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Broadband Plans: From 7 to 100 million in three years!

After the explosive growth in the mobile telephone market that has already taken the subscriber base well past the 400 million mark, it is the turn of broadband connectivity to take off.

As per the current broadband definition of 256 kbps, India has around seven million broadband users. Knowledge Commission Chairman Sam Pitroda has set an ambitious target of 100 million subscribers in the next three years. He believes that free accessibility of course material on the Internet is needed for taking education to the masses through the Internet.

The necessary infrastructure, fibre optics network and political will is in place, as are competing service providers.

The only things missing are electricity, school buildings and even teachers, in many rural areas. Knowing how the government works, it is likely that broadband will reach these schools before any of these do!

Gulf of Khambat: Cradle of Civilisation?

Star News is showing a program about the discovery of an ancient civilisation under the sea in the Gulf of Khambat (Cambay),

Googling has revealed that “city like structures” were first discovered in 2000 at a depth of 40 meters off the coast of Gujarat. Dredging in 2001 brought up a 9,500 years old block of wood, 5,000 years older than the Indus Valley civilisation. Subsequently, pottery pieces dated by various Institutions between 13000 ± 1950 and 31270 ± 2050 years old were also discovered.

Some believe that the artifcats found and structures seen under the sea are natural, and that this talk of such an old civilisation is nonsense. NIOT's chief geologist Badrinarayan Badrinarayan, however, argues that this indeed was the cradle of ancient civilisation.

Graham Hancock agrees. His documentary is available on You Tube.

The demise of Chandrayaan

No need to be disheartened, India. The premature end of the Chandrayaan mission has come as a huge disappointment to eveyone. But Rome was not built in a day. All major space powers have faced a long series of setbacks before they achieved their successes. What we should focus upon is what has been achieved. The Indian space program has demonstrated its capabilites with this mission not just in launch technology but in many other crucial areas. It is time to build upon what has been learnt and take the next step. Because perhaps space is one of the only last frontiers available for India to explore and benefit from. As a nation of over a billion people, India just cannot ignore its responsibility to build a credible space program to take advantage of The Last Frontier.

Save electricity Save money - save ourselves!

When my ex-colleague, now the CEO of an electronic manufacturing company mentioned to me that their factory near Mumbai, a heavy consumer of electricity, was running up steep bills, I knew another relocation would affect the livelihood of hundreds of workers.

MERC the tariff-regulating body, formed to regulate prices charged by these companies, is playing into their hands, while the poor consumers become poorer. Power distribution companies jack up power prices at will – notwithstanding demonstrations of the local Senas.

I learn that production of electricity was the single-most contributor of pollution, which threatens to destroy our planet. Why not we all join the salvo on these errant companies, while also saving our planet? Use CFL bulbs, switch off TV- no standby mode, use star-rated electronic appliances. Say no to decorative lights in festivities, escalators in malls, neon signs. Save Electricity!

For Life Means For Five Years

The Andhra Pradesh Government recently issued an order to release almost 1000 prisoners, convicted of serious crimes and serving life sentences.

Prisoners can be released on remission after serving five years of their sentence.

The Andhra Pradesh Government had previously released prisoners on remission in 2004.

One of them was Mujeeb Ahmed, who was sentenced to life imprisonment in 1994 and released on special remission in 2004, notwithstanding the protests of the Police force.

Mujeeb went underground, becoming an active member of the Hizbul-Mujahideen and ISI.
He was arrested again in December 2005.

On Friday, Mujib Ahmed was convicted by a Hyderabad court, on the charges of of sedition and collecting arms to wage war against the country, and sentenced to life imprisonment.

In India that means five years, right?

Kalpavrikshas for Delhi

As per Hindu legends, Kalpavriksha (Wish-granting Tree) was one of the “14 jewels” that emerged from the ocean after Samudra Manthan. The tree is also mentioned in the Rig Veda.

The tree, which is native to South Africa, has a life-span of 2,500-3,000 years, with the oldest one being about 6,000 years old. It grows to a height of 70 feet and has a hollow tree-trunk with a diameter of 35 feet. Every part of the tree has medicinal properties. Its fruit has six times more Vitamin C than oranges and twice as much calcium as cow's milk.

In Delhi only three Kalpvrikshas exist. 1,000 saplings are being procured and will be planted across the city shortly.

My hunch is that they will be planted in or close to bungalows of politicians. They need them the most!
Picture: The bas-relief from Angkor Wat,Cambodia, shows Vishnu in the centre, his turtle avatar Kurma below, asuras and devas to left and right. Source: Wikipedia

RSS Breaks BJP's Free Fall

It looks like Mohan Bhagwat has broken the free fall of the BJP. The RSS parachute has opened just in time. Advani, who met Bhagwat today, is likely to step down. Rajnath Singh will also go.

There is speculation that the third man in the centre of the storm, Arun Jaitley, will take over as party President. If that happens, nothing will have changed. Remember the way he publicly sulked during the election campaign and went missing for about 10 days? Not only did that hurt the BJP but also showed him, its master strategist, in very poor light.

For the BJP to get out of this vortex of groupism and selfishness, it is vital that a visibly honest leader, not tainted by it in any manner, takes over the reigns of the party, to purge and rebuild it.

Locked Indoor In Tezpur Since 1962

Thula Borah, a 63 year old man, has remained indoors since 1962. And that is not because Chinese soldiers almost overran Deurigaon, the village near Tezpur, where he lives. As per his neighbours, it is because he could not digest his mother's scolding for failing in his Class X exams.

All efforts to make Borah come out of his self imposed confinement have failed.He survives on food his kin pass to him through a window. His neighbours say he was in his senses till a couple of years back

While this is an extreme case, there is certainly a lesson in it for parents who unknowingly traumatise their children in varying degrees by piling on more pressure than they are wired to handle.

I am sure there are many Borahs out there who have gone “indoors” mentally.

Memorials: Taller, Bigger, Better!

After all the noise it made about the dalit memorials being constructed by Mayawati in UP, the Congress first showed its “might” on August 20, when huge full and half page advertisements were put out in all newspapers by various government departments to remember Rajiv Gandhi on his birthday.

But that was clearly small change. A couple of days back, the Congress government in Maharashtra announced that it would build a Rs 350 crore Shivaji memorial, which will have his statue in bronze, one kilometer off the Mumbai coast.

Mayawati says the Noida dalit memorial will be better than the Delhi Akshardham Temple that is already being called the Eighth Wonder by some. Chavan says Shivaji's statue will be taller than the Statue of Liberty.

Will some BJP CM announce a memorial higher than the Eiffel Tower next?

Quit Mr. Advani: Your Time Is Up

First it was George Fernandes who said it. Then, Yashwant Sinha and Jaswant Singh, who were also present in the CCS meeting along with LK Advani in which it was decided that Jaswant Singh would go to Kandahar, also said Advani knew. Now the then NSA Brijesh Mishra has also said it.

The Congress says Advani conned the country. Really, can anyone forget such an important decision made under such trying circumstances?

This is not all. Karan Thapar says that Advani had given his OK for the Nuclear Deal to the PM in person, but later backed out, manifestly to bring the government down and become PM in 2008. Remember those wads of notes in Parliament?

It is too late to quit with grace, but quit Advani must. For the sake of not just the BJP but the whole country.

India in Antarctica

One of the really good things that Indira Gandhi did was authorize exploratory expeditions to Antarctica in 1981. Forget about the scientific hoopla surrounding these expeditions. Those are just side benefits. To me, Antarctica is the last unexplored continent with abundant mineral resources.

Mrs. Gandhi did right by laying the foundation for India's claim for a stake in a future scramble for the vast uninhabited continent's riches. This is an investment in the future and it is heartening to see that India is mounting another expedition to the Antarctica. The 230 crores to be spent for this is a good investment for India's future generations.

The Buck Stops Here

“The buck stops here”. This phrase was popularised by US President Truman who kept a sign with it on his desk in the Oval Office. The phrase refers to “passing the buck”, palming responsibility to someone else and the fact that the President has to take decisions and accept ultimate responsibility for them.

A few months back, NTDV, manifestly in a fit of mindless arrogance, started a program called “The buck stops here”. Barkha Dutt, who anchored the program, says on Twitter that she is getting ready for its Second Season. How can any TV channel abrogate for itself the ultimate responsibility and accountability that the phrase suggests?

I have a suggestion.

Considering the brilliance with which Prannoy Roy has used NDTV to enrich himself, NDTV should start a show called “The bucks stop here”!

Power-less India

The wannabe super power is 'power-less' along more dimensions than one. Consider the following facts that have emerged from a recent study.

Power shortages cost India Rs 100,000 crores annually - enough to generate additional 25,000 MW, 20% of current generation. Indians spend Rs 30,000 crores to maintain and operate power back ups - equivalent of another 8,000 MW. Out of the installed capacity of 1,51,073 MW, only 96,000 MW is available for consumption, due to power theft and transmission losses.

Opportunity cost of shortage is Rs 2,89,000 crores, 6% of GDP. Enough to raise existing capacity by 50%. The only guys happy are power back up equipment manufacturers.

A telling picture of how myopic our babus and netas have been. Remember the time when one got a telephone after 10 years and had to book a Bajaj scooter?

What a Guru Dakshina

This story will tug at your heart. Ex-students of a school at Gurusamyapalayam village in Tamil Nadu have given their 83-year old teacher a unique gift: a 1,200 sq ft house. For over three decades, Venkataraman had inspired awe among his students by his stirring Tamil poetry and oratory.

Two years ago, when the old boys of the school met their teacher and found that he was surviving on a Rs 9,000 monthly pension, burdened by debts incurred for the marriage of his two daughters, they were shocked. About 250 of them, police officers, doctors, engineers among them, decided to gift him a Guru Niwas. A Coimbatore industrialist also gave Rs 1.35 lakhs.

The two storey Rs 10 lakh house will be handed over to him on September 8. The octogenarian has been moved by the gesture. So are we.

Are Americans "All Hindus Now"?

Americans are “becoming more like Hindus” . In support of this view, Lisa Miller, in a Newsweek article, cites some startling statistics: 65% Americans believe that “many religions lead to eternal life”, 24% call themselves “spiritual, not religious”, 24% believe in reincarnation and “more than a third now choose cremation”.

This change directly flows from the almost unfettered freedom to question, without any fear, the reduction of the limitless dimensions of God into a book or two, with competing claims that that is all that there is to Him.

Buddha once told his followers that they should not believe the word of any holy man or book, even of Buddha himself. He asked them to walk their own paths and find the answers themselves.

2500 years later, America seems to be taking that walk.

Stimulus Packages and Democracy

The US government is paying $3,500 to $4,500 to citizens to sell their old oil guzzling cars and buy new fuel efficient ones. As per CNN, 500,000 cars have already been sold under this scheme and GM workers' shifts restored due to increased demand. Buyers are being given vouchers that they can use as down payment and dealers are being reimbursed within 10 days.

If India implements a similar stimulus package, there will be a rigged lottery for allotting vouchers, with the “lucky” allottees paying a significant premium to get them. Dealers will not be reimbursed for 10 months, and only after paying “processing charges”!

In a way, the Indian system is better. In the US, it is only the buyers, dealers and manufacturers who are benefiting. In India, many more “stakeholders” will. That's democracy.

Gandhistan and Gandhi(d)asses

Mayawati is elated that many Central government departments put out huge advertisements in newspapers on August 20, to “remember” Rajiv Gandhi on his birthday at enormous state expense. That has taken the heat off her for the money she's spending on building her own statues. Ministers and CEOs know what it takes to survive in the Gandhi “jungle”. No one wants to be thrown out of this “rain” forest by claimants shouting “Iss jungle mein mujhe bulao!”

Sagarika Ghose tweets on Twitter: “200 govt schemes named after Rajiv Gandhi alone, 400 named after Gandhi Nehru family! We should be Gandhistan”. I think Congressmen should have a common surname: Gandhidass. No caste identification, only two classes: royalty and “dasses” (servants), the latter distinguishable from you-know-who-what by the prefix “d”, and happily saying “I'm lovin' it”.

In Defence of "Sach Ka Saamna"

Reality show “Sach Ka Saamna” has been criticised for getting a lot of dirty personal “linen” out for all of India to see. Politicians, naturally, and others have been calling for the show to be banned, while many have stood up to stoutly defend freedom of expression.

But the defence cake goes to Prannoy Roy for his "hands on" knowledge of how open Indians, the ones who belong to Bharat, really are. As per him, a psychiatrist once told him that a patient of his refused to answer his questions and kept looking back towards his relatives who were beyond hearing range. The moment the psychiatrist called them in, the boy started speaking freely about everything including sex! "That is how open Indian society is."

Wannna talk sex with someone? Call the folks!

Know any such Indians?

Jassey Jaisa Koi Nahin!

Jinnah worshipper Jaswant has gone ballistic and the Congress quiet, the former in anger, the latter in 'gratitude'. Everyone has forgotten that Jaswant whipped Nehru; without that Jinnah couldn't have come out trumps. But, instead of the Congress criticising "Jassa" for criticising Nehru, the BJP is criticising him for criticising Patel.

Since the party has expelled him and Modi has banned his book, family war has broken out, Congress watching in glee, Nehru out of picture, book forgotten – higher sales than gas masks notwithstanding!

Advani's Kandahar lie has been exposed, his association with the cash-for-vote drama in Parliament highlighted, Vajpayee's anguish over Gujarat 2002 revealed, and the BJP called narrow minded, limited and nervous. And Jaswant is not done yet.

The Congress doesn't need to do anything to win an election; the BJP will do enough to lose it!

Shahrukh's Detention

Sharukh was recently detained for two hours at an airport by yanks; the Khan name, you know. India was outraged; Twitter was abuzz, the “aam aadmi” tweeting too. Excerpts of an imaginary tweet exchange:

Pir Sanghvi: What's the point of electing a President called Hussein if officers think Khan is a terrorist name?

Ambika Koini: We'll do to Bill what the Americans have done to Shahrukh

Barkha Futt: Shahrukh's was revolting religious profiling. Muslim name equals Suspicion

Aam Aadmi: Al Gore was also held for questioning. What's the big deal?

Pir Sanghvi: @aamaadmi That is because his name sounds Muslim, like Al Jazeera, Al Qaida, Al Pacino.

Barkha Futt: Obama should invite SRK for a "beer summit"

Ambika Koini: When Obama comes to India, we will not name a platter after him in Bukhara. Can't do more, can we?

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