Writing lucidly using the word ‘day’ — Part 2

October 30, 2014 at 3:39 pm | Posted in Uncategorized | 1 Comment

Writing lucidly with the word ‘day’

More uses of ‘day’ in different forms.

Call it a day ..

a. After the election defeat, one of the most popular prime minister’s of India, Mr. Vajpayee called it a day ending his political career gracefully.

b. Sachin Tendulkar called it a day in cricket after he felt his body was failing to cope with the pressures of international competition.

Day of reckoning ..

a. Many Indian politicians had assumed that they can get away with their corruption and crime, and never be brought to book. After Jaylalitha, a potential prime ministerial candidate till the other day, went to jail, the corrupted politicians have begun to fear that their day of reckoning might soon arrive.

b. The young man lived a life of indulgence, thanks to the vast wealth his father bequeathed to him. Wine and women were his companions. But, tragedy struck him rather early. The doctors diagnosed him for AIDS. It struck him like a bolt from the blue. Finally, he realized that the day of reckoning had come. He died struggling for life in the hospital bed.

Have had one’s day

a. Sonia Gandhi and Rahul Gandhi have fallen in the eyes of most Indians. The duo have had their day when they held sway over the Congress Party and the government of India. Their hey days are gone forever.

b. The British are no longer the dreaded colonial power they used to be. After successive colonies became free, the United Kingdom of today is a pale shadow of what it used to be in the nineteenth and mid twentieth century. The British realize that they have had their day, and they can never again boast, ‘The Sun never sets in the British Empire.’

All in a day’s work .. It means something unpleasant that happens almost routinely.
a. Women commuters travelling in Delhi buses have to endure harassment by male co-passengers almost on a daily basis. Gradually, they learn to live with the nuisance assuming that it is all in a day’s work.

b. The nurses and doctors are subjected to verbal assaults by terminally ill patients who can not tolerate the excruciating pain. The care-givers rarely complain realizing the helplessness of the suffering patients. For the doctors and nurses, it is all in a day’s work.

Writing lucidly using ‘day’

October 28, 2014 at 3:50 pm | Posted in Uncategorized | 1 Comment

Writing intelligently and lucidly …

Save the day .. It means somehow avoiding a very difficult and embarrassing situation.

Example sentences ..

a. One night, after everyone in our family had gone to bed, my sister’s in-laws arrived in our house un-announced. They were hungry and tired after a 12-hour long train journey. My mother had no ready food to serve them. The Pizza joints had also closed by then. Clueless about how and what she could serve to these honoured guests, my mother appeared totally tensed. At that point of time, I remembered that I had bought Dosa batter from the shop that morning along with other provision items. When I whispered this into my mother’s ears, she jumped with delight. The sense of relief was palpable in her face. She rushed to the kitchen, made crisp hot Dosas which our guests ate with great relish. Like this, the one-kilo packet of Dosa batter saved the day for mother and our family.

b. The Sri Lankan batsmen were battering the Indian bowlers with savage fury. There was no way the Indian captain could stanch the flow of runs. He was obviously baffled. At that point of time, a debutant who had come to the side as a middle-order batsman asked the captain if he could bowl an over or two. He commenced the bowling attack. The Sri Lankans found his deliveries very un-orthodox and somewhat unplayable. They fell into a defensive mode. The scoring rate plummeted sharply. Like this, the debutant batsman saved the day for his side.

c. One day, nearly all the computers in our office broke down simultaneously most likely due to virus attack. There was no way we could send an urgent file to our Head Office in London. The Manager pulled out his smart phone from his pocket, and loaded the file on to it, and managed to send it. Thus the tiny smart phone saved the day for us.

Carry the day .. It means winning or succeeding.

Example sentences …

a. The boy from the rural school had prepared for the debate in English weeks in advance. He had walked miles to reach the cyber café to access the internet, so that he could collect facts from Google. On the day of the debate, he had to contend with smart students from English medium schools who spoke with immaculate accent. However, they were shallow in facts because they had not done their homework well. The rural boy spoke falteringly, but he had marshaled so many facts that the judges heard his speech with rapt attention, nodding their heads approvingly. At the end of the debate, the rural boy with crude accent won the contest. He carried the day because he had done hard work, where as his English medium friends had fallen prey to complacency.

b. ‘Catching’ the ball flying off the bat is not easy in cricket. It needs sharp reflexes, and supple limbs and muscles. This is why, the slip fielders play such an important part in deciding the fate of a match. Even a weak team can carry the day against a formidable side if it holds the catches.

Have a field day … Get an opportunity to do some evil thing at the cost of someone else.

Example sentences …

a. The bank was closed for three consecutive days for the Pujah holidays and Sunday. Seeing this, a group of burglars dug a tunnel into the bank’s strong room from the adjacent site, broke open the lockers and fled with huge amount of cash and jewellery. Obviously, they had a field day and made use of the long break.

b. The farmer used to guard his corn fields against the herd of voracious parrots. He used many tactics to scare the hungry birds away. One day, he couldn’t come because he was sick. The parrots descended in droves on his field and munched away the tender corns. They had a field day in the corn field.
—————–More like this tomorrow———————

Nobel Prize in Economics 2013 & 2014 –Understang Mr. Tirole’s contribution

October 28, 2014 at 8:00 am | Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Economics Nobel Prize 2014 — Making sense of the winner’s ideas

The correct name of the Economics Nobel Prize is “Sveriges Riksbank Prize in Economic Sciences in Memory of Alfred Nobel”. It must be noted that it is not one of the prizes established by the will of Alfred Nobel in 1896. Alfred Nobel’s chosen subjects for award of prizes are in Chemistry, Physics, Medicine etc. The Economics Nobel Prize was established 73 years later in 1968 by Sweden’s central bank, the Sveriges Riksbank, on the occasion of the bank’s 300th anniversary. The Memorial Prize in Economics winner is announced on the same day as the Nobel Prize winners.

Economics Nobel Prize of 2013 …. In 2013, the Prize was shared by three winners. The co-winners were 1. Eugene F. Fama, University of Chicago, IL, USA 2. Lars Peter Hansen University of Chicago, IL, USA and 3. Robert J. Shiller of Yale University, New Haven, CT, USA. The selection of the trio appeared to have created a good deal of controversy, and added to the prevailing air of cynicism about the soundness of the choice of the awardees.
This is why ….. Eugene Fama of Chicago is known for being a votary of the efficiency of free markets system. He has consistently discounted all the apprehensions about the emergence of a ‘bubble’ that could burst anytime. On the other hand, Robert Shiller from Yale, one of the three co-winners constantly reminds of a developing ‘bubble’ as evidenced by the technology stocks crash in the 1990s and in the housing finance turmoil in the 2000s.

Despite the gulf of difference in their outlooks, the trio consisting of Fama, Shiller, and Hansen have established most contributed significantly to the understanding of asset prices. It is strange how the three great economic thinkers with such diametrically opposite views could devise an effective tool for forecasting of asset prices.

Economics Nobel Prize of 2014 … Jean Tirole wins the 2014 Nobel Prize for Economics for his analysis of market power and regulation of large companies.
As recipient of the prize, Mr Tirole will now receive 8m krona (£683,000). He is the scientific director of industrial economics at Toulouse University, and earned his PhD at MIT.

Tirole has spent the last 30 years studying how a small number of large firms can dominate markets and the damage that can do — and how governments should respond.

Alex Tabarrok, economist and co-author of the Marginal Revolution blog, has paid tributes to Mr Tirole by declaring that the Nobel Laureate’s Game theory dealing with the subject of decision making in an industrial organization has been his most valuable contribution.

The work that brought him the Prize … The French professor started to work on this subject in the 1980s on the behavior and the means of control of large companies. His research has thrown new light on the ways to regulate the large companies so that they do not hurt the society in their pursuit of more profits. His findings have come handy for policymakers and government to rein in the large firms when they begin to harm the interests of the consumers. These firms, routinely give distorted information to the government regulators’ queries. The data provided by the companies may be correct, but they cleverly hide the truth when the questions pertain to consumer interests. Such information is called ‘Asymmetric Information’.

The governments in different countries have struggled to curb the avaricious policies of the very large companies. Policy makers often recommended harsh measures like administratively capping the prices of goods and services. Sometimes, such one-size-fits-all measures worked, but many other times, it hurt the consumers and boosted the earnings of the companies further.
Mr. Tirole has advocated more sector-specific and fine-tuned approaches to address the task of curbing the corporate entities who wield near-monopoly controls over the market. He has devised smarter approaches to framing rules for control of corporate bodies.

Pierre Moscovici, France’s former finance minister, has acknowledged that Mr Tirole’s work is a guiding principle for government leaders and top bureaucrats entrusted with the responsibilities of policy framing.

Understanding the implications of Mr. Tirol’s work in the Indian contest ……..
In India, the government has often tried to cap prices of goods and services in the past. Take the case of steel prices. Till a few years back, the prices were capped at a certain level by the central government to prevent the manufacturing companies from arbitrarily increasing their prices which could have been very detrimental to the consumers. The prices were computed to allow the companies to make a certain amount of profit.

To beat competition and increase profits while still sticking to the government-determined price, one of the dominant companies like the Hindustan Steel could opt to utilize its reserves to import highly efficient plants, and take other measures in the manpower side to increase productivity.

As a result of this, Hindustan Steel could produce higher quantity of better-quality skill and capture the market. Its profits would then soar, despite the price cap. The consumer would get little benefit despite the modernization of the seller’s plant. In this way, the purpose of the ‘price-capping’ is defeated. It may well lead to the dominant Hindustan Steel out-selling its competitors with its better-quality products. Unable to stand up to the giant competitor, the smaller manufacturers would wind down their business. In the process, the ‘price-capping’ policy could encourage monopolistic trends and stifling of fair competition.

So, ‘price-capping’ can not be the mantra for safeguarding consumers’ interests. The government could, alternately, think of ways so that the companies plough back their profits to modernize and fairly compete with one another to offer high-quality steel at lower prices. Fostering genuine competition by fine-tuning government’s sector-wise industrial policy could be a better way than a blind ‘price capping’ policy.

This is the core of Mr. Tirol’s findings. He came to this conclusion after painstakingly analyzing the working of scores of companies in capitalist countries where ‘price capping’ was adopted.

Take another case. If Hindustan steel starts making steel almirahs itself using its own steel sheets, it will have a formidable cost advantage over the scores of small scale industries that produce it. The entry of Hindustan Steel made steel almirahs into the market would, thus, close scores of small industries throwing thousands of employees out of job. So, permitting downstream integration of industries is disastrous.

But, not always.

The phenomenal success of the Chinese textile goods manufacturers in the global market is due to the fact that giant companies there do all the operations of the value-chain. From raw cotton to finished shirts, lingerie, and banyans etc., the processes are done by one single company in one huge premises. This helps to achieve economy of scale, and cuts cost rise due to profits after each stage of manufacture. Thus, fragmenting the value-chain to different cost centers – a favourite management practice—can not be the winning formula if you want to compete globally in a fiercely competitive environment.
Thus, Mr. Tirole is proved right again. His argument that government-enforced blanket controls across the whole economy is a doomed policy, comes true again.

Nuclear fusion plants –Will they banish energy hunger forever?

October 21, 2014 at 11:07 am | Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment


It is difficult to imagine a time in future when there will be no further need to increase power production in the world. This is because of the following two factors.

a. World population is increase apace. It will be very very long before it stabilizes at a certain level. More human beings means more need for energy.

b. With increasing prosperity, people will need more comforts. This means they will consume more energy directly or indirectly. This is very worrisome as no government would survive if it asks its citizens to limit their energy consumption by curbing their comforts.

So, the craving for energy relentlessly drives the search for new sources of energy. Conventional nuclear energy produced by the fission process is very much in use today, because the technology has reached a very satisfactory level allowing sustained generation at predictable generation cost. However, some issues like disposal of radioactive wastes, security issues arising out of terror threats, and heightened concern for safety have dimmed the prospect of nuclear power produced through the fission process.

This situation compelled the nuclear scientists to see if the nuclear fusion process that provides the sun with its humungous amount of heat can be replicated on earth. A pilot plant, named ITER is presently being built in France. ITER, when completed, will weigh 23,000 tonnes and stand almost 30 metres (98 feet) tall.

This ultra high-tech facility being built at an astronomical cost stretches modern technology to its limits. Such a mammoth undertaking casts doubt on its commercial viability.

The latest to join the race for a working model of the Fusion-based reactor is the American aerospace giant Lockheed Martin. Its team of ace engineers working in the company’s tech research hub Shunk Works feel that a pilot Fusion-based plant can be designed, manufactured and erected in just about a decade time.

Since the 1950s, attempts to replicate the Fusion-based reaction that generates the seemingly inexhaustible supply of heat energy of the sun are being made. The hydrogen bomb was the first successful attempt towards a man-made fusion-based device. But, building a bigger one to generate electric power on a sustained basis have proved to be a formidable task.

A look at the basic differences between the Fission and Fusion processes will throw some light on the complexities of the later technology.

Differences between the two processes …..

Nuclear fusion and nuclear fission are two diametrically different types of energy-producing reactions. The common feature of both processes is that energy is released from high-powered atomic bonds between the particles within the nucleus. The difference are basic. In Fission, the splitting of an atom into two or more smaller ones  causes release of enormous amounts of energy. In contrast, in Fusion, the fusing of two or more smaller atoms into a larger one causes the release of the energy.

Comparison between the two processes ……

a. In nature, nuclear fission generally does not occur. Fusion, however, occurs, if not on earth, but on stars like the Sun.

b. As bye-product, Fission produces many highly radioactive particles. Fusion reactions generally does give out any bye-product. Only if, a fission “trigger” is used, radioactive particles will result from that.

c. For a fission reaction to happen, critical mass of the fissile substance and high-speed neutrons are required. For setting off a Fusion reaction, high density, extremely high temperature environment is required.

d. It takes little energy to split two atoms in a fission reaction. For the fusion process, extremely high energy is required to bring two or more protons close enough so that nuclear forces overcome their electrostatic repulsion.

e. The energy released by fission is a million times greater than that released in chemical reactions, but it is a fraction of the energy released by nuclear fusion. The energy released by fusion is three to four times higher than the energy released by fission.

f. For nuclear bomb-making, fission-based bombs are produced. These are  known as an atomic bomb or atom bomb. The other type is the hydrogen bomb, which uses a fission reaction to “trigger” a fusion reaction.

d. Fission process is the most commonly used in nuclear power plants. Fusion is still an experimental technology for producing power.

e. Fuel Uranium is the primary fuel used in power plants. For fusion, Hydrogen isotopes (Deuterium and Tritium) are the primary fuel used in experimental fusion power plants. Deuterium is found in abundance in sea water.

Some more facts about the Fusion-based power generation effort …

A Fusion-bsased plant like the ITER is also known as tokamak. A tokamak works by heating light atoms (deuterium and a second hydrogen isotope called tritium) in a circular containment vessel. The temperature is increased to a level where the atoms’ electrons get detached and fly off. What is left behind is a mixture of free electrons and naked atomic nuclei. It is called plama. This plasma is confined within the vessel and then, heated by magnetic field. After it is sufficiently heated, the nuclei within it coalesce creating the helium nuclei and free neutrons. The neutrons then carry further heat generated by this fusion reaction out of the plasma, and that heat is used to generate electricity.

Dr.Tom McGuire leads the Lockheed team. His compact reactor is a big improvement on the existing designs of tokamak reactors. Dr. Mc Guire’s model has a different field design. Therefore, it is more energy-efficient.
That marks a big improvement over the gargantuan ITER. Dr. Mcguire’s brain child — a 100MW reactor can cater to the needs of power 80,000 homes. It will have a shell  of about seven metres diameter, and will weigh less than 1,000 tonnes.

Dr McGuire’s design is still on the drawing board. Lockheed Martin’s top management has unveiled plans to have a working prototype running in five years and the first operational reactors in ten years. For success in this venture, Lockheed is scouting for more Fusion experts. They will augment Dr. McGuire’s team.  One thing now appears certain — commercial power generation through the fusion process is not a very distant dream.


India’s efforts to build its own GPS, independent of America

October 20, 2014 at 2:31 pm | Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

A bit closer to regional GPS, thanks to PSLV

                                                                                                                                                 Ansuman Tripathy

We all know how useful the GPS (U.S.-owned) is in our day to day life. For a negligible cost, it tacks and spots moving cars, trucks, buses, aircrafts, ships, and anything precious. The Global Positioning System is a product of America’s innovation in use of satellite technology for both civilian and military use. The GPS architecture is based on the deployment of dozens of satellites in the sky which, in adjunct with ground-based customized receivers, help to continuously track ground-based objects.

India, for that matter many other nations in the world, however, fear that America can deny access to GPS at will, if it so desires—either for political or military considerations. So, countries like Russia, China, European Union have embarked upon plans to have their own satellite-based positioning systems, independent of the American GPS. The Russian system is known as GLONASS, Chinese as BeiDou, and European as Galileo. All the three are in different stages of completion.

India has embarked upon a plan to launch a similar, but truncated version of the positioning system. The Indian system known as Indian Regional Navigation Satellite System (IRNSS) will offer positioning services to objects in the country and upto a distance of 1500 kilometers beyond its borders. For meeting India’s civilian and military needs, this is adequate. The IRNSS would provide two services — Standard Positioning Service for civilian use, and an encrypted and Restricted Service for armed forces. The IRNSS will have a total of seven satellites working in tandem to offer the user high definition location positions.

India’s work horse, its Polar Satellite Launch Vehicles (PSLVs) are being used to loft the satellites to their slots in space. The third of the seven rockets was launched on October 16, 2014 by Indian Space Research Organization (ISRO) marking the 27th successful launches by the highly dependable PSLV rockets. For the scientists and engineers at ISRO, who work so dedicatedly for the flawless launches, no amount of adulation will be adequate. The whole nation salutes them for their ingenuity, commitment and expertise. The earlier successful Chandryaan-1 mission and the recent trail-blazing Mars mission would not have been possible without the PSLV rockets.

The constellation of seven satellites is the space component of the Indian GPS architecture. In the ground, India will have to develop its own receiving devices and permanent stations to make use of the signal from the satellites. This formidable task is being done by the Ahmedabad-based Space Applications Centre of ISRO.

First-stage trials of these indigenously-developed receiving devices will soon be conducted. Chips for use in small hand-held devices are also being developed. Once successful, the Indian GPS will have huge demand inside the country. If everything goes well, a sizeable commercial bonanza awaits ISRO from this IRNSS venture. It will take the wind out of the sails of the critics both inside the country and abroad, who criticize India’s investment in space technology.

The author is a freelance writer. He can be reached at atripathy331@gmail.com

Rebuilding Vishakhapatnam after the hammer blows of Cyclone Hudhud

October 16, 2014 at 7:35 am | Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Getting Visakhapatnam back on its feet

Pummeled by Cyclone Hudhud on October 12, Vishakhapatnam, the bustling coastal city of Andhra Pradesh, now lies in ruins. With an iron feast, Haudhud ripped the city apart devastating its airport, steel plant, power lines, communication towers and scores of shanty huntsmen, small businesses and homes. The city has been crippled beyond recognition.

However, there has been some positive developments. As Hudhud approached the shores, the government machineries at the centre and the state pooled their resources together to warn people, arrange evacuation, deploy rapid action teams and doing a host of other things to minimize the impact of the deadly winds. As a result of such preemptive measures, number of deaths remained at less than 25, and the people of the city and the interior villages could be saved from much wrenching pain.

It is heartening to see a growing awareness among people and the governments about the best way of bracing up to such cataclysmic whims of Nature. Lessons have been learnt from the successes and failures of government intervention in the aftermath of earlier cyclones of similar nature.

Odisha was initially thought to be along Hudhud’s path. Fortunately, the vulnerable areas of the State were spared. The Vizag Port was, however, hit by Hudhud with savage vengeance. The fine port now lies in a shambles. The planning and hard work of the disaster management personnel was commendable. Nearly two lakh people living in vulnerable areas along the coast were evacuated in time. And, after the storm crossed the coast leaving a trail of devastation, rescue and relief operations began with remarkable alacrity. People must beasr with the authorities for some length of time as getting the basic infrastructure back in place is going to take some time no matter whatever resources are deployed.

Chief Minister N. Chandrababu Naidu rushed to the embattled city to personally oversee the massive relief operations and draw up plans to get Vijag on its feet. Prime Minister Modi has stepped in to lend a shoulder to the Chief Minister as the latter struggles to grapple with the gigantic re-building task ahead. Mr. Naidu has asked for an ad hoc interim assistance of Rs.2,000 crore and Mr. Modi has promptly offered Rs. 1000 crores as immediate relief. The priorities now are obvious — ensuring the availability of essential commodities, provision of drinking water and milk, and early restoration of communications and power supply.

For the llast few decades, high-intensity cyclones originating in the Bay of Bengal have hit the Andhra Pradesh-Odisha coastline with alarming regularity. Meteorological records since 1871 show that Cyclone Hudhud succeeded 74 earlier visits of such monstrous winds.

In recent years, India has made great strides in its efforts to contain the damage of natural disasters. The National Policy on Disaster Management has been put in place. Teams of specially trained personnel are now kept ready in different locations of the country to quickly reach affected areas and start work. The sharp reduction in deaths and injuries as a consequence of Nature’s unleashing of its fury clearly points to such efforts.

Neighbouring States like Odisha have offered help to get the downed power lines back in service. The Prime Minister should have no hesitation to offer whatever help this State needs. This disaster has come close on the heels of the trauma Andhra suffered after its bifurcation. Andhra’s plea for grant of Special Category status must now receive more urgent and sympathetic consideration.

Mr. Naidu can utilize this opportunity to rebuild the ruined Vishakhapatnam airport with foreign investment and know-how. The airport, so far owned and managed by the Navy, has been a poor fit for this rapidly growing industrial and business hub. It is time the airport gets a new look and a new management. Similarly, the highway network has been damaged and need quick restoration. Scores of trees have been uprooted and broken down. Massive aforestation is the answer to this problem. As the city weeps, the country must come forward to wipe its tears.

Disquiet in Hong Kong

October 11, 2014 at 7:56 am | Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Dissent and Defiance Roil Hong Kong

Hong Kong, one of world’s busiest commercial places, has seen unprecedented and very disruptive street demonstrations for quite some days now. Spear-headed by students, the tone of the chants and slogans have varied from witty banter to vitriolic outbursts. For a territory under Chinese sovereignty, such venting of street anger is unusual. The city’s financial, administrative and shopping hubs, always a beehive of activity, have virtually ground to a halt.

Background…. On July 1, 1997, the transfer of sovereignty of Hong Kong from the United Kingdom to China took place. This marked the formal end of British rule in the territory which had continued from 1841 to 1997 (excluding the brief spell of Japanese rule from 1941 to 1945). The diplomatic negotiations that preceded the transfer (known as the ‘hand-over’) were one of the longest, most tortuous and acrimonious in world diplomatic history. The capitalist Britain simply could not hand over the prosperous Hong Kong on a platter to Communist China. The city, a unique success story of the Capitalist system, would have crumbled under the weight of the oppressive Chinese system that, at that time, allowed no free enterprise and no individual initiative in commerce and industry.

Militarily, it was absurd to expect distant Britain to confront next-door China over Hong Kong. Seeing the writing on the wall, the British agreed to cede Hong Kong’s sovereignty to China, but only after ensuring that the City’s unique free enterprise, and democratic structure were not destroyed by the new masters. The deft negotiations carried out by the last British Governor Mr. Chris Patten yielded the desired results. Hong Kong’s administrative and commercial infrastructure was not dented by the Chinese.

Hong Kong joined China under the ‘one nation—two systems’ policy. The Chinese more or less honoured the pledge they had made not to tweak Hong Kong’s legacy.

The present conflict … The on-going agitation has drawn the world’s attention to the above-mentioned “one country-two systems” policy. Hong Kong’s transition from an erstwhile British colony to a Special Administrative Region (SAR) of the People’s Republic of China (PRC) took place under the bilateral treaty that enshrined an iron-clad guarantee about the democratic structure in the City.
The student-led protesters are pressing for grant of full western-style democracy. For the elections due in 2017, they want open nomination of candidates for the post of Chief Executive (CE) of the territory. Their protesters’ ire against the Chinese authorities in Beijing has an element of suspicion as its root. The students feel that China is falling short of its commitment to allow universal suffrage to all Hong Kong citizens, apart from non-interference in the choice of candidates for Hong Kong’s highest office. In many ways, the moral balance seems to tilt in favour of the agitating students.

Hong Kong, though tiny in size, enjoys an enviable position as the financial hub of the East. Rule of law and general political tranquility of the territory have added to its appeal for entrepreneurs and businessmen. The highly visible tumult in the streets unnerves anyone who has a direct or indirect link with Hong Kong. If the chaos is not brought to an end, the reputation of the city as an oasis for commerce will take a hit.

It has to be conceded that during the whole of 155 years of British rule, fostering of genuine democratic institutions in the territory was nothing very significant. After coming under Chinese sovereignty in 1977, the democratic reform process has proceeded, though haltingly.

The progress towards democratization has happened as per the Basic Law adopted by China in 1990. As per its terms, the Chief Executive (CE) would be elected by universal suffrage in 2017. But, there is a rider. A committee would also be formed that would vet the nominations. This is the crux of the problem. The students feel that the committee can effectively debar a popular candidate by disqualifying him. So, they allege, the CE’s election gets compromised.

The students are right in expressing their fear of the stifling powers of the Committee. However, accusing Beijing of going back on its promise to grant free elections in 2017 is not correct. The students are, perhaps, over reaching their claims.

It is highly unlikely that Beijing will budge and give in to the students’ demands despite the huge media build-up and round-the-clock coverage of the demonstrations.

To assuage the hurt feelings of the students, Beijing may address other grievances of the Hong Kong citizens. The entrepreneurs from mainland China have set up shops in Hong Kong, often to the detriment of the traditional local businesses. This has caused a lot of heart-burn among the local people. The resulting dislocation of identity can be regulated to a manageable level. Skyrocketing property prices, the undesirable consequence of wealthy property buyers from the main land, has pushed Hong Kong citizens to the brink. People now have to spend nearly 70 per cent of their incomes towards mortgage payments. Such out-go severely disrupts their living standards, and savings plans for the future. The younger folks dread such a scenario the most.

At the present juncture, the Chinese are watching eschewing the urge to take any coercive action against the protestors. Some among the students are showing little signs of restraint. A nasty show-down like that of the Tiananmen Square can be avoided by the Chinese if they promise to make the Committee more open to candidates with genuinely democratic credentials. The students must be taken into confidence through patient persuasion, not by wielding the stick.

The Perils of Run-away Economic growth

October 10, 2014 at 3:26 am | Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Development, Yes  — Harming Environment, No

Human activities have dramatically altered the Earth’s biosphere and atmosphere during the past few hundred years. The pace of decline of wild life numbers in the last forty years has been disturbingly high. As the Worldwide Fund for Nature and the Zoological Society of London reveal in their recent findings, the numbers have fallen by nearly half in this short period. What is more alarming is the steep fall in numbers in case of certain species like turtle populations which has gone down by a staggering 80%.

What are its implications? The developing world seems to be more vulnerable to the ill effects of wild life destruction. Habitat degradation, pollution, and ravenous extraction of natural resources in the emerging economies are at the root of this malaise. Biodiversity is a key component of wholesome living of humans on earth. Now, this vital asset is imperiled.

Impacts of climate change pose an ominous challenge to the flora and fauna in these developing countries. Tragically, some of the developing countries are very rich in plant and animal species, and so deserve continued monitoring by the conservationists. But, these are the same countries where new species continue to be discovered with surprising regularity. At the same time, these countries witness extinction of species proceeding apace. The biological hotspots must attract special attention of the conservationists. Ensuring availability of fresh water, clean air and stable climate patterns are essential to arrest and later reverse the slide to doom.

It is regrettable to observe that governments around the world have been found wanting with regard to their implementation of treaties and conventions on protection of wild animals and habitats. One of the many measures they can take is to increase the wild life protected area from the present 13% to 17% by 2020. This stipulation, known as the Aichi target, was incorporated in the Convention on Biological Diversity.

Commercial extraction of marine resources such as fish has reached unsustainable levels despite the many attempts to curb it. Certain species like the Blue Fin Tuna are critically low in the world’s oceans. Even after a total ban on catching such apecies, it will take years for them to regenerate and reach a healthy level in respect of their numbers.

With fishing technology getting progressively more sophisticated and world prices of certain types of marine fish soaring, it has become quite a daunting task to counter clandestine fishing and infringement of the national quota on fishing.

Increasing farm productivity and bringing more waste land under cultivation will boost world harvest levels. This, in turn, will ease the pressure on the seas for food.

Proactive conservation strategies, when implemented with zeal, mind undo the 40 per cent decline of key wild animal populations. For India, where a billion plus mouths are to be fed, the challenge is real. A fast growing economy has resulted in encroachment on land meant for wild life. This has directly contributed to the dwindling of wild life numbers.

India must shun the temptation to sacrifice the rest of the forest and wetland assets on the altar of industrial growth. Safeguarding the ecosystem that provide water and food has to be the national priority. Restoration of habitats must be one among the top national agenda for growth. Limiting pollution through strict enforcement of environmental and forest laws should likewise be a top national priority.

Indo-U.S. ties get a boost after Modis visit

October 6, 2014 at 5:32 am | Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Ramping up Indo-US relations – Modi’s visit’s impact

Prime Minister Modi’s just-concluded U.S. tour has been seen as very different from similar trips by Indian Prime Ministers in the past. By even American standards, it was a high-octane performance that assured the American government, business leaders and the huge Indian diaspora that the Prime minister’s chair is now occupied by a person of both energy and vision. The Indian community in America, long frustrated by the corruption and inaction of the government in Delhi, Mod brought cheer and optimism.

During the five-day visit, India and the U.S. issued a vision document. Modi and Obama jointly wrote an op-ed in the Washington Post. Finally, a comprehensive A Joint Statement was issued that points to a healthy convergence of thoughts and ideas of the two heads of state. The bilateral ties look much stronger today than any time in the past.

Modi had a frenzied tour that included appearances with rock stars, meetings with corporate leaders, interaction with senators, lunch with the President and, most importantly, a rousing one-hour speech in Madison Square where a record Indian crowd gathered to listen to his speech rendered in Hindi. It was a highly successful Public Relations exercise.

Now, it is time to take a realistic look at the results achieved from this visit. The most conspicuous benefit has been the dispelling of mistrust that had impaired bilateral ties in the past one or two years. Modi is no longer a pariah in America. The stigma resulting from his suspected indirect role in the 2002 Gujarat massacre of Muslims seems to have permanently erased. This is evident from the way he was so warmly received by a large section of the American establishment. Mr. Modi paid a symbolic visit to the Martin Luther King Memorial with Mr. Obama. It surely helped to indicate that both countries have decided not to allow events of the past not to cloud the vision for the future.

Secondly, U.S. companies, clearly frustrated by the labyrinth of regulatory and taxation laws, corruption and opacity of government functioning ion India, felt comforted by Modi’s clear signal that their investment will hereafter receive red carpet and fast-track welcome in India. The vision document, the joint op-ed, and the comprehensive 3,500-word Joint Statement underscore a rare unanimity of purpose in world politics and economics. This augurs well for the future. However, areas of concern are still there.

With regard to defense ties and energy sector cooperation, there has been some incremental progress, although much more was expected. On issues where the two countries have held divergent positions such as Nuclear power plant exports from America, membership of the NSG, Trade and WTO, the gap has not been bridged. The two countries have deferred negotiations, because these matters are too contentious to be sorted out during a short state visit.

The renewal of the strategic partnership, and reference to “joint and concerted efforts” to dismantle terror groups including al-Qaeda, Lashkar-e Taiba, Jaish-e-Mohammad, the D-Company, and the Haqqanis” do not indicate any great forward shift. The statements seem clearly evasive and couched in diplomatic jargon when it comes to outlining the commonality in the worldview of India and the U.S. China’s aggressive posturing in the region, particularly in the South China Sea, and the turmoil in Iraq and Syria were briefly touched upon. No indication was given as to how the two countries plan to act jointly in these matters.

On the most pressing global issue of the day – the emerging IS threat – the tone has been conspicuously muted with India distancing itself from the anti-IS military coalition. But, there was some visible progress on eight issues that include energy, health, space, women’s empowerment, trade, skills, strategy and security. However, there are miles to go before the actual fruit of this labour is available on the ground. It needs concerted action from the two governments.

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