Eating is an agricultural act - Wendell Berry

Thursday, July 31, 2008

one week of rain...

...and maharashtra - which looked like this on 23rd July:

now looks like this on 30th July.

Saturday, July 26, 2008

RIP - Randy "Inspiration" Pausch

randy pausch is no more.
an utterly remarkable person.
go in peace.

earlier on randy.

Friday, July 25, 2008

TOI's media ethics

most of us like to hate TOI.
their celebrity-centric reporting, trivial-centric writing, business-centric philosophy, etc.

their expansion across to mutiple cities over the last months has been very successful. they are bashing up local leaders like the hindu in chennai, etc.

and it is correspondingly clear, that they are setting the benchmarks in media business today. what TOI is today, is what all our media/publishing houses aspire to be.

now here is one part of their their media strategy - which easily qualifies for the top unethical practice of the year award.
At around 2.30 pm on 10th May, 2008, at a construction site on Bannerghatta Road in Bengaluru, a lift being used by workers malfunctioned and dropped 18 floors, causing the death of 2 workers and leaving 7 workers severely injured. Sobha Magnolia is a 19-storey super luxury apartment complex being constructed by Sobha Developers. Due to the immense force of dropping from such a height, the lift repeatedly bounced up and down several times before stopping. Of the 7 injured, three have been discharged while the remaining 4 are still undergoing treatment. Each of the injured have suffered multiple fractures and other injuries.

On 12th May 2008, the Times of India reported that:

"Lift crash leaves 2 dead, 7 hurt

Two occupants in a lift died and seven others were injured on Saturday after the lift crashed to the lower basement at the construction site of a residential apartment on Bannerghatta Road."

Then, again on 8th June the Times of India reported that:


SHRC chief takes officials to task

The State Human Rights Commission has asked a private construction company to ensure complete and fair compensation to families of two workers who dies and seven who were injured in a lift crash in an apartment building under construction on Bannerghatta Road. The accident took place on May 10.…

The accident occurred on May 10 at the construction site of a multi-storeyed super-luxury apartment on Bannerghatta Road."

Note that the Times of India does not name the company, Sobha Developers in reports unlike all the other English and Kannada newspapers, which explicitly did so.

Why would they not name the guys... could be a big-ticket advertiser? well read on...
Apparently, Bennett Coleman & Co. Ltd., the publishers of Times of India, has entered into a Private Treaty with Sobha Developers, whereby through this arrangement BCCL picks up law equity stakes in companies, in return receiving long-term advertising and other publicity deals.
whole story is available here on the hoot.

Thursday, July 24, 2008

history - photo feature

The Frontline magazine carried a series on the Religious Architecture of India through this photo feature.

1 – the eternal india

2 – the Stupas

3 – the sunga era

4 – the grandeur of caves

5 – the kushana period buddha

6 – the krishna valley stupas

7 – the gupta era

8 – Ajanta

9 – the chalukyas in the deccan

10 – mamallapuram

11 – the royal pallavas

12 – the temples of MP

13 – ellora

14 – the temples of orissa

15 – the pala period of buddhism

16 – the chola temples

17 – the bronze era of tamilnadu

18 – the Himalayan valleys

19 – Buddhism in trans-Himalayas

20 – khajuraho

21 – the hoysalas of Karnataka

22 – the sun temple at konark

23 – Images of hampi

24 – temples of south india

25 – solanki temples of gujarat

say tu, baalu

t r baalu is the union minister for shipping, road transport and highways.
he lives up to his name - he is serious 'troublu' for the UPA.

the renewed push on the sethusamudram canal project is on.
the DMK quietly slips this through during the mega din and chaos of the trust vote.
classic 'extracting their pound of flesh'.

so in the Supreme Court, Fali Nariman - senior counsel for the government is reported as below:
He referred to Kamba Ramayana and Padma Purana to draw a point that Lord Rama himself had destroyed the Rama Sethu so that nobody should come from Lanka.

"Lord Rama destroyed the bridge and details are there in the scriptures. You cannot worship something which has been destroyed," Nariman asserted before a Bench headed by Chief Justice K G Balakrishnan.
i think, this is the final nail in the UPA government's coffin.
i am certain that the congress that left itself no chance at the next elections. am anticipating the NDA to come sailing through.

and the publishers of kamban's ramayana are laughing all the way to the bank.

earlier post on the sethu.

Wednesday, July 23, 2008

its all about power

all this hoopla and hullabaloo is over electricity, rather the lack of it.

we are hopelessly short of electricity and current demand-supply gaps are expected to worsen.
major studies estimate that our power needs will shoot up 3 times in the coming 10 years.

and we are losing (via theft/leakages and general government largesse) over 30% of all generated power.

madhukar at alternative perspective studies the sham that is rural electrification.

in the midst of all this - TOI carries out an investigation into how much electricity is being abused by our maharashtra netas when the state is undergoing a serious shortage of power.
1. the maha CM uses more power than the PM.
2. all maha ministers are super-power guzzlers.

as usual, simple common sense of plugging leaks, curbing usages are never paid their due and we are just hell bent on increasing supply.

Tuesday, July 22, 2008

some positives from the political hungama

after the heated debate over the nuclear deal, the results are out.
the UPA govt manages to retain their government (or is it our government...).

i am seriously hoping that among all the nonsense that is happening, i am hoping that DD Loksabha TV channel is making money. by syndicating their live coverage to all the new channels.

some tax money saved!! i hope....

indo-us nuclear deal

super hot topic underway right now. the government's survival is at stake.
is causing serious political re-alignments.
here is what happened yesterday in parliament.

so what is the nuclear deal all about? business line has a '10 misconceptions' pitch by an ex-nuclear bureaucrat.

obviously it is a complicated matter, safely couched in such complicated legalese, that the common laypersons would struggle to come up with a valid opinion on the situation.
my stand has been governed by completely an other factor - disposal of spent fuel.
as per the dept of energy - government of USA from their website...
Waste Disposal. A current concern in the nuclear power field is the safe disposal and isolation of either spent fuel from reactors or, if the reprocessing option is used, wastes from reprocessing plants. These materials must be isolated from the biosphere until the radioactivity contained in them has diminished to a safe level. Under the Nuclear Waste Policy Act of 1982, as amended, the Department of Energy has responsibility for the development of the waste disposal system for spent nuclear fuel and high-level radioactive waste. Current plans call for the ultimate disposal of the wastes in solid form in licensed deep, stable geologic structures.
there is more from wikipedia.
storing such vast quantities of potentially hazardous radioactive material in an underground system of concrete bunkers and suchlike is deeply unconvincing.
i don't claim any expertise other than 'deep suspicion' over the scientists who are swear on such methods.

check out this facility that is being made in the US - the waste isolation pilot plant.
this line strikes me as being close to impossible.
...Because drilling or excavation in the area will be hazardous long after the area is being actively used, there are plans to construct markers to deter inadvertent human intrusion for the next ten thousand years.
we could be setting ourselves up for serious annihilation - faana.

Thursday, July 17, 2008


this is not about the new tata car, etc, etc.
i got this in my inbox today - central government to start new centers of the Indian Institute of Nano Technology.

nanotechnology primer available here.
Nanotechnology refers to a field of applied science and technology whose theme is the control of matter on the atomic and molecular scale, generally 100 nanometers (10 raised to the power of -9) or smaller, and the fabrication of devices or materials that lie within that size range.
when i tried to get to the bottom of this - i could not find the aforementioned indian institute.
i found the nanoindian site and i found the amity insitute of nano technology.

what pickled me to no end, was the acronymisation of these institutes - IINT and AINT.

my vast telugu speaking audience will immediately ROTFL as students studying at IINT will be going 'iintikku' (going home). so probably thats why the central government has selected the cities it has selected.
the second one is quite obvious, ain't it.

p.s. - for the record, it was very funny when i said it to my friend.

Wednesday, July 16, 2008

news and degrees of separation

6 degrees are the maximum levels that is supposed to separate us with anyone else in the planet.

TOI has this excellent investigative article titled -NRI friend of Rani Mukherjee’s uncle robbed

news/media certainly are prime subscribers to the 6 degree notions.
any newsworthy item is just a few degrees separated from a celebrity.
nail that and it is ready to go to print.

Tuesday, July 15, 2008

NREGA primer

the national rural employment guarantee act 2005 (NREGA) is one of the most significant legislation that has come into being in this decade. the act aims to:
... enhance livelihood security in rural areas by providing at least 100 days of guaranteed wage employment in a financial year to every household whose adult
members volunteer to do unskilled manual work.
the act now covers all areas of the country (except 100% urban districts).
each person covered under this act will earn wages as per:
Wages are to be paid according to the Minimum Wages Act 1948 for agricultural
labourers in the State, unless the Centre notifies a wage rate which will not be less
than Rs. 60/ per day. Equal wages will be provided to both men and women.
other salient points are:
  1. The shelf of projects for a village will be recommended by the gram sabha and approved by the zilla panchayat.
  2. Permissible works predominantly include water and soil conservation, afforestation and land development works.
  3. Social Audit has to be done by the Gram Sabha.
  4. Grievance redressal mechanisms have to be put in place for ensuring a responsive implementation process.
  5. All accounts and records relating to the Scheme should be available for public scrutiny.
the entire guidelines of the act are here. if you prefer a simple ppt style intro, go here.

there is serious commentary on this act, its philosophy, its implementation all over the place.
there is a serious Right to Food campaign, which is doing tons of great stuff across NREGA among other things.
atanu dey at india's development is a serious critic of is act.
and of course, there are some states which are doing it much better than the others. the comptroller and auditor general's reports are available for scrutiny.

but of course, there are some positives, like sainath reports on decreased urban migration.
sandeep pandey (from NAPM and asha) writes on the social audits in UP. this is potentially one of the most significant concepts that thsi act has introduced. this along with the Right to Information Act are extremely large strides in introducing transparency into our system.

Monday, July 14, 2008

recycle cycle

at std 6, i had a choice of second language. continue with hindi or choose french.
actually the choice was less mine and more my parents. from simple 'scoring marks' idea, french was chosen and i vaguely remember my dad mentioning something around 'global/foreign language', etc.
after 6 years of learning french, i developed a soft corner for all things french (i am more partial to rolland garros than wimbledon).

leaving aside the juvenile affections and biases, there is a lot of french stuff which is brilliant.
highlighting a recent one, which is quite outstanding - the velib city-cycle service.
quoting from the french tourist office site:
On July 15, 2007, the city of Paris will debut a new self-service "bicycle transit system" called Velib’. Parisians and visitors alike will be able to pick up and drop off bicycles throughout the city at 750 locations—offering a total of 10,648 bikes. By the end of the year, there will be a Velib’ station approximately every 900 feet for a total of 1,451 locations and 20,600 bikes.

To access the bikes, riders can select a one-day card for 1 euro, a weekly card for 5 euros or an annual card for 29 euros. After the purchase of an access card, riding for the first half-hour is free and a supplement of 1 euro will be charged for an additional half-hour, 2 euros for another 30-minutes and 4 euros for every addition half-hour after that. Example: a 25 minute trip = 0 euros, a 50 minute trip = 1 euro, an hour and 15-minute ride = 3 euros.

Each Velib’ parking station will be equipped with muni-meters to purchase one and 7-day passes and to pay any additional charges once the bike is dropped off. The Velib’ meters will also provide information on other station locations.
The city of Paris has over 371 km (230 miles) of cycling lanes. (emphasis mine)
incidentally, today is the first anniversary-eve of the launch.

in a year, NYT reports that 27.5 million trips have been made at an average of 120,000 a day.
that will be approx 27.5 million trip x 2.5 kms/trip (approx) = 70 Mn kilometers = 7 Mn liters of petrol (at 10 kms per liter in a typical car).
it is quite remarkable.
bogota, colombia's capital city, has an phenomenal city cycling system - Ciclorruta.

one of the key things in all these initiatives, is the efforts of the Mayors in the respective cities. politicians can change things dramatically for the good of the people (as democracy intends).

in indian cities.....lets see.

Thursday, July 10, 2008

monsoon update

this year surprised us with a very early start of rains in mumbai. june 6th and 7th (the very first weekend of june).
till date the records (in colaba and santa cruz weather stations) show that we are more than on track in mumbai.
the records, however, do not seem to play out in reality.
there has been more and longer dry spells during the last 40 days.
and maharastra has announced a drought-like situation.
if one sees the monsoon map of maharashtra till date, it is clear that the monsoon has been a little truant this year. except the western maharashtra belt, the rest of the state is far below the expected rain levels.
since the already low rainfall areas are getting less than anticipated, the cropping patterns will certainly get delayed/affected, etc.
so we could expect the farmers of vidarbha to have another tough year ahead of them. hope they bounce back from this better than the earlier years.

Sunday, July 06, 2008

mumbai phrases 3 - bata

अरे, ज़रा फ़ोन बता ना
this means "show me the phone".

how 'दीखा' became 'बता' , please बता
(am unable to figure out how to put the 'small di')

mumbai phrases 1 and 2 from earlier.

Thursday, July 03, 2008

don't shit me

i had first written about manual scavenging a year or so ago here.
there was a whiff of news around the fact that the authorities were moving ahead (albeit slowly) with doing away with this demeaning and illegal practice.

a year later, there is definitive progress by the Safai Karmachari Andolan. they have fought hard and are ready to declare andhra pradesh as the first manual scavenging-free state in India. as an epithet - it sounds ludicrous, but what an achievement.

read this story - 'we will never clean shit again'.

Tuesday, July 01, 2008

not alone at lallubhai

lallubhai compound is a resettlement colony.
this was the area which i had written about here. readers are drawn to the epic court battles i had participated in over 15 months ago.

now that it has been over a year since the premises have been occupied, here is a report on lallubhai compound from kafila. it is an interesting read, though there are points of personal disconnect.

i use the 'urban ghettoisation' term in reference to lallubhai fairly often and over the last 15 months, i have had more reasons to feel downbeat about the area.