Monday, June 23, 2008

Comparing strong Vajpayee with weak Manmohan Singh

In the series of articles posted on a whole gamut of websites, news, print media and blogs about Manmohan Singh's weakness in leading the country is a testimony to the fact the existing UPA Govt is insensitive to international affairs and the nuclear deal.

In a striking comparison, the article here describes how Vajpayee was strong in dealing with the world on nuclear matters and Manmohan Singh has been so weak. A strong Vajpayee never came under anybody's pressure, yet was able to turn the entire attention to India. The author in the article explains how Vajpayee never buckled under anyone's pressure and kept India's image
very high. It is very true and I am proud of the fact that Vajpayee led the country. He never let India sign the controversial Non-Proliferation treaty (NPT) and Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty. Although US senators put immense pressure, Vajpayee knew the art and sidelined the matter. Kudos to Vajpayee!!

Some of the excerpts which I liked are pasted here.

"Why is Manmohan Singh hell-bent on the nuclear deal? The PM is not really persuaded about the necessity of deterrence. He opposed the second nuclear test in May 1998 ordered by A.B.Vajpayee. As Narasimha Rao’s finance minister, he choked funding to the Department of Atomic Energy, resulting in slippages in nuclear power generation targets, shortfalls in natural uranium production, and virtual caps on advancements in plutonium and thorium economies. But more than all this, Manmohan Singh fundamentally does not believe in the greatness of India, and on its inherent potential to be a great power."

Strong, regularly elected leaders like Indira Gandhi or Vajpayee, not accidentally the only two Indian PMs to order nuclear tests, would not have genuflected to Bush like Manmohan Singh did.

Lacking self-respect, Manmohan Singh lacks self-confidence, sees India in his own image as a supplicant, and grabs at the illusion of the US making India a great power. With Manmohan Singh at the helm, India’s great power chase becomes hopeless.

But Vajpayee was a many-layered Prime Minister. Whilst being friendly with Clinton, he resisted US attempts to sign the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty (CTBT). With Clinton’s “neo-con” successor George W.Bush, Vajpayee had doggedly to battle against deploying Indian troops in Iraq. Besides a section of the political establishment, the US had gotten the Indian general staff all gung ho about Iraq. Indian business clamoured to win lucrative Iraqi sub-contracts dangled by the US, and the financial papers openly favoured going in. Vajpayee, with foresight, said no. Much after Vajpayee had demitted office, the CPI General Secretary, A.B.Bardhan, let out a secret. Vajpayee had urged him and other Left leaders publicly to oppose any Indian military involvement in Iraq to get the US off his back.

While some of his cabinet ministers may have been over-enthusiastic about building relations with the US, Vajpayee rarely lost perspective. He had an intuitive understanding of foreign policy that Manmohan Singh, an economic bureaucrat with zilch political understanding, lacks. The nuclear deal ushers CTBT through the front door. Vajpayee said no when it was conditionally offered to him by the Clinton administration, but Manmohan Singh assents quickly. The deal, with the Henry Hyde Act locking in once the 123 Agreement is signed, bars further nuclear testing, consequently prevents sophisticating the deterrent weapons, and thereby stunts India’s great power ambitions.

Sunday, June 22, 2008

Special Series: Indo China border Dispute - 1

The beautiful Ladakh (Kashmir) and the ugly dispute. [IMAGES: Courtesy: google]

In the world as is exists today if there is one dispute that is the longest(in terms of area), most complex and most convoluted, it is the India-China border dispute. It is also the least understood amongst Indians themselves.

THIS ARTICLE IS A VISUAL JOURNEY TRAVERSING THROUGH TIME AMIDST THE DIVINE HIMALAYAS and understanding how and who created this problem and where it stands today.

This is a special series that will try and simplify the understanding of the dispute. The intention of writing this is to make everyone aware of the problem and its solution. It will also be an attempt to judge the claims made by various stakeholders.

China and India have disputes over 2 main regions - Aksai Chin in Kashmir and Arunachal Pradesh in the East(India). Each dispute is distinct in its origin and solution. The complexity in each of them is varied and has gray shades and stakeholders have ambiguously legal evidences.

Part-1 concentrates entirely on Aksai Chin:

Where is Aksai Chin?

Aksai Chin is the area between the beautiful Pangong Tso Lake in the south and the great historical Karakoram Pass in the north. Below is a picture of the Pangong Tso Lake. It is so beautiful that I feel like jumping into the lake. The lake is the highest altitude brackish lake and 2/3 lies in Chinese occupation while 1/3 in India. Look at the pics below.


Karakoram Pass (below picture) is 18,250 ft above sea level and is the world's most ancient trade route. With temperatures -30 C (NEGATIVE 30 C), there is no vegetation and is full of blizzards and snow storms.

It is this Aksai Chin that is the most complex boundary that exists between any 2 countries in the world, unsettled and undefined.

Let's go back in time.

-------------Sept 1842--------------------------

Maharaja Gulab Singh (Dogra Ruler) occupied Kashmir and extended his empire up to Kuen Len Mountains and Shahdula.Here, Sikhs attacked Ladakh and occupied it but when they ventured into Tibet, they were checked by Chinese and Leh was captured by them. A treaty between autonomous Tibet (Lama Guru of Lhasa), Emperor of China and Kashmir was signed. No boundary issue discussed.

Many rivers pass through and the most famous is Karakash. Below is the pic.

-------------Oct 1842---------------------

Sikhs and Chinese sign a treaty - "That the boundaries of Ladakh and Lhasa shall be constituted as formerly, the contracting parties engaging to confine themselves within their respective boundaries, the one to refrain from any act of aggression on the other" (An `Agreed' Frontier Ladakh and India's Northern-most Borders 1846-1947 by Parashottam Mehra; Oxford University Press, 1992; pages 169-170).

Which means by agreements – Ladakh was still a part of India and China accepted.


British sold Kashmir to Gulab singh and took the responsibility of its security. Then they discussed with China the boundary issue and British and Chinese agreed to have boundaries from PsangPo to Karakoram Pass. Aksai Chin was not agreed upon and was left undefined i.e the area did not belong to anyone.


Gulab Singh has an agreement on paper saying that the boundary between Ladakh and Tibet is going to be same as before.

Note: What was clear on paper after both parties jointly signed (India and China) was the boundary between Tsang Po Lake and Karakoram Pass. Aksai Chin was undefined. Verbally, China accepted Aksai Chin was a part of India. Factually, Aksai Chin was occupied by Gulab Singh (India)


During this time, Britain and China were allies. Russia was trying to advance into Tibet and Britain decided to draw a complete and definite boundary. This was significant because neither China nor Kashmir had rights over Aksai Chin. However, Aksai Chin was with Gulab Singh and China agreed that it belonged to India verbally without a clear demarcation. Johnson (a sub civil engineer under the Maharaj gulab Singh) included Aksai Chin as a part of India. This was however not communicated to the Chinese. The Chinese for long never claimed Aksai Chin as it belonged to no one. The British Govt had time to accept the proposal of Johnson. The problem lay with China. It must have demarcated a boundary at the very time Gulab Singh signed a treaty with them. The same blame goes even to Gulab Singh. Johnson set out to clear this confusion of this no man’s land which neither belonged to China nor India. He included it in India because the Maharaja had occupied it. Several scholars, historians have questioned Johnson. Even from the day this boundary was proposed, the British did not 1) convey to Chinese 2) never accepted the very line. They were doubtful of Johnson’s map.

Johnson line puts all of Aksai Chin into India


British appointed Drew (who was Governor of Ladakh) to conduct a survey to see if Johnson was indeed wrong. Drew’s survey was better established and documented. He came up with 2 split parts of Aksai Chin. One part which is in India and the other in China. This was a better proposal, but Drew’s map was not published officially.

Before they could decide between Johnson Line and Drew Line two major 2 events happened – in 1878 and 1890.


China establishes a post north of Shahdula without contesting Kuen Len.

The red area indicates the area occupied.


China occupied Shahdula, moves westward and occupied regions upto Karakoram pass.

At this time they placed their first ever claim on entire Aksai chin area showing old maps of theirs. The British knew that the quality of maps by Chinese were very poor and no solid evidence existed. According to Chinese maps, if Aksai Chin was there, it was not jointly accepted by India and China. Hence, both Johnson Line and Chinese maps are wrong.

The British in fact showed a map from Russia which clearly showed Aksai Chin as part of India (Kashmir). Chinese did not trust the map. There are 2 things here- 1) The Britishes did not show Johnson line which was already published 2) They did not also clearly define on map what they wanted

This was the first ever claim made by Chinese. The fault lies with both India and China. Both never documented jointly to agree Aksai Chin belongs to whom. Hence, no one can claim it is theirs. Hence, when it comes to claiming the entire area, both cannot get it completely. It was the mistake of not showing the published Johnson line to Chinese and the mistake of the Chinese not to jointly sign as to whom the area belongs to.


Attempts to solve the confusion and clear the claims:

In order to solve the prevailing confusion, MacDonald the Governor General considered MacCartney’s proposal of keeping India’s border limited to the one that existed in 1842 according to which Aksia Chin would not be in India. The new addition was that instead of leaving Aksai Chin as a no man’s island, give it to the Chinese. This was communicated to Chinese, but they have never replied till now. So, Chinese show this map even today while resolving the dispute while India shows Johnson line map and both are wrong. There was miscommunication from both sides.

“George Macartney, the British representative in Kashgar, brought the issue of the disputed border to the leading Chinese official in Kashgar. Macartney was half- Chinese and spoke fluent Chinese; his father had been advisor to the Chinese Legation in London. Macartney was loyal to Britain, yet he had a deep understanding of the Chinese. Macartney agreed that the British claims (the Johnson line) were inappropriate, and that if this deserted area were to be divided, then it should be half British and half Chinese. He felt that Aksai Chin proper, north of the Lokzhung Range, was Chinese; south of the Range, British. In the summer of 1898, Lord Elgin's Indian Government incorporated Macartney's ideas into a definite proposal. The proposal asked the Chinese to accept a verbal description of the Kashmir boundary, and that physical demarcation on the ground did not seem necessary in this remote area. The relevant portion of the proposal was as follows:

From the Karakoram Pass the crests of the range run nearly east for about half a degree, and then turn south to a little below the 35th parallel. . . . Rounding . . . the source of the Karakash, the line of hills to be followed runs north-east to a point east of Kizil Jilga and from there, in a south- easterly direction, follows the Lak Tsung (Lokzhung) Range until that meets a spur . . . which has hitherto been shown on our maps as the eastern boundary of Ladakh.

Lord Elgin's proposal was fortunate not only as an attempt to resolve the boundary, but also to stem the growing number of lines demarking the Kashmir border in Aksai Chin. Map Two shows the variety of claims which had evolved by the turn of the century.

On March 14, 1899, Sir Claude MacDonald, the British minister to China, submitted the description of this alignment of the proposed border (in writing, but regretably without any maps) to the Chinese Department of External Affairs in Peking. The MacDonald proposal included the boundary suggested by Macartney, and further added:

It will not be necessary to mark out the frontier. The natural frontier is the crest of a range of mighty mountains, a great part of which is inaccessible. It will be sufficient if the two Governments (of Great Britain and China) . . . enter into an agreement to recognize the frontier as laid down by its clearly marked geo- graphical features. The Department of External Affairs in Peking communicated the proposal to the Sinkiang Provincial Government. The Sinkiang Government had no objections to the boundary alignment, and the British Legation was informally notified that there were no objections; however, no formal acceptance was forwarded from Peking. By the time the Chinese had responded, the British were beginning to reconsider the pro- posed boundary; hence, the British made no efforts to secure a formal response to MacDonald's proposal. The Chinese Com- munist government of the mid-20th Century would regret that the 1899 Chinese government did not convey a formal acceptance of the MacDonald boundary proposal; as Map Three shows, the controversial Chinese military road--the key issue which eventually led the two nations to war--lies to the north (the Chinese side) of the 1899 MacDonald line.”
The above map shows the Line - follow the white line. That was the proposed MacDonald Line.


The Chinese power fell, British wanted to give up all other proposals and published official maps showing Johnson line as the boundary (This was all during Lord Curzon). Did Britain do the right thing? According to me, they did take the right step. The Chinese never bothered to communicate their opinion on 1899 proposal.

The official published map of 1909 that clearly showed Aksai Chin as Indian territory.


Britain changed its mind and decided not to include Johnson but to choose a new line similar to that of Dew. This was, however, not updated. Hence, Johnson line still officially was India’s border. The first official maps were circulated. By now, entire India knew the borders and everyone knew Aksai Chin was an inseparable part of India.


Post Independence, the first map showing Indian boundaries was officially published. Pandit Nehru declared that finalization of boundaries had begun. Observe the map below. It is very clear that Aksai Chin has been left undemarcated.

The official map indicating Aksai Chin as Indian territory. China even at this time did not raise an issue. But the Chinese maps continued to show Aksai Chin as theirs. When Nehru raised this matter, Chinese never took it seriously and said there are no disputes.


The Great India China War in which Indian army was devastated. The worst defeat India ever faced. How the war started will be dealt in the later articles.

Aksai Chin occupied by China. It retreated 20 miles from its occupied position at the end of the war. As of now, it is still contesting Aksai chin is its area. The new line known as LAC (Line of Actual Control) was drawn. This is at present the accepted Line. The talks are still going on.

This is the revised map (below).

Thus happened a war and till date Indian people have not forgotten this covert act of war and are too skeptical of any move China takes. 1/3 of Kashmir was thus lost.

Solution: Go as per Drew Line and divide Aksai Chin into 2 parts - one for India and the other for China.


Tuesday, June 17, 2008

Yediyurrappa acts on Bangalore's infrastructure woes

It's a significant day because soon after coming to power, Yediyurrappa gave approvals to several projects in a single day. However, it needs to be seen if he monitors them like S.M. Krishna did or leave it high and dry. One good thing Yediyurappa has done similar to Krishna is that he single handedly is in charge of Bangalore's Development.

1) Integrated Water Management scheme -use water from selected lakes, filter it (using Special Ultra Filter Membrane Treatment), and supply the same as potable water. This will be in addition to Cauvery water.

2) Golden Quadrilateral for Bangalore 16-km North-South corridor connecting Hebbal to Madivala through Minsk Square and Vellara junction and the 12-km Bangalore East corridor connecting Kodihalli and Kundalahalli through Vellara junction. Approval has been granted (Thank god at least approval is over..Otherwise it would have taken years to even reach approval stage). The experts of BDA, BMC have unanimously concluded that it is the best way to decongest the 2 crowded areas of Bangalore. Fortunately, there is no need to acquire more land (and hence no related problems). It will be made on the existing roads. Unfortunately, people might have to see more road digging and diversions.

This project is being done under Swiss challenge method in which private player who bids first will be given priority.

3) Approvals for speeding Metro, elevated Electronic city highway. A new IAS officer has been appointed. Metro in Bangalore compared to Hyderabad and Mumbai is progressing very slowly.

4) High speed rail link has been approved that connects city with the new international airport that will reduce traffic time to 25 minutes. I wonder why rail link? It is good, but the immediate thing that needs to be done is the road. That is faster to implement than a rail link.

Sunday, June 15, 2008

How to best change Government hospitals

This topic is hugely debatable. There are various angles and viewpoints. In definite terms, there is no one quick fix.

I am sure almost every citizen of the country has had one time or the other dealt with a government hospital for some reason or the other. In the first place, there are no surgical equipments. There is no proper supply of essential medicines, blood, beds. The free food given is so worse that it will put you back into the hospital. There is no sincerity in serving the people on the part of doctors. In fact, doctors are not present. The ratio of beds to patients is abysmal. Corruption is rampant. The word "free" is real only when money is paid. The situation is so atrocious that even to get a dead body out of the hospital you need to bribe. The moratorium is so unorganized that literally the clerks/peons put dead bodies like a heap of ash. There is utter chaos. To get admission, to get medicine, to get diagnosis - bribe. Perhaps, the Telugu movie Ganesh is the only movie I remember that showed a barbaric reality of government hospitals in a touching manner. Go to Victoria or Bowring hospital in Bangalore. You will find used scissors, knives (surgical operations) not even washed or sterilized and being used again. Some have rusted, some are blunt, some do not even exist. This was shown when Lok Ayukta once conducted a surprise raid.

Once, Narendra Modi gave a proposal to private hospitals about Chiranjeevi scheme. More can be read in Modi's governance articles on my blog. After its success, the government came up with another idea. The govt (Narendra Modi) asked private hospitals to manage govt ones w.r.t infrastructure, recruiting doctors and supply of essential medicines. The funding will be given by the government. Is this a good proposal?

To answer this, I admit to the reader that I am neither a doctor nor anyone even closely connected to this profession. I am just an ordinary citizen. I feel there is merit in the idea that private hospitals should manage infrastructure and recruitment aspects of the govt ones. Complete privatization is not going to help. If it were to help, many people would not have turned away from private hospitals. It is too expensive. Yes, there is a higher probability of a better, quality treatment. In our country, where 3/4th of the people do not even have access to hospitals and health care, it is easy to set up government hospitals than private ones. But then, because of all problems mentioned above, the confidence in these hospitals or its staff is so poor. Yet people go as they have no option. What if private hospitals were to manage some of these things?

This will improve things to a very great extent even if not everything. Firstly, you will have the required equipment that could be used either for diagnosis or treatment. Secondly, you will at least have a system of supply of medicines. Thirdly, it will give hope that qualified doctors come into the picture. All 3 aspects are 3 pillars of success of a government hospital. The fourth and the hidden pillar is the corruption. This is a far deeper and complex issue. I will not claim that private ones are the best or corrupt free, but they definitely offer a better alternative. However, if qualified professionals are recruited, it will allay the fears of a common man about govt hospitals. Infrastructure should range from beds, wards, sanitation, maintenance, testing facilities, diagnostic equipments, cleaner labs etc.

The govt should give tax rebates and incentives for those doctors who serve in the govt hospitals. As a matter of fact, there should be a synergy between private doctors and govt ones. Private doctors will not be paid if they treat in govt hospitals. Doctors who treat in govt hospitals should be given high salaries. Private ones must not be allowed to spend money on govt hsopital infrastructure. Instead of spending lots of money giving to medical officers, IAS officers etc, the same money should be given to private institutions directly. In fact, Chidambaram, in this year's budget made the law that if private organizations would develop hospitals in Tier -II cities, they will get 5 year tax exemption. This is a good move to inspire the setting up of more hospitals. However, as I mentioned earlier, the govt ones should be revamped.

There are several exceptional cases where some hospitals have gone out of their way to give free quality treatment to people. Government must recognize and give incentives and encouragement. Best examples include Narayana Hrudalaya in Bangalore setting up a Rs. 100 crore facility exclusively for poor people (not sure if it is free). Even Jayadeva Institute of Cardiology in Bangalore seems to be having the latest cardiology equipment. L.V. Prasad Eye Institute in Hyderabad has done a fabulous job. They have done cornea transplantation (almost 1200 when the demand was 10,000) for free. The hospital is now in a process of setting 5 eye banks across the state to satisfy the demand. Not many people can do service for free. There is nothing wrong in it. Every doctor has a moral responsibility at the same financial compulsions don't let such good intentioned doctors do this. There is nothing wrong in it. However, if govt takes the initiative and starts attracting such people then it will encourage 1000's of doctors to come forward. K.S Hegde Hospital which has set up 17 satellite hospitals is also an interesting and inspiring example. Sushshrushah Hospital in Nagercoil is also a landmark example where a 3 dimensional mobile arm system allows doctors to see 3 D views during surgical operations. Having such facilities in small towns help people. Imagine if government encourages such participation or expect private hospitals to help govt hospitals with technology, we will go a long way. Already, Kolkata has begun to see a new revolution in this matter of participation where private ones are providing beds, wards etc to attract more confidence in people. They are also providing diagnostic tests at a subsidized rate to lower middle class and poor people.

I feel if schemes like Chiranjeevi can become success stories not just inside India, but even outside, private participation in government hospitals and govt's incentives will go a long way in triggering a health revolution in the country.

Monday, June 9, 2008

How Chiranjeevi holds the key to the next PM of the country

At the outset, Megastar Chiranjeevi requires no introduction and has forayed into the dirty world of politics. His influence is almost equal to that of NTR during 1980's. It's 20 years now from that period but the political space once occupied by NTR is now going to be filled by Chiranjeevi. It is no surprise that his entry comes at a point when the political landscape is under turmoil. If you remember Mahabharath, Ghatotgacha's entry was heavy in terms of management both to Pandavas and Kauravas. His timing was such that 2 warriors of equal calibre - Karan and Arjun who were fighting in opposite camps were at the helm of the affairs.

Now that Chiranjeevi(as Ghatotgacha) has entered Andhra politics, it has sent shivers to both Chandrababu Naidu and Y.S Rajashekar Reddy(ruling CM) - I leave it to the reader as to who should be called Arjun and Karan (if at all they fit to be put in such great character). The state of Andhra is going to witness a churning next year. Everyone is busy cozying up with him as he holds the fortunes of not just the state, but the entire nation. If he aligns with Congress, then Congress will have its rule at the Center. If he aligns with BJP, Advani is sure to become the next PM. If he aligns with the Left, he ruins the prospect of any one alliance - NDA or UPA(without Left party) coming to power.

Such is the power of Chiranjeevi. How? Let's look at 2004. Andhra gives 42 Lok Sabha seats of which TDP won just 5 (a humiliating defeat) while Congress and TRS put together won 34 seats - a huge swing. These 42 seats spoiled Vajpayee's chances of his fourth time PM. Now if Chiranjeevi comes, he is going to spoil both Chandrababu Naidu's prospects and Congress prospects. Initally Chiranjeevi showed an incline towards the Left (I am terribly upset with Chiranjeevi over this.. he is very politically insensitive and naive is a clear indication of this step). Later, he backtracked and is now planning to stand independent. This is going to lead to a road nowhere. If he joins neither Congress nor TDP, but BJP or aligns with them, then Naidu has no choice but to accept BJP and then no one can stop BJP from power in Delhi. However, if he stands independent and says won't align, then the chances of a hung parliament is sure. If Naidu accepts Chiranjeevi, then Naidu cannot become CM. This will not happen as Naidu cannot accept any other post.

Thus, to improve matters, both Y.S Reddy (ruling CM) and Venkaih Naidu (BJP spokesperson) are carrying out diplomatic relations with him.

One has to see how Chiranjeevi will shift his strategy. Whom will he lean towards? One thing is sure - he holds the key to the next PM in the country.

If this prediction goes wrong and say Chiranjeevi's influence ends up like that of Vijaykanth in TamilNadu - a scenario extremely rare and impossible, then the whole analysis shall go wrong. I am sure about one thing. Chiranjeevi is highly influential amongst the poor, lower class/caste people. Hence, it will turn out to be a second NTR phenomenon in the country and Andhra.

Let's not forget that Andhra, Maharashtra, Uttar Pradesh and West Bengal only can solve the puzzle of the next Lok Sabha elections. Clearly, no party is going to win single handedly. The only next player to wield this type of influence is Mayawati. So, mayawati and chiranjeevi - both will decide the fate of PM gaddi if Maywati's BSP wins greater than 50% seats(i.e 40 out of 80 Lok Sabha seats) in UP.

So, is Chiranjeevi truly going to be a megastar deciding the fate of Advani and Rahul Gandhi?

Tuesday, June 3, 2008

A very practical, mature, effective, interesting Advani's speech

Advani is a changed man today. Since 2004, he has reinvented himself by being more acceptable and approachable by everyone. This is a part -1 series of this reflection. The second one will be his speech at FII. His speech sounds very real mixed with real economics of the future India.

This speech which he gave at the BJP national executive reflects some very interesting and real facets of changing political landscape in india. Why is his speech important? It is because he has tried to highlight how weak is the UPA govt and how BJP must reinvent itself and not just sit quiet. Congress party must now make itself stronger if it has to defeat BJP. One thing is sure. It is either UPA or NDA. I have no issues with either, but Left should not be a part of government.

Let me highlight rather than putting forward the whole speech.

  • I have called Karnataka victory a ‘turning point’ in Indian politics, and compared it with that in 1989, when the BJP spectacularly increased its tally in the Lok Sabha from only two MPs in 1984 to 86 MPs five years later. Thereafter, the BJP’s strength continued to rise and, just under a decade later in 1998, we were able to form the government at the Centre under the leadership of Shri Atal Bihari Vajpayee.

  • An important aspect of the present political situation in the country is that the Congress is now gradually shrinking all over the country — in north, south, west and east. It is suffering from the syndrome of "one step forward, three steps backward". This is evident from the fact that the party has suffered defeats in as many as 12 state elections since May 2004.

  • Obviously, the Congress party’s being in power at the Centre for four years has not helped it even one bit in any of these states. Is this not a severe indictment of the party’s central leadership? Is this also not a proof of the total and irrefutable failure of the UPA government? Doesn’t it show that neither the Congress party’s dynastic leadership nor the track record of the Prime Minister and his team inspire any confidence among the people of India? All except the sycophants of the ‘Dynasty’ can see this reality.Even the allies of the Congress have concluded that the UPA is a "write-off" as far as the 15th Lok Sabha elections are concerned.

  • How a weak government, a powerless PM and an opportunistic Congress-Left pact are endangering India

  • UPA Govt converted governance into pure commerce.

  • The belated announcement of a loan waiver is at best a palliative, but a palliative can never be a panacea.

  • Here is a government that has mismanaged the internal security situation so badly that not a single case of terrorist attack in the past four years has been fully investigated, and the guilty brought to book. On the contrary, it has given protection to the guilty purely for vote-bank considerations. Indeed, what can be a greater insult to our national honour than the fact that we have a Home Minister who publicly justifies giving protection to Mohammed Afzal by equating his case with that of Sarabjeet Singh?

  • Clearly bending under foreign pressure, its leadership did not even deem it necessary to observe the 10th anniversary of Pokharan II. On the contrary, its spokesmen had the temerity to state publicly that there was no need for celebration since sanctions were imposed on India as a consequence of the NDA government’s action. When such is the warped mindset of the government, it is hardly surprising that it has sought to disarm India of its strategic defense capability through the flawed Indo-US nuclear deal.

  • Can India be safe, can India progress and can India ever become strong if we have a paralysed government led by a visionless party, headed by a powerless Prime Minister, and supported by a bunch of opportunists whose faith in democracy itself is suspect?

  • BJP is a "frontrunner"; let’s now make it a "clear winner"

  • India simply cannot afford to have another weak government that is at the vagaries of a fragmented polity. Given the formidable challenges before the nation, and the mounting problems facing our people, India would be severely imperiled if the next elections produce an unstable government at the Centre.

  • Therefore, my esteemed colleagues, it is not enough that the BJP merely forms the next government at the Centre. It is extremely important that ours is a strong and stable government, with the BJP having sufficient numerical strength that would enable us to pursue our agenda of Good Governance, Development and Security.

  • Once again, the time has come for the BJP to remind ourselves of our inherent strength. Our peak performance so far has been in 1999, when we won 182 seats in the Lok Sabha. In 2009, we must not only go way beyond our tally in 2004, but actually surpass our record in 1999. Is it possible? Yes, it is.

  • In Congress circles, there is hope that the party would be able to take advantage of the "anti-incumbency" factor in Rajasthan, Madhya Pradesh, Chhattisgarh. All members of the National Executive should understand that "anti-incumbency" does not operate only or always against a government or a chief minister. It generally manifests as a vote against incumbent MLAs or MPs. And the voters’ displeasure depends not so much on their representative’s performance in the Assembly or in Parliament as on his or her conduct with the people of their constituency. Voters — and even karyakartas — punish those who are arrogant, unresponsive, inactive, inaccessible and insincere.

  • Another important task before us is the need to intensify mass-contact programmes, in which it should be our endeavour to reach out to every section of society, including those, such as Muslims and Christians, who have so far remained aloof from the BJP.

  • We should emphasise that our party seeks the all-round development and participation of minorities in a non-divisive and integrative agenda without recourse to appeasement or religion-based reservations. In all our mass campaigns, we should not only highlight the UPA government’s failures, but also explain our own superior agenda of governance.

  • Let us, therefore, resolve at this meeting of the National Executive not to waste a single day, not to ignore a single task, and not to neglect a single winnable seat in order to achieve our goal of securing a decisive majority for the NDA,

India replaces US as the second largest Cell phone market

One could not have imagined our country would so quickly grow in telephones and cellphones. If anybody who is reading this article remembers 1986, it was Rajiv Gandhi who first created Ministry of Communications and his long time friend Sam Pitroda was put in charge of it. The bureaucracy was so resistant to the change and did not want Pitroda to initiate any changes. At that time if someone booked for a telephone it would take years to get one. Because of Pitroda, PCO concept became a household business. Despite its penetration, the quality of service was too bad.

Come 2008, India today replaces USA and is second(first is China) in the world in terms of number of cell phone subscribers. Cell phone has overtaken fixed, wired telephony. The prices of telephone call is the lowest in the world.

Calls from PCOs give operators much better profits than from subscriber telephones. Private operators have realized this, and set up large numbers of PCOs. Out of the 6 million PCOs at the end of 2007, only 2.2 million belonged to BSNL and MTNL. Bharti had set up 2 million, Reliance 1.9 million and Tatas 1.4 million. Villagers have roughly 12 million wireline telephones and 52 million cellphones — which gives us a total of 64 million rural telephones.

The next revolution already visible is rural cell phone revolution. Recently, Reliance and Airtel have ventured into rural markets with even cheaper prices. By another two or three years the teledensity will surely become greater than 75%. In 2004, I was surprised to see a painter having cell phone in my college. Now, it is not surprising if a vegetable vendor says he will let you know if vegetables have arrived or not via his cellphone. On a seriously hilarious note, the most talked about negative impact of cell phone is that the husbands complain that their wives call on their cells just to find out where they are.

The cell phone network is on a full swing in border areas like Kashmir and Arunachal Pradesh where till now was not expanding because of security issues.

Recently, the government has decided to roll out 3G by 2008 year end. FDI in Telecom is 75% and this has created a huge market for foreign players. With Vodafone having made its entry it is just the beginning of a new revolution.

Thanks to 4 people who made this happen - Late Rajiv Gandhi(Congress), Late Pramod Mahajan(BJP), Dayanidhi Maran (DMK) and Sam Pitroda. The telecom policy 1999(Pramod Mahajan) was the one that triggered a revolution that picked up pace like never before. Thanks to Dayanidhi Maran who made Rs. 1 per call across the country possible.

PCO is a huge business in India today. This is rather unusual that even before education, health revolution happened, telecommunication revolution has happened.

WiMax is the next hottest thing in India. When I had to study VSAT deployment in Madhya Pradesh as a case study in my course in US, I was surprised. This is a starking reality. Communication is continuing to change and reshape lives in India.

Sunday, June 1, 2008

Book train tickets through Bank ATM's

In Aug 2002, the entire train commuting community woke up to a great technological breakthrough. After almost 15 years of effort, a network of all databases were done. The result - This was the online train ticket booking facility. Since 2002 it is the most successful e-commerce website in India. It was announced by Nitish Kumar (the then railway minister in Vajpayee' government and now Bihar's chief Minister). Computerization was done in 1980's, but all were standalone and not networked. It took a mammoth effort to build a website and use high end efficient, robust servers at the back end. 15 years ago if one had to book a ticket from Bangalore to Delhi and say one had to get down at Station A in between to reach Delhi from there via another train, one had to book a fresh ticket again from Station A to Delhi. It was not possible to book direct ticket from Bangalore to Delhi from Bangalore. The servers were isolated. And now, you can sit in any part of the world, access and book tickets.

Owned by the government, the accuracy and service of this website is A-one or world class. The courier service of delivery of tickets, a call center to track down the courier and a wonderful, yet simple website to handle bookings and checking online status of orders, PNR look up are just to name a few of the features. It was developed by Broadvision. There are 3 layers of firewalls and advanced encryption of credit card numbers is done so that IRCTC guys don't know about it. So, far there has not been a single case of fraud reported (with fault or hacking on the server side) and hence is considered very safe. In order to ensure further safety issues, Verisign is being used.

The courier system which government tied up with Bluedart has been doing a fabulous job. On a personal note I once booked online and did not get the ticket through courier. I then called helpline number and then they immediately delivered. There is no doubt about the good professionalism on the delivery side.

Very recently, the government allowed to book even waiting list tickets. This is a very good move. And if your name doesn't appear on the reservation list, automatic refund will be done and one need not apply for cancellation online. This is too great!!!!

Now, in order to make IRCTC even more accessible to people, government has tied up with private companies by which cash cards can be got from a host of retail stores by paying money beforehand and use them to book tickets. This is a faster approach because many people who don't have credit cards or do not want to use for security reasons can use this. Just use the details on the card and book tickets. You get in 500, 1000, 1500 and so on denominated cards.

Statistics show that 22% of online bookings have been through cash cards.

3 years ago, government also introduced booking through cell phones. Using cell phones you can not only book, but also know the PNR status and arrival, departure details.

In order to further facilitate people who don't have access to internet, government has now tied up with nationalized banks like Canara, SBI, SBM etc. Now these bank ATM's at railways stations can be used to purchase tickets. One can do so with their debit cards and get e-ticket/print out from ATM's. Although the banks have given a ready "yes", they are in the process of setting up the facility. Thanks to Lalu Yadav...He is undoubtedly the best Railway Minister the country has seen so far.

According to the article(click here),

After entering into an agreement with the State Bank of India to set up 682 ATMs at railway stations, Indian Railways today entered into an agreement with six nationalised banks to set up another 711 ATMs at railway stations for passengers to withdraw cash. Out of the 711 ATMs, 473 will have e-ticketing facilities.

The banks include Canara Bank, Bank of Baroda, Dena Bank, Union Bank of India, Indian Bank and Punjab National Bank. Currently , 86 ATMs have been installed at various stations and by the end of 2006-07, 250 ATMs are expected to be operational. The Railways aims to set up 4,000 ATMs at various stations.

In fact, Canara Bank ATM's can be used to purchase train tickets using the ATM interface in Kanyakumari, Madurai etc.

Bulk booking or corporate booking is still not allowed online.