Tata – Singapore Airlines joint venture — A great deal for Indian aviation

September 24, 2013 at 1:28 pm | Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment
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A new chapter in India’s civil aviation history
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The Tatas dream project poised to take off
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After Kingfisher Airlines ignominiously shut down its operation inviting widespread skepticism about the health of Indian aviation sector, the tripartite joint venture between Air Asia, Telstra Tradespace, and the Tatas brought some cheers back. This venture will run a budget airline.

Analysts now feel that there is no inherent flaw in the Indian aviation sector which a competent management can not overcome. Airlines can be run profitably, as Indigo Airlines and Jet Airways have shown. Vijay Mallaya has to blame none other than his inept management for Kingfisher’s demise.

Now, the Tatas have brought more cheerful news. They will join hands with the redoubtable Singapore Airlines (SIA) in a 51:49 joint venture to start a full service airline.

Aviation enthusiasts would recall that a similar proposal was mooted by the Tatas in the late 1990s, but it could not take off as the civil aviation minister at that time did everything to thwart the initiative. Distraught and frustrated, the two partners gave the proposal a quiet burial.

The civil aviation sector has been experiencing intense competition among the airlines in recent years. Those with weaker management have perished. Only the best and most efficient have survived.

Tatas brought civil aviation to India when JRD Tata set up Tata Airlines, the first Indian commercial carrier to transport mail and passengers within India. JRD himself piloted a single-engine De Havilland Puss Moth in the first leg of the inaugural Karachi-Madras journey. Later it became the government-owned Air India under the stewardship of JRD. After reaching dizzy heights as a popular airline with global reputation under JRD’s watchful eyes, Air India began to slip back when he left the organization. Now, Air India remains a pale shadow of its earlier glory. It survives through government doles from time to time.

The fascination of the House of Tatas for the skies remained un-diminished. This is why Ratan Tata (now retired) had shown so much keenness to start the joint venture with SIA. The Tatas are known for their cost-cutting management skills and the Singapore Airlines has proven track record in modern-day aviation. So, a coming together of these two giants should give the proposed airline a head start.

Indian aviation got a boost when the Jet Airways-Etihad deal was signed recently. The partnership will focus entirely on West Asia and Europe. The Tata-Singapore Airlines venture will, perhaps, concentrate its attention towards Southeast and East Asia. It might as well look at America’s west coast. Airlines, in their business radar, clearly see how important India is presently, and how much potential it, along with other countries of Asia, has for the future. Businessmen, tourists, and students from India are flying in greater numbers to far off places for education, leisure and business.

For the Tata group, starting the two ventures almost simultaneously is a win-win proposition. Air-Asia joint venture will connect the tier two and tier three cities and towns to the metros. On the other hand, the SIA joint venture will connect India’s metros to international destinations.

Singapore Airlines is a respected name in the global airlines business. Its growth, profitability, passenger service and management practices are enviable. The SIA brand will add value to the new airlines. It would also make sense for Singapore Airlines investors to take up two of the six major Indian airports that are going to be privatized in the near future. Chennai, which is a gateway to the East, should be first choice for take-over.
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Writing a winning Civil Service Essay .. Power of Words (2)

September 9, 2013 at 10:24 am | Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment
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Writing a winning Civil Service essay –Power of Words (2) ……

Quintessential … a. Dilip Kumar of Bollywood was the doyen of Hindi cinema during his times. In his roles, he effectively portrayed the rustic young man of the Hindi heartland. Both men and women adored him and yearned to see him on the screen as the quintessential young lover of North India who charmed his way to the hearts of scores of young unmarried girls.

b. Thomas Alva Edison was the quintessential American young deprived boy who, like many other peace-time heroes, defied poverty, lack of formal education and capital to emerge as the country’s most endearing innovator.

Ferment … a. The whole Arab world was under the iron grip of despots for long time. After they were replaced by popular uprising, everyone in the streets and elsewhere in the world expected democracy and good governance to replace the old order smoothly and quickly. But this has proved to be a vain dream. From what we see on TV, the Arab nations are in a state of ferment. The people will have to make heavy sacrifices before they get their cherished government.

b. In India, political parties do not hesitate to ferment communal disturbances if that can get them votes. This is what we are seeing in Muzzafarnagar.

Connoisseur .. a. Despite the opposition from some disaffected groups, Zubin Mehta staged his musical concert in Srinagar. For the connoisseurs of western music, it was a life-time event.
b. Paris is ultimate destination of connoisseurs of wines.

Plenitude … a. The migrant European travelers settled along the banks of rivers like the Indus and the Ganges due to the plenitude of fecund soil and perennial water.

b. The plenitude of drugs in the Goan beaches attracts the backpack tourists most of whom are drug addicts.

Prevaricate … a. On the issue of border incursion by Chinese troops, Defense Minister Anthony drew sharp criticism from the opposition who accused him of prevarication on the matter.

b. About the likely use of gas attack weapons by the Syrian regime, the U.S. Secretary of State Mr. Kerry has claimed that America has irrefutable evidence about the use of Sarin gas by Assad’s forces. However, Mr. Putin remains un-convinced and accuses Kerry of prevaricating over the matter.

Reverential .. a. The reverential body language of most Congress leaders when they come near Sonia Gandhi draws sarcasm from people. The people perceive it as nothing but a show of shameful sycophancy.

b. The audience heard the speech of Desmond Tutu with reverential attention.

Reverberate …. a. The anti-curroption speech of Anna Hazare reverberated through out the length and breadth of India.

b. The sound of the giant artillery guns reverberated in the towns and villages around the border.

Convoluted …. a. Many school students attending the lecture of the Nobel laureate Professor Sen found his speech too convoluted to understand.

b. In India, a Hindu zealot draws as much derision as a Muslim fanatic. This is the sign of genuine maturity of public opinion. People reject their arguments as too one-sided and convoluted.

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Civil Service History — Focus — Russian Revolution -Part 1

July 5, 2013 at 2:53 pm | Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment
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Russian Revolution –Part 1 – A blood-soaked way to social justice and prosperity

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‘To the Emperor of all the Russias belongs the supreme and un-limited power. Not only fear, but also conscience commanded by God Himself, is the basis of obedience to power.’
This is the declaration enshrined in Fundamental Laws of Imperial Russia which describes the absolute rule of the Romanov tsars. The Russians lived under this rule for three centuries.

The Romanov dynasty had arrogated to itself divine status and the right to rule the country. There were many who unquestionably accepted such claim; some more Russians did not bother, where as a few others did not agree. The people, who were too free-thinking and rational not to accept Romanovs’ claim to divinity and the throne, paid with their lives for standing up to the absolute authority of the tsars.

The Romanovs .. Their rule started in 1596 under Emperor Michael 1 and lasted till 1917 under Nicholas II. Volumes have been written on the merits and demerits of the many emperors of the Romanov era. The emperors had their strengths and failings, successes and failures, and high and low points. But, the over-all score card makes dismal reading. Failure to industrialize, indulgence in ruinous wars, resorting to extreme brutality as a tool of administration, myopic judgment on peasant unrest, no enthusiasm for spread of education, and scant regard for popular opinion were the common threads that ran through all these emperors’ reins.

The culmination of the tsarist rule was extremely bloody. It caused wrenching pain to the populace. The emperor and his family members were assassinated. Russians turned on their fellow countrymen with extreme savagery. Scores, banished to the cold hell Siberia, perished. Russian soil became awash with blood in a way that shook the conscience of the whole world.

A new political philosophy – Communism, a brain child of Karl Marx – was born and implemented under the iron-fist guidance of the revolutionary leader Lenin. Millions reveled at the new turn of events; millions pined for the days gone by. Russia changed for good, irreversibly.

In hindsight, most social scientists agree that the last tsar failed to come to grip with the ground realities. He was too aloof to do so. Right before the eyes of the clueless citizens, mother Russia was taking a thousand cuts. It was oozing blood. Yet, no one knew the way out of this most difficult situation, until Russians decided to break free of the old, tired and repressive government.

The chain of events …

The tsarist Russia’s collapse and the rise of the Soviet Union was the culmination of so many events. In short, these can be listed as below.

a. Military defeats and involvement in un-winnable wars

b. Lack of leadership

c. Spineless and lackluster government

d. Entry of the hideous Rasputin to the affairs of the royalty and the country

a. Military defeats …

• Russia’s participation in the First World War was a road to ruin. Germany with its formidable military machine inflicted defeat after defeat on the Russian army. The list of Russian military campaign that went sour is a long one. These are

• In 1914, the Russians invaded Eastern Germany with two large armies. The reasons for this conquest were flimsy, to say the least. The Russian armies were handed down a humiliating defeat by smaller German forces at the battles of Tannenberg and Masurian Lakes.

In 1915, emboldened by its earlier successes, Germany decided to take revenge. Mobilizing its full military might, Germany launched a series of offensives against the Russian army. The Russians were vanquished ceding large areas of Russian territory to the German invaders.

In 1916, for a brief spell, the Russians won some victories against the Austrians and could retrieve some land lost earlier. But then the German army joined the battle in the side of its Austrian ally to inflict a crushing defeat on the Russians.

These military campaigns took a very heavy toll of life, property and money. Soldiers were killed like rats, unable to fight with the much better equipped German forces. The Russian army had just hand grenades and rifles to fight the German guns. At times, even this was not available to the hundreds and thousands of young recruits being rushed to the battle front. They were asked to scout around for weapons from the dead bodies of Russian and German soldiers!

War historians estimate that almost two million soldiers were killed in the battles. A similar number of civilians laid down their lives. The defeat and the deaths took a heavy toll of Russians’ morale. The whole army and the country appeared to be looking for a person at whose door to lay the blame.

b. Lack of leadership ..

In a highly controversial move, Tsar Nicholas II took personal command of the army in 1915. To lead the army better, he left the capital city St. Petersburg and moved to the army headquarters in Russian Poland.
Perhaps Nicholas II thought that under his direct leadership, the faltering Russian army would get the much-needed boost to its flagging moral and fight with renewed verve and enthusiasm. be inspired and would fight with renewed vigour.

Unfortunately, the Tsar, long used to luxury of his palace and the flattery of his sycophants, was unaware of the command and organization of large military forces. He was ill-versed in warfare techniques. The result was disastrous. The misery in the battlefield continued. There was no turning of table on the Germans. The defeats continued piling up suffering on the army and the country.

The command and control of the Russian army faltered dangerously. Massive shortages of ammunition, equipment, and medical supplies marred battle worthiness of the fighting troops.

By assuming the military leadership directly, Nicholas II had put himself on the line of fire, literally. For the military reverses, Russians began to question their Emperor. He was perceived to be personally responsible for leading the ruinous war that was bringing increasing misery to his subjects.

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Part 2 out of five parts will be posted tomorrow.
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Civil Service essay writing — Horror in home — Women at the receiving end

July 2, 2013 at 3:14 pm | Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment
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Horror in home –Women at the receiving end

The World Bank conducted a study into women mortality and health risks worldwide. The study was conducted in collaboration with the London School of Hygiene and Tropical medicine and South African Medical Council.

The findings contained in the World Bank report reveal statistics that are very disturbing. These are .
a. nearly 38% of the murders of women are committed by the near and dear ones.
b. Parents of nearly 30% of the women surveyed routinely subjected their daughters to very brutal treatment
c. As many as 42% of the women under the survey sustain injuries sometime in their life
d. 35% of women have to endure abuse at the hands of their loved ones

So, the humankind deals with nearly half of its members in quite cruel and vile way. What is more disquieting is the fact that such harm to a woman’s body and psyche happens within the confines of her home, at the hands of her trusted and adored ones.

Human societies in all ages, in all places have treated homes as a place of security, comfort, and privacy. This ‘Home Sweet Home’ now stands as a closet from where the wail of the suffering women rings aloud, only to die down under the weight of patriarchal hegemony. Women are stopped from airing the story of their trauma in the name of the family’s name and honour.

The World Bank takes note of the debilitating effect of the pain inflicted on women. It scars them forcing them to lead a degraded stunted life. As the care-taker of the family, a scarred humiliated woman can not giver her best to other members. The whole human race suffers in the process.

Almost all societies from advanced to the least developed, and from east to the west suffer from this malaise. The situation is grim, and calls for urgent redress. So widespread is this practice of torture-enforced male dominance that the World Bank calls it a scourge of epidemic proportions.

Many women can be brought back from the clutches of alcoholism, depression, suicide, AIDS-related diseases if the society abjures the heavy-handed approach in dealing with them.

There are many short term and long term solutions to the problem. The medical and nursing curricula of the country must now lay emphasis on this social aspect of women’s ailment. The medical staff, while treating an affected woman patient, must learn to delve into her domestic environment without embarrassing the patient. A strict assurance of secrecy would prompt many women to pour out their family-rooted woes. Armed with such information, the medical staff can treat the patient with greater ease.

In the 66th World Health Assembly held in May, this onslaught on women’s dignity was deliberated upon. India was one among the seven countries in the Assembly that endorsed a resolution on this matter. The resolution described violence against girls and women as a major public health, gender equality and human rights challenge.

It is a sad commentary on our social justice system that India is a known offender with respect to treatment of women. In majority of the cases, the perpetrators of cruelty against women are her husband and other members of his household.

There are a good set of laws to deter offenders, but enforcement is weak. This is the major infirmity of our system. While stricter enforcement of laws is essential, a systematic campaign to reduce the excessive patriarchal dominance over girls’/ women’s future appears to be the panacea to this problem.

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Civil service General Studies — India’s economy —Doomsday ahead

June 30, 2013 at 9:22 am | Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment
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The creeping insolvency –Indian economy stares in to the dark pit

It may appear to be an exaggeration, but there are unmistakable signs that India is staring into abyss again – the same way it did during Narshmha Rao – Manmohan Singh era in 1991. But there are two important differences. These are ..

a. Dr. Manmohan Singh, crisis manager and finance minister of Prime Minster Narasimha Rao, steered the country out of the crisis by some deft policy moves. This time, the same Dr. Singh has been instrumental in dragging the country to the verge of financial disaster through inaction and indolence.

b. The crisis has not hit the country as yet, so there is no urgent need for mortgaging the nation’s gold and the IMF bail-out. But, if the slide continues apace under this corruption-clogged government, the doomsday may not be too far away.

What are the government’s main worries?  ..

1. It needs 172 billion dollars by 31st March, 2014 to repay the loans the country and the big corporate houses have taken the last few years.

2. India needs an additional 90 billion dollars to neutralize the recurring and continuously increasing deficit in the current account (CAD).

CAD= Forex received from exports /FDI/FII etc. minus Forex outflow for import bill payment.

What precipitated the crisis and its roots …

a. The trigger seems to be the decision of America’s Federal Reserve Board (FED) to stop the practice of ‘Quantitative Easing’. For the lay man, it means that America will stop printing dollars. FED wants to put an end to such a harmful practice because the country’s economy has been growing steadily in the last few months, and the U.S. government’s finances are in much healthier state now. With deficits down, the FED wants to follow more conservative policies and stop recourse to deficit financing.
When this happens in the very near future, availability of ‘easy’ dollars will dry up, and the international banks’ liquidity position will become tight. This will lead to a reduction in the flow of foreign exchange into India through Foreign Direct Investment (FDI) and Foreign Institutional Investors (FII).

b. In not too distant a past, around 2005 to 2011 the picture of Indian economy was rosy with burgeoning Forex reserves and healthy rate of GDP growth. Indian companies borrowed dollars from international banks to meet their growth needs.
Consequently, the country’s international indebtness grew sharply. Repayment of these loans has become due now. So, the Indian companies have to look for dollars to repay their loans. In the coming months, money-flow situation will become tight as and when the FED implements its easy-money policy. It will be very difficult for Indian corporate borrowers to mobilize dollar funds for the redemption of the loans. The Indian companies’ request for roll-over of their loans will not be accepted by the lending banks as they themselves would need huge amount of cash to tide over the situation created by the American FED’s squeeze.

c. Economists dealing with the soundness of a country’s foreign exchange reserves adopt one thumb rule to judge if the country is well-off or is heading towards bad times.
The total short term debt of country is the amount falling due for repayment in twelve month’s time from a given date. If the country has big enough foreign exchange reserves to make this repayment without visible depletion of its reserves, the country is judged to be sound.
Unfortunately, India, presently, does not pass this acid test.
The total repayment obligation for India in the coming 12 months adds up to a staggering USD 172 billion. This is way above India’s capacity, as of now.

d. Indian corporates started taking foreign loans from 2004 onwards. Some of these loans were short term, others were long term. Such borrowing has been increasing since then. With this, the repayment obligation has also increased. Foreign debt repayment as on March 2008 was a mere USD 54.7 billion – equivalent just to 2.5% of the country’s GDP. Now, the total repayment liability has soared to 172 billion dollars as on March 2014, and as a percentage of GDP, the current account deficit (CAD) has ballooned to 5% of GDP.

e. India did not feel the pinch of the continuously increasing CAD in the last four to five years as companies continued to bring in huge amount of dollars as loans from foreign banks. This made up for the deficit of the current account. In short, debt inflows financed our deficits in current account giving us a false sense of ease and comfort.

f. Now the situation has suddenly changed as foreign banks might not lend more, and could ask for their money back. Due to general liquidity crunch in the global market and the hostile investment climate in India, FDI inflows have dwindled alarmingly. Such inflows are not likely to pick up any time soon, at least till this government remains at the helm.

g. Thus, it is proving to be a vicious circle for India where India will need to borrow more to be able to repay earlier loans.

h. India’s exports have been dismal in the last two or three years worsening the current account deficit alarmingly. Sluggish economy caused by government’s monumental apathy has drained the country’s manufacturing sector of its ebullience.
To make matters worse, import bill continues to rise, thanks to the surging crude oil and gold imports.

i. The Indian rupee has been the worst victim of the government’s bungling. From Rs.54 a dollar, it has slipped to Rs.64 a dollar and continues to fall further. A cheaper rupee makes imports costlier. The country will need to pay more for its crude oil imports and foreign loan repayment now.

j. When, the day of reckoning arrives on 31st March, 2014 and Indian government pays off the 172 billion dollars, it will find that its forex reserves of about 290 billion dollars have dried up by 70%! It would be a rude jolt for the country. The aura of stability of the Indian economy will be dented severely.

k. The only lifeline for survival will be the inflow of foreign exchange from expatriate Indians – known as the ‘Invisibles’.

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Readers’ views welcome.
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Civil Service General Studies – India’s natural gas pricing policy – Curtains down, but doubts remain

June 29, 2013 at 1:13 pm | Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment
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Natural gas pricing in India – The imbroglio ends, but who pays

The cabinet has just cleared a two-fold increase in the price of natural gas as recommended by the Rangarajan Committee. India’s gas producers will now sell their gas at USD 8.4 per million metreic British Thermal Unit (mmBTU)

What are the other stipulation of the gas price kike proposal? ….. Gas prices will be revised every three months starting April 1 next year till fiscal 2017, after which they would be market-linked. The Rangrajan Committee had recommended review every one month.

Who gains? .. The following gas producers will gain. It will be an windfall profit for them.
a. Oil and Natural Gas Corporation Ltd (ONGC) – Public sector
b. Oil India Ltd –Public sector
c. Gujarat State Power Corporation Ltd – public sector under Gujarat government
b. Reliance Industries Ltd -Private sector led by Mukhesh Ambani
Reliance is the major producer of natural gases in the country and, so, lions share of the benefits will accrue to this company.

Who will lose? … Power generation companies and fertilizer producing companies will find their input cost soaring. They will pass on the cost to the consumers who will see the cost of electricity jumping from less than Rs. 3 per unit now to a little above Rs. 6 per unit.
The cost of fertilizers bought by farmers will go up sharply bringing additional load to the farmers already reeling under heavy input costs.

To soften the blow to the farmers and the small consumers of electric power, the central government is mulling over the idea of giving subsidies for fertilizers and electric power. But, such a step will be highly regressive as the subsidies, which are being phased out across the board to curtail government deficit, will return with a vengeance. The burden will be paid by the common citizen finally.

Why the government had to increase natural gas prices?

For the last few years, gas production in the country had stagnated or even declined because, Reliance Industries had reported unspecified technical problems in its gas extraction facilities in the Krishna Godavari Basin. Some people allege that Reliance wanted to arm-twist the government on its demand for higher gas prices by deliberately curtailing gas production in the KG Basin.
Alarmed by the uncertainty caused by the unsolved gas pricing issue, inflow of a lot of FDI in oil and gas sector got choked. It led to no new investment in this vital sector. The energy production scenario looked grim.

Consequently, new power generation companies depending on natural gas as their feed either remained shut or operated with low utilization of capacity. It had a direct bearing on the core power generation sector of India.

Similar situation was also faced by fertilizer companies, who had either to make do with costlier imported gas or remain idle. The country had to import fertilizers spending its precious forex reserves.

Thus, due to the intransigence (unproven, though) of one major gas producer, the country’s economy was getting hit in so many vulnerable areas.

The government of India had appointed a committee headed by Mr. Rangarajan, the previous governor of the Reserve Bank of India. It was asked to go into the merits of Reliance Industries demand for a seven-fold increase in gas prices, and suggest the steps the government of India could take to end the impasse.

The recent approval of the government to agree for a two-fold price rise was the culmination of this process.

The Rangarajan committee’s formula to decide the extent of price increase of natural gas was calculated using the weighted average rate (WAR) of three international hubs of natural gas – the Henry Hub (US), the PNB (UK) and the well-head price in Japan.

Who opposed the price hike and why? ..

The natural gas, as a resource, belongs to the nation. In principle, it should be used for the country’s good, not to unduly enhance the gain of the corporate houses simply because they have facilitated its exploration and extraction. Reasonable return on investment –yes. Exploitative pricing – no. Even the Supreme Court has clarified that the oil and gas fields belong to the nation.

The burden enhanced gas prices bring is frightening. According to the fertilizer pricing expert’s estimates, a $1 rise in natural gas prices would lead to an annual increase of a whopping Rs3,155 crore for fertiliser plants producing 23 million tonnes of urea. Clearly, such a load can neither be borne by the farmers, nor by the government. Cosmetic amelioration through subsidies will accentuate the pain.

Now, the moot question is why the Indian farmer will buy fertilizer produced with natural gas at international prices? Does he get the benefits his counterpart in developed countries get?

If at all an international reference is needed, why consider other gas hubs like the PNB (U.K) And those in Japan? Reference to Henry Hub would have sufficed.

Further, if international gas prices shoot up in future due to reasons like war, conflicts, sanctions etc., why will the Indian farmer be asked to take the hit through enhanced power and fertilizer costs?

The present formula stipulates no ceiling on the price of natural gas. This does not stand reason. Gas prices touching the heart and soul of the farmers and consumers must not be subjected to the vagaries of international commodity pricing. That will be disastrous.

The gas producers now operate with no government oversight or regulatory controls. This is one reason why the CAG still struggles to get unfettered access to the Reliance accounts books. This opacity must end. A regulator must be set up to oversee the operations of the gas producers.

Strident demands have been made by the Left parties to aggressively pursue cost recovery and penalty claims against Reliance. Till now, the company has succeeded in barricading itself against government’s insight into these areas. Vast sums of government revenue due from Reliance remain un-recovered. This happens when the government remains so starved for resources.

Reliance has under-recovered gas from the KG basin, citing technical reasons. After this price hike, the gas fields will become fecund again. In that case, the minimum the government must do is to ask Reliance to make up the past production loss first (at old rates of USD 4.2) before it claims the new enhanced gas prices.

The other recommendation of the Rangarajan Committee to shift to a ‘revenue-sharing arrangement’ in place of the preset buyer-seller arrangement must be enforced with vigour. Such a policy will preempt pricing disputes and the tendency of the companies to artificially and often fraudulently inflate their investment figures, known as ‘gold-plating’.

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Quick steps to good English 18 — Using the right word in the right place

June 28, 2013 at 1:24 pm | Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment
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Quick steps to good English 18 ..

(Use of right word in the right place)

1. Hitler’s eloquence skill was par excellence. He was blunt, forthright and passionate about what he spoke. The present prime minister of India Dr. Manmohan Singh, a highly educated person, is a class apart. He measures each word he speaks so as to not to make any boastful claim or offend anyone. His critics describe his speeches as understated, tentative and ———-.

a. eloquent
b. restrained
c. dignified
d. authentic

2. The magician was performing a trick on stage. He had brought with him a number of bottles each with a different type of liquid. He mixed all the contents into a glass jar. He made a goat standing on the stage drink just a few spoonfuls of this ———-. Soon, the goat began to roar like a tiger making the entire audience gape at the magician with awe.

a. mixture
b. concoction
c. fluid
d. wonder liquid

3. A prison was notorious for its violent inmates. A new jailer joined duty with the mandate to somehow rein in the convicts. Being a man of benign and liberal nature, he offered the prisoners better food, more recreation facilities and prompt treatment for their ailments. He hoped that such ———– of the prisoners’ difficulties would sober them down.

a. amelioration
b. sympathizing
c. removal
d. addressing

4. Within hours of the Hindu fanatic leader giving his speech deriding the Muslim community, a Muslim leader organized a meeting of his followers to deliver a more pungent hate speech. Soon, the two communities got involved in violence. The media played a responsible role to calm down the surcharged atmosphere. They, however, did not hesitate to state that the ———– speeches delivered in the meetings of the two communities triggered the violence.

a. accusing
b. rabid
c. incendiary

5. The Soviet Union is no more. The mightiest military power on earth vanished without a single bullet being fired. Many theories have been propounded by political scientists to explain why the Soviet Union ——— like this.

a. withered
b. shriveled
c. imploded

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Answers with explanations will be posted tomorrow.
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Kidney transplant in Tamil Nadu — How to avoid organ trade

June 28, 2013 at 5:17 am | Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment
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Dharmapuri in Tamil Nadu sells mangoes in the open and kidneys in the sly …

 

It is common knowledge that chronic ailments like cancer, liver and kidney failures, and diabetes-related ailments are rising sharply in the country. Some of these need organ transplant from a source which can be either a cadaver or a living human being.

To prevent unethical and involuntary donation of organs like kidneys from fit human beings, the state governments have constituted expert screening committees without whose authorization, a kidney can’t be taken out of an able-bodied donor. One of the jobs of the expert committee is to examine if the donor has been enticed by money or coercion to give away his organ. In case of a whiff of suspicion, the committee refuses permission.

It was felt that the expert committees would prevent exploitation of poor and under-privileged people by moneyed individuals needing organs. Regrettably, these committees have themselves come under cloud of suspicion of corruption. They are alleged to be according permission in exchange of hefty bribes.

The state of Tamil Nadu has its expert committee known as the Authorization Committee which has been constituted under the Human Organs Act, 1994. The performance of this Authorization Committee has, of late, attracted flak for yielding to money power.

Like in many other development parameters, Tamil Nadu leads the country in lawful transfer of organs from cadavers to needy patients. In less than five years, as many as 1030 organ transfers have been effected. Out of this 641 are kidney transfer cases. Transfers in this manner do not attract any suspicion. Such impressive figures of transfer have won global appreciation.

However, the demand for kidneys is far more than the numbers in offer. This demand-supply gap breeds unethical ‘buying’ of kidneys from poor people in dire need of money. Clearly, this is a very vile trade that must be curbed.

To fight the menace of organ sale and purchase, the following steps can be taken.

a. The deliberations of the Authorization Committee should be transparent. It should be open to the public, especially human rights activists and similar pressure groups.
b. The deliberations can be video recorded for future scrutiny, and the cases approved and refused be put in a website along with the reasons for such decision.
c. Kidney dialysis procedures in government hospitals must be heavily subsidized to enable poor and needy patients to avail them. This will reduce the continuously increasing demand for organs.
d. The cost of home-based peritoneal dialysis should also be reduced so that needy patients avail the treatment at home, and do not queue up in the government hospitals.
e. The most effective long-term solution to this scourge of serious organ-failure diseases lies in educating the public about the harmful effects of excessive sugar and salt in diet. Periodic check of sugar levels, taking steps to preempt diabetes, and leading a physically active life are the most effective safeguards against this creeping malady that looms over the nation today.

Like in many other matters, Tamil Nadu must lead the nation by setting an example.
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Views and comments of readers will be most appreciated.

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Civil Service –International Relations –Focus Iran

June 19, 2013 at 7:43 am | Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment
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Will Iran return to mainstream global arena?

In other words, can an all-out Israeli-led, U.S.-supported attack on Iran be pre-empted? Both these questions are closely interlinked. Israel will dare not attack a nation that has returned to mainstream politics through demonstration of good behaviour. That would be a public relations disaster for Israel. Responsible behaviour from Iran would take the wind out of Israeli hawks’ sails.

An Israeli attack on Iran would be utterly destructive. Iran would surely fight back to its last breath. The flame of anti-Semitism will burn for another century. It will keep the whole of middle-east in tenterhooks for decades.

One can only hope that the hawks in Israel and the new leadership in Iran led by the moderate Presdent Rouhani will weigh the effects of confrontational politics which has bedeviled the region so far.

Seen rationally, the ball is firmly in Iran’s court. The world looks at Rouhanni for a decisive push towards normalization. But can he do it? To examine this, let us see the tasks the president has on his hands.

Task 1 .. Freeing political prisoners …

As a legacy of the Ahmedinezad era, nearly 800 political prisoners now languish in Iran’s jails. They include political activists, lawyers, journalists, engineers, doctors, Sunni radicals and host of such people the previous administration considered hostile. The prisoners include Mir Houssein Moussavi and his wife who lost the last controversial presidential election. The entire leadership of the Bahai faith in Iran are behind bars for preaching a ‘deviant’ faith.

Securing their release will remove a blot from Iran’s polity. If Rouhani frees them, it will bolster his image at home and abroad.

Task 2 .. Relationship with the Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khameini and his hard-line cohorts ..

The Ayatollah heads the all-powerful Supreme National Security Council, an unelected body with over-arching hold over government. He is an austere orthodox man opposed to liberal values of a modern democracy. Will he cede concessions to the elected President Rouhani? If so, at what pace?

It is unrealistic to suppose that the Ayatollah will not heed the people’s general desire for change towards a more tolerant and transparent government.
The good thing is President Rouhani, a highly erudite person, has long served as a confidant of the Ayatollah. He must be enjoying the supreme leader’s confidence, otherwise, his candidature in the election would have been negated.

In the past, Rouhani has headed many important government committees including one on defense. So, it would be difficult to assume that the Ayatollah and the President would act in cross purposes.

It would need great dexterity on the part of President Rouhani to stay the course towards moderation without annoying the hard-liners and the supreme leader. Keeping these two on board will ease Rouhanni’s work.

Task 3 … Invigorating the ailing economy ..

This is, undoubtedly, the most daunting and urgent task for the president. Iran’s economy is down on its knees. Almost all parameters like jobs , exports, GDP, inflation, exchange rate of rial (down by 80%), foreign exchange reserves and per capita income paint alarmingly dismal picture. U.S.-led sanctions have crippled the country, draining it of all vitality. With inflation at 60% and unemployment at 12%, the common citizen finds day-to-day hardships too difficult to endure.

President Rouhani will need to press the pedal hard to bring the economy back on track. He will need to walk the extra mile to make the Americans agree to lift the sanctions. Once oil exports are restored, the government will get some breathing space to think of other steps to accelerate economic growth. Once the banking restrictions are lifted, Iran can begin to trade normally. It would quickly bring down the prices of many commodities.

Task 4 .. Ending the nuclear stand-off …

Most Iranians feel their president needlessly pushed the country to a corner by showing extreme rigidity in its negotiations with the western countries. It now falls on the new President to rebuild the bridge of understanding without compromising the country’s interest and self-respect.

The Ayatollah, if rubbed on the wrong side, might veto all the initiatives of the new president to break the stand-off. If the present stalemate continues, the sanctions will draw nearer. Much more importantly, the possibility of a massive air strike by Israel will become tantalizingly near. This is like deliberately courting disaster and ruin.

Rouhani has taken the first step quite successfully. He has announced that Iran will bring down the curtain around its nuclear programme, which it avers is peaceful and within the NPT parameters. He has also maintained that Iran’s nuclear journey will continue as before. In the coming weeks, more clarity on Iran’s nuclear policy will emerge. But, if at all Rouhani is contemplating a roll-back of its programme, he will have to hard-sell the idea to the supreme leader first. That might be quite a job.

Task 5 .. Relations with the outside world ..

Iran is a vibrant nation. In arts, science, law, films, architecture, literature and games and sports, it bristles with energy and creativity. For such a race, to be ostracized in the global arena is a humiliation. Sadly, the international community perceives an average Iranian as a trouble-maker. Years of nuclear-related and western-inspired misinformation has brought this ignominy to the Iranians.

President Rouhani will need to remove this pall of hostility. The sooner he does it, the better for this country.

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Readers are requested to send in their comments on this post. It will energize the world-wide debate on this topic going on presently.

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Iran presidential elections — Winds of change, at last

June 17, 2013 at 2:27 am | Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment
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A thumbs up for Iran’s democracy

Ahmadinezad, the bete noire of the western world, will soon demit office as Iran’s President. The country will have Hassan Rouhani – a moderate leader – as its president. The western world, which has always chastised Iran’s democracy as sham, will heave a sigh of relief.

Rouhani won with a clear majority leaving his conservative rivals far behind. The voter turn-out was good (well above 70%). It is, therefore, correct to conclude that the Iranian voters overwhelmingly desire a clear shift towards moderation in social, political and international policy matters. Ahmadinezad’s fire-spewing rabid speeches and his strident anti-west policies are passé.

Western political pundits have time and again expressed the view that the shadow of the conservative Ayatollahs always looms over Iran’s electorate and the country can never break free of their strangle hold. Their fears may be partially true. However, the Iranian voters have proved such an opinion wrong by voting in a moderate whose policies will be radically different from his conservative predecessor. The winds of change in Iran are quite palpable.

The 2009 presidential elections that gave Ahamadinezad a second term in office were mired in swirling controversy. The resentment among sections of the voters had resulted in street demonstrations, arrests and shameful police heavy-handedness that sullied Iran’s image internationally. These unsavoury incidents will quietly become Iran’s history. The Islamic Republic has redeemed itself through this election.

Iran’s Guardian Council, an un-elected body of conservative Ayatollahs, has some powers that no other institution in any other democracy enjoys. It can disqualify candidates, nipping in bud their presidential aspirations.

Ahmadinezad’s nominee Esfandioar Mashaei as well as the former president Ali Akbar Rafsanjani, the later a votary of moderation, suffered this fate. They could not enter the fray. This led to Rafsanjani’s supporters joining ranks with those of Rouhani. It boosted his voter base.

In bringing about such consolidation of ‘moderate’ votes, the role of Rafsanjani and the former President Mohammed Khatami has to be lauded. The clamour for moderation, thus, got the desired boost. Splintering of such voters was avoided.

The Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei had called upon his countrymen to come out and vote irrespective of their allegiances. This worked and the voters thronged the booths in droves.

Iran, almost pushed to a corner by international criticism, had to be brought back to mainstream. This change in direction will be facilitated by the voters’ unequivocal support for a moderate candidate. Rohani’s reign will result in lifting of the crippling sanctions and the dousing of hostility that Iran had to contend with, thanks to Ahmadinezad’s needless rabble-rousing.

For India, Rouhani’s victory is good news. The bonhomie between the two countries that existed in the Khatami era may return.

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