Friday, October 31, 2008

How About Some Bling For Your Computer?

Super Talent Technology, headquartered in San Jose, California has come up with a limited edition 18-carat solid gold USB drive. It boasts of a 30MB/sec data transfer speed and a storage capacity of 8GB.

There are some additional goodies like a certificate of authenticity, an 18-carat gold keychain, FIPS certified AES-256 encryption software and a Black velvet jewelry box. There is also a cool concept where one can get their personalized text or logo etched onto the drive with the help of a laser, at no charge!

Now that’s what I call a customized, limited edition Bling for $599.

Saturday, October 25, 2008

Swaminomics: Makes so much sense

Swaminathan S Anklesaria Aiyar had made an interesting case against cutting oil price in his regular column: Swaminomics.

Last week when the price of oil almost fell to $65, the political machinery in India was momentarily distracted, from the usual walk outs, protests and not to mention fattening their bank accounts. All of a sudden, every MP worth his salt was clamoring for a price cut, keeping in mind their larger interest (read general elections).

Feeling the heat, and also keeping the larger interest of the ruling party in mind, petroleum minister Murli Deora announced price cuts for fuel within a week.

Ironically, a few days earlier, Swaminathan had warned against cutting the oil price. History is a great teacher, only if we are willing to learn from it. In the mid 80’s India had built up a cushion in the form of OPA (Oil Pool Account) by implementing controlled fuel prices. When the global oil prices dropped, the Indian govt. maintained the same price, and the surplus money went in to OPA. This cushion protected the economy in the 90’s when the global oil prices shot up. The oil companies were compensated for selling the fuel at a lower price when the global prices were shooting up.

After reading Swaminomics, I was convinced that this is the right way to go about addressing the fuel price issue. Politicians should not give in to ulterior motives and cheap politics. Instead, keeping in mind the interest of the Indian economy against the global recession, we need to build up a cushion again. Make hay while the sun shines. Let’s prepare for eventualities arising out of a hike in global oil prices.

OPEC is already cutting down on the output to shore up the plummeting oil prices. And not to mention the so called environmentalists have been lobbying for heavy taxes on fuel, in order to discourage its wasteful consumption. With the stock prices taking a free fall, companies slashing their workforce to minimize on losses, the last thing I would want is fuel prices shooting up. It may not be happening now. But it will happen eventually. Oil wells are not perennial.

Though the general population will heave a huge sigh of relief if the fuel prices are cut, that is temporary.

I hope someone is listening.

Image Source: Philippe TASTET

Monday, October 20, 2008

India’s Tryst With The Moon

Image source:

The count down to India’s first un-manned mission to Moon, code-named Chandrayaan-I has already begun. The 1.38-tonne spacecraft will take approximately eight days to travel about 386,240km before reaching its final orbit 96km above the surface of the Moon.

The lunar orbiter’s main mission is to look for water and Helium-3. An Indian flag will also be dropped on to the moon. A small probe will be released, which will then hurtle down towards the moon’s surface. The probe will transmit pictures, data regarding the moon’s atmosphere, and then finally data of the soil analysis when it strikes the moon’s surface. This probe will also be carrying the Indian flag.

Chairman of the Indian Space Research Organization (ISRO), G. Madhavan Nair has said that this is an ideal launch pad for a mission to Mars. The GSLV rocket can take a nearly 500 kg spacecraft to Mars and hence this is a certainty in the coming 3-4 years. He has given a rough cost estimate of Rs.100 billion for a manned mission.

In the past, India has completed 21 successful rocket launches bearing satellites since 1980. If this mission is successful, then it will make India the fourth country to join U.S., Russia and Japan to have its flag on the moon.

The ISRO chairman gets very defensive when probed about the feasibility of the mission in current economic conditions. He points out that the budget for the entire space program is a miniscule one, when compared to the total budget of the country. Conservative estimates put this mission at less than 300 crore INR.

If the weather permits, we are set for a lift-off at 6.20am on Wednesday morning.

Is India shining? Definitively, if you look at the moon!

Sunday, October 19, 2008

Pink Slipped? Do Not Worry. It Happens Only In India!

Enshrined in the Constitution of India, Article 41 of the Directive Principles of State Policy states that: The State shall, within the limits of its economic capacity and development, make effective provision for securing the right to work, to education and to public assistance in cases of unemployment, old age, sickness and disablement, and in other cases of undeserved want.

Right to work is an unenforceable right, not a fundamental right. The manner in which the sacked employees of Jet Airways went about protesting their “unceremonious sacking,” made me wonder whether the Indian Constitution has been amended to the effect that “ Right to work is a fundamental right (birth right).”

I couldn’t digest the fact that a multi-national corporation was arm twisted (blackmailed / whitemailed – take your pick) into reinstating around 1900 of its staff, barely a day after they were sacked (pink-slipped).

Some of the legal eagles have pointed out emphatically that Jet would have “force landed” into a soup over the issue of sacking its employees as they had not given a proper termination notice and compensation. They also pointed out that the sackings were completely illegal as there was no notice nor was government’s permission taken to sack 800 employees.

Correct me if I am wrong, Jet Airways is a not a public sector company. So the question of taking the government’s permission is absolutely ridiculous.

A Jet Airways spokesperson re-iterated that the sacking of the employees was done legally. There was no violation of legal or labour ministry guidelines at any point in time. The company had paid a month’s salary while showing the door to the employees, including the probationers.

Then in must be truly a change of heart for Naresh Goyal, Chairman of Jet Airways, unable to see the sufferings, pain, and insecurity in his employees’ eyes, to order the reinstatement of sacked employees with immediate effect.

Or is it? A number of political outfits have staked their claim that they have been the major influencers behind Goyal’s decision to take back the sacked employees. Aviation minister Praful Patel puts it discreetly that it was his stern warning did the trick. Also doing the rounds is that Raj Thackeray’s (MNS) involvement made Jet Airways to blink. Bal Thackeray’s Shiv Sena too is claiming undue credit.

I do wonder whether this fiasco would put off other MNC’s looking to set shop here in India. Here the private corporations are forced to dance to the tunes of whims and fancies of the local politician cum goonda. Corporate policies are as good as toilet paper in a dustbin.

So if you are working for a MNC (and it happens so that, it is here in India) and get pink slipped; where the company describes it as a part cost cutting measure in response to the global melt down. Don’t worry. All you have to do is to vociferously protest against it in the streets, make sure either the MNS or the Shiv Sena take note of it. That’s it. You are back to the office the next day!

Two things: I am an Indian and it happens only in India. Boy! Am I lucky or what.

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

Here’s My Two Cent’s Worth On Poverty

Interestingly Wiki describes poverty as “deprivation of common necessities that determine the quality of life, including food, clothing, shelter and safe drinking water, and may also include the deprivation of opportunities to learn, to obtain better employment to escape poverty, and/or to enjoy the respect of fellow citizens.”

Here in India, we have gotten used to it so much that poverty has become a way of life. It is truly an eye opener when one comes across people who have made it as a career. Yes! That is exactly what I have said. A Career! To be poor, is no longer blamed on one’s fate, in fact; it is looked upon as a blessing in disguise.

At one extreme end we have the destitutes who beg on the street. On a good day, they (some of them) get to make at least around 500 INR. Most of them even sport mobile phones. Networking among fellow beggars is a top priority for them. Having gotten the taste of making the money the easy way, they wouldn’t have it any other way and proudly pass on their “begging skills” to their children.

The government has literally turned a blind eye towards them. Though rudimentary facilities have been put in place to tackle this issue, ignorance and reluctance from the destitutes has made the maters worse. Spiraling numbers of destitutes has compounded the woes. The facilities meant for them are either being misused or are in ruins.

Next comes the category of people who are better off compared to the destitutes, but are woefully below the poverty line. Majority of them have a roof on their heads, occupying the lower rungs of the society. People belonging to this category have had maximum support from the government in terms of policies and schemes. But getting through corruption and red tape is their biggest hurdle, preventing them from making optimum use the existing infrastructure.

The word “poverty” is a much abused word in India, thanks to our ever enterprising politicians, whose only aim is to fatten up their bank accounts. After all, they have an illustrious reputation to be maintain, apart from their crime sheet. There is talk on poverty virtually everywhere during the elections. Promises are made; dime a dozen. When everything is done and dusted, the funds meant for the welfare of the poor gets rerouted into some politicians bank account.

I will stop ranting as there is no point. I will not even bother to offer suggestions or solutions because we need to wake up to the simple fact that there is none (I mean the practical ones). Like I said earlier, poverty has become a way of life. Nobody bothers about it anymore. With our population numbers hell bent on overtaking that of China’s, our country being the largest democracy in the world, do we still stand any chance? We are hurtling back into a black hole, at warp speed. I wish we could escape from all this. I wish I could say, “Beam me up Scotty.”

But I have dared to dream.

Saturday, October 4, 2008

Nano: Done To Death By Slanderous Tongue!

It was the wicked minds of the politicians through their two pronged slanderous tongue, have slain a vision. The vision of one man was envied by everyone else. Rival small car manufacturers must have heaved a sigh of relief.

Ratan Tata had embarked on a journey, which was a first in the entire automotive history. As expected, he was alone. There were many, who said it was not possible. There were many, who tried to discourage. There were many, who laughed it off.

But that’s the stuff dreams are made of. You do not expect others to believe in your dreams. Most of the time, you are on your own. Mr. Tata was a step ahead. It was not his dream, it was his vision. Of course he had the complete support and faith from his staff. Apart from a few misguided people, the entire nation was waiting holding her breath for the next revolution to take place.

But it did not happen. Should we feel proud when someone says that ours is the largest democracy in the world? I will certainly hang my head in shame. Despite being the largest democracy in the world, we are powerless, while the elected representatives satisfy their whims and fancies. Corruption is the way of life and sadly we have resigned ourselves to it. Nobody bothers to fight anymore, because it is just a waste of time. Right from the watchman to the highest ranked officials in government offices, the so called politicians, and the law are corrupt. Those who are not, are powerless to do anything.

The parliament sessions that are beamed live on the national television channel, stand testimony to what I have just said above. If you are bored and tired of surfing through the channels, I would recommend you to watch one of these sessions. The manner in which they hurl abuses against one and another, disrupt the debate, raise slogans, and if these do not have the satisfactory effect, then they throw fists, hurl shoes and slippers, rip off the mikes, destroy the furniture, violate a female member’s modesty…….all live on TV! What more do you want. Where’s the censor board when you need it.

If this is how our elected representatives choose to represent our country, then what would you expect from others. Having a huge crime charge-sheet against one’s name is a surefire success mantra to get elected. Why? Because ours is a democratic country where even criminals are elected as people’s representatives.

And I am not even talking about the auto drivers, bus-conductors and policemen. Otherwise this would qualify as a PhD thesis and not a blog post. These are the ground realities that we face everyday, but choose not to confront it. Mr. Ratan Tata also had to face a ground reality that his vision to roll out Nano’s from the Singur plant will not be realized.

The Tata’s issued a press release on October 3, 2008 saying that in the interest of the project's success and viability and in light of the opposition's continued agitation; there was no option but to move the project out of the state of West Bengal.

India is shining. Not for me. Look harder and deeper, with conviction. You will see the helplessness of an entire nation. We have become selfish. Here nobody cares. Angelina Jolie warding off depression fights for the coveted space with churches being targeted on the front page of the newspapers. Reruns of the Splitsvilla fighting for TV ratings with the saas-bahu soaps, while the nuclear deal and its ramifications is being aired on every other news channel.

We are Indians. We are like this only. And most importantly “It happens only in India.”