being only a few months away, customary budget was given a go by. The vote on a/c, by both the Railway Minister and the Finance Minister have been presented to the parliament. Railway Minister, although, belonging to Karnataka, did not show any special favours to his state. While this being a fair policy, it has its own valid arguments against it. But what most ministers in railway, in fact all railway ministers in the past, have only played the development card, instead of development per se. Budget allocations are done according to the demand from either the political class or the general public. Announcement in the budget, not necessarily leads to the project. It takes its own time to start, having started, it never runs through a planned programme of completion. There are any number of projects started, but languishing at different levels of completion. Nobody at the level of decision making realise that all these incomplete projects represent an NPA or Non Performing Assets, like the bad and doubtful debts of our public sector banks. Cost escalation, machinations by contractors, vested interest of politicians and babus, all play its villainous role to bleed the system as long as possible. It is a very vicious state of affairs. When will  things change for better? is question doing its interminable rounds. That indeed is sad. But then, its Yeh Mera India.
Coming to Finance Minister, like all budget before election, he tried his tricks making a section of population happy. Coming of AAP into the political main stream had its own positive effect. Congress was always a self styled champion of poor and vulnerable during all it’s over 55 years in power. It is a different matter that its only the rich, who have become richer during all these years. This time round, the budget has gone to town, to the urban middle class with lollypops. Since in the present electoral arithmetic, AAP is targeting the same crowd and have reaped benefits at the hustings. So it’s basically the Congress party which is trying to better its prospects. It’s probably the case with all political parties.
Month-in-Perspective has been as usual. We have tried to look at as many issues as possible. As for Focus, it had to be, the coming Loksabha election. However we have tried to be incisive by analysing what President Pranab Mukherjee stated, while he spoke to the nation on the eve of our 65th Republic Day celebration. How, during all these years, it was the country that came a cropper, when politicians and their hangers-on had a field day. It is little hard, but well intended. Hope the president will take it in right spirit. Rest of issues are as usual. Do revert with your inputs.




MONTH-IN-PERSPECTIVE

TAMIL NADU: A politico-family drama is on in Tamil Nadu. Accusations and counter accusations by Karunanidhi (MK) siblings is bound to hasten the political eclipse of Karunanidhi family. With number of wives, M Karunanidhi is already having problem keeping everybody happy with appropriate political positions. Thus DMK has become a family affair of MK, with Maran’s on the sidelines.
If Alagiri has been accused of cursing Stalin, that he would die soon, Alagiri’s complaint is that both his father and brother Stalin did not greet him on his birthday. Adding to this was “Cruel remarks on Stalin broke my heart” by M.Karunanidhi.
Now this indeed is a height of comedy. Father is a seasoned politician with over 60 years political life and both sons similarly in politics for over 2/3 decades. It is really funny to hear their petty public spat. Surely their beite noire Jayalalitha is having a hearty laugh, and is already preparing to use such bickerings to her advantage by showing the drama in Karunanidhi family in poor light. ‘If you can’t manage your own huge personal family, how can you govern the state?’, she is going to ask. 
For Jayalalitha, with her ambition to throw her hat into the Prime Ministerial arena, this unfolding drama of M K siblings in indeed heaven sent.
For the record, between Alagiri and Stalin, DMK cadres have mostly deserted the former in favour of the later. With a very poor PR record, Alagiri is no match to Stalin. However, the squabble between these two shall surely cause the slow obliteration of once powerful political force into an 'also ran'.
Who doesn’t want to make news, if it is possible? All like their names and photos to appear in the press. There is nothing strange about it. Here is a group of ‘prominent’ citizens, at least that is what a Chennai based English newspaper called them. The news was “Prominent citizens want Modi defeated”. In a statement issued in Chennai, a group of some activists have, kind of, appealed to voters to defeat BJP/NDA candidate, so that Modi does not become the prime minister. Of course, this group is not the only set of persons who want to keep Modi out. There are ‘N’ number of vocal chords lending itself to the cause of ‘Defeat Modi/BJP campaign’, who are doing all that is possible, hence this group's appeal becomes superfluous. May be this group thinks itself as ‘influential’, which they do not appear to be, except that they give an impression of being fellow travellers. But what really funny was, their appeal to Left Wing and anti-communal activists “not to campaign for Aam Aadmi Party and that people should vote for AAP candidate only if there was no other good candidate”. Now this exposes these ‘prominent citizens’ ideological baggage. Their goal is simple, they do not say vote for a good candidate, but vote to defeat Modi. Communists and their fellow traveller sympathizers, have only acted negatively, rather than positively, as history is replete with examples. And the newspaper, which give prominence to these ‘Prominent Citizens’ moorings has only confirmed its own ideological baggage. So much for even handed journalism. 

UTTAR PRADESH: Whole of India is privy, courtesy electronic media, to the alleged adventures of AAP Law Minister Somnath Bharthi, in asking the Delhi police officer to raid a residential premises in Delhi, for alleged immoral activities. All Indians have witnessed on the TV channels the sight of a police officer almost saying to the Law minister of an elected government, “to hell with you”. Media repeated the scene, may be over 100 times, only to sensationalize the episode and to show AAP govt. of Delhi in poor light. Due to the heightened sensation by media, it also had a flurry of live debates on the channel. People like Arnab Goswami of Times Now, and his ilk, there are quite a few like him around, were clear in their mind to damn the fledgling party and its maiden government. Fortunately there were men and women thinkers who were more evenhanded in their comments. One such interlocutor stated “In an India, where, even in the dream, if a police officer gets an instruction, in his sleep, from a minister, he will in all probability rush to the ministerial bidding. But in Delhi, with police being under Union Home Ministry, this officer had the temerity to show finger at the minister”. As if to prove this interlocutor right, just the other day, Azam Khan, a controversial minister in the UP government was reportedly very angry. Because thieves had stolen buffaloes from his farm house. Reportedly, police only heard about it, but acted with alacrity. They rushed in group with police dogs in toe, to the minister’s farm house, and got policemen from 3 surrounding police stations to go after alleged thieves. After 2 days of 'extensive searching', the police reportedly got 7 buffaloes back to the farm house stable. But, the grapevine has it that, the police took these 7 buffaloes from some other stable, since they couldn’t find the stolen bovines. This is police for you in Yeh Mera India.

MAHARASHTRA: That police all over India, is heavily loaded in favour of moneyed, powerful and politically influential people, is never in doubt. But in Mumbai, it is more so and flagrant. We know the case of Salman Khan’s hit and run case doing its court rounds for donkey years, without police or court taking any decisive stand. He was being granted leave of absence on any ground that court thought its alright, without police ever opposing it. And comes the news of another celluloid worthy Sanjay Dutt. He has been granted 3 continuous parole, ostensibly to attend to his ailing wife. According to information available in the media, the police did not waste a minute to sign the paper permitting the parole for the third time. His 2nd parole was over on 19th Feb.
There must be any number of cases, very genuine at that, which truly deserved parole. But, as is the wont, the police, either sat over it or slept over it, because they, the victims, couldn’t peddle influence of any kind, either political or money power.
Yes, interpretation of law and its application is different for aam aadmi and for khaas aadmi. That is the tragedy of India after close to 7 decades of political freedom. Yeh Mera India.
One of the main reason, why AAP is the solution to the problems of this country is, their frugal life styles, whether at personal level or at official level. Of course, it is the official profligacy, that is a matter, which people should look at.
There is this news about the bullet proofing of cabins of Chief Minister, Deputy Chief Minister and the Cabinet Hall of Maharashtra. Only this item is going to cost Rs: 4 crores, in an estimate of Rs: 260 crores, already escalated from the original Rs: 238 crores.
Crore, seem to have lost its relevance, when it is public money, or else Rs: 260 crores for repair and renovation for an existing building damaged to some extent due to the fire, is an astronomical figure. But the same government which is spending public money for the private comforts of ministers and MLAs, has failed to save its doctors working in government hospitals who are contacting T.B. due to the insanitary conditions of their living quarters and working conditions. Some of the resident doctors have even died due to TB contacted in the line of duty. There are 'n' number of issues that need attention and commitment, but are of no priority at all. Anna has a great deal of work in Maharashtra to do, if he desires. He does not have to go all the way to West Bengal to join hands with maverick Mamata. Medha Patkar who is an AAP candidate for Loksabha, may ultimately become the ‘Thaayi’ (sister in Marathi, as against Anna-meaning brother-) for the aam aadmi of Maharashtra.

NEW DELHI: Beni Prasad Verma, a Union Minister, who is fairly frequently in the news, not necessarily for right reasons, was there in the media again. He is a recognized anti Mulayam Singh politician, whom he had described as unfit for any paid job.
While in Lucknow, the SP ruled state, he had distributed to more than 1000 members of an organisation called Steel Consumers Council, which had even journos as members, cash, suitcase and cell phone.
Justifying his largesse to media men, he had reportedly remarked “Why are people criticizing me for spending Rs: 2 crores to journalists?  Journalists work for us, do our publicity. Gifts to journalists is an investment”. Is he wrong? Is there anything unusual about this kind of a give and take bond between media & politicians? Not at all. The only difference here is Mr Verma, the central minister, is rather an open and frank person, and not coy as most politicians are, when it comes to the gifts to journos in cash and kind.
But what is shocking is, it has become just passé with most journalists, growing thick skinned to receive these gifts as part of professional demands.
“Blanket protection to Babus contrary to anti-graft law”, was a news that appeared in the print media some weeks ago, early last month. “All bureaucrats and government servants have protection under the Prevention of Corruption (PC) Act, which requires a probe agency to seek sanction from concerned authority prior to prosecution. Why this special protection for this small band?” asked a five judge Constitution Bench headed by Justice R M Lodha.
It is a very good question, but came rather so late in the day.
It has been there for all these years, ever since this law was made. Legislators make the law of the land. Executive enforces the law, and judiciary interprets the law. Having made the law, legislature’s job is over. Executive shall keep doing what is intended by the law, with its own ways of escape routes. 
Until the judiciary, manned by courts at different levels, questions the rationale of the law and its implication, it’s a merry-go-round.
It is an accepted view that-it is the question, rather than the answer- that makes people wise. But to raise pertinent questions is left only to the wisdom of the court.  There are any number of instances where aam aadmi protested in the past for the apparent miscarriage of justice in many provisions of some of the enactments. But had no locus standi to make a point. At times PILs do appear in the public space. But certainly higher courts of land are eminently placed to question the legitimacy or otherwise of these statutory acts of the legislatures & parliament. That they have questioned the inequity in the PC Act, even little-late in the day, is a welcome measure. Hope, it translates to empower the investigating agency to ensure the ends of justice without further reference to the executive for its intervention.
Rights and wrongs, in the stand politicians and political parties take, is an essential part of democratic process. Democratic discourse has its beauty only because of its vibrancy of taking differing views in its stride. There could always be a newer way of looking at things through a different perspective.
What Arvind Kejriwal says and does many times can drive anybody nuts. Look back, there are ‘n’ number of people who will call him ‘names’. And rightly so. But they are all partly right which means they are partly wrong.
He had said, ‘no political party’. But he formed Aam Aadmi Party. He used all adjectives against Congress, yet he was game, when it came to form the government in Delhi. Yet, he put the same government on mat on many occasion. He gave a damn to the constitutional position of Chief Ministership and was back on the street as an agitationist. That raised all kinds of hackles. And after 49 days of ‘nightmare’, as another politician called it, he gave up the same constitutional position as giving up a chair to another in a park. He has proved beyond any shadow of doubt, that he is a confirmed maverick. 
But he has explanations for all his talks and acts. At least in Delhi, he is still a crowd puller and people listen to him. At least none of the political parties, except yelling and calling names, couldn’t prove him wrong. Yes, he has given a kind of culture shock, in a scenario where Indians were used to taking, MLAs, MPs, and Ministers as somebody who shall only lord it over. He has brought those high flying MLAs and their ilk to the ground. Aam aadmi likes it.
Now that President's rule is imposed in Delhi, election, if any, shall take place after 6 months, and it may not be surprising that this maverick Kejriwal shall comeback to form the next government in Delhi on his own. That will truly be an opportunity to make the difference to show what governance truly means. Hope he does.
If controversy involving minister of Health, Ghulam Nabi Azad and the Health Secretary Keshav Desiraju has corruption angle, the one involving Finance Minister Chidambaram has his basic problem of arrogance.
Health Secretary, a no-nonsense bureaucrat has objected to the inclusion of Ketan Desai and other dubious characters into the decision making body of Medical Council of India. Ketan Desai was unceremonial ousted after he was found with huge unaccounted cash and gold. If he is coming back with the blessings of the minister, then it has to be stopped, since pay off is an obvious angle. Besides, there is story of a stent supplier in India with connections in the corridors of power. Reportedly Desiraju has taken a tough stand against the company. These have incurred the wrath of the minister and reportedly some eminent Indians have written to the PM/President to intervene to stop the transfer. Hope, the incumbent govt of Manmohan Singh takes the call to stop the rot, since he had said only the other day that, his “heart bleeds”.
Coming to Palaniappan Chidambaram, his arrogance of ‘Know all’ streak is fairly known to all. But this time round, his insistence on Urban Development Secretary Sudhir Krishna to speak in English instead of Hindi. What is sad and shocking is his Madam Boss, the Congress President, who is an Italian, learnt Hindi to localize her approach to the people and issues around her. But this Desi American, neither attempted nor shown any inclination to speak the national language Hindi, which is spoken by the largest number of Indians. This shows his clear arrogance. This PC was only a student of Harvard, but his beite noire another Tamil, Subramaniam Swamy, who was professor at Harvard, has no problem with Hindi, spoken or written. Thus, if he has any future ambition to be in any central government, its time, he learns Hindi.

WORLD: The 2012 case involving two Italian marines seem to meander in the veritable ‘Chakravyooha’ called Indian legal system. 
Two security guards of an Italian oil tanker had shot & killed two Indian fishermen off Kerala coast on 15th Feb, 2012, ostensibly mistaking them as pirates. Ship owners, after their ship was detained, had paid Rs: 1 crore each as compensation to the families of those deceased fishermen after Kerala High Court’s intervention. The compensation, by Indian standards, was good, although human life can never be compared with any amount of money.
Kerala government had initially handled the case after arresting these two Italian security guards, despite the Italian stand, of the ship being in international waters and that India had no locus standi to detain the ship. Kerala stood its ground, and after lot of ‘huff & puff’, these marines are still in India, in the Italian embassy in New Delhi.
Its been going on for 2 years. Is it really long for a case of this nature to have traversed for so long? In Indian conditions, it’s a capital ‘NO’. Procrastination, like it or not, is a national malaise. Italians, unhappy at dealing with India, as under dogs, are complaining that case has been dragging on without charges being filed for two years. Of course, that Italians were made answerable to Indian law and law enforcing authorities, was the most disquieting thing for Italy and its media.
But Italy has a case.  They are deeply unhappy. Their accusation that ‘Indian authorities are ambiguous and unreliable’ has merit. Italian government takes the issue of their nationals, detained in a foreign country, very seriously. Their ministers have visited India, to persue the matter. Now their ambassador to New Delhi too has been called back to the country for consultation. They are worried about the uncertainty on the fate of their two marines. They even went to UN and came back empty handed, being a bilateral issue. But they are trying again through EU.  Their concern is understandable and justified. 
But for us Indians, procrastination is no issue at all. How many of our sailors or men working abroad got caught in the whirlpool of uncertainty for years on, for minor reasons? How many of our ministers or embassy officials were worked up to get the Indians detained abroad? Human concern in our country was always at a discount, more so with officialdom. Hence they are not overtly worried about the Italian reaction.
But, sadly, our power that be, do not seem to understand the seriousness of the issue of international relation vis-à-vis, the human dimension of inexplicable delays and legal complexities.
Post Indian consular staff in the U.S, Devyani Khobergade episode, lot of skeletons are falling off the U.S cupboard, of inappropriate actions, of breaking laws & conventions etc. The alleged wrong doing, by the Indian envoy while in U.S., in her employment terms with the domestic help, was an entirely unwarranted intervention by a section of U.S law enforcing authorities. All over the world these diplomatic staff stretches the law of the other country, due to their ‘immunity’ status. It is probably so, across the board. Nobody plays by the book. So it is not surprising, that U.S embassy has benefited itself by low wages to its Indian staff, and its school violated both visa terms, as well as income tax exemption clauses, applicable to school teaching & non-teaching staff. These kinds of apparent infirmities are fairly common with just about all embassies. In New Delhi all embassies may be indulging in similar shortcuts but only the embassy of the United States of America is under scanner. Why? Its ‘tit for tat’, and surely, it is no diplomacy at all. Thus it was the U.S who tinkered with the time tested practice of looking the other way for any ‘harmless illegalities’ by the embassies in the U.S, that has caused this completely avoidable blood pressure, if not an infarction. Hope, peace soon returns to the disturbed state of affairs at both Washington and New Delhi. 
A Washington date lined report informed “Indian Law is the true villain”. It was attributing to a remark by an author Wendy Doniger. Frankly, when first read, thought was about Italy since whole of Italy had worked up on the two marines held in detention on the charge of killing two Indian fishermen off Kerala coast. The case is already over 2 years old. So Italy had all the reasons in the world to complain about the Indian Laws, as villain.
But this one was about a book, written by this American “The Hindus: An Alternative History”. Earlier an Indian English newspaper from Mumbai had this report, “Penguin ducks, recalls book with erotic take on Hinduism”. 
Long and short of the issue is, when this book hit Indian shores, it was seen, may be even read by many. Some felt it distasteful, and as if poking fun at Hindu deities, even denigrating them. A group, calling  itself “Shiksha Bachao Andolan” (SBA) had  filed a civil suit against the publishers Penguin India, besides two criminal complaints against the company.
If the publishers in India have displayed a sense of responsibility and maturity in agreeing to settle the issue out of court and withdraw all books from Indian market, same is not the case with a section of Indians. These jokers call themselves as the guardians of freedom of expression. Secularism is another fashionable word used for their insolence. According to the report, the main grouse against the book is that it insults and offends Hindus and Indians by inserting factual errors and the use of psychoanalytical tools while looking at Vedic and Hindu deities. 
According to the group SBA, “the book is clumsily written, each chapter is a shocking and appalling series of anecdotes which denigrate, distort and misrepresent Hinduism. Doniger uses selective quotations from obscure and non-original, peripheral and ignorant references with a bizarre emphasis on sexuality and eroticism”. The group also alleges that the details written in books are highly offensive and shows the complete ignorance of writer’s lack of understanding of the sources of Hindu god head.
If the writer and her joker supporters think, it is her freedom of expression to write what she likes, she and her ilk must also recognise that those who do not like what she has written have a right to protest. And mind you, they did not take to the street. They went to court, as far back as 2011 and the book was published in 2009. And it is only in 2014 the settlement took place. It is unfortunate neither the writer nor her fellow traveller supporters appreciated the matured response of those who disagreed with the atrocious views of the writer. 
The author Doniger who responded to the withdrawal of book, had reportedly emailed “Indian law is the true villain. I was angry and disappointed to see this happen and I am deeply troubled by what it foretells for free speech in India in the present and steadily worsening political climate…...Indian law that makes it a criminal offence rather than civil offence to publish a book that offends any Hindu, a law that jeopardizes the physical safety of any publisher…..People in India will always be able to read books of all sorts, including some that may offend some Hindus”.
Oh my God! And we have Indian jokers applauding her. She needs to be told that ‘Indian laws are good enough and its our problem to rectify it, if needed. Besides our laws do not differentiate between religions and at least in this particular case, there was no danger to publisher’s physical safety. Your accusation is  libellous. And please for heaven’s sake, don’t worry about the political climate and the freedom within India. India and Indians are quite capable of managing their lives without your boorish intervention.
This shows your intellectual bankruptcy by refusing to recongnise the sentiment of hurt  feelings of Indians and still insist on your right to write’.
As students we were told, right and restraint go hand in hand. You can’t have the right without responsibility. Price of freedom, is its responsible exercise and this is how a civil society functions. The west with its superiority complex always abrogated the freedom in all its pervasiveness. For them, within their Magna Carta, also includes the right to offend. Therefore the question is, how does your right of unfettered expression gives licence to offend the people with whom you don’t equate yourself?
However, when all is said and done, what needs to be appreciated is, the deities belonging to Hindus are the most ridiculed and offended  by the so called freedom of expression peddlers, whether it is those idiotic painting of pictures of Hindu Gods on socks, undergarments, liquor bottles, beer bottles and even footwears, by some white painters from Amsterdam to Auckland. This is only because Indians are a tolerant and non-violent lot, and hence everybody takes them for granted, including this Wendy Doniger. And in the name of secularism, we have a band of Indian jokers who join this freedom brigade. The travesty is, the very same freedom brigade have most often shut their mouth, whenever there were violent protest as a result of any writings or paintings against Prophet Mohammed or Quran. Here they allow their wisdom to prevail and keep their mouth shut. To prove this point there are any number of instances. We need to ask union minister Jairam Ramesh who expressed his shock over the withdrawal of this book as to, what happened to ‘The Polyester Prince’, the story of Dhirubhai Ambani, which is not available in India?  Who is responsible for its disappearance? In India we have enough mavericks who masquerade as liberals.  

SERIAL : 10

INDIAN IN COWBOY COUNTRY
THE INTERVIEW

Tom Holcombe was a jovial and jocular Texan who belonged to a prominent family that owned ranches that had turned into oilfields. He grew up in Fort Worth, but rather than joining the family ranks in managing ranches and production fields, he became an accountant at an American bank with worldwide operations. He had worked for over twenty years, and had recently taken a sabbatical to rethink his life. 
Satish and Priya had met him at a festival of Satyajit Ray films at Rice University. He, like them, saw every film in this festival. After the third film or so, they began to acknowledge each other in the lobby. After the fifth film, they had discussions on the master’s work during a break, and after the last film, he invited the two of them to join him for dinner at a great Ethiopian restaurant that he’d just discovered. 
 He regaled them with his stories and experiences, especially in Asia and India. He had gone on a tiger hunt with a maharaja of a small principality in Uttar Pradesh. He had seen most of Northern India, from New Delhi all the way to the Himalayas, and some of the south to Kerala and Madras. 
He had stayed for long stretches in Calcutta and loved the Bengalis’ artistic touch, finesse, and passion. He had strayed into Mumbai, Satish’s hometown, but did not like it too much. “It’s too American, not at all Indian in its character!” 
“The best Christmas I’ve ever had was in Goa,” he had once said, and went on to describe the beaches, churches, food and drink, and the party atmosphere of Panaji, its capital. “Goans are the only people in India who know how to have a good time. Must be the Portuguese influence; look at Brazil, another fun country. You Indians take life too seriously—too much focus on karma, destiny, and the meaning of life.” 
Both Satish and Priya enjoyed Tom’s company and his travel stories. His spacious condominium in the swanky, old money River Oaks area was full of artifacts and souvenirs from every place in the world that he had visited. 
His most prized piece lay in the middle of his living room—a twenty – foot tiger skin that he claimed he shot in India! Each souvenir had a story, a very human one, and contributed to his view that no society was lesser than another. Each had its own distinct strengths, foibles, and flaws; none was perfect. 
Tom was livid when Satish told him about his conversation with Pete. 
“How dare this Minnesotan think that Texans are racists?” he said, his face turning red with unusual displeasure. “How dare a man from an all-white state say this about Texas? I am a tenth generation Texan, and I can tell you that the only reason we’ve become a great state is by accepting people of all colors and religions.” 
He paused with disbelief as he took another sip of his beer. 
“Even before people came over on the Mayflower, Spanish people, including a Muslim Moor, came to Texas and lived here. Even the French were here before the Northern Europeans set foot on North America. We had diversity before the word was invented! And to say that Texans or the oil industry will not accept an Indian manager; that’s ridiculous. This man is prejudiced, a racist, and he is just projecting his bigotry on other people,” he said with finality, as the Tiger Cries arrived at the table. 
“Thank you,” said Satish to the waiter. Turning to Tom he asked, “So what should I do? Fight, flight, or do nothing?” 
“Flight is not the right answer,” he said. “You cannot retreat from this idiot. Nor can you do nothing. You have to take him head-on.” 
“What?” he asked in astonishment. This was not a response he had expected from Tom. 
“Yes, you have to fight, and you have to understand that this will turn ugly. It will be your word against his.” He paused for a moment, and then his eyes lit up. “I know a good attorney who can beat the jeepers out of Pete and Clark for doing this to you,” he said with a sly smile. 
“Tom, you don’t understand. They have sponsored me for a green card, and I am almost at the end of that process. If I take this to court, they’ll fire me and I’ll have to go back to India. On the next flight!” 
“Satish, that choice is the lesser of the two evils. Working for a company that tolerates this behavior is the pits. You will suffer every day. You will hate getting up in the morning because you have to go to work there, and you will hate every minute that you are there. Your performance will suffer, and Pete will be proven right. After that they’ll fire you, and worse, every Indian who applies for a job after your departure will carry the stigma of being from your country.” 
Satish was silent.
The waiter came back and asked if the duo was ready to order. It was a welcome break in the conversation. He sipped his beer and ordered Chicken Masaman Curry while Tom ordered Pad Thai. 
“Talk to Jeff Cohen. He is my attorney. He’ll guide you through this. We have to take out people like Pete. They are a cancer to our society, a blight, and should be removed,” Tom said with his characteristic smile. He raised his mug. “Take him out, Satish.” 
“Okay, I’ll talk to Jeff. But wouldn’t asking for his advice lead to a lawsuit? It’s like going to a surgeon for medical advice—invariably, the solution is surgery!” Satish said. 
“You’re right. Jeff would love to take on Clark—they have deep pockets. But you have to fight. You cannot take this lying down. That’s how the Brits took over your country, one maharaja at a time rolling over, till they took over the entire country. You have to learn something from your own history,” Tom said. “You lose freedom in small, retreating steps.” 
“You’re right, Tom. I have to take a stand. I just don’t know what it should be. Give me Jeff’s number. I’ll talk to him tomorrow, first thing in the morning.” Tom scribbled a number on his business card and gave it to him.  
The waiter placed their food on the table, saying, “Enjoy.” He politely walked away without turning his back to his customers.
“Dig in, but watch out for those Thai peppers,” Tom cautioned. 
While savoring the aromas, Satish cautiously mixed a little chicken curry with a lot of rice and ate a forkful. Yes, it was hot and spicy, but delightfully different from any food he had ever eaten before. The sweet flavor of coconut milk was powerful and blended well with the spices; neither overcame to other. The chicken was done just right, and every bite oozed curried zest. 
“How’s your Pad Thai?” he asked Tom. 
“I tell you, I have eaten at the best Thai places in Thailand, and this Pad Thai is one of the best. Of course, our Texas shrimp makes all the difference!” Tom said, as he closed his eyes and savored a crustacean with great delight. 
The waiter came back and lightly placed a check on the table. Satish grabbed it and said, “This one’s on me.” 
“I’ll get the next one,” Tom said graciously. 
As the two of them were walking to their respective cars, Tom reiterated to his friend, “It’s fight, not flight. Remember that. Even Gandhi fought, though differently.” With that final word, he drove off in his car. 
Satish walked into his apartment to find four telephone messages, all from Priya, essentially saying, “It’s me. Where are you? I’m done with my project. Can I come over? Call me.” 
Just as he reset the machine, he heard the phone ring and picked it up. 
“Hi, it’s me. Where have you been?” asked Priya. 
“I tried to call you a little after six, but you were not there. I had dinner with Tom,” he said. 
“I am done for the day. Can I come over?” she asked. 
“Sure. Do you want me to pick you up?” 
“No. I’ll walk. It’s a nice day and I need the exercise. I think I am putting on some weight.” 
“Sure you are,” he said, with a laugh. 
Priya weighed only ninety-five pounds. She was a little over five feet four inches tall, and could pass for a Houston high school student. She too was from India. 
Her father was a brigadier in the Indian army and her family moved their home every three years or so. When she was fourteen, he sent her to a private school in Bangalore to give his daughter some constancy in companionship, curriculum, and teachers. Later, when she graduated, she went to a college in Bangalore, living in dorms on its campus. When she came to Rice, she slipped into the American campus life with ease. 
He had already graduated when Priya came to Rice. He just saw her at a campus event celebrating India’s Independence Day.
Every year, during the weekend closest to August 15, Indian students put on a cultural show that had songs and dances from different parts of India. It was the same fare, year after year: classical dances from Tamil Nadu, Kerala, Andhra Pradesh, Orissa, and Manipur, some Kathak, and folk dances from Gujarat, Maharashtra, Karnataka, Bengal, and the predictable finale, a raucous Bhangra from Punjab. Mingled with these dances were other dances based on songs from Bollywood films, and renditions of patriotic songs. 
The evening’s explosion of color’s movement, and music enthralled Houstonians, campus faculty, and students. It was as if Fourth of July fireworks were being done live on stage. 
To Satish, this was all ho-hum. He had seen the best performers of all these art forms, and these were just well-intentioned amateurs. He only came to the event to meet his friends, some of them still students, and others like him who had recently entered the local workforce. 
When he entered the auditorium, a harried organizer came to him and said, “Satish, I need your help. Can you take pictures of the show?” 
He agreed, and a camera was thrust into his hands. He took a favored place in the front row of the auditorium and took pictures of the participants, watching the performances and waiting for appropriate moments when the entire dance ensembles were on stage. 

Excerpts taken from the book "An Indian in a Cowboy Country" by  Pradeep Anand. Published by Jaico Publishing House.  - Editor

to be continued



FEATURE

ARE WE BARKING UP THE WRONG TREE?

Prof. B. M. Hegde,
hegdebm@gmail.com
“You can fool some of the people all of the time, and all of the people some of the time, but you cannot fool all the people all the time.”  
Abraham Lincoln

What worries me is the news item that when the doctors in Israel went on strike in March 2000, death rate fell significantly in Jerusalem city, while it did not change in the coastal city if Netanya, where doctors worked as usual.  Even when compared to the month of March in 1999 and 1998 the fall in death rate in 2000 was noteworthy. Similar trend was reported from Los Angeles County in the 1970s and, possibly, also in Canada and Bogota in Columbia a few years ago. Even in the field of drug trials small studies seem to give striking benefit but under further investigations they “do not deliver the degree of benefit initially touted by their clinical champions and marketers.
All is not well in our thinking in this area. While the life expectancy seems to have gone up in the developed countries, mainly because of the change of mode of living and better standards of living, human life span has not gone up.  Health expectancy (a word I coined to denote the number of years a new-born baby could expect to live without the help of doctors and medicines) seems to have come down in the industrialized countries. Hardly anyone in the West goes beyond the age of ten without having to be taking multivitamin and many other pills almost as a part of their diet! In fact, health expectancy is quite high in some of the developing countries like India, where people in villages live almost their full lives without any medical interventions; the life expectancy being 67 years. 
There is hardly a “well man” in the developed West, what with routine screening making life miserable, to say the least, despite the fact that a recent editorial in the British Medical Journal avers that routine screening could seriously damage one’s health! 
 Modern quantum physics makes a mockery of future predictions in any dynamic system without the total initial knowledge of the organism. Doctors have been predicting the unpredictable. To predict man’s future his doctor should have complete knowledge of his phenotype, genotype and his consciousness. That seems to be impossible in the present state of our knowledge.
Diseases originate in the human mind (consciousness), the seeds being negative thoughts like greed, jealousy, hatred, anger, and depression.  If sown in a genetically fertile soil (with the correct genetic pattern), the seeds could grow well into the final tree (disease) with all its ramifications, when fed by the help of a conducive atmosphere, including tobacco and alcohol, which work like the best manure for the crop. Management, therefore, should take into consideration all these together; not just the changes in the phenotype. The latter has not taken us too far!
Now with quantum physics trying to understand human consciousness, time has come for modern medicine to divorce itself from the time-honoured reductionist logic of linear relations in dynamic systems. It is a pity that after so many fantastic claims of advances in medical science we have been able to eradicate only one disease, small pox. Incidentally, that was not being done with any advanced technology!  Edward Jenner, credited to be the father of vaccination, had to have his method authenticated and refined, with the help of a long term (twenty year) prospective study of the Indian system of vaccination, practised there for centuries with nearly 90% success rate, by a Fellow of the Royal College of Physicians of London, Dr. T. Z. Holwell, in the year 1747. Holwell spent many years in India to study the system of vaccination with attenuated virus! 
 The directionless movement of mankind with the industrial revolution where value systems have been given a go by, resulting in even High School children shooting their peers for petty jealousies, we better move fast to keep them healthy on this planet. Let the wisdom of the human body play its part in the game of healthy living! Let not the medical fraternity think they are wiser than the body’s wisdom!
To compound our confusion we have been targeting these midway changes (like raised BP, sugar, fats etc.) as the cause of diseases and trying to reduce and/ or correct them mostly with disastrous results, as noted above! Proper audits of our interventions have shown many of the technologies, not to speak of drugs, have done more harm than good. Many midway technologies have never been audited at all! Many of the interventions in the intensive care units fall into this last category. The famous MRFIT study did show that while the risk factors could be modified by our interventions, the final RISK of precocious death can not be prevented! 
Antioxidant vitamins did not do much good compared to eating extra fruits and vegetables in a large group of Canadian postmenopausal women. Whereas some studies did show benefit from eating fish, larger studies did not show any difference between those that eat fish daily compared to those who eat fish once in a blue moon. Long term prospective studies did not show any benefit from regular screening and correcting the biochemical abnormalities in asymptomatic individuals. In conclusion, it is the body’s wisdom that keeps us going despite the medical industry’s efforts to make us their clients for their business!

“I was brought up to believe that the only thing worth doing was to add to the sum of accurate information in the world.”  
Margaret Mead

YEH MERA INDIA

Bribe of Rs: 265/- took 30 years in courts

New Delhi : The Supreme Court has expressed displeasure over a case of a petty crime where a Delhi employee taking the bribe of Rs 265 continued lingering on for almost three decades and still contesting at the age of 76.
It slashed his sentence of imprisonment to three months already undergone, but imposed a fine of Rs 50,000.
He was trapped by the CBI in 1984 for demanding money from a contractor.
The Bench of Justices Sudhansu Mukhopadhaya and Kurien Joseph regretted the slow justice on the offence of  the accused V K Verma, who is now 76 years old, is ill.
“The accused has already undergone physical incarceration for three months and mental incarceration for about thirty years.
Whether at this age and stage, it would not be economically wasteful, and a liability to the State to keep the appellant in prison, is the question we have to address.
Having given thoughtful consideration to all the aspects of the matter, we are of the view that the facts mentioned above would certainly be special reasons for reducing the substantive sentence but enhancing the fine, while maintaining the conviction, the Court said.
It added: “One wonders as to how it took 10 years for the matter to be registered as sessions case and stranger is it to see that the trial also took almost ten years and still stranger is that the matter took ten years in the High Court.”
After dismissal of his appeal in the High Court, Verma had surrendered before a court on October 3, 2013 and  was later sent to custody. The Supreme Court finally had ordered his release on bail on December 16.

Illegal occupancy!

In October 2011, Tendulkar had run into trouble with the BMC for moving into his new Perry Cross Road bungalow without obtaining the mandatory occupancy certification from the civic body. 
The civic body had levied a penalty of Rs 4.35 lakh for illegal occupancy which the cricketer paid after a notice was served on him under the BMC Act.
Tendulkar had purchased the Dorab Villa, a 1920s villa belonging to a Parsi family, for an estimated cost of Rs 39 crore in December 2007, and performed a vastu puja on September 28 before moving into the new bungalow.
The puja was noticed by the civic body which served him the notice for occupying the property without an occupancy certificate.


Bharat Ratna in water dues defaulters list

Master blaster Sachin Tendulkar, Shiv Sena party's patriarch Bal Thackeray, former Maharashtra Chief Minister A R Antulay’s family and Samajwadi Party leader Abu Asim Azmi are among the two lakh defaulters who have not paid their water bills to the civic body.
The Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation (BMC)  released a list of two lakh defaulters from all 24 wards in Mumbai on its website, and interestingly the list includes names of celebs.
As per the list put up on the site the corporation has to recover over Rs 1,000 crore from these defaulters that includes commercial, domestic and industrial water users as of January 16, 2014.
 The names of Sachin Tendulkar and his wife, Anjali, figure in the list of defaulters twice for amounts of Rs 16,640 and Rs 16,282 at their 19, Perry Cross Road address in Bandra. The list also mentions the name of Bal Thackeray for unpaid dues of Rs 1,15,625. 
Thackeray passed away in November 2012 after an illness at his Bandra bungalow, Matoshree.
Nargis Antulay, wife of former Maharashtra chief minister A R Antulay, also figures in the list for unpaid water dues of Rs 48,777. India Bull Real Estate, which owns the India Bulls Finance Centre at Dadar, is also listed among several construction and real estate companies with dues of Rs 8,72,052. 
Samajwadi Party leader Abu Asim Azmi’s is among the politicians who figures in the list for unpaid dues for hotel premises.
Trapped in a tight corner, embarrassed Shiv Sena senior party officials  said the Thackeray family has decided to cross-check the pending bills and “...any amount found pending would be promptly paid off.” Azmi when questioned by local media, retorted: “As far as I know, there is no bill pending. I checked with my hotel manager and he said the BMC has not sent the pending bill if there is one...then of course we will pay it immediately if a bill is pending.” The Tendulkars were not available for a comment.


KEM doctors ‘rock’ in hospital premises

Medical students at King Edward Memorial (KEM) Hospital  were seen enjoying a rock festival, where the musicians performed in the loudest possible music within the premises of the hospital.
However, neither the authorities nor the students took cognisance of the Supreme Court directive that says that loudspeakers should not be allowed to work within 100 meters of silence zones such as hospitals, educational institutions and courts.
The future doctors were seen enjoying the fest taking little regard for the medical condition of patients staying at the hospital, who might be more than just ‘disturbed’ by the noise.“It has been going on since the daytime and it is really harassing for patients like us who are in so much pain. Even doctors and the nurses are part of the non-stop music. Who should we approach with our problem,” said one of the patients admitted in the gynaec ward which is just next to the mid-ground of KEM where the fest has been organised.
This has been the third party in a year which has been organised in the campus of the hospital even when it was met with strong criticism and strict action by police.
Last year the neighbouring BJ Wadia Hospital officials had complained against KEM hospital staff for playing music on loudspeakers and creating huge problems for the patients. Another freshers party was held in the hospital campus by the doctors last year in October which was busted by police.


                                           

MONTH THAT WAS

Gunmen kill polio workers

Karachi/Islamabad: Four anti-polio workers, including two women, were killed in attacks in different parts of Pakistan on people engaged in a vaccination campaign against the crippling disease, reports PTI. In Karachi, two woman workers and a man were killed and two others injured when unidentified gunmen fired at them in Qayummabad area. The team was working without any security. Four armed men were waiting in the area and attacked the team as soon as it entered the neighbourhood. Unidentified men opened fire at a vaccination team at Mansehra in the country’s restive northwest and killed one worker, The Express Tribune reported. In Balochistan province, unidentified persons snatched a car from a vaccination team. The attacks came a day after health authorities in Karachi, launched a drive to inoculate 7.6 million children as part campaign against polio. 


Nuclear plants unstable: Engineer Tanaka

Tokyo: A Japanese engineer, who helped build crippled Fukushima nuclear reactor No. 4, has warned Taiwan of the inherently unstable nature of nuclear power. 
Mitsuhiko Tanaka said that the 1986 Chernobyl disaster changed his views on nuclear power, and agreed that nuclear accidents are bound to happen someday or the other, without anybody knowing when its going to occur, the Japan Times reports.
He urged Taiwan’s government to make information publicly accessible, hoping that they won’t repeat the same mistake. Tanaka worked at Hitachi Ltd. in 1974, but quit the company in 1977 and became a writer. He wrote a book in 1990 in which he chronicled the discovery of a manufacturing defect in reactor 4 of Fukushima nuclear plant, and the subsequent cover-up by the company. He accused the government for refusing to investigate the cover-up in 1988, when he went to the then-Ministry of International Trade and Industry to report the matter. The reactor 4 of the Fukushima plant suffered a terrible meltdown following the magnitude-9 earthquake off the Pacific coast and a subsequent tsunami on March 11, 2011 that robbed it of all power and disabled its cooling systems.

Warming can be tamed: UN

Paris : The next 15 years will be vital in determining whether global warming can be limited to 2C (3.6F) by 2100, with energy and transport presenting the heftiest challenges, according to a draft UN report, according to AFP. “Delaying mitigation through 2030 will increase the challenges…. and reduce the options,” warns a summary of the report seen by AFP.
The draft is the third volume in a long-awaited trilogy by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), a Nobel-winning group of scientists.
Major efforts are needed to brake the growth in carbon emissions for a good chance to limit warming to 2 degrees Celsius (3.6 degrees Fahrenheit) by 2100, says the summary. “It would entail global consumption losses of one to four percent in 2030, two to six per cent in 2050 and two to 12 per cent in 2100,” the 29-page summary says.
These costs do not factor in benefits, such as growth in new areas of the economy, or savings from avoiding some of the worst impacts of climate change.
The estimates are based on the assumption that “all countries of the world” begin curbing carbon emissions immediately and that there are “well-functioning markets” to establish a single global price for carbon.
The report looks at options, but makes no recommendations, for mitigating greenhouse gases that are driving the climate-change crisis by trapping solar heat and warming Earth’s surface.
The final version of the document is due to be thrashed out at a meeting in Berlin in April.
The trilogy is the IPCC’s long-awaited Fifth Assessment Report, the first great overview of the causes and effects of global warming, and options for dealing with it, since 2007.
The draft document notes that global emissions of greenhouse gases surged by an average 2.2 per cent per year between 2000 and 2010, compared to 1.3 per cent per year over the entire 30-year period between 1970 and 2000.

VJTI team designs low priced all terrain vehicle

Mumbai: India is fast emerging as a leader of sorts in automobile manufacture, with growing demand, cheaper indigenous design vehicles and the need for economy. And keeping with this trend, a group of students from the Mumbai-based Veermata Jeejabai Technical Institute (VJTI) have designed and developed a unique all-terrain car, which will feature at the BAJAINDIA 2014 Expo, organised by the Society of Automotive Engineers, India, to be held at Pithampur in Madhya Pradesh.
Built at a cost of around Rs 2.5 lakh, the VJTI buggy is indeed unique. It is an all-terrain vehicle that can be driven on any surface – from smooth city roads to rocky and hilly roads while ensuring the driver remains safe. All Terrain Vehicle (ATV) is made fully with locally available and improvised parts – from engine to tyres.
The only imported component in the buggy is its shock absorbers which were imported from Canada, explained Akash Chhawchharia, one of the 10-member team and VJTI student who designed and tested the car. According to Akash, some of the salient features of the ATV that his team has designed includes a Continuously Varying Transmission or a variant of what is commonly called ‘automatic gear,’ which dispenses with the need for the traditional clutch in cars, an entirely customised forward-neutral-reverse gear box, air springs that enhance the driving pleasure, electronic systems such as digital Rotations Per Minute (RPM) meter that was designed entirely by these students. The ATV also has an indicator that warns when battery power reduces. The petrol-driven car itself was launched on February 14 and will participate in BAJAINDIA 2014.

Unclaimed deposits for education

Mumbai: The Reserve Bank proposed that unclaimed bank deposits, estimated at over Rs 3,500 crore, be utilised for education and awareness of depositors.
As per the proposal, the banking sector deposits which have not been claimed for 10 years or more will be transferred to ‘Depositor Education and Awareness Fund Scheme’. “The Fund will be created by taking over inoperative deposit accounts which have not been claimed or operated for a period of ten years or more or any deposit or any amount remaining unclaimed for more than 10 years…,” said the draft proposal on which comments have been sought by RBI.
As per an estimate, banks have as much as Rs 3,652 crore of unclaimed deposits lying with them, with the State Bank of India alone accounting for about 15 per cent of that. The draft further said that there would be a provision for reclaiming the amount so appropriated by the Fund. “The bank would be liable to pay the deposit amount to the depositor and claim refund of such amount from the Fund,” it added.
The Fund, the draft said, would be utilised for promotion of depositors’ interest and for such other purposes which may be necessary for the promotion of depositors’ interests as specified by the RBI. The Fund will be managed by a Committee of 11 members under an RBI deputy governor, who will be the ex-officio chairperson of the Committee. Members of public, banks, industry and other stakeholders can give comments on the scheme to the RBI.

Online booking for 23 hrs.

New Delhi: Continuing with its efforts to extend more facilities to passengers, Indian Railway Catering and Tourism Corporation (IRCTC) has launched an online booking facility for retiring rooms at railway stations.
"Any passenger with the PNR of a confirmed or RAC ticket may make an online booking of a retiring room. The ticket may either be a counter ticket or e-ticket. The booking can be made for all the passengers on the ticket," said a senior IRCTC official. Currently, the system is being launched only for the retiring rooms at Mumbai's CST station. The facility will gradually be extended to major stations, like Delhi and Kolkata, and important tourist destinations.
The online booking facility has been launched for both the IRCTC's tourism website (www.railtourismindia.com) and e-ticketing website (www.irctc.co.in).No registration or login-ID is required to avail of the facility. People will be able to do online bookings throughout the day, except for one hour from 11.30 P.M. to half past midnight.


ABRACADABRA

Tokyo thief caught with 450 pairs of high heels

Tokyo: A man arrested for stealing high-heel shoes from a Tokyo hostess club was found to have a total of 450 purloined pairs when his room was searched, Japanese police said. “I’ve felt pleasure in stealing high heels. I was not interested in brand-new products,” Sho Sato, 28, told investigators after he was arrested, according to Tokyo police. Sato, who is jobless and has no fixed residence, broke into the changing room of the hostess club in Tokyo’s glitzy Ginza district last November and stole 14 pairs of high heels and cosmetics, police said. They later confiscated some 450 pairs of high heels from a room he rented but the owners have yet to be identified. “The lockers at the club’s changing room were a treasure chest,” Sato was quoted as telling police.  

When shit exploded

A woman was badly burnt in a freak accident after a toilet in a bar in Barcelona exploded while she was using it, reports PTI from London.
The woman suffered second and third degree burns to her legs when the toilet she was sitting on exploded from underneath her in a bar in Barcelona’s Gothic Quarter. The blast was caused by the unhygienic conditions of the septic tank and the lack of ventilation in the lavatory, the Local reported.
When the woman switched on the light, a spark acted as a trigger for the methane gas which filled the toilet, according to the official police report.

When flatulence caused explosion

London : A farm shed in Rasdorf, Germany, burst into flames after a herd of 90 cows produced enough combustible methane gas from just their farts, says ANI. According to the local police, a static electric charge caused the gas to explode with flashes of flames, the Daily Star reported. Even though one cow can emit up to 500 litres of methane every day, fortunately, explosions due to cow flatulence is not frequent. 

Saudi man finds cigarette in wife's bag divorces her

Dubai : Marriage goes up in smoke! A Saudi man divorced his wife just three months after marriage when he found a cigarette in her bag.
The husband became furious after he discovered the cigarette and decided to divorce her despite her claims that she did not smoke and that the cigarette did not belong to her, The Gulf News reported.
The man from the southern Saudi city of Jizan has insisted on the divorce and attempts to have him change his mind over the issue, and to accept reconciliation have so far failed, as he argued that he was certain that the cigarette belonged to his wife, the paper reported.
Relatives from both sides intervened to amend the situation, but the stubborn husband insisted on getting divorce.
The wife has suffered from a nervous breakdown, sources said.
According to official figures, around 600,000 women smoke cigarettes in Saudi Arabia, making up one tenth of the total smoking population estimated at six million smokers.
The figure includes a significant proportion of expatriates and around 800,000 teenagers, mainly intermediate and high school students, the paper said. A Saudi judge last year ruled that women who suffered as a result of their husbands’ smoking were allowed to file for divorce.


US woman breastfeeds puppy to “save its life”

Washington:  In a bizarre incident, a woman in the US breastfed a new-born puppy in order to "save its life" when the pooch refused to be fed from a bottle or have canine formula. On her Facebook page, the woman from Colorado, posted a photo of her breastfeeding an orphaned four-day-old puppy and explaining her decision to do so. "I just felt like he just had an hour left. That's how weak he was, he wasn't moving and I just did it," the woman told news station 'KRDO-TV'. The puppy refused to drink from a bottle or take canine formula. "He just wasn't taking it. I didn't know what else to do, I was desperate and I just couldn't bear sitting there watching it die," the woman said. "I never thought I would ever do that, it was taboo to me as well," she said. "I did the right thing. That dog is alive because I took that initiative," she said. The puppy, now over a week old, is doing well. Veterinarian Dr Amber Williams said she would not recommend breast feeding a puppy. She said nutritionally, human milk isn't the best for other animals.

Woman stomach explodes after heavy splurging

Beijing: In a bizarre incident, the stomach of a Chinese woman who ate and drank too much, exploded while she was being operated on. The 58-year-old woman was hospitalised after she developed severe abdominal swelling due to excessive eating and drinking, state-run China News Service reported. During the operation, fire broke out when the gas burst out of her abdomen. The surgeons had to remove her entire stomach, the report quoted Wang Hao, a doctor at the Nanjing Drum Tower Hospital in Jiangsu province as saying. Wang said the incident occurred when the ethyl alcohol in the patient's stomach came in contact with the electric surgical knife. "Normally, people will stop eating when they feel full. However, drinking alcohol during a rich meal can make people ignore their body's signals, and they eat too much," he said. 


THE LAST PAGE

INDIA & JAPAN: MADE FOR EACH OTHER?

Dr. M. V. Kamath

India has always been friendly towards Japan. It has been visited by such notable Indians as Rabindranath Tagore and Swami Vivekananda. True, it had imperial ambitions as did Britain, France, the Netherlands and Belgium but those were such days when Tokyo felt it could take a leaf from European books. It attacked China when it was ruled by warlords and there was hardly any central authority worth the name. A weak China, like a weak India attracted outside forces. During the second world war,  Japanese forces came close to the north east provinces but it must be remembered that behind those forces was the Indian National Army headed by Subhas Chandra Bose. Then, following the defeat of Japan by Allied Forces and International Military Tribunal brought General Hideki Tojo on trial, it was an Indian judge on the panel, Radhabinod Pal who stood by Japan – a fact that Japan has never forgotten. The Japanese now want to get closer to India after a long lull. In the first place, its economy is not doing well and is looking for cheap labour beyond China. In the second place it is having an increasingly growing ageing population which can be hurdle to rising growth. In the third place Japan is learning from experience that there is a limit to what it can get from China which is currently hosting over 90,000 Japanese firms while India hardly hosts 2,000. In the fourth place, two years ago, a survey by the Japanese Bank for international Cooperation showed about 75 percent of the Japanese business placed India as “the most promising country” ahead of China, Brazil, Vietnam and even the United States”. Then there is a personal element in Indo-Japanese relations. Japan’s Prime Minister Shinzo Abe considers Dr Manmohan Singh as his guru or mentor, if we are to believe Tomohiko Taniguchi, a close aide of the Japanese Prime Minister. As of now Japanese aid comes to mean the Delhi Metro, not to speak of the Delhi-Mumbai Industrial Corridor (DMIC) and Chennai-Bangalore high speed rail link. When completed they will catapult India into the top rungs of the international trading system. Currently Indo-Japanese bilateral trade stands at a paltry 18 billion dollars which can be raised tenfold if both governments take up the matter seriously. As the Indian media has noted, as millions of Indians move from their ever-shrinking farms to the cities, only to find themselves jobless, building a Japanese style infra-structure could be just what the doctor ordered. Tokyo’s move towards by-passing its decades-old embargo on exporting  military hardware to sell US-2i amphibious planes to New Delhi is a good beginning. That Japan is serious about expanding Indo-Japanese trade relations becomes evident from the fact that Suzuki Motor Corporation of Japan is going to invest 488 million dollars (about Rs 3,650 crore) to set up a car factory in Gujarat which was originally proposed by Maruti-Suzuki India. The Suzuki investment in the Mehsana plant will be through Suzuki Motor Gujarat, a new subsidiary. The plant will be ready by 2017 and will supply cars exclusively to Maruti Suzuki. But why Gujarat? Few know of the links which Gujarat Chief Minister Narendra Modi has made with Japan during his 2007 visit to Japan. Modi, the first Indian Chief Minister to visit Japan was followed by close to 120 Japanese investors visiting Gujarat on 18 January 2012. Modi was even officially invited to visit Japan. In 2007 Modi had met Abe as also the then Japanese Foreign Minister Koichiro Gemba. The Mizuno Corporation Bank arranged for Modi to have one-to-one meetings with some of Japan’s top industrial and banking executives. Modi told them about Gujarat’s new vibrant textile policy and of the Textile Park Policy which was based on five ‘Fs’ – Farm, Fibre, Fabric, Fashion and Foreign. The list of top people that Modi met during his 5-day stay in Japan is mind-boggling. It included Ministers, Vice Ministers, ex-prime Ministers, Parliamentarians, Governors of Provinces, Chairmen of various bodies. According to official resources, Modi met with more than 2,000 companies varying from Medium to Fortune-500 companies. These sources have noted that “at every place and forum, at every meeting and reception, the response was unimaginable “showing the keenness of Japan to understand Gujarat as a formidable location to grow in and a lucrative location to live in”. Reportedly representatives of industries including JETRO, JICA, JBIC, Keidanren and four province-based Chambers of Commerce expressed “unequivocal confidence and interest to work in and with Gujarat”. Later Maheshwar Sahu, Principal Secretary, Government of Gujarat was quoted as saying that the government planned to build a 600-hectare township near the Maruti Suzuki India Ltd’s manufacturing factory at Hansalpur, near Mehsana. How Japan industry will respond to India if Narendra Modi gets elected as Prime Minister of India is another matter. As matters stand, one gets the impression that Tokyo is in the midst of re-orientating its foreign policy and strategic posture. Prime Minister Abe has already made it clear that he views Delhi as an important part of a changing way of looking at things. Tokyo is also coming to see India in a strategic light. It is not for nothing that Japan’s Emperor Hirohito and Empress Michiko spent some precious time in India though neither got much publicity. That could possibly be because neither wanted to be hounded by the media all the time. What is important to remember is what Masakazu Sakakida, President, Japan Chamber of Commerce and Industry recently said. JCCI president Sakakida said in clear terms that with over 1,000 Japanese companies already operating in India “intellectuals, industrialists and others" will help facilitate the development of trade and industry between India and Japan. It is for India to respond adequately and meaningfully.