Sunday, November 30, 2008

Time For Some Serious Changes....!!

The Mumbai ordeal is over for now. And peace has returned, momentarily of course. Its a rude shock to all of us, and the pain is being felt even more, because the rich and the powerful of India have been hit, unlike the common man who was hit in such past incidents. This was a whole different group of people who had to bear the brunt of terrorism in its worst form. A elite group, that can afford to eat at Five Star luxury, dont use local trains and send only their servants to buy vegetables at the market. And when this segment of elite Indians are angry, a lot of change and reforms can be expected in the system.
Well, not that my opinion will have much of a bearing on the wise policy makers of the country, i would like to request them to pull up their socks and start working seriously. Here are a few of my recommendations from a common man's perspective.

  • DON'T POLITICIZE terrorist activities : When so many people die helplessly, seeing politicians argue about who is responsible, is very hurtful and childish. Either one is in power, the same would have happened. Instead, they should sit together and analyze what went wrong and take corrective measures  as soon as possible.

  • Redefine the term terrorism : When a mob beats up poor taxi drivers and daily wage laborers, or when places of worship are destroyed and nuns beaten up, that is terrorism too. When things begin to happen according to the whims and fancies of one person, that is terrorism too. When one man or organization emerges above the law, then that is defintely terrorism. So when people express shock that how can 10-12 people siege a big city like Mumbai, then they need to do a reality check and see that it has happened very recently too. So terrorism has to be redefined as : "Any act, that causes fear of bodily harm, in the minds of the common man."

  • Make STRICT laws and even STRICTER implementation :  Stricter laws are necessary to curb terrorism, but what is even more important is how they are implemented. If the laws are not implemented to its full potential, then they might as well have not been created at all. This could work through the other extreme too. Measures have to be taken to monitor that the the laws are not used to oppress any innocents ( for political, ideological or personal matters ). This monitoring could be done through an unbiased human rights body, working in tandem with the investigation.

  • Politicians must steer clear of all investigations: This is even more important. Unless the security agencies work with full freedom, they wont produce any results. In fact, a politicians often influence investigations for "certain reasons". Maybe the accused is of a particular community or background, or a religious leader or any such frivolous reason, don't try to protect them or amass public support for them, till the law pronounces its verdict. Lets focus on the enormity of the crime committed, and not on the social status of the criminals. Not just in terrorism related cases, but in all other cases as well.

  • Create well equipped state agencies and police: In the Mumbai incident, it was the NSG that spear headed the entire operations. Before they arrived, the state police was clueless about what they were dealing with. So hence, even our state police must be trained to the level of our best commandos, so that they can answer to such calls ASAP. And have the NSG available quickly, for such national problems, rather than thrusting them more just for VIP protection. Also better disaster management teams and emergency services must always be on the ready. All should be capable enough to coordinate amongst themselves, without requiring any "higher level" of clearance.

  • Provide high tech equipments: No expenses must be spared to equip our soldiers and police with the latest in weapons, armor and surveillance. I think we have seen enough of those pre-independence rifles left by the British, which are mere toys compared to what terrorists hold. These outdated weapons must be quickly replaced by something which is a lot more reasonable. Also better equipments must be used at public places to monitor the crowds, through bomb detectors, CCTV and any other relevant accessories. Also the checks must be carried out always, and not just for a few days after any incident. People would rather spend a few extra minutes for security, rather than having to spend time in the grip of terror. Yes, its difficult to monitor such a large population, but there is not other option.

  • Take good care of army, police and intelligence personnel: They risk their lives in the line of duty. So its the duty of the government to ensure that they are paid well and live a good quality life.

  • Initiate better intelligence gathering mechanisms:  Intelligence is important for security. Apart from gathering intelligence, its vital that that its acted upon swiftly. Like if there is a likelihood of an attack through the sea, then there must be action taken to patrol them. No use crying about it when something bad happens, in spite of an intelligence warning. Such a thing is extremely irresponsible...! So never ignore a warning or an alert, no matter how vague or indefinite it might look. It never hurts to be a bit extra cautious.

  • Unite the people in the war against terror: Ultimately its all about the people. Big terror attacks seldom happen without any local help. Whatever the reason for the internal aid may be, must be identified and stopped. Homegrown terrorists is something which will be most difficult to handle. Most of the time its social conditions, monetary benefits or misleading propaganda that drive them to do this. That is, they dont think of themselves to fit into Indian society,or are not comfortable with their Indian identity. So first of all, disparities and discrimination's must be eliminated, and steps should be taken towards a division less India. Leaders will have to look beyond caste, religion and language politics, to spread this spirit of being ONE. The people of India must share a feeling of being Indian, over any other discrimination. Encouraging a nationalist spirit in each one of us, will ensure that we work towards upliftment and glory of the motherland. As citizens lets pledge to spread love and not hate. Let us find more reasons to love each other, rather than to kill each other.

Well, these are just some of my views, and nothing seems to be unrealistic or impossible to implement. All this is feasible, if only the right efforts are put into it, as soon as possible. Or else such incidents will keep jolting us rudely. Getting angry and spirited for a day or two wont help. We need long term solutions. The feeling of "Thank God it wasn't me" has to be changed, and any such incident has to be thought of an attack on each and every one of us. Lets not allow the deaths of so many innocent people to go in vain. Lets change the way things are around here...

Jai Hind

Thursday, November 27, 2008

Battleground Mumbai

There is never a period of extended peace in the country. Just when things seem alright and peaceful, someone comes up and stirs up the hornet's nest. The gruesome acts of terrorism in the financial capital of the country, just shows the guts of these inhumane perpetrators. What did all these people they have killed ever do to them? Now don't bring in the stories of avenging those who died in Iraq, Afghanistan, Bosnia or Kashmir - the videos of which were shown to motivate them. Because these people were just normal people going about their normal lives, and had nothing to do with armed conflict till the day they were killed in cold blood. That too for absolutely no reason at all.
It has been almost twenty four hours, since it all started in Mumbai. Such coordinated attacks show a well researched and planned operation, and was different from the way things used to be carried out by them. Such deviation from their conventional method shows that they were aided by a well informed intelligence setup and expertise. The entry into Mumbai through boats, attacks over a large number of areas, and finally holding up in some of the most famous landmark hotels in Mumbai, seemed part of a well planned and rehearsed plot. Finally the showdown boiled down to three places in the city. Catching the security forces off guard, the terrorists managed to inflict quick and heavy damage. The body count kept rising, as the police and the army began to take control of the situation.
The thing to be noted is the fact that all (or at least those shown on television) the terrorists involved seemed quite young. I don't know what drives then to commit to such horrific acts. Must be some religiously fanatic "preacher" who convinces them to do this and reach God or something. I don't know if that is actually written somewhere or just a clever little manipulation by the wicked minds. For one thing, in no way is killing of innocent people, including women and children going to make any God happy ( if there is any such entity ). No religion warrants such extreme senseless hate on others. I used to think economic conditions force them to do this, but that theory has been quite clearly proved wrong many times in the past. Ultimately, its just a lot of waste that terrorism that leaves behind.
As for things in Mumbai, i don't want to go into the details about what happened where. As i am unsure of the exact facts, just like the media, which is frantically trying to piece together the puzzle with all the bits and pieces of information that they can get their claws on. I always thought of the media to be like hungry vultures, lurking around to get their beaks in on the action. Well, that is their job, to keep us all "well informed" through an over - dramatized depiction of the sequence of events. And some of the questions that they asked to the police, army and rescued hostages were absolutely stupid. Like the question to a freed hostage: "Were you scared?". Duh.. what else do you expect...?
Amidst of all this chaos the one thing that brought hope and courage to millions of Indians, was the presence of soldiers and the police. The Mumbai police in spite of losing some brave top officials continued to assert their presence at the vicinity of all the three "war" zones. The army was soon at the place, along with the NSG and marine commandos, to take on the terrorists with as little collateral damage as possible. I always had great admiration of our armed forces, who are so inspirational at such times of crisis. Almost inspire a sort of patriotic fervor, in times such as these.
As more and more hostages began to be taken out, the news of those who died too kept on rising. Hoping for the best by tomorrow i wish that the losses to life are kept to the minimum. As for India's image is concerned, it has been tarnished a bit. Allowing foreigners to be killed in such manner shows our weakness and incapability to provide internal security. Now those planning to come to India, will think twice after this incident. Already the foreign cricketing teams have decided that India is not "safe". I suppose this is what the terrorists planned to achieve. But for what...? I fail to understand the purpose of violence, that lacks justification. I do hope that soon after peace is restored, all the political parties behave like responsible citizens for a change, and work out a solution from scratch. We have the resources, but its just that they get caught up in too much of politics, to actually bring about anything productive. I hope that this time it will be different, at least for the sake of those have who lost their lives meaninglessly...

Jai Hind

Down and Washed Out

Well, I am not talking about the India - England ODI series, but rather the situation of Tamil Nadu, currently under the siege of heavy rains. Many parts of the state have been severely battered by cyclonic winds and torrential rains. The losses have been huge - both material as well as of life. Well, we cant control nature, but what we can control is how we handle the situation. We cant stop the rain, which is actually a good thing, but at least the losses and inconvenience can be minimized.

Fine, let me not get carried away too far. Helping out the rural villages seems very far away, when we cant even manage the water in the capital of the state - Chennai...!! Every year its the same old story. Promises are made to improve the storm water management infrastructure, but barely a line is drawn after the rains stop. Badly planned suburbs as well as major streets submerged in a lot of water, with floating debris, doesn't make for a very pretty sight. And having more than a foot of water flowing around in even some of the busiest and commercial places in the city, shows the pathetic state of affairs that are prevalent here. The worst part is, most of the time you cant be sure if it is the rain water or sewage water that you are stepping into. Furthermore the traffic woes in the city are a cause of anguish for many motorist, and during the rains, the flooded streets make matters absolutely frustrating...! Oh and don't forget the pot holes, that are lying in wait, submerged under the water for unsuspecting motorists and pedestrians...! 
These are just some of the hardships that everyone in Chennai has to put up with, during these times. Things are bad, just as it was last year, and the year before that. Can things improve..?? First of all, there cant be any improvement of the system, because quite plainly, there is no existing storm water management system in place at all...! That is because while planning the city, there was felt no need to have such a thing in place. I suppose its due to the fact that Chennai has witnessed several droughts in the past. So they must have thought... "Rains...? In Chennai...? No way...!! ". Fine, so the older parts of Chennai cant be blamed for lack of preparedness, but what about the new ones that came up after rapid urbanization of the city?

You cant expect any better of them, because lands are allotted for residential purposes, without any basic infrastructure. Not even sanitation facilities are provided in newly allocated areas, let alone storm water systems. As these areas begin to flourish, it becomes more and more difficult to develop infrastructure within them. So they just have learn to live with all the "inconveniences", such as the flooded streets.

Further more occupation ( illegal or "legal" encroachment ) and destruction of the inland water bodies does not allow the water to go anywhere. The natural water bodies can to some extent help to control at least a part of the rain water. Like the cooum river which if properly utilized could carry away the excess rain water ( currently transporting several liters of untreated sewage ) into the ocean. If not, all this rain water on the street could be channelized and stored in a reservoir.

To put something like this in order needs a huge revamp of  the city's planning. Putting in sufficiently capable storm drains in every part of Chennai is indeed a massively huge project...! Proper planning has to be done, busy streets have to be dug up, and work has to go on unhindered. Ultimately, to provide relief to the people of Chennai for one - two months, they have to be put through hardships for several months. Seems fair in the long run at least, for the people and the image of Chennai...!

So if this is the condition of the state's capital, then I don't see any ray of hope for the rural masses. They will continue to lose property and life to nature's ravages, most of which can be avoided by awareness and preparedness. Just monetary compensation for the losses, is definitely NOT the solution to this problem...!

Thursday, November 20, 2008

Terror On The High Seas

The only sort of pirates that i was familiar with, were the types that sell/download pirated software and movies ( No wait... the other pirate i know is Captain Jack Sparrow... Ahem ). But then, all of a sudden, the Somalian sea pirates ( some prefer to call them terrorists ) are all over the news and in the Gulf of Aden...!
And they have a quite a crafty racket set up. Their modus operandi involves using fast motor boats to get near merchant ships, clambering onto them, holding a gun to the crew's head and demanding ransom from the owner of the ship. And this plot of their works, as some of the demands for money were met by the shipping corporates. In fact it worked so well that it has begun to happen a lot more frequently than one could ever imagine. Eleven raids in ten days, and a about seventy five ( and constantly rising ) in this year alone, seems like a desperately frantic attempts by the Somalian pirates to make a quick buck.

Equipped with a few large Russian-built "mother boats" trawlers, a fleet of smaller fast speed boats, and armed with automatic weapons and RPGs, these pirates are as deadly as they come. They also have radar and other communication equipments. Most merchant ship's crew, have no option to put up any kind of resistance. Currently there are several ship crews held as hostage, and some lives have also been lost in the past. It must be terrible for the crew who are stuck in such a predicament.. Such is the notoriety of these pirates, who are quite deadly and well organized. Of course, the ransom money is used to buy more arms, and to fund the struggles and conflicts within Somalia.
So bring in the big navy big boys, on their big boat, with their big guns. Many warships, including an Indian stealth frigate - INS Tabar, are in the Arabian sea to check the rampage of these pirates. I don't know much know about the success rate of the other nation's navies, but the Indian ship has been able to repel a few raids and even managed to sink a "mother ship" vessel. Many in the Indian media claimed that sinking this pirate vessel is the biggest success of the Indian navy since the 1971 Indo-Pakistan war. I say that such comments are really silly and embarrassing, and even the navy shrugs it off as being a very minor accomplishment. After all it was a pathetic old pirate ship that was sunk, and not some big armed warship of sorts. Nevertheless, it was a big breakthrough. But that didn't deter the pirates too much, who managed capture a merchant ship on the same day. Its not the strength of the pirate ships, but rather the sheer number of them in the open seas and their operative success, which is scary.

Anyway, this is now a serious international issue, that can go out of proportions, if left unchecked. Soon, other desperate organizations, in a bid to raise funds for their cause will begin to resort to such "lucrative" measures. Hence this menace has to be nipped at the bud as soon as possible. This can be achieved only through co-operative measures among the various navies to combat the pirates. As for the family members of those currently held hostage, need to keep their spirits up and pray for a quick resolution of the crisis.

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Shown The Way Out

The global financial crisis has affected almost everyone. Either its the looming danger of losing your job, or the fear of complete closure of the industry itself. In this current scenarios, as small and large companies are desperately trying to be in the green, cutting down on the excess workforce seems to be the first viable solution for them, as generating any profits seems definitely seems out of the question. So spending so much on operational costs seems most "wasteful", given the fact that they are getting back very little in return.

Cutting cost by other means, certainly was of some help, but wasn't enough. Like the lavish perks showered on the managerial level have been choked this year. So no expensive gadgets, leather handbags or luxurious Caribbean cruise for them this year. Others got their salaries cut down significantly, or were denied the raise that was promised to them. Companies planning to come up with new launches have put their plans on hold. But things didn't seem to get better in spite of all this, and some were even forced to shut down.

Many IT companies have or are planning to cut down the so called "non performing" work force. And hence the dreaded pink slip with the dismissal notice, makes many cry these days. Or the fear of getting one soon, gives nightmares to many. Even the small scale workers are feeling the pinch. Working on a daily wage basis and with not much of financial backup, things seem very bleak for them. Searching for alternatives is quite difficult. Though i believe these workers will probably be more successful at getting work in alternative fields, than the IT chaps.

So, how do people react to this. Well they certainly wont be jumping with joy. There is a lot of anger and resentment among the workers, towards their employers. But it hardly seems the appropriate course of action. The employers either have the option of hitting the floor with bankruptcy or facing the wrath of the employees. Trying to toe the line carefully between a communist and capitalist ideology, the later seems to be the most appropriate, as it gives the opportunity for the employer to maintain financial credibility, and maybe even take back the employees in the near future. But that's just what i feel as the most appropriate thing to do. Whether it will happen or not, I am not sure.

Whether they are air hostesses, banker or a daily wage worker, times are tough. But we all have to go through it nevertheless. I just hope that things go back to normal very soon, and people can safely afford to sleep at work, without the fear of getting dismissed. Till then, people will be at the edge of their seats, hoping that its not them next. That's the situation all over the world. How good or bad things will go from here on, is a big mystery that no one is sure about.

Friday, November 14, 2008

The Devils are Advocates..!

Any one I am sure would agree to the fact that our law system and judiciary are one of the worst functioning bodies in the country. We never have much respect for the law -  and we make it a point to safely break as many as possible. As for those who are well read with the subject of law - the lawyers - don't have too much of respect for it either. As it turns out they learn law only to find ways to break it. No wonder most turn out to become politicians ( read as criminals ). Lawyers are quite plainly associated to be liars and criminals. And judges are assumed to be corrupt and inefficient. This doesn't mean everyone is like this. Just that the general  perception is such. And unfortunately its true most of the time.

So why this sudden interest regarding the lawlessness in the country? That's because, I like many others, just had the opportunity to see ( on TV  of course ) some hideous acts of violence amongst aspiring lawyers, at the Dr. Ambedkar law college in Chennai. In case you missed it,  check out the Link. The visuals were quite barbaric and it was difficult to imagine those hooligans to be lawyers or even students..! If that's how they usually behave, one might as well imagine how well they respect the law. Ok forget the law, at least for humanities sake they should have taken some pity on those getting  pounded mercilessly.

It was terrible to see guys getting beaten so bad, and continuing to get beaten even after losing consciousness. And these were lawyers -  supposed to be educated and all. Oh heck, who am i kidding. Fine, they were future politicians. Now that sounds a lot better, right..? Yes dirty politics it is..!  As a matter of fact, there is a high amount of polarization amongst the law college students. They are divided intentionally on caste and political basis. All done so by politicians, in order to groom the next generation of political cadres. All this violence and hate has been sowed by the political set up, which warrants them to hate each other in order to maintain the sanctity of communal politics.

Now coming to another part, which is highlighted more than the other, is the inaction of the police. Unfortunately it seems the police being mute spectators was the largest crime at the scene, on that day. By doing this they are actually trying to evade the fundamental problem and the reasons behind such violence. To put it in perspective, imagine if the police entered the premises, lathi charged a few rioters and brought calm to the place, then the next day's headlines would have been "Brutal police attack innocent law students". And all the political parties would have staged a protest outside the Commissioner's office against police brutality. Yes that's India for you. Police is actually being made a scapegoat, in order to evade the major issues ,like always. The main issue is the political influence in these colleges, and dirty communal politics. But no politician seems to make a comment on purifying educational institutions off such political hatred. As for the police - who made them this way? Isn't it the way things are around here? Aren't the police always mute spectators to crimes? conclude, law makers breed lawyers who break the law in front of law enforcers. In order to change things around here, all this frivolous wastage of talent needs to be curbed by channelizing the hate into something more productive. And that requires a lot change in these people's attitude. So a request to all political leaders - dont nurture hatred to serve your own needs. Instead unite the people and create a caste-less, division less India.
Jai Hind

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

The Tainted Uniform...

The Indian Armed forces are one of the most respected organizations in the country. Especially the Army, which gets the most honor amongst them all. The code of discipline and courage is legendary. Their passion devoid of all fervor, other than for service towards the motherland. Once a soldier, is always regarded as a soldier. People respectfully give titles to men who have served in the army. Such is the respect given to the soldiers of the country.

Yet recent revelations on the Malegaon incident, have greatly tarnished the army's secular image. Never would i have imagined that men in the army would be involved in such forms of treason. That too amongst high ranked officers. Soldiers who had fought off terrorism, had become one of them. Yes, these of course are the actions of a few, and should in now way brand all the soldiers similarly. Yet the reputation of the army has taken quite a beating.
Why this scares most, is because of the sort of training they undergo, and the amount of expertise they posses. This means that they are highly skilled in whatever they do. One can't imagine the worst, if such a thing were to happen again.
The armed force have mostly stayed clear of internal politics and strictly remain in control of the leaders of the nation. Such a discipline is almost remarkable in an army that ranks 3rd in the world, with respect to size. That too in spite of so many diversities amongst those who serve in them. They are a true picture of how we all can get along well and accomplish so much as a unit.

But, there have been minor problems. The armed forces in India have always been amidst some sort of controversies from time to time. Such as weapon procurement, bribes, harassment, fratricide, espionage, inefficiency, unpreparedness, aging hardware etc etc. But those were issues concerned within the army. They by in large did not affect the common man in any significant way. But being involved in such terrorist activities has been the first of its kind. Who else can we look for protection if not the men in uniform. They are there to help at times of chaos -  man-made or natural. Their selfless service and courage gives reassurance to the entire country that things will be fine and under control.

Whatever it may be, i still have high regard for the armed forces. They are a remarkable group of ladies and gentlemen, and hope that collaborating with such misguided forces wont ever happen again.
Jai Hind

Sunday, November 09, 2008

Oh - Bama...!

First of all I am happy that George Bush is not the President of the United States any more*. And second, i am happy that George Bush is not the president of the United States anymore**. And finally, i am happy for Barack Obama as the 44th President of the United States.

And i guess he is black too. Not that it should make a difference, or be even considered as a statistic or a record. But i suppose it is a big deal, and gives a lot of hope to many in America. As well as a reason to celebrate for those who share their roots with him, back in Kenya.
He does have quite a lot of hot stuff to handle right now. The economic crisis is just one of them, and what a big mess it is. The wars in Afghanistan and Iraq will soon have to be handled and sorted out, as cleanly as possible. And i bet there are several other diplomatic and political problems to face as well. He has promised a lot to the Americans, frustrated by wars, terrorism and economic problems . And everyone hopes that he delivers...! The rest of the world will definitely be keenly watching his every move..!

Well anyway, all his half brothers, cousins, uncles as well as rest of Kenya will be rejoicing with this victory. Why wont they be? Its probably the biggest opportunity that a man of Kenyan origin could get..!
India is already going over board to ensure that we remain good "pals" with the US and Mr.Obama. I bet, no cost will be spared, and no stone left unturned.. etc etc. And the Obama-mania in India was almost really surprising. This is not the political support that i am talking about, but the common people...! Not only was there immense support, but there were poojas  being offered for his win..! Like the prayers in a Hanuman temple and lucky charms being sent over to him. One temple somewhere even claimed to have predicted the assassination attempt on Obama. I sure wish the Gods use a bit of their powers over here too...!

As they say, being the "Leader of the free world" is not child's play. There are serious issues to be handled. Mr. Bush of course handed his national duties really well, in between his long vacations. After all, its not so easy to round up cattle and work out America's anti-terrorist strategy at the time...! I suppose Mr. Obama is not so good at multitasking. As he had claimed "change has come to America". Everyone hopes the same too.

*Not that i don't like Bush personally or anything, its just that i have seen too many documentaries that show him to be incompetent and a liar.
**Put the above statement in 2 'for' loops.