Help Bangladesh

 From International Herald Tribune

"Pledges of international aid to help rebuild cyclone-ravaged Bangladesh rose sharply Wednesday, but continuing shortages of food at crowded relief camps triggered fist fights among survivors.

The government said it had promises of US$390 million (€263 million) in international aid, much of it from a US$250 million (€170 million) pledge from the World Bank.

But aid workers in remote villages struggled to get desperately needed basic goods such as rice, clean drinking water and tents to survivors of last Thursday's storm, which killed more than 3,100 people and left tens of thousands homeless.

In Tafalbari, a dusty village of crushed tin huts and flooded fields, violence broke out outside a relief center as desperate villagers fought each other after hours of waiting fruitlessly for aid.

Several thousand people surrounded a small relief station set up by a local aid agency that was forced to shut its gates, admitting just a few people at a time."

 

Help. Mercy Corp is one possible charity.

Roadside

Roadside

A roadside scene with a rickshaw wallah, cycle repair vendor and others having a friendly chat while all out braving the Indian summer. Cycle is still very important in India. Do they know the latest cricket score? Are they discussing cricket or Priyanka Chopra?

Friends

Friends

Two vendors (popcorn stall and iron man) having a friendly chat during Indian summer. This India is still far removed from outsourcing, 9% annual growth rate, "India shinning", etc but still maintains its dignity. Maybe, some ripple effects are definitely felt. We would hope so.

The popcorn stove is fueled by coal. An iron man irons your clothes on a short order. The iron is also heated by coal and wood.

Some of the posters in the background are from elections.

This ain't no MacDonald

This ain't no MacDonalds

Dhabas are rustic places to eat, a roadside cafe for everyone in India. Perhaps, more close to the heart of majority of India for dining out or a quick bite.

Notice the cooking-gas cylinders for home delivery on the left.

This ain't no MacDonald but tastier. Dhabas are not swanky places one would find in New Delhi or NYC. They are also not for faint "vestern" stomach.

The counter for this dhaba says "Pure Vaishava*** (Hindu stream/ thought/ school/ style) Punjabi Dhaba" in devanagari.

*** They are referring to ingredients and style of cooking, something akin to kosher cooking.

How can we help them? Any ideas

Every April, some 230,000 Indian youths sharpen their pencils and sit for the intensely competitive entrance exam to the Indian Institutes of Technology (IITs) -- the seven prestigious schools that train India's top-notch engineers and entrepreneurs. After the grueling six-hour test, only 5,000 students are offered a place in the IITs. Most come from middle-class backgrounds and prepare for the exams through private coaching. But in the past few years, a small group of desperately poor, talented students have made it into the IITs, thanks to the Ramanujan School of Mathematics.

How can we help them? Any ideas? Any veritable leads. Leave a comment. Spread the word.

This is revolutionary. 

Courage

_40980348_screen203.jpgMukhtar Mai was once an anonymous Pakistani villager - but that was before she was gang-raped, apparently on the orders of local elders in a neighbouring village.

From then onwards she has been determined to bring them to justice, and her fight made her an international figure.

Some of the men she said attacked her were convicted, but then the appeal court in Lahore overturned their convictions, amid an outcry from human rights groups.

Now Mukhtar Mai, who is in her mid-30s, is writing her own internet diary, or blog, about her life and her concerns, as a woman from a remote village in southern Punjab.

 

Read her words on her English and Urdu blog hosted by BBC. Via Sepia Mutiny News Tab.

Learn your lessons

singh2.190.jpgMr. Singh, whose father constructed much of Delhi, a city reinvented by the flow of partition refugees, is among the last survivors of the era. For his generation he is unusual for wanting to speak of that horror, again and again. He reminds in words what Bourke-White’s photographs seem to scream on the page.

“People should know this thing happened,” Mr. Singh insists. “It did happen. It can happen again.”

India has been reminded of the bloodshed of partition many times over its 59 years of independence by further episodes of violence, and Mr. Singh has chronicled them all.

 

Please read the NYT article. Tip from Sepia Mutiny News Tab. 

A boy who is a man all we ever will strive to be

On Sepia Mutiny News Tab, KXB has posted a haunting article from The Independent about a documentary movie "Floating Lamp of the Shadow Valley" that is about a nine year old boy Arif who supports his entire family as a boatman in a strife-ridden Kashmir. It is not only a heart-warming story made by a film maker who himself has felt the burnt of the tragedy of Kashmir but a tale of courage for a kid too young for such kind of things. Please read the article, and some excerpts for introduction:

"I have my roots," he says. "My heart belongs to Kashmir. I don't hold every Kashmiri Muslim responsible for the violence there. They too are suffering. I wanted to do something to show the world that the people are suffering. I first saw Arif in 2004. I had gone back to Kashmir on a shoot for another documentary. I saw this kid baling out his boat." [Link]

In Mr Jala's words, he is "facing challenges that have adults on their knees".

The film shows the two sides to Arif's life. At one moment, he is playing rough and tumble with his brothers, fighting over a toy gun, and crying when his mother scolds him. At the next, he is staring thoughtfully out at the lake and weighing up the family's problems like a grown man, trying to shut out the sound of his brothers playing. "I will educate my brothers and sister," he says. "We will get my sister married. I will fulfil my mother's dreams." [Link]

It is story of triumph both for Arif and Rajesh Jala. There is always hope.

Has India started to move into another league?

In light of President Bush's visit to India a few days ago and the new nuclear deal inked, lets highlight some far-reaching consequences that could play out. From International Herald TribuneAndy Mukherjee's article:

If India can use the accord to overcome its energy crisis, there is a lot that its fast-growing economy can buy from the rest of the world. That will be the ultimate economic prize for the global economy if it accepts India as a de facto nuclear-weapons state. 

Whether the prize is worth the risk of "tempting" states without nuclear weapons to give up their "self-restraint," as Talbott puts it, is for Congress to decide.
 
The same concerns being raised in Washington about doing a deal with India were debated in 1985 about the wisdom of sharing fissile technology and equipment with China.
 
Although it took 13 years to complete the U.S.-China nuclear cooperation agreement - it had been submitted to Congress when Ronald Reagan was president and it was implemented in 1998, under Bill Clinton - the deal went through. Reservations in the United States about China assisting the nuclear-weapons programs of Pakistan and Iran did not scuttle the agreement.
 
With no skeletons in India's nuclear closet, the United States may find it a lot easier to end the Indian blackout.

Has India started to move into another league, slowly and tentatively? Perhaps, yes.  I do not think the nuclear agreement deal itself is the silver bullet but could be chain reaction to important developments in Asia. More importantly, change in perception.

Priates of the Middle East - The Curse of the Black Gold

From Pirates of the Caribbean, The Curse of the Black Gold

Jack Sparrow: Worry about your own fortunes gentlemen. The deepest circle of hell is reserved for betrayers and mutineers.
[pirate grabs Jack's throat to reveal a skeleton arm]
Jack Sparrow: So, there is a curse? That's interesting.
Koehler: You know nothing of hell.
Jack Sparrow: That's VERY interesting

The deepest circle of hell is reserved for betrayers and mutineers. - that is the politics of oil and natural gas.

Fact 1: But do we know the hell of oil intrigue. President Bush promises US to wean-off of Middle East by 2025. Let's see what FACTCHECK.org has to say:

The President voiced a "goal" of replacing more than three-quarters "of our oil imports from the Middle East" by the year 2025. He did not mention that the US has grown more dependent on imported oil and petroleum products since he took office.

According to most recent figures from the Energy Information Administration, the US imported 60 percent of its oil and petroleum products during the first 11 months of last year, up from just under 53 percent in President Clinton's last year in office. Last year, of all the oil and petroleum products consumed in the US, 11.2 percent came from Persian Gulf countries, according to the EIA. That is actually down somewhat from Clinton's last year, when the Persian Gulf countries supplied 12.6 percent.

Whether imports from the Middle East can ever be "a thing of the past" is open to question. It is true that the US currently imports nearly as much oil from nearby Canada (2.1 million barrels per day last year) as it does from all Persian Gulf countries combined (2.3 million barrels per day), but that's still a lot of oil to do without.

Fact 2: On the other hand, it seems Middle East's role in energy equation will become more significant with time. Using EIA, Department of Energy analysis:

It is generally agreed that the location of proven world crude oil reserves is far more concentrated in OPEC countries than current world oil production. Note that estimates of reserves vary; EIA does not assess oil reserves, but does list several independent estimates here. According to one independent estimate (Oil and Gas Journal), of the world's 1.28 trillion barrels of proven reserves, 885 billion barrels (69 percent) are held by OPEC, as of January 2005. The non-OPEC reserves include Canadian non-conventional reserves. Not including Canada, according to this estimate the world's proven oil reserves are about 1.1 trillion barrels, of which OPEC holds 84 percent. In the future, the inclusion of non-conventional oil reserves for other countries may also significantly impact OPEC member Venezuela, as well as non-OPEC countries such as Australia. Non-conventional reserves are generally more expensive to produce than conventional crude oil reserves and may require special facilities and technologies. Because non-OPEC countries' smaller reserves are being depleted more rapidly than OPEC reserves, their overall reserves-to-production ratio -- an indicator of how long proven reserves would last at current production rates -- is much lower (about 26 years for non-OPEC and 83 years for OPEC, based on 2004 crude oil production rates). This implies increased OPEC production as a proportion of world production over the long term.

Oh!, Iran.

Fact 3: In the mix, India and China are the new players in the game of energy cloak and dagger with some added complication. From IHT article, you get the picture:

According to Worldwatch Institute, a research group based in Washington, if every Chinese and Indian consumer in 2030 were to use the resources that each Japanese consumer uses today, the two countries would need the entire planet for themselves. Since 1990, carbon emissions by India have risen 88 percent and by China 67 percent, compared with a 19 percent rise in the United States. China has 16 of the world's 20 most polluted cities. Time for sustainable development?

Getting along: In the end, China and India need each another, despite their rivalries. This month they signed on to a joint approach to securing energy supplies, which could create a hefty rival to U.S. energy diplomacy. A road link could be next.

So, there is a curse? That's interesting. 

India and China - traditional rivals or friends or betrayers. Should they even listen to USA on energy issues?

My Question to you is:
Are American politicians being candid enough ?
Also, do Indian and Chinese leaders have long-term picture in mind or are just running around with a shot-gun approach.
Or as Jack Sparrow would say, That's VERY interesting.

Cross-posted @ Desicritics.org 

None of us are Bill Hickok or thought like Elliott Marston

6304414099.01.LZZZZZZZ.jpgI always thought immigration to America was and is always primarily driven by economic opportunities, tight supply and demand for specific skill sets at that time in America, personal affiliations, quest for distinctive political and religious expressions, and recently also through diversity lottery. However, I have been recently told by educated people who think immigration should not primarily have an economic angle and should really be made for people "who were born in societies for which their personalities are incompatible, and they ought to be able to move to more congenial ones". This premise or similar elitist or exclusivist notions are so half-baked ideas that it reminds me of Quigley Down Under - a fine movie nevertheless and a classic. Here is the scene I am talking about:

Elliott Marston: [O'Flynn and Dobkin prepare Quigley for an old-fashioned duel] I seem to remember you're not too familiar with Colonel Colt's revolver, so this will be your first lesson. Don't worry. Mr Dobkin and Mr. O'Flynn will ensure that it's a fair contest.
Elliott Marston: [Marston starts walking backwards] I'll just back up a few paces... And to your left a bit, that's it... Now you're right in front of my old pistol target.
Elliott Marston: [Marston slips his coat back to reveal his holster] Some men are born in the wrong century. I think I was born on the wrong continent. Oh, by the way, you're fired
Matthew Quigley: This ain't Dodge City. And you ain't Bill Hickok.
Matthew Quigley: [Quigley shoots Dobkin, O'Flynn and Marston before they can even aim their guns, then walks up to a dying Marston] I said I never had much use for one. Never said I didn't know how to use it.

None of us are Bill Hickok or thought like Elliott Marston- yet people immigrate to United States for different personal reasons that are deeply personal to them - be it a farm laborer from Peru or a doctor from India or a physicist from China or a fisherman from Vietnam or a nurse from Russia. None of them are necessarily special creed or misfits or on the run or prosecuted (only rarely) in their home country either. Often, their ability to immigrate is also tied to their economic status at home - a very poor villager in India does not even have an option to immigrate from India to America unless they get educated in elite institutes. But then getting admitted in these elite institutes in their countries is not entirely a level playing field. Poorest of the poor try illegal immigration route as seen often on the southern border. For some family responsibilities in their mother country will not allow them to immigrate even if the opportunity presented itself.

Nor they stop loving and caring for their native country either ever once they immigrate. Irish-Americans have played a very decisive role in the emergence of Ireland as an economic power. Also, none of them are Bill Hickok or were closeted gun slingers destined for Dodge city. Definitely, not an immigrant from Botswana through diversity lottery - yet he carries rich dreams. In all these process, he enriches and also develops a deep love for America.

Wikipedia - Only a starting point

I use Wikipedia very often. It acts as a starting point for me, not end all be all in seeking knowledge on a specific topic. I have always been aware of its power and weakness. Lack of peer-review makes the content quite vulnerable. However, the power of wikipedia lies in its speed and open house, open source knowledge, and the assumption that the contents are self-correcting by its collective and democratic nature. In topics, where I had some knowledge, I always thought their write-ups are quite accurate and at par. I have had wikipedia account for a while and maybe, I should contribute regularly in topics, I can. Some people like from inkycirc rightfully think that it is the duty of experts to give sometime to forums like Wikipedia if their work is funded through tax payer's money.

In light of recent faux pas or prank discovered, a very reputed journal Nature has stepped in and given heads up to Wikipedia. Also, Wikipedia is going to implement a review process starting next month.

I am quite pleased with their review process decision.

Energy futures - Even courting India and Saudi Arabia looking beyond

I like to discuss about energy equation and world history from time to time. I have written two posts here and here  before - looking at energy policies mostly with a historical prism. Now, let us look at some of the future trends. Traditionally, western major oil companies have been shy of investing in India for two reasons: a) the red tapism was too much to deal with, and b) they weren't giant oil fields that were screaming to be discovered and produced in India with current technology (if there were elephant oil fields then reason a) would have not even mattered). Also, western major oil companies found opportunities like in Australia more appealing for many reasons.

However, western major oil companies are increasingly facing cul-de-sac in finding new reserves for oil and natural gas. Countries like Saudi Arabia, Russia, and Iran are set to be more powerful in energy politics in future and are essentially out of bounds for western major oil companies. Therefore,  "cash rich but opportunity poor (as The Economist puts it)"  major oil companies have started courting India even if it is tentatively.

From  The Economist, "Starting to Spurge", October 10, 2005.
The big oil firms now seem keen to throw money at projects in Asia. BP has also just announced a $3 billion deal with Hindustan Petroleum, a partly state-owned Indian firm, to build oil refineries and petrol stations in India. Exxon Mobil, Chevron Texaco and BP are now thought to be wooing Reliance, an Indian energy firm, for a stake in a big new gas field in the Bay of Bengal. Chinese whispers suggest that BP may also soon announce a new joint venture with Sinopec, a partly government-owned Chinese firm, in refining and marketing fuels. Exxon is already pushing ahead with plans for a refining joint-venture there too.

Compared with the amounts of money being returned to shareholders, these are still relatively small investments. So why have big oil firms been so slow to take the plunge with large new investments? One reason is that oil executives—with Exxon bosses in the lead—mostly believe that today's oil prices will not last. They are haunted by the memory of $10 oil, and the fear of another price collapse has proved a powerful check on any desire to expand their empires. So too has the fact that the oil-price hike has greatly inflated the price of potential acquisitions. Shrewd oil investors reckon there are few bargains left, and oil bosses mostly agree.

The biggest gorillas in the energy intrigue are state-owned oil companies from Venezuela to Norway to Mexico to Saudi Arabia to Iran, and world major oil companies know that.  However, the companies like Exxon-Mobil have to replenish their reserves  to stay in business. OPEC is sitting very pretty and poised for future and will now find two new suitors - China and India in addition to USA, Europe, and Japan. Perhaps, one needs to view Middle East and Russia with this fact in mind. Also, India and China can play their cards deftly. Both countries can benefit from the influx of cutting edge technology and ideas from the major oil companies.

And  Saudi Arabia is diversifying her economy to cushion themselves from boom and bust cycles of energy industry - even the biggest kid on the block knows that. Japan and Russia with a long history of mistrust are attempting to build grand alliance for energy partnership. This shows that the nature of energy industry is too dynamic to depend on status quo or past.

The crux of energy industry is that one has to plan and look into future boldly even in the face of its fickle nature.  Strategically, even the bold frontiers like hydrogen economy will have to piggy-back on fossil fuel economy, perhaps through natural gas. Energy politics has never been simple, and it is not getting simpler any time soon.

India moves: I see a traffic jam with Toyotas, cows, and elephants in Old-New Delhi

highway.large.jpgThe New York Times is doing a series of articles, India Accelerating. They have already done three of them, here, here, and here. In last five-six years, I go to India very often, and I see tremendous changes that are far more than they have ever been in past. Yet I feel changes are slow even though the Indian landscape is definitely changing in all sense of the word. But then successful changes are always slow - a change too fast fails and that is the way even evolution works in nature. One way to sum change in India is the chaos one sees on the road in Delhi or Hyderabad or Roorkee with modern cars, elephants, bullock-carts, cycles, and pedestrians all on the same crowded road surging forward in different directions, and jostling for space resulting in quite an exhilarating spectacle. There is a new optimism that is very palatable.

In other ways, India is frozen in time but then Jet Airway (little more than 10 years old) has better food and service than any airlines I have been in different parts of the world. India is still a developing country with unsurmountable challenges ahead but the new VJs on MTV India are prettierand barristas more hip than their counterparts elsewhere. Inspite of a bullish and remarkable  economic growth seen recently, the country is still littered with incomplete and abandoned construction projects, and shoddy infrastructure all over. Are the public restrooms cleaner yet? Nevertheless, people from all walk of life in India are raising and asserting their expectations. Recently, I have not been to Indian villages to see how much the sense of change is osmosing through there. I am going to do this on my blog.

I am inviting people to write on "India moves: I see a traffic jam with Toyotas, cows, and elephants in Old-New Delhi". You can only write  about mega-changes that are going on  in India (any aspect of the change - economic, social, political - you choose) but can only cover changes during  years 2004-2005 in no greater than 1 page length. You should have lived or visited India for at least two weeks in the years 2004-2005 and before (to use as a reference point) to qualify. You have to emphasize the changes or lack of in India. The write-up can be deeply personal to anecdotal to general commentary to something in between. There are no prizes and need not be a formal write-up. The reason is to think about the changes in India - are they enough or the ones you want. You pour your heart out but try to write in a way that even somebody who does not know much or anything about India appreciates and understand your viewpoint. You do not have to be an Indian or Indian origin.

There are three ways we can do this: a) You write on your blog, inform me, and I will put up the hotlink here, b) If you do not have a blog, yet you want to write about the topic seriously, I can give you a guest account here, c) You can leave your write-up as a comment here. This is all to gain insights, think, and most importantly have fun doing it. I want to see brilliance and creativity. I will ignore and delete shoddiness and unimaginative thoughts.

Chai Garam Chai (Tea Hot Tea)

Something that has not changed in India is sipping chai (tea) on a foggy, cold morning in a dhaba (a tea stall or a small restaurant with indoor-outdoor cafe like ambience - very characteristic of India).